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Editor: Uuugh! (D)
McPhee. McDonalds. What’s the difference? Well, Mickey D’s at least offers a value meal. Meaning, maybe a limp batch of 99-cent fries leaves you disgruntled, but you can always ask for some fresh ones. Or something else. With Katharine McPhee’s debut, though, we (my managing editor, Jillian Bogater, and I, who both dogged the insipid album on instant messenger) are left with this nagging ripped-off feeling. We can’t pay the “American Idol” runner-up another 99-cents for a new set of songs. Though we would give up our fries for them. The limp ones, of course.
Jillian: Gawd, this music is cotton candy.
Chris: Ha-ha! I feel the same way. Her voice is pretty good on it, but some of the cuts are just overly slinky and syrupy.
Jillian: Her voice is average. I mean for the singers that are out right now she doesn’t stand out at all.
Chris: I remember this all-girl group Dream from years ago, and this album reminds me of them.
Jillian: The third song is a total Xtina rip-off!!!!
Chris: I know! I hear a li’l bit of Xtina on a lot of it …
Chris: … not nearly as good, of course.
Jillian: The very first noise she makes is a Xtina moan.
Chris: It’s too bubble gummy.
Jillian: This is killing me.
Chris: I bet it’ll blow up on radio – sadly.
Jillian: Uuugh. Officially ejected.
Chris: The lyrics to “Open Toes” are hurting me. Like a lot.
Jillian: I feel nauseous.
Chris: It feels like a really bumpy rollercoaster ride, like the Mean Streak at Cedar Point.
Jillian: Yeah … pass the barf bag.
Chris: Well – at least she’s hot. That front cover pose is, um, a li’l suggestive.
Jillian: I can’t believe she allowed that shot. She looks like a slut and that’s not the kinda gal she is. So it looks awful.
Chris: She looked all innocent on “American Idol.” Now she looks like a cheap hooker with tacky boots. And a gaudy ring …
Jillian: … covering her coochie with a tacky sweater
Chris: We’re awful.
Jillian: I don’t even feel bad about it.
“Wincing The Night Away”
One spin of The Shins’ “Wincing The Night Away” would only scratch the surface. The whimsical-sounds of their ambitious third outing, toying with mild hip-hop beats (“Sea Legs) and electronica (“Sleeping Lessons”), give the indie-pop “Garden State”-boasted band a credible leap forward. On the fantasically fuzzed-out lead single “Phantom Limb,” a ’60s-esque hum-along set over a light guitar jangle, the Oregon quartet traces two lesbian lovers living in a narrow-minded small town. “This town seems hardly worth our time/And we’ll no longer memorize or rhyme/Too far along in our crime,” sings soaring lead singer James Mercer. Set closer “A Comet Appears” channels classic Shins’ style with its pitch-perfect fingerpicked electric guitar floating under Mercer’s yearning voice. Though his subdued vocals, and The Shins’ divinely penned lyrics, tend to blur into the music on several cuts, it’s hardly a distraction. It’ll just require a microscopic ear and eye to fully appreciate what Natalie Portman in “Garden State” called life-altering music.
“These Friends Of Mine”
Available now on iTunes
In stores March 13
Rosie Thomas’s lullaby-like “These Friends Of Mine” could be sleep inducing. But the intensity of her fragile falsetto, a delicate Sarah McLachlan-esque instrument, bleeds over a sparsely arranged album and wisely worships the former Detroiter’s strength. Though the airy arrangements deter Thomas in a new direction, which may have some fans disappointedly looking for something more harder edged like “Wedding Day,” it’s a fulfilling road. Though sometimes she sounds less like herself and more like collaborator/musician Sufjan Stevens, the softer sound suits her. On “Much Farther To Go” their voices passionately blend and the solo subtleness of “Kite Song” snowballs with emotional intensity. Thomas erupts with sweetness on a hushed cover of “Songbird,” her voice brimming with an airy passion: a reminder of why we fell for her in the first place.
“Not Too Late”
It seems like every musician’s taking stabs at President Bush. Even seemingly sweet coffeehouse queens. On Norah Jones’ third album, “Not Too Late,” the latte-lady throws in a few shots of espresso, partly meandering from dozy ditties, for good measure. The offbeat cut “Sinkin’ Soon” employs a darker piano beat with lyrics about a misguided captain (“In a boat that’s built of sticks and hay/We drifted from the shore/With a captain who’s too proud to say/That he dropped the oar”) – a brilliant political metaphor. It fares better than more airy, typical Jones-esque tunes, like set-opener “Wish I Could,” because it’s in these moments that the coffeehouse crooner’s new direction begins brewing.