Review: Laura Marling's new album 'Once I Was An Eagle'

Review: Laura Marling's new album 'Once I Was An Eagle'

Folk singer is back and into flight


Twenty-three, and already four excellent albums under her belt. To speak of Laura Marling’s youth is something to celebrated – not a record-selling ploy -- particularly when she’s got the blues equal to that of men and women three-times her age. “Once I Was an Eagle” showcases the English folk songwriter’s ever-better abilities on guitar, but also her joy in playing with others, as she’s set her stage to almost counter the noises and crescendos that battle her emotional play.
Marling starts her metaphorical mission on “Eagle,” naturally, on wings, giving some background on her character’s damaged state in a sensual vibrato. “Every little girl is so naïve… I will not be a victim of romance,” she sings on her “I Was an Eagle” before letting her defiance give way to absolute mourning. “You Know” poses the question to herself (and her listeners): am I a gallant animal or a vulnerable baby human? This anthropomorphizing comes to a head in “Master Hunter,” a title and sound that is as aggressive as Marling gets, in its harsh Dylan-esque cadences and a foreshadowing: “I am a master hunter / I cured my skin, now nothing gets in.”
Yes, thank God, she ultimately turns this march into the ocean (or, “Devil’s Resting Place”) around, with an actual “Interlude” and cheerier arrangements and uptempo rockers -- even as she admits somethings do get under her skin. Jaunty tune “Pray for Me” concludes “I cannot love, I want to be alone” even as there’s the instrumental and sonic promise of ascent and healing from love-burn. “Love Be Brave” waxes regret and change but sways like a James Taylor-meets-Joni beach song. “Where Can I Go” transitions from impeccable finger-picking to strong strumming as she churns on childhood and woman-ness. Like acoustic, left coast Pink Floyd, “Little Bird" has her back into flight and on closer “Saved These Words," she thanks “naivety for failing me again / he was my next verse.”
Yup, that’s the sound of a book being closed.
Marling brings this whopper full circle, though it runs too long. She takes her time on this collection of quiet burnings, full of her usual idiosyncrasies. There are not just some sophisticated truths of womanhood, but of the human, young, mistake-laden life cycle, something that’s dark and yet redemptive by its end. She keeps true to her character, too, as defiant and grand, beautifully so. Articulate with her voice, lyrics and guitar-playing, Marling can tell a good story with proof that age is nothing but a number.


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<p>Will Smith and Jaden Smith</p>

Will Smith and Jaden Smith

Credit: AP Photo

Will Smith and son Jaden rap 'Fresh Prince' theme: Watch

DJ Jazzy Jeff and Carlton stop by the 'Graham Norton' show: Fabulous

Jaden Smith and his dad (or is he his best bud) Will Smith spent a good minute pretending they weren't about to do something zany on the Graham Norton's BBC show.

Then they got crazy, bopped around the stage with Jazzy Jeff and covered Smith's own "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" theme song. Then Alfonso Ribeiro -- aka Carlton -- shows up, and does the Carlton. It was the most delightful quasi-train-wreck of my 13-year-old ideals, and I couldn't stop watching.

Will Smith has apparently been in the studio with Kanye West recently. As previously reported, Smith said, “I’ve been messing around with Kanye. We were in the studio a couple of times... I might get the bug. I’m not going to do it unless I get truly inspired, but ‘Ye’s been pushing me a little bit.”

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Review: Daft Punk's new album 'Random Access Memories' with remix on the way

Review: Daft Punk's new album 'Random Access Memories' with remix on the way

A history lesson and a 'Lucky' start

Daft Punk are no strangers to homage, and their newest album "Random Access Memories" is an all-out history lesson -- and not just in genre. Of course, there's heapings of disco along with their house music, soul with their '70s soft rock and party-starting anthems along with the saddies. But the duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo go out of their way to introduce the influencers of their own brand of heart-beating beats, as well as collaborate with the new school of producers and music-makers that carry the banner. With that perspective, this album isn't just a spin of a globe or as "random" as the title insinuates.

Though, on first listen, it seems that way.

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Summer jam contender: Watch Dan Black and Kelis' 'Hearts' video

Summer jam contender: Watch Dan Black and Kelis' 'Hearts' video

Human time-lapse

We're approaching the longest days of the year, folks, and you'll need summer jams to fill those days. Add Dan Black and Kelis' "Hearts" to that playlist, why don't you?

The music video to the uplifting tune is a time lapse from a roof, with minimal movements to maximum effect. Gorgeous and hip-moving, I think this will for sure make my rotation.

The song was co-written by the two artists, and will be featured on Black as-yet-untitled sophomore album, due sometime this year.


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<p>Neko Case during Wits</p>

Neko Case during Wits

Credit: American Public Broadcasting

No joke: Listen to Neko Case's crazy cover of Iron Maiden's 'Number of the Beast'

Ball's in your court, Bruce Dickinson

Neko Case covered Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" for the Wits public radio show in St. Paul, Minn., and was eye-, ear- and all other orifice-opening.

Head here to hear it; fast-forward to 54:30 if you want to skip other Case and Kelly Hogan performances. The show also featured comedian Rob Delaney.

Feist and Mastodon got together to make a Feistodon split 7" for Record Store Day last year, so I ask: Is the ball not in your court now, Bruce Dickinson?

Neko Case helped out on the New Pornographers' last, 2010 album "Together" and guested on New Pornos frontman A.C. Newman's 2012 album "Shut Down the Streets." She and is working on her sixth full-length solo album in 2013; her last was 2009's "Middle Cyclone."

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<p>New movie poster for &quot;Metallica: Through the Never&quot;</p>

New movie poster for "Metallica: Through the Never"

Watch the trailer for 'Metallica: Through the Never' featuring Dane DeHaan


My, if the first trailer for "Metallic: Through the Never" doesn't make it look freaking awesome to be in the band Metallica...

Dane DeHaan is featured in this feature-concert documentary hybrid, as "a young roadie sent on an urgent mission during Metallica’s roaring live set in front of a sold-out arena." In the clip, he's featured driving a van with a case that may be very precious cargo. He's hit and then crawls out into what appears to be a riot against police.

And then there's pyrotechnics and smoke machines and a 360 stage. James Hetfield's vocals are sounding a bit weak on "Master of Puppets," but the mix and the rest of the band sound heavy and ready.

The Nimród Antal-directed film was shot in 3-D and heads to IMAX theaters on Sept. 27 and to the rest on Oct. 4.

As reported yesterday, Metallica is also at work on new songs for the follow-up to 2008's "Death Magnetic."

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Watch: Kacey Musgraves talks Daft Punk, 'Merry Go 'Round' and playing dress-up

Watch: Kacey Musgraves talks Daft Punk, 'Merry Go 'Round' and playing dress-up

From the Billboard Music Awards: 'Miguel would make a cool country duet'

LAS VEGAS - Kacey Musgraves nailed her performance of "Merry Go 'Round" at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, but it doesn't mean she wasn't nervous.

The country singer, who is currently opening for Kenny Chesney on his world tour, stopped to talk to HitFix on the red carpet, revealing that she gets a little fright before she steps up to perform on awards shows.

However, the 24-year-old was in good company as singers like Bruno Mars, Prince, Madonna and Miguel also took to the stage to perform or present at the show. "Miguel would make a cool country duet," she surmised.

Musgraves also said that she thought Little Big Town would come back around with their "Pontoon" this summer as a hot-weather jam (along with Daft Punk's "Get Lucky"), and that she actually enjoys the "dress-up" aspect of ceremonies like these. Watch our full interview: Is "Blowin' Smoke" or "Merry Go 'Round" your jam?

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Review: Thirty Seconds To Mars' new album 'Love Lust Faith + Dreams'
Credit: EMI

Review: Thirty Seconds To Mars' new album 'Love Lust Faith + Dreams'

Jared Leto takes a turn at shaman-Jesus, again

Thirty Seconds To Mars’ new album “Love Lust Faith + Dreams” starts with the song “Birth” and ends with a music box playing the them to “Swan Lake,” the go-to tune to signal Death. The rock band is counting on its listeners to make this connection and to follow all the other very obvious themes of “Love Lust Faith + Dreams.” 

And, in case you can’t follow, there’s literally an announcement at the top of each concept: “Lust,” “Love” and so on. 
That’s the main problem with an album like this, and 30STM on the whole: there is no room for subtlety, not because the band can’t “do” subtle, but that they make a conscious choice not to.
Jared Leto yet again lets his outsized personality lead this crop of stadium-emo and brute-disco tunes, as a shaman-Jesus whose truisms are wholly dependent on your belief in Him (Leto). “All we need is faith” he leads over and over again on apocalyptic “End of All Days.” “Love is a dangerous game to play,” he concludes on “The Race.” He rhymes “city of angels” (on the song of the same name) with “comfort of strangers,” and “I don't wanna live a lie that I believe / Time to do or die… Faith is coming, that I know / Time is running, got to go” on the little chestnut of wisdom “Do or Die.”
The trio is as ambitious and equally indulgent in high concept music-making with a broader array of stylistic choices than their last “This Is War.” Like the Killers when they turned the corner with dancey “Day & Age,” 30STM adds more thumps, strings and BPMs to the mix. Unfortunately, they fill the space (and space-rock) with a litter of gang vocals on almost every song, indulging in hair metal-levels of “whoa-ohs,” “yeah-ahs” and rounds.
“Pyres of Varanasi” seems to be a bit of fantasy “world music” fulfillment than it serves its album, which keeps a pretty fixed (if not unrelenting) pace. It at least it provides room for a breath right before hypnotic “Bright Lights,” the best and most concretely complete song on this album. “I’m leaving, gone yesterday / Brutal, laughing, fighting, f*cking / The price I had to pay,” Leto broods. And then, again, with the “Oh-ohs.”
Again, this album works if the listener generously gives themselves over to the spirit of the thing -- all throttle, power, punishment, wantonness and deadpanning; it helps that Leto’s voice is better than ever. But, then again, it’s OK to pass on “Love Lust Faith + Dreams,” even if everybody along the way in the making of the set apparently said "yes," and never said "no."


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<p>The National's &quot;Trouble Will Find Me&quot;</p>

The National's "Trouble Will Find Me"

Credit: 4AD

Review: The National's new album 'Trouble Will Find Me'

Brooklyn five-piece have done it again, with a melancholy (and lively) set of winners


Some songs about age and regret will be predictably glum. The National makes them into an art, too, on “Trouble Will Find Me,” the Brooklyn-based band’s sixth full-length album. From the suffering upright piano and solemn bass on “Pink Rabbits” to climactic heart-rush of “Sea of Love,” there’s always a current of unflinching melancholy, with the National’s enduring, intelligent rhythm section.
“I wish I could rise above it / but I stay down with my demons,” singer Matt Berninger sings in “Demons,” directly after unusually peppy opener “I Should Live in Salt.” Even between these two songs, there’s a fun mix of time signatures; in “Don’t Swallow the Cap” there’s a horn resembling a sigh and a female voice whimsically filling out the gray. And if the lyrics in “I Need My Girl” don’t stab at your emotions, then allow for the National’s most soothing guitar line ever fill that Feelings void.
See, even with Berninger’s low bellow and intimate despair, the five-piece always succeeds in giving dimension and life to their rock dynamic. Hoary, they’re still spirited. Berninger will sing a dirge “Oh but your love is such a swamp,” (“This Is The Last Time”) like a friend, where you’re like, “Matt. Jesus, buddy…” But then the pile-on of murmuring synths and keys, a snappy drum jump from certifiable motherf*cker Bryan Devendorf and a girl-choir brings it back up.
“Trouble Will Find me” is a clinging, claustrophobic meeting of bad feelings in a really beautiful, exotic room. It’s situated to be powerful, but rather than with a shout like on better-known “Mr. November” (2005), it’s with a convicted chant like on “Graceless.”  “I’m gone through the glass again / just come and find me,” Berninger sings. “God loves everybody / don’t remind me.”


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Listen to two new songs from The Weeknd: 'Kiss Land' and 'John Carpenter'

Listen to two new songs from The Weeknd: 'Kiss Land' and 'John Carpenter'

R&B singer ain't nothin' to relate to

The Weeknd has always been a little dark. He's always been bold with his sexual exploits. But on one of his two new songs, "John Carpenter," he opens up about a different corner of his life.

"I got a brand-new place, I think I seen it twice all year/ I can't remember how it looks inside, so you can picture how my life's been/ I went from staring at the same four walls for 21 years/ To seeing the whole world in just 12 months / been gone for so long I might've just found God," he lament-excites. "I don't got no friends... this ain't nothing to relate to."

He still talks, literally, about how many women he can "f*ck" on the road, what ladies do with their tongues when they're around him, but it's a similar mold that got people in a tizzy over Drake: emotional coldness and boldness. The intense beat is met with noisy ghosts that trail off into Weeknd's monotone condition. It's weird, but at least it's new.

Sharing the same YouTube airspace (at the beginning) is "Kiss Land," which is apparently the title track to the R&B singer and producer's next album, due out later this year. It's much more on par with his usual sounds and tirade, like a lot of neon and a lot of blackness as he traipses through lines like "Go 'head girl strip it down, shut your mouth / I just wanna hear your body talk." No wonder there's a scream from the top. It's a track with lots of grring distortion and exhalation from his quivering, high voice. And it's too bad it didn't show up in time for the film "Spring Breakers," because they're serious soul mates.

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