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Previewing new releases from Solange, Groove Armada, the Sea & Cake, and more.

'Star' Search

Solange"It got to the point where I told Columbia that they were going to have to drop me," 16-year-old newcomer Solange recalls. Not exactly something typically heard from a young artist on her first outing, but Solange is not one to cave easily. "They said the single I had chosen, 'Feelin' You,' wasn't sing-songy enough. It wasn't the right type of genre. It wasn't R&B, reggae, hip-hop. I said, 'Whatever you want to call it, I want it to be the first single.' I stood my ground."

The label then tested the track, which earned resoundingly positive feedback (it's No. 3 this week on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales tally). The cut has helped pave the way for Solange's full-length debut, "Solo Star," due this week on Music World Music/Columbia.

While this may be her debut, Solange is no stranger to the industry. Her sister is Beyonce Knowles, one-third of the mega-successful Destiny's Child. "Having Beyonce for a sister has pros and cons," Solange says. "I've gotten the chance to experience the industry and learn a lot. But I am trying to establish myself as an artist, and that can be tough with the last name that I have."

'Love' Everlasting

Groove Armada"This is definitely the least noodly record we've ever made," says Groove Armada's Tom Findlay of "Lovebox," the U.K. electronic duo's latest Jive album. The set, the follow-up to 2001's "Goodbye Country, Hello Nightclub," features guest spots from Neneh Cherry, Sunshine Anderson, and Richie Havens.

"It's exposing yourself to stuff," Findlay says of the group's change in sound, "and just opening your ears up and exploring beauty in everything musical. This has definitely been our most white music listening period, a lot of Beatles, Nick Drake, more rocky and songy. If you really love music it's a never-ending quest, just keep listening and listening. You're never gonna hear everything that's great in your lifetime but you might as well try."

Cherry lends her vocals to "Think Twice," while Anderson gets down on the orchestral "Easy." Havens appears on "Hands of Time," and rapper Kriminal pops up on "Groove Is On." Says group member Andy Cato of the latter, "You think he's gonna be this big burly bloke and in fact he's quite a bookish-looking guy with glasses, very sensitive."

'Bedroom' Eyes

Sea And CakeChicago underground rock outfit the Sea & Cake returns this week with sixth Thrill Jockey album, "One Bedroom." The 10-track set is the follow-up to 2000's "Oui," which debuted at No. 24 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart. The group begins a North American tour March 5 in Minneapolis.

"We went back and listened to some of the old records and I was really belting it out back then, so I'd say my singing is more upfront on this one," vocalist Sam Prekop says of the new set. "One song is a direct result of my home solo recording; it's fairly unadorned."

Echoing drummer John McEntire's description of "One Bedroom" as "a bit more constructed" than "Oui," Prekop says the album has more in common with 1997's heavily electronic "The Fawn." Such tracks as "Hotel Tell" and "Le Baron" are driven by electronics and keyboards, while the band adds its typically breezy touch to a cover of David Bowie's "Sound + Vision," featuring vocals by the Aluminum Group's Frank and John Navin.

'Space' Is The Place

LaikaU.K.-based electronica duo Laika has compiled album tracks, rarities, covers, live cuts, and a previously unreleased song for "Lost in Space," due this week from Too Pure/Beggars. The album's first disc features such album favorites as "Breather," "Uneasy," and "Bedbugs," a remix of "If You Miss" for the "Macro Dub Infection Vol. 1" collection, and the hard-to-find "Lower Than Stars" from the now out-of-print "Volume/Warchild" compilation.

The second disc kicks off with the previously unreleased "Beestinger," and also includes a cover of Wire's "German Shepherds," three songs recorded for DJ John's Peel's show on the U.K.'s BBC radio, three B-sides from Laika's "Antenna" EP, and remixes by Maxwell House and Meat Beat Manifesto mainman Jack Dangers.

Laika is working on its fourth studio album, due next fall. A tour will follow its release. The as-yet-untitled set will be the follow-up to 2000's "Good Looking Blues."

Additional titles hitting stores this week include:

-- Unwritten Law's "Music in High Places," an acoustic album recorded at Yellowstone National Park for the music series of the same name (Lava/Atlantic).

-- Scottish rock outfit the Delgados' "Hate" (Mantra).

-- Instrumental juggernaut Manheim Steamroller's "Romantic Melodies" (American Gramaphone).

-- Jazz pianist Matthew Shipp's "Equilibrium" (Thirsty Ear).

-- Two new EPs from Swedish rock act the (International) Noise Conspiracy, "Bigger Cages, Longer Chains" and "Up for Sale" (Sympathy for the Record Industry).

-- A new solo album from Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard, "Motel of Fools" (Fading Captain).

-- A career-spanning retrospective from beloved New Zealand underground rock group the Clean, "The Anthology" and the latest set from former Archers Of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann under the Crooked Fingers moniker, "Red Devil Dawn" (Merge).