California Sounds: Dan Wilson covers his own songs; Gaby Moreno releases a new video; Duckwrth celebrates gender-bending
Dan Wilson, “Someone Like You” (Big Deal Media). Anyone who follows the pop songwriting scene likely knows the name Dan Wilson. Perhaps best known for his band Semisonic and its hit “Closing Time,” Wilson has penned some of the era’s great contemporary smashes. He co-wrote “Someone Like You” with Adele; “When the Stars Come Out” with Chris Stapleton; and, with the Dixie Chicks, “Not Ready to Make Nice.”
For his new album, “Re-Covered,” Wilson reclaims those songs. Featuring new takes on some of his biggest hits, the album sees the writer stripping songs down to their essences.
Thought you were sick of “Someone Like You”? Wilson’s version, which features the Kronos Quartet, illuminates it from a new perspective. The same goes for Stapleton’s “When the Stars Come Out,” which, in Wilson’s hands, turns tender.
An ode to our glorious Southern California evenings, Wilson celebrates “one of those L.A. nights/ When the stars come out and shine/ And they burn so bright/ They drown the downtown lights.”
Gaby Moreno, “O, Me” video (Metamorfosis). The evolution of self-described “Spanglish folk soul” singer and songwriter Moreno has been a wonder to behold.
A prodigal Guatemalan expat who moved to Los Angeles as a teenager to pursue music, she’s established herself as a keen, multihypenate composer and collaborator. Though she’s a star in her native country and across Latin America, in the U.S. she’s likely best known, at least for now, for co-writing the opening theme for the NBC sitcom “Parks & Recreation.”
Her just-released video for “O, Me” is the latest from her recent album, “Illusion,” which was issued in September 2016 and earned her a Grammy nomination in the Latin pop category. In addition to being a beautiful clip, it serves as a reminder to those who may have missed it (ahem) the first time around.
As with much of Moreno’s work, the song transcends genre, touching on her primary love, Southern blues music, but filling it with contemporary accents and sparse, echoed percussion. She sings the song in English, although across “Illusion” and her career she’s written in Spanish, as well.
“Spanish is more poetic,” she told The Times’ Carolina A. Miranda in December. “In English, you can describe things better — it’s more exact. Spanish has a lot of syllables and it can be harder to convey a thought in one sentence. Both are beautiful.”
Duckwrth, “Boy” (Soundcloud). The singer and rapper is on a kind of mission on this new track. When he released it last week, Duckwrth, who is from South Los Angeles, also issued a statement that addressed the song’s gender-fluid theme: “We believe flowers should never be gender specific. Boys can pick flowers and girls can throw fists in mosh pits and never be seen as less of their gender.”
“Boy” is the first new Duckwrth song since he released his debut album, “I’m Uugly,” last year. Taken from the forthcoming mixtape that doubles down on his self-critique, “Xtra Uugly,” the song opens with a bass line, a snore and a cough as our hero awakens to sing, “I’m just a boy sleeping in a bed of roses.”
Image planted, Duckwrth contrasts himself with “a girl swimming in the dirty ocean” as synthesizers sparkle behind him. With phrasing that recalls Frank Ocean’s, the singer maneuvers gracefully through the opening as he declares his affections.
“I picked a flower/ I walked on water/ I love you so much/ I even met your father,” he explains, convincingly. He praises her by singing, “You ran through meadows/ You shaved your head/ You lay your body/ Upon my rose bed.”
A minute-and-a-half in, Duckwrth gets abruptly interrupted when someone screams “Wait!” and the song switches gears. From the post-coital bed of roses, our hero is focused above as he moves from singing to rapping to celebrate the pink sky, fluffy clouds and purple rain.
“I wear my beanie in the winter just like Marvin Gaye,” he says, then directs his attention to her: “And if the sky is gray/ I know you’ll find a way/ To bring the sun out.” As conveyed by Duckwrth, the lines could dent the armor of even the most skeptical dad.
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