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click to enlarge Rufus Wainwright  - Release the Stars  -  -  - Geffen  -  - Sounds like: A soundtrack for feeling down -  - Short take: He still hasn't found what he's - looking for -  - The tortured life of baroque pop artist Rufus Wainwright - continues in self-loathing fashion with Release the - Stars. Five studio albums into the singer-pianist's - career, the boundaries of his songwriting and structure - have been defined by theatrical sounds mixed sublimely - with chamber pop explorations. It doesn't get much - grander than the disc's opening track, "Do I Disappoint - You," with its ostentatious horn section. Wainwright - doesn't back down from his perceived second-class - citizenship as a gay man living in America with the - pensive "Going to a Town." New is the decidedly alt-rock - sounding "Between My Legs." Wainwright successfully - continues his self-examination set to music on - Release the Stars.  John Benson
  • Rufus Wainwright

    Release the Stars

    Geffen

    Sounds like: A soundtrack for feeling down

    Short take: He still hasn't found what he's looking for

    The tortured life of baroque pop artist Rufus Wainwright continues in self-loathing fashion with Release the Stars. Five studio albums into the singer-pianist's career, the boundaries of his songwriting and structure have been defined by theatrical sounds mixed sublimely with chamber pop explorations. It doesn't get much grander than the disc's opening track, "Do I Disappoint You," with its ostentatious horn section. Wainwright doesn't back down from his perceived second-class citizenship as a gay man living in America with the pensive "Going to a Town." New is the decidedly alt-rock sounding "Between My Legs." Wainwright successfully continues his self-examination set to music on Release the Stars. John Benson

click to enlarge Avril Lavigne  - The Best Damn Thing  -  -  - Arista  -  - Sounds like: Bubble gum in your ponytail -  - Short take: Avril embarrasses Canada -  - Avril Lavigne has lost her mind. Not that she was Mensa - to begin with, but this pop-punk princess is reliving her - lost teenage years  remember, she was thrust into the - spotlight at the age of 17  and with reckless abandon. - Despite any maturity seen on Under My Skin, - which was essentially a soccer-mom, ballad-friendly - sophomore album, Lavigne has regressed on The - Best Damn Thing. After gaining appeal as the anti- - Britney, Lavigne is now playing the "Baby One More - Time" game in spades. One moment she's stealing - boyfriends ("Girlfriend," the lead single) and the next, - she's lamenting her man's departure ("When You're - Gone"). Undoubtedly, The Best Damn Thing is - the worst damn thing Lavigne has done in her relatively - short career.  John Benson
  • Avril Lavigne

    The Best Damn Thing

    Arista

    Sounds like: Bubble gum in your ponytail

    Short take: Avril embarrasses Canada

    Avril Lavigne has lost her mind. Not that she was Mensa to begin with, but this pop-punk princess is reliving her lost teenage years remember, she was thrust into the spotlight at the age of 17 and with reckless abandon. Despite any maturity seen on Under My Skin, which was essentially a soccer-mom, ballad-friendly sophomore album, Lavigne has regressed on The Best Damn Thing. After gaining appeal as the anti- Britney, Lavigne is now playing the "Baby One More Time" game in spades. One moment she's stealing boyfriends ("Girlfriend," the lead single) and the next, she's lamenting her man's departure ("When You're Gone"). Undoubtedly, The Best Damn Thing is the worst damn thing Lavigne has done in her relatively short career. John Benson

click to enlarge Dan Deacon  - Spiderman of the Rings  -  -  - Carpark  -  - Sounds like: A kindergarten rave -  - Short take: Welcome to the carnival -  - Art-collective Baltimorean Dan Deacon's best trait may - be his inimitability; save noise collagists Negativland, the - man has no peer. His debut, Spiderman of the - Rings, is as saccharine as a child's diet, full of - sugar-fix spectacle, robot voices and dance-alongs. On - opener "Woody Woodpecker," he loops the sounds of - Woody's trademark cackle, on top of itself at different - pitches, while madcap carnival crescendos bang away in - the background. "Wham City," a 12-minute uprising of - electro spindizzy, winds up and up and up, tweaked out - and bouncing, and eventually lapses into nonsense - playground chants. The unrelenting glee does grow - grating, but such is inevitable when noise-rock - performance artists make completely lunatic Saturday- - morning theme music.  Matt Martin
  • Dan Deacon

    Spiderman of the Rings

    Carpark

    Sounds like: A kindergarten rave

    Short take: Welcome to the carnival

    Art-collective Baltimorean Dan Deacon's best trait may be his inimitability; save noise collagists Negativland, the man has no peer. His debut, Spiderman of the Rings, is as saccharine as a child's diet, full of sugar-fix spectacle, robot voices and dance-alongs. On opener "Woody Woodpecker," he loops the sounds of Woody's trademark cackle, on top of itself at different pitches, while madcap carnival crescendos bang away in the background. "Wham City," a 12-minute uprising of electro spindizzy, winds up and up and up, tweaked out and bouncing, and eventually lapses into nonsense playground chants. The unrelenting glee does grow grating, but such is inevitable when noise-rock performance artists make completely lunatic Saturday- morning theme music. Matt Martin

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