Margaret Cho, ‘Cho Dependent’
Don’t worry about missing Margaret Cho’s dirty mind on her music debut. Her first CD rolls in all the bits of the brassy, queer-revered comedian: Asian imitations, foul anecdotes and sex jokes. But now her mouth’s open for a different reason – to sing. As crazy as that sounds, Cho calls on all her musically savvy chums – from Tegan and Sara to Fiona Apple and (holy lesbian!) Ani DiFranco – to worship penis, hurl on a jack-o’-lantern and beg for semen in a Scissor Sisters-styled song. Cho’s sound respectively resembles her collaborators,’ resulting in a schizo disc that’s more instantaneous than replayable, even if Cho’s remarkably invested in the music as much as the punchlines (most of which work subtly into the melodies). Jumping genres, from ’60s girl-group pop to rap, she goes honky-tonk for the wonderfully staged “Eat Shit and Die,” the unspoken lash-out of every country star who doesn’t have the balls, like Cho does, to say it in a song. The straight-faced “Hey Big Dog” – a seriously good folk ditty co-written by genre-god Patty Griffin – is oddly placed among novelty numbers about surviving a lice infestation and drug addiction. “Intervention,” featuring an overdone mid-song skit, probes the latter and concocts funny-or-not confusion: Should we laugh? Get help? Lots of it’s offered on “Cho Dependent,” a buddy-boosted collection that more than lives up to its title. Grade: B-
Lady Gaga, ‘The Remix’
Little Monsters, it was inevitable: A bad Gaga album. With so many hands in her post-debut projects – hey, that happens when you’re a pop powerhouse – Gaga’s club-geared collection is seriously slacking and virtually risk-free throughout its 10 tunes. It’s not all her fault, though – or maybe it is. The remixes (missing many from the European edition), new versions of songs from her first disc and follow-up EP “The Fame Monster,” is partly such a lame cash-grab because its foundations are such perfect pop pleasures already. How do you better “Bad Romance”? You don’t! And Starsmith’s retro-trance reworking can’t compete with its kid, never quite igniting like its cool daddy does. When the songs do, it’s because they’re basically mirror reflections of the originals – and that’s why “Poker Face,” so literal that calling it a remix would wrongly suggest that something was done to the song, is a lost opportunity. “Telephone” is practically insufferable with the “artistic” chipmunk manipulation of Gaga’s voice, and ingenuity is totally sucked dry near the tail end with the “Alejandro”-meets-Kylie mix. Only a couple re-cuts, including FrankMusik’s edgier “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” and a choppy, Marilyn Manson teaming on “LoveGame,” is with merit, giving Gaga the guts we’ve come to know. Grade: C-
Katie Melua, ‘The House’
Even with Madonna producer William Orbit at the helm, the big-in-Britain musician’s stargazing fourth album is more Kate Bush than “Ray of Light.” Her voice lifts and floats on the hauntingly winsome set-launcher “I’d Love to Kill You,” the first of many ambient dreamers. The writing’s spotty and a couple cuts are slip-ups, but Melua proves, with songs like “Red Balloons” and “Tiny Alien,” that she might one day hang with the cool kids.
Little Big Town, ‘The Reason Why’
Contempo-country lovers, step up. Without over-lacquering their organic rockish sound, the vocal-swapping foursome relate their own style to their Fleetwood Mac trope. Via big, surging love ballads (the pained plea “Shut Up Train” being the clear winner) and boot-stomping boogies – the best being “All the Way Down” and “Little White Church,” the sassy call-for-commitment first single – the band’s latest is everything Lady Antebellum’s wasn’t.
School of Seven Bells, ‘Disconnect from Desire’
The Brooklyn trio’s sophomore CD would rather ride through a soaring dream than bust out in wham-bam bursts. And so, with songs rhythmically calibrated into an ethereal machine-mixed sound, their’s flows like an early ’90s mix tape that could almost be mistaken for the Eurythmics. “Windstorm,” the opening track, is a doozy of pop-art delirium; “ILU” is gorgeously strutting nostalgia. With ecstasy this good, who needs the real thing?