Hugh Laurie Blues

Picture, if you will, a man in Los Angeles’ Ocean Way Studio, his fingers dancing across a piano as the smooth melody of guitar, saxophones, bass clarinets and relaxed drums fill the room with the recognizable music that is the blues. The man behind the piano belts into the microphone, delivering a message about a pimp named Stagger Lee who murders Billy Lyons. This man is none other than the former Dr. House.

I know, I know, it surprised me too. I heard through Facebook that the famed Hugh Laurie played the blues and I had to check it out. Before long, I knew almost all the words to Stagger Lee and was swinging along with the Louisiana blues-style music.

Whatever fame Laurie carried in with him as Dr. House was immediately replaced with the fame of being an amazing musician. His piano style is relaxed and he throws in accents and trills that keeps the music fresh and new. Laurie is accompanied by phenomenal musicians as well (whose names are apparently impossible to find).

Their drummer’s playing is relaxed and fluid and carries the songs along with smoothly transitioned fills and beats that keep the entire band swingin’. He’s crafty in that he drapes what appears to be pieces of felt or leather on some of his drums to get more of a “thud” sound instead of a sharper crack that most are used to. He also, for certain songs, switches out his drum sticks for what appear to be maracas to add another layer to the music.

The lead guitarist throws in short snippets of freestyle leads that add a certain bluesy flavor to the music (aside from the key they play in, of course). The rhythm guitarist has a calm and casual style that blends nicely with the other musicians.

The bass player—who plays a standup bass—keeps the music flowing with deep, moving bass lines that propel the music forward. He’s able to switch between playing with a bow, giving the bass lines are more droning effect, to strumming the strings, giving the music a punchier sound.

Of course, without these essential players (most importantly the bass and drums), the band wouldn’t be able to function. However, the woodwind players are what really stand out to me. They are both capable of playing multiple instruments including the alto sax, tenor sax, bass clarinet, baritone sax and probably many more. At one point in “Stagger Lee,” the tenor sax player switches between his tenor sax to play the background droning notes along with his amazing solos, and also switches to an alto sax to fill in the music with sharper, higher-pitched fills that only benefit the music.

Overall, Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band impressed me immensely. Their style and musicianship are unlike anything I’ve heard in quite some time. They play well together, and it’s clear through their songs that playing music is what they really care about. Their sound is true to the blues sound that many know and love with a dash of personal style. It’s definitely something I plan to keep up on, and I recommend you do the same.

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Written by: Chris Stocking

The Great Gatsby Soundtrack: A Modern Tribute to the Jazz Era

The Great Gatsby [2013] (now in theaters) has been a highly anticipated and publicized movie. The reviews are in and they appear to be mixed, but the reviews for the soundtrack seem to be across the board awesome. I heard rumors that Jay-z had a large part in creating the soundtrack and I was intrigued. I had to listen for myself.

Director Baz Luhrmann gave Jay-Z the reigns when it came to this soundtrack and Luhrmann gave the job to the right person. The opening track is from the rapper, you can call that putting your best foot forward or a major ego move. The track “100$ Bill” is a mix of what sounds like quotes from the movie (but I could be totally wrong, since I haven’t seen the movie), jazz and hip hop. It’s a seriously interesting sound (and I mean that in the best way possible). Who else do you know can take a movie set in the ‘20s and use hip hop as the soundtrack? I love Jay-Z and in my mind, he can do no wrong…

 …But I am apparently wrong. Jay-Z had a major screw up with featuring will.i.am on the album. His song “Bang Bang” is a huge fail. It’s just so wrong on so many levels. For starters, the ragtime thing he’s trying to work into this dubstep beat is just terrible and offensive to the ears. Secondly, he gives a slight nod to Nancy Sinatra’s song “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”. No sir, do not drag a classic down with your sinking ship! Have I made my point clear with this? OK! Moving on.

Mrs. Jay-Z is also on the album performing a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” with OutKast’s Andre 3000. Sounds like a hot mess, right? You’re totally wrong. It’s a smoky, sultry, slow and sexy take on the late singer’s song. I am not usually a huge Beyonce fan, but she seduced me with her voice in this song. It is irresistible and I cannot get enough of this song. Dare I say, this is one of the best songs on the album.

Beyonce wasn’t the only one performing a cover for the soundtrack. Someone actually covered one of Beyonce’s songs. will.i.am, take note, Emeli Sande modernizes ragtime the RIGHT way. Performing with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, “Crazy in Love” goes from a power pop/r&b song to a jazzy ragtime number and still sounds fantastic. I love a good revamp and the fact that took a modern song, reworked it to be appropriate for the time period (the movie is based in the jazz era) and it still sounds awesome? That’s a win.

The album also features Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Rey, Jack Black and more. I love the eclectic collection of artists. Jay-Z could have just made it all about himself and his wife but instead, he decided to mix genres and create gold. Of course, he had a couple misses but all in all, this album is solid and worth a listen.

 

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Written by: Katie Sperduti

Ke$ha the Warrior Pop Star – Album Review

Ok, I’ll admit, I’m not always the most open minded person when it comes to music, especially when I hear a song that I don’t like by the artist. I just assume I’ll hate everything by them when for all I know, they’ve got one song I hate and the rest of the album is great. Ke$ha was a victim of my music snobbery.

The situation with her is a bit different though, out of all her singles I’ve only kind of liked one. Her electronic drum, dance beats with heavy auto tuning didn’t really float my boat. She won me over a little bit when I heard her of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”. Raw, emotional and completely without autotune and to my shock, she can sing. She won me completely over after watching her show on MTV ‘My Crazy,Beautiful Life” and seeing her connection with her fans. I decided to give her most recent album Warrior a shot.

It wasn’t a good start. I wasn’t and am still not a fan of her first single “Die Young”. Perhaps I’m looking too far into this but I’m not big on the idea of singing about stealing someones boyfriend and I’m really not into the heavy autotune that Ke$ha features on most of her songs, especially when I know she can sing.

One song caught my ear immediately when I hear her say Iggy Pop. How can a song with Iggy Pop go wrong? “Dirty Love” is a gritty, rock song that reminds me a bit of Joan Jett
(who I love) in her younger days. Ke$ha is pretty open with her sexuality, as you may have heard in her songs, interviews or seen on her show on MTV, so this song was no surprise as she sang “I just want your dirty love, all I need is to get in between your sheets”. The old school punk sound, the fact she actually sang and Iggy Pop are some of the reason this song is one of my favorites on the album.

Ke$ha states on her show that she wants to give her fans a place to just be themselves and just celebration being them, I think that’s really admirable of her. The title track “Warrior” sounds like an anthem for those devoted fans of hers. “We are the misfits,We are the bad kids,The degenerates.We ain’t perfect but that’s all right! Love us or hate us,Nothing can break us..” The empowering song sounds more like a song to play in a club but it doesn’t lose the message. I’m not a huge fan of the music that goes with the song, but I love what she’s writing about.

 

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t totally wild about the album. I didn’t hate it as much as I assumed I would but it’s just not my cup of tea. I guess I’ll always be more of a fan of her as a persona and an advocate for her fans than I will for her as a musician, but check it out for yourself and form your own conclusion.

Fall Out Boy: Saviors of Rock and Roll?

I have a confession to make… my name is Katie and I am a closet Fall Out Boy fan. Yes, I’ve been one of those people (for years now) who publicly hated the band, but secretly rocked out to them when I was alone in my room.

When they released their newest single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ’em Up),” I first heard it on my favorite radio show and from there, my love affair with Fall Out Boy began again.

Their newest album “Save Rock and Roll” is a triumphant return to the scene after a hiatus (even though singer Patrick Stump released a solo album) and for the most part, I’m hearing great things about the album. But what did I think of it?

Their first single,“My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ’em Up),” had me hooked as soon as I heard it. In fact, it was the chorus that really did me in and it isn’t really anything special. “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark …so light ’em up.”  Something about the energy of Stump screaming those words at you with the driving drums and the guitar wailing in the background just gets you pumped up. Fair warning to all the listeners out there, once you hear this song, you will not be able to get it out of your head.

Something else that caught my eye about the album was the fact that the band did a duet with Courtney Love. No, I’m not joking. Haters hate on! I love Courtney Love and I think it’s the perfect pairing. The song, “Rat a Tat” immediately starts with Love growling “It’s Courtney, Bitch” then works right into the actual song. This bass heavy song features Stump and Love sharing the lead vocal duties and what I really love is the contrast between the two voices. For the most part, Love is just growling her way through the song with some angry spoken word while Stump sings but somewhere towards the end, we get to hear the former Hole front woman sing.

While it’s not completely out of the ordinary to hear Fall Out Boy do a song that their fans can dance to, “Miss Missing You” had more of a electronic ’80s vibe to it. I’ve never really heard a synthesizer on on of their tracks (but maybe I’m mistaken) but it actually works. I give them credit for experimenting with a new sound. With comeback albums, it’s either hit or miss and trying new things can kill an album. Luckily, they didn’t completely blow it.

Another thing I give the guys credit for is the duets on the album and the different artists they did them with. Courtney Love, rapper Big Sean and Elton John are just a few of the artists featured on the album. Unexpected and unlikely, but daring pairings for the band.

All in all, I actually really enjoyed the album. It mixes the classic Fall Out Boy sound that fans have grown to love with a wild side (the duets). Old and new fans alike will dig this album, it’s certainly made me a believer again. Check it out now!

 

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Written by: Katie Sperduti

Heartthrob

The other day while watching TV, a commercial for Express (clothing store) came on. In the background there were some familiar voices, but the music didn’t match the voices. An infectious sythn filled pop song was bursting through the speakers and I thought to myself “this sounds like Tegan and Sara but it’s almost too poppy.” I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it was indeed the band of sisters and the song? Their can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head single “Closer.”

Don’t be mistaken, this duo has been making catchy music for years, but with their new album Heartthrob, it sounds like the sisters are testing new waters. Mark my words, if “Closer” isn’t already on your party play list, you’ll be adding it immediately after you hear it. The electric pop song is so packed with energy that you can’t help but get yourself on the dance floor.  This song is my current obsession and I don’t think it’s going to be replaced anytime soon. I’m not the only one obsessed with this song; I’ve heard that it recently was featured on the hit Fox series Glee.

While listening to the album, there was definitely a theme going on; love. The album seems to go through all the emotions, from happy and hopeful (like in “Closer”) to regretful and sad, like in “I was a fool.”  What kills me about this song (in a good way) is how even though the song is a tale of a failed relationship, the synthesizer and drum machine somehow keep it upbeat. This song reminds me of a power ballad from the ’80s, it could have easier been Madonna (in her early years) or Cyndi Lauper.

Now that I think of it, “I Was A Fool” was not the only song that had an ’80s vibe to it.  The heavily laced bass and drum track of “Shock To Your System” sounds like it belongs on a Pat Benetar or Heart album. There’s a lot of power in the lyrics and the subtlety of the twin sisters, a lot like the power you would hear from The Wilson sisters in Heart or in Benetar anthem. What I love so much about Tegan and Sara is how cool and nonchalant they are with music. What I mean by this is, some performers feel like they have to scream or belt out a note to really drive the point home, or to give it some power. Yes, these tactics do drive the point home, but Tegan and Sara have that same amount of power without having to showboat (for lack of better words).

The quirky Canadian sister team has returned to the music scene with a vengeance. It’s natural for artists to evolve and try new things with their music. Sometimes it’s a hit, sometimes it’s a miss. Taking such a huge step out of your comfort zone can be tough, but Tegan and Sara nailed it. They’ve always made infectious pop music but with this new album, the format is amplified. If you haven’t picked up their new album Heartthrob yet, now would be a good time.

 

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Written by: Katie Sperduti

Celebrities Who Like to Art

Whether it’s oil on canvas, lead on paper, or photography on film – if you need to relieve some creative constipation, art is a great way to relax. When it comes to all things arsty farty, the world is generally divided into two groups of people – those that consider themselves creative, and those that assertively don’t. For those that do and are at the top of their game however, such as celebrities (or at least the talented ones), it’ll be of no surprise that many of them like to indulge their creative sensibilities more than one way. In recent years a growing number of stars have become celebrated in the art world, with their works selling for considerable amounts. And we’re not talking about the soulless Paris Hilton types who would probably buy a few photography textbooks, take instagram pictures and then hold a ‘Look at me!’ exhibition. No, we’re talking about a group of celebrities that are actually pretty damn talented beyond what we know them for. Here are a handful of famous creative types that might just surprise you.

Marilyn Manson

Shock rocker Manson has been painting for years, and like the man himself it’ll be of no surprise that his absinthe induced watercolours also take on a darker aesthetic. With paintings depicting ‘The Black Dahlia’ (aka Elizabeth Short, a victim of a gruesome Hollywood murder in 1947), a three-headed Jesus (painted on an antique embalming table), and numerous unflattering self portraits – his distinctive style has earned his work a following that consists of more than just his fans.

(Click here to view Manson’s work).

 

Viggo Mortensen

Best known for playing Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, Viggo Mortensen has been indulging his creative side for many years and his work has been featured in galleries worldwide. A keen photographer and painter, his work is particularly abstract and often contain elements of his poetry. In the film ‘A Perfect Murder’ in which Viggo played an artist, all the paintings featured in the film were his own.

(Click here to view Viggo’s work).

 

Ronnie Wood

Having had his work featured in numerous galleries over the years, Ronnie Wood is an exceptional talent in the art world. Starting young, Ronnie had his work featured on children’s TV show ‘Sketch Club’ before attending art college. His distinctive paintings, drawings and prints primarily feature icons from popular culture, as well images of his band. Even hardened art critic Brian Sewell called Ronnie “an accomplished and respectable artist”.

(Click here to view Ronnie’s work).

 

 

Lucy Liu

Having exhibited her work for years under the pseudonym ‘Yu Ling’, Charlie’s Angel Lucy Liu was adamant that she wanted her work to be appreciated on its own merit, and not because of her name. It was only until fairly recently that she unveiled this side of her creative self for all to see. Since then she’s released a book of her artwork, and held an exhibition in London. Her abstract pieces are striking and beautiful, rather like the lady herself!

 

 

Anthony Hopkins

Most famous for playing Dr. Hannibal Lecter, when Sir Anthony Hopkins isn’t busy with his thespian pursuits, he likes to paint and draw. Having had his work featured in numerous galleries around the world, he’s certainly earned his reputation as a celebrity artist. Although his style is particularly distinct, his subjects are varied – ranging from gentle scenes to startling portraits. Working with acrylics, his paintings are often vivid in colour, somewhat abstract, and sell for a fortune.

(Click here to view Anthony’s work).

 

Sylvester Stallone

Famous action man, best known for playing Rocky Balboa in the Rocky films, and John Rambo in Rambo, Sylvester Stallone has been painting in his spare time for over three decades – and he’s gotten pretty good. Much like his films, his paintings are full of energy. Unlike his films, they’re often abstract, colorful and expressionistic. Sylvester, who paints in his garage at home in California explains ‘I’m not just painting for painting’s sake. I want to be truthful.’ The work he doesn’t give away to friends or family often sell for tens of thousands – not that he needs the cash!

(Click here to view Sylvester’s work).

 

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Written by: Jennifer Yeoman

 

Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience

      I have no shame in admitting that I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Justin Timberlake’s newest album since I first heard he was doing an album. The teeny bopper in me squealed with joy at the idea of another album by the Timberlake but the adult in me wondered how he was going to outdo his last album “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” a very sexy and mature album from the former boy-bander.

I finally got my hands on “The 20/20 Experience”  today and couldn’t wait another second to listen to it. His first single “Suit and Tie” is a cheeky and playful song featuring Jay-Z.  With big horns and a booming soul vibe, this was a great choice for a comeback single (not that he ever really left).  My only problem with this old school diddy is that it is EVERYWHERE. Target commericial, Bud Light commercials, radio, television, everywhere! The song is about 2 months old and I’m already just about sick of it.  I’m not going to lie, I almost didn’t make it through the song while listening to this album because I’ve probably already  heard it 10 times today.

I just heard the second single “Mirrors” today when I got the album. Somehow, I manage to miss this little gem on the radio. It reminds me a lot of Timberlake’s single “Cry me a River” due to the beat and the beat boxing in the background. This song is a classic Timberlake slow jam; seductive, smooth and full of heartfelt emotion. I love his upbeat songs but Justin Timberlake always seems to execute ballads perfectly.

My favorite track on the album (so far) is “Don’t Hold the Wall”. The song’s intro sounds a lot like a Motown group harmonizing then leads into a weird but funky dance beat. It’s hard to really describe the sound of this song and why I like it so much.  The song has very primal feel, mixing in dance grooves with what sounds like African chants. The track also features a booming bass and regular collaborator Timberland throughout the whole song. Sounds like the weirdest mix ever but actually comes together to make something that sounds so right.

The whole album consists of tracks that are five minutes or longer.  If you thought long songs were only for classic rock you thought wrong. In fact, there are only three songs out of twelve that are shorter than five minutes.  There is a downside to this though; while the tracks on the album are fantastic it seems like after a while, the rest of the song is filler to make the songs longer. End a song where it feels right to end it, don’t feel like you have to drag it out JT!  There’s no need to make an epic “Bohemian Rhapsody”-esque  track out of something that doesn’t make sense after 3 minutes.

All in all, the wait was well worth it. The album is sensual, funky, with a soul/R&B vibe. It seems that Timberlake hasn’t lost his touch and has not gone back to the immature boy band music that created him.  To top off this night, I just heard that we can expect another album by Justin Timberlake in November. And the anticipation begins again…