One of the nicer features of UR’s Napster service is the wide selection of new and remastered albums debuting every Tuesday. Here are two of the most recent releases available.

“Be As You Are”

Kenny Chesney’s latest album continues his steady record of achievement, which is considerably less than his talent would allow. Solid melodies and his incredible voice – one of the best ever suited for country music – cannot make up for unoriginal themes and tired lyrics.

“Be As You Are” contains a number of songs that are stylistically indistinguishable, and the words aim for easy sentimentality.

The album really starts to drag after the third or fourth song. The tunes are nice, but little is done with them to make them intricately musical or even particularly catchy.

The high point of the album is an acoustic version of “Old Blue Chair,” in which Chesney gets to show off his raw singing talent. While the lyrics are as cheaply sentimental as the rest of the album, his vocal skills are highlighted in a way that is worth a quick listen.

After the first single’s hype fades, don’t expect to hear this album on the radio, and don’t be alarmed if you miss it. Chesney’s career is assured, and there’s always hope that his next attempt will be worthy of his known potential.

“Between the Dim and

the Dark”

At first, I wasn’t sure how much of a compliment it was to the band, but “Between the Dim and the Dark” by Jump, Little Children is one of the clearest albums that I’d heard in a long time. The voices, the lyrics and the instrumentation each stand out on their own, making the album feel more like a collaboration than a single band’s output.

“Between” is the latest release by the North Carolina-based band, which made their last Rochester appearance at Dandelion Day in 2003. This show came after a three-year gap in studio recordings, during which the band had a chance to polish their song-writing in addition to their harmonic capabilities.

That time was well spent. The word “subtle” is overused in talking about music, but there’s no other way to describe the overarching style of this album. It is of a genre that would normally be best played as ambient music, but the complexity of this band’s writing style makes it impossible to leave in the background. Each song, from the first, is begging for a closer listen.

The strongest song on the album is the title track, which sets a tone that will last throughout the disc. A number of songs on this album maintain an optimism that seems to temper or even defy the reflective lyrics. Probably the two best of these “happier than they should be” songs are “Broken” and “Midnight.”

Any of these songs is worth checking out, and anyone who listens to one will likely find the whole album on their playlist soon.

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