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    Breaking Out: Gary Clark Jr.

    Every few years, someone, be it the White Stripes or the Black Keys, finds a way to kick the blues further into the future. And between the instrumental chops, the mellifluous hook-ready vocals, and rakish handsomeness, it's easy to understand why Gary Clark Jr. might be next in line to do just that. But sitting in the lobby of a Sheraton in Manhattan's Chinatown, nursing a Starbucks espresso, eyes covered by sunglasses, and speaking in a near whisper, his presence doesn't exactly scream iconoclast. So how did he get here? With some hometown help. In his early teens, Clark, now 27, fell into his native Austin, Texas' blues scene by joining open jams at small clubs.

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    The Rapture Turn SPIN's NYC Office Into Dance Party

    In the fall of 2003, the Rapture played The Late Show With David Letterman. They were arguably the biggest band in New York at the time, and as they rampaged through their indie smash "House of Jealous Lovers," their youthful swagger -- frontman Luke Jenner's high-strapped guitar bashing, multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Andruzzi's odd knee dips and cowbell wags -- swallowed up the screen. A lot's happened since, including, as Andy Battaglia writes in SPIN, a painful major label leap, near break-ups, and personal strife, but the band ultimately hashed out their issues on the way to releasing their first album in five years, the plaintive, hopeful In the Grace of Your Love. You'd think that kind of trajectory would wear guys out.

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    The Style Issue: Twin Shadow

    George Lewis Jr. has proved himself a dapper master of yearning midnight music, but he's hungry for more His songs could be the soundtrack to a night of furtive glances and stolen kisses -- 2010 debut Forget (Terrible) is a perfectly manicured collection of heartbreak pop -- but George Lewis Jr., a.k.a. Twin Shadow, is no wallflower. There's his look, which he's described as "James Dean in Bollywood in the late '80s," and there's also his sense of purpose. The dude wants to be a star. "If it means having to die, fuck that," says Lewis, 28. "But if I can be a legend while I'm alive, I'll take it." ROMANCE: Lewis details his amorous adventures on tracks like the Forget standout "I Can't Wait," crooning, "Her hands around my waist / My arms around her back / You know she loves my moves." In real life, Lewis says, "I've always been chasing girls.

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    Breaking Out: Freddie Gibbs

    In 2007, Interscope Records did Freddie Gibbs a favor. They dropped the Gary, Indiana rapper before he released a record. Undaunted, Gibbs put out two unflinching mixtapes, midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik and The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs, influenced by '90s G-funk and largely built on stark, steely beats collected on the major ?label's dime. By the end of 2009, there was a groundswell of critical acclaim that, surprisingly, culminated in a review in the heady pages of The New Yorker. "I used to see that magazine and think I wasn't educated enough to read it," Gibbs, 29, recalls. "And to see myself inside it, with a big-ass picture? Words can't describe it." Post-Interscope and pre-New Yorker, Gibbs had struggled to pay the bills. So he returned to an old hustle.

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    Breaking Out: Rittz

    Last year, right before catching the biggest break of his career, Jonny "Rittz" Valiant was ready to quit. The Gwinnett County, Georgia native had been trying to make it as a rapper since his early teens, having fallen hard for hip-hop after a school friend turned him on to the Geto Boys, but when he couldn't maintain payments on the home he shared with his girlfriend, he ?decided to abandon his dream and take a full-time job as, he says, "a cook at a fuckin' barbecue restaurant." There was one "last hope," though: ascendant Alabama rapper Yelawolf, who'd met Rittz through a business connection and was so intrigued by his exceptional double-time flow that he promised to help him make some recordings after finishing a tour. "I was crossing my fingers he'd actually do it," says Rittz.

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    Flaming Lips and Weezer Share the Stage in Jersey

    "We hope it's kind of confusing," said Wayne Coyne Thursday night from the stage at the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey. "You leave to go to the bathroom and Flaming Lips are playing and you come back and Weezer is playing." The head Lip was referring to the unique stage set-up the two bands used for the co-headlining gig, possibly the world's first-ever simultaneous, side-by-side show: Both acts had their equipment plugged in and ready to go at the same time - one would play a few songs and trot off, then the other would come on and do the same. Rinse, lather, repeat, until Weezer was playing amidst the miscellaneous multi-colored detritus left over from the Flaming Lips trademark bonkers tricked-out live shows. "I can't see my set list," Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo complained at one point.

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    Breaking Out: Stalley

    A lot can happen in an hour. Thirty minutes after picking up a finished copy of his demo, recorded in New York City in 2007, Kyle "Stalley" Myricks brought it to the clothing boutique where a friend worked and played it through the store's speakers. Thirty minutes after that, Mos Def walked in -- and liked what he heard. "He's like, 'Who's this?'" explains Stalley, 28. "He asked for a copy. That was the only copy I had!" Smartly, he handed it over. "That put the battery in my back. I was like, 'Yo, I might be doing something right.'" It would be a few more years until Stalley, who was recruited to play basketball for the University of Michigan until injuries derailed his career, saw Mos again.

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    Breaking Out: G-Side

    Before self-releasing 2008's Starshipz and Rocketz, David Williams and Stephen Harris -- a.k.a. Yung Clova and ST 2 Lettaz, the Huntsville, Alabama rappers collectively known as G-Side -- had never played outside their home state. But when blog love helped them land a show in Oslo, Norway, they learned that Scandinavia isn't necessarily so different from home. "Outside the club," ST, 25, recalls, "there was a couple fighting. And the girl was kicking the dude's ass. We were like, 'Somebody going to jail tonight.' But they finished, walked away. No police." Laughing, he adds, "I didn't feel safe." The guys felt more comfortable in the hands of, among others, fellow 'Bama producers C.P.

  • Mannequin Men

    Who? Chicago-based troublemakers Mannequin Men -- guitarist/vocalist Kevin Richard, guitarist Ethan D'Ercole, drummer Seth Bohn, and bassist Rick Berger -- have been cultivating a manic, bloodied Windy City live legacy since forming in 2003. They dropped their first full length, Showbiz Witch, a fast and dirty bedroom debut, last year, but September 18th brings Fresh Rot, available via Chicago indie imprint Flameshovel. What's the Deal? Mannequin Men's loose-limbed pizzazz brings to mind frequent tour mates the Black Lips; both acts' wobbly rock'n'roll wavers between droopy-lid disinterest to all-hands-on-deck gang-vocal attack.

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