Laurie Anderson

Talk Normal: The Laurie Anderson Anthology

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Talk Normal: The Laurie Anderson Anthology gathers 35 career highlights that range from Anderson's most performance art-oriented material to her poppiest moments. Leading off with "O Superman (For Massenet)," her unlikely 1981 hit, the first disc pares down Big Science -- itself a distillation of her four-hour piece United States -- to its starkest and most hypnotic tracks, including "From the Air," "Born, Never Asked," and the title track. "Sharkey's Day," "Excellent Birds," and "Langue D'Amour," all from the more melodic, emotional Mister Heartbreak, close out disc one, along with more pieces from United States, including "Walk the Dog," "Cartoon Song," and "Lighting Out for the Territories." Similarly, the second disc picks highlights from the Home of the Brave soundtrack -- "Smoke Rings" and "Language Is a Virus" chief among them -- and includes six tracks from her most melodic, song-structured album, Strange Angels. "Coolsville," "The Day the Devil," and the title track work especially well outside of the album's context and mix nicely with Bright Red tracks like "Speak My Language" and "In Our Sleep." The anthology closes with a sampling of The Ugly One With the Jewels' vignettes, including "The Night Flight From Houston," "The Rotowhirl," and "The End of the World." Though the anthology distills Anderson's work so much that it tends to blur the character of her individual albums, Talk Normal still presents most of the nuances in Anderson's distant yet open, ironic yet emotional style. For new listeners who want a bigger, more representative picture of Anderson's work than Big Science provides, Talk Normal is a good starting point.

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