Dig These Discs :: Sade, Ladyhawke, Neneh Cherry, Ed Sheeran, Atlas Genius
"+" (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.