While scrolling through some of the blind auditions from The Voice, I immediately recognized Dia Frampton (or at least was able deduce who she was from her not so popular first name and her sister/bandmate Meg in the friends and family room) from the rock band Meg and Dia. The band was an afterthought for me in the bland emo chick rock genre that eventually got popularized by Paramore.
Then Dia popped up on The Voice performing the antithesis of emo rock, the breezy “Bubbly.” Dia played a folkier version of the song, changing the phrasing ever so slightly to make it interesting (and wisely dropped the “Will you count me in” intro). Where most singing competition contestants pick songs where they can sing with their hands (think Mariah Carey clones), Dia went the other way, and it paid off when Blake Shelton set the record for fastest button press on the show. She then became one of only three singers from the blind auditions I cared about. Granted she almost lost all the goodwill she built up from the blind auditions when she was part of the single worst performance during the first season of The Voice when she “battled” Serabee during “Can’t Hurry Love” (which was not all her fault, but unlistenable nonetheless). The performance was so bad the judges, who never met a superlative that did not want to overuse, could not find anything positive to say. But all that changed with one single performance.
When Dia performed “Heartless,” it was a jaw on the floor performance which I instantly called the gold standard for singing competition performances, and any hyperbole couldn’t do the performance justice. All right, Cee-Lo Green’s “greatest rendition of a song I ever heard” quote may have been a bit overboard. But it was at this point when I thought maybe I should give Meg and Dia another listen starting with their YouTube page, where Dia uploaded some amazing and interesting covers by the likes of some of my favorite artists like The Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons, and Adele.
Also up on their YouTube page was a video for “My Ugly Mouth” from their It’s Always Stormy in Tillamook EP. The infectious track will have you singing along by your second listen with its Beatle-esque chorus, folky verses, and a high point when the sisters do their own little battle in the bridge. And as it turned out the EP, as well as the full length follow up Cocoon, which the band put out independently just prior to the premiere of The Voice, is one hundred percent bland-emo-chick-rock-free.
For those going through Dia withdrawals after The Voice wrapped up, Cocoon is a great album to subside the shakes while waiting for her to make new music (seriously record executives, pick her and her band up already, she had the number one song on iTunes for goodness sake). And there are plenty of tracks that can transition you from her time on The Voice. If you liked her version of “Bubbly”, check out the bouncy “I Need You in It.” If you liked the vulnerability in her “Heartless” performance, go to “Mary Ann” where, against a bluesy barroom backdrop, Dia pleads with another woman not to take her man. And for anyone who found themselves clapping along with “Losing My Religion” on their couch, you will be clapping along with the more upbeat “Unsinkable Ships.”
But as the name Meg and Dia suggests, the group is not a one person band (or even a two member act). Dia’s sister Meg even takes over the vocal duties on “Better Off.” Sure, Dia has the more distinctive voice, which is why she is the lead singer (and tries out for vocal competitions). Meg has the sweeter voice, but elects to go sultry for “Better Off” that simmers in jazzy lounge background music. Then the sisters trade verses on the next track “Said and Done” and the contrast of their voices make you wish they would do this more often.
Dia’s voice aside, musically Cocoon is an eclectic mix of different styles of music but never sounds scattered. The album starts earnest enough with just Dia and an acoustic guitar on “Love Is” before bringing in a wall of sound around the three minute mark with piano (really, whenever the band breaks out the piano is a high point on the album), harmonies and, of course, handclaps. “Breakdown” (which is the song that Dia mentioned on The Voice where you can hear a dishwasher humming during the song) could fit right in at adult contemporary stations today next to Norah Jones and Sara Bareilles. “Bandits”–where you can hear sirens blaring at one point, but with the title, the sirens may be intentional unlike the previously mentioned dishwasher–sounds like a refuge from college radio in the early nineties. “Teddy Loves Her” closes out the album with a guitar solo worthy of a seventies arena.
The two standout tracks on Cocoon could not sound any different. “Summer Clothes” sounds like the most fun Meg and Dia have ever had on a song before and it is a shame that Dia never brought out this side of her during The Voice. A bigger shame is that the show picked “Inventing Shadows” as her original song instead one of her own original song that she or her sister wrote like this one which is much better than “Inventing Shadows.” “Summer Clothes” is then followed up by the melancholy “Separate” which allows us to hear what the Fleet Foxes may have sounded like if that band were fronted by females. And much like a Fleet Foxes song, “Separate” flips in the middle of the song into a fuzzed out interlude like something off the latest Coldplay album when they deviated from their signature sound. If you were one of the people who put Dia Frampton at number one on iTunes, you owe it to yourself to check out Cocoon (and It’s Always Stormy in Tillamook for that matter). You will not be disappointed.Powered by Sidelines