Weeks on chart: 43
Style: Whisper-to-a-scream British hard rock with theatrical leanings.
Objectionable material: "Thoughts of a Dying Atheist" (casual cursing, unless "It scares
the hell out of me" is literal).
Worldview: "It's time we saw a miracle. / Come on, it's time for something biblical / to pull us through. . . . / [T]his is the end of the world" ("Apocalypse Please").
Overall quality: Weirdly ambitious production appropriate to the fashionably jaded content.
2. GIVE UP-The Postal Service
Weeks on chart: 80
Style: Airy, minimalistic electronic pop.
Worldview: "I want so badly to believe that 'there is truth, that love is real,' / and I want life in every word to the extent that it's absurd."
Overall quality: Raises the question of why anyone would pay for these modestly tuneful ditties when most of the Kraftwerk catalog in which they're rooted is still in print and at competitive prices.
3. O-Damien Rice
Weeks on chart: 59
Style: Subdued, late-night folk.
Objectionable material: Erotic allusions ("Amie," "I Remember"); possibly the nude lyric-booklet painting illustrating "The Blower's Daughter."
Worldview: "Why do you fill my sorrow / with the words you've borrowed / from the only place you've known? / Why do you sing Hallelujah / if it means nothin' to ya?"
Overall quality: Although sometimes too experimental or not experimental enough, Mr. Rice sustains an arrestingly quiet intensity.
4. FUNERAL-Arcade Fire
Weeks on chart: 7
Style: Confessional verse amid thunderous art-punk and somber pop.
Objectionable material: Taking Christ's name in vain ("Neighborhood #3 [Power Out])."
Worldview: "It's not a lover I want no more, and it's not heaven I'm pining for, / but there's some spirit I used to know that's been drowned out by the radio" ("Neighborhood #4 [7 Kettles]")!
Overall quality: Weirdly ambitious production; comparatively unremarkable content.
5. BEYOND THE SEA-Kevin Spacey
Weeks on chart: 8
Style: Consummate Rat Pack-era nightclub showmanship.
Worldview: "[W]hile I've done a version of Bobby Darin, the man himself is in a league all his own. I can only hope that we have gotten close enough to honoring him in this unapologetic tribute" (Kevin Spacey's liner notes).
Overall quality: A meticulously accurate and affectionately exuberant recreation of Bobby Darin's greatest hits.
In the spotlight
Like Jamie Foxx playing Ray Charles, Kevin Spacey most likely elected to play Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea at least in part because of his physical resemblance to the late singer. Unlike Mr. Foxx, however, Mr. Spacey can sing enough like his real-life counterpart to make seeing him unnecessary for the suspension of disbelief. What such successful mimicry nevertheless fails to explain is why fans of Bobby Darin (assuming it's they who are buying the soundtrack) would prefer even the most skillful impersonation to the real thing.
It may be, of course, that, like a live album by one's favorite group, the soundtrack is functioning more as an aural souvenir of a multisensory experience. And certainly there's never been such a convincing recreation of a performer heretofore thought inimitable. Still, one hopes that the end result of Mr. Spacey's achievement is the discovery of Mr. Darin's vast and diverse body of work by a new generation of listeners.