Dig These Discs :: Ken Mogan, Sheryl Crow, Arctic Monkeys, Five For Fighting, Birdy
Pop star Sheryl Crow releases a hot collection of country music in "Feels Like Home." Singer/songwriter John Ondrasik, aka Five for Fighting, drops his sixth studio album this month. Eclectic and clever wordsmiths Arctic Monkeys release their fifth studio album. UK teen Birdy scores with her sophomore EP, and EDGE reviewer Ken Mogan covers some of our favorite songs and original tracks. Dig These Discs falls back with autumn!
"Feels Like Home" (Sheryl Crow)
According to Sheryl Crow, all she wants to do is have fun before she dies; that, and make big bucks singing country music. Missouri-born Crow got her chops in the early ’90s as a pop star with her smash hit "All I Wanna Do," and went on to produce seven albums. VH1 has ranked Crow as #25 of the 100 Greatest Women in Music. Now she has signed with Warner Music Nashville to release her country-influenced album, "Feels Like Home." The combination of pop and country is infectious, as she sings convincingly about booze, pickup trucks and heartache. On her first track, "Shotgun," she sings in delightful double entendre, "You brag about what’s under your hood, but it ain’t doing us any good/ Rolling through town and going too slow, what we need is an open road/ 400 horses need a little room to run." Electric guitar, slowed down, pairs well with drums in "Easy," a tune about choosing love over money, hanging at home, with the humorous lyric, "We’ll play Jack Johnson; he’s the new Don Ho." She gets real country in songs like the saccharine "Give It To Me," singing, "You’ve got one foot in and one foot out the door." Her tune "Drinking" is classic boozy country fare, about drinking on a weeknight, and "Best of Times" is an ass-kicker of a song about positivity. "Waterproof Mascara" has a modern country feel, as Crow sings sadly of a child asking, "all my friends have Daddies; Mommy, why don’t I?" And "Crazy Ain’t Original" has an old-school country, Merle Haggard feel to it. The heartbreak in "Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely" could go over well on an easy listening station, as could the come-hither song "Nobody’s Business." Life is harder after high school in the sad "Homecoming Queen," and for a working mom in "Stay at Home Mother." Crow’s crossover attempt is an unequivocal success; her raspy, confessional style of singing is a good match for this increasingly popular oeuvre.
(Warner Music Nashville)
"Bookmarks" (Five for Fighting)
Singer/songwriter John Ondrasik, aka Five for Fighting (a hockey expression), drops his sixth studio album this month. Gregg Wattenberg and Derek Fuhrmann produced the album. Ondrasik has received early acclaim for his single "What If," released on June 11. Ondrasik is best known for his piano-based rock, and this collection highlights some of his best work, paired with his clear, fine voice and the backbeat of a classic drum kit. He opens the 11-track album with the anthem, "Stand Up," singing, "If you have to paint yourself and you’re not a clown/if you’re naked lost in space and all you wear’s a frown/ Stand up!" His voice goes up and down the scales in the love song, "What If," and he expresses his deep love in "Heaven Knows," with a charming a cappella break. "Down" is a bit hokey, as is his track "I Don’t Want Your Love," a tale of a woman who wants to settle down with him and start a family, much to his chagrin. He does better with "The Road to You," which has a pub rock, Chumbawumba feel. "She turns wine to water, she’s nobody’s daughter, a stranger to the lovers at her feet," Ondrasik sings in "She’s My Girl," which is catchy but a bit treacly. "Symphony Lane" calls to mind early Beatles’ hits like "Eleanor Rigby;" it is compelling and at the same time dour. Ondrasik has done relatively well with more than 2.5 million albums sold, a top 10 debut of "Two Lights" on the Billboard Top 200, his single "Superman" nominated for a Grammy Award, and his cut "Chances" featured in the Oscar-winning film "The Blind Side." "I don’t wanna be the son of a better man, I don’t wanna love you any more than the best I can," he sings in "Your Man," which has a rock edge to it. In addition to his musical talents, Ondrasik is also a charitable dude; since 2007, he has created charity websites for Autism Speaks, the Fisher House Foundation, Save the Children and Operation Homefront.
Teen sensation British singer-songwriter Birdy (Jasmine van de Bogaerde) releases her four-song EP, on the heels of her self-titled debut in 2011. This 17-year-old from Lymington has made a big splash in the UK with her spine-tingling rendition of Bon Iver’s "Skinny Love," and followed her success with "People Help the People" and "1901." Now she’s back, after having collaborated with the likes of Ryan Tedder, Dan Wilson, Rich Costey and Ben Lovett, not to mention the legendary T Bone Burnett, on the soundtrack for "The Hunger Games." She is also featured on the song "Learn Me Right" with Mumford & Sons for the Pixar film "Brave." "In the moment we’re lost and found, I just wanna be by your side if these wings could fly," she croons in "Wings." She hits the high spots on the register in the piano-accompanied track "Shine," singing, "if the world gets you down, don’t be afraid to wrestle it... you have your whole life ahead of you, come make the best of it." Unlike many teen artists, Birdy doesn’t seem to be solely driven by bubble-gum pop; her sound is introspective, and she reportedly plays her own guitar backing in both her recording sessions and live performances. Her single "What You Want" is a serious and sad track in which Birdy wishes she could fly away, with her love as the sun shining on her. The song draws to a dramatic tension that well serves her style. The EP closes up with a live recording of "Skinny Love" from the Sydney Opera House this April. Her slow piano chops overlaid with her high soprano are more haunting than Bon Iver could ever have envisioned. With a start like this, there is no way Birdy won’t fly on this side of the pond.
"Fall Apart" (Ken Mogan)
Everyone loves the ’80s - including EDGE Los Angeles reviewer Kenyth Mogan, who has just dropped his new album of remixed hits and originals. This so-called "wholesome homo" adds electronica and a saucy grin to the already suggestive lyrics of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chin’s song "Mickey," made famous by Toni Basil’s 1981 cheerleader video. He moves on to Matthew Hayes and Paul Harris’ "(Let Me) Unlock Your Heart." Friends for years, Hayes gave Mogan permission to release the song after hearing some of the other tracks from the album. His title track single, "Fall Apart," follows, written by producer Tony Rodini and Mogan. This dance track about heartbreak has great electronic and drum effects. Up and coming pop star Todd Michael Schultz wrote and Rodini produced Mogan’s take on "One Worth Losing," a catchy pop song with the lyrics, "Now it feels like I’m so sedated every time we cross/ There’s not a thing left that I can see boy, I’m feeling so lost." He finishes things up very tongue-in-cheek, with a cover of Julie Brown’s 1987 novelty hit, "I Like ’Em Big and Stupid." Mogan will tickle your fancy as he sings, "When I need something to help me unwind, I find a six-foot baby with a one-track mind." The collection is a bit eclectic, but Mogan clearly has the chops to deliver the goods. After a career in Hollywood, Mogan may be ready to cross over into the music industry.
"AM" (Arctic Monkeys)
After the success of their critically lauded album "Suck It and See," the quartet behind the Arctic Monkeys is back to their old monkeyshines with the release of their fifth album, "AM," a dozen anthemic new hits produced by James Ford and co-produced by Ross Orton. They welcome other musicians including Josh Homme, Pete Thomas and Billy Ryder Jones, and feature the words of John Cooper Clarke on the track, "I Wanna Be Yours," a slow disco jam with nutty lyrics like, "I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dirt." Their first single "Do I Wanna Know?" is getting mega hits due to its animated video and lyrics, "There’s this tune that makes me think of you somehow and I play it on repeat until I fall asleep." And "R U Mine" sounds like Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath got together for a jam session extraordinaire. "This is the album we’ve always been waiting to make," said drummer Matt Helder. They thrill with synth sounds created from foot-stamps and knee-slaps and even a compressed human pulse, about which frontman Alex Turner said, "The way Tchad Blake mixed it makes it sound like someone banging their head against a Sci-fi force-field." They go disco with the En Vogue-esque background vocals of "One For the Road," and veer into heavy metal with "Arabella," as guitars scream over shredding drums. The pedal-steel of "No. 1 Party Anthem" makes it compulsively listenable, but it also looks back to the sound of old T. Rex. They follow it with "Mad Sounds," another slow rocker complete with a chorus of ’ooh-la-las.’ Following it is the ’90s-esque track "Fireside," that strums and hums to its conclusion. They were aware of the dangers of cramming so many different styles together, with Turner saying, "It’s total chemical reaction time. You take too much from one world and you don’t get the right colour smoke." Speaking of chemicals and smoke, they get a bit of a laugh with the track, "Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High," singing, "it’s three in the morning and I’m trying to change your mind/ left you multiple missed calls. And to my message you reply." A picture of illness is laid out in the soporific "Knee Socks." Lest you think it’s all drums banging and guitars screeching, the Arctic Monkeys are blessed with a true wordsmith in songwriter Alex Turner. His aurally pleasing strings of words are clever and meaningful, with lyrics like, "Been wondering if your heart’s still open/And if so I wanna know what time it shuts." These guys may be aping everyone who ever came before them, but they do it with so much panache, you can’t help but go bananas.