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With his new album Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird has delivered one of the most beautiful, challenging and diverse records we've heard in a very long time.

Much more diverse musically than her previous four studio albums, Children Running Through deals with some big issues lyrically - namely new beginnings and dealing with trouble and strife of all sorts. Standout tracks include "Stay On The Ride," "No Bad News" and the sublime "Heavenly Day," which builds slowly into a remarkable tune.

For their third album, The Shins have pulled out all the stops. Chock full of memorable tunes, Wincing The Night Away is at once the band's best and most eclectic offering.

This unique compilation project brings together the legendary musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club and some of today's most popular artists Radiohead, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Sting, U2's Bono, Dido, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys, Jack Johnson and others. They perform collaborations of some of their classic hits, and the result is pure genius.

One of this year's most outstanding new artists, Rodrigo y Gabriela are Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintana, Mexico City natives who now live in and wrok out of Dublin, Ireland. It's a simple formula, really... two acoustic guitars, all instrumental songs. I can assure you that the results are much more interesting than the description.

Blessed with a wonderful voice and a fine storytelling style, Philly's own Amos Lee seems poised to take his craft to a wider audience. His sophomore album - Supply & Demand - will most certainly help him get there.

Whether or not Ray LaMontagne will become this generation's Van Morrison is something that's yet to be determined, but you'll be hard-pressed to find another singer who combines light and dark, power and subtlety as well as this New Hampshire native. His second album - Till The Sun Turns Black - is another well thought-out, well delivered set of music.

Along with Gnarls Barkley, Corinne Bailey Rae has made one of the most spectacular debut splashes of the first half of this year. This 27 year-old, Leeds, England native's eponomous album is a versatile, flowing, 11-song listen that sounds perfect for these hot summer days (and nights).

Zero 7 are the English "sound-design" duo of Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker who debuted in 2001 with their now classic Simple Things album, a collection of warm, soulful and chilled out electronica. The Garden is their gorgeous third release and not too unlike their previous albums, which put them in a similar musical genre wih bands like Royksopp, Air, Portishead. This time around however, Zero 7 have added a more upbeat musical direction to their trademark ambience and finds them mining some excellent & fertile musical ground.

Well, he certainly took his time, but Alexi Murdoch's first full album Time Without Consequence is set for release on June 6. Since we first heard his understated masterpiece 4 Songs in 2002, Alexi fans everywhere have been patiently waiting for some new songs. Time Without Consequence will not disappoint those people.

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