Old 97's, Satellite Rides (Elektra): After Fight Songs by Old 97's made nearly all the "Best Albums of 1999" lists, I had to rush out and get it — I needed to know what all the hype surrounding the practically unknown Texas four-piece was about. To tell the truth, I wasn't all that impressed by the record, or for that matter, the band — that is , until I read a review of their 2000 EP Early Tracks and thought, "Now, that's more up my alley." Right away, I fell in love with each drunken, poor-me country song. I just loved it — and laughed — that all this Hank Williams-type country music was coming out of a Brit-Invasion looking group. So with two opposing views of the band, I felt hesitant about buying their new album Satellite Rides. Well, about two and half seconds into lead track "King of All the World," the ongoing battle was put to rest: I love this band. Even more, I love their new crafty record. Satellite Rides is happy, light and catchy. Without grave politics or deep, heart-wrenching topics, it's the kind of jangly record that makes you smile. Not because it lacks depth, but because the depth isn't taken so seriously. Like when you're living your life day to day, lost in all the stress and anxiety, but then you step back for a moment and think it's really not so bad at all, and you smile — you get that same weightless, content feeling from listening to this album. With "Am I Too Late" and "Up the Devil's Pay" you'll find the same old-style country feel that you got from Early Tracks. But the rest of the record, albeit country-tinged, is infectious, musically complex pop led by Rhett Miller's distinctly desperate singing. "Rollerskate Skinny" is perhaps the most fun, with its contagious beats and witty, sometimes bizarre lyrics: "Love feels good when it sits right down/ Puts its feet up on the table and it sends a bowl around / I believe in love but it don't believe in me." The beautiful "Weightless" is one of the album's softer songs. Amid underwater guitar riffs and tambourine jingles, Miller sings of a better, easier existence: "All the bad things are gone/ All the good things are here/ Almost exactly like this place where you and I are fighting yeah/ I'm so sick and tired of fighting yeah/ Up there we'll never fight at all." Dabbling in pop, country and rock, the band can't be categorized. They're sappy, serious and sarcastic all at once. That's what makes them so different, so great. — Jenny Tatone

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