Ladies Night Out continued:
Punk or pop, Anna can hold her own
More women in music (continued from last week):
(Five Foot Two Records)
San Francisco-based Waronker is the former frontwoman for Geffen act That Dog, and in addition to that band, she boasts a proud pop pedigree — she's co-written with Go-Go Charlotte Caffey, and is married to a founder of Beatlesque punk-poppers Red Kross. With Anna, the diminuitive but fiery singer (I'm guessing she's about 5-foot-2) proves she can hold her own against any of her friends; she has unveiled an instantly likable blast of pop-rock that melds punky guitar riffs with Bangles-like vocal harmonies. Best tracks include "I Wish You Well," which kisses off an old flame with the epithet: "I wish you well/I wish you love/I wish myself/all of the above." In "John and Maria," she covers the same territory lyrically, but with a more melancholy vibe, mourning the death of a relationship atop a steadily moving bass and caressing strings as she sings "to think I'll never kiss you again/to think I don't know when/ I'll be fine/I'll be fine." And in "How Do You Sleep" she spits out some bitter comments on an old love in an unstoppably catchy chorus.
Waronker seamlessly moves from grrrl-rock vocal power to naked, soul-baring ballads, straddling the domains of alternative rock edge and radio-pop silk with confidence. This is one of my favorite albums of the year. Seek it out at www.annawaronker.com.
Mia Doi Todd
The Golden State
Todd's debut Columbia release (actually her fourth solo disc following three independent releases, and tours with the likes of former Throwing Muse Kristen Hersh) opens with the hypnotic "88 Ways," where she sings in chilling crystaline tones of "gravity and entropy," and asks "what should I be in this world so self-destructing?" With the drama and exotic-but-understated rhythm sense of Over the Rhine and alternative spark of Kendra Smith and Hate Gibson, The Golden State is a rich, slowly revealing dark dream of a CD that listens best in the shadows of twilight. You can hear samples at www.miadoitodd.com.
Back in 1998, English singer-songwriter Imogen Heap debuted on Almo with a strong, introspective, yet upbeat, solo album called I, Megaphone, while still in her teens. Synthesizer whiz and producer Guy Sigsworth, who's worked with Seal and Madonna, hooked up with Heap during the making of that disc, and eventually would form the more techno-oriented duo of Frou Frou with her. Details is a trance-inducing disc of swirling sounds that dance in slow motion around Heap's soaring, stretching vocals. Reminiscent of discs by Emm Gryner and Wild Strawberries in its mix of instrospective lyrics and langorous electronica, this is not an album of hit singles, but rather a soundscape of lush, rolling fields of dreamy emotions.
Peacock works with the same country-rock mix as Sheryl Crow, Kim Richey and Amanda Marshall, singing with just the hint of twang about a variety of characters with heart and harmony. And she pulls in the help of an Indigo Girl (Emily Saliers), as well as John Mayer, Jon Brion and Kristen Hall in fleshing out this solid debut. Opening with the sympathetic story of an "Alabama Boy" whose difficult childhood has left him a troubled man, Peacock strums her way through the slick slide guitar-enhanced "Leading With My Heart" and then hits a pure pop gem in the sweet harmonies of "Bliss." She lets the backporch folk feel out on the rousing hymn imploring patriotism on "I'll Start With Me" (co-written with Saliers), offers a gorgeous sad piano ballad about the death of a former lover in "Some Things Get Lost" and sounds her most like Crow on the funky bass-undertones of "I Hear You Say." Peacock proves herself with song after song of likeable easy listening country rock on this debut, but her strongest effort comes in the upbeat, catchy "I Will Be The One," a warning to a lover about her own fickle nature: "I'll be the one who makes you cry/I'll be the first to say goodbye/you look for me and I'll be gone/I will be the one."
Lost In Space
Mann is best known as the leader of '80s band Til Tuesday, but she's enjoyed a critically acclaimed solo career throughout the last decade, offering a couple picture-perfect pop-rock major label albums and penning much of the soundtrack for the film American Beauty. Currently she's releasing her introspective pop songs on her own label (formed with husband Michael Penn), and her latest release is one of her quieter efforts, perhaps due in part to the absence of longtime collaborator/keyboardist/producer Jon Brion. While this disc might not have a radio-friendly hit along the lines of "That's Just What You Are" or "I Should've Known," it has plenty of memorable Mann lyrics, canny melodies and George Harrison-esque guitar leads. The disc opens with the warbling guitar line of its single, the shuffling "Humpty Dumpty," exudes a world-weary sadness on "This Is How It Goes," and hits its most upbeat song towards the end on "The Moth." This is perfect melancholy music for a rainy day. Find out more on www.aimeemann.com.