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WELCOME to our spanking new local music column, covering everything from our ever-increasing pool of talented musicians and exciting venues in Sunderland.

We seem to be slowly climbing the ladder of music, developing a reputation across the country as a hefty challenger to our neighbours across the water, as the region to watch.

This is going to be a busy couple of months for our city with festivals and gigs galore, but that hasn’t stopped some of our biggest names from putting out a few treats to start off the summer in style.

First up is the pop-heaven hooks of Athletes In Paris.

Just Decline is their second release and another anthem perfect for time spent applying the factor 30 and tucking into a 99.

The single is available as a free download so you have no excuse. You can catch them at Sunderland Live Sounds of Park Lane on Saturday, June 4 from 12pm.

Also playing at Sunderland Live, nu-folk favourites Cattle & Cane have had a barrage of play recently from BBC 6 Music for new EP Sold My Soul, available for download now. Catch them on Sunday, May 29 in Mowbray Park from 2pm.

Stand-out album release of the month comes from the brilliantly talented, terrifyingly-gentle psychedelic sounds of Hyde & Beast.

Available to download now, Slow Down is a shining light of originality in local music today.

Here are my top tips for gigs in Sunderland to see you through to June

l Hyde & Beast at Independent, tonight, £3. In only their second ever gig, expect a strong turn out for a band who will be heading out on tour in coming months to promote their eagerly anticipated debut album.

l Tribes at The Little Room, Saturday, Saturday, £4. Straight from Camden’s underground scene, Tribes are Britain’s newest Indie poster boys. Compared to early Kings Of Leon and The Strokes.

l Detroit Social Club at Cosa Nostra, May 27, £6. This pre-evo gig will be the band’s last performance in their hometown as they head their separate ways after the festival. Sunderland favourites The Blitz and Sonner will be in support.

l Manifesto Bank Holiday All Dayer at The Ivy House, Monday, May 30, 2pm, free. With music from Sonner, Smokey Roots, The Silence, Sean Wilkinson, Liars Lie, Yellowstone among others. Expect a lively eclectic mix of music, to promote the forthcoming free local compilation CD.

l British Heart Foundation Charity Album Fundraiser!...Part 1! at Plugged In, May 27, £5. A range of acts including Capote, Mark Blake, and Danny McGlynn all contributing to The Charity Album, due to be released in July/August 2011.

Till next time, keep supporting you local music scene!

Emma Howe, The Bunker

Stockton Road, Sunderland