Thursday, June 02, 2005

It's time for another post-WLUW-fund-drive CD review round-up. As much as I love the station, I still don't like to listen to the fund-raising blather, which in some cases is even more boring than the usual DJ blather.

The Kaiser Chiefs are another '80s post-punk influenced band, sounding vaguely like Gang of Four, XTC, etc. Their debut Employment gets off to a raucous start with "Every Day I Love You Less and Less." But there's so much filler that it doesn't bode well for a long-term career.

When I reviewed Madeline Peyroux's debut Dreamland in 1996, I commented that a chanteuse was a welcome change of pace after too many divas.  These days, Celine is too busy working Vegas and Whitney is too busy working rehab for either to be dominating the charts, but in the American Idol era, vocal subtlety is still an underappreciated art. Peyroux's new disc Careless Love mines the same Billie Holiday territory as Dreamland, to the point that I really wonder why she needed eight years to issue a follow-up. I can only guess that it took the popularity of Norah Jones to resuscitate label interest in genre, which makes the album feel like more of a lifestyle accessory than music.

The best thing I've heard lately is Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out.  The title says exactly what it is, but it must be heard to be believed. Recorded over several years on an 8-track deck, Haden sings the album in its entirety a cappella, including the instrumental parts. She even recreates the original album art, replicating the scenes of each of the band members. The results are amusing, fascinating and beautiful. The arrangement makes the lyrics more distinct. Haden's concept draws attention to what an ambitious, original and half-ludicrous idea the original was: an album that includes commercials. The highlight is "I Can See For Miles," which, along with the Police's "Every Breath You Take," is one of the loveliest songs about stalking ever written.

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