Now Hear This 

Reviews of new CDs by Bleu, Pacific UV and Pat Metheny.

Bleu McAuley is blessed with a soaring tenor, impressive mutton chops and an uncanny sense of melody. He allows his tunes to wander whither they will — and if that makes some of them a few beats shorter or longer than usual, well, that’s too bad for the band (a crack bunch, by the way, and well up to the task).

This second release by the Boston-based singer/songwriter/whatever is by some accounts a concept album built around a messy breakup. While that theory isn’t always backed up by the music on “Redhead,” many of the songs deftly delineate the ways romantic obsession can manifest itself.

In “We’ll Do It All Again,” Bleu illustrates the insecurity and fear unrequited love can bring, while in the sweeping “Somebody Else” (featured on the soundtrack to “Spiderman” last year), he wonders, “What if I was all right? What if I wasn’t wound so tight? … Would you still look at me like that?” Some songs take the theme right over the line, most distinctly in the lilting “Watchin’ You Sleep”: “I’m watching you sleep,” Bleu croons, “right outside your window/ Inches away/ From sleeping with you.”

Bleu has a slight tendency toward the precious, lyrically and vocally, but on “Redhead” it’s mostly kept at bay with galloping guitars and powerful choruses. A few midalbum ballads fall limp, but with his keen sense of melody, his obvious urge to please and his love of radio-friendly tunes, Bleu has tapped into a rich vein of pop that has gone unmined for years. He may tip the hat to Phil Lynott and Rundgren, but with “Redhead” Bleu makes it clear who his guiding spirit is: none other than Wings-era Sir Paul McCartney. And God bless him for it. — Greg Weatherford

Pacific UV Self-titled (Warm) **1/2

Fans of slow, cheerless yet haunting music should pry their mitts off the NyQuil bottle for a moment to try a dose of Pacific UV (and the Richmond band Spokane should hire a lawyer, cause methinks I hear a stolen melody or two). To tell the truth, anyone with an ear for Slowdive has heard a din of such bands trying to get in on the anti-fun. Pacific UV tries to stand apart from many of its contemporary contenders by plugging in the synthesizers and having some fun in the gloom. Not that you won’t hear the mournful wail of a violin or the lonely pluck of a guitar, too. Though the album never manages to pull off anything new for those with a CD case full of depression, Pacific UV is a competent addition to the sadcore scene. — Wayne Melton

Pat Metheny “One Quiet Night” (Warner) ****

The intimate purity of “One Quiet Night” makes it one of Pat Metheny’s most deeply enjoyable recordings. It is an unhurried meditation on a specific sonority, recorded in the guitarist’s home studio with one microphone, one guitar, one tuning and one mood.

The minimalism of this approach focuses on Metheny’s core strengths: his sweetly inventive melodic articulation tempered by the slight astringency of his chording. It is this balance of accessible prettiness and edgy beauty that makes him instantly recognizable, and it is a pleasure to hear it shorn of the cinematic commercial trappings of his popular fusion-ensemble recordings.

The three covers (out of 12 selections) are an interesting group. The selection of the Norah Jones hit “Don’t Know Why” would seem calculated if the recording hadn’t been made before her unprecedented breakout. “My Song” is a Bill Evans-like composition by Keith Jarrett, whose career, like Metheny’s, was launched on the ECM chamber-jazz label. “Ferry Cross the Mersey” was a mid-’60s hit for Gerry and The Pacemakers; Metheny’s rendition has an elegiac evening glow.

The baritone guitar used throughout ranges from rich woody bass to burnished highs. This recording, originally made without any intent for release, is a bit like eavesdropping on a private conversation. If there is a downside to these extended explorations, it is the demand for stillness and concentration. It casts a lovely but fragile spell. His pop audience may miss the synthesized fireworks; the jazz sophisticates may want a bit more edge. But both halves of his polarized audience will find much to admire. — Peter McElhinney


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