music album 88.
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MUSE Black Holes & Revelations Hed Artzi
With its latest album, highly acclaimed British trio Muse manages to answer that rarely asked musical question - what if Thom Yorke of Radiohead fronted a hard rock band with a penchant for Seventies progressivestyle side trips, dreamy ballads and full-bodied vocals?
On its fifth CD, Black Holes & Revelations, Muse's incredible versatility enables its members to effortlessly weave their way from the throbbing club sound of "Take a Bow" to the spry, altguitar pop of "Starlight" to the delicate acoustic "Soldier's Poem" - all within the album's first five songs.
"Invincible," meanwhile, manages to encompass all the band's virtues in one song, starting off as a slow, effect-driven Radiohead knockoff and building steam to an anthemic, operatic climax that Freddie Mercury would have been proud of. Guitarist/vocalist Matthew Bellamy's gift is being able to channel both the late Queen singer and the group's stellar guitarist, Brian May.
Other tunes that display Muse's grasp of diverse styles include the arena rock-friendly "Exo-Politics" and the raw speed metal of "Assassin."
Huge in its native England since Absolution, the band's fourth album (2003), Muse should break out of its indie cult status in the US with Black Holes & Revelations. It has something for the headbanger crowd and the cerebral set at the same time - an accomplishment few bands can boast.
LUNA Best of Hed Artzi
I hang my head in shame at never having caught the buzz about Luna, and kneel at the altar of the rock critic gods to ask for forgiveness. The American alternative pop band has spent the last 14 years below the hit chart radar, but has produced seven discs of exquisite, low key slacker pop.
Led by former Galaxie 500 singer/guitarist Dean Wareham (an unheralded, underappreciated Eighties college radio favorite), Luna's method was to take well-worn two and three-major chord rock progressions, slow them down, and tweak them so they sound utterly original
and charming. It's more or less the same approach coined by the Velvet Underground, and Wareham's laconic singing/talking vocals and offbeat lyrical content only emphasize the obvious Lou Reed influence.
The 23 tracks on this "Best of" collection inch their way under your skin, from the twangy guitar figure in "Sideshow By The Sea" to the mantra-like chorus of "Tiger Lily" ("Tiger Lily girls standing tongue-tied in the corner").
There's nothing splashy or dazzling about Luna's music, but perhaps that's what makes it so special. Even if you've never heard of them, it's not too late to partake of their magic.
LEANN RIMES Whatever We Wanna Hed Artzi
Leann Rimes strikes an attitude with her new album title - the sassy Whatever We Wanna - and the equally tough-looking cover photo. But those are the only provocative aspects to be found on the singer's latest album.
The one-time teen country star touted as the next Patsy Cline for her incredibly rich, emotive voice has made the full transition to a slick pop sound. Whatever country tinges lingered on her recent discs are totally glossed over by the generic arrangements and production here. The only saving grace is Rimes' voice - still capable and evocative enough at times to transcend the pedestrian material.
The end result - a pleasant pop album by an artist capable of a country classic.