damien rice - o

Nothing good was ever named O. Depending on context, O could be a crappy infused rum, a crappy Shakespeare adaptation where Julia Stiles sleeps with a black guy, or the crappiest of the Cirque du Soleil Vegas shows.

I guess this album bucks the trend, but Damien has a lot of things working against him. For one, he is flirting with Jack Johnson territory -- a singer/songwriter that likes to write about love. Or in other words, dudes will hate him, but will put this album on for a significant other during lovin' time. Oh and he's European. And not smarmy European, but pale, Irish European -- so you know his concerts have a gender ratio opposite MIT's.

Unfortunately, he has an unhealthy obsession with strings. I hate Phil Specter and the damn wall-o-sound. If you play guitar and sing by yourself, it sounds stupid to suddenly have an orchestra playing the same note as you in the background. I will never understand why artists let producers do this to their work. If I wanted to listen to unoriginal orchestral strings, I would pop in a Lord of the Rings movie.

However, despite my prejudices toward this guy, his album ain't so bad. His songs follow a pretty simple formula -- start really quiet, get louder, and throw in some strings at the climax. I like his voice, although I wish he would really cut loose more often. He could stand to have some more accessible melodies, but really the deal-breaker is just those damn strings. I think I can listen to about half an album at a time before he drives me away with the Philharmonic wanna-be stuff.



xiu xiu - forĂȘt

I had such hopes for this local act. The previews for this album made me think this could be the next coming of Talk Talk, but on caffeine. I didn't count on Xiu Xiu sucking so bad. Maybe it was the 7th-grader lyrics, maybe the electronic-for-electronica's-sake music, or maybe I just wanted the lead singer to sing in a real key and not an "I'm emotionally fragile" whisper.

I buy and listen to a lot of music, so I'm used to being disappointed by something that didn't live up to expectations, but this is a step beyond -- if normal disappointment is meeting Rachel Ray, then listening to Xiu Xiu is like meeting Rachael Ray's less-talented twin sister. I can only hope this took 30 minutes to make.