Cd Check

CD CHECK

June 29, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

Nelly Furtado

Loose

[Geffen] B+

She's loose, as in sexy, on tracks such as "Promiscuous," the heat-generating single and video, but Nelly Furtado's third album isn't just a celebration of relaxed morals. On that tune, the pop singer-songwriter and producer Timbaland trade sexual gibes in a flirtation that feels more transactional than romantic, although the shambling junkyard beat and sweat-slick synthesizer sheen make it a surefire dance-floor hookup.

But Loose also is Furtado's attempt to lighten up, both musically and lyrically. The Canadian artist of Portuguese descent has always been comfortable mixing pop with R&B, Latin flavors, hip-hop, folk and jazz, but here she takes herself less seriously than on 2003's introspective Folklore. And Loose also means "anything goes," leading to some undistinguished '80s-era Madonna-channeling ("Do It"), a sweet ballad with Colombian pop star Juanes ("Te Busque," in English and Spanish versions), and the lingering melancholy of the folky-orchestral "All Good Things (Come to an End)," co-written by Coldplay's Chris Martin.

Field Mob

Light Poles and Pine Trees

[Disturbing Tha Peace/ Geffen] A

Affiliation has become paramount in the rap world. More so than ever, talented rappers seem to need it in order to break through. After two solid albums, this Albany, Ga., duo were signed to Ludacris' Disturbing Tha Peace imprint and featured on his label's 2005 compilation. Shawn Jay and Smoke's bleak hit "Georgia," which featured Ludacris, brought Field Mob acclaim and attention and bumped them to potential A-list status.

The group's energetic and entertaining third album continues its stellar track record. Crunk & B star Ciara adds breathy vocals to the playful relationship meditation "So What," and Ludacris delivers his typically sharp lyrics to the stark "Smilin'," a look at people who celebrate your failures.

The rest of the album, however, shows why the gifted Field Mob could have been stars without Ludacris' endorsement or the seemingly mandatory parade of guests modern-day rappers feature on their albums. Smoke painfully yet humorously details the ridicule and self-doubt he's faced because of his dark complexion on the somber "Blacker the Berry," one of the best rap songs in years. The duo injects "1,2,3" and "Baby Bend Over" with clever one-liners and nods to rap's elder statesmen, including 8 Ball & MJG and Nice & Smooth, resulting in a strong album that looks at rap's past while pushing it forward.

Slaid Cleaves

Unsung

[Rounder] A-

Coffeehouse guitar strummers work with an earth-toned musical palette. Careful melodies and turns of phrase, not pop's flashy hooks or killer beats, prove quality. That's why nonconnoisseurs often consider this "folkie" stuff boring. It doesn't do a dance to lure you in.

On his fourth CD, Cleaves employs his song-sense in an admirable act of generosity, introducing a handful of fellow artists through loving recordings of their work.

These are songs Cleaves heard backstage after a half-empty gig or during the harsh afternoon slot of a folk festival. Their authors, except for David Olney (a cult fave in Nashville, Tenn., where Austin, Texas-based Cleaves recorded "Unsung") have only the germs of a reputation; JJ Baron, whose lovely eulogy for country matriarch June Carter closes the album, is only 22.

Unsung will inspire Cleaves fans to check out the likes of Michael O'Connor, Anna Egge and Graham Weston -- but only after they've pulled themselves away from this quietly addicting set.

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