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NEW ALBUMS

By Sarah N. Kunz, Emily W. Porter, Daniel M. Raper, and John PAUL W. fox, Crimson Staff Writerss

Daft Punk

Discovery (Virgin)

The two mysterious Frenchmen Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, better known as Daft Punk, have finally released their second album, Discovery. Fans of the duo’s infectious brand of disco-house music, which was exhibited so successfully on 1996’s Homework, won’t be disappointed. The first single, “One More Time,” which has topped the charts throughout Europe, is, in a sense, the perfect mainstream dance track. With its electronically-disguised vocals (which inspired hits like Eiffel 65’s “Blue”), anthem-like tune, and persuasive decree, “don’t stop the dancing,” it appeals to both club and radio audiences. The rest of the album, though, deviates quite significantly from the mainstream. After the first few songs, the Discovery’s momentum slows; still, some of the album’s most haunting and beautiful music (“Nightvision” and “Veridis Quo”) is much more ambient than you might expect from a disco album. It’s almost as if Daft Punk aim to provide a soundtrack for every part of a clubber’s night—including the morning after. What emerges, though, is a clear sense of purpose—Daft Punk experiment with synthesized sounds and samples masterfully, but retain that slight tongue-in-cheek attitude that has become their trademark. Discovery is, in part, a reaction to Internet providers of freedownloading like Napster—each CD comes with a personalized ‘Daft Club’ card, which, when activated on the Internet, provides access to new tracks and remixes in mp3 form. To what extent this will be an effective control over our music-sharing habits remains to be seen, though. Daft Punk have returned to the commercial dance scene with a bang. Their unmistakable style and flair have resulted in an extremely sophisticated and well-constructed electronic album.

—Daniel M. Raper

Enemymine

The Ice in Me (Up Records)

After listening to Enemymine’s The Ice in Me, my immediate reaction was to pity these three musicians. This pathos was not borne from empathizing with the emotions driving their lyrics, communicated mainly through raspy, incomprehensible screams and howls, nor from the fact that Enemymine will likely not receive any major radio play from this album. I pitied them because, hidden behind the shrieks of the lead singer, I could hear and appreciate the potential this band exhibited in the quality of their instrumentation and variety of style. During the instrumental stretches, the majority of the music was that satisfying combination of raspy guitars and basses, pounding drums and crashing cymbals that one often craves during the stress of midterms and finals, although these promising beginnings are often compromised by the addition of misadvised guitar riffs, or harsh, discordant vocals. Not to be defined solely as a “screamo” rock band, Enemymine also offers several songs with distinctly different sounds, experimenting with both electronica and jazz genres. Songs like “Passive Equalizer,” “Setting the Traps” and “Coccoon” have original instrumental arrangements, deviating from what might be expected from an angsty bunch of hard rockers. The jazz influence in the instrumental “Man Enough” is later incorporated into Enemymine’s traditional metal approach in “The Balm,” a title that suggests the band is trying to reassure its audience that they haven’t forgotten that they are a rock band. The Ice in Me is not without its flaws and disappointments, but the obvious musical talent of Enemymine is clearly present in the overall sound. This album leaves me hoping that the next album will see the band working out its incongruities to find a distinct sound that displays their promise as potentially great underground rock musicians.

—Emily W. Porter

Blues Traveler

Bridge (A&M)

Blues Traveler and their carefree style of blues-rock are finally back. Bridge, the band’s seventh album, arrives four years after Blues Traveler’s last release and two years after the death of longtime bassist Bobby Sheehan. This New York-based group, known for its protracted touring and jam-it-out blues style, first gained prominence with its fourth album, aptly titled Four. “Hook” and “Run-around” dominated the airwaves until 1995 and helped propel Four to quintuple platinum status, making Blues Traveler a household name. Unfortunately, Bridge is fairly ordinary. Decidedly less bluesy, Popper’s signature harmonica solos are rare and truncated and many of the songs sound like everyday pop, closer to poor copies of Barenaked Ladies or Dave Matthews than to vintage blues. The notable exception is “Pretty Angry (for J. Sheehan),” a superb blues piano ballad in memory of their deceased bassist. But most of the songs are clearly closer to the pop, and not the blues, side of the rock spectrum. Bridge is a decent album, but somewhat disappointing when contrasted with Blues Traveler’s previous efforts. Hopefully Blues Traveler will go back across the Bridge to the blues bank on the river of rock & roll music. —John Paul M. Fox

Semisonic

All About Chemistry (MCA)

From the band that formed as an attempt to make “makeout music for the millennium,” (and no, sonorous-voiced Barry White was never a member) comes an album that falls more appropriately into the rock genre, but still retains hints of Semisonic’s previous aspiration. Most famous for their 1998 hit “Closing Time” which pushed sales of their second full-length album, Semisonic have just released All About Chemistry, their first album since Feeling Strangely Fine.

Any bonding found in Chemistry is sexual, not chemical. Themes of love, sex and “experimenting” abound on this album. The upbeat first track, “Chemistry,” is, as its name implies, a tale of a man trying to find good sexual chemistry with various women during the course of his life. “Bed” is a slightly more risqué song which details one person telling their significant other that they aren’t sexually satisfied, complete with profound lyrics: “Show me a body that gets no love, and I’ll show you a body that’s way messed up . . . I’ve got to find someone else to bed.” Nothing hard to understand about that chemistry lesson. Other, somewhat subtler songs, illustrate the instrumental versatility that Semisonic possesses. “She’s Got My Number” showcases a wide range of synthesizer effects, which gives it a futuristic sound. The long instrumental portion at the end of “I Wish” sounds like something from a concert and demonstrates the characteristic electric guitar sound for which the band is known. “Act Naturally” is a dramatic ballad that slows the pace of the album down, with softer, more relaxed drum and piano parts. Though the album is somewhat uniform regarding content and overall sound, the majority of the songs are catchy and, at times, insightful. In its most “basic” form, All About Chemistry passes the test for radio-quality music with flying colors.

—Sarah N. Kunz

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