Pet Shop Boys (EMI 97097)
Greatest-hits compilations are like snapshot albums, covering the highlights of a career but missing the stuff in-between. That's why so many best-ofs seem disappointing; heard out of context, even the best album tracks can sound like non sequiturs. Unless, of course, the songs never connected with anything in the first place, as has been the case with the Pet Shop Boys' output. This duo is truly a singles' act, and its best work -- from the campy calculation of "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" to the wry wit of "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You)" -- needs no context to make its point. As such, "Discography" is perhaps the most satisfying title in the group's catalog.
Wall Matthews (Clean Cuts 712)
That Wall Matthews is a masterful guitarist ought to be obvious after a single hearing of "The Night Watchman" -- he finger-picks with such finesse that his performance takes on the sort of shading and dynamic range you'd expect from a piano solo. That alone would make "Gathering the World," Matthews' third album, worth hearing, but -- incredibly -- "The Night Watchman" is the least of its charms. Overdubbing layers of drums and percussion as well as guitar, Matthews weaves a rich tapestry of sound that's at once both familiar and foreign. Add in some soulful vocals (including a stunning rendition of the field holler "Go jTC Down Old Hannah" by Aleta Greene) and an exciting, eclectic song selection, and this album is surely worth gathering into your world.