Depeche Mode  
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Violator is Depeche Mode's most mainstream, chart-climbing album. Although it contains only nine tracks, half of them are tailor-made for the dance floor. This album was conceived when dance-club DJs were gaining recognition alongside original composers. Heavily influenced by techno-pop, the singles "Policy of Truth", "Enjoy the Silence" and "World in My Eyes" prove that DM did their homework. A particular highlight on this fantastic album is the bluesy guitar line Martin Gore lays down on top of the synth-dominated grooves on "Personal Jesus". — Beth Bessmer

No Angel
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Dido's debut is moulded from Sarah McLachlan's intimate soul, Sinead O'Connor's Celtic yelp, and Beth Orton's morose resolve—with all the sharp edges rounded out. Sculpted by producers Rollo (her brother) and techno-scientist Youth, No Angel is dream-pop mixed with Portishead-esque trip-hop; the results are mid-tempo ballads that would feel at home in Seal's neighbourhood. The melancholy opener, "Here With Me", incorporates acoustic rhythm guitar, fluid strings and a snare-driven tempo that simulates the slapping of rain on a windscreen. "My Lover's Gone" is ethereal and misty, sounding at once ancient and modern with its synthesised ocean sounds and seagull cries. The only clunker is "Don't Think of Me", a passive, soft-bellied cousin to Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know". These songs play out beautifully in that quiet zone between slumber and consciousness—where you can see everything behind closed eyes. —Beth Massa

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You've Come a Long Way Baby Fat Boy Slim  
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Japanese edition of the 1998 & second album by Norman Cooke (a.k.a. Fatboy Slim) featuring 'The World Went Down' added as a bonus track, completely different artwork than the U.S.release & the hit singles 'The Rockafeller Skank' & 'Gangster Tripping'. 12 tracks total. A Skint Records release. The full title is 'You've Come A Long Way, Baby'.

Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1
George Michael  
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George Michael's second post-Wham! outing, Listen Without Prejudice could not have been more appropriately titled. Following on the booty-shakin' heels of Faith, Listen found Michael being more serious than sassy. "Freedom 90" had a strong groove, a catchy melody, and of course, the sex-bomb video. The contemplative tone of the album is best illustrated by the other hit that it spawned, "Praying for Time." Michael's voice was as strong as ever, and he did indeed take several risks on the CD. "They Won't Go When I Go," (not a Michael composition) was almost cryptic, and "Cowboys and Angels" was a lament of a different kind. —Steve Gdula

The Best of Groove Armada
Groove Armada  
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The Best of Groove Armada charts the success of one of the UK's most popular dance acts. Featuring the biggest hits from their last three albums, this anthology of their time on the Jive label is packed with downbeat and upbeat anthems, and an array of music as heard in film, television and radio.

The subdued intro and trombone melody of "Superstylin" opens the collection softly with the now legendary bassline kicking in for a perfect euphoric moment. Other upbeat anthems include the piano house of "If Everybody Looked the Same", the Fatboy Slim mix of Gramma Funk's "I See You Baby" (both of which have been used to sell cars) and the more recent disco hit, "Easy". However, although Tom Findlay and Andy Kato pack dance floors every weekend, it's their downbeat soul that receives most attention, partly due to the "chillout" explosion of 2000 that made "At the River" a classic of the genre. With their last album Lovebox, GA showed a more versatile, band-influenced side with songs like the Status Quo sampling "Purple Haze", the rocky "Madder" and fun-loving ska of "But I feel Good".

The Best of Groove Armada is a great selection of songs showing the diversity and musical progression of the band, a perfect introduction for the un-initiated and a good collection for those already converted.—Georgina Collins

Kissin' Time
Marianne Faithfull  
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Marianne Faithfull is—after 38 years in music—still more famous for whom she had sex with in the 1960s than for her talents as singer and lyricist. Her 11th album, Kissin' Time, uses her wise and angry knowledge of this unjust state of affairs, and comes up smelling not of roses, but stale perfume, spilt gin and sex. The result is her best-ever album. Comprising collaborations with the likes of Beck, Blur, Pulp, The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan and The Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, Kissin' Time takes in everything from spiky electro-pop (Beck's superb "Sex with Strangers") to Tom Waits-lite (Blur's rather self-conscious title track), by way of "Song for Nico"'s no-punches-pulled ballad tribute to the late Velvet Underground chanteuse, and the magnificent "Sliding Through Life on Charm", where Pulp's rousing anthemics provide the perfect backdrop for Ms Faithfull's hilariously filthy autobiographical defiance. Faithfull's cracked cabaret growl and painfully personal lyrics remain an acquired taste. But, if you can deal with a middle-aged woman's sexual and emotional honesty, and the album's deliberately eclectic tunes and textures, then Kissin' Time is a classic of bold, bitter and elegantly profane pop art. —Garry Mulholland