P.M. Dawn

Dearest Christian, I'm So Very Sorry for Bringing You Here. Love, Dad

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By the time of P.M. Dawn's fourth album, the formerly chart-topping act had become a cult favorite, exploring its own brand of psychedelic soul while hip-hop continued evolving relentlessly into other realms. But then again, so did P.M. Dawn -- having almost thoroughly eschewed MC work for singing on Jesus Wept, Prince Be continued in that vein, invoking the heavens with his lovely voice right from the start while only occasionally returning to his earlier vocal approach. Musically, the duo's ear for a wide range of bands and styles serves it as well as before with the opening "Music for Carnivores," touching on everything from gentle gospel singing and big-band samples to ambient cascades (the concluding "Untitled" is even more of a quietly wild collage, not to mention being one fine late Beatles tribute). Occasional nods to the technology-heavy styles of late-'90s hip-hop and R&B turn up (check the beginning of "Misery in Utero"), but, generally speaking, Dearest Christian relies on calmer keyboard melodies and textures and exquisite backing vocal overdubs to make its point. The downside is that a fair amount of the album's songs often blend into each other, with stretches often sounding like variations on a similar melody or tune. However, that makes the subtle touches in each -- the low-key shuffles and beats in "Yang: As Private I's," the listing of modern cultural complaints in "Hale-Bopp Regurgitations" -- all the more fun. Perhaps the best songs, like "Music for Carnivores," strike a truly individual note, such as the vocal and acoustic guitar combination on the gorgeously sad "Screaming at Me" or the lovers rock reggae lope of "No Further Damage." Dearest Christian contains beauty, ambition, good songs, rich production, and more, enough to justify its existence when so many of the band's peers had run themselves into the ground.

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