Phish, "Joy"

83 Billboard Rating

"Got a blank space where my mind should be/Got a Cliff Bar and some cold green tea," Phish frontman Trey Anastasio sings on "Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan," the second track on the band's ebullient new album, "Joy." Phish masterfully marries freedom and form on its first studio release since 2004's "Undermind," combining the best elements of its jazz-inspired outings with an acute attention to song structure. The result is a collection that succeeds on multiple fronts, and one sure to please both the avid fan and casual listener. With strong production by studio titan Steve Lillywhite, the band effortlessly switches between jangle (the sentimental, Allman Brothers-esque "Backwards Down the Number Line") and jam (the nearly 14-minute, early-Pat Metheny Group-sounding "Time Turns Elastic"). And on the title track, Anastasio pays moving tribute to a sister lost too soon. "Joy" is a journey not to be missed. --Jon Regen