Nicks in time

Still the gays’ favorite Goth queen, Stevie makes ‘Dreams’ come true

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Stevie1
BACK IN BLACK | Nicks’ first studio CD of new songs in a decade was worth the wait.

We haven’t heard from Stevie Nicks for too long. Excepting her Crystal Visions “best of” album in 2007 and a couple of live-performance releases, she hasn’t dropped a full-length solo disc since 2001’s Trouble in Shangri-La. Then again, what does she have left to prove?

But on In Your Dreams, her seventh release, she proves one thing: That she can still impress us. (Having Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart on her side doesn’t hurt none.)

Screen shot 2011-05-11 at 6.18.30 PMThe first single, the opening track “Secret Love,” sets the pace nicely. Without feeling the need to burst out of the gate, Nicks is patient with “Love,” demonstrating she hasn’t wavered in her songwriting skills. While we may not hear her on Top 40 radio anymore, “Secret” has a strong contemporary feel that’s easy to listen to without compromising Nicks’ style.

Stewart and co-producer Glen Ballard (No Doubt, Michael Jackson) have painted over Dreams with a glossy sheen that enhances Nicks’ move into today’s market rather than take away from her familiar, gritty personality. The slickest of tracks is probably “For What it’s Worth.” As the guitar plays, the strings are a little too crisp, but the construct is beautifully executed and Nicks gets into that low register that’s hard not to love.

What’s not gone is her Victorian Goth ethos. All through the album, we see her in various dramatic outfits and hats; at times, a horse or an owl accompany her. So when she sings “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream), it’s never as weird as maybe it should be. The piano builds into a power ballad as she sings about the doomed connection between a female vampire and a man: If he leaves her / he’ll be losing the chance / to stay alive. The same quality comes through on her reworking of Poe’s poem, “Annabel Lee.” What could have easily been goofy tracks are fascinating narratives. Nicks isn’t just a songwriter, she’s a storyteller — a skill forcefully on display here.

Interestingly enough, where Nicks and Stewart collaborate on songwriting is where more of her rocker chick comes out, though matured. The title track and the subsequent “Wide Sargasso Sea” have a stronger pulse, mixed well but letting her jam out just a hair.

They co-wrote the final chapter of the album with a trio of songs. “You May Be the One” goes for a bluesy flair without pretension. Nicks never sounds like she’s trying here, and Stewart plays the guitar with enough restraint to not be Eric Clapton (although nowadays he could pass for his twin). “Italian Summer” is a heavy-handed bump in the collection.

They rebound superbly on the closer, a duet (Stewart sings!). “Cheaper than Free” is without doubt the CD’s sweetest song, one that everyone should give to their significant other. Everyone. You’ll get major points. A bit dreamy, but still with a rock undertone, the song is never in the same league as Nicks’ previous blockbuster duets (“Leather and Lace” and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Don Henley and Tom Petty respectively), but the good thing is, Nicks doesn’t have to compete with herself.

What Nicks does here with In Your Dreams isn’t any type of comeback or “don’t forget me” album. Instead, she lets us know that she still has songs inside of her waiting to get out. And they’re some damn fine ones.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

SWEET TOOTH: Touring this time holds a lot less pressure for Sugar & Gold’s Philipp Minnig

SUGAR SHOCK | Minnig, left, and Dobbratz bring a different kind of sexy back to the men of Dallas.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

When Philipp Minnig finds downtime between shows on a tour, he mines YouTube. Sometimes the videos serve as a source of inspiration for his music, but mostly, he’s just enjoying his free time. His current obsession is in a video which title translates to “The Doctors.” This prepares him for the next day’s show.

“I’m taking a break today researching,” he laughs. “I do have a hard job: Watching videos. But yeah, when we have any kind of downtime, that’s pretty much it for me. “

The frontman for the duo Sugar and Gold has had a hectic 2011, coming off an already busy 2010. The band toured last year for the disc Get Wet, which garnered the dance-rockers some nice acclaim. They turned around to release the EP Bodyaches and are back on the road stopping at the Jack Daniel’s Saloon this Saturday. Only this time, the two-month tour is less of a job and more of a party.

“When we toured the record we had to do that whole promo push,” he says. “After you just finish a record, there is a lot to deal with. Personally I get sick of my face and the record that goes along with it. But this time, we’ve been having a ball so far.”

While Minnig and bandmate Nicolas Dobbratz emphasize fun in their music, there is work to be done. But with an EP that contains two new songs and remixes from Wet, S&G didn’t have that much pressure with promoting the disc. The tour schedule is short and they planned for the show to be free-flowing.

“This just hasn’t been as daunting,” Minnig says. “We’re having fun with the wardrobe and we’re just loose onstage. The music is still tight but the relaxed feeling allows giving better shows with lots of spontaneous energy. And we’re having more fun with the crowds.”

A lot of those crowds are primarily gay. S&G has come to be closely identified with LGBT audiences due to their electronic dance grooves and a nebulous masculine tone. S&G are in that some dance rock vein as other gay faves Scissor Sisters and Of Montreal. In fact, the band is closely associated with OM in that musically incestuous way. If members of S&G aren’t touring with OM, then members from both are working on their side project Yip Deceiver, which is incidentally the opener for this show.

Minnig, who is straight, can see why LGBT audiences have embraced his band — especially the boys.

“Oh it’s wonderful. We’re big on male sensuality,” he says.

“Our music is about softening the male image and reintroducing sexiness to males. Male doesn’t have to be tough and uptight. It feels freeing when males in the audience are responsive to what your doing.”

Musically, Minnig comes from that indie queer background. He calls that scene his own and he found his music very active in underground gay communities. And that affects how he writes his tunes.

“To some degree, I toy with side projects and play with other musicians, but S&G is its own beast,” he says. “The way we write our music puts an individual spin on things.”

Even though he’s been feeling good about the chill approach to this mini-tour, Minnig is surprisingly anxious to be done with it.

Despite being non-stop the past couple of years, it’s like a drug for him to keep going.

“These shows have affected us positively,” he says. “Just on this leg, it’s such a pleasure hanging out with like-minded, electronically geeky, socially open people and that opens up inspiration. I’m psyched to get to the end of the tour because I wanna write already.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright