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    Hot Band: Malachai

    "In the fall of 2008, after signing with, making an album for, then getting dropped by Island Records, Malachai found out they were really screwed. The British psych-rock duo's name, then spelled "Malakai," already belonged to an American rapper. "It was like, 'Oh no, not another thing!' " says Scott (just Scott), who handles the music while his partner, Gee, sings. But Gee, whose shape-shifting vocals dominate their debut, Ugly Side of Love (now on Domino), had an immediate, if odd, solution: He'd battle rap the MC for rights to the name. Though the situation was eventually resolved with a spelling change, Scott first had to rein in his combative partner.

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    Hot New Trio: Band of Skulls

    When British rock trio Band of Skulls learned their song "Friends" would be featured in New Moon, the sequel to Twilight, they were shocked. Not because the movie's music supervisors liked it, but rather that they'd heard it at all. "We didn't know we'd sent it out," says singer-guitarist Russell Marsden, with a laugh. The unreleased track had accidentally been included on an advance of their debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey (Shangri-La) -- a gritty mix of guy-girl vocals, Bonzo-style drum bashing, and scuzzy guitar. "We were still working on it, but that was the one they wanted." This wasn't the first time someone demanded the band's music ahead of schedule. Last spring, iTunes selected the Skulls' stomper "I Know What I Am" as a "Single of the Week" after hearing a rough demo.

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    "Why I Can't Listen to Elliott Smith's Music"

    Today marks the sixth anniversary of Elliott Smith's death. For me, it marks the fifth anniversary of not listening to his music. This isn't because I don't like it. I actually share the view that Smith was one of the best two or three singer-songwriters of his generation. When I was in college I'd have XO and Figure 8 on repeat-play, sometimes hearing them three or four times a night. My roommate and I would waltz around the room, singing along to every song, completely unaware of the sentiments spilling from our mouths. We knew his lyrics were "deep," but we heard what we wanted to hear. To me, the songs were dark but beautiful, haunting yet comforting, stark and lush at the same time. Then I learned.

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    Breaking Out: The Big Pink

    Despite releasing their first single, "Too Young to Love," just a year ago, British noise-pop duo the Big Pink already boast a career's worth of triumphs: winning NME's Philip Hall Radar Award for emerging talent, touring with TV on the Radio, and, best of all -- per multi-instrumentalist Milo Cordell -- sharing quality time naked, bound, and abused. "That was the highlight," Cordell says of the night he and singer-guitarist Robbie Furze spent at an S&M club in Osaka, Japan, after their gig at this year's Summer Sonic Festival. "Looking over and seeing Robbie completely bollock-naked with hot wax being poured on his crotch." Perhaps this brought back fond memories for Cordell, 28, and Furze, 29, who met at a debauched 1999 New Year's Eve rave thrown by a couple practicing self-trepanation (that is, drilling holes into their skulls to get high).

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    Breaking Out: Wye Oak

    Many bands endure the galling process of getting grades from critics (A for "next Radiohead," D for "next Nickelback, if they practice harder"). Wye Oak is one of the few to be graded by actual professors. But drummer-keyboardist Andy Stack, a recording major at University of Maryland Baltimore County, opened himself up to this when he decided to turn his and singer-guitarist Jenn Wasner's second album into his senior thesis. "I had a little bit of clout," says Stack, 24, referencing their deal with venerable indie Merge Records. "So people were willing to work with me on it." The end result, The Knot -- a gorgeously hazy mix of folk and shoegaze -- gives the term "college rock" new, hypnotic meaning. Stack and Wasner's partnership began in high school, when they played in a band named for an obscure character in The Big Lebowski, Knox Harrington.

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    Phoenix: Rise & Shine

    Chefs, vintners, and Impressionists may consider success in France the only kind worth having. Rock bands, not so much. But even as teenagers jamming in the basement of singer Thomas Mars' house, Phoenix set their sights on les États-Unis. "It's like when you play chess," messy-haired, bespectacled guitarist Laurent Brancowitz explains, sitting opposite sleepy-eyed Mars on a mauve velvet sofa in Manhattan's Bowery Hotel lounge. "You want to be in Russia. You do not want to play a tournament in...Florida. We knew we wanted to play in zee major leagues." He pauses. "Yes? Zee major leagues?" he asks. "I'm very bad at sports -- what's zee name for zee top?" Whatever it is, Phoenix have arrived there.

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    Regina Spektor's Joy Ride

    "Aaaaaaaaaaaahh! Can we change the channel?" Regina Spektor pleads, shielding her eyes from a fight scene unfolding on the motor-home TV. "This is too scary for me." The driver, clearly miffed at the prospect of not finishing his bootleg copy of Watchmen, eyes the singer -- her cherry-red lipsticked mouth cast in a girlish pout -- and finally obliges, switching to...Jurassic Park. "Are you kidding?" Spektor, 29, laughs, as a velociraptor chases Jeff Goldblum across the screen. "I'm such a sissy. I can't even handle Animal Planet." She pauses, shaking her head. "The world is too much." Today, at least, she has a point: The world outside the trailer is a gray, rainy, abandoned Coney Island.

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    The Tonys' 6 Great Rock'n'Roll Moments

    On the scale of Rockingness, Broadway's Tony Awards generally register somewhere between Golden Girls and Hannah Montana. But at Sunday night's show (which I had the privilege -- yes, privilege! -- to attend) devil horns outnumbered jazz hands. Poison's Bret Michaels performed with the cast of '80s hair metal jukebox musical Rock of Ages; dozens of shirtless and hirsute young men from the revival of Hair streamed down the aisles of Radio City, running their hands through the locks of audience members like Anne Hathaway and, err, James Gandolfini; and Elton John, ever the diva, wore sunglasses whlie performing a stirring number from his new musical Billy Elliot. Of course, some people, like the owlish, tuxedoed, sixty-something man sitting in front of me, couldn't handle it.

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    What Jay Bennett's Death Made Me Realize About Wilco

    A few Sundays ago I hosted a Wilco listening session in my apartment. The only guest was my husband, a casual listener more conversant in Jeff Tweedy's migraines and squabbles with sidemen than the band's actual musical catalogue. As a longtime Wilco fan -- who first heard A.M. on a dorm boombox freshman year at college in Chicago -- I took it upon myself to school him. More on SPIN.com: >> Former Wilco Member Jay Bennett Dies at 45 >> Listen to Wilco's New Album! >> Download: Wilco and Feist Cover Woody Guthrie >> Springsteen, Beastie Boys, and Phish Headline Bonnaroo ?I pulled out all six of their albums, put them in the carousel (they're one of the few bands whose records I always buy on CD) and walked him through each song.

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    Breaking Out: Florence and the Machine

    The bathroom isn't usually a place where a girl wants to draw attention to herself. But when Florence Welch found herself sharing sink space at a London club with Mairead Nash, half of the "it" Brit DJ duo Queens of Noize, she seized the opportunity (and acoustics) by belting out Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me." Nash was so impressed by the then-20-year-old art student's soulful wail that she offered to manage her. Nature couldn't have called at a better time. Last December, two years after that fateful night, Welch scored the Brit Award (a U.K. Grammy) for emerging talent -- and she hasn't even released an album. Now, she says, the pressure is on. "It's sort of abstract to win an award for something you haven't done yet," says Welch, who performs under the moniker Florence and the Machine. "It's like, 'Fuck.

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