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M.I.A. - Arular (XL/Beggars)
Dunno what I can add to all the column inches already dispensed on this. It's just so wondeful a mix of beats, samples and musics that I feel like listening to it right now. It's just sooooo..... fuckin' good.

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VA - Run the Road 1 (Vice Records USA)
VA - Run the Road 2 (679 Records UK)
Best comps to get in on the UK grime scene. Almost all of the biggest names from the last 2 years are here. In a genre which moves even faster than the usual UK fad-driven scene, these are great snapshots. Improbably dirty beats from improbably cheap machines.

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Belle and Sebastian - Push Barman to Open Old Wounds (Matador)
2 CD set of 1997-2001 EPs means that we can stop pursuing those ridiculously difficult to find import singles. Also, not just for the completists. Makes yet one more convincing argument for Belle and Sebastian being the Anglophone band of the last decade.

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Lady Sovreign - Vertically Challenged EP (Chocolate Industries)
This comp of the first singles (+ a few remixes) is the first thing available in USA. It's the place to go to make sure that you have baseline to compare what's coming next from her on Island/Def Jam. Early buzz is that now that Jay Z has singed her, she is going through some sort of pop-rap/grime identity crisis. Shame if that's true, 'cos she's got awesome flair and some mouth on her (and I don't really like to talk about "flair").

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Sinead O'Connor - Throw Down Your Arms (Rocket Science)
Can't fault the choice of material (golden age roots reggae of the most dread kind), nor the players (Sly + Robbie et al.), nor the studio (Tuff Gong, Jamaica), nor her voice (just as direct and pure as ever), but I wonder if I'll listen to this next year. More than a novelty, less than essential. Might be a fun excersise to put these tracks and the originals back to back on one disc though...

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VA - Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry: 1891-1922 (Archeophone Records)
A 2 CD companion to the book by Tim Brooks, this collection sports impossibly rare recordings in context and in various styles. The amazing George W. Johnson is here with all 8 extant recordings and there are equally astounding bits in vocal harmony, minstrelsy, classical music, spoken word and more. The remastering is generally fine, but the overall sound IS appropriately historical.

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Dengue Fever - Escape From Dragon House (BRG)
Out-of-their-tree, what-the-hell-are-they-thinking, delightful combo of Cambodian pop and Ethiopian (?) something. Adventure pick of the year!

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Amadou and Mariam - Dimanche a Bamako (Nonesuch)
Fulfills the promise of their earlier discs, and gets a huge wodge of well-deserved publicity to boot

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Vex’d - De Generate (Planet Mu)
(This year's contribution to the "Let's-See-What-We-Can-Fuck-With-Next" list)
Imagine Aphex Twin combined with RZA and you'll get a little of the flavour. Now add some of the grimiest sub-bass and you're beginning to cook...

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Madness - The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1 (V2)
Back at full strength with an LP of ska covers. Never to be treated as just another nostalgia act, these guys have always had to have incredible musical chops to carry off both the ska AND the awesome pop songs they specialized.

The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema (Matador)

A Band of Bees - Free the Bees (AstralWerks)

Bettye LaVette - I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise (Anti)

Various Artists - You Ain't Talkin' to Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots (Sony Legacy)

The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan (V2)

Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel (Reprise) (pleasant surprise, this, despine some NIN hangovers)

John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk et al - Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane ('57) (Blue Note)

New Order - Waiting For The Sirens Call (Reprise)

Bloc Party- Silent Alarm (V2)

Konono No. 1 - Congotronics (Crammed Discs) - kalimbas ahoy!... along with cheap electronic amps and grooves to last

Lethal Bizzle - Against All Oddz (V2) - not as strong as the awesome single "Pow (Forward)" ... but really rockin' anyway

Kronos Qt. / Asha Bhsole - You've Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood (Nonesuch)

Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better (Sony)

Baby Shambles - Fuck Forever / Albion (Rough Trade) - there's probably a good single LP in here somewhere

Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (single) (Domino)

Dr. Israel (+ friends) - Dr. Israel presents Dreadtone International: Patterns of War (ROIR)

Wish List:

VA- One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found (Rhino) - also wins this year's prize for packaging (good or bad)

Talking Heads - Brick - with decent remastering, all those B-sides and unreleased trax, I can sell off the vinyl!

Mark Zip
zipszig AT hvc DOT rr DOT com