Dig These Discs :: Ciara, Sara Bareilles, Cody Simpson, Brendan James, Twin Peaks

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Thursday Jul 18, 2013

Glamorous Ciara launches her fifth studio album full of R&B hits, while Chicago glam-rock outfit Twin Peaks drop their new debut album, "Sunken." "The Sing-Off" judge Sara Bareilles jockeys for more Grammy nods with her third collection of hot vocal tracks that move from harmonious to whimsical. Aussie heartthrob Cody Simpson croons for the tween set in his new album, "Surfers Paradise," and singer/songwriter Brendan James lets loose with another collection of mellow piano tracks. Hot fun in the summer sun, with Dig These Discs!

"Ciara" (Ciara)

Ciara Princess Harris launches her self-titled fifth studio album with a bang, debuting the top-ten R&B hip-hop single "Body Party." Teaming up with Atlanta singer-rapper Future and B.o.B., Ciara shakes her stuff in a song that is made for the dance floor.

The spoken-word intro leads into the slow jam snap track with Ciara crooning, "Baby put your phone down you should turn it off/ ’Cause tonight it’s going down... We in the zone now don’t stop." The two even star as blushing lovers in the video for the song.

Future also joins in for the electro dance track "Where You Go." She kicks things off with the slow electro jam/ auto tune track "Sophomore," with its allusion to sex education. An unidentified rapper lays down the intro for the fast-moving gotta have it track "Keep On Lookin.’ "

Ciara asks for a wild night at home, girl-band style, in "Read My Lips." The lyrics are flirty, and the repeating chorus is catchy. This, and "Keep On Lookin’" are among the best of the album. She dips back into the ’70s porn movie sound effect bag of tricks for her single "DUI," and gets all breathy and sensual. "I’m driving under the influence of your touch, I might have to pull over," she sings.

She goes for a mod disco feel in the silly tune, "Overdose," and tries for flirty in "Super Turnt Up." She gets some help from filthy, big-mouthed rapper Nicki Minaj in "I’m Out" and "Livin’ It Up," which reaches back to a ’90s Erasure sound.

These flashy additions from Minaj and Future add a lot to Ciara’s very restrained body of work. Despite her tendency to keep her feelings close to the vest in her music, Ciara has eight Billboard Hot 100 top-ten singles under her belt, and has sold seven million albums worldwide. The whitewashed but enjoyable "Ciara" should fare the same.

(Epic Records)

"The Blessed Unrest" (Sara Bareilles)

Multi-platinum singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles releases her third studio album, and it’s better than it has any right to be.

The first track and single "Brave," was co-written by Jack Antonoff from the band fun., and is a catchy, made-for-radio release. Bareilles sings strongly and without holding back, "Let your words be anything but empty, why don’t you tell them the truth / Say what you want to say, let the words fall out, honestly, I want to see you be brave."

In "Chasing the Sun" she sits in a cemetery in Queens and sings of a "really old city, stuck between the dead and the living."

Bareilles made waves in 2007 with her widely successful hit "Love Song," from her debut album "Little Voice." Her voice is anything but; her harmonies are full-throated and heart-warming. Her Grammy nomination in 2010 led to her job as a judge on the NBC show "The Sing-Off," and her fellow judge Ben Folds has helped her with her work, releasing her critically-acclaimed "Once Upon Another Time" EP.

She works with John O’Mahony and Mark Endert in this collection of a dozen songs that are smooth as silk. Piano chords open "Hercules," a plodding tune that has Bareilles searching for a warrior to help her through it. She pleads for a lost love in the piano torch song, "Manhattan," bequeathing the island they shared to her beloved, singing, "You can have Manhattan, cause I can’t have you."

Piano and drums mash up in an early-’90s vibe in "Satellite Call," her song for the lonely and broken-hearted child, running wild like a broken satellite, singing, "This is so you’ll know the sound of someone who loves you from the ground." She goes for the girl-band sound of The Supremes in her perfect, simple "Little Black Dress." Electronic distortions add an interesting patina to "Cassiopeia," and counterbalance its sing-songy lyrics.

She promises eternal love in "1000 Times," singing sweet and pure, "I don’t mind, I’ll come back a thousand times," and sings on a similar theme in "I Choose You," a pop ballad with quirky percussion.

Bareilles veers into Sheila E. territory with the pop-fabulous "Eden," and shows her singing skills in the sparse, stoic "Islands." She finishes things up with "December," a soaring song that lets the best of Bareilles vocal skills shine. Her work has let to three Grammy nods so far; look for a few more out of "The Blessed Unrest."

(Epic Records)

"Surfers Paradise" (Cody Simpson)

With his sweet smile and his jacked-up blond hair, Cody Simpson is the boy next door -- provided you live next door to a bunch of surfers hanging ten in a beach town.

This Australian pop star first made waves, so to speak, by winning two gold medals at the Queensland Swimming Championships. He began to record songs in his bedroom in the summer of 2009, and was discovered on YouTube by Grammy-nominated record producer Shawn Campbell.

Now living in LA with his family, Simpson has snagged Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun, did a tour of middle schools and has his own doll... er, action figure. He now works to cement his tween-demo success with this new album.

In the title track, "Paradise," he mmm-bops his way through a love song about finding paradise in a girls’ kiss. "I want to know what it feels like to run my fingers through your hair / I want to know what drives you wild, cause baby we could drive it there," Simpson sings in "Got Me Good." Classic guitar licks and drum backing add a simple, radio play feel to "Be The One," a classic pining-for-your-love song.

In "Hello," he gets that Bieber feel with this song about Simpson trying to talk a girl out of leaving, and combines this boy-pop sound with that Beach Boys vibe in "Tears On Your Pillow," in which he promises only sunny days ahead.

It’s pure sugar pop in "Wish U Were Here," a song that’s set for radio play, as he sings, "Music’s better and lights are brighter when you’re near." His "I Love Girls" is formulaic boy band fare, and "Back to You" is saccharine stuff, as he croons, "Let me know what I have to do to get back to you."

He seizes on an island beat in "Summer Shade," a "Boys of Summer" for today’s generation, and ends the 10-track album with "Gentleman," a simple song with a snap track and acoustic guitar licks. This cute blonde boy is sure to be a hit with the tween set.

(Atlantic Records)


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