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Tuesday, May 13, 2008


A Week Of Reviewing Nearly Everything: Estelle, Erasure, Portishead and More

I love the many publicists who send me things to review....it's a marvelous thing, and I couldn't make this blog nearly as fabulous without them. Lately, they've been sending stuff every single day, and I'm waaay behind in sharing my two cents on the swag. So over the next few days I'll be presenting a smorgasbord of new CDs and DVDs, some of which you should grab immediately and some of which Sarah Brightman's heinous new album you should avoid at all costs. We'll kick off with some true finds:

Estelle, Shine (site)
I've made no secret of my slavish devotion to "American Boy," the duet (with Kanye West) by this talented British chanteuse. While there's nothing else on her sophomore disc Shine that approaches the feisty fun of that instant classic, there's plenty to love on this super-producer showcase (will.i.am, Wyclef Jean, Mark Ronson, John Legend, etc.). I'm especially partial to the midtempo vibe of "In The Rain," which strikes me as the kind of track Marvin Gaye might have left on the cutting room floor, and "Please Please (Love Me)," an head-bouncing pop duet with Cee-Lo. In a year that has already featured three or four stellar debuts by female artists, Estelle confirms that 2008 might just be the Year of the (New) Woman.

Kerli, Love Is Dead (site)
Still mourning the artistic collapse of operatic rock combo Evanescence? Not to worry, 21-year-old Estonian Kerli's here to rescue you with a batch of grandly-styled, emotionally-overwrought ballads, including her leadoff single "Love Is Dead." That is, when she's not trying to be a lost member of the Pussycat Dolls, as she is on "Beautiful Day." Or when she's channeling second-rate Kate Bush on "She's In Parties." I don't think Kerli's without talent, but she's terribly unfocused, probably due both to her youth and the lack of an assured producing hand who might have been able to shape this disc into something else than a mash of styles, genres, and flavors of the month.

Lizz Wright, The Orchard (site)
After excursions into the heart of soul and jazz on her first two discs, Wright's effortlessly transitions into straight-ahead blues on The Orchard, which features songs co-written with iconic lesbian sonwriter Toshi Reagon. The spare, heartfelt arrangements reveal the superb musicianship underneath; each track sounds like a beautiful refutation of pop's current infatuation with overproduction. I can't think of a song released in 2008 I like more than "I Idolize You," or a song that touched me deeper than the country-tinged "Hey Mann." In a perfect world, Wright would garner the accolades and stardom of an Amy Winehouse; as it is, she'll probably have to settle for being revered by a small but passionate group serious music fans. Count me among their number.

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