album reviews

    Natalie Imbruglia

    ‘White Lilies Island’

    RCA Records

    ****

    After a long gap of silence since her 1998 debut album “”Left of the Middle,”” Natalie Imbruglia stakes her claim on pop music again with “”White Lilies Island.””

    Propelled by the international hit “”Torn,”” the talented Australian songwriter emerged as a powerful new voice in pop music. Now, the patience of her admirers pays off with the release of her new album. In her album’s 10 tracks, Imbruglia not only makes good on the promise of her debut, she cements her standing as one of the most compelling songwriters today.

    After a not-so-great start on her second album, Imbruglia spent two years perfecting it, against pressure from her record company to deliver sooner. Despite all of the “”bad songs”” that Imbruglia claims she produced at the time, out of those came some very good ones. The best make up “”White Lilies Island”” — the long overdue second album.

    The sound is a little bit like the Cranberries here, a little bit like the Sundays there, but somehow the album remains impressively and consistently Imbruglia throughout.

    Such perfectionism has its reward, as demonstrated on “”White Lilies Island.”” The album explores the darker side of living in the moment. Anyone who knows Imbruglia just from the winsome “”Torn”” will be surprised to learn of the angst-filled gestation that is prevalent on her new album.

    The themes of Imbruglia’s second album are isolation, beauty, fame and fear of love. The album kicks off with “”That Day,”” a propulsive Joycian rocker largely improvised in one take and co-written with Madonna collaborator Pat Leonard. “”That Day”” is the tumultuous, sing-if-you’re-thinking single that announces “”White Lilies Island”” as Imbruglia’s first truly authored work.

    The album finds climactic moments with songs such as “”Butterflies”” and “”Goodbye,”” the latter a snapshot of desperation. Songs such as “”Wrong Impression”” and the acoustic-flavored “”Satellite”” offer a sardonic challenge to typical love song conventions, while others such as “”Hurricane”” peer deep into the inner turmoil and are sung by Imbruglia with deceptive gentleness.

    “”White Lilies Island”” truly marks the full flowering of a great contemporary pop artist.

    — By Marisa Gutierrez

    Staff Writer

    Jaguar Wright

    ‘Denials, Delusions, and Decisions’

    Motive/MCA

    ***

    In 1998, “”The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”” helped educate record executives about the marketability of a new quasi-retro blend of hip-hop and soul that runs at 33 1/3 rpm. The years since have seen the rise of Macy Gray, D’Angelo and Alicia Keys into an arena that offers an R&B alternative to the Destiny’s Child teenybopper fare that is sometimes referred to as soul.

    That said, Jaguar Wright isn’t exactly a unique voice.

    Her debut, “”Denials, Delusions, and Decisions,”” on the Roots’ Motive label, sometimes recalls the pop mediocrity and anonymity of contemporaries like Jill Scott, and, dare I say it, Janet Jackson (“”Country Song””). And while her hip-hop tastes obviously skew toward the socially conscious semi-underground (the Roots’ Black Thought guests), “”Ain’t Nobody Playin'”” sounds more like the work of Slim Shady-era Dr. Dre than Cut Chemist or DJ Hi-Tek.

    Still, there’s no denying the catchy, street-worn “”Same Shit Different Day Pt. 1″” with its call and response vocals and Prince-like harmonies. “”Love Need and Want You”” is pure Marvin Gaye, and Wright pulls it off very well. “”Lineage”” is both experimental and classic, telling a soulful family chronicle while sounding almost new-wave.

    The record’s production might be its most unique quality. Hip-hop excursions aside, the sonics of this album include something most neo-soul sorely lacks: air. Percussion, while not as expansive as in vintage Marvin, is at once open and tight. Heavy compression, the studio effect responsible for the marketability of Britney Spears’ voice, is mostly reserved for backing vocals.

    Wright presents a self-assured demeanor, but she has a tough road ahead in achieving the legendary status of her influences. In fact, she has a ways to go to merely distinguish herself from her peers. Even so, “”Denials, Delusions, and Decisions”” is an enjoyable listen with a few clear standouts.

    — Lawrence Marcus

    Contributing Writer

    KMFDM

    ‘Attak’

    Metropolis Records

    ****

    There is something magical about bands that defy convention, and KMFDM is one of those groups. Industrial, metal, electronica, hip-hop, rock dance all come together to make a distinctly unique sound. In fact, KMFDM has been known to describe its music as placing seemingly clashing sounds together and making it work.

    Which pretty much does my job for me; if you haven’t heard the industrialmontage, imagine one part slower Atari Teenage Riot, a whole slew of dance and hip-hop beats, rock/metal guitar and the inspiration for Rammstein. There is a lot in KMFDM’s “”Attak”” that is reminiscent of the more pop-oriented group. It’s very … German.

    “”Attak”” is hard to describe in a single breath. There is so much going on, so many mood changes and variations in sounds and presentation, that each song comes off as its own sonic event. The prevailing theme is an industrial coil of post-modern angst wrapped around strangely familiar sounds that are rendered alien. Or, simply, complicated.

    “”Attak”” continues the tradition of melding fury and sound into a reflection of modern society; the album and reformation of the band was a reaction to responses to Sept. 11.

    The sultry and haunting “”Superhuman”” is almost simple in KMFDM terms, but it is a stellar song. A back beat of drum and bass, a little synthesizer, a splash of guitar and sweet but mysterious female vocals. “”Risen”” is a great example of KMFDM’s harder side: Pulsating and driven, it pushes forward, with the brunt of “”Attak””‘s force.

    Catchy and danceable but not as strong as previous albums have been, “”Attak”” is still worthy of attention. Fans of industrial or anything different will be pleased, but KMFDM might prove too out-there for tamer ears.

    Incidentally, KMFDM was originally meant to stand for Zein Mehrheit Fuer Die Mitleid, which their Web site claims is a German word play that translates to “”No Pity for the Majority.””

    –Rinaldo Dorman

    Senior Staff Writer

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