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NEW RELEASE

Seal: Seal (ZTT 4509-96256, CD/LP/tape). Despite the awful spiritual drivel he passes off as sleevenotes, you can hear what Seal is getting at. These days his music is sanctified and swoony, inhabiting a non-raunch zone: lush, overlapping harmonies swim next to flutes, tablas and pastoral strings; lyrics urge people not to give up. In the three years since his debut (also called Seal) he's got both mellower and better. A complex song like 'Dreaming in Metaphors', in 7/8 time, comes out sounding as serene as Marvin Gaye in his '(Sexual) Healing' period. 'Fast Changes' recalls, of all people, the folk- rock hero Nick Drake. In fact, barring the basic lite-soul of 'People Asking Why' and the uninspiring chill-out zone that is 'If I Could' (featuring guest vocalist Joni Mitchell), this is a calming, rewarding album. David Cavanagh

THE IoS PLAYLIST

THE FIVE BEST SOUNDS OF THE MOMENT

Auteurs: The Upper Classes (from Now I'm a Cowboy, Hut, CD/LP/tape). Contains some of the finest nasty couplets yet from the seething nib of Luke Haines. DC

Purcell: Secular Songs. King's Consort (Hyperion, CD). Latest in Robert King's series, with some fine voices: Barbara Bonney, James Bowman and Susan Gritton. Michael White

Frank Black: Headache (4AD, EP). Four catchy songs that find the former singer with the Pixies on an all-time roll. DC

Dusty Springfield: Goin' Back - The Very Best of (Philips, CD/tape). The oldies haven't lost their sheen, and the Pet Shop Boys collaborations are almost as good. Irresistible. Tim de Lisle

Pretenders: Night in My Veins (track on Last of the Independents, WEA, CD/LP/tape). Not just a memorable title. TdeL

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