I haven't been hearing much new music lately, but have been sufficiently busy and entertaining by cycling through the careers of PJ Harvey and Gordon Lightfoot. Fifteen years on, "Dry" sounds positively safe -- not dense enough, fierce enough or angry enough to warrant its reputation. In short, it was a (pardon the pun) dry run for "Rid of Me", which takes everything the debut tried to do and improved on it a hundredfold. Even comparing the bouncy/rave-up singles is a horrible mismatch. I always hated "Sheela Na Gig"'s cringe-worthy "wash that man right out of my hair" line, whereas "50 Foot Queenie"'s ascending, repeated chorus still gets me chanting along without fail (and my pristine memories of the rockabilly versions that were the faraway highlight of her 1995 tour easily seal the deal). I was disappointed when she went soft (or so I thought at the time) with her later albums, but I underrated "To Bring You My Love" for many years ("The Dancer" is unbearably beautiful, a stone cold shoegazer blues/torch classic that may well be her greatest song), while the somewhat patchy "Is This Desire" and "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea" have held up quite well. Her collaboration with John Parish, "Dance Hall at Louse Point", was lauded critically but was ignored publicly, even by many of her own fans. It's the missing link between "To Bring You My Love" and the more serene "Is This Desire".
Lightfoot is simply The Man. Nuff said.
Anticipating new episodes of American Idol is nearly as exciting as waiting for actual new music. Unlike, say, the thoroughly unimpressive singles from the new Ciara album, a new episode of AI rarely disappoints. I'm still a bit shocked over Antonella's departure, and yes, a large part of me still believes that the fix was in all along. The path is now clear for Sunjaya to become John Stevens 2007 [Aside: think about this for a moment ... John Stevens and his baby fat can always say that once upon a time, America chose him and sent home Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson ... how cool is that]. Sunjaya is the youngest in the competition and sings in the most old fashioned style (casting him as an "old soul", as Paula Abdul would put it). There's just one problem -- he sucks. He gets filleted every week by the judges, who clearly have to push the "it's a talent competition, not a popularity contest" angle (as always, this is a totally bullshit stance). Nevertheless, he takes his lumps with maturity without breaking down and crying like you might expect. Standing up to this shitstorm only makes him a bigger babyface to the viewers at home, making him easier to root for and vote for. He's cute, he looks and sings differently than anyone else on the show right now, and he appeals to ten-year old girls. His chances of having a music career are virtually zilch, but as a short-term underdog character on a TV show, he's irresistible. Plus, there aren't many "rootable" people left ... Sundance might have filled the role, but his working class screamo act got turfed, surprisingly. As far as poseurs go, I think people will wake up to the fact that the technically sound but boring (and old ... hath not thee remember the fate of Season 4's Nadia Turner, who was praised by the judges in similar terms?) Melinda Doolittle doesn't belong on the program before they realize the same about Sunjaya. Brandon Rogers seems to teeter on the same ledge -- maybe they really were meant to be background singers.