Dig These Discs :: Ra Ra Riot, Animal Collective, Sarah Neufeld, 3 Doors Down, Loretta Lynn

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Wednesday March 16, 2016

Country legend and honky tonk angel Loretta Lynn releases her first studio album in over ten years. The boys of Animal Collective release their tenth studio album, "Painting With," their first new record in four years. Mississippi-based rock band 3 Doors Down release their sixth studio album, a baker's dozen of rock anthems. Sarah Neufeld, violinist for Arcade Fire, launches her second solo album, a collection of eight songs. And indie rock band Ra Ra Riot releases their fourth studio album this month, ten tight songs that work well together.

"Full Circle" (Loretta Lynn)

Country legend and honky tonk angel Loretta Lynn releases her first studio album in over ten years. The album takes listeners on a journey through Lynn's musical history, from Appalachian folks songs and gospel music she learned as a child to new renditions of her classic country standards. This baker's dozen of new recordings in intimate performance was produced by Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash, at the Cash Cabin in Hendersonville. Lynn begins with the first song she ever wrote, "Whispering Sea." She explains that in 1960, she got signed for a record deal and had two days to write a dozen songs for her first album. So she did! Lynn covers Freddy Fender's "Secret Love" in a new key. Her trademark country twang is on display in "Who's Gonna Miss Me?" The finger-picking on "Black Jack David" is amazing, as she sings the tale of the man who charmed all the young girls. Lynn sings, "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven," but nobody wants to die. She makes Willie Nelson's "Always On My Mind" her very own country song, and later, teams up with Nelson for the heartbreaking ballad "Lay Me Down." Elvis Costello helps to write "Everything It Takes," a new song co-written with Todd Snider that covers the familiar ground of a trashy woman trying to take Lynn's man. She shows an alcoholic praying to God for a reversal of the Biblical miracle in "Wine Into Water," and shivers where the cold winds blow, in the traditional Appalachian folk song, "In The Pines." All she wants is a simple "Band of Gold" to show she's yours. She covers her classic like "Fist City," singing, "You've been makin' your brags around town that you've been a lovin' with my man/ But the man I love when he picks up trash he puts it in a garbage can, And that's what you look like to me." Oh snap! Lynn lays it on the line with this "he's my man" song. And in my personal favorite, "I Never Will Marry," she swears, "I'll be no man's wife, I intend to stay single for the rest of my life." Good thing that Lynn married that no-account Doolittle, or we'd all be the worse for it. Taking listeners from Lynn's early days to her latest work, "Full Circle" is as good as its name.

"Us And The Night" (3 Doors Down)

Mississippi-based rock band 3 Doors Down release their sixth studio album, 13 anthemic rock hits about finding out who you are, and being true to yourself. "Your heart is the only friend you have in this whole world," they sing in their first track "The Broken," urging you to stand up and take back your world. RJ Mitte from "Breaking Bad" stars in their video for "In The Dark," the first single, with lyrics like, "whenever the lights go down, that's when she comes alive." This pretty little vixen likes to do it in the dark, sings lead vocalist Brad Arnold. "We came out of the gate with a song that's really different for us," said Arnold. "We needed to match that with the video, and Magnus, Martin, and RJ brought that vision to life better than we ever could've imagined." A lo-fi intro with pounding bass drum welcomes you to the fast-moving "Still Alive," a track that has them fighting for their life. It dovetails nicely into "Believe It," the tale of a small-town boy chasing big-time dreams. "Everybody's got a right to change/I'm gonna be the one I wanna be," sings Arnold. You promised him heaven, but he's "Living In Your Hell," sings Arnold over buzzing electric guitars. Things slow down with the beautiful piano ballad "Inside of Me," another song about finding your true self. They pull off a great rockabilly sound in "I Don't Wanna Know" and go full country in the acoustic stunner "Pieces of Me." It's too late to say all the things inside because "Love Is a Lie." The band gets that '90s metal sound in "Us And The Night." Tinkling chimes lighten up the intense "Fell From The Moon," and piano adds to the great sound of the poppy "Found Me There." They finish up an excellent, cohesive album with "Walk Before You Run," a sliver of redemption in this album. Catch the band at Fort Rock Festival and Carolina Rebellion Festival; they'll also be touring later this year.
(Republic Records)

"Painting With" (Animal Collective)

The boys of Animal Collective release their tenth studio album, "Painting With," their first new record in four years. The Collective slapped some dinosaur photos on the walls to inspire their prehistoric souls, and committed to create a very loosely structured album, which Brian Weitz calls, "an electronic drum circle." With Dave Portner and Noah Lennox, plus multi-instrumentalist Colin Stetson, they recorded at LA's infamous EastWest Studio. The album starts off with "FloriDada," a reaction to the North v. South polarization, fast-moving with a deep bass drum backing the track. Their cut "Hocus Pocus" starts out with a snippet of the traffic watch before popping lasers everywhere, but has an odd, Renaissance Fare patter to it. It meshes into the electro-bass cut, "Vertical," and devolves into the repeating phrase, "the parking lot is way too hot." It's got a very early-'80s experimental vibe. "Lying in the Grass" is a funky, distorted number, like Ween meets Radiohead. Their fast-moving alt track "The Burglars" is undeniably catchy. Their trippy "Natural Selection" moves at breakneck speed, and their "Bagels in Kiev" is a wild soundscape about love trumping all that is fast and aggressive with lyrics like, "These days I'm not so sure who is getting along or if they were before/ I wasn't there when Moses parted the sea, I wasn't there with you Grandpop back in Kiev." They reach a harmony of sorts in the off-kilter cut "On Delay" that sounds like the cries you'd make to a Latino digital horse. This digital distortion plays a role in "Spilling Guts," which sounds a little like what might happen if a Katy Perry song got caught in a scientific calculator. "Summing the Wretch" follows with its snarky sound effects, and they use a quip from Bea Arthur to intro the excellent track, "Golden Gal." They finish up with "Recycling." But one listen to this album will assure you that Animal Collective has released an all-new, all-weird collection of songs.
(Domino Recording Company)

"The Ridge" (Sarah Neufeld)

Sarah Neufeld, violinist for Arcade Fire -- who last year teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Colin Stetson for their album "Never Were the Way She Was" -- releases her own album, a collection of eight songs. It's the second solo album for the Canadian, and shows her increasing comfort with incorporating vocals into her songs. She starts with the intense title track "The Ridge," featuring persistent violin chords ramping up to some basic vocal harmonizing and a break. At over eight minutes long, it's a real tour de force. Her soprano runs up the scales in the Celtic-inspired "We've Got A Lot." She's got some lyrics in "They All Came Down," although they're mostly used as another instrument in the chorus. Here, some violin plucking and popping creates a spare soundscape. Arcade Fire bandmate Jeremy Gara provides the drums and cymbals that power "Chase the Bright and Burning," giving it heart. But tracks like the "From Our Animal" with its repeating violin jags leading nowhere, and the nine-minute "Where The Light Comes In" can try the patience of those waiting for something grand to occur. While you probably won't be hearing Neufeld's music on the dance floor, its cinematic quality might find it a home in a theater near you.
(Paper Bag Records)

"Need Your Light" (Ra Ra Riot)

Indie rock band Ra Ra Riot releases their fourth studio album this month, ten tight songs that work well together. It's easily the most balanced of all the albums in their ten-year span, thanks to help from former Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij, who collaborates on the album for "Water and "I Need Your Light." Ryan Hadlock produces the remainder. Ra Ra's trademark oversized synthesizers pair well with violins and percussives from drums to clap tracks. "Tired of waiting for the sunrise/ when it does it's still dark where I'm going/ Don't punish me for what I feel," sings Wes Miles in high falsetto in the first cut, "Water." They follow with the pop anthem "Absolutely," boasting like kids about it being, "the year of absolutely being, absolutely nothing, absolutely crushing, absolutely everything." The Casio-style, lo-fi keyboard on "Foreign Lovers" gives it an '80s feel, which can also be found in the excellent, moody "Bad Times." Miles says, "Baby, you're not my kind" in "Call Me Out." "I Need Your Light" finds Miles repeating the title louder and louder, after lyrics like, "Love will get me up again," but the effect is myopic. The percussion builds slowly in "Instant Breakup" from clap tracks to snare drums. You'll heat up the dance floor with "Every Time I'm Ready to Hug" as Miles avows, "I'm lovesick, baby, I'm lovestruck." The oddball song "Bouncy Castle" starts out, "Birthday bathing suit, I remember like every Jew," and goes on amongst cascading keyboards with "Then I saw you there, frozen there for weeks, up in the air, lovers incomplete." They finish the album with "Suckers," avowing that a melody is all they need to lift them up, that, "I never care about looking too chic, unfamiliar with vanity." Say what you will, Ra Ra Riot, your new album looks pretty good to us.
(Barsuk 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.