Dig These Discs :: Elizaveta, Imperial Teen, Goldfrapp, The Fray

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Thursday February 2, 2012

With Valentine's Day just weeks away, love is in the air; Dig These Discs has the music to help you soothe the savage beast. Chanteuse Elizaveta shows off her considerable vocal chops in what has become known as "opera pop," Imperial Teen drops more of their boy-girl harmonies, Goldfrapp gathers together the best of their sultry, electro-sex rock in their singles album, and The Fray lays out more of their alternative piano rock.

"Beatrix Runs" (Elizaveta)

Chanteuse Elizaveta drops her new "opera pop" album, "Beatrix Runs", and this internationally bred sensation is already making her mark. She has been compared to Adele, Sarah McLaughlin, and Bjork, and one listen to her trance-like lyrics makes it easy to see why. She starts sweet, with "Armies of Your Heart", and instantly goes dark in her next track, "Meant." The track showcases Elizaveta's piano chops, and her choppy, staccato notes bring a pall of sadness and lost love through lyrics of, "I still think that we were meant to be...I still dream that you were meant for me."

This alabaster-skinned beauty channels the Victorian era and the wonders of nature in her new video, "Dreamer," the third track on this new album. Her rapid-fire lyrics of "I believe in fairytales and serendipitous encounters" spill into operatic dirges where she maintains a thin, fine note that pierces as she sings, "Leave your fear of love behind, let your dreaming be your guide." She slides into the old-time feel popular among singers like Adele and Rumer in "Snow in Venice", backed by piano chords. The video for this new track shows the same bal-masque, fairy tale vibe that crops up in her other videos, plus some Italian-language lyrics likely picked up in her childhood spent moving throughout Europe.

"Nightflyers" gives off a more modern, Duran Duran vibe, and "Orion" has a mellow pop feel, with clap-tracks and Elizaveta's singular vocals. The title track, "Beatrix Runs", is a story of a vagabond soul's path toward escape from her family, sent off to running the roads. And in "Odi Et Amo," Elizaveta hits all of the operatic highs, with soaring precision. A hint of electro surfaces in "Victory", a song about resigning oneself to love. She closes, appropriately, with "Goodbye Song," singing, "Please remember: I love you dearly although we have to part." If Elizaveta's work is any indication of how the "opera pop" format is set to unfold, it is definitely moving in a positive direction. (Universal Republic Records)

"The Singles" (Goldfrapp)

The English duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory bring their sexy mix of electro and performance art together with this new 'best of' album, featuring 14 hot tracks. The album features top hits from "Supernature," including the sultry opener, "Ooh La La," a song that seems made for sex, which Goldfrapp has described as "Glam fantasy, with lots of post-production and fantasy graphics. Wanton girl goes wrong. Broken heart and fuck off."

The band is known for their love of animal totemry, often donning wolf or stag's heads and horsetails for their stage shows. Alison Goldfrapp keeps the fire going in "Number 1," howling, "You're my number one/ I'm like a dog to get you" as the electronic keyboard keeps the party going. "Strict Machine" is similarly sultry and modern, a song for those on the prowl. "Lovely Head" has spectral breaks that evoke a Theremin. "Utopia" has a very future-forward feel, and "A&E" does a 180 turn to an ethereal feel. "Happiness" has a '60s-era beatnik meets surf-rock vibe, very Strawberry Alarm Clock. "Train" chugs along till it meets with "White Horse", the band's much-touted party anthem, previously featured in "The L Word."

Alison Goldfrapp's breathy, soft soprano vocals are on display in "10 Rocket", a catchy electronic tune that hearkens back to the experimental rock of the '80s, as she sings, "Ooh, I've got a rocket, Ooh, you're going on it, you're never coming back," complete with a countdown and blast off. Synth is on display in "Believer", and "Black Cherry" is a slow, sultry, but somehow sad tune of love divided. This stellar collection of singles wraps up with two new singles, "Yellow Halo" and "Melancholy Sky," both lush, romantic soundscapes of Gregory's multi-layered synth and string arrangements. In the littered, uneven field of electro rock, Goldfrapp has already proven themselves far above the fray. This collection of singles only serves as a reminder of that fact. (February 7, Mute Records)

"Feel The Sound" Imperial Teen

It's all boy-girl harmonies for this San Francisco-based indie pop group made up of Roddy Bottum, Will Schwartz, Lynn Truell, and Jone Stebbins. Known for switching it up - right down to trading instruments mid-show - Imperial Teen has been rocking since 1996, when Spin Magazine voted their debut "Seasick" among the top 50 albums of all time. Their gay sensibility comes through in their object-gendered pronouns. Bottum, who came out in 1993, has said in interviews that he gets annoyed when he sees gay bands play it safe.

hey open with "All the Same", singing, "You're so safe you're in my mind, fought for only half the time." "Don't Know How You Do It" has a hush to its pop stylings, which evoke early '90s top 40 hits. "The Hibernates" has choppy verses, but the chorus runs smooth, from "You're breaking up; you're broken/ but that remains unspoken". Bird sounds populate the synthesizer break. "Last to Know" slows down the pace a bit, with its singsong patter punctuated by frantic breaks. "Do you want to drive, do I have a say/ The one that breaks down's the one that got away", sings Bottum in "Out from Inside."

"No Matter What You Say" has a sense of urgency in its poppy girl/boy exchange, and "He's In Over His Head" puts the listener into a trance with its repetitive beats and chorus. There is a palpable sense of sadness to "Overtaken", but the album ends on a higher beat with "Runaway," a restless, fast-moving charmer.
(Merge Records)

"Scars and Stories" (The Fray) (Sony)

Denver duo Isaac Slade and Joe King make up The Fray, a piano-rock band whose 2005 debut album "How to Save a Life" was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The song was also featured during the second season episode of "Grey's Anatomy", and again on "Scrubs". Their second album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2010, and the band continues their winning streak with their new album, "Scars and Stories."

This alternative rock duo with Christian-rock roots has been compared to Coldplay and Keane, but they say that they wanted their new album, recorded in Nashville, to tap into the live-show sound of Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam. Although their style doesn't change much, the third album features more aggressive lyrics and tone than previous releases. Their first single, "Heartbeat," was inspired by experiences traveling abroad in Rwanda, and speaking with a local woman about the atrocities of the genocide. The remaining 11 tracks do a solid job of showcasing the band's trademark style. "Be Still" opens with moody, spare piano chords, and The Fray's Dylan-esque vocal stylings. "The Fighter" is a more upbeat, gritty song, as is "Here We Are," a rocking ode that smacks of regret. The band slows it down with "I Can Barely Say", a slow rock ballad with the lyrics, "I said I told you everything, but I left something out, underneath the stairwell/ I'm under lock and key as you can probably tell, I'm a powder keg in a prison cell." "Run For Your Life" is a striving ballad of life and death, redolent of the band's Christian rock stylings.

They manage to capture a more modern, hip-hop sound in "Undertow", featuring an intro with Esthero that balances well with The Fray's singsong response. This song, and the track "1961" with its simple chorus, are on the short list to be hits. While this third release won't do much to assuage critics' complaints that the band's minor-key melodies and tempos carry over from album to album, many concede that The Fray is no less talented for treading over the same ground. (Epic Records)

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.