Here are some albums I'm listening to a lot these days.
- Devo 2.0. A bunch of 10-14-year-olds hand-picked by Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale to play classic Devo songs, produced by Disney. Is this the weirdest thing in music history ever, or the most brilliant? Both. It comes with a DVD loaded with music videos and interviews. Highlight: the kids interviewing Devo founders. The singer, Nicole, reminds me of a young Amanda Bynes in that she's just a natural performer, totally fearless and magnetic. Some lyrics have been changed for gender and age-appropriateness, but the socio-political core of Devo is still there in a stealthy way. Highlights: "Good Thing," "Uncontrollable Urge," "Peek-A-Boo," and "Big Mess." Devo completists should note that this album includes the first new Devo songs in fifteen years, "Cyclops" and "The Winner," the latter of which sounds like it came straight off of Oh No! It's Devo! or Freedom of Choice. Buy this one at Target, where you'll get a bonus track and a bonus video.
- Donald Fagen - Morph the Cat. Apparently, this one isn't getting great reviews, and I don't get it. No, it's not Steely Dan; it lacks the sophistication of Everything Must Go and Two Against Nature, but I'm enjoying the heck out of it. It also may be the most crisply-produced album I've ever heard. The opening bass notes of the title track made me cry out, "Whoooaaaa!" No, Morph isn't as hummable as The Nightfly, but for the sake of argument can we agree that even bad Donald Fagen playing on your stereo makes you indescribably cool? You just want to put it in your car, turn the volume up, roll down the windows, bob your head, and cruise, assuring everyone around you of just how cool you are.
- Mark Heard - Dry Bones Dance. I've been transferring a lot of my minidisc-only music to CD and MP3 lately, and have rediscovered the wonder of the late great Mark Heard. His last three albums (Dry Bones Dance, Second Hand, and Satellite Sky) are pretty much interchangeable; they're all too long (60+ minutes), they all sound the same, and they're all great, a mix of folk, rock, zydeco, rockabilly, country, and something else. Dry Bones Dance gets my nod right now because of its last two songs, "Mercy of the Flame" and "Fire," which I can't stop listening to. "Mercy of the Flame," in particular, has just captured me with its melody.
- Bruce Cockburn - Further Adventures of... My brothers and I make up about 60% of Cockburn's American fan base. Another benefit of the MD-to-CD transfer is that I can listen to about ten Bruce Cockburn albums on my car stereo. Most of the ones I have on MD are older; I have everything from 1983 through the present on CD. Where Further Adventures of has jumped out to me is as a point of transition. Cockburn's early career, from his first album through the live set Circles in the Stream, is a fairly happy-go-lucky series of folk-acoustic records. 1978's Adventures is the point where Cockburn starts sounding like modern Cockburn. I like old Bruce, but I love new Bruce, so I'm really grooving on this, perhaps his first "modern" album. Also every song doesn't necessarily sound like "The Bicycle Trip" "Rainfall," "Feast of Fools," and "Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand" are current faves.
- Genesis - Duke. This is the album that seems to make no Genesis fans happy. It's too pop for prog-Genesis fans, and too artsy for pop-Genesis. Even the hit single "Turn it On Again" is in a 13/8 phrase. I've never listened to it much at all, and now I'm really enjoying it. "Behind the Lines" has a great opening, I love the melodies of "Duchess" and "Guide Vocal," "Turn It On Again" remains a favorite for me to play on drums and keyboard, and I find "Heathaze" totally haunting. And Then There Were Three is less pop and closer to prog-rock, but Duke just feels much more unified, like the band is more happy with who they are. Abacab is the album that follows this one, and is far less satisfying. The Duke CD in my car is an LP recorded to MD recorded onto PC burned to CD, which I used to rip MP3s. Ha ha ha ha ha!