In a bizarro alternate universe that exists solely in my noggin, there’s a scenario where Janis Joplin was a maniacal Voldemortian villainess who longed for immortality by hiding her soul in Horcruxes that span across the space/time continuum.* Of course, this is fantastical nonsense… (it is, right?).
BUT! If this scenario could even be remotely true, you’d better believe that one of those Horcruxes would be the vocal cords of Beth Ditto.
Yeah, Beth Ditto. I just went all hippie Harry Potter on your vox. Whaddyagonnadoaboutit? #Riddikulus. Now, I’m not sayin’ she’s a carbon copy imitation of the iconic sixties rock queen, but whatever magic materialized near Janis’s esophagus definitely dwells in Ditto’s throatal region as well.
(Now is the point in the commentary that I’ve exhausted my HP references and I effortlessly transition to beverage related analogies. You won’t even notice this transition because it will be completely seamless! Muahahahaha! Who’s maniacal now?).
Beth Ditto is nowhere near new to the scene. She’s been steeped in the music biz for 15ish years as the frontwoman for the indie-synth-pop outfit Gossip. Fake Sugar is her first solo outing since the band dissolved a few years ago like Splenda in hot coffee. (See how I did that little fake sugar nod. Boom!). I have to say though, I dig her more on her own. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why this is… maybe it’s a little less synth-ey or rough around the edges and better compliments my particular musical tastebuds. So, regardless of whether Gossip was your cup of tea or not you should give Ditto’s solo stuff a sip.
Let’s digest some Fake Sugar highlights:
Track 1 - “Fire”: The album opens with the kettle on a slow simmer. A low key groove sets the stage for Ditto to submerge her vocals ominously close to the bottom of her range. As she single-voicedly builds the song to chorus you realize she might not need a full band to carry her tunes. Once you hit the one minute mark you’ve just made peace with this fact and *BAM* she hits you with the headfake-full-dropout/full-band-intro-slap-in-the-eardrums and the album is officially off and boiling. Track 1’s are important and this one gets the job done.
Track 5 - “We Could Run”: There’s a beautiful cathartic vocal moment in this song at around 1:33. That’s the precise moment she really lets her voice off the leash and gives it full permission to wail. It gives me those chilly-goosebumpy-good-feels that I liken to when Bono hits that first chorus of “It’s a beautiful day!” It’s tasty.
Track 6 - “Oo La La”: Gah...I would love to have half of the confidence of this song. It’s all grit and sass and swagger and self assurance. Perhaps that’s also a good way to describe Beth Ditto. If you are looking for an anthem to get amped up on your own bad-ass-ed-ness… I would submit this track for your consideration.
Track 8 - “Oh My God”: I’m not sure if such a thing as “rhythmic onomatopoeia” exists. (Music Nerds: help me out here cause Google got me nowhere… but probably because “rhythmic onomatopoeia” only makes sense in my mind and it’s actually called something else). There is definitely a phenomenon where the the music makes you think of the lyrics before they are actually sung. Try it with this one. The three solid separate beats in the opening just make me think “Oh. My. God.” and then… OMG she actual sings that over them later! Perhaps I’m psychic… but probably not, it’s most likely just awesome rhythmic onomatopoeia (Trademark pending).
I actually had a fair bit of difficulty narrowing down songs on this album to talk about. Some of absolute faves didn’t make the cut (I’m looking in your general direction “In and Out,” “Fake Sugar,” and “Go Baby Go”). Which is just to say that this album is brewed extra strong with great tunes and is definitely worth a spin while you grab a third cup of Monday morning coffee.
And you can skip the Equal, Sweet N’ Low or Truvia… Beth Ditto is the real deal and so you might as well go with the real stuff for this cup.
*Before I get the full force of fact-checking Potterites on my tail… lemmesay: I know that this Horcrux theory is dependant on Janis Joplin having committed murder… let’s just leave it at this: it gets a little weird and wild inside my brain’s alt-universes.