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The Independent Culture
Lit `A Place in the Sun' (RCA)

A wicked live act, this Orange County quartet's second album is a consistently exciting joy. They deliver a noise like an Offspring/Nirvana/Pearl Jam fusion, but with the catchiest of hooks and tunes, meaning there will probably be more hit singles from this record to follow "My Own Worst Enemy". HHHHH

Cay `Nature Creates Freaks' (eastwest)

Another excellent live band, Cay's first album nearly lives up to their potential with rollercoaster rocking sounds headed by the smouldering voice of Anet Mook. They're still a band in their early years, though, with just a little too much Sonic Youth and Breeders-based derivation at times. HHH

Witness `Before the Calm' (Island)

This week's other anticipated debut is a satisfyingly undulating 45 minutes of delicate, late-night, soulful songs. Like Cay, it's a great start, but sometimes this country expects too much from new bands. Let's hope they get the chance to grow. HHH

Jennifer Lopez `On the Six' (Columbia)

The first love of the star of Selena and Out of Sight is music, apparently, and she's roped in a host of top names including Sean "Puffy" Coombes. Lopez has a decent voice but, despite some light hip-hop beats and Latino breaks, it's just another dull American R&B album. HH

Macy Gray `Macy Gray on How Life Is' (Epic)

The songwriter with the distinctive voice pumps out a sound where the soulful grooves of Al Green encounter the maverick beats of Morcheeba with a funkadelic presence. The result is something even finer than Lauryn Hill. HHHHH


Ricky Martin `Livin' La Vida Loca' (Columbia)

With an honourable mention to Beverley Knight's "Greatest Day", which is also released on Monday, this has to be the pop release of the summer so far. Sounding like the Mavericks on (lots and lots of) tequila, it's a case of drink, dance, drink, drink, DANCE! HHHH