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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Thursday, 05 August 2010 10:34|
Sarah McLachlan - Laws of Illusion
McLachlan appears to be caught between the old and the new with her latest album, Laws of Illusion. The material seems evenly split between the typical melancholic melodies and lyrics that have kept her at the top of her game for over 20 years in the music business. Having said that, there are still enough songs on this album to give the impression that despite the hurt, broken hearts and even a few broken dreams, Sarah still has hope for the future.
Okay, that was a bit heavy. I'm actually quite impressed with the album overall and it's been a long seven-year wait for new material. There's nothing in particular that stands out on this album, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. On a pop album you expect those firecracker songs that grab you and carry you. With McLachlan, each song is just as good as the one before and after it; there is no competition. And while there is no particular theme to this album (or at least no main one), there is still that feeling throughout that the songs are all somehow woven together.
Sarah McLachlan may be known for long periods between releases (though thankfully not as long as Kate Bush), but there is a lot of comfort in knowing that when an album does come out, you're getting the highest caliber material possible; Laws of Illusion is no different.
Kylie Minogue - Aphrodite
During the first verse of the title track to her 11th studio album, Kylie sings, "It's the truth, it's a fact, I was gone, now I'm back...yeah! Can you feel me in stereo?" An apt metaphor for the last few years of her music career: after the lacklustre response to her 'comeback' effort, 2007's X, it would appear that Aphrodite is a true return to form for Ms. Minogue. It's a pop-dance album, and quite possibly one of the best of her career. (We can all thank former Madonna producer Stuart Price for his cohesive producing touch on this project).
It may not be an insightfully deep album, but at its core Aphrodite is a celebration. Whether it's reveling in a new love in the lead single "All the Lovers," leaving a boring boyfriend for a new man on the dance floor in "Get Outta My Way," or just plain, pure optimism in "Better Than Today," the whole album has a single raison d'être -- to get you out of your seats and to shimmy and shake like only a Kylie Minogue album can do. Aphrodite is the perfect soundtrack to a long, hot summer!
Natasha Bedingfield - "Touch"
Soulful pop singer turned dance diva? This pretty much sums up the latest single by Natasha Bedingfield. "Touch" has that soulful vocal effect that helped Bedingfield break into the pop mainstream 'way back when' with "These Words" and "Unwritten," but there's a certain sophistication with this new track. Some would consider going the pop-dance route as selling out, but "Touch" is a strong song in its own right; it's just being released at both the right and the wrong time.
It's the right time in the sense that the genre has seen a resurgence in the last of couple years, due in no small part to the impact of Lady Gaga, and a song like "Touch" should get noticed for its own merits. It's a great little pop song -- good beat, and that 'feel good' message that one comes to expect from pop music -- but in a summer that will likely be dominated by the likes of Kylie Minogue, Robyn and the continued presence of Lady Gaga, there's a feeling that "Touch" will get lost in the sound. That said, it's still an excellent track, and a potentially fantastic new direction for Bedingfield providing she can continue to walk that tightrope between having a unique, soulful voice, and becoming bland dance diva.
Robyn - "Dancing On My Own"
There's a certain point, where no matter what imagery the artist is trying to portray, you just become bored with the way it's being transmitted. Robyn's big thing in her music the last five or so years has been exploring the idea of being on the outside looking in. The same is true with the official first single from Body Talk Pt. 1. "Dancing on My Own" takes the perspective of someone watching as her former lover dances and becomes involved with someone else, and the jealousy that results in witnessing this from the sidelines. Hardly groundbreaking material, even by Robyn's standards.
"Dancing on My Own" is not the worst thing Robyn has ever released, but this mid-tempo almost-ballad is boring compared to the other three recently-released songs from this project. It's a safe song, and as a fan and critic I expect more, something Robyn is more than capable of doing ("Konichiwa Bitches", "Dream On"), but is certainly not demonstrating with this new track.
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