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Where have all the good songs gone?

April 09, 2002|BY KIM DEBARGE

Any Internet music junkie like myself was probably devastated when Napster was rendered useless. I had 196 mp3 files when court decisions on copyrighted music shut down Napster's free filesharing. Unfortunately, copycat filesharers are either expensive or just plain user-unfriendly.

Due to copyright restrictions, I spent 20 minutes trying to find Brian McKnight's ballad "Anytime" one night before finally giving in - only to download a second-rate Spice Girls remix. The respelling and resaving games just aren't worth the trouble. ... And since listeners are giving up on their beloved mp3's, record companies seem to be releasing whatever they can market.

The result is bad music coming out in mass quantities: Pretentious "nu-metal" groups that seem to think they own the market because of their one hit single. Sellout punk and rock bands. The very N*Sync of rock... and there's still that pesky actual N*Sync. Teen groups and rock stars who go by their first names are more prevalent now than ever, and "rock" groups of high schoolers playing the same two chords and complaining about their parents.

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What's to be done? Though it may seem that there is little coming out that is worth listening to, there are some new albums worth the sticker price. Here are a few obscure bands, as well as a few more recognizable ones, who have released stand-out albums lately.

- Rammstein - "Mutter"

Universal Records - 2001

This third studio album from the German group of six shows a refinement in their sound. The band has actually been together for 11 years, and is now gaining a foothold in the American music market. Some tracks on this album experiment with orchestral backup and very high background vocals, which add depth to the grinding blunt metal sound. This album's latest stateside single is "Sonne."

- The White Stripes - "White Blood Cells"

Sympathy for the Record Industry - 2001

Another band making their name known with a major U.S. release, The White Stripes are a great underground-style duo. It doesn't really sound like anything else, but the closest comparison is that it sounds like crossing Bob Dylan with the Ramones ... but really more like the Butthole Surfers, too. They're like the Strokes, but for grown-ups. And somehow this album maintains a long-missed rock edge. The video for "Fell in Love With a Girl" just premiered, and it looks like it was made with Legos. That pretty much sums up the band - eclectic but lovable.

- Mystikal - "Tarantula"

No Limit Records - 2001

There's just something about this album - even a hardcore metal fan has to admit it's good. The first single, "Bouncin' Back," is based somewhere between R&B and hip-hop, but it's jazzy enough to dance to. Mystikal isn't afraid to blend styles. The whole CD is easy to dance to, and to have fun with. Good lyrics, good beats and generally a good time kind of album.

- Dashboard Confessional - "The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most"

Vagrant Records - 2001

Those who miss the almost-whiny but soulful love songs of singers like Billy Corgan will doubtless like this album. Just a few of the acoustic tracks make this an ultimate breakup album. The new tag "emo" fits nicely. Powerful and skilled lyrics dominate over the background music. The single "Screaming Infidelities" is good, but doesn't really do the album justice. It's a side project from the lead singer of Further Seems Forever worth a listen.

- Alicia Keys - "Songs in A Minor"

Arista Records - 2001

It's pretty tough to clean up at the Grammys when every category you're nominated for also contains U2, but Keys seems to have held her own this year. She actually composes the pieces she sings, and then performs them live as well as in the studio, which puts her a notch or two above the dime-a-dozen J.Lo-like pop vocalist. Her piano playing is skillful, but what makes Keys really interesting is that she is young but stands her ground - she seems comfortable with who she is. Good for a girl's night out. Doubtless all have heard or seen her singles "Fallin'" and "A Woman's Worth."

- Radiohead - "I Might be Wrong - Live Recordings"

Capitol Records - 2001

Not only is this eight-song album a must-own for any avid Radiohead fan, it serves to tide over those of us who were deprived of their live act last year. A live representation of their albums "Kid A" and "Amnesiac," this disc shows that it is, in fact, possible to play those strange "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" tracks live. It's captivating. Also includes the previously unreleased track "True Love Waits." It is a heart-wrenching love song in the tradition of Fake Plastic Trees, romantic but definitely still Radiohead.

Kim DeBarge is a senior at Boonsboro High School and an intern at The Herald-Mail.

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