Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Shawn Colvin emerged as one of the most successful singers identified with the late-'80s "new-folk" movement, and it's easy to figure out why she continues to cross over: She doesn't actually play folk music. With her background in everything from hard rock to Western swing, Colvin ultimately settled on warm, glossy pop, eventually finding huge mainstream success with 1996's A Few Small Repairs. With only a holiday/children's record (1998's Holiday Songs And Lullabies) released in the interim, sales of Whole New You may suffer from the lengthy near-absence, but it wouldn't be for a lack of strong material. Particularly early on, the album virtually shimmers thanks to the complementary relationship of John Leventhal's sparkling instrumental arrangements and Colvin's breathy, accessible voice. It would be hard for Whole New You to live up to the near-perfect first minute of its lovely and unsettling opening track, "A Matter Of Minutes," but "Nothing Like You" fares even better, oddly but undeniably recalling the most harrowing work of Elliott Smith. Whole New You peters out in its midsection, falling back on a succession of pleasant but unremarkable songs, but its opening third takes the shape of one career highlight after another. Marred only by the occasional well-worn vocal inflection—and the occasional "we try and try / we cry, baby, cry" couplet—those songs are strong enough to bring the album as a whole up to their distinguished level.

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