Leonard Cohen
Ten New Songs

Cohen shares space on the cover with Sharon Robinson, his collaborator throughout his first new album in nine long years. The Canadian bard hasn't engaged in a partnership this pervasive since teaming with Phil Spector for 1977's Death of a Ladies' Man. As with that misbegotten effort, unfortunately, Cohen's tandem act with Robinson disappoints.

Robinson sang on Cohen's '79 tour, recently documented on the archival release Field Commander Cohen, and co-wrote a key song on each of his two subsequent albums (as well as Patti LaBelle's "New Attitude"). Here, Robinson co-writes, produces, arranges, programs, performs and sings on all Ten Songs. Only guitarist Bob Metzger intrudes on the tryst, and this insularity is the album's fatal flaw.

Cohen himself admits these tracks are essentially demos, originally intended for a full band's attentions. One need only compare a realized Cohen track, like The Future's "Waiting for the Miracle," to regret his decision to leave these songs half-baked. Ten New Songs aims for Cohen's distinctive brooding tones but lacks the instrumental sweep that makes his older work so compelling. Mechanistic whirs and clicks, coupled with a moribund, geriatric voice, manage only to evoke the atmosphere of an ICU. It seems like Cohen's muse is on life-support. Of course, as with any loved one, it's hard to pull the plug. Here's hoping for a dramatic recovery, for More New Songs...and better ones, too. Jeff Rosenberg

snap judgments

Original Soundtrack
(Virgin Records)

French cinema's latest "it" girl, Amélie can reduce grown men to tears. And so can her Franco-friendly soundtrack. Devoid of France's au courant obsession with light-as-Air pop tunes, this album features the works of musical multitasker Yann Tiersen. The Parisian equivalent of Philip Glass, Tiersen's melodic hooks will have you hooked on what is sure to become the next big wave in bistro music. Byron Beck

Shelby Lynne
Love, Shelby
(Island Records)

As bracing as a 20-story elevator drop but twice the sick fun, urban horror-rockers The Cutthroats 9 are back with six mesmerizing tracks of unhinged, hateful noise. Led by Chris Spencer, formerly of NYC sonic art terrorists Unsane, CT9 have never been known for nice, easy listening music. Corrosive rumble-and-pound is their bag, decked out in psycho six-string twaddle and lots of relentlessly distressed yelling. Up for an unhealthy dose of street-drug-damaged art-rock freakage? C'mon. Sam Dodge Soule

The Cutthroats 9
Anger Management

Mr. Lady Records describes Portland songwriter (and occasional WW contributor) Sarah Dougher's third solo album as "Dusty Springfield singing Lucinda Williams songs over the music of the Smiths." Instead, imagine low-fi, indie guitar pop led by sometimes melodramatic, very un-Dusty-like vocals filling an album that spins too long. The title track is a vexing six minutes, and 13 songs of this is indulgent overkill. It's also hard to imagine master songwriter Williams crafting lyrics like these: "You're looking out wide-eyed I know/ It's moving past you really slow/ And you think you could never know/ Just how far you could never go." The trademark warbling of Sleater Kinney's Corin Tucker turns up on one song. On a positive note, Quasi/Sleater Kinney drummer Janet Weiss contributes crisp tracks on a handful of tunes. Liz Brown

Sarah Dougher
The Bluff
(Mr. Lady Records)

Shelby Lynne has carefully cultivated a danger-slut persona that might make even Madonna or Britney blush. Unlike Mrs. Guy Ritchie and the Mouseketeer, however, Lynne's the real deal vocally, and the naked emotion of her singing is really her most prominent asset. While her latest effort isn't the Dusty-Springfield-meets-Sheryl Crow-in-Memphis soul-fest of the Grammy-winning I Am Shelby Lynne, the new album compensates for its grit deficiency with copious sensuality and pop smarts. Super-producer Glen Ballard (Alanis, Dave Matthews Band) crafts a commerce-friendly foundation for this former Nashville POW, who aches for success beyond contemporary country. Lynne and Ballard manage to exploit shimmering originals like "Wall in Your Heart" and "Killin' Kind" for maximum-rotation potential, without homogenizing their feral beauty. Michael Evans

Shelby Lynne plays at 8 pm Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave, 233-1994. $18.50.