Dig These Discs :: Conor Maynard, Girls, Yo La Tengo, Emmy Rossum, 2013 Grammy Nominees
"Contrast" (Conor Maynard)
Barely 21 -- and looking younger still on the Teen Beat-esque poster on the inside of his CD -- English singer Conor Maynard’s baby face belies a very dirty mind. Winning MTV’s Brand New for 2012 award, Maynard has been compared to Canadian singer Justin Bieber, and although he eschews the comparison, both young singers did make their mark via YouTube. But unlike Bieber, who is all purple baseball caps and fancy moves, Maynard goes raw, singing on his first track, "Animal," "Grab me by the neck and don’t you ever let go, Mess me up so good until I’m begging for more, Girl tear me apart like an animal." Maynard’s new release features a dozen catchy, electronic-studded pop songs that could find their way into any current playlist with ease. The fast-moving "Vegas Girl" is an infectious club anthem in which he compares his booty-shaking lady to Keri Hilson, Rihanna, and Alicia Keys. His sultry break of "It feels so right, every night" is enough to make one feel like a perverted babysitter. The distorted intro in "Can’t Say No" is infectious, and his smooth patter makes Maynard sound like old Justin Timberlake, when he was at the top of his game. The break of "Houston, I think we got a problem," is set to be the rallying cry of the spring. He susses out a thorny relationship in "Mary Go Round," asking, "Am I your lover or your friend? Will this circle ever end?" He invites a girl to "come and join the mile high club" in "Take Off," and teams up with Rita Ora to show that he can do it, "Better Than You." The audacity of this baby-faced Brighton boy is palpable as he sings, "So you say that you’re better than me, if I take it all off bet you’d like what you see." He hits the club early and finds the best in the spot once again in "Another One," and rubs the other boys’ face in it, with a taunting, "Guys coming out the club empty handed, no girl cursing like dammit/ Went and spent your rent money on nada." Lost love also crops up: Maynard hits impossible high notes in "Pictures," and chastises an untrue lover in "Glass Girl." He kicks himself as "the fool who let you go" in "Just in Case." He has better luck teamed up with Pharrell for "Lift Off," saying, "My wine would be sweet if you were my grape," and Ne-Yo for "Turn Around," singing, "Baby we’re so high now...our home is the sky now, and we’re never coming down." Don’t be fooled by the baby face; Maynard is a pint-size freak show, blessed with the sexy skills to pay the bills.
"Fade" (Yo La Tengo)
Husband and wife team Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley paired up in Hoboken way back in 1984 to create Yo La Tengo, picking up James McNew along the way. More than 25 years later, they are still making music, and still considered "the quintessential critics’ band" for their almost encyclopedic knowledge of cover songs played both live and on record. They have teamed up with artists including Yoko Ono and have composed scores for multiple films, including "Shortbus" and "Junebug." "Fade" is the band’s thirteenth full-length album, coming after several years of EPs and contributions to other artists’ works. The band consistently produces addictive, low-key tracks combining folk, punk, electronic music and alt-rock and noise jams to positive critical reception. This new album has been compared to their late-’90s/early ’00s releases, featuring "lyrical themes of aging, tragedy and emotional bonds...woven into a full-realized whole." Producer John McEntire took the helm, rather than stalwart Roger Moutenot, who had produced all of the band’s albums since 1993. A subtle sound of hand drums intros "Ohm," as Kaplan sings, "Sometimes the bad guys come out on top, sometimes the good guys lose." The understated vocals in "Is That Enough" are endearing, as Kaplan sings, "all that matters for me is you, is that enough?" This early-’90s muted rock vibe, (somehow evoking the Violent Femmes) comes to the surface in "Well You Better," singing disaffectedly, "we got out alive, it all worked out this time, and everything’s fine now please make up your mind." It trails into "Paddle Forward," which has that same muted disaffectation. The mesh of low-fi rock sounds and distorted electronic overlay creates an interesting effect in "Stupid Things," and an exotic, Indian sound permeates "I’ll Be Around." The slow start of "Cornelia and Jane" doesn’t hide its musical intricacies; it melds nicely into "Two Trains," which is loaded with lots of funky audio distortions. "When you’re screaming in my ear, what’s the point of it," Kaplan whispers in the genial, "Point of It." They wrap it up with the upbeat "Before We Run." Some groups are a flash in the pan, while others, like Yo La Tengo, have true staying power. May they never fade.