"Lazaretto" album cover

Review: Jack White's invigorating new album, 'Lazaretto'

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He shows off his feral and gentle sides

With his second solo album, “Lazaretto,” out Tuesday (10), Jack White continues on his exploration of American music. For all his talk of condemning others for being musical magpies, he proves to be quite one himself on the set:  Whether he’s recalling Howling Wolf or The Band or even Lynyrd Skynrd, it’s easy to trace the new creation back to its musical forbearers.

Where White’s true talent lies is that he’s able to assimilate so many different styles into his music. “Lazaretto” works also most as two different albums: there are the gentle country-influenced acoustic tracks and the feral, primal, razor-edged electric tunes and he sells both of them with equal conviction. For the most part, both tread the same lyrical band: a sense of isolation that, in some cases, quietly creeps in and other times, announces its arrival with unrestrained howls.

As acclaimed a guitarist as White is, much of the album relies on stellar keyboard work. White sounds more comfortable here than he did on 2012’s “Blunderbuss.” The stylistic shifts may be jarring for some, but fans of White’s should be pretty used to his ability to be a Jack (White) of all trades by now.

Below is a track-by-track review:

“Three Women”: Sounding like a cross between The Band, Dr. John, and Lynyrd Skynyrd on this barrel-house piano blues rocker, White brags about the three women in his life who come visit him every night. Sure, it’s a big confusing keeping everyone happy, but he seems to be juggling just fine. It’s a fine, high energy kick off to the album: GRADE: B+

“Lazaretto”: Frenetic, jerky, fuzzy track that’s all about White’s kinetic electric guitar work and his jagged vocal delivery.  Full of bleeps and effects, and an unexpected fiddle break, the title track is the album’s most lacerating track. GRADE: B

“Temporary Ground”: A beautiful, country-tinged acoustic track that examines a God that would leave here letting us believe we’ve found a safe haven when we’re really only on temporary ground.  “All the creatures have it hard now/Nothing but God is left to know/ Why he left us all here hanging with an illusion of a home,”   White sings as he trades lyrics with Lillie Mae Rische. A gorgeous alt-country tune that brings in acoustic guitars, fiddles, mandolin and pedal steel, while still sounding contemporary (with a nod back to very, very early Elton John).  GRADE: A-

“Would You Fight For My Love”:  “I’m getting better at becoming a ghost,” White declares on this mid-tempo, dense track about getting shattered by love. Lyrically, he’s most vulnerable than we usually hear him. Musically, he’s all over the map here from new wave to operatic background singers to screeching guitars. It’s a very busy tune and instead of his vocals sounding interesting, he just sounds like a David Byrne wanna be. GRADE: B-

“High Ball Stepper”: An woozy, psychedelic instrumental track that lets White show off his guitar chops and serves as a palate cleanser between the first and second halves of “Lazeretto.”  GRADE: B-

“Just One Drink”: Straight-ahead country rocker that would have sounded right at home on a Georgia Satellites album. He loves her, but she doesn’t love him…same old story told in a familiar, but still refreshing way. GRADE: B+

“Alone In My Home”: Genial alt country track with White singing in a straight ahead style that we don’t normally hear. He’s once again broken and he again, as in “Would You Fight For My Love,” references becoming a ghost “so nobody can known me.”  As jaunty as the playful piano may be, the lyrics are about isolating and escaping pain. GRADE: B

“Entitlement”: The alt country roll continues on this track that crosses Wilco with the Jayhawks. Lyrically he takes on those who can “take like Caesar and nobody cares” and how, despite being one of the entitled ones, he can’t quite do the same.  “Stop what you’re doing and get back in line/I hear this from people all the time,” he bemoans. It’s a damned-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t song set to a nice mandolin that comes to a nice resolution. GRADE: B-

“That Black Bat Licorice”: A slinky, creeping track that finds White rhyming names like Columbo and Dumbo (the NYC neighborhood, not the baby elephant) in a trippy/, shape-shifting tune. Weird but it somehow works. GRADE: B-

“I Think I Found The Culprit”: “Birds of a feather may lay together/but the uglier one is always under the gun,” White sings as love and betrayal takes on the form of two birds on a windowsill. GRADE: B

“Want and Able”: White ends the album with a sloping, country parable that sounds very much like a Avett Brothers track: Want is never satisfied and always looking for more, while Able is the freedom to carry out our desires. GRADE: B

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Psy and Snoop Dogg

Psy and Snoop Dogg party like rock stars in 'Hangover' video

And they look darn good doing it

You have to give Psy credit, the Korean rapper continues to parlay his international fame that started with 2012’s “Gangnam Style” on little more than a few clever dance moves, not-particularly catchy, bleating beats, and videos that spread virally like wildfire.

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Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert's "Platinum" set for a shiny start on album chart

Country superstar will land at No. 1


Miranda Lambert’s fifth studio album, “Platinum,” will soar into the top spot on the Billboard 200 next week with sales of up to 180,000.

The title will be her first debut at the top of the all-genre chart in a week that also sees Led Zeppelin return to the Top 10.

Two weeks ago, both Coldplay and Brantley Gilbert debuted with albums that each sold more than 200,000 albums. Lambert’s “Platinum” is the only one to blow past the 100,000 mark this week.  “Frozen” and Gilbert’s “Just As I Am” are too close to call for the No. 2 spot, with both expected to sell between 50,000-55,000. Coldplay’s “Ghost Stories” will be No. 4 (45,000-50,000).

“Now That’s What I Call Music 50” will be at No. 5 (40,000-45,000), with “Now That’s What I Call Country 7” also taking up space in the Top 10, bowing at No. 7 (25,000-28,000).

50 Cent’s “Street King Immortal” comes in at No. 6, with sales of 35,000-40,000.

Rhino reissued the first three Led Zeppelin albums last week and all three will bow in the top 11: “Led Zeppelin l” will likely come in at No. 8 (25,000-28,000), with “Led Zeppelin ll” at No. 10 (24,000-27,000) and “Led Zeppelin lll” at No. 11 (22,000-25,000)

Michael Jackson’s posthumous project, “Xscape” likely remains in the Top 10 at No. 9 (24,000-27,000), according to Hits Daily Double.

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"Edge of Tomorrow"

Interview: 'Frozen' composer Christophe Beck on scoring 'Edge of Tomorrow'

What's it really like to work with Doug Liman?

Stepping in to replace another composer on a film is never an easy task, but for Christophe Beck, coming in at the tail end of “Edge of Tomorrow” had one great advantage: the movie was largely completed.

When “Tomorrow,” which opens today, started shooting, there was no finished script: director Doug Liman and star Tom Cruise continued to craft the film as shooting went along. Liman replaced original composer Ramin Djawadi with Beck, who was best known for scoring films like the three “Hangover” movies, “Muppets Most Wanted,” “Pitch Perfect” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
He jokes that getting thrown into the summer blockbuster made him feel a little bit like Cruise’s character, who is thrust into the front lines of a war with no combat experience. “You sort of get dropped in to the situation kind of running, kind of like the Tom Cruise character,” he says.  (Typically, even the original composer isn’t brought in until shooting is near complete, although some directors bring in composers earlier in the process, especially if they have an ongoing relationship).

Even though Beck has composed for thrillers like “Runner Runner,”  “Tomorrow” is his first big action pic, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t ready. “I had a lot of training,” who graduated from Yale with a music degree before attending USC’s Film Scoring program. “I’m always entertaining possibilities and ideas even if it’s not the project I’m working on,” he says. “If I see a cool sci-fi movie with a cool score, I think what would I do there? It’s not like, ‘I’ll be starting this big sci-fi movie in a month and I need to ramp up’.”

Having said that, he knew he was coming into a situation where not only the first composer had been let go, but that Liman was figuring out  how to navigate working with a composer other than his frequent collaborator John Powell, who has decided to take a break from scoring to work on other projects.

“I think any composer going in to that situation might have met the same fate [as Djawadi],” he says. “I wonder if I had been the first composer if I would have lasted the whole time.”

Beck and Liman found their footing, but it took some time: “It took me awhile to get some stuff out of my system,” Beck says. “Doug really pushed me to constantly find unconventional ways to score scenes. That took a couple of months.”

For example, there’s an extended scene where Cruise, in the “Groundhog Day”-like plot, keeps reliving the beach invasion scene, but each time before he dies, he comes back with a little extra knowledge. “At first, we were hung up on the super soldier aspect and had a heroic theme with french horns,” Beck says. “It was important to Doug that [the audience] be able to laugh at the scene. After multiple attempts at doing it [with] a more traditional hero melody, we played it more like a punk rebel and sampled bits and pieces of the orchestra and distorted them.”

 Beck calls Liman “a very enthusiastic musician —he can play a mean Billy Joel on the piano—who always knows what he wants, even if he has to hear what he doesn’t want first. As Blunt and Cruise have both also noted, Liman doesn’t sugarcoat his criticism. “When you’re in the moment and you’re hearing it from him, it can sometimes make your heart sink, but I’d much rather work with someone where you know where you stand,” Beck says. “When he’s telling you it’s the best cue or it’s a total miss and he wonders what movie you were watching, he delivers the news i the same even-keeled manner. It’s quite remarkable.”

Working on “Edge of Tomorrow” was a sharp contrast to scoring “Frozen.” Whereas Liman pushed Beck for innovation, with the Disney animated film, “there was an expectation of a traditional symphonic sound with melody, and not too much emphasis on writing something completely original,” Beck says. “The emphasis on surprising the audience is not there. For a Disney film, you have to stick to the tradition of all that came before it.” However, at the core, he adds, “you’re still storytelling through music.”

“Frozen,” which has grossed more than $1 billion in worldwide box office, has made more money than any film in Disney Animation’s history.  “It’s always fun to have a giant hit,” Beck says of working on a movie that belongs in the pantheon of Disney’s classic films. “It’s nice to be able to tell someone I worked on a film that’s so wildly beloved and widely known so I don’t have to explain that I worked on a movie that opened three months ago and is gone.”

Beck names John Williams as his all-time favorite composer, also tips his hat to legendary Jerry Goldsmith: “He was one of my teachers at USC. He only taught one year or so and I had him. He was a huge influence on me, mainly through his ability to make such great music out of so few ideas. He was very economical. His music has a real feeling of cohesiveness. It’s almost Beethoven-esque.

His favorite contemporary composer is Alexandre Desplat. “No matter what style he does, there’s still his stamp on it it, which is a certain sophistication and minimalism,” Beck says. “It has a real elegance to it, even when he’s doing ‘Godzilla’ with 18 trombone players.”

Beck hints that he has some future animated projects in the works that he can’t announce yet. In the meantime, he’s working on the score for “Hot Tube Time Machine 2.” “They go into the future this time as opposed to the past, so the score takes a turn. It’s very cool.”

 

 

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Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys awarded $1.7 million in Monster Energy copyright case

Monster Energy admitted infringement from the start of trial

A New York jury has awarded the Beastie Boys $1.7 million in the rap trio’s copyright violation lawsuit against Monster Energy drink.

At issue was a mix by DJ Z-Trip used by Monster Energy that included five Beastie Boys songs, including “Sabotage” and “Pass the Mic.”  DJ Z-Trip gave the drink manufacturer permission to use the mix for a recap of a snowboarding competition it sponsored, but Monster Energy did not have the Beastie Boys’ permission.

From the start of the New York Federal Court trial, Monster Energy admitted it was at fault, so the trial was to determine damages. Monster Energy wanted to pay $125,000, the two remaining Beastie Boys, Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond, wanted $2 million— $1 million for the copyright infringement and $1 million for Monster Energy implying that the Beastie Boys’ endorsed the usage.

Both Horovitz and Diamond testified at the trial. Among the facts revealed was that the pair will not ever record together as the Beastie Boys again, following Adam Yauch’s death.

The Beastie Boys aren't messing around when they say they do not want their music used to endorse products. In March, the act settled with GoldieBlox over the toy company's parody of the group's 1987 song, "Girls."  The settlement included an apology on the company's website to the band and an undisclosed donation to Beastie Boy-selected charities that supported science, technology, engineering and math education for girls.

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10 best lyrics from Bruce Springsteen's 'Born In The U.S.A.' album

10 best lyrics from Bruce Springsteen's 'Born In The U.S.A.' album

Commemorating the album's 30th anniversary

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” The album, which sold more than 15 million copies in the U.S. alone, is not only his best-selling title, it is likely his most misunderstood. The title track, about the disillusionment of the American Dream as seen through the eyes of a soldier returning from Vietnam, became a controversial lightning rod after then-president Ronald Reagan and other conservatives embraced it as a patriotic anthem.

The album boasted a staggering seven top 10 singles (a record shared with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814”) and catapulted Springsteen from star to stadium-filling superstar.

Here’s a look back at the 10 best lyrics from the album.

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Mariah Carey

5 things that went wrong with Mariah Carey's 'Me. I Am Mariah...' album release

Set debuts to Carey's lowest non-holiday first week sales ever

Mariah Carey’s first album in five years, “Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse,” came out last week and debuted with rather unspectacular sales.

In numbers released today, “Elusive” sold 58,000 in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That’s Carey’s lowest opening weeks sales ever for a non-holiday album since the 1991 birth of SoundScan.

So what went wrong here?

*The title. Not only is it unwieldy, it’s three titles in one. It’s memorable for being awkward and egotistical and just strange… and that’s even knowing the too precious backstory of the title coming from a drawing she did when she was little. And who has referred to her as “the elusive chanteuse?” That seems self-appointed. Including your name in that album title only works once— on your self-titled debut—and she’d already gotten away with it doing it again on “The Emancipation of Mimi.”

*The project ran out of steam even before it came out: Originally titled “The Art of Letting Go,” the new album was first slated to be released sometime in 2012 or early 2013 following the release of first single, “Triumphant (Get ‘Em)” in 2012…. a song that’s not even on the new album, by the way. Then it just kept getting moved back for nearly two years. Add that to it seemed a sure shot for May 6 and then it mysteriously got moved to three weeks later and everyone just seemed confused about the actual release

*No killer single: By the time the album was came out, it was more than a  year since the track that had received significant mainstream radio play, “Beautiful,” featuring Miguel, had gone to radio. People’s memories are short and subsequent singles, while they may have had success at other formats, particularly dance, didn’t gain traction at radio.

*Lack of promotion: If you combine everything Carey did over the past 18 months, from appearing on “American Idol,” to performing on “Good Morning America” and “Today,” and assorted other shows and her primetime special with Matt Lauer last Saturday (yeah, I had no idea about it until after the fact either… ), it may have added up to significant exposure, but the appearances were scattered over so long a period of time, her casual fans can’t be blamed for having no idea that the album had actually dropped on May 27.

*Tone deaf publicity: Carey kept showing up in the press but for the wrong reasons, like her Norma Desmond-like ride on a New York subway last week clad in a formal gown and white gloves. That doesn’t make her seem street or one with the people, it makes her seem confused about where she is and out of touch. If she wants to ride the subway, something I imagine she hasn’t done in decades, as a publicity stunt, that’s fine, but don’t do it in a way that only makes you seem even more unrelateable.

So what happens next? It would be nice if her label found a way to keep working the album because there are some really strong songs on there that could be radio hits, including “Cry” and “Make It Look Good.” (read our review here) The album is better than the opening week sales reflect and here’s hoping that it finds the audience that it deserves.
 

 

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Jack White

Jack White unleashes big bag of weird in new 'Lazaretto' music video: Watch

Black-and-white clip has something for everyone

Well, that’s one way to get a visual effect. At about 2:16 in his new black-and-white clip for “Lazaretto,” Jack White spits on the camera lens and the next portion of the trippy video is shot through the filter of his own body fluid.  And that’s not even the strangest thing in the clip.

There’s a big bag of disconnected weirdness going on in the video, whether it’s a flying baseball that shatters the glass that floats through much of the clip or the bullet holes that appear in a pane of glass between White and the camera. Then there’s the raging bull, spinning race car, exploding guitar, the lipsticked man tattooed with a huge image of Jack White on his chest, and the transsexual dancer writhing around at the end. Really, take your pick; here’s probably something there for you. The only unifier is that everything is in motion: even White's shadow dances on its own.

A lazaretto is a quarantine station for sea travelers and the goods they traveled with. So it’s possible, though this is probably overt hiking it, that the over-the-top images connect with some kind of deer drew, that any quarantined for  a long period of time could have. But it’s more likely that White and directors Jonas & Francois just decided to come up with this kaleidoscope of images to give the video the same frenetic feel as the fuzzy, distorted song.  
“Lazaretto,” White’s second solo album, comes out June 10 and is strewing on iTunes in full now. White appears on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on June 9.


 

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Miranda Lambert

Review: Miranda Lambert shines on diverse new album, 'Platinum'

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She stays true to her roots, while expanding her sound

Miranda Lambert has what Mary Tyler Moore’s boss, Lou Grant, would call “spunk.”

She’s feisty, she doesn’t mince words, and she gives as good, if not better, than she gets. On album after album, she shows that beneath that toasty exterior is a heart that is very capable of being broken.

The overloaded "Platinum"— there are 16 tracks on the standard edition— is stylistically Lambert’s most diverse (and that's saying a lot given some of the adventurous turns she took on 2011's "Four The Record") : She veers into western swing on the chugging, plucky cover of Tom T. Hall’s “All That’s Left” (featuring the fantastic Time Jumpers), spoken-word blended with ‘60s psychedelia on “Red Wagon,” and rock on the thumping “Something Bad,” featuring Carrie Underwood (which comes off far better on the recorded version than the song’s live debut at the Billboard Music Awards a few weeks ago).

Lambert embraces an easier time on first single, “Automatic,” but there’s something thoroughly modern about Lambert. Though she would probably not call herself a feminist since it’s become such a loaded word lately for some reason, there is an undeniable “girl power” sentiment running throughout “Platinum” in ways both touching an hilarious.

On album opener, “Girls,” (which melodically bears a resemblance to Trisha Yearwood’s “Bus To St. Cloud”),  Lambert schools a boy who knows nothing about women, especially if he thinks he can mistreat his current lady.  On the title track, in an exaggerated twang, she jokes “What doesn’t kill you, makes you blonder,” in a song that Dolly Parton would have been right at home singing. “You don’t need to be a fighter, honey just go one shade lighter/you’ll acquire everything you want,” she advises.

On the infectious, jangly “Priscilla,” she examines her marriage to Blake Shelton through the filter of their being a modern day Elvis and Priscilla Presley, constantly hounded by the media. It’s lighthearted and fun, but still lands its punches about the lack of privacy and living in the spotlight.

Despite all the trappings of fame, Lambert does her level best to very convincingly imply that she is just like us:  “Bathroom Sink,” an ode to those moments of utter realism we often have when we look in the mirror over the sink. The roadhouse piano track “Gravity’s A Bitch,” makes fun of aging with the undeniable refrain, “Got bags under your eyes, bigger hips and bigger thighs…you can nip and tuck and squeeze it, but you're never gonna beat it, because gravity’s a bitch.”

If the album has a failing, it’s that there’s nothing here that packs the emotional wallop of Lambert’s classic, “The House That Built Me” from “Revolution,” or the anguishing “Over You” from “Four The Record.  There’s plenty to sink your emotional teeth into like the pedal-steel infused “Hard Staying Sober,” sweet “Holding on to You.” and pop country mid-tempo track, “Smokin’ and Drinkin’,” featuring Little Big Town, but nothing that will take your breath away, like those did.

However, songs like that don’t come along every day and that’s what makes them so special. instead, Lambert has crafted an album that seems to capture exactly where she is: she’s famous, but struggling to make sure it continues to be for the right thing: for her talent. And there’s no shortage of that on “Platinum.”

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Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley and country's expanding view of 'traditional American values'

Is country music becoming more moderate?

Country music has, for the most part, aligned itself with what are referred to as “traditional American values.” No one has a clear cut definition of what those are, but they usually include a strong sense of patriotism (or, more realistically, jingoism), and a nostalgic yearning that things were better when families came with a mom and a dad, mom stayed at home and looked after the kids and had dinner waiting on the table, Dad drove an American-made car  (preferably a truck) from his 9-to-5 job, and they went to church every Sunday.  Add in that they usually lived in middle America or the south and considered New York a place they might want to visit, but definitely didn’t want to live.

While there are plenty of songs on country radio still espousing that kind of lifestyle (despite the fact that it reflects an ever-diminishing reality), what’s interesting is that country artists, who are for the most part very reluctant to discuss politics or religion, are starting to become much more vocal about embracing a broader world view. (“Vocal” is the key word here because there are plenty of country artists who are not conservative, but other than Tim McGraw, they tend not to discuss their views publicly).

Brad Paisley is the latest to counter the “good-old-boy” stereotype. On Sunday, he posted a selfie with members of Westboro Baptist Church, who were boycotting his show for reasons that aren't totally clear, but seem to do with his song “Alcohol,” a funny ditty about what happens when you are over served. (We’re guessing they’ve never heard his heartbreaking tune, “Whiskey Lullaby,” with Alison Krauss, also about over-indulging). He’s looking very bemused into the camera and his Twitter caption reads “Westboro Baptist Selfie!! Or west-Burro(ass) selfie. Hopefully, they can hear the show out here. We’ll play loud.” (Paisley, to be fair, has always embraced a great awareness of the world around him, whether in "Welcome To the Future" or his much maligned, but well intentioned "Accidental Racist.")

Vince Gill also recently tangled with the Westboro crowd: they protested his show because he’s divorced and because he married Amy Grant, who has been open about her support of gays.  He came out swinging and really had some choice words for the hate mongers. In a video since taken down, Gill interacted with the protesters who wanted to know what he was doing “with another man’s wife.”

“I came out to see what hatred really looks like in the face,” he said to the protesters and then, as he got really mad, added “Don’t you know that you f**kers are lucky that you don’t have a sign that says something about my wife?” and took them to task for not preaching Jesus’ message of forgiveness and tolerance.

Speaking of tolerance, more and more country artists are speaking out in favor of gay marriage, a topic that once was very taboo and remains Westboro's public enemy No. 1. Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles told the Advocate in a February interview, that the fight for gay marriage “should have already been behind us.”  Keith Urban was caught on camera crying happy tears during the same and opposite-sex marriage ceremony performed during this year’s Grammy Awards and later told Rolling Stone Country, “love is love.”  Carrie Underwood initially caught flack from fans in 2012, when, if not downright endorsing marriage equality, stated that she didn't want to be told who she can marry. A year later, she preached a message of "acceptance" to Allure, stating, "I feel no matter who you are, what you believe, how you live your life, it's not my place to judge."  That may not be the same thing as bluntly saying, "Yes, I believe in marriage equality," but it's not backing down from the issue either.

To be sure, there’s no openly flag-waving progressive on the country charts and there’s certainly not an openly gay country act on the charts (With all due respect, for all of Chely Wright’s protestations that coming out hurt her country career, she hadn’t had a country hit in years by the time she published her autobiography).  But artists like Kacey Musgraves, who got away with lines like “kiss lots of boys or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into” in her song “Follow Your Arrow” point to a greater openness (even though the song stalled at 43 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart).

More than anything, these actions create a dialogue and show that country is moving to a more moderate, tolerant position, which is likely in line with the majority of country fans.

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