2. Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)Isabelle's pick:
Their last two albums were phenomenal experiences to immerse yourself in, but they were a bit overlong and somewhat all over the place. Feel Good Ghosts, however, is the most concise and complete album of their career, the first one that's completely solid from start to finish. I've said this here before, but Cloud Cult is the kind of band that I should hate: they're environmentally conscious, they live together on a farm in Minnesota, they have two full-time live painters in the band, and their music is so sincerely honest and confessional that it can make listeners feel downright uncomfortable (okay, I do like that last part). But the bottom line is that the stories and characters that Craig Minowa conjures in this set of songs are some of the most fascinating in recent years. "The Story of the Grandson of Jesus" tells the story of a proselytizer who serves "communion of Cola and Twinkies, guess everyone has their own view," while "Journey of the Featherless" is a tale of a narrator who dreams of flying to heaven with paper wings, only to undergo a mysterious transformation. Weird? Yes, but this is one of Cloud Cult's greatest strengths.
2. The Roots - Rising Down
Every single Roots album loses and gains new fans, and that's because they never make the same album twice. This one is the "Blade Runner" record, as ?uestlove has described it: dark, futuristic, grimy, synthed out and slick. Kamal traded in his standard Fender Rhodes and Tuba Gooding Jr. once again proved that the sousaphone is not just for marching bands-it can be down right chill inducing. I love this album for several reasons. First of all, the aggression and emotional darkness is electrifying. Secondly, as is the case with EVERY Roots' show, the organic deconstruction that each song takes on live is like listening to a whole new song, and those subtle nuances are what it's all about. And thirdly, this album introduces us to new bass man Owen Biddle, who definitely can hang. Jimmy Fallon, I hope you know how lucky you are.