Dig These Discs :: Elska, Fleetwood Mac Tribute, Melissa Etheridge, Matchbox 20, Bob Mould
Say goodbye to summer and get ready to shine that apple up for teacher, because it’s back to school time for Dig These Discs! Seventeen artists pay tribute to Fleetwood Mac, and Old School rocker Melissa Etheridge drops a dirty dozen of hot new hits. Matchbox 20 and Bob Mould releases their first all-new collections in quite some time, and Elska’s debut album is the hottest thing to come out of Iceland since the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted.
"Just Tell Me That You Want Me" (Assorted)
When it comes to rock outfits deserving of a tribute album, Fleetwood Mac is inarguably at the top of the list. These style-making drama queens blew the top off the ’70s rock scene, and have continued to do so for 45 years. In this collection of 17 classic covers, new and established artists alike make the hits their own, covering the panoply of radical stylistic changes the band went through over decades while blowing our collective minds.
The album starts out ethereally, with a slow-moving instrumental rendition of "Albatross" by Lee Ranaldo Band, featuring J. Mascis. Honey-throated gender bender Antony flies without the Johnsons for his stunning cover of "Landslide." The slight waver in his voice only serves to tug one’s heartstrings even harder.
Trixie Whitely delivers a sultry version of "Before the Beginning" that melds measured drum work with sexy electric guitar licks. Billy Gibbons & Co. rub raw the early blues exhortations of Peter Green’s, "Oh Well," growling out the lyrics, "I can’t help about the shape I’m in/I can’t sing/I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin/But don’t ask me what I think of you,/I might not give the answer that you want me to."
Newcomer band Best Coast deliver an upbeat, surf-rock version of "Rhiannon" that is miles away from the dark, heady original penned by Stevie Nicks in a performance that launched the annual "Night of a Thousand Stevies" at a New York nightclub and made every gay man revere Stevie Nicks. The band New Pornographers as well only touch at the dark underbelly of Christine McVie’s "Think About Me."
The wondrously sultry Marianne Faithful gives a slow, acoustic version of "Angel," where she sings wistfully of the beautiful, innocent things that keep passing us by. Lykke Li stays close to the original composition of the classic "Silver Springs," buts adds a reverb that brings the song’s mystical quality to the forefront.
Blessedly, Karen Elson doesn’t even try to mess with the perfection of the classic "Gold Dust Woman"; instead, she just sings the shit out of it. Matt Sweeney and Bonnie "Prince" Billy deliver a somber version of "Storms," and Washed Out tackles "Straight Back." Tame Impala modernizes "That’s All for Everyone," and Craig Wedren and St. Vincent give the techno-pop treatment to "Sisters of the Moon."
The Kills totally kill "Dreams," one of the few well-known classics on this unusual tribute album. And Gardens & Villa make "Gypsy" their own. The Crystal Ark dominates "Tusk," just as they did live at the 2012 "Night of a Thousand Stevies," held at the High Line Ballroom this May.
The tribute album closes out with MGMT on "Future Games," a tribute of its own to writer Bob Welch, who died tragically earlier this summer. "The story of Fleetwood Mac has always intrigued me," said producer Randall Poster. "We’ve tried to tell that story through the arc of music we’ve recorded. Working with some of our favorite artists and performers, the magical musical legacy of Fleetwood Mac shows itself to be alive and well." Long live the kings of rock and roll. (Concord Music Group)
"North" (Matchbox 20)
For the first time in a decade, Matchbox 20 drops a collection of all-new tracks for our listening enjoyment. The team of Rob Thomas, Paul Doucette, Kyle Cook and Brian Yale spent last summer living together in a house in Nashville, where they collaborated on new material before taking it to Grammy Award-winning producer Matt Serletic at Emblem Studios in California.
The album starts out skirting the edge, with a slow guitar riffs of "Parade" and Thomas’ pleading voice singing, "And somebody said come on it’s getting late...and now you wish that you had stayed." As the drums drop in, the song gets the kick it needs to urge you to keep up, because "you don’t want that parade to leave you now."
Among the early hits is "She’s So Mean," the album’s first single, which got great early reviews on the Hot AC chart, large rotation at VH1 and a million views on YouTube. The tune is about an "uptown, get-around, anything goes girl" who will treat you like crap, scratch all your records and trash your house, and you won’t even care.
Others winners are "Overjoyed," a slow acoustic tune, and "Put Your Hands Up," a fast, pop-rock club song. "Our Song" has a palpable sense of excitement over a reunited couple’s never-ending love; it is book-ended with the equally sad, "I Will," with a spare acoustic arrangement that finds Thomas singing, "If you go take a little piece of me, hang it by the place you sleep and dream of me." With a harmony reminiscent of a slowed-down sample of Ellie Goulding’s hit song "Lights," Matchbox 20 launches into "English Town," singing, "when it’s dark we can lose ourselves, we can both be kind, cause I don’t need the pulling apart of sheets just to know who you are."
Their radio-ready "How Long" has the feel of a modern country hit, as Thomas croons, "I love the way we’re carrying on, but baby tell me how long?" They tap into an early ’80s rock vibe with "Radio," and a late ’80s synth-driven rock feel in "The Way." And "Sleeping at the Wheel" has the rock urgency of the ’90s. Dripping with sex is "Like Sugar," a simple tune laden with sexual innuendo, with Thomas singing, "I’m starting to want you more than I want to, this is not my finest hour."
Thomas will be a mentor this fall on NBC’s "The Voice." The band made waves in 1996 with the release of their debut album, "Yourself or Someone Like You," and dropped their last album in 2007, with "Exile on Mainstream." They have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and received numerous accolades and awards. Early critical acclaim indicates that their new album "North" will be no exception.
"4th Street Feeling" (Melissa Etheridge)
Melissa Etheridge is inarguably the ultimate lesbian rocker, consistently dropping hit records, rallying her fans through her successful bout with cancer, staging no-holds-barred, kick-ass concerts and taking time to be kind to lowly reporters lucky enough to interview her. So discovering that her new album, "4th Street Feeling" is another collection of stellar hits shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
On Sept. 4, Etheridge will release her 12th studio album, dropping a dozen new hits into our welcoming laps. The album, recorded at L.A.’s HOB Studios and produced by Jacquire King and Steve Booker, features some of Etheridge’s best guitar work ever. She teams up with Blair Sinta on drums, Brett Simons on bass and Zac Rae on keyboards, and she takes care of the vocals, piano, harmonica and banjitar herself.
She starts strong with "Kansas City," a driving song about a woman fueled by Lucky Charms, Tic-Tacs and Mom’s amphetamines who is headed for Missouri and wonders "will you still be calling me your baby?" A muted tambourine intros the title track, a slow song about doing things wrong and wishing for those good old eight-track days, "when everything I had, I could fit into my Chevrolet."
Raise a cup for this rocker in "Falling Up," a buoyant rock tune with a banjitar break. She seizes that Stray Cats vibe in "Shout Now," a gritty rock tune. Armed with a "box of reds and a bottle of blues," Etheridge battles against "The Shadow of a Black Crow," acknowledging that what’s pretty when you’re young is pitied when you’re old. The topic is fitting for an aging rocker, making even more embraceable her defiant stance that she’d rather be living fast than dying slow.
She revisits this theme later in the album with the slow-moving "I Can Wait." The finger picking in "Be Real" is reminiscent of her very early work in "Chrome Plated Heart," which is among this critic’s favorite Etheridge songs. She gets dark in "A Disaster," singing, "Say goodbye to the enemy, go find another master/ say goodbye to the best of me and call it a disaster," a sobering tune with a catchy, memorable break. "
There’s a liar in your bed, and there’s a shotgun to your head," Etheridge growls in "Sympathy," a tongue-in-cheek song about a bad girl looking for some undeserved pity. She continues rocking in the regret-tinged "Enough Rain," and kicks ass with the percussion-fueled "Sacred Heart," where she growls, "I am a fallen angel, I am a sacred heart."
Etheridge wraps things up with "Rock and Roll Me," a fitting song, as she will be honored in Washington, D.C.’s National Women’s Museum of Art this fall in the exhibition, "Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power." Starting in October in Oakland, Etheridge will launch her North American tour.
Get the 12-song standard edition, or spring for the deluxe edition, with three bonus tracks, a 28-page booklet with handwritten lyrics and a coaster. You know, to help absorb some of those tears falling into your beer.
"Silver Age" (Bob Mould)
Sugar/Hüsker Dü founder Bob Mould drops his new album "Silver Age" on Sept. 4, when he unveils 10 new tracks that make up his first album of all-new studio material since 2009. A few days later, he will head out on a U.S. tour, when he will hit New York, D.C., Boston and Chicago before heading to the West Coast.
The new tracks are described as being in the "punishingly loud melodically sparkling pop/rock vein of the Sugar catalogue," and follow up the 20th anniversary commemoration of Sugar’s 1992 debut, "Copper Blue." Joining Mould are his live show band mates, drummer Jon Wurster from Superchunk and bassist Jason Narducy. Together, they rock the house, kicking off the album with "Star Machine," a tune with a grunge-era vibe, shredding guitar licks and a built-in sneer, with the lyrics, "You say you want it, you say need it, you say it’s everything you ever needed, the star machine is coming down on you."
It melds right into "Silver Age," a song fueled by angst. That, in turn, segues into "The Descent," a faster tune, but with a more upbeat vibe, with dramatic breaks. "Steam of Hercules" has a dramatic, Pink Floyd feel to it that is welcome after the deluge of grunge rock. The following "Fugue State" is imbued with a sense of urgency, as Mould sings of his foundations being shaken. "Round the City Square" is a reflective song that hearkens back to Cure hits like a revved-up "How Beautiful You Are."
The good times passed them by and they are in a strange new place in "Angels Rearrange," a catchy, fast-moving tune. Among the best of the bunch is "Keep Believing," a lightning-fast tune that seems fit for radio. Mould slows down for the final track, "First Time Joy," singing, "And we were children, we were so afraid, we built this dream, we built this dream." It’s a nice pause in an otherwise relentless, shock-and-awe of an album. If you love alt-rock icon Mould and lament the passing of the days of Sugar and Hüsker Dü, "Silver Age" is literally the second coming.
"Middle of Nowhere" (Elska)
With a baby-doll voice and a silly costume, Icelandic singer Elska launches this kid-friendly album with the keyboard-driven, "I Just Had an Idea," singing, "So bright and so clear, and it’s totally mine, these ideas are filling up my mind."
The brainchild of singer/actress Shelley Wollert and producer Allen Farmelo, this whimsical indie-pop project channels a world somewhere between Björk and Dr. Suess. The story follows Elska, whose name means "to love" in Icelandic, as she discovers an Arctic Island and befriends the kooky creatures that populate it. Synthetic bells eke out the beat in "Winter Bear," a song about a bear that makes his home sweet home amongst the ice and snow. Another friend is The Goobler, a super-nice, green home-slice Elska sings about in "Don’t Make Fun of the Goobler."
Slightly less elusive is the "Arctic Fox," which curls up in a warm, furry ball and falls asleep, fitfully, on Elska’s head, as she sings, "It’s rare to have an arctic fox on you, and I knew it was a special moment/ I lost some sleep but I don’t regret it." A catchy track is "The Land of Lost Socks." I always suspected such a place existed, but never suspected they were "totally amazing/ and always rearranging." The rap-like break is cool.
Ditto for the catchy, "Click Click," a tune about taking pictures that could double as the latest K-Pop offering. Slightly annoying, however, is the repetitive "Man-Made Hole," which wasn’t made by hidden folk or an asteroid.
The title track, with its more sophisticated arrangement, is among the best of the bunch. The track "Hiddi Hiddi" makes the most of its ticky-tacky lyrics and synth-pop beats, and "Midnight Sun in the Arctic" is simple but upbeat and educational. Bells create the wonderland of "The Elska Express," with waterfalls flowing to the sea.
The 12-song album ends with "Frozen in Time," with Elska singing, "like the memory of a great day, it’s not changing, never changing, it’s frozen in time." The project has charmed top-motion animation wizards, including Alex Funke from "The Lord of the Rings," Andy Biddle of "Wallace & Gromit" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and Carsten Lehmann from Sigur Ross and the Pet Shop Boys. They are already at work on videos combining live action with magic realism to bring Elska’s "Middle of Nowhere" to life. Kids will love the catchy, repetitive rhythms and lyrics in this album, and hipster parents will appreciate the musical masterminds behind it.
(Winter Bear Records)