Spider-Man 2Spider-Man 2 will be pulling people into the theaters for the next few weeks, but will it pull people into the record stores? Probably not as many as the last one did. The soundtrack for the Spidey franchise reprise features a collage of mid-tempo, modern rock that after a couple of listens fails to nab the ear in the way that its predecessor did with Chad Kroeger's "Hero," or The Hives' "Hate to Say I Told You So."

On the new soundtrack, Dashboard Confessional offers a ho-hum opener in "Vindicated," before Train punches things up next with the soundtrack's first single, the piano and guitar strut "Ordinary." Jet taxies in with an uncharacteristically laidback, Beatlesque "Hold On," and Maroon 5 sounds like its channeling an early '70s Stevie Wonder on the cool strings and soul croons of "Woman."

Other acts include Hoobastank, Yellowcard, Taking Back Sunday, Midtown, Lostprophets, Smile Empty Soul and The Ataris.

Taken on their own, there are some decent tracks on Spider-Man 2. But most of the disc sounds just a little too samey same tempos, same vocal styles, same styles. The only exceptions come late in the disc with newcomer Ana's powerpop gem "We Are" and Jimmy Gnecco's "Someone to Die For," featuring Queen guitarist Brian May and written by the core members of Eleven and Walk The Moon.

The disc caps off with two selections from the orchestral score by Danny Elfman.


Hopes and Fears

Fans of Palo Alto and early Radiohead will turn cartwheels when they hear the first notes of Keane's entrancing 11-song debut.

A band of 20-somethings from the pastoral fields of Sussex, England, the trio manages to craft a debut that's both a soothing and wildly evocative soundscape of pop melancholia.

Fronted by the elastic-voiced Tom Chaplin, Hopes and Fears is a marvelous exercise in layered, moody pop music. I didn't realize, until I read the bio, that this band doesn't even have a guitarist or bassist Chaplin sings atop the rhythm beds of drummer Richard Hughes and the orchestrations of keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley.

It sounds like a full band is performing the warm mix of dreamy pop themes, but the music is mainly coming from Oxley's keys. You won't miss the guitars.

"Bend and Break" sounds like Radiohead meets the glorious piano-bass-drum sound of unsung '90s heroes Suddenly Tammy! as Chaplin prays "if only I don't suffocate/I'll meet you in the morning when you wake up."

And the slinky electric piano and silky falsettos of "Sunshine" are reminicient of '70s era Gerry Rafferty.

The mix of piano and synthesizers in the staccato intro of "Everybody's Changing," the single that got the band signed, is, quite simply, hypnotizing.

And "Your Eyes Open" is an exultation; a celebration of discovery.

This entire album is a warm wash of emotion that is uncategorizable; it will move your heart to tears and laughter in a breath.

It is both exulting and achingly sad.

It is filled with yearning hope laced with the dark fears that destroy beauty.

It is the album of the summer.


I Am The World Trade CenterI Am The World Trade Center
The Cover Up

Barely a month after the duo's sweatily triumphant showcase session at Austin's South By Southwest Music Festival, IATWTC's main vocalist, Amy Dykes, had to cut short the tour when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system.

The setback happened immediately preceding the release of its excellent new independent album The Cover Up, which offers a fresh take on the sounds of the '80s. If this disc had been released 20 years ago, it would have taken radio by storm; every one of these tracks offers techno sugar and rhythmic spice in equal measures.

Mixing Blondie/Human League style synthesizer instrumentation with a fresh 2004 vibe, and the seductively euphoric vocals of Dykes, The Cover Up offers a dozen tracks that sound like they could have been produced by Yaz, the Human League or Blondie in the mid-'80s.

The band often caps its sets with The Human League's "Don't You Want Me Baby," which gives you a perfect idea of the "sound" the band mines. It's inescapably retro, and yet still fun and danceable as heck.

"Great Escape" and "Future Sightings" would have been Top 40 when radio was more techno-oriented, and fans of New Order will find some rhythm bed familiarity in "Love Tragedy" and a touch of The Buggles in its background vocals.

Obviously, it's not a groundbreaking album stylistically, but it is a fun re-invention of the '80s techno sound. For more information, check www.gammonrecords.com.