ALBUM REVIEWS

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The Independent Culture
Semisonic: "Feeling Strangely Fine" (MCA) This Minneapolis trio is a cut above, with a distinct style that blends Beatles pop with the edge of their hometown heroes, the Replacements. It meanders a little and they're at their best on slow numbers such as "Closing Time" and "California". HHH

Alanis Morissette: "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" (Maverick/Warner Bros) Her new "Thank U" single is certainly catchy but 72 minutes of one person's innermost thoughts and reminiscences - even if she has chilled out a bit - is just too much to take. Still her fans should find lots to dip into. HH

Alexie Lalas: "Ginger" (SPV) The USA soccer team's gangly centre-back has delivered a good rock album, even if he aspires evidently to Buffalo Tom and the Foo Fighters. While the lyrics are hammish at times, it's still upbeat and tuneful and deserving of a listen.

HHH

R Kelly: "R." (Jive) With 30 songs spread over two hours, this ambitious album should solidify his position at the head of the R&B world. R. covers it all, from great up-tempo dance sounds like "Home Alone" to a ballad duet with Celine Dion. HHHH

Stina Nordenstam: "People Are Strange" (EastWest) The latest album from this avant-garde Swede sees her taking a dozen standards like "Sailing", "Purple Rain", "Love Hurts" and the title track, twisting them into barely recognisable forms through a unique style that incorporates trip-hop and the deep bayou musical rumblings of Tom Waits. Intriguing. HHH

SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Astrid: "Hi-fi lo-fi ep" (Fantastic Plastic) This new Scottish band weigh in with four catchy and varied pop songs produced by Edwyn Collins. Embracing everything good about the Scottish scene and with a light hint of Sonic Youth vibes, they should be ones to watch. HHH

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