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Loose Groove Records

It's too bad that the phrase acid jazz has been so used and abused, because it perfectly describes Ponga, a wildly avant-garde San Francisco jazz outfit whose hard-edged free-form improvisations sound like they're full of psychedelic studio tricks even though most of the tracks were recorded live. Much of Ponga's debut album sounds like drum 'n' bass played on old-fashioned instruments, like a Grooverider cover done on a sax, drum kit and keyboard. The electronic effects make the music accessible to those weaned on digital and turntable music, but the feel is deeply organic. (Michelle Goldberg)

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A Place in the Sun
RCA Records

If I judged Lit solely on the single "My Own Worst Enemy," I would chuck it into a category with Harvey Danger ("Flagpole Sitta") and Presidents of the United States of America ("Lump"): the "just-buy-the-single" niche. If I did that, I'd be wrong. Lit really belongs in the category I put Garbage and Everclear in. Those bands are producing quality songs long after their expected expiration date. As demonstrated in the catchy "Enemy," the heavy-edged, bouncy alt-pop foursome has a knack for writing memorable lyrics. Manipulating meaning on "Miserable," vocalist A. Jay Popoff broods, "You make me come/You make me complete/You make me completely miserable." "Four," "No Big Thing," "Zip-Lock" and "Perfect One" are also standouts. (Sarah Quelland)

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Secret American Livingroom
Dealership How can you not a love a band with an infectious love song called "Nerdy Girl"? A dreamy lullaby with a deliciously hooky chorus and male-female harmony, "Nerdy Girl" exemplifies everything that's endearing about the Berkeley power-pop trio Dealership. Secret American Livingroom, Dealership's debut album, is a little rough and a little simple, but the band's spare three-chord ear candy makes virtues of what could have been limitations. "Monteserrat," the album's best track, has a buzzing anthemic guitar reminiscent of the Pixies lightened by sunny French vocals, and while it may seem way too trendy for an American band to sing in French in the midst of Francophile pop mania, "Monteserrat" is way too precious to be pretentious. (MG)

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Natasha's Ghost
Fua Records

Instantly appealing and completely catchy, the third Fua Records release from this irresistible San Diego collective wraps vivid poetic verse and danceable music into its distinctive alternative pop, tastefully laced with an electronic soundscape. With her graceful voice, Kelley Neill sketches a portrait of "Natalie," observing, "Looking in her eyes is like staring at the sun/She wears a perfect smile, but she speaks to me in tongues." Addressing a relationship that ended bitterly on "Everything Stops Here," she tartly sings, "I left some flowers 'cause I knew you wouldn't want me to/They're kind of wilted, but they suited this occasion." Meanwhile, "This" hypnotizes as she dreamily confesses to a lover, "If this is everything there is/Inside this moment/I would not ask for more than this." The entire album is a pleasure. (SQ)

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From the May 6-12, 1999 issue of Metro.

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