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    What? Originally released to rave reviews -- including SPIN issuing 8 of 10 stars, calling it a "a damn beautiful album" -- this adventurous Britpop quintet's 1998 debut, Bring It On, has become a timeless entry in the '90s Britpop oeuvre. Winning Britain's esteemed Mercury Prize in '98, the album -- from its psychedelic, bluegrass-tinged first single, "78 Stone Wobble," to the somber acoustics and whispers-in-a-tin-can vocals of "Tijuana Lady" -- drops yet again Oct. 14 as a reissue with extra live takes and B-sides to honor its 10th anniversary. As a stepping-stone, Bring it On helped launched the band's career, which today encapsulates five full-length albums. Who?

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    Kings of Leon

    What? Since their breakout sophomore set, 2005's Aha Shake Heartbreak, Kings of Leon have moved towards a larger sound, expanding upon their Southern fried roots. And while last year's Because of the Times made vast inroads with a more wide-screen assault, their fourth studio effort, the ghostly and epic Only by the Night, is the quartet's eureka moment. From the intense, mechanistic beats of "Crawl" to the gorgeously serpentine guitars of "Closer," Night is a different kind of beast. Yet under this newfound, glossier surface, Kings of Leon present a gritty, Americana rock vibe in shrieking guitars and falsetto notes, notably with the grainy vocals and pop structure of "Use Somebody" and the charging "Sex on Fire." Who?

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    Aerosmith Crowns 'Guitar Hero' Champion in Boston

    With the astounding score of 398,000, Eric Miller blew away his rivals on stage last night in Boston, winning the booty in the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith ROCKS the Hard Rock competition. His prize? One rather stylish motorcycle signed by Aerosmith's Steve Tyler himself. But the evening wasn't only about Guitar Hero and motorcycles. The end to a 16-date nationwide hunt for America's most proficient gamer coincided with the benefit gala, Boston for Africa, where citizens opened their purses for FORGE, Foundation Rwanda and Opportunity International. Boston's Hard Rock café was peppered with celebrities, including New England Patriots player Tom Brady. Yet the night's true stars were undoubtedly Tyler and Aerosmith drummer Joe Kramer, who played a brief but striking set with local support!

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    The Walkmen

    What? Reeling in the amped up sonic 2002's amped up debut Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, indie rocker the Walkmen -- whose last effort interpreted Harry Nilsson's 1973 collaboration with John Lennon, Pussycats -- now present their drearier, bluesier side with their fourth album, You & Me. The album, bordering on the retro, sees singer Hamilton Leithauser's vocals in a new light, at times channeling those of Robert Plant, and others, Bob Dylan, especially with "In the New Year." Yet don't expect any "Kashmir"-like epics from this lot. The band's characteristic windswept guitars highlight "Canadian Girl," while a mournful sense seeps into "Postcards From Tiny Islands" in hollow melodies.

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    Paul Weller

    What? Even at 50 years old, Brit rock'n' roll icon Paul Weller hasn't missed a stride and will release his ninth solo album, 22 Dreams, next week and offer 21 tracks of throaty melodies, Kinks-inspired retro riffs, and sunny brass and keys from the album's title track to its closer, "Night Lights." And for us wee mortals, Weller's rock majesty delivers plenty of spoils: Oasis' Noel Gallagher nabs co-writing credits on first single "Echoes Round the Sun," while Blur's Graham Coxon joins on "Black River." However, Weller's sophisticated retro-Motown edge arrives complete in the ringing riffs, gospel-like chorus, and dark-yet-upbeat keys of "Have You Made Up Your Mind." Who? Often dubbed "the Modfather," Paul Weller formed and fronted now legendary outfit the Jam in 1970s England.

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    Ambulance Ltd. Charm Bostonians with Suave New Tunes

    Boston may be experiencing fairly wild weather lately (70 degree temperatures one day, gale force winds the next), but last night (April 2) at Cambridge's Middle East venue, Ambulance Ltd. quelled indie rockers' climate-induced concerns with a tame yet across-the-board set of new and old tracks during the first stop on the band's spring tour. Playing a decent selection of their charmingly intense back-catalogue, the Brooklyn-born outfit delivered a sophisticated set that, surprisingly, got the slack hipster crowd dancing and clapping.

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    The LK

    Who: Glasses-sporting, sweetly nerds Fredrik (cornet, guitars, vocals, loops) and Lindefelt (vocals, drums, noise percussion) hail from the small town of Malmö, Sweden and comprise the LK, short for the Love of Kevin, Color, Chaos, and the Sound of K. This project formed when the duo's first band, Lovekevins, collapsed under creative differences, and this time around, the pair swap directions, heading down an avant-garde, experimental road. The LK's debut album Vs. the Snow will drop March 3 via Kora Records. What's the Deal: Vs. the Snow presents a brilliant fusion of electro-pop and a languid, Kings of Convenience-like vibe. "Down by Law" neatly blends these elements, layering echoing keys under sliding synths and warm, thin vocals.

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    State Bird

    Who? State Bird's core consists of Coby Hartzler (vocals/accordion/ Wurlitzer) and Jared Riblet (guitar/vocals), both hailing from Dover, OH. On their debut album, 2006's Marching in the Wilderness, the duo worked with an eclectic collection of like-minded artists and singers, formulating a curious variety of ethnic folk. And State Bird's forthcoming sophomore set, Mostly Ghostly, embodies a similar collaborative vibe and sonic product, and will drop Feb. 26 via Kansas City-based imprint, Record Machine. What's the Deal? Mostly Ghostly presents glorious, full-bodied tracks that swell with a plethora of instrumentation and gospel-like choruses. The eye-opening "I Saw the Light" layers clipped vocals over accordion, a brass section, and hedonistic blasts of melodic whoops and shrieks.

  • The Shackeltons

    Who? Hailing from Chambersberg, PA, the Shackeltonsfeatures Mark Redding (vocals), Eric Fisake (guitar), Dan Schuchman(guitar), Justin McDaniels (bass) and Sean Hallock (drums). Their nervypost-punk-induced self-titled debut LP will drop Jan. 29 via theLoveless label. What's the Deal? Shake up a pinch of the Pixies and a dose of Black Rebel Motorcycle club with stormy instrumentation, the Shakeltonsarrives unrestrained. Using surprisingly clean drums, guitar, and bass,the ferocious five-piece create an introspective and strangelyattractive tumult of sound. The stony, vaguely frightening "Tremble"boasts edgy riffs to hit home its musings on love's pains and problems.Such raw sonic analysis continues on "The Breaks," where drummerHallock's pinch-hitting delivery highlights the band's D.C.punk-influenced layers.

  • Wild Sweet Orange

    Who? In a characteristically Southern happenstance,Birmingham, AL natives Preston Lovinggood (vocals) and Chip Kilpatrick(drums) met at church choir practice, and soon formed the nucleus ofwhat would grow into Wild Sweet Orange. The band's debut EP, The Whale, dropped earlier this year and the outfit will release a yet-to-be titled full-length in early 2008. What's the Deal? The Whalepresents a beautifully mournful blend of sparkling acoustic guitars andenchanting riffs under Lovinggood's forceful, John Vanderslice-likevocals. The buttery, dreary "Be Careful What You Want" adds a fewweirdly high-pitched riffs to this mix, and the effect is delicatelyintoxicating. Similar hypnotic vibes resonate through "Land of NoReturn," a track that gracefully recalls Explosions in the Sky'sswirling instrumentation and light, neat drums.

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