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Album Spotlight: Coldplay - LeftRightLeftRightLeft

In case you haven't heard from elsewhere, Coldplay have recently begun offering their new live album, LeftRightLeftRightLeft, as a free download from their website (and also as a free CD if you happen to catch a show on their current tour). To download the album, all you need to provide is your email address and country in the site's form, and you will be given a link to download a 54.5 MB zip file.

LeftRightLeftRightLeft consists of 9 tracks, clocking in at just under 40 minutes. It was recorded at various locations on their current tour and is intended as "a thank you to our fans – the people who give us a reason to do it and make it happen," although I can recommend the album even if you don't count yourself as a fan of Coldplay. Why? Because I myself have never really been a fan of them. It's not that I dislike them; I love the song "Clocks" (and I was quite pleased to find that song amongst the tracks on this album - in fact, it was the only song I recognized, as well as the primary reason I downloaded it at all), and I remember liking a few of their other songs quite a few years ago, but I never felt compelled to pick up any of their albums. After hearing this album, though, I think I can see myself getting into them more in the future. Songs like "Glass of Water", "Viva La Vida", "Strawberry Swing", and of course "Clocks" all sound great, and the responses of the audiences are tremendous (check out the singalong at the end of "Viva La Vida" - if I didn't know any better, I could swear that Freddie Mercury was there directing the audience). As a side note, I was also rather impressed with this interview with Chris Martin about the album.

Whether you're a longtime fan of Coldplay or haven't cared much for them in the past, LeftRightLeftRightLeft is a worthy addition to your digital music collection. Check it out, and happy listening!



Free Music Resource: OverClocked ReMix - Video Game Music Community

If you follow this blog regularly, then you might have guessed that I am a fan of video games. Video games have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and one of the most memorable parts of many a game for me is its soundtrack. If you play video games too, then you might feel the same way; try to imagine Super Mario Bros. without its infectious theme music, or a Final Fantasy game without a sweeping, orchestral score, or Tetris without the Russian folk song "Korobeiniki" - they might look and play the same, but they would certainly not be the same games that they are now.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that I like to listen to video game music even when I'm not playing games. I started by hooking my Super Nintendo up to my parents' stereo system and recording music onto a cassette; games where the music kept playing even when the game was paused, like Star Fox and Final Fantasy III, worked best for this. Shortly after I began using the Internet, I started downloading MIDI versions of my favourite game music to listen to on my computer. When Napster came along, I used it to download a lot of music from my favourite N64 games - mainly the two Legend of Zelda games that were released for that system.

Then about five years ago I discovered a site which will be the focus of this post. OverClocked ReMix - Video Game Music Community is a website that hosts fan arrangements of video game music. There is an absolutely massive collection of music at this site, and a wide range of ways in which to browse, search, and acquire it. If you have something specific in mind, you can use the search feature to zero in on it quickly; it is worth noting that the search engine is a Google Custom Search Engine, so the results are usually very comprehensive and accurate. Otherwise, you can browse the site's contents, which is something I like to do occasionally as I almost always find music from games that I had forgotten about. Whether you search or browse, you will eventualy end up at a page containing information about the specific remix you've found as well as a list of links from where it can be downloaded.

If you find more than a few songs on the site that you like, then downloading them individually can be quite time consuming. Fortunately, there are a number of torrents available that can help you download larger collections of songs more efficiently. Most of the torrents are full-length albums, each one based on a specific game (including the official soundtrack for Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix). There are also two torrents that contain all but the very latest remixes, so if you want to download nearly everything from the site and have about 6.3 GB of free space on your computer, these torrents are definitely your best bet. Once you've downloaded all of those songs, then keeping up with the latest mixes is easy with the site's RSS feed (I have it in the "Free music from around the web" section of this blog's sidebar); you can even follow them on Twitter, if you're so inclined.

There is a wide variety of genres featured in the various mixes - I've heard everything from classical to country to rock to electronic music to... uh, the Legend of Zelda theme being played on Heineken bottles (no, really, it just came out yesterday - check it out). I like to put all of the songs into a big playlist and set it to shuffle. When I hear something I really like (which happens quite often), I look for songs either by the same artist or from the same game and add them to the playback queue. With more than a day's worth of music (and that's only the music from games that I've played - roughly a quarter of what's available on the site), things are always kept varied and interesting. I think my favourite song that I've found is "Super Mario Bros. Underworld Rock" by dimmer, which intersperses the famous underground music from the original Super Mario Bros. game with a driving guitar rock sound, with a few sound effects from the game acting as additional instruments. A couple of other favourites are Derek Oren and Jeremy Robson's two "Cantata for Dancing" tracks from Final Fantasy VI, which are epic sounding orchestral/choral pieces based on the music from that game's final boss fight (one of the pieces I once had on a cassette tape, incidentally); and Bladiator and The Orichalcon's "Final Doom Clairvoyant Elegy", which features some beautiful piano playing over an electronic beat.

With somewhere in the vicinity of 2000 songs available, the few songs I've mentioned obviously only scratch the surface - I'm sure that after you've spent a few hours listening to some mixes, you'll have your own list of favourites, based on some combination of your own taste in both music and video games. Happy listening!


Song Spotlight: Janet LaValley - "It's All Right With Me"

While I'm thinking of Tribe again, this would be a good time to mention a great song that first surfaced nearly a year ago in MP3 form (better late than never - especially considering that it was recorded more than a decade ago). After Tribe disbanded in the mid-1990s, their lead singer, Janet LaValley, recorded a solo album entitled Extraordinary Popular Delusions (and the Madness of Crowds). Unfortunately, that album was never released (her official website makes a reference to the record label having its collective head in a rather anatomically impossible position as the reason). However, last May, Janet sent an MP3 of one of the songs from the album to the webmaster of her site, who promptly made it available for fans to download. The song is called "It's All Right With Me", and compared to what I've heard from Tribe, this song is heavier and more aggressive, reminding me somewhat of Hole. Janet's vocals don't soar to the heights she reached on Tribe songs like "Outside", but they are still as powerful as ever. If you've enjoyed listening to what Tribe has to offer, then "It's All Right With Me" is well worth a listen.

If you enjoy this song and somehow missed my post from yesterday about Tribe's Here at the Home album, you should know that you can still download a high quality copy of that album from this link for a few more days.

Happy listening!



Album Spotlight: Tribe - Here at the Home (high quality MP3s - limited time)

Short post today, because these files will not be available for very long; also I've already covered it - if you caught my post about Tribe from last year, then you are likely already familiar with the album Here at the Home. Steve, the webmaster of the best Tribe site around, has decided to make that album available in higher quality MP3s for a limited time only. At 320kbps, they are of much higher quality than the 128kbps files normally found on the site, so if you've become a fan of the album, this is a great chance to obtain a better sounding version of it. You can download a 78.69 MB zip file containing all of the MP3s right here.

Here at the Home is Tribe's first album, which is now out of print.  It contains early versions of many of the songs found on their next album, Abort, including "Outside", which was featured as a bonus track in the first Rock Band game.  If you're a fan of late 80s/early 90s rock, the album is well worth checking out.

If you haven't heard of Tribe before (and honestly, unless you play Rock Band enough to unlock the bonus tracks, you probably haven't heard of them, as they unfortunately never achieved much success outside of their hometown of Boston), then this is a great chance to check out their debut album. If you like what you hear, you should definitely check out the rest of the music available on the site. Happy listening!


Song Spotlight: Sofia Talvik - "Strawberries On My Tongue"

In one of the best uses of Twitter I have yet seen, Swedish singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Sofia Talvik has made her new summer single, "Strawberries On My Tongue", available for the "price" of one tweet. If you're already a Twitter user, downloading the single is as simple as entering your Twitter login details on the download page; if not, just head over to the Twitter site and set up your own account. While you're there, you may want to check out Sofia's profile so that you can begin following her and receiving her updates; that's how I found out about this single, and I was able to download it within minutes of its release.

As you might expect from its branding as a summer single, "Strawberries On My Tongue" is a celebration of everything about summer. Everything about it is very mellow and laid back, from the piano and acoustic guitar to the hushed vocals and the sound of ocean waves in the background. Also included in the 15 MB download is a live recording of the song featuring Sofia and her band as well as special guest Steafan Hannigan. The live version features slightly different instrumentation and is a little bit faster than the studio version, which is a refreshing change of pace from artists who play their songs note for note in concert.

Though it's not yet summer anywhere on this planet, listening to "Strawberries On My Tongue" might make you feel like it is (even if you have a frost warning in your overnight forecast, as I do!). Happy listening!

Update: I have been informed by Ms. Talvik that it's rain in the background, not waves - evidently Swedish summers are rainy.  :D



Song Spotlight: Dream Theater - "A Rite of Passage"

NOTE: This download was only up for 24 hours and is thus no longer available.

This morning, I woke up to find the kind of email that I love to receive: a new Dream Theater MP3 is available to download, absolutely free, from the Roadrunner website. "A Rite of Passage" is the first single from the band's latest album, Black Clouds & Silver Linings, which is set to be released on June 23, 2009. Dream Theater have been one of my favourite bands for about 15 years now, and I still get excited whenever they release new music.

To access the MP3, a short form must be filled out with details like name, email address, zip code, etc. Unfortunately, the 19.7 MB download has been very slow for me, coming to a complete halt and forcing me to restart several times; I hope that this is just a case of the Roadrunner servers being hammered by Dream Theater fans eager to hear the new song, and that download speeds will pick up soon.

"A Rite of Passage" is mainly a mid-tempo rocker along the lines of the band's greatest hit, "Pull Me Under", at least until the breakdown is reached and the tempo picks up for John Petrucci's guitar solo, which is followed immediately by Jordan Rudess's keyboard solo. There's not a lot in this song that Dream Theater have not done before, but I have always found that their lead singles are rarely their most innovative songs. There are some nice layered vocal effects throughout the entire song, and at the very end a choir can be heard, which sounds quite cool and is a welcome addition to Dream Theater's sound.

Whether you're a Dream Theater fan already or are completely new to the band, "A Rite of Passage" should make a nice addition to your MP3 library.  For my part, it has me anticipating the new album more than ever.  Happy listening!



Happy Star Wars Day!

So, apparently today is one of a couple of days that lay claim to the term "Star Wars Day" (the other one being May 25th, which is the date in 1977 that the first Star Wars film was released). In honour of this special occasion that I just found out about, I thought I'd post about a few free Star Wars MP3s that I've been able to find.

Furman Music has a couple of recordings of some classic Star Wars music. Both are very well done, with "Princess Leia's Theme" coming across very tender and beautiful with a soaring crescendo near the end, and "The Imperial March" as brutal and hard-hitting as ever.

I found those recordings via Classic Cat's John Williams - "Star Wars episode 1" page, which also lists 5 MP3s from Harmonie Shostakovich, but when I try to access the hosting site, I merely get a message saying "At this moment Dot TK is a bit overwhelmed by all the new users. Therefore we are currently unable to handle your request. Please come back again later. Thank you for using Dot TK!" If anyone manages to access that site successfully, please leave a comment here; if I can access it sometime, I'll either update this post or make a new post about it.

Finally, Daniel Bautista has done an excellent guitar-based medley of several Star Wars themes (it's track number 13 on Classics and Soundtracks, listed as "La Guerra de las Galaxias (John Williams)"). I don't actually recognize all of the parts of this medley (I think the unconventional instrumentation is throwing me off), but some of the more dominant parts include "Duel of the Fates", the Force theme (which appears many times throughout all of the Star Wars movies, perhaps most notably in the "Binary Sunset" scene in the first movie), and a cool thrashy version of some of the music from the Hoth sequence in The Empire Strikes Back (I don't know the actual name of this piece, and I'm not sure that giving it a name would be very helpful at all, as I've seen different names for a lot of tracks across various releases of the Star Wars soundtracks).  (Have I used enough parentheses in this paragraph?)

Happy listening, and May the 4th be with you!

[UPDATE: 2007-05-06]
The URL for the Harmonie Shostakovich MP3's has been changed to; you can go there to grab recordings of 5 songs from Episode I. (dead link)