Modern Cool is an atmospheric foray into the off-beat sensibility of Patricia Barber, a young pianist and singer from Chicago. Her compositions are intelligent observations of modern urban life, beginning with “Touch of Trash,” a portrait of a perfectly made up woman who’s “just a culture short of class.” Barber’s voice is sultry and appealing, a perfect mesh with her subject matter. “Silent Partner,” a song about illicit love, has the feel of an old fashioned ballad. There’s some strange material on this recording, such as a “noir” version of Paul Anka’s “She’s a Lady,” and a simmering rendition of the Doors’ “Light My Fire.” But so what? Barber seems so sure of herself it hardly matters.
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