NEWS ROUNDUP: RIP Dolores O’Riordan, New LP Releases, & More

  • RIP Dolores O’Riordan (September 6, 1971 – January 15, 2018)

    We lost one of the greats this week. On Monday, January 15th, Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of Irish rock band, the Cranberries, passed away in London, where she had been recording. She was 46. The sad news was announced by her publicist. The cause of death has not been announced but authorities are not treating it as suspicious and are awaiting the test results of a coroner’s examination.

    Born in 1971 in Ireland, O’Riordan auditioned for the Cranberries (then called The Cranberry Saw Us) in 1990 after answering an advertisement seeking a female singer. After recording a rough demo of “Linger,” she was officially in the band. They soon went on to record the EP, Nothing Left At All and eventually signed to Island Records. The group achieved mainstream success with the single “Dreams,” off of their 1993 debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? The song immortalized nineties teen angst (visually preserved in an especially memorable scene of “My So-Called Life”). The album eventually sold over 40 million records. In 1994, the band took a more serious turn with the release of No Need To Argue which featured the hit single, “Zombie,” a protest song written in memory of two victims of the 1993 IRA bombings in Warrington, England. After No Need to Argue the Cranberries released three more albums – To the Faithful Departed (1996), Bury The Hatchet (1999), and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (2001), before breaking up in 2002. O’Riordan then went on to put out two solo albums, Are You Listening? (2007), and No Baggage.

    In 2009, the same year that she released No Baggage, The Cranberries reunited on tour and recorded material for their 2012 release, Roses. In April of last year they released their seventh studio album, Something Else. They embarked on an international tour in support of the album before having to cancel in July 2017 due to health issues with O’Riordan’s back. Despite this knowledge, O’Riordan’s fans were hoping for a comeback as the singer had posted on Facebook during the recent holidays, saying that “she was feeling good” and accomplished her “first bit of gigging in months.”

    O’ Riordan will be buried in Ireland next week. She is survived by her three children.

  • New Albums from Belle & Sebastian, Porches, Tune-Yards & More!

    This has been the biggest week for album releases in the year thus far. Belle and Sebastian released How to Solve Our Human Problems, Pt. 2. It’s the second part of their much anticipated EP trilogy; the final installment is slated to arrive February 16th.

    Just in time for his upcoming tour with Miguel, SiR released his latest album, November. The jazz-inflected R&B singer is signed with TDE; the label is riding a incredibly high wave thanks to their critically-lauded 2017 releases, including Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and SZA’s Ctrl.

    The Go! Team made us feel old by releasing their fifth (!) album this week. Semicircle features their signature mash-up of cheerleader shouts and marching band sounds, with some ’60s sitar thrown in for good measure. They play NYC in April.

    Swedish band First Aid Kit gave us Ruins this week. It’s their first album in four years. Aaron Maine released The House, his third album as Porches. Two tracks off the release, “Find Me,” and “Country,” have already been given the video treatment.

    British dancepunk trio Shopping also released their third full-length this week. The Official Body will have you contemplating current events and social institutions while grooving to dance synths and heavy basslines reminiscent of Bush Tetras and Au Pairs.

    Last but definitely not least, Tune-Yards released I can feel you creep into my private life. The band’s founder, Merrill Garbus, recently told The New York Times that the new album is heavily influenced by learning how to DJ and attending seminars about race relations. Case in point? The catchy pop grooves of lead single, “ABC 123,” will have you bopping your head to the lyric, “I can ask myself, what should I do? But all I know is white centrality. My country served me horror coke. My natural freedom up in smoke.”

  • Other Highlights

    Wu-Tang’s RZA appears in a brand new video for PETA. The ad features the longtime vegan’s voiceover as his face shifts into different people and animals. Governors Ball announced James Blake as its final headliner for the 2018 June lineup. Kylie Minogue’s new single, “Dancing,” gives us a taste of her fourteenth studio album, Golden, out April 6th. Cardi B is the subject of a new Tidal “mini-documentary.” I’m Here Muthaf*ckas follows her as she headlines Jeremy Scott’s Art Basel dinner party for Moschino. Julien Barbagallo, the drummer of Tame Impala, released a video for “L’échappée.” The single is off of his upcoming album, Danse Dans Les Ailleurs, which is sung entirely in French. Five of David Bowie’s albums are getting vinyl re-issuesLow, Heroes, Lodger, Scary Monsters, and Stage will be available individually on February 23rd via Parlophone. Migos member Offset has offended many with a homophobic statement (this time in a lyric), AGAIN. Mary J. Blige honors the Time’s Up movement with new single, “Bounce Back 2.0.” Fischerspooner’s new NSFW music video celebrates male sexuality. Bad Wolves have released their cover of the Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Dolores O’Riordan was scheduled to record vocals for the track before her passing; proceeds from the single will benefit her children.

ONLY NOISE: Remembering Dolores O’Riordan

When the Cranberries released their debut record Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? I was not quite four years old. It was 1993, and two household DJs named Mom and Dad would determine my musical tastes for at least another five years. Those years passed quickly. By the time we were on the heels of a new millennium, I was finally catching up with the ’90s and the music that had shaped my first decade on Earth. Eventually, I would catch up with the Cranberries, too.

Interestingly enough, my introduction to the Cranberries (and the vast majority of ’90s music) did not come in the form of a mix CD or radio broadcast, but in soundtracks for film and television. Fragments of Cranberries songs must have drifted into my limbic system as I watched Clueless, Charmed, and countless reruns of Beverly Hills 90210. In 1995, 90210 staged a first kiss between oafish Steve Sanders and relative newcomer Clare Arnold while the Cranberries’ hit “Dreams” played softly in the background. “Dreams” made several other cameos, notably on the soundtrack of the 1998 rom-com You’ve Got Mail. This was an era when everyone looked forward to the latest Tom Hanks flick, so there’s no doubt that the movie was a vital text in my Cranberries 101 course.

At some point, the songs I’d heard coalesced, and a whole record came into focus. Scrolling past the plastic spines in my parents’ CD collection, I found Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?. Now that I think about it, that copy must have belonged to my stepmother – she had a small store of Cranberries’ albums wedged between my dad’s Chris Isaak and Crowded House discs. Listening to Everybody Else in full allowed me to acknowledge the Cranberries as something other than film score footnotes. Only a decade late to the party, I finally recognized Everybody Else for what it truly was: a downright masterpiece. Now, days after losing the Cranberries’ heart and soul Dolores O’Riordan, I turn to that masterpiece in remembrance.

Given the concealed details of 46-year-old O’Riordan’s sudden death, it’s difficult not to speculate on what may have happened. The singer/songwriter had a history of mental heath issues, and it’s easy to jump to conclusions when that factor hints at contextualizing her unexplained death. For the sake of respect I will not make any assumptions. However O’Riordan’s passing does draw a darker shade on her body of work. She was the band’s chief lyricist, and the words she sang on the Cranberries’ first record – the one I hold the most dear – often clashed with the gorgeous melodies her band was so adept at crafting. Songs like “I Still Do” and chart topper “Linger” were studies in the bittersweet; the latter frequently passed off as a honeyed love ballad despite its gut-wrenching testimony of desire and rejection. “You know I’m such a fool for you/You got me wrapped around your finger,” O’Riordan cries in the song’s well-known chorus. “Do you have to let it linger?” The song’s striking arrangement was matched only by those universal words.

Thinking of the word “bittersweet,” I am only now realizing its relevance to everything about the Cranberries – their music, their end, even their name. Though it’s unlikely that the band had conceptual coherence in mind when they chose the name (they were first billed as The Cranberry Saw Us), nothing could be more apt a title than the tart and astringent fruit, one that only sweetens with added sugar. This sugarcoating revealed itself on “Dreams,” which reached #42 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1994. “Dreams” is the outlier on Everybody Else, its blissed out major chords amplifying O’Riordan’s firsthand account of falling in love. There is nothing snide or ironic in her lyrics, just occasional caution. O’Riordan first dips a toe in the pool to test the temperature before splashing head first into a new relationship. “And now I tell you openly/You have my heart so don’t hurt me,” she warns, before yielding “Oh my life is changing everyday… /’Cause you’re a dream to me.” It is a rare moment of un-soured hope, the kind we’ve all cradled when following our hearts into uncharted territory.

O’Riordan and the Cranberries possessed a rare voice in music, one that was instantly recognizable from the moment they began. It was a timeless voice, too. Listening to Everybody Else today does not feel like I’ve boarded a time machine to 1993. The record retains an uncommon relevance, sounding at once of and beyond its time. If any of its songs were released today, they would sound just as fresh, honest, and gorgeous as they did 25 years ago. Dolores O’Riordan left behind a legacy of exceptional art in those 25 years. While art is no substitute for a human being, it is an eternal gift by which to remember one.