Dig These Discs :: The Lumineers, Deftones, Femme, Wild Belle, Susanna

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Saturday April 16, 2016

The Lumineers, the folk-pop trio if known for punctuating their earthy tracks with hoots and hand claps, release their second studio album, another busker rock extravaganza. The Grammy-winning alt-rock band the Deftones present their eighth studio album, "Gore," and siblings Ellito and Natalie Bergman, aka Wild Belle, release their sophomore album this month. "One-woman powerhouse" Femme releases her own self-produced album "Debutante" this month, a 13-song pop album influenced by '60s girl groups, '70s disco divas, Afropop beats and '90s chart icons. And eclectic Norwegian artist Susanna releases her 11th album, "Triangle," a 70-minute, 22-track epic packed with religious imagery.

"Cleopatra" (The Lumineers)

American rockers The Lumineers release their second studio album, another busker rock extravaganza. The album features 11 tracks written and composed by Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites, plus four Deluxe Version bonus tracks, including a live version of the title track. The folk-pop trio is known for punctuating their earthy tracks with hoots and hand claps. They kick things off with the optimistic "Sleep On the Floor," laying out a to-do list for two lovers' swift getaway, perhaps to elope, with the refrain, "cause if we don't leave this town, we might not make it out." The piano interlude jazzes up "Ophelia," as Schultz's gravelly voice sings uptempo about his new girlfriend "Ophelia, you've been on my mind since the flood." They follow with their title track, "Cleopatra," starting out, "I was Cleopatra, I was young and an actress" and ending, "I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life... when I die alone, I'll be on time." The album has several great tracks about powerful female figures. Conversely, they sing, "I don't own a single gun," in "Gun Song," a solid cut. Toward the middle, they ease off the percussion, relying on hand claps in "Angela" that made their early cut "Ho Hey" such a great hit. Their simple "In The Light" has a singsong quality that is innocent, and the acoustic guitar and sad patter in the "Gale Song" is almost prayer-like. "Got a medicine ain't no mercy on him, boiling his blood and burned out his throat, enough is enough, he's a 'Long Way From Home,'" sings Schultz, over complex guitar picking. They are quietly defiant in "Sick In The Head" and the guitar strummer "My Eyes," scorns the glow of those Hollywood signs with the lyrics, "Oh, the devil's inside, you opened the door, you gave him a ride/too young to know, too old to admit that you couldn't see how it is." They end with the strummer "Patience," a silky smooth landing. The album is short and sweet, at 35 minutes, but The Lumineers win big here by not trying to hit beginner's luck twice. There may be no hit singles here, but the album leaves you with a lot of stories to think on. The band is touring now, with more than half their shows already sold out.

"Gore" (Deftones)

The Grammy-winning alt-rock band the Deftones release their eighth studio album, "Gore," and critics are mixed on this heavy metal romance album. The Sacramento quartet has been around for more than 20 years, but are one of those bands whose sound is singularly their own, despite experimentation. Frontman Chino Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter mesh their songwriting abilities with digitized production, to interesting results. Their single, "Prayers/Triangles" is making its way up the charts, with Moreno's symbolic lyrics, "There's a new strange godless demon awake inside me/There's a force divine terrorizing the angels I keep while we dream." "Acid Hologram" and "Xenon" are grunge distortion cuts. Their thrash metal single, "Doomed User" got good exposure on SiriusXM's Octane channel, with its strong bass and heavy metal riffs being compared to their earlier hit, "CMND/CTRL." The song moves fast, but the lyrics are grotty: "I've been scarred, fucking repulsed by this/ My only tale is one I can't stand/ Now I've become torn and I rot and wilt/My heart is black and I will never fail." They're moving fast when they rhyme "Geometric Headdress" with "my temptress." They slow down for "Hearts/Wires," which is among the album's best sad breakup songs, with its dour declaration, "Nothing can save me now." They're kneeling at the altar singing your praises in the guitar shredder "Pittura Infamante" and get moody in the slow "(L)MIRL," singing, "This body is here but I'm gone." The addition of percussion adds a zing to the excellent "Gore" and Alice in Chains Jerry Cantrell contributes guitar solo to "Phantom Bride," elevating the whole affair and making it one of the best of the bunch. They end fittingly, with "Rubicon," a winning finish to a complex album. The Deftones kick off their summer tour on May 8 in Charlotte, NC; the second leg kicks off August 2 in Bethlehem, PA, and ends up with a show in Mesa, AZ on August 31.

"Dreamland" (Wild Belle)

Siblings Ellito and Natalie Bergman, aka Wild Belle, release their sophomore album this month, after several years of success getting singles featured in movies like "Pitch Perfect" and "The Way, Way Back," and an episode of "Grey's Anatomy." The eleven songs showcase Natalie's soporific voice over Ellito's louche melodies. The first track, "Mississippi River" is a fast-moving, drum-driven tune with the refrain, "Never gonna let you go." Their cut "Losing You" is a delectable R&B confection with an island groove. She'll put the chains around your hands and take you to "Dreamland," with a funky sax break and lyrics like, "Rivers flow with honey and gold drowning all your misery/ anytime the wild winds blow, you can come home to me." In "Coyotes," she's "down on my knees and begging," promising to walk the line, if it "sets me free." Don't fall for it: she's too wild to tame. She does a rapid-fire delivery right down the scales in the excellent "Cannonball," and employs a cool, herky-jerk percussion sound in "Giving Up On You." Their slower, guitar-led ballad "It Was You (Baby Come Back To Me)" is a sad affair, with Natalie again promising she won't hurt you any more, or let you down. She throws her hands up to surrender in the name of love, in the Afrobeat-dub cut "Throw Down Your Guns," singing "Give me a hit of amnesia, so that I can forget that I need ya." This island vibe carries over into "The One That Got Away"; you won't be surprised to discover that she's the one who packed up her big white bed and left. "Rock N Roll Angel" finds her in love in San Francisco, which may just be where she left her heart. Natalie Bergman admits that the passion for this album came from a bad breakup. It's easy to see why this sibling duo has had such early success. Just about every track on "Dreamland" is, in a word, dreamy.
(Columbia Records)

"Debutante" (Femme)

"One-woman powerhouse" Femme releases her own self-produced album "Debutante" this month, a 13-song pop album influenced by '60s girl groups, '70s disco divas, Afropop beats and '90s chart icons. This pink-haired UK pop princess has already toured with Charli XCX, and been dubbed "fashion's favorite new pop star" by Vogue. She kicks things off with the radio-static intro "Your Poptarts Are Ready," a mishmash that sounds reminiscent of nutty Cibo Matto bit. She follows with the poppy "Fever Boy," the tale of a girl looking for the boy she'll be happy to settle for "all night long." She starts all "gimme gimme" in "Romeo," then commands you to "Start your engines I'm here tonight/I'm not looking for love I'm just looking for fire." The song, with its bouncy rhythms and synth, is all about girls' night out. Femme is skilled at painting characters that come through her songs, bringing the listener to a different place. She turns the table on that "Hollaback" mentality in one track, vowing that she won't "Bring It Back Round." "You're dangerous, and I don't need that," she sings in the cut "S.O.S." and melds pop and funk with deep bass in "Light Me Up." Distorted synth moves along "Shout As Loud," as Femme sings, "I see you standing in the corner of the ring, like you want to fight/ You wanna take a swing?" Her "Double Trouble" has a downtempo, hip-hop vibe as she sings of a friend with "others" in his bed. Her slower guitar and sitar song "Localuva" begins, "This isn't what we said, no this isn't what we discussed/ How was I to know that you were just letting me to go to rust?" She's giving her heart away all too easily in "Calling All Stars," and she sees "Gold" when she's with you. Her "Dumb Blonde" is a feminist ode that has Femme saying, "you treat me like a right dumb blonde, but I'm gonna how you how it's gotta be done." Percussion enriches this cut. She finishes the album off with "Sirens," a sugar-sweet pop song with the lyrics, "you wanted a poster girl; you got me instead." "Debutante" is a great accomplishment for a woman who dared to think outside the box.

"Triangle" (Susanna)

Eclectic Norwegian artist Susanna, known for her innovative covers of popular songs, releases her 11th album, "Triangle," a 70-minute, 22-track epic. The singer/songwriter/composer/arranger releases songs with layers of voice, electronica, violin, piano and tuba. This new album finds her reexamining her relationships with spirituality and superstition in "intimate, confessional mode." The songs are "filled with magical omens, apocalyptic fires, black holes and floodwaters that constantly threaten oblivion." "Nothing is holy, nothing is sacred," begins Susanna in her first track, the synth soundscape "Holy/Sacred." Her high soprano cuts to the bone in "We Don't Belong," as she sings about the fear of what comes next. She's "diving deep into illumination hoping to clarify what this is all about," in the piano ballad "Texture Within." Susanna's coming around to scare you off, no matter if it's day or night, in "Fear and Terror," and birdsongs populate the intro of "Before the Altar." She's stuck in a "Hole" in a spooky dance track, and is in need of a "Shepard" in the next. A spoken word intro fronts "Under Water," and audio distortion and birdsong kick off "This/Phenomena." Religious imagery abounds in "For My Sins," "Sacred Revolution," and "In The Need of a Shepherd." Cascades of sound assault the senses in the intros for "Burning Sea," and "Born Again." The best of the bunch is her title track, "Triangle," a metered piano tune with strong imagery and lyrics like, "The eye of the beast is staring." She employs repetition in songs like "Ebb and Flow," and "Fire" and sings, "Purple is the color of my true love's heart" in the piano cut "Purple." She doesn't pull her punches: death hangs over all of us in "Death Hanging," she sings. She finishes with "In My Blood." This is clearly an artist unafraid of taking chances and experimenting, but the resulting whole seems somehow less than its parts. Susanna's high voice is fine and lovely, like a young Joni Mitchell, but her songs lack the narrative needed to make them truly memorable. Susanna plays London's Café Oto on April 19.

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.