We've got quite a backlog of CDs we've never gotten around to, so we're going to try to chip away at the pile with this regular feature. The plan: to take a few at a time and play each CD for as long as I can stand it.
Shawn Mullins (Atlanta, Georgia)
Light You Up (Vanguard)
Been there, heard that. But in the case of Shawn Mullins, that's not too terrible of a thing, in all truthfulness. The thing is, even if millions haven't noticed, Mullins has actually made good on the pop-rock promise that was displayed over a decade ago with his breakthrough tune, "Lullaby." Over the course of a handful of albums that have leaned heavily towards a country-tinged folk-rock direction, Mullins hasn't necessarily reached the commercial zenith he once gazed upon, but he hasn't become a casualty of it, either. In an odd way, though, Mullins' steady pleasantness has manifested itself on this latest release in a way that detracts rather than enhances, let alone excites. Certain avenues are explored to spice things up, however. An attempt to render a few rough, dangerous edges onto his past sound, in the form of this album's title cut, is simply laughable, though, thanks to Mullins forced, spoken-word, bad-boy approach that is more senile than sensual.
I made it: through track No. 5, "The Ghost of Johnny Cash."
The Suzan (Japan)
Golden Week for the Poco Beat (Fool's Gold)
Quirky and enjoyable throughout, Japanese girl-group The Suzan almost sounds like another Saturday Night Live sketch gone awry. But it's not -- at all. Thanks to danceable, indie-riffic, synth-pop that's tight and diverse enough to stave off annoyance or even boredom, the album flows along rather swimmingly. The heavily accented, yet endearingly engaging, vocals of the English-singing group provides a sense of easy-going unpredictability that propels the record along to a point where the band's point of origin is little more than an interesting footnote for an immensely listenable record.
I made it to: all the way through the disc's 13 songs.
Wilson Phillips (Los Angeles, CA)
Christmas in Harmony (Sony)
For those left-leaning liberals out there who deny that there is a war on Christmas, it's pretty easy to view most Christmas albums as the very present WMDs that more than prove the conflict's existence. However, for those weapons inspectors needing a specific location for the proof, the A-bomb of the bunch is disguised as Wilson Phillips' holiday release. If you're in need of holiday cheer and this is the album you turn to, then just unplug the lights, pop a few valium, toss out the tinsel and look forward to an even lonelier New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day.
I made it to: 10 seconds into song No. 2, "Little Drummer Boy."
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