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Reviews Written by
Cody "happytragicthing" (PA)

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Blackened Air
Blackened Air
Price: CDN$ 19.39
17 used & new from CDN$ 12.12

4.0 out of 5 stars All Music Guide Review (****1/2), Nov. 8 2003
This review is from: Blackened Air (Audio CD)
"Just how beautiful is The Blackened Air? Remarkably beautiful, though it's far from a smooth train ride through the rustic southern town where it seemingly takes place. Chunks of falling ice nearly take the lives of pigeons, peeping Toms leer outside windows, communication between two lovers breaks down, and the days pass by slowly, only to repeat themselves over and over and over again. The clouds look more like coal than cotton, and one of the protagonists is capable of drowning the town's people in her tears. Backed by a skilled cast of musicians who take on the standard rock band instrumentation plus bowed saw, accordion, violin, cello, and mandolin, singer/songwriter/guitarist Nina Nastasia spins her lazy, elegantly adorned tales of rural life with a voice that effortlessly slips into your ears. She rarely belts it out, because her lithe voice is perfectly capable of gaining attention when it's just above a whisper. In fact, when her voice is just a little louder than audible, she's at her most powerful. Lines like "I want you...I want you...I want to strike you" fall from her mouth as if she doesn't want to wake the slumbering partner lying next to her, conflicted between lust and dread. This record flows so easily that it sounds as if it made itself. However, engineer Steve Albini should be commended for making this record sound as if it was birthed in a spacious, creaky farmhouse. Intimate, delicate, and laced with greatness, Nastasia's second release is one of those records that only takes one listen to be justly evaluated as special and timeless. The pain is sweet."

Oyster
Oyster
Price: CDN$ 12.86
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars All Music Guide Review (****1/2), Nov. 8 2003
This review is from: Oyster (Audio CD)
"In some ways, Heather Nova is more talented than many of her female singer/songwriter contemporaries. She has an appealing voice, strong lyrics and memorable melodies -- that is, when she delivers. Unfortunately, many of her albums are uneven, with Nova delivering the goods as often as she misses the mark. The best moments on her second album, Oyster, rank among her very best work, demonstrating that she can pull off ballads, guitar-pop and hard rock with equal aplomb. The rest of the album isn't so much bad as it is bland, offering lesser versions of the good stuff. Certainly, Nova makes Oyster worth exploring -- it's just a little frustrating that the entire album didn't deliver on the promise of its best moments."

Timbre
Timbre
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 32.95
5 used & new from CDN$ 7.90

4.0 out of 5 stars All Music Guide Review, Nov. 8 2003
This review is from: Timbre (Audio CD)
"Since she works in a genre commonly tagged as adult contemporary pop, it's easy for some critics to dismiss Sophie B. Hawkins, but she's much more adventurous than most of her adult-pop peers. That wasn't immediately evident on her debut Tongues and Tails, even if "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" playfully twisted sexual conventions, but Whaler showed significant progress. Her third album, Timbre, explores even greater territory, even if it's in subtle ways. Hawkins favors strong melodies and clean, polished productions, which makes her music enjoyable on a surface level, but it also reveals more upon each subsequent play. Certain quirks are self-evident upon an initial listen -- but the genuinely intriguing moments, such as the weirdly exotic instrumentations and evocative lyrics, only appear upon repeated spins. By that point, Timbre has slowly, surely worked its way into the subconscious -- Hawkins' songs are melodic, yet they blossom and become memorable over time. She has crafted two rewarding albums prior to Timbre, yet this may be her best yet. It lacks a standout single on the lines of "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" or "As I Lay Me Down," but song-for-song, it's impressively consistent, and her performances are remarkably assured, elevating Timbre to her finest moment yet."

Lost in Space
Lost in Space
Price: CDN$ 13.99
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.22

4.0 out of 5 stars All Music Guide Review, Nov. 8 2003
This review is from: Lost in Space (Audio CD)
"It is, in a sense, a trick of the times that Lost in Space conveys such a vivid visual quality; thanks to the high profile given to her music on the Magnolia soundtrack, it's now impossible to miss the narrative strength of Mann's writing. The mood throughout this album is autumnal, with filmy keyboard beds and expressive shifts between major and minor enhancing the subdued eloquence of her lyrics. (A major chord at the end of "Guys Like Me offers an ironic twist on the smug portraiture that precedes it.) Though recorded free of the legal snarls that plagued most of her previous albums, Lost in Space seems to be mainly about alienation and, at least as a metaphor, addiction. The latter point is made clear in "This Is How It Goes," with its assertions that "it's all about drugs, it's all about shame." But it's clear as well when Mann offers to "be your heroine" -- or is it heroin? -- amidst slithering slide guitars and rainy gray textures on "High on Sunday 51," or confesses to seeking salvation where "It's Not." Recorded largely in Ryan Freeland's home studio, some of these songs receive discreet electronic treatments -- moments of abstract noise whose application always enhances the otherwise low-tech arrangements. For all the shadows that stretch across Lost in Space, what lingers in the wake of this music is the realization that Mann remains spectacularly underrated among contemporary songwriters; no one surpasses her as a master of poetic regret, and few albums examine the peculiar beauty of depression with the skill she brings to Lost in Space."

Plague Mass
Plague Mass
Price: CDN$ 18.11
19 used & new from CDN$ 7.29

5.0 out of 5 stars All Music Guide Review, Nov. 7 2003
This review is from: Plague Mass (Audio CD)
"Galas, who has been known for both her own work and as a singer of extremely demanding modern scores, has created this heart-wrenching cry about the physical suffering caused by the AIDS plague being compounded by the shameful arrogance of self-appointed moralists. Maintaining an incredible intensity and depth for over an hour's solo vocal (recorded live at The Cathedral of St. John The Divine, NYC, with suitably minimal band and electronics backup), Galas proceeds through Mahalia Jackson-influenced spiritual singing, saxophone-like wails, to dramatic dialogues in many dialects and languages ("there are no more tickets to the funeral") to engrossing Portugese "fado" singing to taking on the attributes of Satan (in "Sono L'Antichristo," I Am The Anti-Christ) in order to challenge the concept of a vengeful, instead of compassionate deity (and society), much as Nina Simone did in her controversial song "God is a Killer" in the 60's... the Mass ends with the heart-felt lyrics "I go to sleep each evening now dreaming of the grave and see the friends I used to know calling out my name. O Lord Jesus, do you think I've served my time?""

Queen Of The Meadow
Queen Of The Meadow
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 37.84
3 used & new from CDN$ 37.84

4.0 out of 5 stars All Music Guide Review (****1/2), Nov. 7 2003
This review is from: Queen Of The Meadow (Audio CD)
"The always-alluring Jennifer Charles is the focal point of Elysian Fields, and her aching purr goes a long way in making the band as enticing as it is. But it is not so clear-cut as to who is the architect of their sound, because beneath that fantastic voice on a song such as "Bayonne," Oren Bloedow's arrangement, as minimalistic as the song seems to be, turns out to be the Venus flytrap of the tune. With just some stoned, lackadaisical drumming and droopy-eyed Rhodes piano falling like raindrops, the song subtly makes some rather radical shifts and chord progressions. The listener doesn't even realize they've been caught in the musical web until Charles comes along to devour them, but it is the music that actually does the snagging. So it goes for the entirety of the duo's second album (and first on Jetset following a split with former label Radioactive, who refused to release a previous album they had recorded with producer Steve Albini), Queen of the Meadow, a deliciously mesmerizing and irresistible opus that is a perfect confluence of sly and furtive (but very much narrative) musical backdrops and lusty insinuation.
Part of the duo's secret is that they change things up both stylistically and temperamentally while maintaining that certain smoke-filled tension via Charles' singing. Instead of giving you a long, slow cigarette drag for 11 straight songs, they mix up tempo and mood: slinkily rocking on "Bend Your Mind" or gently swinging as on the titillating "Tides of the Moon," then turning it way down on the nearly comatose old-world lament, "Barely Recognize," then bouncing back yet again with the stunning "Fright Night," which adds a little anguish to a little spice until the song pulls itself up out of its torpor and turns into playfully cutting jazz. Bloedow's boyhood heroes were Brian Wilson and Kurt Weill, and as odd as that pair seems on paper, they are both very much present in the arrangements; they turn out to be an exquisite match, especially on "Dream Within a Dream." Dribbling Wilson-esque piano chords over queasy orchestration, the song is theatrical and playful, but also self-consciously pensive. The best songs, though, strip the music down to just the barest essentials, as on "Black Acres." Cloaked in stark, noir hues, the song is part woeful Italian ballad and part torch song, with Charles' voice playing innocent while her words play the game of temptation. Queen of the Meadow is not necessarily visionary -- Tom Waits and Mazzy Star, to name two artists that have been referenced in regard to Elysian Fields, have explored similar territory -- but it is a scintillating, self-contained work nonetheless, both poetic and wonderfully profane, artistic but not necessarily arty, and full of fabulous songs."

The Bootleg of the Bootleg Ep
The Bootleg of the Bootleg Ep
Price: CDN$ 15.38
3 used & new from CDN$ 15.38

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertainment Weekly Review (11/7/03), Nov. 5 2003
"Despite Missy Elliott's efforts, mainstream hip-hop is still a testosterone fueled playground. For a femme-friendly outlook, head to the underground where you'll find plenty of b-grrls with more than booty on their brains. Never one to mince words, Jean Grae begins her new EP, on an especially bold note: 'F-ck you/F-ck you' goes the chorus of 'Hater's Anthem' a blast of Enimen-worthy venom. And like Mr. Mathers, Grae has skills so spare. Her rhymes tumble out in long strings of witty disses and unflinching self-analysis."

Comfort Woman
Comfort Woman
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 44.95
7 used & new from CDN$ 32.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertainment Weekly Review (10/17/03), Nov. 5 2003
This review is from: Comfort Woman (Audio CD)
"She's tackled sexuality, race, and religion. Now on her fifth release, Meshell Ndegeocello makes it clear she just wants to be loved. Don't expect melancholy verses and descending bass lines - been there, done that, with 1999s Grammy-nominated Bitter. The emotions expressed here reside around the corner from the blues. Comfort Woman is pure bliss. Dreamy, dub-inspired melodies, sparse guitar licks, and her hypnotic voice singing simple songs of love make this her first feel good album."

Instant 0 in the Universe
Instant 0 in the Universe
Offered by nagiry
Price: CDN$ 6.09
25 used & new from CDN$ 3.48

3.0 out of 5 stars Entertainment Weekly Review (10/17/03), Nov. 5 2003
"Stereolab are still mourning the loss of guitarist Mary Hansen, who died last December, but their new EP is nonetheless an effervescent effort - and some of their best work since 1997s near-perfect Dots and Loops. Instant O in the Universe even expands on their hook-drenched experimentalism: 'Jaunty Monty and the Bubbles of Silence' juxtaposes the chic languor of vocalist Laetitia Sadier with stretches of plucky electronica reminiscent of carousels, music boxes and, uh, hoe-downs. It's instant gratification for those who can't wait till early next year, when their next full-length arrives."

Ruckus
Ruckus
Offered by nagiry
Price: CDN$ 15.15
11 used & new from CDN$ 10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertainment Weekly Review (10/17/03), Nov. 5 2003
This review is from: Ruckus (Audio CD)
"Formerly an enjoyable but unremarkable N'awlins funk act, Galactic reinvent themselves on their fourth full-length, Ruckus. Credit knob-twiddler Dan "The Automator" Nakamura, the producer behind cult favorites like Dr. Octagon and the Gorillaz, for helping the sextet condense its sprawling live sound into 44 minutes of elegantly constructed instrumentals and muscular, modern soul - all coated with a frosty, trip-hop sheen. Galactic's neoswamp grooves prove the Crescent City sound is no dusty museum piece."

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