Must Have CD's

by Scott Thill

After a mellow couple of months, the New Year is already heating up like an Arctic ice sheet. OK, maybe not the greatest simile, but I just read about one that's slowly melting into the ocean and intent on submerging the south of England within a few years. If that's not the type of news that makes you run to grab some music to ease your never-ending headache, then I don't know what is. Good thing there are some migraine-killing -- or migraine-inducing, depending on your tastes -- panaceas out there. Here's a couple new ones, plus an underrated oldie for your desert island collection:

Dalek, Absence

Speaking of hybrids, Dalek is one of those under-the-radar outfits doing its best to make genres like electronica, hip-hop and indie rock a thing of the past by mashing them together so hard that they're practically indistinguishable from one another. Every song on Absence feels like an invitation to Armegeddon, and in a world that will now undergo four more years of the Bush administration, you might as well as accept the invite and hunker down in a duct-taped bomb shelter replaying chaotic masterpieces like 'Asylum (Permanent Underclass)" and "Opiate the Masses" over and over again. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Inara George, All Rise

Speaking of Angelenos, Topanga Canyon's Inara George is starting to make some serious waves, and not because she the hottest pixie to come along since Kim Deal. Sure, she's got the looks, but that alone won't make you last in Hollyweird. George also an adult-alternative fan's dream, a singer-songwriter with a vulnerable side and a gripload of catchy songs to boot. George knows drama, and not just because she's performed Shakespeare in the Canyon's outdoor Theatricum Botanicum or engaged the services of Michael Andrews, who's scored Donnie Darko and other films -- she's a clever observer who finds estrangement in Everyday Life, and for that she's about to catch fire. All rise, indeed.

PJ Harvey, Is This Desire

Of course, nowadays Polly Jean Harvey is a known name. She pretty much nailed that one down with her outstanding debut Dry and the challenging, crunchy follow-up Rid of Me. But between the time she exploded into the mainstream with To Bring You My Love and became the first woman to ever win a prestigious Mercury Prize for Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, she released this woefully underrated collection of masterpieces. Is This Desire is diversity defined, whether you're talking the radio-friendly pop of "A Perfect Day, Elise" or the ear-shattering drama (and bass) of "My Beautiful Leah." The album critiques the feminine in all its facets, whether you're talking the tragic "Angelene," the violent "Joy," or "The Wind," a somber tale of nunneries and longing. And that's not even considering the haunting title track or incendiary "No Girl So Sweet," a song that ranks among Polly Jean's all-time greats. Who the hell knows why the crits ranked Is This Desire at the bottom of PJ's still-strong list: It's twice the album that their faves, including the Mercury Prize-winner, will ever be. Pick this disc up like your life depended on it. Then put on the candles and enjoy the emotional ride of your life.


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© Melt Magazine 2005