After one hell of a year, things are starting to slow down in the music scene, no matter what Coldplay or Beck are up to these days. Yeah, every month something big from someone you've been hearing about over and over again -- how many albums does Christina Aguilera have anyway? -- hits the stores and, yeah, maybe you should buy some of them. But the RIAA aren't suing the bejeezus out of peer--to-peer file-sharing networks and independent braodcasters for no reason at all. They know perfectly well that while there may be a truckload of discs released each month, there are only a few deserving of your hard-earned money. Here's some of them.

Apples in Stereo
Velocity of Sound

But, hey, it's Thanksgiving, right? It's a holiday so forget all the depression and drug crap -- put on the Apples in Stereo and feel that good vibe flow like you know it can. Once a proud member of the lo-fi collective known as Elephant 6 (along with Neutral Milk Hotel and the Olivia Tremor Control), the Apples are today's version of the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Sonic Youth and all things in between. Which means that Velocity of Sound is literally an album for everyone. Shot through with hook-filled tunes featuring addictive guitar, retro soundwork and a lyrical snarl not seen since the Dandy Warhols, the Apples' newest release will leave them vulnerable to the type of adoration laid at the feet of flash-in-the-pans like The Strokes, The Hives and whoever else is in heavy rotation on MTV these days. Pick it up now and say you were there when.

Jurassic 5
Power in Numbers

Think rap, and what do you see? Bling-bling wannabes with ghetto fabulous chicks in tow, partying it up in some South Beach mansion. That is, until the video is over, at which point they all go home to their broken-down apartments to manufacture their next image. Now think hip-hop. What do you see? The same as rap? That's where L.A.'s Jurassic 5, and their newest release, comes in. If you're tired of the same old boring beat music, hitch a ride to J5's old-school comet tail. Full of hard-hitting, pitch-perfect poetry from Marc 7even, Chali 2Na, Zaakir and Akil and ear-busting production from two of the finest scratch-masters in the biz, Cut Chemist and Numark, Power in Numbers is J5's clarion call to a new multicultural day minus the money-grubbing drama. But just don't buy the clean version -- J5's politics are rough and rugged, and deserve to be blasted in their uncompromising purity. So burn your Puff Daddy (or whatever he's calling himself these days) discs and keep it real without keeping it real dumb.

Sly and the Family Stone
The Essential Sly and the Family Stone

One of the most egregious crimes ever committed in the annals of music history occurred when the brilliant Sly Stone destroyed the immeasurable legacy of his synergistic songcraft for the cheap thrills of drug and alcohol addiction. Without Sly, there would be no hip-hop, little interesting about Lenny Kravitz, and a gaping hole in funk's prodigious output. So while that particular dream is over, there's nothing wrong with trying to stretch it out a bit further by cramming as many of Sly's positivist philosophies into one release as you can. Featuring some of the group's most compelling tunes, such as "You Can Make It If You Try", "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey", and "Just Like a Baby", this compilation takes the eager listener on a journey through The Star's light and dark periods, because it knows you can't have one without the other. But look for that journey to end on a down note, because when it's over, you'll realize how much you miss uplifting, honest music that fills out every corner of your soul. And Sly.

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© Melt Magazine 2002