Dig These Discs :: Sade, Ladyhawke, Neneh Cherry, Ed Sheeran, Atlas Genius
As headliner Sade once sang, ’it’s never as good as the first time.’ Luckily for us, her new concert album DVD/CD "Sade: Bring Me Home/ Live 2011" profiles much of what we have come to love about this elusive, camera-shy chanteuse. Joining this soldier of love on the Dig These Discs roundup is Neneh Cherry, with a sultry new jazz album, and newcomers Atlas Genius, Ed Sheeran and Ladyhawke.
"Sade: Bring Me Home 2011: (Sade)
Sade brings double the thrills to your home with her new "Bring Me Home/Live 2011" DVD/CD collection. Her concert video -- the first in almost ten years -- features 22 new and classic Sade hits. She opens with one of her newer releases, "Soldier of Love," flanked by dancers in military gear. Spending most of the time elegantly posed on a raised staircase, Sade moves on to cover the classics, "Your Love is King," "Kiss Of Life," "Smooth Operator," Jezebel," "Is It a Crime" and "Love is Stronger Than Pride." In her trademark hoop earrings with her hair and makeup impeccably done, she belted out lesser-known hits like "Morning Bird," "The Moon and Stars," and "All About Our Love" in a concert that was sophisticated and seamless. She finished up the stellar concert with "The Sweetest Taboo," "No Ordinary Love," and "Cherish the Day." This is one concert DVD that will make your Sunday brunch instantly classier. Extras include "How Do You Say Thank You?" "In the Trenches" and "3 Seconds," plus a behind-the-scenes, 20-minute documentary by Sophie Miller, as well as two backstage films from Stuart Mattewman and crew. The accompanying CD is equally fine stuff, also opening with "Soldier of Love." She works her way through this live album of 13 hit songs, thrilling with "Kiss of Life," and her heartbreaking "Jezebel" with its inimitable horn accompaniment and break. Her mash-up of "Paradise/Nothing Can Come Between Us" is introduced with the sound of choppers in the distance layered with a rocking electric guitar lead that gets the crowd hooting. The haunting piano on "Morning Bird" brings them back to a reverent hush, peppered with a snakelike tambourine as she sings, "How could you, you are the morning bird who sang me into life." Her track "The Moon and Sky" has a Latin feel that resonates very well with this British singer’s style. The CD closes out with a sultry "No Ordinary Love," the sexy, "By Your Side" and her classic hit, "Cherish the Day." Although you may be one of the millions who missed this elusive singer in concert, there’s no reason now not to catch this amazing show. (Epic)
"The Cherry Thing" (Neneh Cherry)
Don Cherry’s little girl teams up with The Thing, the band that first got together to play his music, for "The Cherry Thing," a new collection of eight animalistic jazz tunes. Cherry, who started out in punk girl band The Slits, moved to The The, and rocked the ’80s with songs like "Buffalo Stance," now finds herself deeply immersed in this electric jazz and blues sound. And it suits her just as well. She kicks off the album with the discordantly funky, bass-heavy "Cashback," singing about a lover who "spends me casually," while backed by screaming jazz trumpets. A deep bass drum and woodwinds intro her eight-plus minute triumph, "Dream Baby Dream," with the spare instrumentals really allowing Cherry’s Macy Gray-raspy voice to shine. She follows it with Martina Topley-Bird’s badass, "Too Tough to Die," grinding through it in fits and starts that match the instrumentals. A funky drum line weaves its way through "Sudden Movement," building up to a fine trumpet break. Like true jazz tunes will, the song goes on for what seems like eternity, ending in a cacophony of jazz excellence. Cherry follows a spoken-word format in "Accordion," spitting out, "The greatest story ever told, keep your glory, gold and glitter, for half of the niggers take ’em out the picture./ The other half is rich and don’t mean a shit, feeling mixture between both with a twist of liquor, living on borrowed time the clock tick faster." An animalistic, meandering jazz trumpet marks its territory in "Golden Heart," while Cherry drops louche lyrics that would not have been out of place during her time collaborating with Tricky. Her cover of The Stooges "Dirt" is every bit as gritty as its name, with Cherry singing, "I’ve been dirt, and I don’t care, because I’m yearning inside." The band caps things off with "What Reason Could I Give," with Cherry giving it the full Billy Holiday treatment, deep blues and feeling spilling over. Neneh Cherry and The Thing might not be the jazz for your morning coffee, but one has the feeling they would tear the roof right off a late-night Greenwich Village blues club show.
"Through the Glass" (Atlas Genius)
The Adelaide, Australia-based indie trio of Atlas Genius made waves when they posted their first single, "Trojans," on SoundCloud last year. The single sold more than 45,000 downloads, and topped the alt-nation’s most request chart. Before long, Warner Brothers Records -- and a slew of other unsolicited labels, publishers, booking agents, and management companies -- approached the band to sign. They have released this truncated, three-song selection while they continue to work on their full-length debut album, which is due out this fall, in tandem with a U.S. tour. The band’s hooks have a similar sound to the pop riffs favored by Foster the People, with an easy guitar sound made for radio. In "Trojans," this bouncy feel rolls through to the end, until they sing, "take it off, take it in, take off all the thoughts of what we’ve been" to a dramatic flourish of strings. These high-flying pop melodies resurface in "Back Seat," a catchy tune that blends a throbbing bass beat with tender vocals that soar and sigh. The boys of Atlas Genius have a real knack for dropping tunes with an infectious beat and catchy lyrics, like "I’ll sell you a meaning...Words like knives that no longer cut." Their third track, "Symptoms," shimmers with a rapid-fire guitar intro. There is an urgency to lyrics like, "Sweetly lover won’t you let me know, now we see what we’re gonna forget, never know what we’re gonna regret/ how did the water get so cold?" With such an auspicious start, Atlas Genius’ full-length debut album is poised to take over the world.
(Warner Bros. Records)
"+" (Ed Sheeran)
British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran drops the eagerly-awaited U.S. release of his debut album, "+", plus "Slumdon Bridge," his four-song EP with Yelawolf, an odd match-up that results in good chemistry, with Sheeran making the most of his hip-hop side. (Their dark, insanely sad track "London Bridge" is worth a listen.) This diverse and extremely versatile performer is adept at manipulating samplers and voice loops, strums, rhythmic pounding on this guitar and even the audience to create his music. And his sound vacillates widely as well. In one song, he plays the soft-spoken acoustic singer in the style of David Wilcox, while in the next, his English accent comes through as he spits lyrics like grime artist/rapper Lady Sovereign. His first single, "The A Team," is fueled by acoustic guitar and Sheeran’s whispery, almost falsetto-high vocals, as he sings, "They say she’s in the class A team, stuck in her daydream, been this way since 18." In "Drunk," drums fuel a spitfire-fast acoustic song in which Sheehan sings about wanting to wake up drunk rather than without his lover. In "U.N.I." Sheehan mixes this acoustic with his rapid-fire lyrics, and somehow it works, as he sings the heartbreaking lyrics, "I don’t get waves of missing you anymore/ they’re more like tsunami tides in my eyes." In "Grade 8," he samples a hip-hop beat; he follows it with the spoken-word song "Wake Me Up," about the daily back and forth between him and his lover, singing, "I know you like ’Shrek’ because we watched it 12 times, but maybe you’re hoping for a fairy tale, too." In "Small Bump," Sheehan whispers a song to a child who didn’t make it, singing, "You’re just a small bump on board but in four months you’re brought to life, might be left with my head but you had your mother’s eyes." He follows it with "This," an acoustic strummer celebrating the start of a new love. Sheehan picks up the pace in "The City," an electronic and beats-fueled pop song. He takes it back to an acoustic vibe in "Lego House," pepping up the breaks with his rap-style spits. A catchy beat-box intro lights up the fast-moving, "You Need Me, I Don’t Need You," which really shows the English in Sheeran’s diction, as he sings, "They say I’m up and coming like I’m in a fucking elevator." A bass drum intros "Kiss Me," a slow song that has Sheehan singing in high falsetto, "Kiss me like you wanna be loved...This feels like falling in love." Sheeran’s clear voice comes through in "Give Me Love," a plaintive love song. Midway through, Sheeran introduces African vocals, a la "Rhythms of the Saints," but to darker result. Sheehan’s album debuted at #1 on the UK Album Chart, with the highest opening sales figures for a debut artist ever, and is now certified at 3x platinum. We will soon discover whether this success has traveled with him across the pond.
Phillipa Margaret "Pip" Brown, better known as Ladyhawke, follows up her award-winning, self-titled debut album with "Anxiety," a 10-song album featuring recorded in New Zealand and France with producer Pascal Gabriel. Her first track, "Girl Like Me," is a catchy, electro-pop rocker that has her singing, "I heard you’re leaving and I’ll never know why/ between the devil and the deep blue sea, I saw you dancing with a girl like me." It smacks of PJ Harvey’s "Down by the Water." Brown credits her Asperger syndrome for her early absorption in music; she played in grunge bands in college before breaking out into several other outfits, and then on her own. She counts among her influences Nirvana, and her sound has its heart very much in the indie, androgynous female musicians of the late 2000s. Crisp vocal stylings punctuate her single, "Sunday Drive," with subtle keyboard under her pleading, "When you try to leave me I want to say please don’t go I need your love, waiting for the rain to behave so you come around and take me on a Sunday drive." Her other single, "Black White & Blue" reaches back to an old Blondie sound, but with slower pacing. Her "Vaccine" looks at love as a cure, moving fast from start to finish on keyboard and guitar. A big drum intro leads in the catchy "Blue Eyes," despite boilerplate lyrics like, "Life is so short so forget all the past/it’ll be there til the bitter end." She moves through a selection of passable electro-pop tunes including "Vanity," which features a cool lo-fi intro, and "The Quick and the Dead," which bears the influence of Queen’s "Another One Bites the Dust" and the grit of PJ Harvey. Her title track "Anxiety" is a far cry from Pat Benatar’s ’80s hit, but captures the same trapped panic. A softer side of Ladyhawke emerges in the ballad "Cellophane," a musically interesting track that has her singing, "all those years we spent running away we never knew that it was meant to be." She goes out with a bang in the eight-minute "Gone Gone Gone," a grungy rock song about heartbreak.