Joël Virgel

Recently Joël Virgel's sexy, throaty voice resonated throughout the house music world on the Latin Project's "Lei Lo Lai," which soared to near-anthem status last year thanks to a prescient remix by New York house mainstays Masters at Work. But the debut album for this French-Caribbean artist, who was raised in Paris and Guadeloupe and has worked as a back-up singer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, attempts to chart slightly different ground.

"Carnal Measures," sung in a smoldering French/English mishmash, would work well in a club setting, since it borrows its tempo and kick-drum swing from house. But Amour Amer mostly eschews dance-floor trends for a widescreen effort that shouldn't scare off the kids, despite the presence of a few melancholic love songs. His roots in classical and Brazilian sounds (which emerge in the Gilberto-esque lilt of "Samba e Amor") lead to some enduring arrangements that probably won't sound dated in a few years. Virgel seems to delight in his tremendous range, channeling emotions that can be understood regardless of language barriers.

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Tamara Palmer