K's Choice
Cocoon Crash
(Elektra)
   


It  was nearly a year after K's Choice released its first album that the band suddenly found itself with a hit single. That late-breaking song, "Not An Addict" brought the Belgium band's distinct signature sound to the masses — and justifiably so. Led by singer Sarah Bettens and brother/guitarist/co-vocalist Gert Bettens, K's Choice crafts thoughtful but catchy sonic tapestries of angst, love, friendship, soul-searching and rejection. And on Cocoon Crash, the band returns with an album equally as strong as its first, Paradise in Me.

Sarah Betten's voice has just the right catch of vulnerability coupled with a bluster of strength that is captivating to hear on any of the band's songs. She dives into these songs as freely as she stage dives in concert. Gert Bettens' co-lead vocals and harmonies perfectly counterpoint his sister's, crafting a beautifully realized, broad-textured rock sound.

Not content to stick with a one-dimensional style, K's Choice moves from crunchy rock ("Cocoon Crash") to psychedelic sitar leads ("If You're Not Scared") to bittersweet ballads ("Now Is Mine") on Cocoon Crash.

With the title track, "In Your Room" and "Everything For Free" they offer rock radio-ready wall-of-guitar anthems. But in "Now Is Mine," Sarah Bettens displays the true depth of her vocal powers as she croons delicately against a mournful slow dance of cellos and lightly picked strings. "Take my future past, it's fine/But now is mine," she says, holding tight to the revelation of a moment.

In "Butterflies Instead" she paints a perfect portrait of a child dealing with bickering or divorced parents:

"Imagination fills the void of my existence
Daddy says 'I love you girl, it's not your fault
Your mom and me don't get along'
I know he's lying
I know there's no such thing as inexplicable."

K's Choice has one of the sharpest sounds in modern rock, pulling off both quiet and crashing moments with equal intensity. Don't pass this one up.

 

La Bouche
SOS
(RCA)
   ½


La Bouche is the combo of two American expatriots who met in Germany a couple years ago and pooled their Euro-dance talents to score two top 10 singles their first time out with "Be My Lover" and "Sweet Dreams." SOS is a fine followup to their first CD, and includes plenty of potential hits to add to their list.

Diva Melanie Thornton delivers dance-inspiring vocals with a slinky, seductive and powerful verve, and Lane McCray's additional vocals and raps add a solid urban base to the duo's swirling mix of disco pop beats and ballads.

"You Won't Forget Me" leads things off with a "Be My Lover" flair, and "Unexpected Lovers" brings in some horns punch up the mix. Lyrically this album is all basic love and lust songs — titles range from the aforementioned to "A Moment of Love," "Say It With Love" and "Say You'll Be Mine." But the instrumental backdrops are all filled with exciting synthesizer warbles, piano pounds and restlessly galloping basslines. And Thornton stretches out a bit with some lightly picked guitar to show she has the chops to compete with Whitney Houston on powerful ballads when the beatbox gets turned off temporarily for the gentle ballads "A Moment of Love" and "Say You'll Be Mine."

With "I Can't Stand The Rain" they offer a mindlessly catchy "missing him" song whose bleeping keyboard line somehow brings to mind Milli Vanilli. And on "Whenever You Want (My Love)" the band puts a Spanish flair to an otherwise basic dancefloor churner.

There's nothing earth-shattering on SOS, but it's all pretty catchy, hip shake-inducing stuff. Don't be surprised to hear the bass thuds of this disc echoing from car speakers through your neighborhood (and from dancefloors) this summer.

 

The Sugarcubes
A Collection
(Elektra)
   


Iceland's The Sugarcubes launched the career of alternative dance sensation Bjork with their bizarrely tilted hit singles "Birthday,"  "Motor Crash" and "Regina" a decade ago. The band had already essentially called it a day before recording its contractual third album in 1991. This 14-song collection is an interesting history lesson for fans of Bjork and a good compilation for those who remember the brief flare of the Sugarcubes' short career.

 

Daze
Super Heroes
(Columbia)
  


Ever since Ace of Base proved a couple years ago that the distinctly Swedish sound that sent ABBA to the top of the charts all through the '70s wasn't a bygone fluke, there have been a stream of new Scandinavian acts being imported to these shores.  Aqua topped the dance charts last year, earlier this year we saw Denmark's The Tuesdays tackling Bangles-like pop rock and now we get Daze, another Aqua-esque dance act. Super Heroes is filled with some pretty empty headed material (lots of "mm-bop-ba-eh-o" background vocals, and songs about needing a lover. If you like Aqua and La Bouche, this'll fit in nicely to your collection.

There's a song about a cyber pet and an almost racy mixer called "Boy Toy." "Call Girl" starts out sounding like Aqua's "Barbie Girl" but takes the opposite thematic slant ("you tell me that I'm your sugar honey bunch...I'm not your call girl" lead singer Trine Bix declares").
It's a fun album for the first three or four songs, but then, with the drum track speed seemingly unchanging from track to track, it all begins to merge together in a bouncing blur.