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[whitespace] Picks by Michelle Goldberg (MG)

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Various Artists
The Shanti Project Collection
Badman Recordings

Yes, it's for a good cause, but that's not the only reason to pick up a copy of The Shanti Project Collection. With songs by the Red House Painters, Low, Idaho, Hayden and Misc, the album serves a moody feast of pensive melancholy, making you feel all reflective and sentimental and ruefully forgiving. The best songs, unsurprisingly, are the four from the Red House Painters, masters of gentle-but-devastating heart-tugging shoe-gazer pop that makes all of life seem like a Hal Hartley movie. Their version of Genesis' "Follow You, Follow Me," far from being a kitschy novelty, is impossibly sad and romantic. Proceeds from the record benefit the Shanti Project, a San Francisco charity that works to improve the quality of life of people living with AIDS.

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Middle of Nowhere

Brothers Paul and Phillip Hartnol have always brought a lush, orchestral, playful aesthetic to techno. Polished, dense and trippy, Middle of Nowhere is more energetic than most chill-out albums and far more melodic than many dance offerings. With its ecstatic crescendos and layered synthesizers, the album sounds a bit retro, recalling a time when electronic music was still enamored with its own psychedelic possibilities. A few tracks, though, experiment with harsher sounds, juxtaposing driving, sinister percussion with eerily descending waves of ambient noise and sliced-up segments of rough guitar for a panicky, future-noir vibe.

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Sissy Bar
Songs for Peeps

With its boy-girl harmonies, sweetly speedy guitar melodies, spare synth lines and faux-naïf lyrics, this adorably upbeat, candy-coated L.A. sextet falls somewhere between the Pixies, the Primitives and Stereolab. True, that description would also fit any of the dozens of twee, barrette- and Adidas-striped-shirt-wearing would-be indie darlings practicing in basements everywhere, but Sissy Bar simply does the new-new-wave cuddle-punk thing better than the rest. Although there's nothing on Songs for Peeps as immediately memorable as the group's gently parodic version of Snoop's "Gin and Juice," their "We Become Smiley" brilliantly sounds like a teenage girl's response to R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It."

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From the June 7, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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