Kylie Minogue, ‘X’
Kylie Minogue is enraptured by a man on “Like a Drug,” a fuzzed-out, hyperactive hoot. But her after-cancer-comeback disc “X” isn’t quite as addictive; in fact, it’s more like swallowing a placebo. How embarrassing, and that’s just how Minogue’s hodgepodge production team on her 10th album – her first since 2003’s “Body Language” – makes her look.
Sounding akin to Gwen Stefani on track “Nu-Di-Ty,” the cluster-fuck is a synth-driven, auto-tuned mess, fused with the oddest elephant-roar sound effect. This shit is definitely bananas, and so is some of the rest of “X.” And that’s because Minogue’s identity crisis – which shakes the originality out of “Wow,” a semi-catchy Madonna “Holiday” rip-off, and Goldfrapp-clone “2 Hearts” – leaves little that hasn’t already been done. And done better.
Not all of “X,” thankfully, feels like it’s the result of some kind of past pop-song recycling hub. “Stars” is a fresh electro-rock romp, while “All I See,” “Cosmic” and “No More Rain” are decent mid-tempos – even if the vague candidness of the latter never quite achieves the honesty fans of the cancer-cured woman, who also split from a long-time relationship, may yearn for. More of the same shallow lyricism dominates “X,” an album suffering from attention deficit disorder that never nails the cohesive charm of past discs, like “Fever.”
Even when breaking from electro-pop to a clap-happy, hip-hop beat on “Speakerphone,” the modernized move backfires, and she seems further detaches with vocodered vocals that make the UK ’80s icon almost seem too desperate to find a niche in the ever-evolving industry. It sounds like a tragic outtake from Britney Spears’ surprisingly groovy latest, and these days, it shouldn’t take much to best Brit – but apparently it does. C+
Kathleen Edwards, ‘Asking for Flowers’
Leave it to sad-song scribe Kathleen Edwards to squeeze a listener’s heart and toss it around like a toddler’s toy: Write about racism, loneliness, war and, in what ranks as one of the most gut-punching death parables, a tribute to the missing. Then, make it the best damn album of the year so far – which she’s done on “Asking for Flowers,” her third disc.
If the wilting flower on the cover doesn’t make it blatantly clear that this folk-rock-country troika isn’t a Canadian clone of Shania Twain, then the first track should be a brick to the forehead. “Alicia Ross” eases into the no-holds-barred portrayal of – true story – a young Toronto woman’s homicide, making for a viscerally first-person-written track that’s as uncomfortable, and daring, as it sounds. The electric guitar is menacing, but Edwards’ haunting imagery puts the listener – the helpless observer – smack-dab in the middle of the murder.
She digs the knife deeper, chiding her own country’s social injustice (“Oh Canada”) and recalls witnessing, for the first time, death (“Scared at Night”). The title track is based on a true tale of Edwards’ lesbian friend, whose partner expected her to be like an ATM, and on acoustic “Sure as Shit” the lyrically deft musician admits, “Choosing my words carefully has never been my strength.” She must be kidding. A
See + Hear: 8 p.m. April 6, Magic Bag, Ferndale
Various artists, ‘Randy Jackson’s Music Club: Volume One’
Dawg, seriously? For someone who’s the go-to guy for Paula Abdul’s meandering comments on “American Idol,” the producer (who’s worked with Mariah! And Whitney! And Celine!) could’ve seriously used some unfiltered counsel from Simon Cowell (and we wouldn’t even boo him!). No shortage of Jackson’s biz friends exist (hey, Randy, remember: Sometimes less is more), but as far as sonic successes go, this doesn’t qualify. “What am I So Afraid Of?” is an a’ight femme-vocal threesome, while the reconstructive surgery on “Just Walk On By” transforms the Burt Bacharach classic into a sassy Joss Stone-sung romp. “I Understand” is a mildly moving gospel joint – even if Jackson’s sorely wasted Mariah Carey, whose sole purpose is to pepper in some purposeless dolphin whistles.
The rest is like listening to Abdul’s what-the-hell-are-you-saying “Idol” critiques: Completely laughable. The twanged duet between John Rich and Anthony Hamilton on “Home” was better left to Michael Buble, and Barbi Esco’s ri-dic-u-lous “My R&B” does more name-dropping than Jackson. And – yes! – it’s even crappier than Abdul’s also-unfortunately-included “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow,” a poorly executed return that’s as predictable Cowell’s clothes, and equally as auto-tuned as Britney Spears. Weird. Doesn’t Abdul judge a singing competition? D+
Goldfrapp, ‘Seventh Tree’
Ditching dance floor ditties, the “Supernature” follow-up from this man-lady duo exudes mellifluous magnificence, most notably on the folksy “Little Bird” and ethereal “A&E.” As always, their fourth disc oozes cryptic poetry (take note Tori fanatics!), blending lead vocalist Alison Goldfrapp’s whispery coos with dreamlike soundscapes, like on the synth-driven “Monster Love” – which is all we’ve got for this English twosome.
Kaki King, ‘Dreaming of Revenge’
No question about it: This lesbian 28-year-old is a hella good guitarist, made evident by her hypnotic latest. King kills the no-vocal zone, like string-sweller “Can Anyone Who Has Heard This Music Really be a Bad Person?”, but her anorexic voice doesn’t quite – the aching “2 O’Clock” aside – match the grandeur of the instrumental gems.
Lizz Wright, ‘The Orchard’
Nothing’s strange about Lizz Wright’s third folk-soul-blues amalgam – except for a battered heart that continues loving on the tender “Strange.” Her rich alto – think Cassandra Williams and Tracy Chapman – brims with emotional intensity and bona fide conviction on “Song for Mia,” the spiritual “Coming Home” and Spanish-flavored “My Heart.”