Martina Topley-Bird Anything

[Palm Pictures; 2004]

Styles: trip-hop, downbeat
Others: Morcheeba, Baxter Dury, Portishead

After appearing on several Tricky albums throughout the '90s, it's been some five years in waiting for Martina Topley-Bird's solo debut, but it was well worth it. Having come out in late 2003, the Mercury Prize nominated Quixotic has been retooled, rearranged, and renamed for release in North America, for what should prove to be your immense listening pleasure. Cutting three songs from the UK version, Anything is more compact and precise highlighting key moments, including the now title track "Anything," which has to be one of the most moving songs in trip-hop's elusive history.

The album doesn't come off as gritty and dark as the original so much as it provides an eclectic-soul Air alternative. Imagine if after Felt Mountain, Goldfrapp decided to correct the Spice Girl mistakes of Morcheeba's Fragments Of Freedom instead of going all electro-pop. There is a wide range of natural instrumentation and studio tricks present on every track, channeled through various combinations of producers and guest appearances by Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age), Mark Lanegan, and Tricky, who returns the favor in fine form. All this makes Anything every bit as interesting to listen to as it is nice to hear. As for Topley-Bird herself, she's got a voice that capably transcends Erykah Badu, Shirley Bassey, and Skye Edwards (Morcheeba) to establish herself among them. Plus, she writes most of her own lyrics and music, and logs a lot of time in the producer's seat adding myriad effects to earn your attention.

Quixotic was one of the best albums on the Europe last year and Anything will be one of the best here in 2004... and no, the Mercury Prize is not the UK equivalent of a Grammy, as the Mercury is more often than not given to half-way decent artists and CDs, instead of splitting from 28 into 91 categorically hollow copies of itself, all going to the R.I.A.A.'s cash cow of the moment (Santana's rubbish fest Supernatural won eight in 1999 while Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Bob Marley went out Grammy-less. The Fifth Dimension won album of the year in '67 & '69 while The Beatles and the Rolling Stones haven't won it ever. Need I mention Milli Vanilli?). So while Massive Attack has essentially dissolved and Portishead may never return, Martina has brought us trip-hop hope again with a nomination that means something backing it up.

1. Anything
2. Ragga
3. Need One
4. Soul Food
5. Ilya
6. I Still Feel
7. Sandpaper Kisses
8. Too Tough to Die
9. Lullaby
10. Outro

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