Dig These Discs :: Stars, Alanis Morissette, Raveonettes, Blaqk Audio, Pet Shop Boys
Everything old is new again, as the Pet Shop Boys and Alanis Morrisette drop new releases. Their work has inspired Blaqk Audio and Stars, respectively, to their own success. And The Raveonettes, a Dutch band with country twang, celebrates 10 years together with their new album, "Observator."
"Elysium" (Pet Shop Boys)
The English duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe drop their new album, "Elysium," a collection of twelve new songs featuring a deep, warm electronic sound, plus orchestral arrangements by Joachim Horsley, Andrew Dawson and Ben Leathers. Veteran singers Oren, Maxine and Julie Waters, and singer/songwriter James Fauntleroy provide backing vocals on many of the tracks, giving the album a more polished sound than many of the band’s previous releases. "Elysium" is the Boys’ first album recorded in America, produced by Andrew Dawson, who has won three Grammys for his work on Kanye West’s albums. "It was inspiring to make an album in Los Angeles, and to work with a producer from a different musical genre, who has brought a new dimension to our music," said the Pet Shop Boys. They start things off with the album’s best track, the snappy, electronic crescendos of "Leaving," singing, "You’ve had enough time to decide on your freedom, but I can still find someone to believe in." Plaintive echoes punctuate "Invisible," as Tennant asks, "can you hear me, can you see me, am I really even here?" "This is the moment we’ll remember for the rest of our life," it’s the day we arrived, they sing in their first single, "Winner." The whisper intro of "Your Early Stuff" could be a story of the band itself, as Tennant sings of an artist who’s been around but doesn’t look too rough, commenting, "I still quite like some of your early stuff," especially those funny-looking old videos. They channel their own early stuff with the ’80s-vibed "Face Like That," evoking memories of the days when one had the brains, and the other the brawn. The slow-moving, louche, "Breathing Space" provides an interesting dichotomy, book ended as it is with the frenetic "Ego Music," with its repetitive string of "me me me me yes yes yes yes." A chorus of voices introduces "Hold On," an odd song about all the seasons melting into a single moment. More successful is "Give it a Go," with its ’70s, soft surf-rock vibe and accordion flourishes. "It’s taken me all of my life to find you," croons Tennant in "Memory of the Future." They look for meaning in "Everything Means Something," and finish the album off with "Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin," a catchy dance tune with a ’70s disco lounge vibe. The band has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling music artists. Through hits like "West End Girls," and "Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)," the Pet Shop Boys have created their legacy. With "Elysium," they will cement it.
"Bright Black Heaven" (Blaqk Audio)
Inspired by the Pet Shop Boys, Devo, Skinny Puppy and Depeche Mode, Jade Puget and Davey Havok launched Blaqk Audio, an electronic outfit that hearkens to the electro-industrial wave. The duo releases their sophomore album, "Bright Black Heaven," a collection of 12 news quality songs. "The album title perfectly captures the tone of the record. The songs shift from high-energy dance anthems to mid-tempo pop to dramatic ballads that focus on transcendence and escape through the shadowy corners of bliss," said Havok. This current of darkness that infuses their work comes courtesy of Dave Bascombe, mixer of their first album, "CexCells," who has collaborated with Depeche Mode and Erasure. The sweeping intro orchestration of their first track, "Cold War," has the drama of a Depeche Mode track, with synth grooves. Havok sings dramatic confessions like, "I’m running at you with a gun in my hand," ending with "I’ll never forgive you." The vintage electropop influences rise to the surface in "Fade to White," with Havok singing, "You blush like the ingénue but I have seen you lead so, all that is done tonight, of this we cannot speak, so don’t say another word." Their intense track, "Faith Healer" really captures the dramatic vibe of electronic music of the early ’90s, as does their catchy, "Let’s Be Honest." "Love comes quickly and I’m indisposed and what I can’t describe is what I wanted most," sings Havok in the haunting "Deconstructing Gods." Journey back to the days of pounding after-hours beats sessions with "Everybody’s Friends," as they sing, "We could be so discreet, living fiction." Someone from somewhere can show you how to care, the duo sings in "With Your Arms Around You," a slightly sad tune with great electronic bones. In "Bliss," the darkest track on the album, electronic growls build the drama like a sinister movie soundtrack. "Bon Voyeurs" is a more optimistic, lithe tune that sparkles like Depeche Mode tunes, with Havok singing, "Let them say, who cares who’s watching you." The orchestral outro only adds to the drama. It segues to "The Witness," a stadium-ready tune that provides a nice showcase to Havok’s impressive vocal range, as he sings, "Who needs forgiveness when we all speak fluent lies." "Say Red" is a fast-paced, frenetic stunner. The album closes with "Ill-Lit Ships," a slower song getting added clarity from a deliberate keyboard intro, then building up to a heartbreaking crescendo, as Havok sings, "It’s your smile that hurts me so."
(Big Death/Superball Music)
"Havoc And Bright Lights" (Alanis Morissette)
Isn’t it ironic? Alanis Morissette has teamed up with Guy Sigsworth and Joe Chiccarelli to drop her first release in four years. "This record is a snapshot of what I currently obsess about, care deeply about and what strikes me at 4 in the morning in my most introspective moments," said Morissette. This Canadian-bred artist has raised hell ever since her 1995 debut album "Jagged Little Pill" made waves for her rage against the man who left her in "You Oughta Know," singing the NSFW lyrics, "And are you thinking of me when you fuck her?" She’s older now, but continues with her deeply expressive music in "Havoc and Bright Lights," a collection of a dozen songs recorded in LA. The album’s first single, "Guardian" was released on May 15 on iTunes, and actually hearkens to her early work, with its shredding guitar and profound lyrics, delivered determinedly. "I’ll be your keeper for life...I’ll be your angel on call," sings Morissette, taking a protective track, perhaps inspired by motherhood. She sings about the vilification of our mothers, lovers and sisters by women-haters in "Woman Down." She spins her wheels in "’Til You," sings about her convictions in "Lens" and deals with shame in "Spiral." The beat is dark and oppressive in "Celebrity," as Morissette reveals her lust for VIP status, singing, "nothing but my name in bright lights called to me." She goes even darker in the creeping, "Numb," as she sings of her frustration and alludes to drug use. "Empathy" is a more upbeat song, with the lyrics, "Thank you for getting me, I’m fueled by your empathy." She slows things down in "Havoc," one of the best tracks, as she croons, "I have no defense, I’m wreaking havoc and consequence." "We are eye to eye, we are equal to each other," she sings in the sweet, harmonious, "Win and Win." She finishes up with the electronic flourishes in "Edge of Evolution," a touching song that has Morissette leaving behind the story of who she is for a new indoctrination. It may not be the "Jagged Little Pill," but it’s more of the same of what won Morissette seven Grammy Awards.
(Collective Sounds/Sony RED)