Dig These Discs :: Laura Mvula, Marian Hill, Broods, Bat For Lashes
From Birmingham in the UK, British singer/songwriter Laura Mvula follows her hit debut "Sing To the Moon" with "The Dreaming Room," a collection of buzzy analogue synthesizers and electric guitar riffs, in collaboration with Nile Rodgers. Marian Hill, the Philly-based duo comprised of singer Samantha Gongol and producer Jeremy Lloyd, release their debut album (after two Eps) a spare, minimal collection of improve jazz beats and vocals. English singer Bat For Lashes, aka Natasha Khan, releases her fourth studio album, "The Bride," a dozen pared-down tracks telling the story of a woman whose fiancé is killed on the way to the wedding, so she goes on the honeymoon alone. And New Zealand siblings Georgia and Caleb Nott release their sophomore album, "Conscious," a baker's dozen of hits that breaks with their traditional sound and goes for more gusto.
"ACT ONE" (Marian Hill)
Marian Hill, the Philly-based duo comprised of singer Samantha Gongol and producer Jeremy Lloyd, release their debut album (after two Eps) a spare, minimal collection of improve jazz beats and vocals. The two cadged their name from characters in "The Music Man." Gongol's fine voice shines from the get-go, in her first cut, "Down," singing, "Isn't this the reason that you came? So baby don't you let it go to waste. Baby are you down?" Their trademark muted brass sound keeps "Talk To Me" moving, and helps make it one of the best of the bunch. "Wild" finds her at a party with a guy "grinding up on me"; the tongue-click sound effects give it a real old-school beat box vibe. They break out the organ with echo sound effects for the slow jam, "Bout You," and in the next, sing, "If you wanna touch it, boy just lay low/ Baby don't you rush it, til I say you're mine, just 'Take Your Time.'" Simple clave strikes add depth to the shimmering track "I Know Why," and the echo effects make "Good" interesting, despite her backhand compliment, "you're looking good but I know you already know/I'm feeling good cause I don't need you anymore," as she realizes his silver tongue only drops clichés. Gongol gets soulful in "Thinking" and the "gift just keeps on giving" in "Sad Song." Jazz singer Steve Davit sits in on the funky "Mistaken," with its muted saxophone blasts and spare beats. Gongol sings forlornly in "Same Thing" of a relationship that's stuck in a predictable pattern. You look like Friday night, and she wants to "dress you up and take you on a carpet ride" in the funky closing cut, "I Want You." If you're looking for something fresh and new, look no further.
"The Bride" (Bat For Lashes)
English singer Bat For Lashes, aka Natasha Khan, releases her fourth studio album, "The Bride," a dozen pared-down tracks telling the story of a woman whose fiancé is killed on the way to the wedding. Khan is known for her high soprano voice, and critics are already comparing her sound on this album to Tori Amos. She starts, of course, with the harp strains of "I Do," with Khan singing, "the sorrow will drop away like dew from a flower in bloom when you say 'I do.'" She's looking forward to her wedding day tomorrow, when all the gray skies will go away. The drums pump like a heart in "Joe's Dream" in which her lover comes to her window with tears in her eyes. "But what does it mean, the bad things that I've seen?" she wonders. She's "In God's House" waiting for her love on their wedding day, with dewy eyes and lashes long. Will he ever come? The arrangement becomes more spare as she finds her man has died, and ends with a wail of anguish. After the obligatory sample of screeching wheels and crushing metal, Khan gets serious with "Honeymooning Alone," singing, "pretty girls, all the pretty ones have tears in their eyes" as she drives her car through the night. It's very "Kill Bill." Bass and drums pulse together excellently in the best track of the album, "Sunday Love." Spare acoustic guitar paints the landscape for "Never Forgive the Angels," and she cries about her ghost lover coming to her in the dead of night in "Close Encounters." "Come under with me, through a young girls' dream," she exhorts in the beginning of the suitably creepy "Widow's Peak." By the time winter comes, she's forgotten her own name, in the spare "Land's End," but when spring comes, she has climbed that mountain in "If I Knew." Toward the end of the album, she's got hope that "I Will Love Again." She may not want to paint the town red, but she's gonna make it through and find love again, in the final track, "In Your Bed." Some have found fault with this concept album, but for my money, Bat For Lashes nails this narrative via song.
(The Echo Label)
New Zealand Siblings Georgia and Caleb Nott release their sophomore album, "Conscious," a baker's dozen of hits that breaks with their traditional sound and goes for more gusto. Explains Georgia, "We're very conscious on what we want to achieve with this album. We're very conscious of what we want to do and what kind of impact we want to make. At the end of the day, it's important to have a say over every aspect of your art." The early favorite is "Free," an electro-pop anthem that challenges preconceptions, as she sings, "It's clear you think I'm inferior; whatever lets you sleep at night." Keyboards and snaps keep "We Had Everything" moving, a poppy song about a secret love. A cool Euro-tech feel imbues "Are You Home," a song that finds her late-night, wondering if you're home, so you can fight. "Heartlines" is a toe-tapper with an upbeat message about wanting to be close to your love. The Broods get great harmony out of "Hold the Line," and duet with Swedish singer Tove Lo in the slow piano cut, "Freak of Nature." "Don't need an apology to make it right; I want you in 'All Of Your Glory,'" sings Georgia with organ backing. She wants you to meet her on the road to "Recovery" in one dance cut, and bends her fingers back trying to help in "Couldn't Believe." The high notes of the keyboard get a workout in the upbeat pop tune, "Full Blown Love" and percussion keeps "Worth the Fight" going strong. They finish the album with the louche "Bedroom Door" and the title track, singing, "When I'm on my feet, I can take the heat... all my nightmares feel like real life." The two set out on a North American tour on August 1 in Washington, DC, and head up through Canada to the Pacific Northwest, down Cali, through Texas and back to the East Coast.
"The Dreaming Room" (Laura Mvula)
From Birmingham in the UK, British singer/songwriter Laura Mvula follows her hit debut "Sing To the Moon" with "The Dreaming Room," a dreamy collection of buzzy analogue synthesizers and electric guitar riffs, in collaboration with Nile Rodgers. Mvula's voice has a thick, sleepy island quality to it, like Adele thrown into a blender with Rihanna. It's honed from her early work with the a capella group Black Voices. She kicks off her dozen tracks with "Who I Am," letting ambient sounds build up into a cascade. Her second track, "Overcome" chugs along on its own power, as she sings, "keep your head up, carry on." She's looking for a sign of truth in the skip-stuttered cut "Bread," and begs forgiveness for being so far from home in "Lucky Man," singing, "although freedom we did ever demand, there's no promised land." She prays that she'd sleep for a thousand years in "Let Me Fall," and tries to dodge that noose around her neck in "Kiss My Feet." She's looking for someone to hold her hand and "Show Me Love" in a track that showcases Mvula's a capella chops. Her love's lost in a shooting star in the '70s-vibe song "Angel," and she sings, "with hand in hand we free our souls," in "People." "Nan" begins with that old trope of the telephone conversation, and Mvula finishes the album with her hit single, "Phenomenal Woman." Mvula spends this summer performing at festivals in the UK and Europe.