Morel: The Death of the Paperboy

Morel is an acclaimed remix artist who as worked with Pink, Depeche Mode, Cyndi Lauper and about a dozen or so other platinum artists. He’s also well known in house music circles for his club singles and his work with the dance music duo Deep Dish. But his career as a solo artist has been noticeably less successful, and The Death of the Paperboy probably isn’t going to change that. Too much of this album has Morel going away from his strengths, and experimenting with ballads and rock-driven pop songs. It occasionally works; “Anymore, Anymore” sounds like some fabulous combination of Erasure and Oasis, and the upbeat “Flawed” sounds like Hot Fuss-era Killers with a dozen or more synthesizers plugged in, but for the most part it all straddles the line into either generic dance music or down-tempo electronic pop. But let’s be honest, Morel makes music predominately for (gay) club play, and there are a few songs here that work great in that regard. But if that doesn’t interest you, then there is no reason to even glance at The Death of the Paperboy. (Outsider Music 2008)

Morel’s MySpace Page

Rod Stewart: The Definitive Rod Stewart

He is without question one of the most gifted singers in rock history, but there’s something depressing about The Definitive Rod Stewart; granted, 15 of the songs on this two-CD/one-DVD set were Top 10 hits, yet one can’t help but think that Stewart has spent the majority of his career squandering his talent, hit singles be damned. Fans will point to his versatility, but it’s more like bandwagon jumping, from mellow gold to disco to new wave to the inevitable unplugged session (his mining of the Great American Songbook, thankfully, is not included here). To his credit, Rod could sell ice to the Eskimos, which is why “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Infatuation” were such massive hits. Warner Bros. definitely picked all of the right songs for this set – though we would have included anything else from his catalog, even his cover of Free’s “All Right Now,” if it meant the exclusion of “Love Touch” – and the inclusion of a DVD featuring a bunch of his promotional videos is a nice plus. But the fact that this is Stewart’s definitive work is more damning than cause for celebration. (Warner Bros.)

Rod Stewart MySpace page

Enya: And Winter Came…

Actual conversation between two Bullz-Eye staffers:

Writer #1: Isn’t Enya’s new album a holiday album?
Writer #2: Aren’t they all holiday albums?

It was only meant as a joke, of course, but there is a kernel of truth there as well. There is nothing on And Winter Came… that sounds any more or less Christmas-y than any of her other albums (save for the album’s closer, a version of “Silent Night” done in Irish), but Enya’s soundscapes do have a certain coldness to them that make them ideal wintertime listening. You’ve heard a few of these songs before in various incarnations – this album’s instrumental title track is a direct descendant to the instrumental title tracks on Watermark and Shepherd Moons – but a couple songs, namely “Trains and Winter Rains” and “My! My! Time Flies,” boast chord progressions and arrangements that suggest Enya’s a closet power pop fan, of all things. Heck, the latter song even has an honest to goodness guitar solo. It’s tempting to put Enya down for making the same album over and over, but it works, damn it. (Reprise)

Click to buy And Winter Came…

Guggenheim Grotto: Happy the Man

Their odd, ill-defined moniker aside, Guggenheim Grotto are a deeply emotive trio, hailing from Ireland but obviously adept at capturing universal sentiments, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart. On this, their sophomore set, the group opts for gentle, dreamy melodies that reside midway between the arched anthems of Coldplay and the contemplative designs of the Beautiful South, capped by soaring refrains coupled with a distinct sense of wistful yearning. That’s especially true of “Her Beautiful Ideas,” perhaps the most torrid song about severed romance in recent memory, and “Sunshine Makes Me High,” which regales in sublime inspiration. Likewise, “Oh Nikita” glides on supple rhythms and a bittersweet plea, while “Just Not Just” provides a breezy lesson in unrequited love. Indeed, there’s a profound sense of desire that permeates the set as a whole, a hope for a passionate connection that remains just out of reach. “What has love in store for me,” they ask plaintively on the guardedly hopeful “Lost Forever And?,” a song that surmises the answer but reaches no definitive conclusion. Its title to the contrary, Happy the Man finds bliss an elusive ideal and optimism all the more difficult to cling to. (United for Opportunity)

Guggenheim Grotto MySpace page

Zealousy: Complications

Zealousy is another one of those groups that wants to marry dark theatrics to their pop tunes. That’s fine and all, but this has been done much better before with far greater appeal (think Fuji Minx, for instance). Vocalist Amarie Darvai hits all the notes effortlessly, but there’s something about the mix of opener “Girl on the Edge” that pushes everything into distortionland. The rest of the group plays facelessly behind her, which is fine because you get the feeling this is all really her show. “So I Am” tries to play it off strong-willed and tough, but really doesn’t have claws as long as it likes to think it does. When the band tries for somewhat lighter moments, such as on “Drop,” Darvai’s performance just overshadows the rest of the group. She could stand to hold back just a little at times. A song like “Chemical Imbalance” plays out as annoyingly as you might expect from a group like this. My advice is for Zealousy to find a better producer, and perhaps musicians who don’t constantly take the piss from Amarie’s delivery on every song. It’s okay to be heard as well, you know. Otherwise, these guys are just treading the average waters with a nondescript sound. Ho hum. (self-released)

Zealousy MySpace page

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