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The Independent Culture
Alison Krauss `Forget About It' (Rounder)

It's long been a cliche to label Alison Krauss's music exquisite, but there's no better word for her eighth delicate bluegrass album. Enhanced by smooth fiddle and balmy dobro, the ballads and lullabies expressed through her crystalline voice make for a perfect chill-out album. HHHH

A `Monkey Kong' (London)

Take away the ska beats and it's hard to get "British Offspring" out of your head on A's second skate-rock noise explosion. A bring in other powerpop influences in a fun, enjoyable album. Allied with their live reputation, A could get huge. HHH

Tricky `Juxtapose' (Island)

After a couple of, um, tricky albums to take in, the man gets back on form with hip-hop numbers aided by DJ Muggs and Grease. It has a couple of absolutely superb tracks - "For Real" and "She Said" - but some of the rest wanders a little. HHH

Mary J Blige `Mary' (MCA)

On her sixth album La Blige gives a singing lesson to R&B wannabes everywhere. Helped out by guests such as Lauryn Hill, Elton John and George Michael, it's vocally faultless, even if it does get a bit slushy and maudlin at times. HHH

East River Pipe `The Gasoline Age' (Merge)

FM Cornog (aka ERP), New Jersey songwriter and Lambchop collaborator, lays down some atmospheric sweet and sour melodies. It's a real grower, and though melancholic, a high-volume setting reveals a wonderful aura. HHHH


Apollo Four Forty `Stop The Rock' (Epic)

The commercial wing of the excellent surf'n'bass Maximum Roach return with a big-hitting summer single complete with Quo riffs, dirty boogie organ, vocoders and a wall of guitars. It'll drive you crazy, one way or the other. HHH