Available at All That Jazz for $15.98
This album by the Soul Coughing frontman is Mike Doughty stripped of his original band and rebuilt with a band of session musicians.
"Haughty Melodic" has the closed-eyes, candle-lit atmosphere of a singer-songwriter performing from a barstool with a layered studio engineer backdrop.
It's an interesting thing when the frontman strips himself of the band for which everyone knows him. It's the difference between passing someone in a car and seeing that person walking on the sidewalk.
It becomes immediately obvious that Mike Doughty was behind the wheel of Soul Coughing. The same plaintive voice pulls along songs that each would make great tracks for any coming-of-age movie soundtrack.
This is a great day-dreaming album. Doughty's voice slips easily into the background. The guitar sloughs off your conscious like Jell-O sliding down your arm.
No song is so catchy that it will stick in your head for days, but there's also nothing so jarring that it will interrupt your thoughts as you try to concentrate.
Rated: Comfortable like a beanbag or a heating pad.
Fountains of Wayne
Available at All That Jazz for $16.98
The first disc of this two-disc album opens with a segment by NPR's Terry Gross announcing that the music of the moment is Power Pop. She introduces rock critic Ken Tucker, who queues a song by Fountains of Wayne and announces, "hip-hop, country music and post-grunge squall can take a vacation."
It's a great way to start an album. It makes you feel as if you are listening to a moment in musical history as validated by a voice on public radio. It also gives you that funny feeling of discovery that you get when a good band comes on the radio at an odd hour. Or when you almost crash the car trying to scribble the band name and song title on the inside of a matchbook.
Fountains of Wayne filled this album with light-hearted, life-of-the-party pop tunes full of hooks and easy lyrics.
"California Sex Lawyer" is urged along by 1980s-style synthesizer and heavy breathing as Chris Collingwood sings, "I'm going to become a California sex lawyer / oh yeah / it's not fair, but baby I don't care. / I got big ideas / I got back-up plans / I've got the charisma / I've got the sleight of hand."
In a time where the news is heavy and art is full of protest, this is welcome Reagan-era escape music.
Rated: Well, if Terry Gross said it ...
Buckethead & Friends
"Enter the Chicken"
Available at All That Jazz for $15.98
Most people know Bucket----head as the fill-in guitarist for Guns N' Roses. He was the anonymous guy who played shows with a mask over his face and a Kentucky Fried Chicken buck----et on his head, leading to endless speculation about who he is. (According to an article in Rolling Stone magazine, Buckethead once was known as Brian Carroll of San Francisco.)
After four years, Buckethead abandoned the Guns. Some--how my eyes remained fixated on the stagnant band when I should have followed Buckethead. Since leaving the band, Buckethead has had a prolific run of projects and solo albums, including this new release, "Enter the Chicken."
His other projects included Col. Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brians and Cobra Strike.
Limiting Buckethead to the Guns N' Roses chapter of musical history -- where most people, including myself, have relegated him -- is to miss out on one of the more interesting minds in rock music.
"Enter the Chicken" is a diverse mix of musical ideas ranging from heavy metal, guitar-driven man rock to soft opera to spoken word.
It seems when you put a bucket over your head and a mask over your face, people have a harder time pinning you down and you don't paint your musical style into a corner.
Rated: Buckethead: More than a good Halloween costume.
-- Autumn Phillips