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Song Spotlight: Unkle - X-Files (Unkle Remix)

If you were one of the few people to see The X-Files: I Want To Believe last year (although it didn't exactly set the box office on fire, I really enjoyed it as an old X-Files fan), and in particular, if you stuck around to watch the closing credits, then you would have been treated to an excellent new version of the series' theme song by Unkle.  It still has the same flavour as the original version by Mark Snow, but there are two main elements that set it apart: the main melody is now string-based instead of whistled, and there is a driving, electronic drum beat underscoring much of the song.
The song is also curiously available as a free download from; I say "curiously" because it seems to be the only song from Unkle available for free on that site.  To download the 5.4 MB MP3, just hit the "Free MP3" link on that page.  I think that any fans of The X-Files or just remixes in general would really enjoy this song.  It also has me interested in checking out more of Unkle's work.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this great remix of a classic television theme.  Happy listening!


Album Spotlight: Chris Tenz - Forlorn Memories

I download far more music than I would ever have the time to write about here.  It all gets placed into a foobar2000 playlist called "Blog".  The size of this playlist is ever fluctuating, with things getting removed from it after I have either written about it or decided that I don't like it enough to write about (when I say "the best free, legally available music on the Internet", I mean it - if I don't like it, I won't post about it); currently, it contains just under 24 hours of music.  I try to listen to at least some of this music every day.  Sometimes I know what I want to write about, so I focus on that music; other times I set it to shuffle, and when I find something that really catches my interest, I begin taking notes on it in preparation for a future post.  Tonight I was listening to a few tracks from an artist that I hope to post about soon, but then the shuffle kicked in and served up something totally unexpected in the form of Chris Tenz's Forlorn Memories.
I initially downloaded this album two weeks ago after reading about it on the Internet Archive, but it wasn't until tonight that it actually made its way to my ears.  The album's page at the Internet Archive seems to have been taken down [update: it's back up - I guess I caught it at the wrong time], but I was able to locate it on the Soft Phase website, which seems to be working fine.  The description of the album by Tenz was what drew me to the album in the first place:
“Forlorn Memories is designed to be just that, the re-capturing of memories
and associated moods through wordless sound. The album is designed to tell
a story through emotion, in chronological order. Using old tastes, smells,
sounds, and sights, I would attempt to bring myself into the mindset of
various key moments that influenced me in some way, and attempt to
create those feelings again with the use of audio.”
The very idea of memories is something that has always fascinated me, so the subject matter immediately caught my interest.  I also like the fact that he doesn't attempt to explain the story at all, and with songs only titled as chapters (with the first track being a foreword), the interpretation of the album is left entirely up to the listener (for the record, interpretation of songs - let alone instrumentals - is not one of my strong points, so I will go no further along this line of discussion).  The album's nine tracks are all very mellow, beautiful, and dreamy sounding - in fact, I decided to leave it playing while I was putting my baby back to sleep tonight, and it worked very nicely as lullabye music.  The soothing sound is achieved mainly through a delicate interplay between acoustic guitar and piano, although other instruments and sounds play important roles as well.  There are no sudden changes in tempo or mood - each song evolves and unfolds gradually, taking as much time as it needs to tell its own part of the story.
The individual songs from Forlorn Memories can be downloaded as separate MP3 files, and the entire album can be downloaded either in MP3 format, as a 56 MB zip file, or FLAC format, as a 105 MB zip file.  As a debut album, it holds a lot of promise, and I am really looking forward to hearing where Tenz decides to go in the future.  Happy listening!


Song Spotlight: Janet LaValley - "Unwind"

If you enjoyed listening to Tribe or Janet LaValley's solo song "It's All Right With Me", then you may be interested to know that another LaValley solo MP3 has been made available by Janet herself.  "Unwind" is another song from her still unreleased album Extraordinary Popular Delusions (and the Madness of Crowds), and the 2.65 MB MP3 can be downloaded directly from her website.
"Unwind" is another hard rocking song.  The distorted vocals add a touch of aggression to the song, but it's still catchy enough to sing along with (the lyrics are even conveniently embedded in the MP3's tags).  I hope "Unchained" and "It's All Right With Me" are just teasers for what will eventually be a full release of the album in some format, because it sounds like it has the potential to be something really cool.
Tribe fans will likely appreciate this song the most, but anyone who loves hard rock (especially of the female-fronted variety) would do very well to check it out.  Happy listening!


Album Spotlight: Nine Chip Nails - An 8bc NIN Tribute

If you're a fan of video game music or Nine Inch Nails, this one is for you (even moreso if you love both). Nine Chip Nails - An 8bc NIN Tribute is a collection of 6 Nine Inch Nails covers done in chiptune style. I grew up with the 8-bit sounds of the original NES and Game Boy, and regular readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of both Nine Inch Nails and video games, so this collection is right up my alley.

The songs on Nine Chip Nails are divided evenly between instrumental and vocal songs. I found it a little more difficult to get into the vocal songs, mainly because there is such a huge contrast between the sounds of the vocals and the instrumentation; however, after a few listens I found myself enjoying both types of songs equally. Overall, I think Little-scale's instrumental rendition of "The Day the World Went Away" is my favourite of the bunch, while SCSI's "Down In It" is my favourite vocal track - the vocalist really did a great job with this early NIN song. "Hurt" is also done quite well by Hartfelt, and I really like the instrumental versions of "Heresy" and "Survivalism".

Nine Chip Nails can be downloaded from the R-Bot Records page; the link to the 27.8 MB zip file is near the bottom of the page. This is certainly one of the more unorthodox collections of covers that I've ever heard, but it's done so well that I would love to hear more like it. The description of the album contains a link to the 8bitcollective site; I haven't explored that site yet, but based on the strength of this album, it's something I'm planning to do soon. If I find anything really noteworthy there, I'll be sure to highlight it on this blog in the future. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these Nine Inch Nails covers. Happy listening!



Artist Spotlight: Justin Townes Earle

I have been a huge fan of Steve Earle for many years now. I am currently enjoying listening to his recently released album Townes, which is a tribute to Earle's friend and mentor, Townes Van Zandt. This album is not the only thing Earle has named after the late singer-songwriter - his first son, Justin Townes Earle, also bears that name. It is perhaps not too surprising that Justin has chosen to pursue a career in music. When he was a teenager, he made a guest appearance on his father's album El Corazón, playing guitar the rocker "Here I Am". He also appears on Townes, this time singing a duet with his father on "Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold".

I initially found it rather amusing that Justin appeared on the album "courtesy of Bloodshot Records", but after thinking about it a bit, I think it's great that he is forging his own musical path, rather than just riding on his father's coattails. Justin has released three albums of his own in the last few years, and is currently hosting two free MP3s from the second album, The Good Life. The first one, "Hard Livin'", is a fun country romp, while the second one, "Who Am I to Say", is a beautiful ballad. His Wikipedia page mentions that he has played at South By Southwest for the last 2 years, and a quick trip to the SXSW website yielded a third free MP3: "Midnight at the Movies", the title track from his latest album, which is another beautiful, laid-back country ballad.

Justin has also recently given permission for recordings of his concerts to be distributed via the Live Music Archive. At the time of this writing, there are 21 complete concerts available for download in multiple formats, including MP3, OGG, and FLAC. The sound quality of these recordings is not always perfect, but if you are a fan of live recordings, they are well worth checking out. Right now I am listening to the 2008-12-24 show from The Cactus Cafe in Austin, TX, and it sounds great - the recording is very clear, and the performances are excellent.

For someone who bears the names of not one, but two musical legends, Justin Townes Earle has a lot to live up to; from what I have heard so far, he is doing very well for himself indeed and has a very bright future ahead of him. I'm really looking forward to hearing more from him, and I hope you enjoy this music too. Happy listening!



Album Spotlight: TRV$DJAM - Fix Your Face Vol. 2 - Coachella '09

NOTE: Twitter is no longer required to download this album for free.

I have to admit, I'm really surprised at what a great source of free music Twitter has become for me. A recent article on Mashable (which I follow on Twitter, naturally) described a free mixtape from the duo of Travis Barker and DJ-AM (collectively known as TRV$DJAM), which currently can only be obtained by sending out a tweet with a link to the download page. I guess I must be getting old or something, because I had never heard of these guys before now, and to me a "mixtape" is an actual cassette tape - hardly something that can be shared over the Internet. Still, one tweet is nothing for some free music, so I happily authorized the site to send out a tweet from me and proceeded to download the 70.9 MB zip file.

I'm glad I did. Fix Your Face Vol. 2: Coachella '09 is quite unlike anything I've ever heard before. The album starts off with the opening notes of Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle", which is then given a dance beat before segueing into The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby", which is backed up by a grooving drumbeat. All of this happens in the first 90 seconds of the first track, at which point I began to understand what the term "mixtape" means in this context - basically, the 50-minute album is a continuous mix of songs spanning multiple genres and eras. I listened to it while I was putting out my garbage last night, and on many occasions I had to stop and marvel at what these guys have done. Anyone can make a mixtape with songs like The Mamas and The Papas' "California Dreamin'", The Who's "Baba O'Riley", and Metallica's "Enter Sandman"; to do it so seamlessly, with songs flowing into, out of, and over one another makes this a true work of art that anyone who considers themselves a lover of music should hear.

The extremely wide range of music featured on this mixtape means that anyone who listens to it is sure to come out of it with their own list of highlights. There are songs on here that I love, some I've hated, and some I'd never heard before, but I love the way that they all work together. If there are any moments that stand out to you as being particularly noteworthy, please leave a comment so we can all check it out. Happy listening!



Artist Spotlight: Moonalice

I was drawn to today's featured artist in a rather unconventional fashion. Shortly before I started using Twitter, I read an article about a band that "Twittercasted" one of their concerts - in other words, they recorded their concert, and after each song was finished, the audio was encoded into an MP3 and uploaded to the Internet, at which time a link was posted on the band's Twitter feed. A pretty neat idea, I thought, but since I had no idea who this band was and I wasn't on Twitter at the time, I didn't think too much more of it at the time. A few weeks later I did join Twitter, though, so I decided that I should look this band up to see what they were all about.

After a bit of searching (in particular, I needed to come up with the word "Twittercast", after which the search was fairly trivial), I found that the band was called Moonalice. I began following their Twitter feed, and I also checked out their website to learn more about them. I immediately recognized one of the members of the band as G.E. Smith, who, among other things, is the former musical director of Saturday Night Live; I used to love the brief snippets of his playing that would be shown before and after the commercials on that show, so that gave me a really good feeling about Moonalice. My next stop was their music page, which lists an astounding amount of studio and live tracks to download, along with the following, extremely cool message:
The music you download from this page is free for your listening pleasure. If you like our music, pay it forward to your friends. Turn them on. It's about the music. If you feel so inclined, let us know who you are.

There are 4 studio tracks available for download. My favourites of these are "Blink of an Eye", which, with its laid back sound and female lead vocal, brings Fleetwood Mac to mind; and their cover of Steve Earle's "I Ain't Ever Satisfied", which is given a wonderful treatment - I love the way the song mellows out in the third verse and then slowly builds back up into the chorus. All 4 of these tracks are available as both 128k MP3 and lossless FLAC files. If you check out the band's iLike page (also available here for Facebook users), you can find a fifth track entitled "Listen to Those Eyes", which is a cool little rocker.

As cool as those studio tracks are, the live tracks are where things really get interesting. At the time of this writing, there are 17 complete concerts available for download, including the first 2 Twittercasts (called "Tweetcasts" here). Some of the concerts are very lengthy - I downloaded one that is more than 3 hours long - and contain a nice mix of original Moonalice songs and cover songs. Some of the covers I've heard are the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash", Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale", the blues standard "Eyesight to the Blind", Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", and the classic truck drivers' anthem "Six Days on the Road". The diversity in their selection of cover songs should give you a hint as to how diverse their own music can be. Another thing that is not apparent just from looking at the track lists of the concerts is that these guys like to jam - a LOT - with song lengths regularly approaching 10, 15, and even 20 minutes. One of the highlights of a few of the concerts I've listened to is "Tell Me It's Okay", which repeatedly builds up and drops back down, and features some beautiful guitar solos from Smith.

If you still ain't satisfied and want even more free Moonalice music, you would do well to check out their Twitter feed, where they are still doing Twittercasts. I have yet to catch a live Twittercast, but I have been able to llisten to a few "Zombie Twittercasts", in which they take a show from their archives and upload the MP3s via Twitter beginning at 4:20 in a selected time zone (some past start times have been on Greenwich Mean Time and Newfoundland time - the latter being based on a suggestion of my own), usually on Fridays. However you decide to check Moonalice out, I hope you enjoy their music. I also hope that Moonalice continue to be as cool, genuine, and accessible as they are now. Happy listening!