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    Blur Triumph at London's Hyde Park

    Even for a summer packed with high-profile arena shows -- Oasis, U2, Coldplay, and even Jay-Z -- there's really only one gig in London this week: Blur are back. Ten years after they last played together, and seven years since guitarist Graham Coxon left their ranks during the making of final album Think Tank, the '90s Britpop heroes have buried their differences and reunited for a string of gigs. Their 50,000-capacity show at the city's Hyde Park Thursday night (and a second show Friday) sold out in hours -- and for good reason. Already this week, the London four-piece turned in a triumphant set at the Glastonbury Festival. But as frontman Damian Albarn told the audience Thursday night, when Blur first discussed comeback shows, Hyde Park was top of the list.

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    Ida Maria

    Night after night over the past couple of years, Norwegian singer Ida Maria Sivertsen has been hitting stages across Europe. And sometimes the stage hits her back: She's slashed her head on her guitarist's instrument and cracked her ribs while attempting a mid-gig somersault. the 24-year-old has just emerged from two weeks of enforced bed rest after she collapsed under a punishing regime of nonstop touring and nonstop drinking (red wine by the bottle, not the glass). Today at an East London pub, she's sporting guitar-strap friction burns down the inside of her right arm and nasty marks on the back of her hands. Cigarette burns? "No. It's a long story," she replies evasively, her accent thicker and trickier to decipher than usual because of the pouches of nicotine-packed snus she keeps wedged under her top lip.

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    Lykke Li

    Lykke Li had a good South by Southwest.Mostly.The 22-year-old Swede (whose name is pronounced "Luke-ee Lee") played 11 shows in three days before "literally falling offstage and going eurrrrgh," she says, evoking the ailing larynx that made her cancel a 12th gig at the festival. Luckily, there had already been a ton of Texas-size appreciation for the songs Li played from Youth Novels, her debut album.Novels mixes glacial, shivery vocals with atmospheric beats, a donkey-imitating saxophone, computerized calypso rhythms, a trumpet-and-flamenco tune, and a breathily sensual spoken-word intro. "It's not spoken-word!Stupid!"Li barks alarmingly in accented English, her voice rising above the hubbub in an East London pub."It's not even songs -- Youth Novels is the book of my life, so sometimes it's not music.I wanted to give the listeners time to get into the mood.Then, 'This Turmpet in M

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    Who's Next '08: The Wombats

    In a nutshell: Brought together in 2003 by a love of lager and lyrics about odd animals, singer/guitarist Matthew "Murph" Murphy, drummer/singer Dan Haggis, and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen met while enrolled at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, cofounded by Paul McCartney. Their fondness for fauna came out in their very first composition, "An Ode to Charles the Goat." "He's got drug issues and gives a goat in a neighboring field a sexually transmitted infection," explains Murphy. Eventually, the band turned serious -- they played more than 270 shows in 2007 -- and released their U.K. debut last November. What's the big deal: Fizzing with laddish humor and lung-emptying choruses, the Wombats' disc is Britpop suited for frenzied pogoing. Think Franz Ferdinand's sharp corners mixed with Art Brut's meta-poetry.

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    Who's Next '08: Duffy

    In a nutshell: Thrown out of her school choir at age eight for being too loud, Welsh native Aimee-Ann Duffy poured all her energy into a pink karaoke machine, a gift from Santa. On it she recorded countless original songs, sending CDs off to record companies. "That machine was my dear friend for about six years," the singer says over a latte in a London café. Fast-forward a decade or so: In 2004 some of Duffy's demos reached famed British indie label Rough Trade, which signed her to a management deal. With former Suede guitarist turned producer Bernard Butler guiding her, Duffy, now 23, landed in the U.K.

  • Breaking Out: Amy Winehouse

    Heckling Bono as he gave a speech in London. Wobbling through acover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" on a British television show.Smacking a fan for bad-mouthing her after a gig. In the U.K., soulsinger Amy Winehouse, well known for public displays of drunkenness,has been accused of all of these things. But when her former managersuggested she seek professional help for alcoholism, Winehouse washaving none of it. In fact, some months later, when the 23-year-oldLondoner was walking with producer Mark Ronson to his New York studio,she idly began singing, "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no,no, no..." Ronson's ears perked up. He took Winehouse'sconfessional refrain and worked up a Phil Spector-esque backing track,and one of British radio's defining anthems of 2006 was born. "Rehab"propelled Winehouse's second album, Back to Black, to No. 1 on the U.K. charts. No wonder.

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    Many claims to Robyn's greatness are made in "Curriculum Vitae," the spoken-word intro to her new album: "World-record holder with a high score of two gazillion in Tetris...she split the atom, invented the X-ray... choreographed the fights for Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon..." But the most improbable boast of all? That Swedish teenager who lit up the Hot 100 a decade ago with the lubricious pop of "Show Me Love" is now a DIY label chief, the "founder and CEO of Konichiwa Records." Robyn Carlsson was Britney before Britney was Britney -- both were sexpot blondes signed to BMG with breakout hits assisted by producer Max Martin. Then, after two years of living in New York hotels and being worked like a flouncy show pony, she quit the TRL life. The offer of a support slot on a 1997 Backstreet Boys tour was a teenybop debasement she couldn't stomach.

  • Absolutely Fabulous

    It's Saturday afternoon in London, and a scrum of 250 membersof the international entertainment media has formed in the foyer ofthe Hammersmith Apollo theater. The occasion is a press conferenceto mark the global launch of Australian pop star KylieMinogue's latest album, the techno-lite Body Language.To the thunderous flash and whir of cameras, the beamingfive-foot-and-one-half-inch pixie strolls onto a small platformwearing a floaty gray negligee. Parking herself behind a desk for a30-minute grilling by slavering inquisitors, she looks like ananchorwoman for the Playboy channel. Romaniaasks Minogue to sum herself up in one word. "Changeable," she replies,"and chameleon." Sweden inquires: "Do you have a message for yourSwedish fans?" "Hello!" she says.

  • Bands to Watch: The Cooper Temple Clause

    When the Cooper Temple Clause tried to storm America last spring atthe South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, U.S.immigration refused them entry. But it wasn't because theagents decided Americans had been subjected to enough post-Oasisrock made by Brits with outrageous shag haircuts and a Herculeanfondness for boozing. No,the Coopers were turned away because they'd submitted individual visaphotos in which the band members competed to see who could pull thecraziest face. "Because we went to high school together, we've stillgot the same juvenile mentality," says singer Ben Gautrey. "We werequite stupid with our visas this time, too," says bassist Didz Hammond,referring to their recent stateside trip for New York's CMJ MusicMarathon.

  • Artists to Watch: Dizzee Rascal

    Summer 2003 was man time for Dizzee Rascal. On July 7, hours beforea show in the Mediterranean resort of Ayia Napa, the MC/producer/DJfrom East London's blighted projects was stabbed six times(arrest warrants were issued for two associates of beef-sizzlinggarage-rap posse So Solid Crew). On July 21, his debut album,Boy in Da Corner, was released in the U.K.; on September 9,the album won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize, beating out rockgiants Coldplay and Radiohead. A few days later, the kid known tohis mom as Dylan Mills turned 19. DizzeeRascal is a sloe-eyed, whip-tongued, slang-crunching revolution inBritish street sounds, occupying a space between the London underworldof Charles Dickens, the thug-poet realism of Tupac Shakur, and thebleeding-edge beats of U.K. stars the Streets and Ms. Dynamite.

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