Angela Aki

Answer

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Three albums, and Angela Aki is still comfortable where she started. Answer offers another huge helping of her slow romantic ballads led by piano and her strong voice, and more often than not limited to those two ingredients and some sparse percussion. Her approach is nominally close to Tori Amos, but there's nothing similar about Aki's domesticated pop tunes and Amos' adventurous music. Aki can stir some fuss when she feels like it -- there are some outstanding cuts on the disc, such as the Japanese version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," the closer "Fighter" that brings in U2 guitars to blow the socks off the dozing audience, and the dynamic title track. However, in contrast to these songs, the rest displays signs of what looks like laziness: Aki plods along at an adagio tempo, hitting basic chords and using her voice in sweet but predictable patterns. In fact, this is a safe play, not laziness: Aki does what she made her name with, writing soundtracks to unfilmed summertime chick flicks, her songs creating a dreamy, romantic atmosphere, but not doing much else. This approach is good if there's some romantic pining to be done, but otherwise the appeal of such background music is limited, because the songs, while melodic to the bone, have no hooks to sink into the listener. Of course, romantic music has its own place in life, but it's somewhat disappointing to see Aki's potential not being utilized to the fullest; perhaps she should enter the real soundtrack business (in which she dabbled already), or spin those Bob Dylan and U2 records more often.