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Our critics' picks in new releases



Often when a singer-songwriter dresses up his acoustic songs in rock-star clothing, the result is an awkward ensemble of the earnest and the disingenuous. Worse than a sonic fashion faux pas, the pose of a sincere body of songs decked out in flashy guitars and processed vocals can make the other kids wince or point. But Atlanta-based troubadour Angie Aparo's major-label debut, The American, is anything but posing. These memorable songs of hope and despair, of parental and environmental awareness, retain their lyrical intimacy in the same instant that they achieve grandiosity through soaring vocals, a slamming rhythm section, chunky guitars and cleverly textured production. Teaming with producer Matt Serletic (matchbox 20, Edwin McCain, Collective Soul) for two years prior to the March 2000 release of The American, Aparo hits his stride in these 13 tracks. His astonishing vocal presence and range are the hallmarks of live shows and previous indie releases, but in The American, Aparo and Serletic keep the focus squarely and expertly on the song. With the record's first single, "Spaceship," thick textures of guitar, synth and voice use a wistful power to move the piece from longing to insistent.

The title song is a hidden track, underscoring a lyric which reminds us that the American is not just the rock star, the media mogul, the dotcom. The American is the street musician, the homeless man, the parent. Aparo's everyman mentality works even as this street musician arms his sound with slick production and a kicking band. His powerful tenor voice begs for those rock clothes, garb becoming of grand songs.

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