Morel

Queen of the Highway

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Putting a face on the often-anonymous thump of club music can be a dicey proposition. Where others have tried and failed, though, star remixer Richard Morel succeeds, with an impressively ambitious debut loaded with pop hooks, a bit of rock swagger, and the propulsive beats you'd expect from a pal of DJ team Deep Dish. But what makes the project unique, and supplies its darkly decadent veneer, is the lyrics, which delve into homoerotica and America's shadowy fringes with intelligence and storytelling skill. There's a sense of fatalism that infects even the should-be smash hit "Ride," a hip-hop-fueled love song that reminds its intended "If I should die/You got someone real tough to watch out for you," but there's no arguing with the narrative gifts behind the gorgeously seedy "All of the Pretty Ones," a trumpet-laced, deep house meditation on life as a hustler. The combination of ear candy and genuine smarts on display here is rare indeed; rarer still is to find dance music this personalized -- and personal.

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