• The Bottle Rockets, 'Lean Forward' (Bloodshot)

    This St. Louis outfit's ninth studio album encompasses virtually every alt-country staple the group helped revive more than a decade ago (the open road, small towns, freedom metaphors involving large bodies of water). But rarely have they been arranged with such happy-go-lucky optimism. Early on, the sentiment is set: "Hard times, that's nothing / Hard times pass / I ain't broke down / I'm just out of gas." Maybe it's fitting that in the same year Wilco found a sense of humor, the glass of chief Bottle Rocket Brian Henneman is finally half-full. BUY: iTunesAmazon

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