Dig These Discs :: Cody Karey, Yuna, Donna Summer, Katy Perry, Minor Alps
Winter is the perfect time for Summer -- disco goddess Donna Summer, that is! Her collection of hit songs gets its due in this new album of remixes. Pop sensation Katy Perry roars in her new release with a more mature album, and Malaysia singer Yuna is the next big thing, a cross between Edie Brickell and Sade. Also enjoy debut albums by Juliana Hatfield of Some Girls and Matthew Caws of Nada Surf as Minor Alps, and stunningly talented tenor Cody Karey.
"Love to Love You Donna" (Donna Summer)
"Love to Love You Donna" (Donna Summer)
The Queen of Disco Donna Summer releases a long and illustrious careers’ worth of hits remixed by today’s popular artists. The 13-track CD brings to life the music of this Boston native who honed her skills in the church choir. Her erotic moans in "Love to Love You Baby" are complemented by the percussive-heavy remix by Giorgio Moroder, featuring Chris Cox. German electronic legend Moroder helped Summer craft her biggest hits including this one and "I Feel Love." The sultry strains of "Dim All the Lights" are replaced by a pounding club beat in the British producer Duke Dumont’s remix. Frankie Knuckles stays truer to the original in "Hot Stuff," but it’s not as if this smoking track needs much help anyway. With the aid of Eric Kupper, the two added a smooth dance groove, with Kupper saying, "It was an honor and a pleasure to work on a remix for such a seminal piece of music, a true piece of history." The Afrojack remix of "I Feel Love" is even more intense and jacked up than the original, and the electro-boogie remix of "Love is in Control" rocks, courtesy of Chromeo & Oliver. Hot Chip’s electronica dub version of "Sunset People" sounds like an entirely new song, except for the familiar strains of the lyrics, "Late-night lights, LAX, limousine and you’re all set for Sunset." Less interesting mixes are the modern indie-dance spin that the duo Holy Ghost! takes on "Working the Midnight Shift," and the slowed-down blog house Gigamesh Remix of "Bad Girls." Dutch player Laidback Luke adds a biting pulse of heavy electro to the already-dramatic "MacArthur Park," but wisely allows Summer’s vocals to reign. It segues into a slowed-down dubstep version of "I Feel Love" by Benga that does this immense hit no favors. Jacques Greene infuses American soul into "On the Radio," and while the sound is unique, it obfuscates the love story behind one of our nation’s seminal disco hits. Masters at Work are far more successful in keeping the lively beat of "Last Dance," even as these kingpins of the New York House music scene give it a fresh new makeover. Summer teamed up with Moroder to co-write the final track, "La Dolce Vita," a catchy new tune about the sweet life. It may be the dead of winter, but it’s always time for Summer.
"Prism" (Katy Perry)
op singer Katy Perry roars with her fourth studio album, "Prism," and this former gospel singer has moved far beyond where she started in 2001, singed to a small Christian music label under the name Katy Hudson. Fast-forward seven years to her outré hit, "I Kissed a Girl," and Perry’s ascent to success was all but sealed. By the time her "Teenage Dream" album dropped in 2010, she was one of the best-known female artists around, breaking a record for the first woman to have five No. 1 Hot 100 songs from one album. So after making it big, starring as Smurfette and shooting whipped cream from her brassiere, what’s left for Perry? Well for one thing, she says she has moved on to a more mature sound. Perry has been clear that she has evolved and matured with "Prism," even showing teaser images of her burning her blue wig from "California Girls" and holding a mock funeral for her peppermint swirl outfit, to signify the end of that kid stuff. Perry co-wrote all 13 tracks from her new album "Prism," which promises a number of hit singles, most prominently the self-empowerment tune, "Roar," in which she boasts of how she used to bite her tongue and hold her breath, and evolving to become "the eye of the tiger... a champion." Her second single "Unconditionally" was released in mid-October. It is a soaring ballad with a metered percussion sound and tribal drums, and speaks of all-accepting love that is reportedly about her new boyfriend, John Mayer, aka Mr. "Your Body is a Wonderland." "Legendary Lovers" has an interesting lilting technique that sticks with you, and "Ghost" has a sentimental feel. "Birthday" is a catchy dance tune that looks back to early Prince hits and is followed by the club anthem "Walking on Air." Hip-hop emerges from "This is How We Do," and in the breaks of "Dark Horse," featuring rapper Juicy J. "By the Grace of God" is a dark beginning for the album; Perry said that the song, co-written with Greg Wells, reflects where she was after her breakup with actor Russell Brand. But it does show her vocal range. And "Double Rainbow," with songwriter Sia, is about finding someone special and that magical moment, with the lyrics, "One man’s trash is another girl’s treasure." Perry has clearly moved on, and while the 28-year-old singer has been criticized for her mindless, clichéd lyrics (and excruciatingly bad taste in men), Americans seem to love it, as the album has debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Perry will launch her "Prism" tour in May 2014.
"Get There" Minor Alps
Established musicians Juliana Hatfield of Some Girls and Matthew Caws of Nada Surf team up for their debut album as Minor Alps, releasing "Get There," 11 tracks of emotions, sounds and feelings. The two artists play a wide variety of instruments, while their songs and lyrics blend seamlessly. Their album "Get There" has been described as "a thoughtful, interesting record" but what is most interesting is how the two have turned from their conventional alt-rock sound and focused on creating a record with ambient keyboards, digital drums and gently plucked guitars. It all starts, fittingly, at the beginning with their single "Buried Plans." The electronic drum beats and synthesizer pairs with a haunting acoustic guitar, establishing a tone for the album. This distorted and whispery guitar sound comes through at multiple places in the album, creating a feeling of isolation that fits the lyrics. Both artists co-wrote the songs, and both share lead vocals throughout. From the very beginning, you are aware that something special is happening here. Their vocal harmonies soar in "Buried Plans," "Maxon" and "Away Again." Harder sounds come through songs like "I Don’t Know What to Do With My Hands," "Get There" and "Mixed Feelings." The old-school rock feel of "Far From the Roses" reminds one of the band America, riding that horse with no name. There is plenty good here, even the understated tunes like "If I Wanted Trouble." They sing about career success in "Wish You Were Upstairs," singing, "It’s so easy to stop trying when no one is watching you dying," crooning in the chorus, "Who knows where I am?" The seductive sound of "Radio Static" gives way to the sad-tinged "Lonely Low," as Caws sings, "stumbled toward me with bloodshot eyes..." Loneliness and isolation are the prevailing themes of this album, but like anything else, loneliness is best when there’s someone to share it with. For Hatfield and Caws, isolation is the shared connection.
"Cody Karey" (Cody Karey)
Tenor Cody Karey releases his self-titled debut this month, and crowds will go wild for this 22-year-old’s breathtaking voice. In a dozen songs ranging from modern to classical, this talented Canadian takes his first step at showing what he can do. He has chosen songs that span multiple genres and languages, and that touch on pop, classics, gospel and foreign language songs. "This is the culmination of many years of work and a lifetime’s worth of focus," said Karey in a press statement. "It’s very exciting to be on the cusp of getting it out there to people, and being able to take one more step in the direction of my ultimate dream." Karey’s voice is high and fine, ideal for these classics, or for crooning theme songs to the next hit Disney film. The complex accompaniment for "If Ever I Fall" compliments Karey’s vocals well. He bares his heart in "Leap of Faith," singing, "you are not alone!" Karey sings sadly in the classics, "I’m Coming Home," and "All I Know," formerly covered by Art Garfunkel. His gospel version of "I Believe I Can Fly" wows, and his fine singing in "Couldn’t Ask For More" is sublime. Karey even goes flawlessly bilingual with the Spanish-language "Sentir," complete with Flamenco guitar, and the Italian operatic "Tu Sei." His singing of tunes like "Unbroken Heart" turns one’s thoughts to musical theater singers, a la "Phantom of the Opera." Karey may be brand spanking new to the scene, but his voice is custom-made for this genre of music. His talent is so apparent, one’s only concern is that Karey -- like a valuable set of fine china -- is just too good for everyday use.
Malaysian singer Yuna began writing songs when she was 14 years old, and started performing by 19. She found success via Myspace, and attracted the attention of music reps, who launched her to the top in Malaysia. Now, she comes to the U.S. She describes her music as "a cross between Mary Poppins and Coldplay," but her lilting voice reminds one of Edie Brickell, straightforward and pure but without the hippie patina. Yuna’s image is more like Sade in her early days, with fine features and a penchant for bright headscarves. She rolled out her new single "I Wanna Go" in April, and later, dropped "Someone Who Can." Her track "Rescue" has already prompted fan videos. Her first single, "Falling," produced by Robin Hannibal, is a highly listenable and textured track. "I wish I meant something to you, like you did to me," she sings in the Middle Eastern-inspired "Mountains," and African percussion sounds ring out in the pop song "Rescue," as she sings, "She don’t need no rescue, and she’s okay." A similar sentiment is echoed in "Colors" as Yuna sings, "Who are you to tell me what I deserve?" In "Live Your Life," she sings, "we were meant for something bigger than this, don’t ever try to dismiss this love because you don’t have to." Fame is on parade in the soft stunner "Lights and Camera," and love pops up in the sprightly, sultry "Intermission." She meshes a folksy vibe with dance music in the no-excuses track "Someone Who Can," and does a lot with clap/snap tracks in the Adele-esque love song, "I Want You Back." Yuna brings a girl-band vibe to "Come Back" and a flirty pop sound to "I Wanna Go." She closes the album up with "Escape," a song about getting out, but staying the same. Few may recognize her name now, but it won’t be long before Yuna is the next big thing.