VARIOUS ARTISTS 20 Centuries Of Hits (Rhino) *Well here we go again, teetering on the edge of a new millennium, which would understandably make anyone misty for the last 2,000 years . Perhaps this is why Rhino records chose to take on the daunting task of picking the greatest hits from the last 20 centuries--or perhaps they're just high. Now, I fully realize that there are some pointy-headed intellectuals out there who dig monks strumming their lutes, and song titles like "First Delphic Hymn to Apollo." But you know what? These songs suck. Every century sounds pretty much the same (i.e., ANNOYING), all the way up to now, when we finally figured out rock 'n' roll--and do you want to guess what song they chose to represent this century? "Louie fuckin' Louie." Jesus Christ. Sometimes I really despair for the human race.

WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

VARIOUS ARTISTS Pop Romantique: French Pop Classics (Emperor Norton) *From the label that brought you the most recent wave of in-crowd kitsch disguised as pop-scholarly interest in foreign pop comes... the same thing, only with warmed-over French radio hits instead of Japanese elevator muzak. It'll work, because New York Times, Spin, and Rolling Stone hacks like to take all-expense-paid trips to report on music trends in cool countries, especially when there's nothin' much to said trends. "Nothing" doesn't begin describe a reasonable reaction to the idea, never mind the reality--milquetoast bands like Apples in Stereo, John Wesley Harding, and Sukia covering the Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy songs that, even if we were lame enough to not be over Stereolab yet, we'd know were perfectly kitschy the first time around. Adam Heimlich

JOHN McENTIRE Reach the Rock (Hefty) *John McEntire has had a tender, ham-fisted hand in the sound of Tortoise, Sea and Cake, Stereolab, Seely, Eleventh Dream Day, Come, Trans Am, 5ive Style, Isotope 217, Run On, Les Batteries, Snowpony, the Spinanes, Moonshake, Red Snapper, and Cibo Matto. Reach the Rock is the original soundtrack to a coming-of-age film produced by John Hughes, and it contains compositions by Tortoise, Bundy K. Brown, Sea and Cake, Polvo, and Dianogah. My favorite piece of soundtrack music from the Chicago neo-prog-rock school is Boxhead Ensemble's Dutch Harbor. It features beautifully restrained performances by David Grubbs, Jim O'Rourke, Douglas McCombs, Ken Vandermark, and Will Oldham... oops, I'm out of space. AH

HUUN HUUR TU Where Young Grass Grows

(Shanachie) ****There's a couple of things I haven't been thinking about lately; one of them is cattle, and another is Tuva, a former Soviet Republic near Mongolia. Thus, it is a pleasure to have an entire album of Tuvan ballads about cattle and their land to reflamesect upon. The main staple of this album is "throat singing" something like when you make a sound from your esophagus and then pound your chest and it comes out rhythmically. The singing is accompanied by instruments that make similarly resonant, vibrating noises: harps, synthesizers, bull testicles. Yes, bull testicles! The music has an echoey sound that evokes riding across plains, but unlike spare American country music, endlessly overlapping rhythms and high-pitched twangs paired with growly guttural noises generate a meditative, almost chant-like quality that often becomes chaotic and overwhelming. (I say!--Music Ed.) Several of the songs are sung by someone riding a horse, with the pace of the gallop dictating the singers' pitch and intensity. I find this completely amazing, fascinating, and riveting. It sounds unlike anything I've heard, and the lyrical insights like "it is possible to fix a blanket made of goat skin, but it is not possible to change me and you" feel equally fresh. My only regret is that for some reason nothing but the title of the song "Do You Want Me to Saddle You?" is translated in the liner notes. SAMANTHA M. SHAPIRO

Huun Huur Tu play at Meany Hall, Sat Feb 20, 8 pm. $21-$24, 543-4880.

IMOGEN HEAP i Megaphone (Almo Sounds) *At first blush, Imogen Heap seems to answer the question "Could Tori Amos be more annoying?" with a definitive "Yes!" But then one comes to terms with the seriousness of that allegation, and finds that while Heap's piano-stomping is less artful than Amos', her whiny lyrics may be slightly less self-indulgent. Oooh, but then there's this insight from Heap: "Shine--I will be there for me. I will not cry I will not die." It's a tough call, guys! And so we leave this question unanswered. SMS

LO FIDELITY ALLSTARS How to Operate with a Blown Mind (Skint) ****Post-Beastie Boys, post-Snow, the search continues for a white rap style that's not based on clowning off its own inability to do anything but reference its black predecessors. The solution, my children, is simple. Go to the source, especially if you're going to drugged futurist monologues--go to William S. Burroughs. His voice was so white it became black. Lo Fidelity Allstars vocalist, The Wrekked Train, operates on similar terrain: his dusted drawling narration is self-contained, his violent mantras distinctively his own. While How to Operate with a Blown Mind occasionally crosses over into call-to-arms revolutionary territory, it redeems itself with unique musical charms. Don't let this potential trend pass you by! PHILIP GUICHARD

LOS SUPER SEVEN Los Super Seven (BMG) ****"I am the poor canoeist who rows and rows and rows." Sounds a little stiff, eh? How about this one: "Navigating the high seas, I'm enchanted by a mermaid. Navigating the high seas, because God told me to." No? Well, it doesn't matter, because Los Super Seven sing them in Spanish, and that means... well, everything. This divine Latino incarnation--three members of Los Lobos, Rueben "El Gato Negro" Ramos, plus timeless accordion magician Flaco Jimenez--is so good that translation doesn't matter. What matters is that the album shifts smoothly from Mexican ai-yi-yi love ballads to accordion-laden cha-cha to patient plinkety-plunk Tex-Mex. What matters is that it can energize you like punk rock and seduce you like red wine. What matters is that it's got lost and found Spanish songs, a Cuban revolutionary song pinched from a street musician, and an English version of Woody Guthrie's "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee)". And so I say, "Los Super Seven, tu tiene mi corazon! Rema, rema, rema!" PETER BUCHBERGER

T-MODEL FORD You Better Keep Still

(Fat Possum) ***

I think it funny what wif the deep-down Delta pound gettin' pound-dead like T-Model poundin', somebody done titled this fuggin' LP You Better Keep Still... welp, it sho' kept my shook-a-shakin'! Anyways, I was a li'l sooprised to find this 'un won't quite as "Oh-fensive" as his last. See, T-Model known fer gittin' "rude," and it half the calories too... 'less Spam, his drummer, involved. But FUCK... what most slewprised me was the ONE, thankfully jus' ONE, disco "remix." Christ!! I know Fat Possum NEED the money, but when is 'at hippie disco shit gonna STOP!? MIKE NIPPER

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