• The Zutons, 'Tired of Hanging Around' (Columbia)

    In England this Liverpool fivesome are stars with five No. 1 hits and a Mercury Prize nomination. In this country, the Zutons are simply a marginally known, eclectic alt-pop band with some of the most sharply etched songs around. Their second album combines garage boogie, buoyant harmony, and honking sax with gloomier themes: hangovers, heartache, and hangovers. Music this hard-partying can make for a tough morning after. Now Hear This:The Zutons - "Tired of Hanging Around" DOWNLOAD MP3 >> Listen to the Zutons on Napster BUY: iTunes

  • Lil' Flip, 'I Need Mine' (Sony Urban/Columbia)

    In hip-hop, MC monikers are either flat nicknames or ostentatious badges. Somewhat enigmatically, the affable freestyle champ and Houston native Wesley Eric Weston calls himself Lil' Flip. Inside that enigma is a riddle: Is he advertising his battle-honed script-flipping ability, or hinting at his screwed comic sensibility, an offhand irreverence we might call flipness? That he also calls himself Flipperace and takes inspiration from Leprechaun (which he named his first album after), not Scarface, suggests he's trying to fill the floppy shoes of the hip-hop jester. He's even said that his biopic should be a comedy.

  • P.O.D., 'Testify' (Atlantic)

    Wigga. Derived from the nation's naughtiest word, the term was meant to tell whities to mind their cultural boundaries. Of course, that never stopped '90s suburban kids from exposing their boxer shorts as though they were glad to have an epithet of their own. Rap rock's crude appropriation of hip-hop's beats, rhymes, and baggy pants was never meant to make it this far into the new millennium. To survive, rap-rock artists capitalized on the earnestness of their audience. Linkin Park bro'd down with Jay-Z. Tourmates P.O.D., the born-again Christian SoCal foursome, made it their mission to plunder reggae and rap with a sober competence and respect. Of course, when a band's not in it for the nookie, one can only question its deep-down rockitude. But P.O.D.

  • Devendra Banhart, 'Cripple Crow' (XL)

    "Sometimes, there's a man -- well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there." So notes the voiceover narration from The Big Lebowski, introducing the film's aging hippie antihero, the Dude, as a symbol of the Gulf War I era: He's the kind of guy who would intend to do good if he intended to do anything, but like most Americans, he won't let those bombs over Baghdad harsh his mellow. In the post-Dude era, Devendra Banhart, an itinerant longhair with three well-regarded folkadelic albums, may be the boy for our time. Besides putting the most recognizable face on the neo-folk he's spawned with acid-twee compatriots Joanna Newsom, Ariel Pink, and White Magic, the prolific 24-year-old embodies postmillennial U.S. privilege, effortlessly running on flower power in a time of oil anxiety.

  • Iron & Wine Live at NYC's Bowery Ballroom

    Iron &WineBowery BallroomNew York City You've heard of the "Wall of Sound." How about the "ScreenDoor of Sound"? Sam Beam, Iron & Wine's 30-year-old frontbeard,makes music to mope to--tranquil, rustic near-ballads with lyrics thatcontemplate spreading the ashes of your spouse around the yard. Nowimagine a room full of people honoring these gossamer songs, in thrallto the chilly breezes that waft through them; it's not exactlyWoodstock '99. The closest analogy would be a Quaker meeting, where thefaithful worship in silence until the spirit moves someone to stand andshare.

  • Lil' Kim, 'La Bella Mafia' (Queen Bee/Big Entertainment/Atlantic)

    Once upon a time, back when the Kingdom of the East was at war with the Kingdom of the West, Lil' Kim, Princess of Brooklyn, proclaimed herself Queen Bitch. Hard Core, her 1996 debut, updated Roxanne Shanté's scabrous The Bitch Is Back for a hip-hop community groping toward a new synthesis of grime and glamour. Milking her bulldog-in-a-thong image like a wet nurse, Kim blew up like nobody thought she would, and--2000's Notorious K.I.M., a textbook hip-hop soph slump, aside--she's basically kept the same number, same 'hood, ever since. Her lil' feet could never fill Biggie's shoes, of course, but onLa Bella Mafia, Kim slips into the latest Manolos instead, spitting sass all over the hottest tracks big money can buy.

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