* WORLD BEAT
Gilberto Gil - Acoustic
(Atlantic Jazz): Gil's happy acoustic rhythms, as opposed to his earlier highly produced material, are sweeping Brazil and making their way north in a slightly softer, more listenable form. Now, his acoustic selections have less of the hot Latin chikka-boom stuff that transfixed Rio. But the lyrics are as oblique as ever. For example, "Your heart brings us fruit, avocado tree, your restraint is exactly what unreasonable means..." You got me, but it sounds lovely. You'll play "A Paz" (Peace) over and over.
- Jeff Danziger
The 6ths - Wasps' Nests (London):The 6ths is actually Stephen Merritt, formerly known as The Magnetic Fields. This collection of frothy love songs is pop music at its best: witty, melodic, fresh, and utterly winning. (To provide a comparison, Merritt's favorite band is ABBA). Merritt, whose own voice is serviceable at best, has recruited a sort of alternative all-star cast to perform the vocals, including the singers from such bands as Helium, Luna, Yo La Tengo, Sebadoh, and Velvet Crush. Adding to the fun are unusual arrangements, which utilize everything from synthesizers to toy instruments.
- Frank Scheck
* The Human League - Octopus (Elektra):The Human League hasn't deviated from what it sang about in the '80s: relationships and romance. Judging from the first song on the new disc, it's obvious that the group wants to return to the decade that brought it success. Although Human League hit it big with the '80s dance single "Don't You Want Me, Baby?" listeners to "Octopus" may wonder why the band sticks to sythesized pop tunes, which sound stale and dated. "Octopus" has a couple of worthwhile songs such as "One Man in My Heart" and "Tell Me When," but maybe the Human League should be singing "Those Were the Days."
- Lisa Leigh Parney