One Quiet Night
Warner Bros.

This is the kind of thing you can do when you're a seasoned, commercially successful jazzer like Pat Metheny: On the night of Nov. 24, 2001, he adjourned to his home studio in New York with a custom-made baritone guitar and a low, Nashville tuning. He rolled tape and played. He listened to it on the road. He fleshed it out with a few more tunes. Now here it is, out on Warner Bros. as One Quiet Night. It's Metheny's first solo acoustic guitar record (sans overdubs, by the way) and makes a nice addition to his far-flung discography, much of which is orchestral and heavily produced.

The title says it all: these songs are sedate and exploratory, all but devoid of flash or chopsmanship. The baritone guitar has a slightly lower pitch than a standard acoustic, as well as a somewhat more metallic ring. The tuning offers some engaging harmonic navigation. This is a subtle album, but some of the changes are quite striking. Metheny will slyly move into moments of dissonance that are more mysterious than jarring.

Alongside roaming Metheny originals sit a few of the guitarist's favorite songs: a sweet, languid version of Norah Jones' Grammy-winning "Don't Know Why;" a lovely turn at the old Gerry & the Pacemakers tune "Ferry Cross the Mercy;" and an undulating take on Keith Jarrett's "My Song." Of the new material, the relatively spunky "Song for the Boys" features a sequence of lovingly strummed chords that captures that open-air feeling of his work with Pat Metheny Group.

Most of the guitar work is fingerpicked or strummed, with little in the way of single-note stuff, which, again, offers an engaging new perspective on the Metheny oeuvre. One Quiet Night is not a blow-you-away disc, but it will provide some of the "peace and enjoyment" that Metheny mentions in the liner notes. 1/2—Eric Snider

Games at High Speeds
Arena Rock Recording Co.

If this Brooklyn-based quartet's name sounds vaguely familiar to show-goers, it's because Pilot to Gunner have come through town approximately googol times in the last couple of years, plying their angular post-hardcore style in chaotic live doses before innumerable hip headliners. And their first full-length, for rising indie Arena Rock, has a lot in common with their sets: It's good, energetic and visceral, but before long the sameness sends your attention wandering — to be recaptured only sporadically by sudden bursts of greatness. The disc comes on strong with two standout tunes: "Every Minute is a Movie" and the title track immediately reference D.C. post-core pioneers Jawbox. They achieve this by relying on immaculate rhythms, melodic bass lines and discordant two-guitar interplay for impact, rather than familiar vocal or power-chord hooks. Vocalist Scott Padden further begs the comparison with a limited range that rides the ragged edge of melody and forcibly recalls Jawbox vocalist J. Robbins. None of which is bad, and serves to add a depth and substance to Pilot to Gunner's mania that's missing from many of the bands with whom they'll undoubtedly be lumped. Too many of the remaining songs, however, groove by indistinguishably in a snarled mass of dissonant guitar lines. "Zero Return" once again perfectly balances things to compelling effect, as do "It's So Good to be Here in Paris," the album's comparatively lengthy centerpiece, and the intriguing "The Lurid Loop's Dead." But about half of Games at High Speeds is content to wander around Pilot to Gunner's style rather than an attempt to map it — and those songs just don't add the meat to the sinew like the record's best tracks do. —Scott Harrell

Babies Are for Petting

After putting out two albums on Sub Pop, the San Francisco-based group Vue recently signed with RCA and released their latest EP, Babies are for Petting. With help from producer Don Was (B-52s, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan), the band mixes bluesy-garage rock with a retro, punk beat. The flavor is old-school Rolling Stones with a new-age appeal, grabbing your attention with familiarity and building on it with a catchy, rockin' style. The first two tracks jumpstart the EP with snotty vocals and twin guitars. "Look Out For Traffic" has a crisp, punchy sound and Vue displays a cheeky wit with quips about the rock-star life, like "we don't have to worry about anything, because we know that it's just pretend." "Hey Hey Not In Here" combines the above ingredients with a bounce that brings to mind the swinging sounds of early '60s surf rock. The title track tastes more like old-school blues, combining clangy, harmonica-tinged rock with tight, poppy riffs. This vein continues with a stripped-down live version of "Find Your Home," from the Sub Pop album of the same name. "It Won't Last" finishes the disk with a more gritty, guitar-heavy tone, dripping with heavy bass and drums. Vue plays with a healthy dose of confidence that combines both the old and new, but be forewarned: They don't sound quite so special with just one listen. Give them some time and repeated plays — and trust me, they'll grow on you. 1/2—Leilani Polk

Do Rabbits Wonder?
V2/Third Man

Whirlwind Heat has a big fan in Jack White. He signed the group to his own V2-affiliated label, produced their debut album and has them opening for his band, the White Stripes, on a summer tour. Despite these connections, Do Rabbits Wonder? is a shabby first effort. The album's guitar-less songs feature blasts of rhythm with driving drums, grinding bass and the occasional synthesizer. Whirlwind Heat manages 13 songs averaging a furiously paced minute-and-a-half. High points come on "White," "Pink" and "Grey" (the songs are titled after the color the band feels they express), when the drums and bass unite instead of playing off each other. But then singer David Swanson's annoyingly shifting pitch and nonsensical lyrics jump in. Do Rabbits Wonder? proves that not everything related to Jack White deserves hype. 1/2—Chris Berger

Champion in the Arena: 1976-1977
Blood and Fire

The concept was simple but exquisite. Take one of Jamaican music's most prominent session musicians, keyboardist Jackie Mittoo — a founding member of the Skatalites, a fixture at Studio One — and let his swirling organ wash over a set of deeply organic reggae grooves. Produced by Bunny Lee (who spices in dub effects sparingly), these mid-'70s songs feature such stalwart players as Sly and Robbie, Chinna Smith and others. The sound is raw but clean, and Mittoo, while no Jimmy Smith, proves to be a vibrant soloist. www.bloodandfire.co.uk 1/2 —Eric Snider

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