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Built to Spill
Keep It Like A Secret
Warner Bros.
The secret's out: these guys rock. To truly appreciate the genius of Built to Spill you need to see a live show. But listening to their new album is a close second. Dream-like guitar melodies in "Carry the Zero" and "Sidewalk" promise this Secret won't be kept for very long. No album filler here. The heavy guitar layers and catchy melodies are sure to please fans of the band. And if Keep It Like A Secret is your first taste of these underground gods, we think you'll be back for more.

The Roots
Things Fall Apart
MCA
Another dynamic album from the masters of hard-hitting hip-hop. And this time the cover art is as powerful as the lyrics. Five separate limited-edition album covers, each featuring a different stark, black-and-white photograph, will be released. Eerie melodies using strictly live instrumentation highlight The Roots' unique sound. Erykah Badu provides silky guest vocals on the debut single, "You Got Me," along with vocalist Scratch and Philly broadcasting legend Lady B. Haunting lyrics of violence, abuse and family on "Return To Innocence Lost" will chill you for days.

Sugar Ray
14:59
Atlantic
The album title of the feel-good boys' second release says it all: their Warholian 15 minutes of fame are running short. In Sugar Ray's dying hours, the upbeat rockers who struck gold with the '97 summer hit "Fly" are back with more three-cord rock and lyrics that only a 14-year-old girl could love. From the Beatle-esque first single, "Every Morning" to the slow guitar ballads, "Someday" and "Even Though" these five guys have a '60s bubble-gum sound rivaled only by that of The Archies. Hey, at least they have a sense of humor.

Dovetail Joint
001
Aware Records
From a label whose name is synonymous with identifying hot new bands – Shawn Mullins, matchbox 20 and The Verve Pipe to name a few – comes another band destined to follow suit. A blend of infectious rock and original lyrics, Dovetail Joint's first single, "Level on the Inside," is already topping the charts in Chicago, Detroit and Champaign, Ill. – not bad for some local boys from the windy city. Driving sounds on "Beautiful" and "Except When You're Late" make it difficult to keep your feet still – and your hands from banging on those air drums.

The Violet Burning
It started with a Kmart guitar. Michael Pritzl, frontman for the Long Beach, Calif., foursome, The Violet Burning, decided to raid his older sister's closet after she went away to college and discovered the Kmart guitar and a cord book and taught himself to play.

And judging from his fourth indie album, Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic, he's a damn good teacher.

After more than a decade of trying different lineups, players and independent record labels, The Violet Burning (Pritzl, vocals, guitars, bass; Herbie Grimaud Jr., bass; Michael Kalmar, drums, backing vocals; Robbie Farr, guitar) have built another electric album – a soulful, 12-track blend of edgy pop and hypnotic, ethereal ballads on Ruby Electric Recording Company.

"There's the two extremes [on the CD]," says Pritzl, whose album credits list vocals, guitars, synthesizers, drum loops and robotic dancing. "You have the plastic, which is more of the pop songs, and the elastic, which is more like the vibe songs. You have both of those elements on the record."

But don't let their indie status fool you. With more than 90,000 albums sold, The Violet Burning have received extensive air time on MTV Europe and France, and five of the band's songs have been featured on MTV's "The Real World" and "Road Rules."

"We have a pretty loyal cult following – we have really loyal fans. I think part of it is, they buy the records and then they see the show live – it's pretty passionate."

The Black Crowes
By Your Side
Columbia
If you were starting to worry that the Black Crowes were straying from their rock roots into the hippie grunge of last year's Further Fest, stop now. They're back in all their old-school glory with By Your Side. This one's definitely not hard to handle, and the guys who talk to angels can bend our ears anytime.

Blondie
No Exit
Beyond
Proving they've recovered from their 1982 breakup, the glamorous Deborah Harry and Co. are back with a signature, eclectic mix of punk, dance, ska and rap that only Blondie can pull off. The album's first single, "Maria," is pure vintage Blondie, while Coolio makes a guest appearance on "No Exit." One way or another, you'll be hooked.

Smog
Knock Knock
Drag City
No more lo-fi for Bill Callahan, aka Smog. His seventh album includes a string quartet, piano, guitars, drums and the voices of six young kids. But his melancholy voice and lonesome sound remain. Whether you're a long-time fan, or this is your fist encounter, this is some Smog that won't make you cough.

Snakefarm
Songs From My Funeral
RCA
Acclaimed international vocalist Anna Domino makes her American debut with this tripped-out collection of American folk renditions – imagine Portishead toiling on an 18th century plantation.

Rusted Root
Attention all rowdy drunks who like to body surf at post-grunge concerts: Jim Donovan, drummer for Rusted Root, doesn't like you. At all. "There's always a group off to the left," Donovan says. "They're nine rows back, and I don't know if that's where the drunk guys end up, but they always want to throw each other around and body surf. Anytime that happens we stop our show. People get hurt that way. We're not a Seattle band. That stuff is over. It was over four years ago. Please don't do it here."

But if you come in peace – to dance or just sit back and enjoy an eclectic mix of rock, Latin, African, Eastern (a.k.a. Rusted Root) music – Jim loves you, baby. Donovan and the band (Liz Berlin, back-up vocals, percussion, violin; Michael Glabicki, lead vocals, guitar, mandolin; Patrick Norman, bass guitar, percussion, background vocals; John Buynak, guitar, percussion, flute, mandolin; Jim DiSpirito, percussion, hand drums) will be appearing at a campus near you during their 1999 tour across the U.S. beginning this month. To find out more about tour dates and locations, check out the band's web site at www.RustedRoot.com.


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