Emm Gryner
Public
(Mercury)
   


Public is the kind of record you can get lost in. From the opening sway of “Aquarius” pairing Gryner’s light alt-rock guitar band with a small string orchestra to the quietly gorgeous Tori Amos/Suddenly, Tammy! like strains of piano melancholia in “Acid,” this album never fails to suck the listener deep in to its ever-changing moods.

Gryner turned up on the Lilith Fair at a couple dates both this year and last, and she has obviously learned from the other members of that touring ensemble; Public capitalizes on some of the best production ideas of Lilith artists like Sarah McLachlan and Tara MacLean as well as on other newcomer female singer-songwriters like  Kim Fox and fellow Mercury artist Lauren Christy. If you’re familiar with all of those artists, then you’re probably wondering how anyone could garner comparisons to the whole bunch; they have widely divergent styles and attitudes. And that’s precisely what Public has. “The Good You Make” is a yearning Christy-esque song. “Summerlong” is a perfect radio single; it shares the heartland upbeat-yet-emotional flair of Fox’s best pop work. And the lusciously hazy sound of “Death is a New Day” evokes memories of atmospheric early ‘90s band Grace Pool.

While this is her first album for Mercury, the 23-year-old Gryner (who appeared in Chicago last night at the Double Door) has released and produced a couple discs on her own label in her native Ontario, Canada, and it shows in the smart production on this disc. Gryner has successfully merged delicate girl-and-a-guitar songs with a constantly shifting tapestry of background orchestration that never gets in the way of her voice. The result is a stream of dreamy pop that evokes one mood after another, but never jars or falls flat.

Her diary tender lyrics are as emotive as any in the Lilith camp and she has a way with a wry line now and again, as in this one from “Phonecall 45”: “I will show you mine if you’ll show me around.”

Public is the best female singer-songwriter album released so far this year. It stands on its own and quietly elbows its way to the front of the “intelligently sensitive” pack that also includes Paula Cole, Jewel, Natalie Merchant, Lauren Christy, Meredith Brooks and the like.

Don’t miss it.

 

Various Artists
The Avengers: The Album
Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture
(Atlantic)
   ½


The Avengers movie, while lacking somewhat in plot, leaves the viewer with a delicious feeling of dislocation. It’s a beautifully shot film with lots of stylized camerawork. So it’s appropriate that the movie’s soundtrack is also a melange of stylized, quirky-but-cool elements.  There is a lot of techno flavor here, courtesy of Roni Size (the instrumental beat-happy “Visiting Angels”) and Utah Saints (“Technology”). But it’s not all a trippy electronic ride. Sinead O’Connor teams with Ashtar Command to create a crisply smooth emotive ballad in “Summer’s End.” The Command also turn up with an alternative guitar grind rock anthem, “Solve My Problems Today”on the disc featuring vocals from Chicagoan Louise Post, late of Veruca Salt.  Grace Jones turns up with the Radio Science Orchestra to offer a very “James Bond” style big movie theme in “Storm,” but the actual “Avengers Theme” is an instrumental piece by Marius De Vries that mixes soaring strings and horns with a techno base. Annie Lennox offers “Mama,” one of the disc’s less interesting moments. More inventive are unknowns like Merz, who croons a ‘60s influenced jazz melody against a weird percussive background. And Suggs’ piano and horn bleating “I Am” is a lively reggae rave with a low voiced vocal and a chorus that’s reminiscient of the best moments of ‘80s band Madness (not surprising, it turns out, since he hails from that band).

 

Miscellaneous:


Wanna hear what Matchbox 20 and their hit “3 a.m.” sounded like before they were Matchbox 20? Forbidden/Navarre records have released Don’t Play With Matches, an album of songs by Tabitha’s Secret, the band that would eventually become Matchbox 20. Included are two versions of “3 a.m.” which help show the evolution of the song from acoustic strummer to the more crunchy rock version currently monopolizing the airwaves. Tabitha’s was a more acoustic Counting Crows-ish kind of band than Matchbox, it seems (and to these ears, a more listenable quantity). If you can’t find this independent release in stores, call Forbidden Records at (800) 897-0976 or visit the label’s website at www.forbiddenrecords.com... Windham Hill, which has formerly specialized in “new age” music, has released a couple of Hawaiian music discs from the small Dancing Cat label. Ray Kane’s Wa’ahila and Cyril Pahinui’s Night Moon each feature Hawaiian instrumental acoustic guitar numbers mixed with guitar and vocal songs sung in the native islander language. If you need reminding of what it’s like to sit in an old Hawaiian bar listening to the island’s “oldies,” these discs will do you well. But while the instrumental guitar moments are nice, neither Kane nor Pahinui’s heavy-as-lead vocals are likely to satisfy the majority of English speaking Americans.