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Princess Diana and King Richard; or, Two Royal Disappointments.

Diana Krall‘s The Look of Love ups the ante on her previous When I Look In Your Eyes album: more strings, more mush. Krall’s voice — cool, even cold, with limited range but nicely expressive nonetheless — sounds just about perfect in an intimate, small-group setting (check out the wonderful All for You), but it just isn’t strong enough to compete with the forced grandiloquence of a string orchestra. (Madeline and I saw her in concert with Tony Bennett at the Hollywood Bowl last year, and she was okay with the orchestra — but not like Bennett, who simply brought the house down.) Here, the humor and life are just about sucked out of the songs, with Krall left to slaughter “Besame Mucho” — perhaps she should get lessons from her idol Nat King Cole on how a non-Spanish speaker is supposed to sing the song. The booklet’s gauzy shots (click on the “gallery” link) of her cleavage, her pouting lips and her legs — combined with all the fussy string arrangements — betray a sad lack of faith on the part of her handlers in her ability to smolder just as well in a trio. We want the old Diana back.

For another utter disappointment, Aphex Twin‘s new double album, Drukqs, vividly illustrates the sad state of electronic music. Or maybe it’s my tastes that have changed, but this sounds so 1998. Richard D. James cranks out 30 interchangeable and sometimes undeveloped tracks of stale drill-‘n-bass, piano pieces right out of Satie’s “Gymnopedies,” a prepared piano tune here and there. And the unpronounceable titles, the sampled unintelligible mumblings, the nursery-rhyme melodies are all still here — just buried underneath the heavy sameness of it all. It’s like he burned his laptop leavings onto a couple of CDRs and mailed it off to Sire.