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Critical Darkling

We tend to frown on critical darlings, who are typically so obtuse that critics can't understand 'em. Ipso fathead, they must be good. Take Jana Hunter -- please. The "New Weird America" icon is soooooo in, and soooooo painful to the ears.

It's the rare performer who casts off the critical-darling yoke, as has Maria Taylor. The electronica-tinged singer/songwriter from Omaha, Nebraska, is totally accessible, yet has that special darkling quality that makes critics cream. Broadly translated, "darkling" means "opposite of Partridge Family," which we suppose means Manson Family, and those freaky cats couldn't sing a lick. Taylor can, but it's not her spookily detached voice that makes the flesh goose; it's those liquid eyes -- dusky, sparkling pools that tell all and tell nothing at all. Her songs, though, speak volumes if you know how to hear.

There's a Grand Canyon of difference between being obtuse and abstruse, and we bet Maria Taylor can tell you what that last one means without even Googling it. Jana Hunter couldn't even pronounce it. Well, maybe croak it.

Sun., Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m., 2007


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