My Morning Jacket | Z (ATO/BMG)
Back to back posts for two of the top ten albums of the year. Tis the season I guess. Rhapsody has got the exclusive album preview on streaming of Z (how do these guys keep scoring like that?!? they must have a great staff, obvi). Listening to Z online only makes me want to purchase it more on Tuesday. You should too, because it's that good; every listen brings out a new lyrics or subtle nuance.

To quote the tall and wise Kayceman, "There are secrets in the dark shading (like the backwards vocals in the dubbed-out, Live at Pompeii back-end of "Off The Record") and small truths that refuse to speak loudly (such as the angelic, stripped-down, more familiar vocals of Jim James on "Knot Comes Loose") Kayce also notes, "With "Dondante" Jim James and My Morning Jacket have taken the language of music and made it universal. They have created a masterpiece that can change one's perception."

This album is so deep, so chock full of great songs, in addition to those noted above, my current two faves are the retro surf-rock of "What A Wonderful Man" or the oozy keys (and deep lyrics) on ""Anytime". If the songs themselves didn't stand up, there is also The Voice of Jim James, the best in the game. The album is worth the purchase price for the first four minutes, featuring a "Wordless Chorus" way up in the high register, as if JJ were Benny and the Jets. From start to finish, it is easy to love every track on this record, none of which sound like any MMJ which has come before it. Listen on repeat, and get hooked on the Z. - TK

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Apollo Sunshine (self-titled)
Did you ever Flip! out to the point where you feel like you are on the other side of the world and you don't know how you got there, and you can't find your way home? So keep breathing, you oughta know how to do that. Keep breathing, that's all you can do. This lesson, that home is where the heart is, gets taught within the first few minutes of the Apollo Sunshine self-titled second album, their first for spinART. From this dramatic start, it really only gets better. This is one of those albums that I love so much I go out of my way tell anyone within earshot. It feels like a duty to do so when such a cohesive work of disparate musical ideas comes together into such a gorgeous work. I implore you to give this one a few listens straight through. There are so many good songs on this record, allow me to elaborate.

First I was hooked on "Flip!" and then on doin the "Phony Marony" and then I realized that "Today Is the Day" - talk about inspiration to seize the day, "if that grass looks fun to roll in, then roll in that fun grass!" Just when you are cruisin down rockabilly road happily humming all the tunes, wondering if the album can get any better, towards the very end, along comes the "Lord." This one has it all, lyrics to make you ponder, screaming guitars, screaming in your face, it's really catchy. Don't leave me Lord, if you're really in there.

If good albums are measured in catchy singles, this is the album of the year - there are at least seven solid sunshiny singles on this record. Not to mention the instrumentals (the rumbling bass to kick off "The Hotter, The Wetter, The Better" and interludes (like the quaint "Finger Pointing at the Moon" and "God"). The band asks some hard questions in between melodica and wood block and screaming guitar. For example, in "Eyes" they ask "Unexplainable things can happen when we look each other in the eyes, right? So why is it we don't have the time to look each other in the eyes?" Then they proceed to create layered vocal and piano harmonies making me wish my eyes and mind would decide that I am blind so I can hear my heart tell me how I feel.

Apollo Sunshine are everything we like about genre-defying bands like Phish, The Slip or Ween, the music goes from charging shred-rock to poetic balladry with lush harmonies and, as you may recall from the track "I Was On The Moon" on their debut Katonah, even the song endings are inventive. There are sounds you've heard before, words that make sense, but this album is not cliché. Quite the opposite, it works on many levels. This is one of the best albums of 2005, do not be afraid to give it several listens. - TK
(first four paragraph Rhapsody blog ever...now I will go to bed, for I have thought too much for one day)

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Soulive | Break Out
Soulive are back with a new studio joint, their first release for Concord, known previously for smooth jazz records. Don't worry, Soulive is not keeling over, they keep it flowin on the hip R&B tip, and in my opinion, turn it up a notch from previous releases. As is the case with their live show, they bring the guests out in full force, including Ivan Neville, Corey Glover and Chaka Khan. Standout tracks include "Break Out" and the seriously catchy "She's Hooked" with Reggie from Maktub. And you can't go wrong with a funky cover of Jimi's "Crosstown Traffic" with both Eric Krasno and Robert Randolph just absolutely shredding. Get it all over ya. - TK

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Public Enemy | Hell No, We Ain't All Right
In the aftermath of Katrina, Public Enemy frontman Chuck D (and omnipresent clockwearing sidekick Flavor Flav) recorded this thought-provoking track commenting on the situation in the Gulf Coast. Interspersed with soundbites from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, the two address topics like racism and classism while lambasting that "Son of a Bush" and the war in Iraq. Hard-hitting hip-hop from outspoken orators. - BWinning

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Lake Trout | Not Them, You
This band would likely cringe if they were posted to a jam related blog, so we'll not tell them that I think their new album is really quite good. The album is really nothing like what they used to be known for. It's not jammy, and it's official: they're not a jam band, they have shed their old fan base and their former drum-n-bass ways to focus on this new concept of indie rock. Whatever that means, they have written some decent songs (as well as a cover of "Street Fighting Man") and it's worth a listen. One track recommendation: "Keep Your Eyes Shut" - TK

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Elizabethtown (Soundtrack)
I have a feeling this soundtrack to the newest Cameron Crowe movie is this is the kind of soundtrack you'll be hearing about well into next year. Not since 2003's Cold Mountain has an Americana-themed soundtrack resonated with such romantic ardor. My Morning Jacket is haunting as usual with the song "Where To Begin". Tom Petty's voice slow dances with dulcimers on "It'll All Work Out," while "Come Pick Me Up" recalls a time when Ryan Adams sang in a sweet southern drawl. Patty Griffin's "Long Ride Home" is the stuff of make-out music mythos. A Crowe movie is usually good for reminding you how good Elton John songs are, this time he refreshes your memory with "My Father's Gun" - TK

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Robbers on High Street | Tree City
Piano driven, melodic indie rock for anyone who likes well written vocal songs featuring minor-key guitars. Kenneth Yu wrote, "Tree City consists of thirteen tracks of tightly-wound, musically-literate passion from musicians who themselves are conscious of the awesomeness of their output." The album actually sounds great, very well-produced. One track recommendation: "Big Winter." - TK

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North Mississippi Allstars | Electric Blue Watermelon
Hadn't heard they were putting out a new record, but the EBW just went live today. Classic NMA, the slithering big bass of Chris Chew, the vocals and fretwork of Luther and brotha Cody hittin the skins. EBW was produced by dad Jim Dickinson and features performances by Lucinda Williams, Robert Randolph, Dirty Dozen Brass Band. "Electric Blue Watermelon" was the name of a loosely assembled band led by Memphis musician Lee Baker, who played blues festival gigs in Memphis during the 1960s.
     One track rec: "No Mo" is a great blues song, set to a hip-hop chorus of "it ain't the same no mo'." I was LOL on this one, talkin bout back in the day, growin up "we were the kids in trouble, me and my brother... like two dogs scrappin over a bone, we were fightin over the telephone, now we don't take calls....we used to climb the walls juiced up on Kool-Aid and caffiene" when music was a mystery, had the headphones on and the Silvertone "tuned to open E." EBW does well at paying homage to the NMAS blues idols while bringing in guest musicians, keeping it loose and fun. - TK

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