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Top four in music: Amos, Rush, Park, and Brooks

<p>If nothing else, Tori Amos’ latest foray into the female psyche is both ambitious and daring. The singer/songwriter has touched upon a wide range of issues in the past, but this time around the focus of her impassioned lyrics is U.S. President George W. Bush, via five female archetypes — all creatively portrayed by Amos herself.</p>







Tori Amos

Album: American Doll Posse

Label: Epic/Sony BMG

Released: May 1

** 1/2 (out of 5)





If nothing else, Tori Amos’ latest foray into the female psyche is both ambitious and daring. The singer/songwriter has touched upon a wide range of issues in the past, but this time around the focus of her impassioned lyrics is U.S. President George W. Bush, via five female archetypes — all creatively portrayed by Amos herself.





Every style of music you’d come to expect — pop, rock, and piano-driven ballads — resurfaces, but at 23 tracks, her effort seems entirely bloated and overstuffed.








Rush

Album: Snakes & Arrows

Label: Anthem

Released: May 8

***





Give Rush its due. This group has been functioning as a rock band for more than 30 years without degenerating into lame self-parody.





Armor & Sword for example, with its haunting chorus, “no one gets to their heaven without a fight,” is among the best hooks Neil Peart has ever penned.





The album does meander a fair bit, and is a few songs too long, but it’s not totally without some (progressive) pathos.








Maximo Park

Album: Our Earthly Pleasures

Label: Warp Records

Released: May 8

** 1/2





Newcastle, England’s, Maximo Park doesn’t shoot for the moon, but remains grounded with Our Earthly Pleasures —a title indicative of the album’s content.





The regimented response to 2005’s A Certain Trigger boasts playful, smart lyrics that sound like reflections on budding high school romance. However, it falls musically flat compared to the driving electric guitar themes that established the band’s debut. Persistent but unremarkable, Pleasures is still worthy of attention for those ignorant of the lads’ pleasantly distinct sound.








Jon Brooks

Album: Ours And The Shepherds

Label: Exile Music

Released: N/A

***





With Ours And The Shepherds, Jon Brooks reprises his role as Canadian folkie-troubadour; translating stories of our war effort into acoustic songs.





However, this is no idealistic, anti-war shout-fest. Brooks’ poignant lyrics reflect a thorough research of our soldiers’ strife from WWI to Kandahar. The tunes are often simple and Brooks’ smoky vocals sometime strain in the spotlight — but it’s these songs and vocals that nobly personalize In Flanders Field and other unsung heroic efforts.


 
 
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