Free Will Juke Box

Here's some of the music I've been listening to lately. It's tough to stay hip when there's a toddler in the house, but I try:

Black Eyed Peas - The E.N.D: this is one of those rare albums like Purple Rain and Joshua Tree that pretty much everyone from club kids to indie hipsters to sorority blonds to Tea Party candidates ("I Gotta Feeling" has been featured at a lot of Tea Party victory parties this year) likes. Some filler, but the radio hits (which are half the album) are untouchable.

B.O.B. - Presents The Adventures of Bobby Ray: probably the closest anyone has come to combining hip hop and indie rock into a workable mix. Lot of soul in parts, especially "Airplanes" and "Beautiful Girls."

Eric Clapton/JJ Cale - Road To Escondido: a pleasant, laid back bid to recapture the feel of Clapton's Seventies-era solo albums, which often relied on Cale's tunes.

Katatonia - Night Is The New Day: These guys get filed in the metal bin, but they're much closer to being a Goth hard rock band with as much emphasis on dark soundscapes as on heavy guitars. The drumming is especially creative for the genre. Not as epic as The Last Fair Deal Gone Down, but still worth your time.

Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence: the inevitable disappointing third album from one of my favorites from the last 10 years. The hushed atmosphere and gently strummed guitars are still there, but the songwriting has become a little rote.

Pat Metheny - The Way Up: astounding hour long CD of 4 intricately layered suites. The level of musicianship here, especially in the guitars, is mind numbing. Metheny plays so fast, yet so precisely you begin to think he's playing tones only dogs can hear.

Opeth - Blackwater Park: I'm guessing that most readers of this blog won't be interested in the Kings of Swedish Death Metal, but consider this: (1) Opeth has as much folk and prog influences as anything else (2) the atmosphere is much more Gothic than metallic (3) the songwriting and musicianship is at a much higher level than you would guess. There are moments of real beauty mixed in with the more thrashed out stuff.

Porcupine Tree -In Absentia: a remarkable band often compared to Rush, Radiohead, and David Sylvain (a couple members were even in Japan). Strong songwriting with stretched out arrangements that lets the band play their hearts out.

Queen - The Works: an Eighties-era sell out that has really stood the test of time. Shocking truth: I picked this up again when I heard Lady Gaga say she named herself after "Radio Gaga" and I remembered what a great song that was.

Scorpions - In Trance, Virgin Killer, and Tokyo Tapes: I know a lot of people think these guys are little more than a real life Spinal Tap, but you can't go wrong with Uli Jon Roth-era Scorpions. He was one of the earliest metal shredders, and really brought a strong classical sensibility into his work. Plus, these guys always sound like they're having fun.

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