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Marianne Faithfull

Before the Poison FIVE STARS

One of the most pervasive -- and most frustrating -- double standards in American culture is that male singers are allowed to age with the full support of their audiences, whereas older female artists are often dismissed as matronly, lacking in sex appeal, no longer swimming in the mainstream. Mick Jagger is still a top-selling sex machine, but sadly, artists like Marianne Faithfull -- nearly 60 but still singing about love, sex, regret, death and uncertainty in a wise, unapologetic and darkly beautiful voice -- are a rarity in music today.

On Before the Poison (Anti), Faithfull collaborates with a number of contemporary artists, including PJ Harvey and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, on lovely and poignant songs that include intense ballads and cautiously joyful rockers. In some of the sexiest and most profound offerings of her long career, Faithfull sings about her life, loudly, proudly and lustfully. Here's hoping that we hear much more from her in the future and that we, as a culture, begin to realize that such women have a great deal to tell us. -- Miranda Hale

Air

Talkie Walkie THREE STARS

Air has always been there. After the French duo first blew through our skirts with the dream-pop Moon Safari, they started popping up everywhere -- gusting through makeup commercials, ruffling the hair of celebrities on the silver screen. Their airy electronica stood alone -- attracting listeners to its late '70s beats and warbling, siren-like vocalists. It was the music that vodka-soaked cocktail olives bobbed in time with at 4 am after-parties. Air was sexy and sweet all at once.

Over the years, Air seems to have changed like the wind -- appearing to rely far less on the beats and styles of others, but truly creating their own unique methodology. Now they're creating lighter songs, all breathing the same sighs of relaxation as their Lost in Translation cameo song, "Alone in Kyoto." Every track on Talkie Walkie mimics the film's pensive but relaxed mood. In fact, it's almost as if the entire album were written to work as a soundtrack for the film. Talkie Walkie doesn't anchor itself on the upbeat jams that strengthened Moon Safari and Premiers Symptomes. But it's still Air, and it's still good. It's just a little easier to breathe this time. -- Leah Sottile

Publication date: 1/06/04

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