Dig These Discs :: Conor Maynard, Girls, Yo La Tengo, Emmy Rossum, 2013 Grammy Nominees
Get ready for big love! The HBO Original Series "Girls" releases 18 songs from their first season, and the 2013 Grammy nominees wrap up the best singles of the year into a tidy package. Emmy Rossum sets the calendar to song in her "Sentimental Journey" and Yo La Tengo delivers their trademark, low-key sounds. Newcomer Conor Maynard is a little man making a big splash. Shake off the chill, it's time to Dig These Discs!
"Girls Soundtrack Volume 1: Music From The HBO Original Series" (Assorted)
Lena Dunham’s HBO original series about four girls living in Brooklyn is a hit, and the recent Golden Globe wins have made it the talk of the town -- no matter what town you may live in. This new collection of music from the series should prove to go over equally big. Featuring 18 songs from beloved indie bands, many of them also hailing from New York City, the release showcases the songs heard on the show, including Santigold’s "Girls," an MIA-esque track that has her spitting, "I’m the cat’s meow, I’m not afraid of y’all." "Music is such a huge part of my creative process," explains "Girls" creator Lena Dunham. "I make playlists to write by and listen to as I head to the set in the morning, and I experiment in editing with songs that the characters would love and that accurately reflect their struggles." The collection starts with a bang, with Robyn’s bad-ass screed, "Dancing on My Own." The longing is palpable as she sings, "I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her, ohhh. I’m right over here, why can’t you see me, ohhh?" She captures the vibe of New York’s Meatpacking District as she sings of stilettos and broken glass, and the angst of vulnerable twenty-somethings. The album is divided into hard-rocking songs like this, and sunny (or gloomy) New Folk tracks. Brooklyn transplants via Sweden Icona Pop sings their catchy, "I Love It," and White Sea bops around with "Overdrawn." OhLand rocks the shit out of her "White Nights," further cementing her growing brand identity, and The Vaccine’s "Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)" is a post-punk, three-chord delight. Grouplove’s "Everyone’s Gonna Get High" is a nihilistic downer, and to a lesser extent, so is Belle & Sebastian’s "I Don’t Love Anyone," with the rejection of all things sweet, even Christmas -- except "maybe my sister/ maybe my baby brother too," singing, "if there’s one thing I learned as a child it’s to be alone." Lia Ices’ spare, piano-led "Love is Won" is another love song that leaves you cold inside, like a slightly less maudlin Sarah McLaughlin cover. Cue the dying puppies. "I haven’t changed a bit...I make the same mistakes," sing The Echo-Friendly in the thrumming bummer "Same Mistakes." On the more New Folk side of the equation, Fleet Foxes "Montezuma" has a nice choral arrangement and is threaded with lyrics of sincere regret, singing, "Gold teeth and gold jewelry, every piece of your dowry, throw them into the tomb with me, bury them with my name." Michael Penn’s "On Your Way" is slow but upbeat, and fun thrills with "Sight of the Sun," singing "For once, there is nothing up my sleeve, just some scars from a life that used to trouble me. I used to run at the sight of the sun, now I lay here waiting for you to wake up." It gives the good feeling of an old Cat Stevens’ song, without the Muslim conversion. And Harper Simon’s "Wishes and Stars" is folky and endearing. The album also features a number of bonus tracks, among them Tegan & Sara’s superlative, gender-bending cover of the Rolling Stones’ "Fool to Cry," Sleigh Bells Bikini-Kill-esque electro ditty "Infinity Guitars," The Troggs "With a Girl Like You" and Generationals’ "Yours Forever," which could be the soundtrack for today’s disaffected youth. Season Two started on Jan. 13 (the same night Dunham et. al. scooped up their Golden Globes), and your iPod, like your DVR, is hungry for more of Dunham’s magic. Even boys will love these "Girls."
(Fueled By Ramen)
"Sentimental Journey" (Emmy Rossum)
She may be a pretty young thing, but artist Emmy Rossum tackles the music of the ’20s-’60s in her new album, "Sentimental Journey." Rossum has said this is the music she grew up with at home. The ’journey’ in question is a temporal one, as her idea was to take listeners on a trek through the 12 months of the year, with a song "either lyrically or emotionally reflecting the corresponding month." She starts with the title track by Les Brown, Ben Homer and Arthur Green, and sung famously by Doris Day. The songs suits Day to such a tee, it’s hard for Rossum to emerge from the shadow. Ditto for the aw-shucks vibe of March’s "I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover," by Mort Dixon and Harry M. Woods. She does better with her choice for April, the ’30s standard "These Foolish Things," which has been recorded by everyone from Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby to Michael Bublé. She croons over tinkling piano keys in this song by Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey. Rossum doesn’t have the scratchy-voiced yearning Billie Holiday brings to the song, nor the belt-it-out moxie of Ella Fitzgerald, but she serves it well. She stumbles with the Andrews Sisters 1941 hit, "I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time," which represents May in her timeline. The song is sticky-sweet, and cloys the palate. Other tracks include her cover of Frank Sinatra’s 1966 hit "Summer Wind," her June selection, a real crooner that suits her range well. It is followed by "Many Tears Ago," a rollicking tune that sounds too light and feminine when set next to Old Blue Eyes’ tune bemoaning the summer wind whisking away a lover’s heart. She closes out summer with "All I Do Is Dream of You" by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, giving a shout-out to all four seasons in a slow kiss goodnight. Less literally, September’s cold creep is embodied by "Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down and Out)." She finds her own voice on this track, singing about the days of taking her friends out for whiskey, wine and champagne, in the face of newfound poverty and friendlessness. October is time for "Autumn Leaves," with a beautiful French interlude, Bobby Darin’s "Things" rep for November and Willie Nelson’s "Pretty Paper" serves for December. The album was cobbled together by producer Stuart Brawley, who also co-wrote and produced her 2006 album "Inside Out." To capture that old-timey feel, Brawley had artists record together on a vintage mike at The Village in L.A., and then mastered it to tape. If you like Rossum’s music, catch her on Showtime’s "Shameless," or in the new movie "Beautiful Creatures" with Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons. Rossum is determined to create, saying, "Whenever I have an artistic compulsion, I follow it."
(Warner Brothers Records)
"2013 Grammy Nominees" (Assorted)
I’d like to thank the Academy...for rounding up the 22 best singles of the year, for the "2013 Grammy Nominees" album. Whether you are sick of them or can’t get enough, expect to hear singles by Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry and Pink, stalwarts like Maroon 5, Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen, and newcomers like Gotye and breakout artist Carly Rae Jepsen. The Black Keys tear it up with electric guitars and pounding drums in "Lonely Boy," singing, "I’ve got a love that keeps me waiting." "American Idol" spawn Kelly Clarkson keeps proving she’s no flash in the pan with "Stronger" and Adele wipes the floor with "Set Fire to the Rain Live at Royal Albert Hall." Taylor Swift’s banal but catchy, "We Are Never Getting Back Together" is among the top picks, along with Perry’s "Wide Awake," Coldplay’s "Charlie Brown" and Matchbox 20’s "Payphone." Florence + The Machine make the cut with their "Shake It Out," another winner by this coppertop chanteuse. And The Boss scores with his "We Take Care of Our Own," played throughout President Barack Obama’s 2012 Presidential Campaign, and nominated for two Grammy Awards. A lot of previously unknown artists also made a big splash this year, including Gotye, with his spare, almost geometric break-up song, "Somebody," with the "you didn’t have to stoop so low, have your friends collect your records and then change your number, guess that I don’t need that though, now you’re just somebody that I used to know." The band fun. churned out the youth anthem of our time, with the hodge-podge of fast and slow that is "We Are Young," singing of his friends in the bathroom, "getting higher than the Empire State." And Carly Rae Jepsen’s creeper hit "Call Me Maybe" is on the list, "Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s my number so call me, maybe." Miguel’s sexy, ’80s-style "Adorn" is on the list. Frank Ocean also rides this vibe with "Pyramids," a song about dating a stripper at the Pyramid Club. And after working with all the best artists in the industry, Ed Sheeren gets some recognition for his "The A Team," singing, "They say she’s in the class-A team, stuck in her daydream been this way since 18 but lately her face seems slowly sinking, wasting, crumbling like pastries." His voice lilts beautifully as he sings, "it’s too cold outside for angels to fly." And Hunter Hayes shows his vocal skills in "Wanted," a slow, straightforward love song with a country twang. An unexpected but welcome addition is the Lumineers’ "Ho Hey," a slow rocker about a match set. The Alabama Shakes roll out the bluegrass welcome mat in their "Hold On," which brings to mind old Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Mumford and Sons lightning-fast acoustics bolster the resurgence of this vibe. Jack White brings the drum cacophony in "Freedom at 21," and Muse mashes up the electro-pop in "Madness." With so many hats in the ring, the 2013 Grammy Awards, to be held on Feb. 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, is sure to be a thrill. Let’s just hope no one pulls a Kanye.
"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.