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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
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44.1 kHz Archive

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Lauryn Hill
MTV Unplugged 2.0

"Don't think you've met me before."

Lauryn Hill does lots of talking on this "Unplugged" set, but nothing she says seems to stand out more than this. In her reincarnation as hip-hop folksinger (just her on acoustic guitar, the cracked voice singing and talking for nearly two hours), Hill takes the most stale sentiment of Oprah philosophy, that being yourself is the most important thing, and strips it of its meek middle-class mediocrity. In an artistic reinvention that has to rival anything popular culture's thrown up in decades — she's a multiple Grammy winner, for fuck's sake! — Hill has removed all the artifice inherent in such popular culture, and has set out to make music that's both honest and true. Which sounds like a straightforward, elementary conceit until you hear her talking — and she does lots of talking — about having 40 people on your payroll; and how your name, your own birthname, is now just tantamount to a brand, and the L-Boogie Corp needs to keep rolling along to keep Sony stockholders happy.

But, like, the thing is, it's not just that Lauryn Hill has stepped out in a stripped-back way; that's not it at all. Hearing her doing this goes beyond the expectations that come with someone doing the unexpected, because, as she warns at commencement, she's no longer a performer. She's just a girl singing songs, talking, letting things hang out. She's doing this because she wants people to see right through her, and the honest truth of this artifice-free recording goes beyond the normal peddled sentiment of being "personal." This set is vulnerable in a way that so few folk dare to be, stripping away the erected façade of cool behind which human beings — forget hip-hoppers, I'm just talking people — hide their embarrassing emotions, their daggy fears, their clichéd dreams. And her conviction in doing this goes way beyond simpering self-help aphorisms or hypocritical hippiefied peace-love proffering.

Her "Unplugged" turn is raw and real in a way that puts past denizens of this television-channel brand name to shame. She's retired from the fantasy of performance, and hearing her sing these songs is near tantamount to hearing Patti Smith in high command. The actual sound of such strummed songs has much in common with the early-day invocations of both Terry Callier and Ani DiFranco, with, of course, the spectre of Bob Marley always hanging over Lauryn's little head. Her lyrics, as folksinger, are the weightiest — and thereby the most unfashionable — words, trying to be downright biblical as Lauryn searches for her own perceptions of truth. God, salvation, society, soulfulness, even self-reflexivity; the songs scattered between the rambling conversations herein have no fear of being grand in their hopes and dreams. She even takes the essentialist cliché of the singer/songwriter into the kind of climes it rarely dares tread, getting flat-out Cat Poweresque when her rambling reverie "I Gotta Find Peace of Mind" (whose lyric "touch my mouth with your hands" comes like sweet poetry) ends with her in tears. Such an unsophisticated soap-operatic event separates her from the normal realms of written songs, in which tunes try to bully the audience into crying, or songs are written to cry because the performer is too self-conscious to. And such an event seems like a grand evocation of the emancipation Hill talks at fond length of finding, like these tears aren't cried out of frustration, but exultation.

by Anthony Carew

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