Dig These Discs :: Donald Fagen, Kaki King, Cody Simpson, Taylor Swift, Ceelo Green
CeeLo Green proves he has "The Voice" to belt out all kinds of holiday songs, and Kaki King delivers an all-guitar powerhouse. Teenage Aussie heartthrob Cody Simpson drops his pop album, and pop sensation Taylor Swift debuts her new release. Steely Dan front man Donald Fagen adds a bit of gravitas to the mix with "Sunken Condos," rounding out a Dig These Discs that has something for everyone.
"CeeLo’s Magic Moment" (CeeLo Green)
Grammy Award-winning superstar CeeLo Green lights it up just in time for the holidays, with this collection of 14 seasonal tracks. He kicks things off with a swinging version of "What Christmas Means to Me," first recorded by Stevie Wonder for his 1967 album "Someday at Christmas." He tackles the sultry, harmonic duet "Baby, It’s Cold Outside" with his "Voice" co-star Christina Aguilera. The two lack the chemistry to make it sizzle, but it remains one of the best holiday songs ever. He brings charm and warmth to "This Christmas," singing, "And this Christmas will be a very special Christmas for me." And his deep voice is well suited for the soporific "The Christmas Song," as every mother’s child spies to see if reindeer really know how to fly. He adds a swing to "White Christmas" and Disney’s The Muppets team up with Green for an original song, "All I Need is Love." Green tells Kermit (also green, coincidentally) that he doesn’t need fancy watches or a 60-in flat screen TV in every room -- all he needs is love. The song is catchy, with the humming kazoo sound that marks most Muppets tunes. "I think the Muppets hit a new low," banters the theater critic puppets Statler and Waldorf. "Yeah, and his name is Cee," replies the other. Green teams up with a capella group Straight No Chaser for the classic baddie tune, "You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," about the man with spiders in his heart and garlic in his soul. He brings soul to "Please Come Home For Christmas" and provides a Motown vibe to "Run Rudolph Run," especially as he sings "all I want for Christmas is an electric rock-and-roll guitar." He seems to rethink that in the following track, "All I Want For Christmas," choosing love to trump in this jazzy version of a holiday standard. His deep voice brings an R&B gospel feel to "Mary, Did You Know," and shimmers on Joni Mitchell’s somber 1971 hit, "River." He teams up with classic rock icon Rod Stewart for "Merry Christmas, Baby," a rollicking, rock-and-roll holiday tune with nice brass. Green finishes us with a bucolic "Silent Night." "CeeLo’s Magic Moment" may not have the same chart-topping élan as his breakthrough hit, "Fuck You," but it’s a family-friendly collection of holiday hits that will keep your yule cool.
(Warner Music Group)
"Glow" Kaki King
Genre-bending artist Kaki King releases her new, guitar-centric, all-instrumental album "Glow" this month, cementing her decade-long reputation as an extraordinarily diverse musician. "This is a guitar record," she says. "This is the sound of a person playing guitar. Whatever additions we made, the fundamental of this record is still one person playing a guitar. That’s who I am." The album features a dozen tracks that feature this Brooklyn-based artists’ trademark imaginative tunings, rare instruments and idiosyncratic percussion, but the guitar is the star. In the instrumental track, "Great Round Burn," King’s fine guitar work is regimented, heightening drama, almost like chamber music, with flourishes of violin. She has been playing guitar since the tender age of 4, and this album really shows off her chops. "Streetlight in the Egg" builds slowly, with the thump of hand drums and fast-moving acoustic guitar. "Bowen Island" has a similar progression, and "Holding the Severed Self" moves fast and loose, a fine piece of guitar playing that take the listener on a psychic journey. She forays into the "uncharted territory" of Open D minor tuning in "Cargo Cult" and "Kelvinator, Kelvinator." In other tracks, she seizes on the high, bright sound of her Veillette Gryphon High 12-string guitar, which she has dubbed, "a songwriting machine." "Skimming the Fractured Surface to a Place of Endless Light" is a very slow and deliberate piece, and "King Pizel" moves fast and nimbly, with a Celtic vib, like Irish pub rock. In the album, King taps Richmond Johnson for bagpipes and New York-based quartet ETHEL for strings. It is easy to see how King’s dramatic instrumental pieces have been called upon again and again for film and television soundtracks, including Sean Penn’s "Into the Wild" and the drama "August Rush." She finishes the album with "March Slav," a piece inspired by Tchaikovsky, and King’s fascination with Russian history. "For a long time I wondered, how am I going to have a normal life, how am I going to be an adult, and still write good music," she says. "The answer came from not worrying about it. I’m just not going to argue with the muse anymore."
(Velour Music Group)
"Paradise" (Cody Simpson)
Watch out, Justin Bieber! Teenage dream Cody Simpson has teamed up on the Beebs’ sold-out "Believe" tour, and the girls are already going ga-ga. This blond, 15-year-old dreamboat made a splash with 11 million views on YouTube for his new film "Finding Cody," available on Warner Music Group’s channel, "The Warner Sound." He was named "Favorite Aussie Superstar" at the 2012 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, and his early four-track EP hits #2 on iTune’s "Top Pop Albums." His single, "Got Me Good" is a sonorous tune with an island beat, with Simpson vowing that he’s changing his hound-dogging ways to stick with the girl who, "even when you wake up with no make-up, I’m in love." This sound resurfaces in "Tears on Your Pillow," in which he vows to his girl that although he may not be able to give her the world, she has his heart, so the crying is over. "Summer Shade" is another tune about young love under the summer sun. Still fairly young, Simpson sings with a fine, high voice devoid of the recriminations of love that come to the more mature. He opens the album with the sun-kissed "Paradise," a bouncy pop song about young love that has him singing, "If I’m dreaming, don’t let me wake, cause I’m in paradise." In "Be The One," he blends old-school teen rock in the style of Katy Perry with some electronica backing, to produce a decent dance track. He moves through the motions of a teenage Casanova in "Hello" as he works to get the girls’ digits and give her a call. New single "Wish U Were Here" has Simpson singing, "The music is better and the lights are brighter when you are near," promising that he will come right back home to his woman. The song features a tight rap break by Becky G. The predictable "I Love Girls" is blessedly short, and segues into "Back To You," a slower song with a catchy clap-track intro and vocal distortion that has Simpson begging his love for the code to make everything all right. He finishes up with "Gentleman," crooning to his lady that he will be as gentle as he can, to win her love. Oh, to look at love from such a pure, unsullied place! Pick up "Paradise" for the teen or tween in your life. He’s sure to be the next big thing.