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Great expectations: India.Arie, Kinnie Starr and Nelly Furtado are back.

It's hard not to have high expectations for artists you've grown to love over the years. India.Arie, Kinnie Starr and Nelly Furtado are all solo artists I've dug since their debuts, for various reasons: Arie's emotive voice and insightful lyrics; Starr's lyrical flow and political consciousness; Furtado's international-flavored, dance-friendly grooves and melodic vocals. Arie and Furtado have both just released their third albums, and Starr her fourth. So what's the verdict? Read on.

Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship, India.Arie (Motown)

After spending the past few weeks with this third effort from the Atlanta-based neosoul goddess, I like it better than her last disc but not as much as her first. It would be hard even for Arie to match the genius of Acoustic Soul, but Testimony does definitely serve up classic India.Arie--that phenomenally rich, earthy voice; her right-on, politically-correct and feminist lyrics (i.e. "I Am Not My Hair"--who else could turn an analysis of cultural stigmas about African-American hair into a pop radio hit?); that signature soulful, acoustic-based R & B sound. On the whole, it's a strong set, with trademark, self-affirming cuts like the positive body-image ode "Private Party," relationship-lesson testimonies like her gorgeous cover of Don Henley's hit "The Heart of the Matter," and uplifting, radio-friendly tunes like "There's Hope." My faves are the retro-funky "Better People" and the self-reflective "I Choose," two of the more up-tempo numbers. Fans will probably like this album a lot--just try not to expect it to be Acoustic Soul redux. (

Anything, Kinnie Starr (MapleMusic Recordings)

This openly bisexual Canadian with aboriginal roots hasn't quite achieved the mainstream U.S. success of Arie or Furtado (though she was nominated for a Juno Award in Canada), but she's rising swiftly thanks to her stint singing for Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity in Las Vegas and her recent inclusion on the L Word soundtrack. This fourth, eclectic but decidedly poppier 11-track disc is sure to propel her to new heights, with several cuts sounding like instant radio or soundtrack hits, including the title track lead-off single, a rock-based, electronica-flourished ditty with a hip-hop flavored breakdown that sports Starr doing what she does best: rhyming and flowing like the gifted emcee that she is. "La Le La La" (with Tegan and Sara's Tegan Quinn on backing vocals) is sheer bouncy, peppy, love song sing-a-long silliness, and "Rock the Boat" is a fun, hip-hop flavored pop tune that sticks in your brain and is destined for dance floors. Atmospheric trip-hop cuts like "Blackbrown Eyes" and "Walking Away" keep the album diverse, and every song showcases Starr's poetic prowess and verbal dexterity. I've loved all her albums, but Anything proves that Starr only gets better with age. (

Loose, Nelly Furtado (Geffen)

When this first-generation Canadian born of Portuguese parents first hit the scene in 2000, her eclectic, multi-culti dance-pop grooves caught my ear. Though her follow-up, Folklore, didn't impress me as much, I guess the third time really is the charm. Loose is very enjoyable, despite clearly being her most commercially viable effort to date. I'm a little disappointed that she felt the need to go the producer-of-the-moment route (including rap big-names Timbaland and Pharrell Williams, among others), as I feel that she's lost some of her individuality in a trade-off for commercial hip-hop and R & B cred. But I can't deny that I'm bobbing my head and chair-dancing as I write this review. Cuts like the first single, "Promiscuous," and the '80s-referencing "Maneater" are infectious, but percussion-intensive tracks like the Spanglish, reggaeton-flavored "No Hay Igual" get my attention the most. I could wish for more meaningful lyrics and a little less commercial gloss, but Loose will definitely remain in heavy rotation on my iPod. (



AMA, Yungchen Lhamo (Real World): With her floor-length, jet black hair and ethereal white garb, Yungchen Lhamo looks every bit like a woman who could capture the vast spiritual power of Tibetan Buddhism in mesmerizing chants and booming mountain calls. With guest vocals from British singers Annie Lennox and Joy Askew, Lhamo's calming devotionals are perfectly blended with trumpets, African koras, Middle Eastern percussion and steel guitar to make a wholly 21st-century sound that still feels altogether otherworldly. One take and I swear you'll never listen to Britney Spears again. ( Anderson-Minshall


Second Narrows, Jackie Strano (self-released): Bay area dyke activist, porn maker, and former Hail Marys vocalist offers up a new soulful acoustic solo set, opening with the poignant "NOLA Deliver Me," dedicated to the people of flood-ravaged New Orleans. (

Splurge, Puffy AmiYumi (Tofu): Celebrating 10 years together, the quirky female Japanese pop duo with cartoon alter egos (Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi) collaborates with Jon Spencer and other indie rock icons for an eclectic, 16-song, alt-rock delight. (

Spin This, Karen Blixt (HiFli): Released on her own HiFli imprint, co-founded with Clif Bar entrepreneur and dyke millionaire Lisa Thomas, this album from San Francisco-based, out lesbian, jazz chanteuse Blixt impresses with an impeccable debut that showcases her fluid vocal stylings and daring songwriting skills, especially notable on the anti-Bush title track. (

Poetica, lio (Made): Four years after their worldwide dance floor smash "Rapture," New York City-based duo lio finally emerges with a gorgeous, 15-track album that spotlights singer Nadia's compelling, exotic vocals and DJ-producer Markus Moser's lush electronic compositions. (

LOURDS (Breaking): Medusa Festival founder and child violin prodigy Lourds Lane assembles a co-ed New York City underground rock quartet whose explosive output ranges from punk to classic rock to metal and hardcore, all based on Lourds' electric violin, mandolin, guitar and vocal contributions. (

In Circles, Tara Jane O'Neil (Quarterstick): The Portland-based (but born and bred in Louisville, Ky.), out dyke, indie singer-songwriter, visual artist and multi-instrumentalist returns with her fourth solo album, another introspective set of experimental yet melodic soundscapes which mirror her visionary punk-folk artwork. (

Ladyland, Sierra Swan (Interscope): The most recent protege of dyke super-producer Linda Perry--whom she often sounds like--Swan also works with Aimee Mann on this 11-track masterpiece of haunting pop-rock with a decidedly California feel. (

Get Used to It, The Brand New Heavies (Delicious Vinyl): These British stars of the late 1980s, early 1990s acid jazz scene are back, newly reunited with original vocalist N'Dea Davenport, delivering an excellent 12-track opus of their signature soulful funk and danceable live jazz. (
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Title Annotation:sound recording reviews
Author:Coble, Margaret
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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