It's not a surprise that professional athletes occasionally make records: back in the late '70s, Denver Broncos running back Jon Keyworth made a terrible soft rock album called Keys during the team's brief pre-John Elway heyday, and during their 2004 World Series season both pitcher Bronson Arroyo and general manager Theo Epstein of the Boston Red Sox were gigging around town with their own bands. However, there are two big surprises about the debut album from Ian Allen, a minor journeyman player for the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Arizona Cardinals: rather than the usual lame jock-rock, this is mellow, loungey downtempo electronica. Also, it's really quite good! Allen's tastes run toward skittering drum machines and house beats, but there's also a languid, jazzy quality to most of Nova's Lounge, and that tension keeps the record from drifting too far into shapeless ambience. Allen is a canny synthesist who doesn't stick with one set of influences for very long, preferring to layer a variety of sounds and beats into an enjoyable whole.
In some ways, Heather Nova is more talented than many of her female singer/songwriter contemporaries. She has an appealing voice, strong lyrics, and memorable melodies – that is, when she delivers. Unfortunately, many of her albums are uneven, with Nova delivering the goods as often as she misses the mark. The best moments on her second album, Oyster, rank among her very best work, demonstrating that she can pull off ballads, guitar pop, and hard rock with equal aplomb. The rest of the album isn't so much bad as it is bland, offering lesser versions of the good stuff. Certainly, Nova makes Oyster worth exploring – it's just a little frustrating that the entire album doesn't deliver on the promise of its best moments.
Boasting big, bold pop production that suggests the anthemic-but-personable sound of Natalie Imbruglia, Siren bursts out of the speakers with a giddy rush of emotion. But Heather Nova's not one to wail stridently like some Alanis-come-lately; instead she favors a breathy, delicate style that's nevertheless strong enough to ride comfortably atop the layers of acoustic and electric guitars. (In fact, it's Nova's own guitar that's at the heart of most of the arrangements here.) Throughout Siren, Nova utilizing an intriguing catch in her voice, and ultimately, it's Nova's unique vocal style and winning pop sensibilities that make Siren work as well as it does, doing double duty as substantive singer/songwriter statement and perfect pop-radio product.
Orlando Lassus (1532 - 1594) by all accounts seems to have been a colorful character. Throughout his life he outrageously used works with quite frankly erotic overtones as the basis of his sacred works in blatant defiance of the Counter Reformation puritanism whose mood was set by the Council of Trent. However, at the end of his life Lassus suffered a fit of deep depression accompanied by a sudden paroxysm of religious penitence, the result of which was his Lagrime.