Lady Sovereign, "Random" (Casual, U.K.).
Cadence Weapon, "Oliver Square" (www.cadenceweapon.com).
Edan, "Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme" (Lewis).
Busdriver, "Lefty's Lament" (Mush)
Jamie Lidell, "Multiply" (Warp).
Decomposure "Disconnect" (Unschooled).
Robyn, "Be Mine" (Konichiwa).
Metronomy, "Trick or Treatz" (Holiphonic).
Superdiscount, "Someone Like You (Fast Track Vocal Mix)" (Different).
Edie Sedgwick, "Sigourney Weaver" (deSoto).
Haunted House, "Dramatic Beachouse" (Adonis).
Alan Astor, "Dragons and Beasts" (Mental Monkey).
The Similou, "Wild Beasts" (DNM/Bonnier Amigo).
Electrelane, "Bells" (Too Pure).
James Rabbit, "Spring Breakdown" (lefou.blogspot.com).
Banner Barbados, "My Dirty Secret Is a Divine Dilemma" (www.bannerbarbados.com).
Bunky, "Chuy" (Asthmatic Kitty).
Charlotte Hatherley, "Stop" (Double Dragon).
1–4. In 2005, the best "alternative" hip-hop is neither self-congratulatory obscurantism nor the result of stylistic conservatism predicated on a knee-jerk disdain of the mainstream. Cadence Weapon convincingly raps about the mean streets of Edmonton; Edan melds psychedelia with an obvious Wu-Tang fixation; Busdriver crams in more snark than an army of Paul Barmans. Lady Sovereign has the best shot at an actual pop crossover—"Everybody get random!" is the most giddy and amusingly nonspecific party chant in years.
5–7. Likable but predictable retro pop enlivened with clever contemporary arrangements. England's Jamie Lidell replicates Otis Redding's sound with subtle electronic textures; Canada's Decomposure finds a way to fuse the aesthetics of Ben Folds Five and Aphex Twin; and Swedish R&B diva Robyn sings an anthem of unrequited love over a backing track that's like a computerized version of "Eleanor Rigby."
8–9. Today's legion of Gang of Four clones embraced the grim funk of post-punk; now that sound is being reintegrated into dance music. These two songs start off sounding as though they could be Interpol and Rapture remixes, but both ditch the requisite emo-dude anguish in favor of female vocals that blend vague menace and overt sexuality.
10–13. These novelty tunes are best enjoyed when taken seriously. Edie Sedgwick's slash-fic take on the film Aliens is an earnest electro-thrash celebration of lesbianism in spite of its contrived nature. Haunted House obscure their jaunty keyboard pop through excessive, in-the-red volume. It's hard to tell whether or not Alan Astor's and the Similou's songs are meant as jokes, but both sell their songs with an admirable degree of commitment and bombast.
14–18. If this CD were a concert, Electrelane's tinkly Krautrock jam would conclude the set proper, and the final four songs would constitute a straight-up rock and roll encore, kicking off with James Rabbit's perky ode to collegiate sexual angst and Banner Barbados' frenetic punk-rock crisis of faith. Bunky strut and purr their way through the verses of "Chuy," building up to a soaring, ecstatic chorus that serves as this disc's climax. Resolution comes in the form of "Stop," which sounds like every great riff from the early '90s being played simultaneously.
Matthew Perpetua runs Fluxblog (www.fluxblog.org) and lives in Cold Spring, N.Y.