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Pop - Released November 16, 2018 | Elea

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Pop - Released March 24, 2017 | Parlophone France

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Pop - Released March 17, 2017 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
After Lloyd Cole split with his band the Commotions, he fulfilled his dream to move to New York City, where he hooked up with a new team of musicians and launched his solo career. It was a bumpy ride, full of highlights, disappointments, and ultimately a string of really good records, both released and unreleased at the time. Lloyd Cole in New York: Collected Recordings 1988-1996 contains the four albums he released during this timeframe (1990's Lloyd Cole, 1991's Don't Get Weird on Me Babe, 1993's Bad Vibes, 1995's Love Story); an album recorded in 1996 and never released (though all of the songs turned up later on Etc. or The Negatives); and -- most excitingly for Cole collectors -- a disc with 20 demos, many never heard before by anyone other than the musicians involved. It's fascinating to trace Cole's winding path, and reading the compelling essay throws new light on many of the recordings, as those involved aren't shy about telling some tough truths. Musically, the collection jumps from the slick rock & roll of Lloyd Cole with its angular Robert Quine guitar solos to Don't Get Weird, with one side of orchestrally scored songs and one with some of his catchiest pop songs showing some artistic vision. The leap from that rich sound to the very modern, sometime cheesy synthesized sound of Bad Vibes was a disappointment for Cole fans at the time, and remains one years later. As the next album proved very clearly, Cole is at his best when surrounded by woody warmth and guitar jangle. Sporting some of his most relaxed and peaceful songs yet, Love Story even took Cole back into the singles chart with the lilting "Like Lovers Do." It wasn't enough of a hit to keep the execs from shutting down Cole's next album, though. Titled Smile If You Want To here, the 1996 sessions were of a piece with those from Love Story, with Cole sounding assured and writing some of his best songs yet. It's a pity it was shelved at the time, but having all the songs together in one place makes for one of his strongest albums and the best part of the box set. The collected demos are the other huge selling point of the set. Recorded between 1989 and 1994, many of the songs didn't make the cut at the time, but it's hard to tell why. Mixed in with versions of songs that did make it onto albums, and his cover of Nick Cave's "The Ship Song," there are quite a few hidden gems. Some tracks have Lloyd trying things he didn't really explore further, like the jaunty pop-with-synths of "The English Weather," while some of them, like the Roy Orbison-sounding "Cold Empty Room," are just really good songs. It's a fine capper to a truly deluxe set that does justice to Cole's early solo career and makes it easy to rediscover the gentle genius of a sometimes overlooked singer/songwriter. ~ Tim Sendra
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Pop - Released November 6, 2015 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Pop - Released April 25, 2014 | Nonesuch

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Natalie Merchant is marketed as the successor to 2001's Motherland, suggesting it's Merchant's first album since, but that isn't strictly true. She independently released a collection of folk covers called The House Carpenter's Daughter in 2003 and, most notably, the ambitious double-disc neo-children's album Leave Your Sleep in 2010 -- distinctive work both but she hasn't dedicated herself fully to original material in 13 years, so Natalie Merchant is indeed noteworthy. Feeling neither pent-up nor fussy, the eponymous album is handsome, deliberate, and familiar; she's not picking up where she left off, she's merely resuming her career, not acting like any time or fashion has passed in her absence. Which isn't to say Merchant operates as if it's still her '90s heyday. She obliquely references Hurricane Katrina with "Go Down, Moses," but the strongest evidence that Merchant knows perfectly well it's 2014 is how she embraces her middle age. Even at the start of her career, Merchant aspired to sound wise and old and now that she's reached 50, she's exceedingly comfortable in her skin, never rushing her tempos, luxuriating in lush orchestral arrangements that are rarely Baroque and often find a nice contrast with softer, folkier moments, choosing to be melodic while studiously avoiding direct hooks. Natalie Merchant is not a progression so much as a deepening and, as such, it offers a quiet comfort for anyone who has ever loved her music. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released September 23, 2013 | Beating Drum

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Sélection FIP - Hi-Res Audio
If it weren't for the high fidelity, Between Dogs and Wolves, the fifth long-player from British-born singer/songwriter Piers Faccini, could easily be mistaken for a late-'60s/early-'70s Harvest Records release, appearing in a display case next to Shirley & Dolly Collins' Anthems in Eden or Roy Harper's Stormcock. Richly detailed yet tastefully delivered ballads like "Black Rose," "Like Water Like Stone," and "Broken Mirror" resonate in a similar way to classic folk offerings from Nick Drake, Martin Carthy, and John Renbourn. Like his closest contemporary, survival skills-instructor-turned modern British folk emancipator Sam Lee, Faccini uses the genre as a foundation to explore other styles, most notably on songs like the jazz-tinged "Pieces of Ourselves" and the breezy "Il Cammino," the latter of which pays homage to his Italian heritage. Elsewhere, he mines familiar themes like love and loss through an enigmatic musical prism that runs the gamut from deeply melancholic ("Feather Light" and "Girl in the Corner") to hesitantly hopeful ("Wide Shut Eyes" and "Missing Words"), all the while maintaining a stately singer/songwriter vibe that feels both authentic and refined. Between Dogs and Wolves is a quiet record filled with big emotions, but it requires the listener's complete attention, and even then it can be elusive. That said, it all goes down like the smoothest of drams, and between Faccini's smoky, Leonard Cohen-meets-Steve Kilbey (the Church) cadence, his finger-picking acumen, and deeply felt, yet measured and simplistic lyrics, it's hard to resist the urge to go back for seconds. ~ James Christopher Monger

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