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Song Spotlight: Pearl Jam - "Speed of Sound"

Note: As of November 2009, this contest has ended, and I can no longer find a link to the "Speed of Sound" demo.

If you're a Pearl Jam fan, you probably already know that they have a new album coming out in September called Backspacer.  "The Fixer", the catchy first single from the album, is in heavy rotation on rock radio, and various other songs from the album have been played live by the band and by Eddie Vedder in his solo shows.  I have to admit I was a little disappointed when "The Fixer" was not made available for download (although you can still stream it from Pearl Jam's official website, and probably a few other places); I guess I was spoiled when they made "Worldwide Suicide", the first single from their last album, available for free.

Today, though, I found out (via Twitter) about a cool new game on the Pearl Jam website.  If you head to this page, you will be presented with a 3x3 grid of numbered tiles along with the following instructions:
"Find 9 images from Backspacer that have been placed all around the web. Once you find an image, click it and it will be added to the grid on the left.
Find & click all 9 Backspacer images and get a free download!"

Now, when they say "all around the web", they mean it.  To be honest, I don't know how anyone could possibly track down all of the images on their own; fortunately, with the Internet being what it is, there are already a few complete lists of the necessary websites floating around, so if you don't feel like doing all the work yourself, I will include my own list in this post.

First, though, let's talk a bit about the free download that they promise.  "Speed of Sound" is a song that will be included on Backspacer; however, the version available for download here is a solo demo version by Eddie Vedder.  The song is very much in line with Vedder's work on the Into the Wild soundtrack from a couple of years ago (actually, it would fit very well on that album).  Most of the song is just Vedder and an acoustic guitar, but there are some beautiful vocal harmonies and some sparse electric guitar lines that really add to the melancholic feel of the song.  I quite like the song so far, and I am very curious as to how it will sound on the album; whatever the rest of the band decides to do with it, it could well end up being one of the highlights of the album.

Now, onto the list.  Out of fairness to those who would like to try and play the game by themselves (and I sincerely wish you the best of luck if you choose to do this - the promise of a free Pearl Jam download was simply too overwhelming for me, causing me to look for all the hints I could find), I've decided to use to shorten the URLs.  This way, those who are impatient (like me) can simply click on any or all of the links to go exactly where they need to go, while the game will not be spoiled for those who wish to play fairly.  Without further ado...

Clicking on any of these links should take you to a page that contains one piece of the Backspacer artwork (if it doesn't, please let me know right away and I will do my best to fix it).  Clicking on the image will take you back to the Backspacer page on the band's website, this time with that piece of the puzzle filled in.  Once all 9 pieces are in place, the download link for "Speed of Sound" will appear.  However you decide to play the game, I hope you enjoy the song once you hear it.  Happy listening!



Artist Spotlight: Jonathan Coulton

Today I'd like to feature an artist that I've known about for quite some time - in fact, I featured him on my Free Christmas Music blog way back in November 2007, and he was a small part of my massive Halloween Treat Bag post last October.  Somehow I manage to keep rediscovering him every year or so, and I think it's about time he's had a proper artist spotlight here.
Until recently, my source for free Jonathan Coulton music has always been his MP3 store, in which nearly three dozen songs can be downloaded for free (they are conveniently marked with a little smiley face icon in the "Free" column; clicking on the smiley face for a song brings up a page of information about that song, including a link to an MP3).  This in itself is a pretty incredible collection of free music, and even if you venture no further into Coulton's website, you will still come away with some excellent music.  However, I have recently become aware of the fact that even more of his music can be found for free on his site if you're willing to do some digging around.
When I began listening to Coulton's non-Christmas music last year, someone recommended the song "Re Your Brains" to me.  That song, unfortunately, has no smiley face icon in the MP3 store, so I actually ventured over to YouTube (something I rarely do, as online video is not something I typically enjoy) and found a pretty funny video that set the song to images from World of Warcraft.  When Lifehacker posted their interview with Jonathan Coulton, I was surprised that the link to "Re Your Brains" was not to a video (like the link to the Portal theme song was), but rather to a blog post on Coulton's website.  Following that link, I was delighted to find, at the end of the post, a link to the "Re Your Brains" MP3.  A few more links led me to a very impressive source of free music: the Thing a Week podcast.  This was an extremely ambitious project in which Jonathan aimed to record and release one new song every week for a year, from September 2005 to September 2006.  A look at the podcast's page reveals the results of that experiment: 52 blog posts, one for each week of that year, each containing a link to an MP3 download of that week's song.
If you've looked at his MP3 store, then you're likely already familiar with a lot of these songs, as most of the free songs there (the ones with smiley faces) are from the Thing a Week project, which is split into four volumes in the MP3 store.  Still, the remaining Thing a Week songs nearly double the amount of free music available from Coulton, and there are some real gems in there.  "Re Your Brains", sung from the point of view of an annoying former co-worker turned zombie, is certainly among the best, especially when the whole gang of zombies joins in for the super catchy chorus.  His cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" is something that simply has to be heard to be believed.  There are a few more covers in the project, with my favourite being Queen's "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions", which was the final song of the project and contains some excellent vocal harmonies.  Another favourite of mine is "I'm Your Moon", an original song about Pluto which is sung from the point of view of its moon, Charon; unusual points of view like this pop up in quite a few of Coulton's songs.  With 52 songs to pick from, I'm sure that just about anyone will be able to find something to enjoy.
One more place where I've found some free Jonathan Coulton music is, surprisingly, the Popular Science website.  In 2005, they did a special issue called "Future of the Body", for which Coulton provided a soundtrack EP entitled Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Cybernetic Arms.  This 5 song EP can be downloaded in its entirety right here, and it is well worth checking out, as there are some real gems on it.  It's gotten a lot of play since I discovered it a couple of weeks ago, and "I Feel Fantastic" has been stuck in my head for quite a while now.  Check it out, along with whatever else looks interesting to you, and happy listening!


Song Spotlight: Megadeth - "Head Crusher"

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

Megadeth's new single "Head Crusher", from their forthcoming album Endgame, is currently available for free from Roadrunner Records.  According to an article at, the song will only be free for 24 hours, although the download page makes no mention of a time limit; if this does indeed turn out to be the case, then you should have until 11:00 EDT on July 8 to download it, so go there quickly if this is something that interests you.

Megadeth have long been one of my favourite bands, and they were the first metal band I became interested in back in 1992 or 1993 when I heard "Symphony of Destruction".  I have to admit that I haven't been very interested in what I've heard from them in the last five years or so, ever since they broke up after Dave Mustaine's arm injury.  "Head Crusher", though, is sounding pretty good to me right now, so I may decide to check out Endgame once it is released in September.  It's a solid piece of classic sounding thrash metal that sounds like it would be right at home on Peace Sells.  Dave's snarling vocals are just as aggressive as they've ever been, and there's a great little spoken section in the middle that reminds me of a lot of old Megadeth songs that I love.  The drums are absolutely relentless, and the guitars sound as good as I've ever heard them sound in Megadeth.

To access the 7.5 MB MP3, all you need to do is enter your email address at the website; the download link will appear on the same page after you've done so.  Happy listening!


A spreadsheet for the ReverbNation Sponsored Songs giveaway

Yesterday I posted about ReverbNation's Microsoft Windows Sponsored Songs giveaway.  Since making that post, I decided to do a little more work to make the songs a little more accessible.  The ReverbNation page allows you to view no more than 20 entries at a time; through a lot of copying and pasting (51 pages worth) and a little text manipulation using my favourite text editor, gVim, I managed to create a spreadsheet with information about all 1008 (yeah, a few more than the advertised 1000) songs in it.  

You won't find links to the actual songs in the spreadsheet, because it is not possible to do that given the way the site is set up.  What you will find is the artist, location, genre, and title of each song.  A read-only version of the spreadsheet can be found right here.  If you view the spreadsheet in List View (by selecting View -> List View from the Google Docs menu), you can sort the spreadsheet by any of the columns.  You can also export the spreadsheet (File -> Export) into a variety of formats, so if you want to have more filtering and sorting options than those offered by Google Docs, this is your best bet.

If you find any errors or incomplete data in the spreadsheet, please let me know and I will fix it as soon as I am able to.  I hope this helps at least a few people find some cool music that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.  Happy sorting, filtering, and listening!



Free Music Resource: Microsoft Windows Sponsored Songs from ReverbNation

David over at Music Musings already beat me to this post, but this is such a cool giveaway, and its scope so huge, that it deserves to be posted about again.  ReverbNation has launched a new initiative called "Sponsored Songs", in which 1000 songs from 1000 artists are being made available for free download.  The music is kept free by ads that are embedded into the cover art in the MP3s (or M4As, if you choose to download that format); all of the MP3s I've downloaded have a small Windows banner that takes up about one quarter of the cover artwork, and the album for all of them is listed as Microsoft Windows Sponsored Songs.  I guess the assumption here is that enough people actually view the cover art embedded within the files to make it worthwhile for the sponsor; to be honest, I find the press release to be a little on the optimistic side, but at the same time I hope that this program succeeds, because it has the potential to open up some exciting possibilities for free music. 
The first advertiser to participate in Sponsored Songs is Microsoft Windows, with free songs being available from until September 24, 2009.  I am guessing that after that date, another sponsor will take over, perhaps with a new set of songs to download, but there should still be plenty of time to grab anything that interests you there.  The site lacks a search engine, so looking for a particular artist takes a bit of work; you can pick the starting letter of the artist's name and filter the list by a few broad genres (Alternative, Electronica/Dance, Hip Hop, Jazz, Latin, Pop, and Rock), and the list can be sorted alphabetically or by popularity.  While it would be nice to have more options for filtering and sorting, I think that the best way to find the best songs in this giveaway may be good, old fashioned word of mouth.
With that in mind, I'd like to mention a few particularly good songs that I've downloaded.  I've only downloaded about a dozen songs from there so far, mainly from artists that I already recognize, but I'm sure I'll be going back for many more before the offer expires.  Some of my favourite songs so far include Sofia Talvik's beautiful "Burning Fields"; The Lemonheads' "I Just Can't Take It Anymore", a cover of a Gram Parsons song with a great country rock feel that reminds me of Blue Rodeo; Logan's "Goodbye", an excellent hard rock tune that David recommended; and Celldweller's "Ursa Minor (Neutron Mix)", a short but very sweet song that packs a lot of atmosphere and drama into less than 2 minutes.
If anyone comes across anything particularly cool there, please leave a comment here so the readers of this blog and I can check it out.  I'm sure that there are tons of great songs available, so let's hear about them!  Happy listening!

[UPDATE 2009-07-07]
I have created a spreadsheet that lists all of the songs, along with the artist, genre, and location information for each song.  You can access a read-only version of the spreadsheet right here - I hope it helps some cool music to be found!