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The Shins released their first critically acclaimed album, Oh, Inverted World, way back in 2001 — and were catapulted into the public ear when a song from that album appeared as a plot line in the 2004 movie Garden State. The world has changed in the years since the group rose to be recognized as one of the biggest indie rock acts of the 21st century.

The Velvet Underground and Nico, released 50 years ago tomorrow (there is actually some disagreement on the exact date), is the definitive way-ahead-of-its-time album. With a near-peerless collection of songs — nearly all written by frontman Lou Reed — and an iconic, banana-sticker cover designed by band benefactor Andy Warhol, this jarring and innovative collection was initially a cult success at best, with no hit singles and a "peak" of No. 171 on Billboard's albums chart in December 1967.

Japandroids, the two-piece Canadian rock duo known for its epic sound, just released its third album, Near to the Wild Heart of Life. Singer/guitarist Brian King heard that phrase years ago and traced its origin to a line in James Joyce's novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Valerie June releases her new album, The Order Of Time, Friday. It's the follow-up to her 2013 breakout album, Pushin' Against A Stone, which was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. June was influenced by the church, family members and the music of Memphis, where she grew up and first began performing.

Today, Hurray for the Riff Raff unleashes The Navigator. Laura Marling unravels Semper Femina. Valerie June contemplates The Order Of Time.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of what many consider Elliott Smith's best album, Either/Or. To mark the occasion, Kill Rock Stars is releasing an expanded version of the late singer's record, with remastered versions of the original songs, live recordings and previously unreleased bonus tracks.

Few records this year, so far, are as wondrous, pointed and odd as Mary Ocher's The West Against The People. Produced with Faust's Hans Joachim Irmler, there is a dreamy motorik groove that guides some tracks — especially those with percussion duo Your Government — but the album reaches across synth-pop, psych-rock, folk and ambient music with an obsidian glaze.

Camae Ayewa, who records under the name Moor Mother, doesn't waste time. The Philly-based artist and agitator stuffs every moment of her densely packed, combative songs with unease and piercing static — that she doesn't allow listeners a moment of peace or rest can only be part of the point.

David Bowie's website announced Thursday a limited-edition release of two rarities from the rock icon's vault: Cracked Actor, a three-LP live record of a Los Angeles show from 1974 mixed by longtime Bowie studio collaborator Tony Visconti, as well as a reissue of a small-pressing EP of Bowpromo from 1971, which contained alternate mixes of songs from Hunky Dory.

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