LEAVE HERE A STRANGER
TOOTH & NAIL
OC's Starflyer 59 are back with a new album—one that has them sounding increasingly British. Still, Leave Here a Stranger remains full of Jason Martin's melancholic pop singing and bendy guitar goodness, though not without some mild shifts in the band's special brand of sonic heartbreak. Gone are the songs about girls who never call (or who haunt you eternally). Now the focus seems to be on Martin's musical evolution—and rightly so, since the guy has been creating some undeniably solid music for the past 10 years yet is still flying underneath the mainstream's radar. Maybe that's why there's such an air of sadness in Martin's voice when he croons the words "leave here a stranger"—you can't help thinking he believes that remaining buried in the aural underground is his musical fate. But weaving their happy beats, their sardonic lyrics, and—at least this time—leaving their heavy guitar days behind, maybe the day will come when Starflyer 59's music will make sense to people. (Ttiana Simonian)
"I want this record to be on the radio," a supposedly kinder, gentler Tricky says about his new album, Blowback. Apparently, the dark prince of what's left of trip-hop hasn't listened to the radio in a while, at least American radio. This is his best, least off-putting record since 1997's Pre-Millennium Tension, but the music, the lyrics and his voice (especially his voice) still convey all the soothing qualities of 20-grit sandpaper. Tricky panders to the charts with an album full of guests, but even the songs seemingly aimed at radio—the energetic "Excess" (featuring a restrained Alanis Morissette), the trolling romp of "Evolution Revolution Love" (with Ed Kowalczyk of Live and a brash Jamaican toaster named Hawkman)—are too disarming and cerebral for all the KROQ kids who think Staind is provocative. Sometimes (on "Over Me," "Diss Never" and "Give It to 'Em"), Blowback comes close to matching the jittery, Jamaican-Goth tension that Tricky goosed our flesh with on his Maxinquaye debut. His antidepressants were in full effect when he laid down the lovely lullaby "Your Name," while "You Don't Wanna" rides the Eurythmics' synths over to the darker side of relationships. On the bad side, though, members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers pop up for some tracks that dam whatever flow this record was running toward. Still, this is a bipolar album made by a man who's trying to pin down a rage that he has admitted has hurt his creativity. What Tricky has made here is a record to listen to alone on a day when you can't figure out the world but don't feel like breaking stuff. It's well-managed anger. (Michael Coyle)
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