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The Independent Culture
Afghan Whigs "1965" (Columbia) Driven by John Curley's magnificent bass playing, this is by far the Whigs' best album as they soar between heavy soul and raw rock. The lyrics aren't quite up to the usual high standard but their tough new vibe should win them even more fans. HHH

PM Dawn "Dearest Christian..." (Gee Street/V2) Their first album for three years sees brothers Prince Be and JC almost back on top form with a blissed-out sound that is both commercial and experimental. They blur the lines between pop, hip-hop and soul with thought-provoking lyrical digressions. HHHH

Silver Jews "American Water" (Domino) "In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection" is the opening line of the Jews' third album and a window to the warped mind of David Berman, the band's songwriter and the muse behind Pavement. Catchy digressional rock that deserves a much wider audience. HHH

Spiritualized "Live at the Royal Albert Hall" (DeConstruction)

An essential souvenir for all Spiritualized fans to play to death before we get another fix of the most interesting live act in Britain. This double CD or LP captures the warmth and the frenzy of their live performances and the only thing missing is the great light show. HHHH

Robbie Williams "I've Been Expecting You" (Chrysalis)

The man behind the most amazing pop comeback of recent times tackles a diverse range of styles but it's mostly a loungey version of Britpop with the odd Euro intrusion. Smooth and accomplished, it does have its irritating moments including "Millennium" and "Phoenix from the Flames". HH