When the first song on an album is as good as “Same” is on Dani Siciliano’s solo debut, Likes … , it’s difficult to imagine any full record that could live up to such potential. A former deejay, Siciliano is mostly known for her collaborations with her husband Matthew Herbert, particularly their excellent 2001 release, Bodily Functions (she also appears on the criminally underexposed Matthew Herbert Big Band album Goodbye Swingtime from last year). With Likes … , Siciliano has created an above-average record that ultimately falters due to the limitations in her voice.
But that song. Over nine minutes, “Same” drifts in and out of focus while Siciliano purrs “you … don’t look the same” in starts and stops over a pulsing bass line. Just as it seems like it can’t control itself anymore, “Same” cuts out. And all that we’re left with is the next song, a cover of “Come as You Are.” In a recent interview, Siciliano said she was looking to present the Nirvana classic as a jazz standard. While she didn’t exactly succeed, the gurgling beat and sultry delivery make the cover at least enjoyable and certainly more acceptable than Joss Stone’s ?uestlove disaster that was “Fell in Love with a Boy.”
If only the rest of the songs lived up to these opening tracks. The excellent “Canes and Trains” is too short to count, and though the playfully Timbaland-like beat on “Walk the Line” makes the song fun enough to recommend, it should have been given to a rapper. “Extra Ordinary” is a Herbert composition and it shows (are those paperclips being rustled?). But, like many songs on the album, it becomes forgettable because of Siciliano’s safe delivery.
Often compared to Nico, both in terms of style and tone, the singer’s better match-up would be the similarly limited vocal range of Kylie Minogue. But when Siciliano is most similar to Minogue, in the electro-pop of “She Say Cliche” and “Collaboration,” the album is at its weakest. When she uses her voice as another instrument in the larger composition, as attitude rather than statement — like she does in “Same” and “Canes and Trains” — it’s clear that she is an artist worth noting. Likes … isn’t going to revolutionize the industry, but a record in this style that isn’t afraid to try something new without being too serious about it is always welcome.