The best thing about Moby is watching the bald, geeky, bespectacled vegan go absolutely apeshit with crazy dance grooves. Sadly, on his latest album, Hotel, he seems to be slowing down. After spending some time getting off on his celebrity, Moby takes a breather to create a soundtrack for the day after a decadent party. Morning-after music can sound luxuriant, but Hotel just sort of mills about in its lassitude. Instead of plugging in his odd assortment of samples, Moby sings almost the entire album in his plain, nerdy way, and the beats are equally lazy. "Beautiful" (with Laura Dawn) tries to recreate the success of "South Side" but lacks charisma. Hotel i> succeeds at its sparsest, but Moby toes a fine line into schmaltz: "Temptation" is quite lovely, but sounds like a wayward Burt Bacharach tune.
The Kills' guitarist/singer probably is a great kisser. She's a thin, enigmatic rocker chick who goes by the initials VV. I'm straight, but still -- her voice simply oozes sex. VV performs with her partner in crime, the equally pseudonymed Hotel on drums, and their albums (including 2003's Keep On Your Mean Side) feature an easily addictive garage blues- meets-rock style. "If I'm so evil, why are you satisfied?" smirks VV in "Rodeo Town," one of several numbers that feature a lot of blood loss, whether from fighting or loving too much. Stylistic repetition haunts No Wow, but with odd beat additives and fuzzy distortion sprinkled in the mix, it's easily overlooked.
If you read any music magazines at all, chances are you've seen something about M.I.A. (aka Maya Arulpragasam). No? The summation: A waif refugee from war-torn Sri Lanka who moved to London, clicked her heels three times and became a music sensation overseas. In fact, she's a little overexposed at this point, and that's part of the problem with Arular. M.I.A. and her album have been so hyped that the listener practically expects Willie Wonka's Golden Ticket upon opening. Her mad experiments with hip-hop, grime and periodic wanderings into Missy Elliott-like weirdness make Arular an interesting album, though. "Party Up the People" features a sampling of M.I.A.'s vocal tricks, with infectious enough beats. A lot of the songs sound similar, but then, this isn't hugely cerebral music. Just drive or dance, and enjoy.