The soundtrack to Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger's new movie Me, Myself & Irene could serve equally well as a Steely Dan tribute album. More than half of the disc's 15 tracks are covers of old Steely Dan songs by the likes of Smash Mouth, Wilco, Brian Setzer and more. The disc opens with the Foo Fighters' last (non-Steely Dan) hit "Breakout," and also includes non-SD songs by The Offspring and Third Eye Blind. On the SD front, Smash Mouth handily performs "Do it Again," Wilco brings a folkier flavor to "Any Major Dude Will Tell You," Setzer brings a big band take to "Bodhisattva," The Push Stars cover "Bad Sneakers" and Marvelous 3 put their own brand of power pop excitement on "Reelin' in the Years." For my money though, Ben Folds Five finds the perfect match of cover artist to SD song, as the piano-fronted '70s pop-loving trio handle "Barrytown."

 

Trinket - Set To Explode Trinket
Set To Explode
(RCA)
½


Trinket lived up to the title of this disc with their first single, the "it sounds like INXS back-from-the-dead" crunchy funky "Boom." If CDs were cheaper, I'd say this song is worth the price of the disc alone "Boom" is a radio gem and will no doubt keep dance floors moving all summer long. But at the cost of CDs these days, I'd say look for the single. While the other 11 songs on this disc are well-produced and vary between rave-up guitar jams and slower "do-do-do-do" type rock ballads, nothing else ever quite captures the unstoppable momentum of "Boom." Probably the closest contender is "Superhuman," a techno-backed groove rocker that again brings to mind INXS. As the disc winds on and the band seems to ape INXS groove rock less and leans toward punk-pop Fastball land, they also become increasingly less interesting.

The slow ballad "Pure" is yawn inducing and the picking guitars of "Throwawy Culture" seem to want to burst into a Def Leppard song but instead dissolve into paint-by-numbers crunch rock riff land.

While they've got their guitar picks on a hit single or two here, if this band is really going to explode for a long career and not fade out as one-hit wonders, they're going to have to hone their own unique sound and write quite a few more catchy songs first.

 

Michelle Tumes - Center of My Universe Michelle Tumes
Center of My Universe
(Sparrow)


Big, beautiful, breathy harmonies, warm, vibrant synthesizer blankets of sound, catchy head-nodding melodies and inspirational lyrics. Michelle Tumes' Center of My Universe offers all of that and more in its 10 songs, including one of the catchiest "do ya love me" songs of the summer in the bubblegum-sweet "Do Ya."

On much of the rest of the album, Tumes relies less on overt pop and more on layered vocals and dreamy melodies to produce an often Enya-esque vibe as she sings of various themes of the heart, many of them with the overlay of a Christian message. Tumes is often singing about relationships with God here in songs like "Heaven's Heart," "Immortal," "With the Angels" and "Christe Eleison." Often, when Christian artists set their religious lyrics to pop music they come off as preachy, but Tumes' words are never too "in your face," and the result is a perfect meld of spiritual observance and pop beauty.

Look for this one.

 

Travis - The Man Who Travis
The Man Who
(Epic)
½


This is the kind of swirling, gentle English guitar pop that can sweep you away into a melancholy fog of memory and dream. Mix one part Radiohead, one part Unbelievable Truth and one part Galaxie 500 or Wilco (on the soft folky side) and you might get a taste of the slow blue to violet kaleidescope that is the music of Travis.

Plenty of guitar reverb and high, falsetto vocals are the center of the slow building anthems of The Man Who. The mood they usually invoke is probably perfectly summed up in one of their titles "Why Does it Always Rain on Me?"

"Writing to Reach You," opens the disc with one of its perfect pieces, a mix of background ooohs, slipstream minor key guitar and a yearning, confessional lyric ("because my inside is outside/my right side's on the left side/cause I'm writing to reach you now/but I might never reach you/only want to teach you about you").

On "As You Are," the band taps into both an early '70s "slow grandiose pop" vibe at the same time as crooning a Bono-esque chorus.

But they're not always glum and baleful "Driftwood" features an upbeat chorus and chimey, smile-sweet guitars that give the band its best chance for pop radio play.

For the most part, though, this isn't an album to listen to for fast foot-tapping, more one for eyes-closed, head swaying.

And for that, it succeeds marvelously.