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David Stout
audiophile@q-notes.com

Spring ’07 album wrap-up

The Cliks are one of the most exciting Rock & Roll bands around.
Bjork — “Volta” (One Little Indian/Atlantic) The sixth studio album from Icelandic pop pixie-turned-auteur Bjork features some of her most interesting collaborations to date. Super-hot producer Timbaland (Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliott) assists with the beats on three cuts, including hard-charging lead single “Earth Intruders.” Additional artists on “Volta” include Antony (Antony and the Johnsons) singing on two cuts, Mark Bell of British IDM outfit LFO, experimental Congolese band Konono No. 1 and Chinese pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen.

The Cliks — “Snakehouse” (Tommy Boy Silver Label) This fearsome foursome from Toronto rocks out — but with not a single cock out. Comprised of lesbians Morgan Doctor (drums), Nina Martinez (guitar) and Jen Benton (bass) backing trans-man lead guitarist/vocalist Lucas Silveira, The Cliks recall early Pretenders or Scandal-era Patty Smythe minus the gloss. Their power-pop take on Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” is one of the coolest covers I’ve heard in ages. “Snakehouse” is a dynamite blast of New Wave past and a block rocking nod to the future.

Hilary Duff — “Dignity” (Hollywood) The former Disney princess splendidly reinvents herself as a dance artist. Result: Europe fawns while the U.S. yawns. Figures! To borrow a line from Rufus Wainwright’s new set: “I’m so tired of you America!” This polyrhythmic gem washes away all memory of thin “Lizzie” and her powder-puff pop. Nineteen-year-old Duff co-wrote all 14 tracks on “Dignity” — even tackling head-on her dad’s infidelity with an airline stewardess on cuts “Gypsy Woman” and “Stranger.” This is as fine a dance-pop album as we’re likely to see all year.

Erasure — “Light At The End Of The World” (Mute) After the musical detour of last year’s acoustic “Union Street,” British synthpop icons Andy Bell and Vince Clarke return to their classic, totally electronic sound on “Light.” Lead single “I Could Fall In Love With You” is carried by swirling synthesizers and hiccuping computer bleeps. Gay trailblazer Bell is in fine voice on 10 archetypal tracks that include techno stomper “Sucker For Love,” potboiler “How My Eyes Adore You” and “When A Lover Leaves You,” a break-up song that sounds like it was recorded during Reagan’s second term.

Feist — “The Reminder” (Cherrytree/Interscope) The eclectic troubadour ups the ante from her lauded debut album, “Let It Die.” On this accomplished follow-up she veers easily from coffeehouse girl with a guitar (“So Sorry”) to handclapping party starter (“Sealion”) to minimalist Laura Nyro sound-alike (“Limit To Your Love”). “Reminder” was laid down during a lightning-quick two-week recording session. The raw, unfussy production gives the set an arresting immediacy.

Maroon 5 — “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long” (A&M/Octone) The long-awaited follow-up to 2002’s multi-platinum smash “Songs About Jane” is out. It’s not as immediate as the first album, but metro-sexy Adam Levine and the guys have successfully avoided the second-album slide. Electro-pop first single “Makes Me Wonder” has already topped the Billboard chart. Additional tracks of note include melancholic “Nothing Lasts Forever,” which expands Levine’s hook from rapper Kanye West’s “Heard ’Em Say” into a full song, percolating “Little Of Your Time” and Prince-ly ballad “Back At Your Door.”

Jane Monheit — “Surrender” (Concord) This exceedingly lush collection is vocalist Monheit’s seventh album and her first for Concord Records. Label execs must have been over the moon when they heard “Surrender” for the first time. Under the guidance of legendary producer Jorge Callandrelli (Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Tony Bennett), the album captures everything Monheit does best. Her particular aptitude for latin jazz is spotlighted on standout tracks “Rio De Maio” (a duet with Ivan Lins) “So Many Stars” (highlighted by Sergio Mendes’ delicate piano) and “Caminhos Cruzados” (with harmonica great Toots Thielemans).

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult — “The Filthiest Show In Town” (Rykodisc) Porno disco and filthy funk practically seep from the skin of Kult duo Buzz McCoy and Groovie Mann on their 11th album. In fact, the sound is so sleazy the CD ought to be wrapped in a condom to avoid the spread of STDs (sexually transmitted dancegrooves). Not that I care, mind you. When it cums to this filthy “Show,” I’m a dirty whore. I can’t help it; serial killer basslines and robo-sex keyboards always get me off — my ass, I mean.

Dolores O’Riordan — “Are You Listening?” (Sanctuary) The unforgettable voice of alt-rock band The Cranberries is back with her lovely, darkly-gilded solo debut. “Listening” was written and recorded at the singer’s homes in Canada and Dublin, and her family provided potent inspiration during the sessions. Album-opening single “Ordinary Day” addresses her baby daughter, “Apple Of My Eye” is a love letter to her husband, and the haunting “Black Widow” is an elegy for her deceased mother-in-law. “Listening” is awash in chiming guitars, booming drums and O’Riordan’s shaded, soaring vocals.

Rufus Wainwright — “Release The Stars” (Geffen) Gay singer-songwriter-pianist Wainwright returns with another starred entry for his already stellar catalog. Though “Stars” doesn’t match the sustained heights of 2003’s brilliant “Want One,” it offers enough lyrical thrills, vocal chills and orchestral fills to please longtime fans and captivate new ones. Wainwright produces himself for the first time, passionately exploring his new lover relationship on multiple album tracks. The scathing first single, “Going To A Town,” is a biting indictment of modern-day America and its place in the world.

Various Artists — “Revolutions” (Music With A Twist/Columbia) This diverse collection is the first release from LGBT-targeted, major label imprint Music With A Twist. The ace 11-song set spans the musical spectrum. The Gossip opens with new wave-ish “Standing In The Way Of Control;” Jonathan Mendelsohn and Wamdue Project contribute poppy “Forgiveness;” Kirsten Price unleashes the funk-rock on “Magic Tree;” Tangela Bell spits an urban cautionary tale of “Addiction;” and Levi Kreis closes shop with tender piano ballad “I Should Go.” Everyone’s out; every cut’s worthwhile. Support this.

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