1. ZEE AVI Zee Avi (Brushfire)
She grew up in Borneo, studied fashion in London, and was living in Kuala Lumpur when a Webcam video landed her in Jack Johnson's recording studio. It's a good story. The record is even better. Avi's lambswool voice has a jazzy boop-oop-a-doop lilt, while horns punctuate the swing of "Just You and Me." Elsewhere, knowing lyrics reveal a deliciously dark heart.
Download Now: "Honey Bee"
2. BEN LEE The Rebirth of Venus (New West Records/Ten Fingers)
Lyrics espousing happiness sung to spun-sugar melodies are the perfect welcome to summer. Over sprightly guitars, "What's So Bad (About Feeling Good)" is a get-over-it rant against your jaded adulthood; "I Love Pop Music" is a merry challenge to overcome the world's ills.
Download Now: "Surrender"
3. METRIC Fantasies (Metric Music International)
This band's urbane electro-pop is both sleek and tatteredall the synth crescendos and arty rhythms seem battered by romance. Front woman Emily Haines's vocals seductively alternate between birdsong soprano and a ravished whisper, cutting through tracks like "Girls Gold Guns." Slick in places, sure, but it's the friction that makes it feel good.
Download Now: "Sick Muse"
4. OPERATION ALOHA Operation Aloha (Operation Aloha Records)
Yes, there's ukulele. Fourteen musicians (including members of Maroon 5 and Phantom Planet) with a free month between band obligations made this record while camped out on Maui. Once you get past the envy, it's easy to get pulled into sun-baked jams like "Elephant Pharmacy."
Download Now: "Failure"