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Various Artists, ‘Through the Wilderness: A Tribute to Madonna’ (Manimal Vinyl)

Jon Caramanica // February 15, 2008

It’s easy to remember Madonna’s vivacious side, but she was desperate, too, a theme that the best of this indie tribute captures neatly. Apollo Heights’ Bowie-ish “Dress You Up” broods, and Jonathan Wilson’s rootsy “La Isla Bonita” positively gasps. “Material Girl,” by Mountain Party (featuring Devendra Banhart), feels spacey and standoffish, giving the song a renewed meaning. Some of the reads (by Ariel Pink, the Prayers) are frustratingly glib. But the last 30 seconds of “Crazy for You,” from Los Angeles folkies Lion of Panjshir, are chilling — frontwoman Ariana Delawari and her traditional Afghan backing accelerate feverishly, breaking the sweat Madonna never quite did, or could.

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