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REVIEWED 30.1.01

VARIOUS ARTISTS Popular World [Sky Blue Records] www.orangezest.com/skyblue

Every little bit counts and so pop compilations may be the only way many of these bands get the attention they deserve. Popular World's highlights are multitude. Check out the pop thrills of  St. Christopher, Jack & the Beanstalk, happydeadmen, Leslies, The Squires of the Subterrain et al. (8)

GRAND TOURISM A l'Ecoute de tes Courbes [Atmospheriques] www.atmospheriques.com

Ah, the French! Grand Tourism's acid jazz techno manifesto is slick and smooth like all those sublime Style Council singles I used to slavishly pick up on import in the eighties. The instrumental sections can be a tad overwhelming, though. Groovy, nonetheless. (7)

VARIOUS ARTISTS Route 50 [Vanguard Records] www.vanguardrecords.com

Subtitled "Driving new roots for 50 years," this 50th anniversary sampler serves to emphasis Vanguard's position as the leading roots music label out there. With one foot in the past (viz James Cotton, Junior Wells, John Fahey) and the other in firmly in the present (viz Mark Selby, Terry Radigan, David Wilcox), this compilation is essential for roots lovers. (8)

THE CARIBBEAN Verse by Verse [Endearing] www.endearing.com

Cheekily dedicated to Mike Love, this lo-fi impressionistic effort comes across like Duglas Stewart (BMX Bandits) fronting an amalgamation of the High Llamas &  Stereolab. Ambitious chord experiments coupled with austere instrumentation make for a rather intriguing albeit unsettling sonic experience. Buzzy beauty. (7.5)

RUSTY SQUEEZEBOX Isotopes [eggBERT] www.eggbert.com

Produced by Wondermint Nick Walusko, Isotopes is a fragile, shimmering, sophisticated glimpse of pop heaven and compliments Randle in this coherent Baby Lemonade assault on soft pop music dream weaving. Taking its cue from an astutely gorgeous cover of Neil Young’s Expecting To Fly, Rusty Squeezebox appropriates its other-worldly yet Americana aspects with aplomb and applies the same across a heady breath of pop-rock styles and formats, including jazz-balladry (Playa De Carmen); folk rock (Settle Down); Prince type funk (Better World) and easy Jimmy Webb-ish country (Same Old Song). (8.5)

JUPITER AFFECT Instructions for the two ways of becoming Alice www.eggbert.com

Michael Querico, the primary artistic force behind Jupiter Affect, cut his teeth with Paisley underground pioneers the Three O’Clock and Instructions for the two ways of becoming Alice, the band’s sophomore effort, is typically chock full of British Invasion psychedelia ala The Move, Kinks, The Beatles, Nick Drake, the Zombies and Barrett-led Pink Floyd. For sheer exuberant infectious and faithful evocations of the Summer of Love, perhaps only Robert Schneider (Apples in Stereo) comes close to challenging Querico and Jupiter Affect’s prominence. So get ready for effects-laden, spaced out, whimsical and ultimately dynamic pop power! (8.5)

KITTY IN THE TREE Hello Kitty [Luna Sea] www.kittyinthetree.com

This glam-rock lookin' quartet led by Orion Simprini is spot on with their Brit-pop referencing - from Bowie to Blur and beyond, power pop fans will not be disappointed with their range of styles and assurance of musical touch. A beaut! (8)

THIRST From Mouth To Skin [Zip] www.ziprecords.com

Thirst's debut features more of their blend of sensitive melodies topped with alternative crunch. Harder than Coldplay and edgier than Stereophonics but possessing the same X factor that may secure for them a wider audience in UK and abroad. (8)

FEAR OF COMMITMENT Paper Dolls and Paper Plates [Dren Records] drenrecords@yahoo.com

There's an air of easy magic about Fear Of Commitment's jazzy structures and alt. rock pose, with Sarah Knab's alluring vocals and the trio's guitar simplicity winning friends from the first impression. (8)

GLOWFRIENDS So Glad To Be Here [Jam] www.go.to/jamrecords.com

Glowfriends' April and Mark Morris are the children of indie pop legend Jeremy and he must be very proud of this excellent effort by the brother-sister team. Reminiscent of Sixpence None the Richer (and Madonna!), So Glad To Be Here mines the fem-rock path superbly. Recommended. (7.5)

THE SOLIPSISTICS Jesus of the Apes [frigidisk] www.frigidisk.com

An overlooked gem of 2000! Jeffrey Owen McGregor is an artist who pulls off the feat of being intelligent, witty and musically accomplished all at the same time! Never too obvious or blatant with his influences (but singer-songwriters like Elvis Costello, Freedy Johnston, Jules Shear figure in the mix), McGregor's gift is in the understated. (8) 

SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS Bedlam Ballroom [Mammoth] www.mammoth.com

The Zippers are pioneers of sorts in the field of retro-swing and Bedlam Ballroom sees them carry on this fine tradition. With Katherine Whedon's torch song delivery (Bent Out Of Shape) providing the highlights, teh Zippers are certainly an acquired taste, but believe me, well worth the effort. (7)

VARIOUS ARTISTS Come Fly With Us [Glitterhouse] www.glitterhouse.com

A German label that specializes in New Americana? Strange but true! Which roughly means great new bands heavy into Gram Parsons, Exile-era Stones, Neil Young et al. Sounds fine with me! Notable participants: Neal Casal, Wagon, The Walkabaouts, 16 Horsepower, Nikki Sudden and Dakota Suite. "Full length compilation for the price of a single!" What'ya waitin' fer?!! (8)

THE GENTLEMEN Ladies and Gentlemen [HearBox] www.hearbox.com

The Gentlemen ROCK! Got that? It never gets plainer than that. Unfettered, raw, raucous -- y'know how the Stones used to strut their sublime stuff...well, the Gentlemen hit the spot again and again without apologies. You'll hear KISS & Cheap Trick in the ensuing madness - celebrate the fact. Like I said - The Gentlemen ROCK! Got that? (7.5)