Dig These Discs :: Kylie Minogue, Martha Wainwright, Diamond Rings, Aerosmith, Tift Merritt
Winter weather brings with it nostalgia, and so does this Dig These Discs. Kylie Minogue looks back at 25 years of her classic pop tunes, and Aerosmith keeps things moving with a new album. Finding oneself is the theme in Martha Wainwright’s "Come Home to Mama," and singer/songwriter Tift Merritt releases another solid collection of hits, while newcomer Diamond Rings merges new and old sounds with in "Free Dimensional."
"The Abbey Road Sessions" (Kylie Minogue)
Aussie superstar Kylie Minogue takes a look back at her incredible 25-year career with this retrospective album. Recorded at London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios with Minogue’s band plus a full orchestra, this selection features 16 of her classic tracks. All have been radically reworked, from her early hit cover of "The Locomotion" to "Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ and "I Should Be So Lucky." Stunning pop ballads include the drama-laden "On a Night Like This," and "I Believe In You," as she sings out, "and if you ever have to go away, nothing in my world could ever be the same/ nothing lasts forever but together ’til then, I’ll give you everything I have again and again." With its country twang, "Love At First Sight" is a catchy winner. The track, "Come Into this World" has beautiful piano accompaniment, and the pop single, "Can’t Get You Out of My Head" sounds positively refined, with the addition of a fine strings section. "I Should Be So Lucky" is a story ballad in the style of Barbra Streisand, and "Never Too Late" is a classic tune about love and regret. The tracks, "Slow" and "Finer Feelings" are lush musical landscapes with erotic undertones. "Confide in Me" has a Celtic feel in it, with hand drums, and "Better the Devil You Know" has a ’60s sound. Minogue includes her never-before-released "Flower," a fan favorite with the lyrics, "Distant child, my flower, are you blowin’ in the breeze, can you feel me as I breathe life into you?" In addition, singer Nick Cave re-recorded his deep vocal accompaniment on the 1996 duet "Where All the Wild Roses Grow," especially for this album. Lest one think Minogue’s hits are a thing of the past, last month she celebrated her sixth consecutive #1 single on Billboard’s Hot Club Play Chart with the song "Timebomb," bringing her career total to nine. Some pop stars rely on auto-tune or heavy reworking to conceal what their voice lacks. In this collection, stripped bare of high-end production tricks, Minogue’s clear, fine voice shines, giving her songs the emotional resonance they deserve.
"Music From Another Dimension!" (Aerosmith)
The all-original member rock outfit of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer once again prove their mettle with their first studio album of all-new material in 11 years. Recorded in LA and Massachusetts and produced primarily by Jack Douglas with Tyler and Perry, this 15th studio album features 15 tracks with heart, soul and vision. The guys demand love three times a day in "Luv XXX," and Perry’s guitar licks hold up as he shreds in "Oh Yeah." Tyler has been compared to the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and his butt-shaking, no-holds-barred rocking warrants the comparison. And after 42 years together, Aerosmith has a similar clout and cohesion as these bands, and is a rock legend in its own right. Highlights include the impassioned "Tell Me," with its off-kilter chorus intro. Their classic hits like "Walk This Way" resonate in "Out Go The Lights," a deliciously sleazy song about women and whiskey, with a female vocal break. The following track, "Legendary Child," even starts with a follow-up, 20 years later, to the "high school cutie" in "Walk This Way." But its complicated arrangements show just how much Aerosmith has grown musically since that time, and just how much Perry’s snarling guitar licks can still thrill. Songs like "What Could Have Been Love," "Another Last Goodbye" and "We All Fall Down" prove that the band also remains the master of the rock ballad. Sirens and jive talk open the passable "Street Jesus," about a man who chases a thief who has stolen his shoes, and runs into a homeless Jesus-like character. The band rocks hard on "Lover Alot," a shredding love song with the lyrics, "Ah, don’t you know that she loves you a lot/ ah don’t you know don’t you know what you’ve got?" "You turn out the love when you turn out the lights/ you hit the heavens when you hit the heights," Tyler sings in "Closer." Actor Johnny Depp adds backing vocals to "Freedom Fighter," a song about a man who uses his camera as "a weapon of shame." And they duet with Carrie Underwood for the deliciously country-western track, "Can’t Stop Lovin’ You." "We can’t complain about number one singles or album-driven sold-out world tours, as we blaze the Aerosmith trail with our fans. But this is the album we wanted to make since the band got back together in 1984," said Perry. A deluxe version of the album will include four live performance videos of "Rats in the Cellar," Train Kept A Rollin," "Oh Yeah" and "Same Old Song and Dance."
"Come Home to Mama" (Martha Wainwright)
Hailing from a famously musical family, Martha Wainwright has a strong connection to her kin. For this, her first album of original material in four years, Wainwright pays homage to her mother, Kate McGarrigle, who died several years ago, by recording the last song written by her, "Proserpina," which was never recorded. The song is fitting, as she sings in mournful tune, "Proserpina, come home to mama now," accompanied at points by a haunting chorus. But Wainwright also celebrates the joy of giving birth to her first child. "This record is a culmination of my life experiences so far. Everything changed for me a couple of years ago, and this record is a representation of that and a return to the reason I started writing songs," said Wainwright. She recorded this third studio album in Sean Lennon’s home studio in New York City, with Cibo Matto’s Yuka C. Honda. Wainwright said that Honda’s approach was very different from her own, with Wainwright singing the song, and Honda building the track around it. The result is ten edgy, multi-instrumental soundscapes that showcase Wainwright’s raw, confessional poetry. She launches into it with "I Am Sorry," a high, lilting rock tune that takes the listener on a journey. "I really like make-up sex, it’s the only kind I ever get," she sings in "Can You Believe It?" a tune that evokes old tracks by The Cranberries. This lilting, confessional sound runs through "Leave Behind." She rocks Cibo Matto-style in "Radio Star," meshing a fast intro with crooning stanzas and interesting vocal effects that segue into a Macy Gray vibe, with lush, emotional overtones. "Four Black Sheep" employs the bridge from The Beatles "Eleanor Rigby," and looks at the idea of family. "Some People" employs unique percussives and a Middle Eastern sound as Wainwright sings, "I’ll pack my bags of sorrow and leave them by the door tonight." A modern country vibe comes out of "I Wanna Make An Arrest," a fast-moving, sexy, catchy song that will have you tapping your toes. "The baby is doing fine, my marriage is failing but I keep trying," she moans in "All Your Clothes," a mournful tune, and sings strongly over sweet acoustic guitar in the closer, "Everything Wrong," with the sad message, "I do most everything wrong, even on the day you were born." The album vacillates between pain and joy, mirroring Wainwright’s own life over the past few years. "I’ve made this record as a motherless child and as a mother. Two things I had never been before," said Wainwright. "For me, it’s a new beginning." Wainwright will tour the album on the East Coast through Dec. 22.
"Traveling Alone" (Tift Merritt)
Singer/songwriter Tift Merritt looks at midlife independence in her new collection of 11 tracks that profile her fine voice over acoustic guitar backing. "I only get this one time round better speak up straight, better speak up proud," she sings in her title track, which she opens up the album with. Merritt has been compared to powerhouse artists like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, and her confessional storytelling songs have a lot to do with this. "I’ve got a taste for traveling alone," she croons in the chorus, tapping into the fundamental truth that we are all essentially on this journey alone. "I just wanted to really get to the heart of the matter, which I always do, but hopefully you travel in a little deeper every time," Merritt said in a recent interview. Although Merritt lives in Brooklyn with her husband and longtime collaborator Zeke Hutchings, songs like "Sweet Spot" will resonate with LGBT audience as she sings, "I’m just looking for that sweet spot, where I can love the way that I want." "I really wanted to make a record that was real and raw," said Merritt. "I wanted to put together my dream cast and see if I could hold my own with them." Merritt has done just that, working with Tucker Martine, Andrew Bird, Marc Ribot, Rob Burger, John Convertino, Eric Heywoood, and longtime collaborator Jay Brown. The male-female harmonies are strong on "Drifted Apart," and she rocks in the country-style "Still Not Home." "If it’s alright with you, I’ll stay on another couple of days," sings Merritt in "Feeling of Beauty," repeating the sentiment in "Too Soon To Go," singing, "stay a little longer, there’s so much I need to know." Rhythm guitar and piano mesh well in her tune "Small Talk Relations" Her voice goes to a whisper in the entrancing "Spring," and is upbeat and forward-moving in the flirty track, "To Myself," singing, "don’t let the world distract you, don’t call for no one else, just let the feeling carry you, I want you to myself." She opens herself up to the day when she won’t be lonely anymore in "In the Way," and ends the album with the fine acoustic piece "Marks." Merritt finishes up a U.S. tour this month, ending her travels, alone or otherwise, for the time being.
(Yep Roc Records)
"Free Dimensional" (Diamond Rings)
Diamond Rings, aka John O, burst onto the music scene with his home-recorded video for his debut single, "All Yr Songs." He has parlayed that success into his new album, "Free Dimensional," a collection of 10 electronica songs. Unlike most electro albums, where the meat get lost among the grist of special effects, John O’s deep, melodic voice allows his whip-smart lyrics to emerge unscathed. "I wanted the first album to have that homespun quality. Once I became more comfortable with the medium of electronic music, it was only natural to want to improve," explained John O. "Everything Speaks" is a song about becoming tuned in to the world, "I know when to trust my vision, I know when to show my pride, I know when to keep it hidden, everything speaks far and wide." He turns sentimental in "All the Time," sharing his desire to feel his lover’s heartbeat next to him at all times. In the catchy "Runaway Love," he meshes the Valley Girl sound of the ’80s (think Modern English) with a modern vibe, singing, "I wanna burn my name in your heart, I wanna lose control." And in "(I Know) What I’m Made Of," he seems to channel Dead or Alive, but adds a very modern rap break in the middle. Said John O, "I really wanted to album to feel as though it was very much of the here-and-now, but also indistinguishable from what’s come before -- and what is yet to come -- in music." His deep voice resonates ominously in "Put Me On," although the subject matter is light, and in his anthem, "I’m Just Me," he oddly juxtaposes imagery of drowning with that of self-empowerment, singing, "Now I’m growing older, I’m getting bolder, confident in my own skin...I just wanna let you in. Hold me underwater/ teach me how to breath, I’m no son or daughter, I’m nothing, just me." He works an upbeat arrangement in "Hand Over My Heart," with interesting vocal distortion at the end, and goes full pop for "Day & Night," as he counts down the steps to love. "A to Z" is a cute, if formulaic, pop song, with the sly reference to "kissing to be clever," a direct homage to Culture Club. "Stand My Ground" is also very rooted in the ’80s, with effects that sound as if they came from a Casio keyboard. The overall effect is unexpected and charming, bringing the best of that decade into the future. Expect big things from Diamond Rings.