Album: Dan Black, 'Un' (A&M)

Widely hailed as one of pop's brighter young things, Dan Black is best known so far for the single "Symphonies", which brings to mind the young Beck.

An expatriate Englishman whose debut album was recorded in the basement of his Paris apartment, Black displays few specific musical allegiances, skipping nimbly from baggy Madchester shuffle-grooves to electro twitchers to more straightforward club stompers, as the material demands. He displays a deft touch with string samples, modulating from cello stabs to full orchestral pads on tracks like "Symphonies" and "U + Me =", though his real skill lies in blending diverse elements into smooth adult pop arrangements reminiscent of World Party, particularly on the impressive "Ecstasy". Lyrically, he seems obsessed with dreams, whatever the emotional slant of the song. In "Cocoon", he offers the compliment "You give me ideas when the dreaming stops". Moments later, in "Yours", he's complaining about someone's "Passive-aggressive daily routines/ Now you pull up even my dreams". His own position, though, is probably best represented by "Life Slash Dreams", where he admits, "Life is life, dreams are dreams, and I'm floating somewhere in between". Which is usually where the best ideas originate. An impressive debut.

Download this: 'Symphonies', 'Ecstasy', 'Life Slash Dreams', 'I Love Life'

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