Dig These Discs :: Susan Egan, Geoffrey O’Connor, Florence + The Machine, Dillon, Me’Shell Ndegéocello

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Wednesday November 23, 2011

It's time to give thanks; for a fresh new crop of hot CDs! Florence Welch of Florence & The Machine drops a banging new release, and stalwart Me'Shell Ndegéocello makes us wistful over lost love in "Weather". The '80s are alive again with Geoffrey O'Connor, and motherhood trumps in Disney princess Susan Egan's "The Secret of Happiness". Dig These Discs serves up a cornucopia of good tunes this November!

"Ceremonials" (Florence & The Machine)

Florence Welch and her seven-piece band "The Machine" drop their sophomore album, "Ceremonials", and have already begun collecting kudos. This stunning redhead's soaring vocals call to mind Kate Bush, her songs laden with a dark, baroque, Gothic feel. "Ceremonials" seems preoccupied with water, and Welch has already made waves with the single, "No Light, No Light", a song about love and leaving, with the nice end rhyme, "You want a revelation, some kind of resolution." "Shake it Out" is a frantic, urgent song about regrets, with the lyrics, "And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't/ So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road/ And I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope/ It's a shot in the dark and right at my throat." In "What the Water Gave Me", she evokes Virginia Woolf walking into the river with pockets full of stones. "Never Let Me Go" employs some cool audio balance tricks, and the refrain of women's voices is lilting with deep sadness, as Welch describes the crashing waves of heaven for a sinner like her, singing, "The arms of the ocean delivered me." "Breaking Down" has an '80s Erasure feel, very analog. Ditto for "Lover to Lover", a song about losing sleep over love, with a solid piano intro. Although no breakout hit like "Dog Days Are Over" jumps out, expect radio play for songs like "Heartlines", a wild, catchy song with lyrics like "Odyssey on odyssey and land over land/ Creeping and crawling like the sea over sand/ Still I follow the heartlines on your hand." It won't be long before some gay group or other picks up "Spectrum" as their anthem, as Welch sings, "Say my name/and every color illuminates/ We are shining/ And we'll never be afraid again." And her closing song, "Leave My Body", with its call-and-response refrain, does a nice job of wrapping up what is sure to be an award-winning album by this talented woman. (Island Records)

"Weather" (Me’Shell Ndegéocello)

Decades have passed since Ndegéocello stole our hearts. While her sound back then was gruff and spare, pulling heartstrings, the vibe in her ninth album, "Weather", is much more sultry soul, at times channeling the cool, aloof sound of Sade. The title track urges you to "blame it on the weather", while in the next tune, "Object in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear", Ndegéocello captures the pain and heartbreak of driving past an old lover's house and realizing that the pain is not yet gone, no matter how long it has been. Ndegéocello has a reputation as something of a musical journeyman, constantly exploring new sounds. In "Weather", produced by Joe Henry, she hits paydirt. Her song, "Oysters" meshes the bitter with the sweet, as she sings, "I'll shuck all the oysters and you can keep the pearls/ I do all my shucking and jiving for free." She pays tribute to the artists' enclave in "Chelsea Hotel", and captures an '80s synth vibe in the anti-consumerist dirge, "Dirty World". While none of the songs on "Weather" are what one would call cheery, the album does a nice job of balancing dark with sexy. Her "Petite Mort" has a slowed-down Jagger step buried in it, as she sings, "Let me die, let me die a small death while you tell me the truth: who's your daddy now?" Her tune "Dead End" is the closest this album comes to rock and roll, laden with twangy guitars and synthesizers. Ndegéocello closes the album with "Don't Take My Kindness for Weakness", a simple, dark song. "Weather" may present a stormy landscape of complex and unpredictable love, but it serves as a barometer of the human emotions we all share. (Naïve)

"Vanity is Forever" (Geoffrey O’Connor)

Crayon Fields front man Geoffrey O' Connor sends his intentions over the airwaves in "Vanity is Forever", his first solo album under his own name. And not since Morrissey have we seen such an outpouring of sloe-eyed, romantic synthscapes, icy keys, and orchestral sweeps. This nerdy Australians' "Proud" is an anthem to self-pride channeling keyboard hits of the '80s, and his "Like they Say It Does", with the lyrics, "I hope my friends don't all get married/that they leave some part of themselves for me," calls to mind the lamentations of my best gay boyfriend in the face of another friends' coupling. "Idle Lover" is a sad ode about unrequited love, with the lyrics "I wait for you to leave your idle lover/ you won't have to hear him say all these beautiful things/ over and over." He has already tagged "Now and Then" as one of the most promising singles on the album, and its slow, melodic beat does have an entrancing quality to it. One of the best singles on the album is "Whatever Leads Me to You", what O'Connor calls his "stalker song," which he refers to as autobiographical -- averring at the same time that he is no stalker. He sings, "I'm not above crying when I've waited and begged for nothing." The tune, laden with bedroom whispers and sultry dreaminess, has already been featured on Pitchfork -- and has already been remixed by other bands. O'Connor also shot, directed, and edited a video for the lead track, "So Sorry", a look at hypnosis and the bizarre and degrading tasks the hypnotist can inflict on their guest. "Vanity is Forever" is a confident, melodic, and refreshingly sincere album, and bodes well for the future of this anti-rockstar. (Chapter Music)

"The Secret of Happiness" (Susan Egan)

Have no doubt about what the secret to happiness is: babies! Egan, a critically-acclaimed, award-winning Broadway star shares her love of motherhood in her sixth solo CD, now available in stores nationwide. "I feel a surge of excitement/ I feel my heart start to swell/ I want to say something different/ I've got a new story to tell," she sings in her first song, "The Me of the Moment". The story is one of motherhood, a point she drives home in ways humorous, authentic, and sometimes, grating. Her song, "Nina Doesn't Care" is a lament that her toddler, Nina, doesn't care that she is a Broadway virtuoso: to her, she is only "Mom." Egan sings, "Nina doesn't care if I was once a star/She just pulls my hair as I strap her in the car." Kudos to Egan for her love of motherhood and the new video she filmed to accompany the tune. Still, songs about sippy cups, dirty diapers, spit-ups, and smeared jam don't play well outside the Bugaboo set. Ditto for her "Momsense", a mother's extended nag set to the "William Tell Overture." Egan's voice is widely considered "the perfect Broadway instrument," and is literally that of a Disney princess, having played Meg in "Hercules" and receiving Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for her work as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast". Other theatre credits include "Thoroughly Modern Millie", "Cabaret", "Triumph of Love", "Putting It Together" and "Hello Again". The album contains popular standards by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Paul Simon, plus a passel of new composers, including Egan herself. Egan sings the "Into the Woods" hit, "Careful the things you say/ Children will listen," a standard taken on by the likes of Bernadette Peters and Barbra Streisand. She closes out the album with some adult fare: a sultry, smoky feel in "The Wanting of You", and a slow, acoustic rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water". (LML Music)

"This Silence Kills" (Dillon)

The debut album for singer and pianist Dominique Dillon de Byington, aka, "Dillon" takes some risks from which other emerging artists might shy away. She would be wise to follow their lead. This young artist from Berlin has a fine voice, strong and at the same time wistful, but the songs that populate her debut album do it a disservice. In her song, "Thirteen Thirty-Five" she sings, "You'd be thirteen, I'd be 35, gone to find a place for us to hide." I want to think sweet thoughts, but I just keep going back to schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau, who was knocked up by her 13-year-old student. "This Silence Kills" has an interesting electronica feel, and big props go to her background musicians for cramming the most and most varied percussion I've ever heard outside of a Miami Sound Machine album. The album is populated by Casio keyboard effects, gongs, pianos, whistles, drums, thunderclaps, handclaps, jingle bells, tapping, and more, adding a beautiful texture to an otherwise troubled album. She sings to Alexander in "You Are My Winter", goes through the panoply of emotions in "The Undying Need to Scream", sings about a paltry lover in "From One to Six Hundred Kilometers", with the opening lyric, "The most tender thing you've said to me/ Is that I suffer from paranoia." Many of her songs suffer from banal or nonsensical lyrics, like "Hey Beau", with "The robots are going to help us find our crystal", and "Gumache", a song about a past lovers' toothbrush, still sitting by the sink. "Your Flesh Against Mine" is perhaps one of the strongest of the lot, a catchy song about love (I am guessing), in which she sings, "Where the broken glass has been lying/ Next to my heart, to my conscience, to my faith." Dillon's "Tip Tapping", with its gypsy-circus feel and trippy tuba intro and the lyrics, "The sound of the leaves/when my feet hit the ground" is a good example of how some things are best left simple. (Bpitch Control)

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.