Heart of the World: Mary Youngblood (Silver Wave).
Conjuring loons, polar bears, and an autumn wind with her many flutes, Youngblood blends folk and Native American music in this subtle tonic for hectic times.
The Battle of Los Angeles: Rage Against the Machine (Sony).
Generating a righteous intensity that carries them far beyond teenage rage, this L.A. quintet turns rap metal into protest music–and it really rocks.
Gront: Vasen (North Side).
With string arrangements as crisp and jolting as a Swedish winter morning, Vasen treads an enchanted territory between classical, folk, and pop.
Tales of a Traveler: Blue Mountain (Roadrunner).
These Mississippians combine the expansive guitar rock of Crazy Horse with a Southern sensibility in a paean to free rural living that rings honest and true.
Liquid Skin: Gomez (Virgin).
The mellow, bluesy buzz is refreshing in an era of attitude-laden alt-rockers, and the free-form songs unfold like dramatic daydreams.
To the Teeth: Ani DiFranco (Righteous Babe).
It might flummox some of her fans, but DiFranco takes a turn toward horn-laced soul music, with pleasantly surprising results.

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