More than one hit expected of wonders

— The Los Angeles Times' annual Freshman Class is a salute to 2002's new arrivals who best reflect the individuality, passion and craft that make them seem promising for the long run.

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - This explosive art-punk outfit punctuates dark tales with a gloriously therapeutic whiplash force.

Cee-Lo - Singer-rapper Thomas Callaway incorporates soul, gospel and funk in his music.

Dashboard Confessional - Chris Carrabba's outlook is anxious and bleak throughout the album, but he brings a sense of universal struggle to it.

The Distillers - The raspy vocals with this L.A. punk-inspired band belong to Brody Armstrong, whose songs have a touch of penetrating observation.

The Hives - This joyful Swedish quintet attacks the notion that rock has to be humorless to be real. The music salutes '60s and '70s punk and garage-rock with near-irresistible energy.

Norah Jones - Don't be surprised if this supremely seductive young Texas singer matches Alicia Keys' six nominations in this year's Grammy balloting. Taste and boldness to spare.

N.E.R.D. - The Neptunes offer a rock-funk merger that stretches hip-hop boundaries like early Run-DMC or De La Soul.

Conor Oberst - Oberst is a precocious 22-year-old with the audacity to release two splendid albums this year, one of which ("Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground") has enough freewheeling literary edge to invite Dylan comparisons.

The Streets - Mike Skinner is a white rapper from England, and his looks into the youth subculture in his country suggest a sharp storytelling ability.

The Vines - Craig Nicholls, the Aussie rock band's manic front man, gets the attention, but the music has a gritty shotgun force. Thing to watch: How Nicholls responds next time to the pressures and tensions of the spotlight.


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