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Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, and Hard Working Americans 

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Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

Give the People What They Want

Daptone Records

File next to: Alabama Shakes, Valerie June, Carolina Chocolate Drops

Given Sharon Jones' bile-duct cancer diagnosis that postponed this album and canceled last fall's tour, the mere release of this new work would naturally be greeted by fans with loud cheers. What's surprising is how the work has progressed from previous albums, and how many chances Jones takes. The echoes of early Motown, Stax and Spector productions still resonate in this fifth studio album, particularly in tracks like "Making Up and Breaking Up." But she also adds hints of late-period psychedelic Motown, moving to a near-Marvin Gaye sound in "People Don't Get What They Deserve." The one mystery is the absence of the two songs that grace a bonus single, "Calamity" and "Ain't Nobody." Since the 10-song album clocks in at 33 minutes, there was plenty of room to include what may have been two of the best songs in these studio sessions. — Loring Wirbel

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Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra

Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

Constellation

File next to: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Rachel's, Do Make Say Think

Efrim Menuck, lead guitarist for both Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion, can display annoying political purity, as in his recent rejection of a Canadian music award. But that austere sincerity is what gives his projects their power. Silver Mt. Zion began as a quieter, chamber-orchestra version of Godspeed, but evolved into a strident orchestral band that delivered its punches in rapid succession, unlike the long, majestic building of noise that characterizes the best Godspeed. By the fifth and sixth studio albums, SMZ had become rather strident, even rhetorical, in its politics (unlike the all-instrumental Godspeed, there are lyrics to this music). The new album sports the most nihilistic title in the catalog, but the actual product is a mix of personal and political, all delivered with a finely honed orchestral punch. — Loring Wirbel

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Hard Working Americans

Hard Working Americans

Melvin/Thirty Tigers Records

File next to: Todd Snider, Deer Tick

To create Hard Working Americans, folk singer Todd Snider got together some jam band friends and pulled out a bunch of his favorite songs about blue-collar life. The result is an album that speaks to the average joe while sliding singer/songwriter poetry into jam-band grooves. No song lasts longer than six minutes — so the jammers were reined in — but the muscular, fluid playing makes for a consistent sound. Opening with the blues of Frankie Miller's "Blackland Farmer," the disc spins through "Down to the Well," a gentle country-ish number by Keven Gordon and Lucinda Williams, before moving on to The Bottle Rockets' classic "Welfare Music" and Randy Newman's "Mr. President, Have Pity on the Working Man," all winding up with an aching version of Gillian Welch's "Wrecking Ball." It all works together well, both sonically and thematically. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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