Sights & Sounds
By Mike Evans
Lone Ladies: All Powerful
LANA DEL REY — Born To Die
THE GOOD: Female vocalist Lana Del Rey (born Lizzy Grant) redefines herself and brings on a decent sophomore album.
THE BAD: Could she be the unfair victim of a backlash already?
THE NITTY GRITTY: Die was released just after a heavily scrutinized and criticized appearance on Saturday Night Live (it wasn’t that bad). Questions have arisen about the lady’s “rich girl” past. And many see Del Rey as a vacuous “pop” star knocking on the gates of the indie world for the sake of credibility.
Bull! Die may not be perfect, but the album is thoroughly enjoyable. OK, so the girl brought in some heavy-hitters to produce and co-write the songs. Doesn’t matter. Die still has a certain cohesiveness that you don’t find on many records. Most of the tracks are mid-tempo “bad girl” cuts with faint hip-hop influences banging away in the background, tasteful string arrangements adding color, and Del Ray’s powerful contralto rising above the mix.
From the anguish and melancholy painting “Video Games” to the punchy self-destructive nature that keeps “Diet Mountain Dew” clicking along, the disc rarely falters.
BUY IT?: Sure. Lana’s worth a shot.
SINEAD O’CONNOR — How About I Be Me (And You Be You)
THE GOOD: The Irish singer/songwriter is back with a solid (and varied) ninth album.
THE BAD: How About I Be Me is not the singer’s most compelling record, nor is it her weakest. The album ranks somewhere in the middle of her catalog. But it’s still a huge step up from 2007’s uneven Theology.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After 25 years in the business (yes, it’s been that long) and countless religious and political controversies, we sometimes forget that O’Connor still possesses one of the most stirring female voices on the planet. And the woman is in fine voice here, whether she’s belting out bits of fun like “4th and Vine” or getting all the more serious on reserved tracks such as the highly critical “V.I.P.”
In between those two extremes we’re given everything from the stark confessions of an addict (“Reason with Me”) to the highly confrontational and gloriously sarcastic John Grant cover “Queen of Denmark.” O’Connor blesses it all with her usual vocals which are always more blazing fire than tiny spark.
BUY IT?: Sure. O’Connor still enthralls after all this time.
FRANKIE ROSE — Interstellar
THE GOOD: Brooklyn girl Frankie Rose gets more daring on her second solo outing.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: A former member of Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls, Rose released her first solo effort in 2010 under the moniker Frankie Rose and the Outs (even though there were no official “Outs”); a simple retro girl-pop album dripping in Phil Spector echo and jangly guitars. Now the woman is confident enough to go it alone in both spirit and name, and the end result is even better than what she’s given us before.
Interstellar is a forward-thinking spacey record where the music is allowed to breathe and carry us off to a different place. Yes, there are some retro vibes here, but it’s less about the early 1960s and more about the post-punk 80s. There’s early Cure in these rhythms and formative Cocteau Twins echoing within Rose’s vocals. From the focused and catchy “Know Me” to the dreamy ethereal “Pair of Wings,” Interstellar is an album that hypnotizes its listeners. You’re allowed to turn on, tune in and drop out. And feel all better after your return.
BUY IT?: Definitely.