Dig These Discs :: Melody Gardot, Maroon 5, Leah Labelle, Fiona Apple, Justin Bieber
Get ready to scream, girls! The Beebs has just dropped his new album, "Believe," teaming up with Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, Drake and Big Sean. Melody Gardot shares her sultry international sound, and newcomer Leah LaBelle lays out a few soulful tracks. Fiona Apple drops her first album in seven years, a collection of emotionally overwrought tunes.
"The Absence" (Melody Gardot)
After time spent in the deserts of Morocco, the tango bars of Buenos Aires, the beaches of Brazil and the streets of Lisbon, singer Melody Gardot returns to America with her new album, "The Absence," a dozen percussive-heavy, Latin-influenced songs that will make your feet move. She starts out spicy, with the Spanish-language song, "Mira," and slows things down with "Amalia," a slow love with the lyrics, "Amalia, finding her way on the open road, Amalia, going whichever way the wind goes." Gardot’s deep, clear voice is very much suited to this style. In "So We Meet Again My Heartache," a subtle Spanish guitar melds with Gardot’s sultry vocals to create the feel of an old Astral Gilberto tune. In "Lisboa," she extends this old-timey lounge singer vibe, letting acoustics, piano and tinkling percussives paint a mental landscape of a far away "paradise beside the sea." With a flourish of guitars, Gardot launches into "Impossible Love," a slow, dramatic foreign-language song that evokes the passion of the great Edith Piaf. She moves to a more Mae West, sassy vibe, proving that love is a lie in, "If I Tell You I Love You," singing, "There are so many things I could say, my love/ Make you trip, so your lips would be mine. There are so many things I could do, my love, To convince you my love is divine/ There are so many words I could tell you, There are so many moments in time But I say ’fore we go to the land down below, If I tell you I love you, I’m lying." Her song "Goodbye," is Billy Holiday light, complete with meandering drums, woodwinds and a touch of brass. Gardot teams up with a male singer for the Spanish-language song, "Se Voce Me Ama," a sad song backed with a soft guitar. Gardot’s deep, lush vocals are on display in "My Heart Won’t Have It Any Other Way," and the song smacks of Ella Fitzgerald’s classic, "At Last." She wraps things up with "Iemanja," a jaunty island tune that makes the most of a calypso beat. Gardot’s "The Absence" belies its name; nothing is missing. This singer is the complete package.
(Decca Records/Verve Music Group)
"Leah LaBelle" (Leah Labelle)
It’s immediately apparent what Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri saw in Leah LaBelle. In her new, five-song LP, this young, white girl belts out deep, soulful tunes as if she had Mary J. Blige in her pocket. Recorded in Atlanta, the album features a series of light, hook-laden songs like her single, "Sexify," a song that LaBelle said she, "hopes inspires girls to feel free to be sexy to guys while still being true to themselves." She kicks off the album with "So Hot," a bouncy R&B love song in the vein of Angie Stone, that finds LaBelle singing, "I get nervous, it’s just that I like things perfect that’s the scary part of messing up with you, because you’re so hot, so so hot." She seizes an electronic vibe in "Make Me Get Up," a song about going to the club to get your groove on and be transported by the music. Gardot makes the most of a chorus of voices in the take a chance on love song, "What Do We Got to Lose?" She moves more toward a pop vibe in her final tune, "Mr. Scissors," a song fueled by rattling snare drums, with a slower break. LaBelle comes from a family of musicians; her mother was in an Abba-esque pop group in Communist-era Bulgaria, and her father was a guitarist in one of that country’s first rock groups, and often found himself imprisoned just for his long hair. From fame in Bulgaria to a working class life in Pennsylvania and then Seattle, LaBelle’s life was tough. She tells of being inspired to perform by seeing Lauryn Hill in "Sister Act 2." LaBelle went on to join a prominent gospel choir, and her singing truly does evoke the style of the Fugees. After a year at Berklee College, she moved to L.A. to sing backup. After the run-around, LaBelle was about to give up on her solo career when YouTube videos of her singing reached Williams and Dupri. She was signed to their labels, and to Epic Records, within days. "I’ve been ready my entire life," said LaBelle. Her full-length debut album will drop in the fall. For now, enjoy a taste of something sweet.
"Overexposed" (Maroon 5)
After the widespread, runaway success of the 2011 smash hit "Moves Like Jagger," it is no mystery why Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine chose to label this new album, "Overexposed." Rooted in rock, soul and funk, the band has also finally "completely embraced the idea of making pop music -- of making songs for the radio," said Levine. So Levine, James Valentine, Mickey Madden, Matt Flynn and PJ Morton put aside their pride in handling all their music in-house, and for this album, reached out to collaborate with hit maker Max Martin, plus Benny Blanco and Ryan Tedder. The result, only 21 months in the making, is a more eclectic pop album, ready for radio. The band launches the 10-song album with "One More Night," a bouncy, electronic song with an underlying Latin beat. They team up with rapper Wiz Kalifa for "Payphone," their hit lead single, the anti-love song with the lyrics, "All those fairy tales are full of shit/ One more fucking love song, I’ll be sick." In "Daylight," Levine sings of love in the dark, "In the daylight we’ll be on our own, but tonight I need to hold you so close." The fast-moving rock song "Lucky Strike" keeps time with a steady bass beat, and the bouncy, rhythmic hooks make it a strong candidate for radio play. "Sometimes honesty is the worst policy, happy ever after...let it go, you never need to know," a scorned man sings in "The Man Who Never Lied." Maroon 5 slows things down in "Love Somebody," a lukewarm love song. "Ladykiller" is a quirky little pop song that latches onto an early-’80s pop feel, tweaked with the falsetto break, "How could you do it?" Valentine admits that his favorite jam, "Fortune Teller," began with him tooling away on a $10 Korg mini-keyboard in the lounge at Conway Studios in L.A. "I’ll never know how the future will go; I don’t know what to tell you, I’m not a fortune teller," Levine sings. "Sad" is a slow, piano-heavy song that is as good its name, and "Tickets" is a choppy song with the lyrics, "she’s got tickets to her own show but nobody wants to go, and I’m stuck sitting in the front row, singing along like there’s no tomorrow." This track hearkens back to older Maroon 5 hits. In the electro-reggae hit "One More Night," the band sings of a bad love, "Cross my heart and I hope to die that I’ll only stay with you one more night." "Doin’ Dirt" is a disco-rock jam that Valentine said was influenced by the songs of Hall & Oates. The electronic crescendo often found in ’70s disco tracks, an audible version of the "star wipe," is ample proof of this. "Beautiful Goodbye" is another one in a line of funky ballads about a girl who’s perfect and beautiful without it going to her head. "More than anything I think this record says that it’s always cool to try -- that you should always be willing to take a step beyond whatever feels comfortable," said Levine. Facing his fear of being overexposed was just what Levine and his boys needed to get down to business.