Dig These Discs :: Yoko Ono, Martin Solveig, The XX, Rumer
Dig These Discs goes around the world as Japanese-born Yoko Ono consolidates the best of her hits into a collection of 30 club remixes, while French artist Martin Solveig brings his hot new album across the pond. The South London trio of The xx releases their spare sophomore album, and Pakistani-born, British singer Rumer drop her latest tracks. Konishiwa, and bonjour!
"Onomix" (Yoko Ono)
Whether you credit Yoko Ono for igniting the rise of punk rock or blame her for breaking up The Beatles, you have to admit that the woman has a certain cutting-edge style. Her new album "Onomix" features 30 remixed tracks from her body of work by some of today’s hardest-hitting artists, including Danny Tenaglia, Richard Morel and Robert Rodriguez. Among the most recognizable is "Give Peace a Chance." The album features five separate remixes of the song. The Alex Santer Peaceful Mix is a relatively mellow, instrumental version that one would be hard-pressed to connect with the original. It is miles away from the spoken-word intro of the DJ Meme Club Mix version, which reads as if it were retooled for Broadway, with its message that "action is peace." The Karsh Kale Voices mix is innocuous, while the Kimbar Vocal Mix sounds downright sinister. The most club-friendly is probably the Tszpun Remix, which builds to a nice drop. The covers of "Everyman Everywoman" leave a lot to be desired, with both beat-driven remixes doing little more than inspiring a headache. And "Give Me Something" covers by Alex Trax and Robert Rodriguez blend into each other with a cacophony of beats. The Yono Ono version of "I’m Not Getting Enough" is one of the more catchy tracks, although the same can’t be said for the Zoned Out Mix of the song. The track "Move on Fast (Emjae Dubstramental) has a nice, forward-moving, suspenseful quality to it that is muted in the Emjae Underwater Dub, and just shows up via beats in the Timmy Loop Infinity Dub. Drum tracks liven up the Eric Kupper Dub of "No, No, No" and the female vocal samples invigorate the Tomy Novy Vocal Mix of the song, although they sometimes veer into creepy territory. A breathy, orgasmic intro marks "She Gets Down On Her Knees (Craven Moore Beats Mix)" that is absent from the Jochen Simms Dub Mix and the Riche Morel Dub Mix, both of which showcase fine beats. "Walking on Thin Ice" has screeching jungle tones that are off-putting in both mixes presented, although the Danny Tenaglia Dub Mix is less so. "Wouldnit" is a more bouncy, fun track, and is one of the only tracks with actual vocals, as Ono sings, "Wouldnit be nice to be a hero...Wouldnit be nice to be star." Perhaps the strongest club track on the album is "You’re the One (Bimbo Jones Dub Mix)," with a tight mix of beats and vocals. Although I don’t hold Ono accountable for the end of the Fab Four, and champion her for thriving in the face of other’s animosity, the album seems a bit too derivative to be embraced by anyone other than the ilk of dubstep DJs responsible for the remixes. Head to your favorite club, where you may find them in the lineup.
(Mind Train/Twisted Records)
"Smash" (Martin Solveig)
French electronic DJ and producer Martin Solveig dropped his fifth studio album this summer with a digital release on August 21, followed by a hard copy on September 18. The digital deluxe album contains an additional six tracks, including two music videos. Among the highlights are his multi-platinum single, "Hello," which has a banging drum intro and finds him teamed up with au courant Canadian outfit Dragonette. The high female vocals singing, "You’re alright but I’m here darling to enjoy the party," are totally kick-ass. The Dada Life remix of this tune is a revved-up version. The album also highlights two versions of his latest track, "The Night Out." The first is a clean remix with beats by rising electronic star Madeon, and another from Grammy-nominated artist A-Trak, who serves as Kanye West’s DJ. The tune is undeniably catchy, with Solveig, who is one of the primary producers of "MDNA," kicking off his U.S. arrival as a special guest on Madonna’s current world tour. He is credited with contributing to "Beautiful Killer," inspired by their mutual passion for Jean-Pierre Melville’s crime thriller "Le Samourai," as well as "Turn Up the Radio," "I Don’t Give A" and "Give Me All Your Luvin’." Solveig also collaborates in the album, which features Dragonette, Kele, Dev, Sunday Girl and the Japanese pop combo Idoling!!! He teams up with Kele for "Ready to Go," an upbeat dance tune with a bouncy electronic sound. The pop sound of "Can’t Stop" melds nicely with the teasing female vocals, "Can’t stop turning it up so shake it out now...we’re gonna change the world, we’re gonna rock it, entertainment is what it’s all about." "Racer 21" is a solid instrumental track. Dev is featured in "We Came to Smash (In a Black Tuxedo)," a hard-edged song that evokes early Joan Jett and the Blackhearts songs, with a dubstep break. Dragonette and Idoling!!! add a J-pop vibe to "Big in Japan," with the girls chanting, "S-T-A-R, that’s what you are, cause you’re big in Japan!" A British punk rock sound rises to the surface in "Get Away From You," and an ’80s pop-punk sound dominates "Boys & Girls," with lyrics in both French and English. Sunday Girl brings a soft touch to "Let’s Not Play Games," and Kele jazzes up the Hardwell remix of "Ready to Go." "Smash" made huge waves in Europe, topping the charts, and it seems poised to make a similar splash here in the U.S.
"Coexist" (The xx)
The South London trio of Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith are The xx, an outfit that quietly snuck into the public consciousness, becoming shorthand for "newly refined ideas of teenage desire and anxiety." Three years after their self-titled 2009 debut album, the band has grown up, and is back with their new album, "Coexist." After spending most of 2010 touring the U.S., Australia, Europe and Japan, the band came home to find that, "All of our friends had been to university and left home," said Croft. So they made up for lost time with friends, moved out of their parent’s houses and spent some time apart. They reconnected secretly to record this album, with Smith gaining acclaim by focusing on his production skills, eventually being asked by Drake to produce the title track of his album, "Take Care." Croft and Sim came together to write the songs, and Smith found a space to convert into a studio, soundproofing it and outfitting it with piano, drums and steel pan. Said Smith, "Learning to work together as grownups was the biggest thing -- it’s the thing that influenced the album the most. We just needed to find a balance." Of the learning process, Croft said, "To coexist doesn’t paint the rosiest picture but I think it represents the realness. Learning to live together, learning to work together again, learning to live with the person you’re with, or your ex. It’s all connected." "Angels," is a perfectly distilled love song, as Croft sings, "they would be as in love with you as I am," set to very spare percussion and guitar. "Did I hold you too tight, did I not let enough light in?" asks Croft in "Chained," with Sim providing the counter-harmony in a charming call-and-response. The bittersweet ballad "Fiction," led by Sim, is it’s perfect counterpart, as he sings, "I woke up alone, with only daylight between us." "I wish you had been there," begs Croft in "Try," while the guitar riffs echo, and Oliver’s bass lines circle and build like loops. The house music vibes surface in "Reunion," which gets an added perk through the use of steel pan drums and other percussives, and merges into a different vibe midway through. "I saw you again; it felt like we’d never met/ it’s like the sunset in your eyes, I never want it to rise," sings Croft in the beat-driven "Sunset." Sim sings out deep and sad in "Missing" of his heart beating indifferently, wondering, "Will you miss me when there’s nothing to see?" The two duet for "Tides," a tune with an a capella opening that is at once gruff and soft, with the two singing, "you leave with the tide, and I can’t stop you leaving." Sims brings a sad patina to "Unfold," and the two paint a plodding, wistful picture in "Swept Away." They finish things up with "Our Song," another lovely duet that has them singing, "No one else knows me as you/ what I’ve done, you’ve done, too." One listen to The xx will let you understand the understated, lower-case approach they bring to their music, focusing on the spaces between the beats, and the heartbreaking stories that populate our modern landscape.
"Boys Don’t Cry" (Rumer)
This Pakistani-born, British singer made waves with her stellar debut release. Now she returns with "Boys Don’t Cry," a collection of 12 classic easy listening covers, and rides the waves of nostalgia to their end. In "P.F. Sloan" she sings Jimmy Webb’s ode to this songwriter of the Nikon era, a ’60s battle cry with its classic lyrics, "You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’," which inspired the passage of the 26th amendment, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. She channels The Carpenters in Roger Nichols & Paul Williams "Travelin’ Boy," giving Karen a ride for her money. It’s the same sound she showed in her early single, "Am I Forgiven," a heartbreaking love song. She kills Hall & Oates "Sara Smile," which was also a personal favorite for its soaring chorus and break, "it’s you and me forever, Sara smile, won’t you smile a while for me, Sara?" Todd Rungren’s "Be Nice to Me" comes across lukewarm, despite its sad message of a woman "so sick of being had by everyone who comes along." It’s book-ended by Art Garfunkel’s similarly messaged "It’s the Same Old Tears on a New Background," another tale of the unlucky in love. She jazzes things up with "Soulsville," an ode to the ghetto, singing, "any kind of job is hard to find, that means an increase in the welfare line." With the recent death of Ron Palillo, aka Horshack, the time is right for her cover of "Welcome Back" from the show that gave John Travolta his start. Townes Van Zandt’s whimsical "Flyin’ Shoes" is a good match for Rumer’s folksy voice, and the story-song of Ronnie Lane’s "Just for a Moment," as delivered by Rumer, has a Southern Bonnie Raitt twang to it. Richie Havens "It Could Be the First Day" is suitably old-school for the compilation, as is "Brave Awakening." Rumer finishes things up with the lovesick, "A Man Needs a Maid," from Neil Young, singing, "To give a love, you’ve got to live a love. To live a love, you gotta be ’part of.’" The collection is very rooted in the past, as is Rumer’s voice. But after the thrills she let us glimpse in her debut album, I look forward to her taking some risks and giving Adele a run for her money.