March 17, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 87  

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Sarah sails while Jessica fails

the single guy
by brian wong

Sarah Harmer:

The first single from Sarah Harmer’s new disc (All of Our Names, out Tuesday, Mar. 23) is an upbeat romantic poem set on the shoreline, continuing Harmer’s knack for writing oddly bouncy tunes with an underlying melancholy. The seaside metaphors — Harmer as the sailor, her crush as the “warm gulf wind” — are understated and gorgeous in the key-changing chorus, but it’s that clever first line, “Almost dialed your number when I thought the coast was clear,” that draws you into this earthy, tender-hearted gem.

Avril Lavigne:
“Don’t Tell Me”

Combining the giant chorus of “Complicated” and the hard rock guitars of “Losing Grip,” Napanee’s reigning princess of teen-pop “rebellion” returns with this hook-filled single from her upcoming Under My Skin album (out Tuesday, May 25). The song starts off sweet enough — a delicate piano intro segues into a verse about kisses and holding hands with her guy — but then breaks into a bridge that underscores the point: Avril ain’t givin’ it up for this boy. Clipped verses filled with teenage disconnect is typical Lavigne, and it’s somewhat disappointing there are no surprises to the first release from her new disc, touted as being ‘darker’ than her debut. However, there’s no question “Don’t Tell Me” is solid, formulaic songwriting.

TV on the Radio:
“Staring at the Sun”

Other than Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand, TV on the Radio is the hyped new group of 2004. The group has been garnering raves for their use of barbershop harmonies in darkly textured songs, since releasing last year’s Young Liars EP. “Staring at the Sun” — which appears on both the EP and the band’s just-released, full-length debut Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes — serves as a fine intro to the trio. The lazy, doo-wop harmonies lead into deep, pulsating guitar and a sparse, ticking-time bomb rhythm. The track never really explodes, but its ability to maintains a semblance of warm soul amidst cold, clockwork synths packs a bigger bang.

Jessica Simpson:
“Take My Breath Away”

When your reality-TV career turns out to be bigger than your singing career, what can you do but attempt to re-release a failed album with extra tracks. Included in this new version of Jessica Simpson’s In This Skin disc is a cover of Berlin’s slow-burning “Take My Breath Away” from the Top Gun soundtrack. And if you hated the gauzy, soft-focus haze of the original, listening to this canned beat version will make you want to pull out that loaded gun from your bedside drawer and take your own breath away.



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