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Elliott Smith gets gentler in '8'

(05/02/00 9:00am)

As the alleged voice of the perpetually forlorn, Elliott Smith has been misinterpreted more than any of the current (small) crop of high-profile neo-folkies. The photos: bad posture, greasy hair, imperfect complexion. The lyrics: romanticide. The fans: more than a few beautiful kids that equate sad with deep, obscure with worthy. The final picture is of a pied-piper of fatalism. Smith sings songs soaked in booze and tears, attracts mopey college kids and their dorm room crushes, and tells them all that life is meaningless.

Yo La Tengo sings with heart

(03/30/00 10:00am)

To turn on MTV at any moment in the past year-and-a-half is to stare headlong into an abyss. Brazen dissembling has displaced genuine rock-and-roll heart. No one stirs up the younger kids and the older kids, rubs blue-noses the wrong way, creates a sensation that reflects what we're going through. Everyone goes platinum, with the blandest going quadruple-platinum and cult heroes replacing icons.

Matthew Sweet's 'In Reverse' is a real step backwards

(10/26/99 9:00am)

Matthew Sweet has spent the better part of the decade trying to work his way out of a lose-lose situation. 1991's "Girlfriend," his greatest critical and commercial hit, was a sunlit pop platter that quickly became an albatross for the artist himself. Not the most adventurous working musician, Sweet has continued to mine the same Phil Spector wall-of-sound territory album after album with increasingly diminishing returns.

Reznor, Apple are bright spots on fall music scene

(09/21/99 9:00am)

It happened last year, and it certainly won't happen again in 1999. Last August, Lauryn Hill's solo debut accomplished the seemingly unimaginable--it was the critic's darling AND the people's choice. It sold gangbusters and elicited citations from major magazine pundits. Then, in part because of the dearth of worthy recordings released in its wake, it wouldn't go away.

Maury Rapf picks 'Classics' for the fall DFS series

(09/20/99 9:00am)

When Dartmouth Film Society co-founder and screenwriting professor Maury Rapf was offered to design the fall DFS series by the very organization he helped build, his simple intention--to select a fluid compilation of the best the medium has to offer--must have seemed increasingly monumental once he began composing the actual list. Countless film critics, contrarians and other big talkers have ventured the "Best Of" cliff-jump in the hopes of casting familiar classics and overlooked gems in new critical light. Due to the impossibility of selection perfection, choosing favorite sons and daughters out of masterpieces must be a bit of a pain, unless compulsive list-making is your sort of vice.

Cool, blue Beth Orton capitalizes on a marvelous voice

(05/03/99 9:00am)

With a miraculous, salty voice never on the verge of breaking, Beth Orton could probably sing just about anything and still get away with it. Thankfully she doesn't, and her new "Central Reservation" is a mild, understated pleasure throughout, atoning for its lack of dynamics with a graceful playing hand and a sense of singularity that is a sure sign of an artist hyper-aware of how to exploit her best sides.

A cover boy again, Redman voices Porter and Prince

(04/21/99 9:00am)

Commanding legions of bonkers, fists-in-the-air fans, Joshua Redman is the closest contemporary jazz comes to a gladiator deity. Directing an earnest, unprejudiced eye towards jazz's interpretive powers, the 29-year-old saxophonist and composer generates an excitement in his live performances unusual for most sunglasses-at-night fans of the form. Whether it's his populist taste or arched-back performance athleticism that is reaching people, he is giving modern jazz a model face and clean, lean horn lines.

Elliot Smith returns with strong, if flawed, new album

(09/25/98 9:00am)

Elliott Smith is perhaps best known as that endearingly geeky guy seen taking a bow alongside mutant diva Celine Dion after he performed at this year's Academy Awards ceremony. "A folkier Beck" was what Smith was dubbed by critics that were quick to notice the two performers' similar taste in fashionably unfashionable Miami Vice-meets-Mars threads. A new, easily categorized star was born: Beck-meets-Dylan. Natch.

Middle age sits differently with pop's two biggest stars

(08/19/98 9:00am)

It had to happen. After years of alternately shocking, enthralling and annoying the public, popular music's most famous hit makers have hit the big four-oh. Madonna turned 40 this past Sunday and the self-proclaimed King of Pop will follow suit August 29th, which means it is time to sit back and reflect on where these two icons currently reside in the increasingly cluttered pop culture landscape.

Beatty lampoons politics, himself in rowdy 'Bulworth'

(05/26/98 9:00am)

The past year has seen the cinematic revitalization of a group of actors who supposedly reached their creative peaks in the 1970s. Dustin Hoffman in "Wag the Dog," Jack Nicholson in "As Good as it Gets," Al Pacino in "Donnie Brasco" -- the local multiplex may look more like a time warp than a cinema these days. Warren Beatty apparently wants in on the trend too, and "Bulworth" is his entry into the Old Fogies Derby.