Entertainment :: Music

Dig These Discs :: Kylie Minogue, Martha Wainwright, Diamond Rings, Aerosmith, Tift Merritt

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by Winnie McCroy
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"Traveling Alone" (Tift Merritt)

Singer/songwriter Tift Merritt looks at midlife independence in her new collection of 11 tracks that profile her fine voice over acoustic guitar backing. "I only get this one time round better speak up straight, better speak up proud," she sings in her title track, which she opens up the album with. Merritt has been compared to powerhouse artists like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, and her confessional storytelling songs have a lot to do with this. "I’ve got a taste for traveling alone," she croons in the chorus, tapping into the fundamental truth that we are all essentially on this journey alone. "I just wanted to really get to the heart of the matter, which I always do, but hopefully you travel in a little deeper every time," Merritt said in a recent interview. Although Merritt lives in Brooklyn with her husband and longtime collaborator Zeke Hutchings, songs like "Sweet Spot" will resonate with LGBT audience as she sings, "I’m just looking for that sweet spot, where I can love the way that I want." "I really wanted to make a record that was real and raw," said Merritt. "I wanted to put together my dream cast and see if I could hold my own with them." Merritt has done just that, working with Tucker Martine, Andrew Bird, Marc Ribot, Rob Burger, John Convertino, Eric Heywoood, and longtime collaborator Jay Brown. The male-female harmonies are strong on "Drifted Apart," and she rocks in the country-style "Still Not Home." "If it’s alright with you, I’ll stay on another couple of days," sings Merritt in "Feeling of Beauty," repeating the sentiment in "Too Soon To Go," singing, "stay a little longer, there’s so much I need to know." Rhythm guitar and piano mesh well in her tune "Small Talk Relations" Her voice goes to a whisper in the entrancing "Spring," and is upbeat and forward-moving in the flirty track, "To Myself," singing, "don’t let the world distract you, don’t call for no one else, just let the feeling carry you, I want you to myself." She opens herself up to the day when she won’t be lonely anymore in "In the Way," and ends the album with the fine acoustic piece "Marks." Merritt finishes up a U.S. tour this month, ending her travels, alone or otherwise, for the time being.
(Yep Roc Records)


"Free Dimensional" (Diamond Rings)

Diamond Rings, aka John O, burst onto the music scene with his home-recorded video for his debut single, "All Yr Songs." He has parlayed that success into his new album, "Free Dimensional," a collection of 10 electronica songs. Unlike most electro albums, where the meat get lost among the grist of special effects, John O’s deep, melodic voice allows his whip-smart lyrics to emerge unscathed. "I wanted the first album to have that homespun quality. Once I became more comfortable with the medium of electronic music, it was only natural to want to improve," explained John O. "Everything Speaks" is a song about becoming tuned in to the world, "I know when to trust my vision, I know when to show my pride, I know when to keep it hidden, everything speaks far and wide." He turns sentimental in "All the Time," sharing his desire to feel his lover’s heartbeat next to him at all times. In the catchy "Runaway Love," he meshes the Valley Girl sound of the ’80s (think Modern English) with a modern vibe, singing, "I wanna burn my name in your heart, I wanna lose control." And in "(I Know) What I’m Made Of," he seems to channel Dead or Alive, but adds a very modern rap break in the middle. Said John O, "I really wanted to album to feel as though it was very much of the here-and-now, but also indistinguishable from what’s come before -- and what is yet to come -- in music." His deep voice resonates ominously in "Put Me On," although the subject matter is light, and in his anthem, "I’m Just Me," he oddly juxtaposes imagery of drowning with that of self-empowerment, singing, "Now I’m growing older, I’m getting bolder, confident in my own skin...I just wanna let you in. Hold me underwater/ teach me how to breath, I’m no son or daughter, I’m nothing, just me." He works an upbeat arrangement in "Hand Over My Heart," with interesting vocal distortion at the end, and goes full pop for "Day & Night," as he counts down the steps to love. "A to Z" is a cute, if formulaic, pop song, with the sly reference to "kissing to be clever," a direct homage to Culture Club. "Stand My Ground" is also very rooted in the ’80s, with effects that sound as if they came from a Casio keyboard. The overall effect is unexpected and charming, bringing the best of that decade into the future. Expect big things from Diamond Rings.
(Astralwerks)


Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/


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