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The Books: Reading Between the Lines

The title of The Books’ third album, Lost and Safe, is the damn truth. Listen: bluegrass melodies on banjo and fiddle contorted into paperclip sculptures; crates of samples seemingly dug by a blindfolded Goodwill shopper; lyrics that make accidental sense. It sounds like everything from Asiatic Appalachian folk to a soundtrack for a future where robots made of empty tomato cans, ham radios, and duct tape rule the world.

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Macka Diamond: A Girl's Best Friend

After 15 years struggling to bust into the dancehall scene, 2004 saw deejay Macka Diamond reach the number one spot in Jamaica. Riding the Thriller riddim, Diamond dropped the hilarious track “Done A’ Ready,” a scathing ode to one-minute men. Beside the hit being a great personal achievement, she was the first female artist in four years to get a Jamaican number one.

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Supersystem's Political Dance Punk

It is debatable whether dance punk is dying, or whether dance punk’s flag is just getting raised. Franz Ferdinand and Interpol are as ubiquitous as the phone bill, and there are many, many imitators praying to be floated to golden shores by the nu-disco tide. Then there is Supersystem, who you may remember by their recently retired moniker El Guapo.

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Annie: Norway's Electropop Heartthrob

If you find yourself regularly throwing cushions at the TV in protest of the banality of most modern-day pop music, Annie has come to save you. Her sparkling, life-affirming songs may be destined for the charts but don’t be fooled–they are packed with a knowing cool that comes from the heart of underground Norway.

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Jazztronik: Piano Samurai

Last year a track from Japan found a home abroad in the playlists of DJs as disparate as Derrick May and Kenny Dope–Jazztronik’s “Samurai,” released on Neil Aline’s Chez imprint. A stunning marriage of jazz grand piano and rough broken beats, “Samurai” won the expected fans–like Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide audience–but also unusual acclaim from producers like Jazzy Jeff, who included it in his house mix album for Defected. Not too shabby for a track with decidedly humble origins.

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