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Import Zone | column | Lollipop

Import Zone

by Michael McCarthy

Infectious Nordic house beats meet enchanting traditional Greek guitars on Die For You, the second album from Antique, the duo that is Elena Paparizou and Nikos Panagiotidis. Born in Gothenberg, Sweden and signed to Bonnier Music Scandinavia, they sing in both Greek and English (their parents are Greek) and always with an optimism about love and dance surpassed perhaps only by Fragma. Their producers, C&N Project, were already widely known in Scandinavia and the Greek Islands and certainly deserve credit for trying something so different and ambitious and pulling it off so well. Their debut album, Opa Opa, has been released on Popular Records in Canada and might be easier to find here in the States, but don't let the fact that it's not their newest release stop you from checking it out if you're looking for something different to dance to. Both of their albums are a refreshing mix of Mediterranean vibes and hard modern beats. []

Marie William's Tout un Monde (a Canadian release) unites high-pitched vocals with electronic textures and dance beats with mostly pleasant results. Her voice is so potent, it's hard to believe she's not an opera singer and, as if to drive that point home, there's actually a song entitled "Opéra" in which she gets to sing the lyric "je suis Opéra" (I am opera). A bit tacky, but the rest of the disc will either make you feel like dancing or as though you're traveling through the stars, which seems to be a bit of a theme and the whole thing does have something of a New Age vibe. Sarah Brightman meets Enya meets Massive Attack. As remixed by Hex Hector.

Robbie Williams has followed up his Sing When You're Winning album with a collection of swing/jazz/big band tunes entitled – wink, wink – Swing When You're Winning. It's supposedly inspired by the kudos he received for his rendition of "Have You Met Miss Jones?" from last year's Bridget Jones's Diary soundtrack, which also appears here, but his voice and smirking attitude settle into these songs – most of which are covers – so well that you have to suspect that he's been itching to make this record since his Take That daze (pun intended). "Mac the Knife" and "Mr. Bojangles" never sounded better, thanks in part to the many talented musicians who worked on the project, including The London Session Orchestra led by Gavyn Wright. Other highlights include "Somethin' Stupid," a silly yet sultry duet with Nicole Kidman, and an amusing duet with Jon Lovitz called "Well Did You Evah?" Another noteworthy duet is "It Was a Very Good Year" with the late Frank Sinatra. The reminiscing lyrics suit Robbie as well as they ever suited Sinatra and, heck, one could argue that they never suited Sinatra better, which gives the song a slightly disturbing vibe and not so much because Sinatra is no longer with us but because our boy Robbie still is and he's already singing this.

Kylie Minogue follows up 2000's often garish Light Years with Fever, another dance record. However, this one is not over-the-top disco cheese, and in that sense, is a radical departure from its predecessor. She coos and purrs as she did on that disc, to be sure, but the beats are a mix of what's happening now in both house and trance. "Can't Get You Out Of My Head," the first single, spent weeks at the top of the UK charts and it's no wonder because it's one of those hypnotic songs listeners can't get out of their own heads. Who knew Kylie could out-trance the likes of Sonique and Alice Deejay? After Light Years, you'd have thought any attempt to do so on Kylie's part would have been as tawdry as Alice Deejay's annoying "Better Off Alone," but she pulls it off superbly.

Long the king of Rap Français, MC Solaar could probably be considered the French LL Cool J. His songs are often radio friendly, yet there're always edgier tracks which almost serve as counterpoints to the singles on some of his releases. Although Solaar has always been introspective, it's never been so prevalent as on his new and fifth album, appropriately entitled Cinquième As. There are still a few radio-friendly tracks (the R&B flavored "Baby Love" immediately comes to mind) but others are much, much deeper. The "Introdiction" slides into "Solaar Pleure," a long, angry tirade about the apocalypse that should make Busta Rhymes jump for joy.

However, if aggressive rap that never pulls punches is your thing, you'd be wiser to seek out NTM's two-CD set entitled Le Clash: Boss VS IV My People, which is a veritable war of remixes with the two producers each contributing a CD of new mixes of the French group's latest and greatest. Four singles, which were actually called "rounds," were released and fans were encouraged to vote for their favorite mixes to determine an actual winner of the Boss VS IV My People clash (results still pending). A gimmick? More likely than not, but given the group's controversial history (the name NTM, which they used to precede with Suprême, is an acronym for what translates to motherfucker in English and at least one member has done jail time) even their biggest fans can't be sure. What you can be sure of is that this is some of the best rap music ever made, both in terms of their fierce beats and the flow of their lyrical wizardry (which is sure to astound you even if you don't understand a word of it).  

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