Dig These Discs :: Nick Jonas, Ladyhawke, The Kills, Beth Orton, Jon Bellion
Nick Jonas, releases his sophomore studio album this month, chronicling his breakup with former Miss USA Olivia Culpo last year. English 'folktronica' singer/songwriter Beth Orton releases her seventh studio album, Kidsticks," one of the funkiest sounds we've heard from this usually sedate singer. New Zealand musician Ladyhawke releases her third album, the first since 2012's "Anxiety." Hip-hop artist Jon Bellion releases his debut album, "The Human Condition," after releasing four mixtapes and touring several times. The indie rock band The Kills releases their fifth studio album, the first album in five years.
"Last Year Was Complicated" (Nick Jonas)
Best Jonas brother, 23-year-old Nick Jonas, releases his sophomore studio album this month, chronicling his breakup with former Miss USA Olivia Culpo last year. "It's a great opportunity to just lay it out," Jonas told People. "I was trying to be as honest as possible -- it really is pulling from this chapter of my life." These 12 tracks kick off with Jonas singing, "I think I'm better alone... Getting under my skin like 'VooDoo.'" Like Meghan Trainor, Jonas has "Champagne Problems," but for him, he's downing the bottles with no stopping, while his relationship is what's on the rocks. He collaborates with Tove Lo on the slow stunner, "Close," which gives them both a chance to exercise their stunning vocal prowess. Jonas pulls a "Lemonade" on his exes' shit in "Chainsaw," and gets his One Direction boy-band feel out of the funky ode to sexing her up with "both hands" and then with "no hands" in "Touch." He "woke up like this," and wants a side of sizzling, white-hot "Bacon," hold the drama, in one funny cut. In another, he teams up with Big Sean to ask that old trope, "When did these 'Good Girls' decide to be so bad?" She's been broken before, but he promises to "fix her" and treat her like "a grown-ass man" would, in "The Difference." His love or his life? "Don't Make Me Choose," sings Jonas, saying he loses every time you push him to make the choice, girl. He'll never get over not getting "Under You," sings Jonas in a "what if?" song, and lends his falsetto to the slow track "Unhinged," which sounds like the response to his earlier track, "Jealous." He wraps up the album with the poppy slow jam, "Comfortable." Jonas embarks on his joint Future Now tour with Demi Lovato in in Florida on June 24.
"Wild Things" (Ladyhawke)
New Zealand musician Ladyhawke releases her third album, the first since 2012's "Anxiety." The artist, Pip Brown, drops 11 amazing tracks that will leave you wondering if the '80s ever really ended. "It all began innocent as love can be, and every word, you gave all to me, because this is what a love song sounds like," she belts out in the first track, the pop cut "A Love Song." She bangs the drums in the upbeat "River" and tacks a funereal opening to title track "Wild Things," singing about walking the road to heartache together. The beat moves fast and furious, thanks to skillful drumming, in the punk-pop "Let It Roll," and counts on some cool cowbell to liven up the excellent track "Chills," with Brown singing "this is love, this is love, this is everything." In the electro cut "Sweet Fascination," obsession is at work, with love letters written and awaiting a reply, with the excellent lyrics, "Sweet fascination is taking over you, just like you want it to/ Infatuation, it makes the lonely feel that the illusion's real." The bouncy "Golden Girl" isn't about those four old ladies in Miami; rather, Brown is caught in her memories of how things used to be. She's headed for the higher ground of "Hillside Avenue," and sings of her younger, headstrong girlfriend with "Money to Burn," who's wanted by everyone in this town, but she's "a-a-after me." Rock out to the catchy "Wonderland," and bring it home with the fast-moving, '80s vibe track, "Dangerous." It's life, on fast-forward. If you've never heard of Ladyhawke, now's the time to book this flight.
(Polyvinyle Record Co.)
"The Human Condition" (Jon Bellion)
Hip-hop artist Jon Bellion releases his debut album, "The Human Condition," after releasing four mixtapes and touring several times. Bellion beat-boxes his way into the album's 14 tracks, singing, "Still living in his dad's house/ 24 years old," in "He Is the Same," rapping about a man-boy who's still taking out the trash and shooting hoops, hanging out with his high school friends. He crams a lot of disparate sounds in the cut, "80's Films." He said, "I really think I peaked in high school." She disagrees, saying they never hooked up in high school, so they kick it in the back seat, just like in those old days. He sings, "You're my 'Breakfast Club, my song by Cyndi Lauper." His winning voice shines through "All Time Low" and lays the funk on thick in "New York Soul, (Part ii)," rapping about all things Brooklyn. Bellion shows the high points of his register in "Fashion," and wonders why he can't run so fast in his dreams in "Maybe IDK," a song with excellent clap tracks, and an offbeat message about God. This sense of spirituality runs through several of Bellion's tracks. The kids will love "Woke The F-ck Up," as Bellion sings, "realized I need you here, as desperate as that sounds." He crams in the pop culture references in the reggae-influenced "Overwhelming," and teams up with Blaque Keyz for the touching track, "Weight Of The World." The electro cut "The Good In Me," explores some interesting effects over a stuttered vocal pattern, and sings about all the great expectations: "1600 on the SAT/Said they're getting me an SUV" in "Morning In America." The quirky "iRobot" is an acquired taste, and Bellion vows he'll never share your secrets, even when he loses his head, in the intricately layered track, "Guillotine." Bellion eases listeners out of this excellent album with the outro, "The Hand of God." Bellion tours the East Coast this summer, heading to the Southwest in July, before looping to Canada and back to NYC.
"Kidsticks" (Beth Orton)
English 'folktronica' singer/songwriter Beth Orton releases her seventh studio album, Kidsticks," one of the funkiest we've heard from this usually sedate singer. Her first cut "Snow" layers cascading vocals over a bouncy bass track for a breezy island effect. A deep bass line marks the excellent "Moon," as Orton asks, "I know what the sun feels like on my skin/ I wanna know what the moon feels like within." The electro-echo of the intricate "Petals" will leave you swooning, as will Orton's high, fine voice. Her cut "1973" has a sound as good as its name; it will remind you of the lo-fi advent of electropop. She "shake[s] the fury right on outta me" in "Wave," and sings melancholy and sweet in "Dawnstar." Orton has one of those voices that washes over the listener like a wave itself, dragging you sleepily under with little resistance. She puts it to good effect in this album, singing out rather than letting it be lost in the music, as in past albums like "Comfort of Strangers." In "Falling," she levels, "what I see is what I get, so I close my eyes and I feel your body there." The tinny bells and layers of spoken word turn "Corduroy Legs" into a trippy soundscape, and "Flesh and Blood" has her laying down all the ways she used to hurt herself. She ends the album with the title track, "Kidsticks," a short, quirky piece -- much like Orton herself.
"Ash & Ice" (The Kills)
The indie rock band The Kills releases their fifth studio album, the first album in five years. They're pulling out all the electro tricks in their 13 tracks, starting with "Doing It To Death," meshing electro beats with Jamie Hince's grinding guitars to great effect. Alison Mosshart's vocals make everything so much better. "I get lost, but I always come around," she sings in the dark, brooding "Heart of a Dog." The fast-moving drum line on "Hard Habit to Break" and "Bitter Fruit" will get you moving, and the sadness inherent in "Days Of Why and How" will have you thinking back over your own bad romances, especially the chorus, "When I hear your name, it's like a freight train, shake shake shaking me off my tracks." The deep bass guitar adds the necessary buzz to the bluesy "Hum for your Buzz," and keyboards cement the melancholy vibe of "The Love." The band grinds like Garbage in their cut "Impossible Tracks," and is fast-moving but mellow in "Black Tar." "Won't you come on home and make it alright?" asks Mosshart in "Echo Home." They rock the album right out, hard and fast with "Whirling Eye," with Mosshart begging you to "get the vision." You better get it quick!
(Domino Recording Company)