SARAH SLEAN Night Bugs (Warner) Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
On Sarah Slean's major-label debut, Night Bugs, the local cabaret darling proves she hasn't sold out. Sure, the sexy Rufus Wainwrightesque cabaret songs and lush ballads have some poppy hooks, but Slean's sophisticated melodies never pander to the lowest common denominator. Producer Hawksley Workman lets Slean's smoky voice soar above elaborate orchestral arrangements of never-maudlin strings and rich piano. He even throws in a couple of skittering breakbeats. Workman's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach teeters on the edge of overkill without crossing that line; he knows when to pull back and let Slean's elegant phrasing take over. Breathtaking.