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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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Badly Drawn Boy
About A Boy

For me, hearing the soundtrack to "About a Boy" — released weeks ahead of the movie — was a much better enticement to see the film than a trailer would have been. The music, by Badly Drawn Boy, evokes tousled hair and miscommunication, growing pains and a sentimental triumph — the staples of a Hugh Grant film. But since those are the staples, and we've seen them before, I'm not sure I'd have been interested in the film if I'd just seen clips. And I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. The music, however, has me hooked. I feel I've experienced some of the emotional ups and downs. Now I want to see how it will end.

The album isn't just an enticement to see "About a Boy." It's the follow-up by Damon Gough — the so-called Badly Drawn Boy — to The Hour of Bewilderbeast. It's not the continuation of Bewilderbeast, which is what I'd originally hoped for when I heard there was a new Badly Drawn Boy CD (his "official" follow-up, said to be a bit more rock 'n' roll than Bewilderbeast, is due later this year). It's an easier listen, with less angst and less experimental flourish. It sounds grown up, like something Hugh Grant might listen to as he sits looking through scripts that call for glossy lips and charming growing pains.

The disc opens with a 17-second instrumental piece. Very few people making music right now have Gough's ability to include so many disparate instruments in one CD. He's got an orchestra working with him on this soundtrack. The opening instrumental sounds like everything I love about romantic comedies. In that 17 seconds, I can hear laughter mixed with a little sadness, ultimately leading to a feeling that love is worth the bother. (And I think I also hear some very stylish clothes and haircuts in there.) There are several other short instrumental interludes throughout the CD, each one bittersweet and shimmery.

Most film soundtracks are either entirely instrumental or collections of songs by different artists that (if we're lucky) relate to some scenes in the film. About a Boy manages to be the best of both of these. Besides the orchestral interludes, there are several irresistible pop songs. But they have one voice, many are dominated by keyboards, and all manage to sound like a single Londoner either goofing around or growing wiser.

The single, "Silent Sigh," shows off Gough's higher, plaintive rock-star voice. A steady keyboard riff keeps the beat and attempts to keep the song grounded, while Gough's breathy "oooohs" and "aaaahs" and a higher, more melodic keyboard contrasts and shaves off weight. "Something to Talk About" is also a radio-ready song. It sounds like Elliott Smith, with a strumming guitar and toe-tapping pace, alongside lyrics that feel as if you're being let in on someone else's private dilemma.

"File Me Away" harks back to a romantic-comedy sound from the 1960s. The background "dooo dooo dooos" and the jazzy lilt remind me of Henry Mancini's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" day-out-on-Fifth-Avenue montage music. But Gough's voice ensures that the song stays in the present, and in a man's story. He sings in a craggy voice, "File me away, in your heart someday. You just be you; I'll be me. Okay?" He's no crooner. And he's not yet ready to embrace in an alley in the pouring rain and commit.

With About a Boy, Badly Drawn boy has grown up. He's no longer giving us a glimpse of the dribble on his chin (that accumulates after a foolish grin). He's taking us through the travails of a fictional character, and he's letting in some breeze. Just like a hero in a romantic comedy, he shows us that no man can sulk around in a knit cap for the rest of his life. Optimism will surely find him. Followed by the string section.

by Lori Miller Barrett

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