Musings @musicandmeaning.com

Tell me, how do I feel? Tell me now, how do I feel?
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for the 'Music' category

Life-fuel.


Monday, 30 November 2009

Beethoven is listening

Recently I realized that I did not have any Beethoven string quartets on CD, or really, much of his chamber music. Last week, I consulted my music list to see if there was something I could start with. (Every time I hear something I like but don’t recognize it or have a recording of it, I add it to an ever-growing, never-ending list of music.) I saw an entry for a Beethoven “Adagio” from a chamber strings piece (no piano). It was something I’d heard on Last.fm but, as is the unfortunate case for many instances of classical music digital meta data, there was no performer listed nor a reference to the original larger work. There was an album associated with the piece, but it was incorrect (Complete Symphonies and Piano Concertos — not exactly where you’d find chamber music for strings only).

Many of the classical pieces I hear on Last.fm are from the Naxos label, so I started my investigation by looking through current Naxos releases of Beethoven string quartets and quintets, one by one. I slowly eliminated all of the string quartets, moved to the string quintets, and discovered that the recording I’d heard was actually the second movement from a string quintet arrangement of Beethoven’s Clarinet Trio in B-flat major, op. 11 (“Gassenhauer”), by the Metamorphosis Quintet. Yay! It was like finding and solving the jackpot — a jackpot of lovely music so I could listen to more of it.

The find made me curious about the original work. I like clarinet, and Beethoven, IIRC from my music courses in college, was one of the first composers to include the clarinet in non-liturgical settings. So I’d successfully identified the mystery “Adagio,” but now there was this bonus of learning about the Clarinet Trio in B-flat major, for piano, cello and of course, clarinet — something I wasn’t even aware existed but was happy to find. I ended up doing some searches for it and found a few good candidates to extend my music list (there’s even a recording with Barenboim and du PrĂ©). Listened to some clips and, wow, another jackpot of beautiful music! I went to sleep a happy camper.

Sometime the next morning at work, I realized I needed some music and switched on the radio. Usually I don’t listen to live FM radio during the day, but Last.fm had been playing some recommendations multiple times, so a few days earlier, I had tuned in to the local classical radio station during the afternoons — the only FM classical station remaining in the L.A. area, KUSC. So anyway, I switched on the radio, and immediately I heard a piano and cello. “Hey, chamber music, nice,” I thought. Then I heard the clarinet. “Wow, this is cool. What a minute…could this possibly be…nah…” I finally went over to the KUSC site to see what the piece was.

“Ludwig van Beethoven: Clarinet Trio in Bb Op 11.”

Yes, really! I re-read it to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. (Here’s the playlist from that day. Check what host Alan Chapman played at 11:17 a.m.!)

Okay, so it wasn’t one of the recordings I’d added to my music list, and I’d turned on the radio a little too late and missed the “Adagio” movement (it would have been much weirder if I had turned on the radio during the second movement), but still! It was one of those wonderful, simpatico musical moments that happens every so often and never fails to amaze me each time. Thank you, Alan Chapman, Last.fm, musicians, Beethoven, and Musical God of the universe. Wherever he is, I’d like to think that Beethoven can hear, and he’s listening.


Related post: “Someone is listening”


Monday, 24 March 2008

The Fullerton and Long Beach Dave Brubeck Quartet recordings and “These Foolish Things”

In 1958, Columbia Records released Jazz Goes to Junior College, the last of the Dave Brubeck Quartet‘s live “college” albums (and the second from Columbia). It featured recordings from Fullerton Junior College and Long Beach Junior College (both in Southern California) in 1957, with Brubeck (piano), Paul Desmond (alto sax), Joe Morello (drums) and Norm Bates (bass).

The “college” series:

For some reason, Jazz Goes to Junior College has never been released on CD. I have waited for this CD for years, and judging by comments on Amazon and on AllMusic.com, I’m not the only one wondering why it’s not available.

I am a huge fan of the album — the rendition of “These Foolish Things” (one of my favorite standards) is fantastic (I definitely prefer the one on Junior College compared to Oberlin). (Another of my all-time favorite renditions of the song is on Chet Baker‘s The Italian Sessions from 1962.)

A few months ago, I found a video of the 1959 quartet (Brubeck, Desmond, Morello and Eugene Wright) performing “These Foolish Things” at the University of Rome. It has a somewhat similar feel to the arrangement on Junior College but is unique in its own right, and — as the notes from YouTube user ilbofilms say — there’s a really interesting bass solo from Wright. (Remember, Wright didn’t play on Junior College — Norm Bates was on bass.) I’d love to have it as a separate recording. [Update, August 2008: Thanks to Peggy for pointing out that the YT link no longer works...I found the same video from user pedrohmarques.]

(Alternate link in case you can’t watch it from this page.)

Posted at 12:14 am | Filed under Music to help keep me sane & healthy |  

Friday, 22 December 2006

Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin’ strong

I never thought I’d see the day when I’d post a YouTube video, but this is one of my favorite discoveries from this year (by way of Brad Sucks and MetaFilter): Stevie Wonder performing “Superstition” on Sesame Street in 1973. Safe for work, unless you’re not supposed to rock out at your desk. (This version is from YT user shukowinz RSLweblog.) [Update, 10 March 2008: Thanks to Peggy for pointing out that the video link was broken. Replaced it with new one.]

(Alternate link in case you can’t watch it from this page.)

Of course I’d heard Stevie Wonder’s poppiest of pop songs while growing up, but I didn’t hear this song until after I graduated from high school, when my friend Esteban introduced me to Wonder’s album Talking Book [Amazon link] and to “Superstition” in particular (thanks, Esteban).

It’s an excellent, fun performance that you’d never see on Sesame Street today (kids rockin’ out to six-plus minutes of really good, live, groovin’ music; what a concept!), which makes it all the more remarkable.


Sunday, 5 November 2006

Not-so-random tidbits

I know it’s been a while since I wrote something here that’s not about WordPress, so here are a few tidbits — some more random than others — covering the past few months.

Nov(el) in Nov(ember). One thing or another has kept me from writing more often. I’ve been busy with projects; also I recently sustained a finger sprain, but it’s healing and I’m thankful that it’s not as painful now. If you’ve visited this site in the past few days, you may have noticed the image in the sidebar; I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, where individual writers aim to draft a novel, written from the first of November until the end of the 30th. Although I’ve known about the “event” for a while, this is my first year as a participant. And although the official goal to “win” is 50,000 words, I’ll be happy if I reach 35,000. I’m looking at this as a good opportunity (i.e. excuse) to sit down and just write as much as I can, and then use it as a basis to extend and revise.

I still think of it as WBE. For the first time in what seems like a very long time, I got to hear most of Weekend Becomes Eclectic The A Track live today (Anne Litt even played from Richard Buckner‘s new album again). A belated congrats to Anne Litt and Howard Franklin on the birth of their first child this summer. (I was going to mention it in the last post along with the “first WordPress baby” news, but decided to save it until now.) If you tuned in during in the summer, you know that Tricia Halloran filled in during Litt’s maternity leave. If you tuned in recently, you know that The A Track has been cut down from three to two hours (3 p.m. to 5 p.m. PT, still on Saturdays and Sundays), while New Ground and Cafe L.A. have been expanded to three hours (IIRC, Cafe L.A. used to be a three-hour show years ago). I wasn’t around to hear the on-air announcements of the slot change, so I’m not sure what (if any) reasons were given, but I’m going to guess it had something to do with her new duties as programming director for KCRWmusic.com (I searched for press releases but there are absolutely none listed now). In any case, I was very disappointed by the news of two fewer hours of her show on the weekends, but I’ll definitely take four hours as opposed to zero. Much success to Litt in her new endeavors.

New and improved, sort of. As for KCRW’s new site, I can’t say I see a whole lot of front-end design improvements. I certainly prefer the new menus, which make it easier to navigate compared to the older site. Finding the right page was sometimes a little difficult and it wasn’t until I really familiarized myself with the (older) site that I figured out where to go for certain things. However, the new color scheme is a bit confusing at first, especially the inconsistent link colors (maybe it’s just my eyes, but the green footer link color on the purpley background is very unexpected after reading elsewhere on the site, and has a rather negative contrast effect that forces my eyes to look away). The site is still in the proverbial construction stage, but it’s a little frustrating to look for information such as the latest press releases and not find anything. Anyway, I’ve always had qualms about KCRW’s site, whatever the version, over the years. A long time ago, I participated in a survey to provide feedback and opinions about the site (the version that was just replaced) and I had a lot to say. Obviously, I still have a lot to say (for another example, why are the playlists no longer searchable?), but since the new site is not quite “finished” yet, I’ll wait and see what happens.

Not so spudly. Television-wise, I haven’t seen a lot of new shows, but I did catch the first three or four episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Perhaps my standards for Aaron Sorkin are just too high, but I wasn’t that impressed. His other shows were just so good right out of the gate (excluding the laugh track on early Sports Night); this one seems to be weighed down by too much of a self-conscious, editorializing, in-joke atmosphere in dialogue and story, and so far, a lack of focus with all of the characters it has to handle. It may be a case of a slow start and bad marketing; the promos always bill the show as a sitcom by featuring one-liners and banter, and it is so not a comedy in the traditional TV sense (remind you of ABC’s trouble marketing the aforementioned Sports Night?). Being that it’s Sorkin and Schlamme, though, and because I like Sarah Paulson‘s character, I will probably watch again to see if the show warms up and if the writers actually give Brad Whitford something to do besides stand around wearing reading glasses.

As far as the rest of TV, there aren’t any shows that have really hooked me. I saw NBC’s other behind-the-scenes-of-a-comedy, 30 Rock (which really is a comedy show); it looked promising, but I haven’t made it a point to watch. I didn’t really get into the first couple of Heroes, I stopped watching Gilmore Girls sometime last season (or was it the one before that), there’s no more West Wing, I never really got into Lost or Veronica Mars after their first years, and I stopped watching Law & Order sometime after the last-last ADA change. I don’t really enjoy any of the other cop/procedural shows: none of the other Law & Order brands or any of the CSI incarnations (I used to watch CSI original, but that was a long time ago), and sometimes I’ve seen Without a Trace or Cold Case, but very rarely. Is there some show that I’m missing but shouldn’t be? Should I give Grey’s Anatomy another try? I’ve seen maybe two or three episodes of that, but didn’t get invested. And before someone suggests Battlestar Galactica: I don’t have cable. I watch cable shows once a lot of their seasons are out on DVD.

Now, Voyager. Instead of current shows, I’ve been watching favorite series of years past: recently I watched/rewatched a bunch of old Star Trek: Voyager episodes. Voyager is the second of Star Trek’s stepchild series (i.e. not created by Gene Roddenberry); it was less sci-fi/Trek than the uniforms made you believe, and had its share of forgettable and/or recycled writing, lack of character development (Tuvok and Chakotay really got short shrift), and way too many time travel resets (count me as one of the many people disappointed by the direction of the final season and the series finale. Grrr, Berman and Braga). However, (surprisingly?) I still find myself rather fond of the show overall. I suppose it’s because I don’t think of it as Roddenberry Trek, but as a spin-off that happens to use Trek as a vehicle. My favorite character is the Doctor, who, of all the characters, had the best writing to support him over the course of the series. And I may be in the minority, but I think Seven, Naomi Wildman and Icheb brought an interesting sensibility to the show (although I could have done without “Collective,” and the writers featured Seven too often when they didn’t know how to write for the other characters). With that in mind, it won’t be a surprise to learn that I’m prone to enjoy Voyager‘s better character-driven stories, whether they are thoughtful, fun, or amusing (or unintentionally amusing). Give me those over the Q episodes or the pointless Borg fights, any day.

And what can I say, I love Jerry Goldsmith‘s theme for Voyager. I remember when I first saw the series premiere back in 1995 (hard to believe it was over a decade ago!), I felt lukewarm toward the actual episode but was captivated and moved by the theme music. The magic lies in the wonderful arrangement and strong performances — it’s engaging all the way through. I particularly enjoy hearing the splendid trumpet solos, the timpani, and the lovely accompaniment to the melody, including the the lower strings in the B theme. I’ve heard the music I-don’t-know-how-many times, and I have not tired of it yet. Sometimes I fast-forward through the opening title sequence, but more often than not, I listen to, if not watch, the whole thing; and I always listen to the version of the theme over the end credits. (I’m not sure what orchestra Goldsmith conducted for the sync recordings; I’ll have to pick up the appropriate CD and find out, because the performances are really quite good, especially the brass. I recently heard a rendition by a different orchestra; the tempo was slower and most dishearteningly, there were no cymbals! Completely unacceptable. There’s also an “extended” version of the theme on one of the soundtrack CDs; unfortunately, I think the additional measures interrupt rather than enhance the original theme.)

Well, this update should tide you over until the next one, which may be after NaNoWriMo is over. Until then, stay well. If you’re in the U.S., don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. I mailed in my ballot early, and I’m hoping for big changes from the midterms; on another note, I’m also looking forward to the cease of campaign calls. Don’t people know that calling about some candidate or measure during dinner hours doesn’t make a good impression?


Thursday, 1 September 2005

Chuck Taggart’s New Orleans

I just mentioned Mr. Taggart in my last post. He currently hosts Down Home, a New Orleans-focused music program every Thursday night from 7 to 9 p.m. Pacific time on KCSN 88.5 FM (public radio station at Cal State Northridge). I hope he won’t mind me quoting one his blog entries from earlier today:

I have to go into KCSN tonight and do a radio show that consists primarily of New Orleans music. It’s what I do every week, but for the last few days I wondered if I was going to be able to do it. I was particularly worried about having to something overly strenuous, such as actually talking on the air without breaking down.

But I think I really need to do this. I’ll have some New Orleans friends with me, and that’ll be a comfort. And it’ll be additionally comforting to know that some of my friends out there are listening too.

We’ll let Kermit do the talking, all about “what is New Orleans”; we’ll listen to Jack Fine and his Palmetto Bug Stompers; we’ll listen to Louis singing about knowing what it means to miss New Orleans. Let’s do it together.

As I write this, tonight’s show will start in one minute.

For those folks who aren’t in the L.A. area to tune in via the radio (or get a weak signal like I do at home), tune in to a live online audio stream. KCSN offers MP3, Windows Media and RealMedia streams in broadband and dial-up flavors.

Posted at 6:59 pm | Filed under Music, News commentary, Radio, NPR, etc. |  

Sunday, 7 August 2005

Free NPR/9:30 Club concerts

Currently, I’m tuned in to the free, live webcast of Lucinda Williams‘ concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, tonight. She hasn’t started performing yet, so you can still join in on the ‘cast and listen.

I had the pleasure of listening to the live stream of David Gray‘s show at the 9:30 Club last night. There was a pretty good interview with DG by All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen before the show. The concert is still available on the NPR site, so if you’re a David Gray fan and want to hear his new songs (his new album, Life in Slow Motion, will be released 13 Sept.), check out the show.

Posted at 6:58 pm | Filed under Music, Radio, NPR, etc. |  

Monday, 18 July 2005

Music to help keep me sane and healthy VIII

It’s about time for another edition! [Previously on MTHKMSAH…]

Richard Buckner is on tour again, so check him out at a U.S. city near you.

KCRW has been touting its new (non-music show) podcasts and on-demand music programs. I haven’t tried the podcasts yet (to be honest, I haven’t tried any podcast yet) , but the on-demand feature isn’t really that new. A number of the music programs have been available in the archives; what’s new is that all of the music programs are now available on the Web as streaming RealAudio files until their next live broadcast. Yes, RealAudio. It’s not exactly crystal-clear quality, but it’s not bad if you have a high bandwidth connection. If you happen to miss a show that isn’t archived, it’s definitely better than nothing — although, for some reason, only the Saturday show of Weekend Becomes Eclectic is available on demand. I guess if I have to miss a day of WBE and I can’t tape the show for whatever reason, I’ll try to adjust my schedule and miss it on a Saturday. ;)

Speaking of WBE, Anne Litt played from Laura Cantrell‘s new album a few times recently, much to my pleasant surprise — I don’t remember hearing Cantrell on the show before. I’m still waiting for the day I hear Allison Moorer on WBE.

Speaking of Laura Cantrell, last week I tuned in to her performing live on KCRW (her debut on the west coast, apparently). She had a show at McCabe’s, which, I can imagine, was great. I first learned about Cantrell in early 2001, when I heard Bob Edwards interview her for NPR’s Morning Edition (hmm, it doesn’t appear to be available on npr.org), and bought her CD Not the Tremblin’ Kind pretty soon after that. She has a charming, honest voice that cuts right to the lyrics she sings, and she’s not a bad songwriter, either.

Cantrell’s band for the KCRW broadcast last week included Mark Spencer, a multi-instrumentalist who’s well-known for backing up Jay Farrar. (You can read a previous post, where I provide links to free and legal Jay Farrar MP3s featuring Spencer’s great lap steel work.) And I just noticed on LauraCantrell.com that J. D. Foster produced her new album. Foster produced three of Richard Buckner’s (best) albums: Devotion + Doubt, Since, and The Hill.

Well, this is fantastic…Laura Cantrell has always had free MP3s on her site, and there are a few new ones I haven’t heard yet — including a song from her McCabe’s performance! I sort of had been saving her for a future edition of "Music to help me keep me sane and healthy," but it would be a shame to wait any longer. Visit her official downloads page and download away for some folk/country music with a truly classic sound. If you’re not sure what to try first, I recommend the new single, "14th Street," "Churches off the Interstate" (written by Cantrell), and/or "When the Roses Bloom Again," which was a song (i.e. not recording) removed from the Billy Bragg & Wilco Mermaid Avenue album (turns out it’s not a Woody Guthrie lyric). I’m downloading "Letters" right now…


Monday, 28 March 2005

I’ll be your little boy running with that egg on his spoon

[cover art of Crowded House's first album] I read the news about Paul Hester‘s suicide last night on MetaFilter and couldn’t believe it. He was probably best known worldwide as the drummer for the Neil Finn-songwriting-driven band Crowded House, one of my all-time favorite groups.

I was just listening to the album Woodface for the gazillionth time the other day. It’s a great CD — my favorite CH album, and I highly recommend it. Hester wrote perhaps one of the most fun tracks, "Italian Plastic." The title for this entry is a line from his wonderful lyrics. He also wrote/co-wrote a few other songs during the band’s history.

If you’re not too familiar with the band but you at least have its self-titled debut album (i.e. the one with "Don’t Dream It’s Over" as shown here), Paul Hester is the winged man flying away on the album cover art (painted by the third core Crowded House member, bassist Nicholas Seymour).

I’m going to listen to some Crowded House now.

Posted at 1:49 pm | Filed under Music, News commentary | 2 replies »

Monday, 20 December 2004

Music and politics

Since I just posted about music, I’m going to blog this link before I forget…it’s a feature from the music magazine called Under the Radar. I only discovered the feature (and the magazine) yesterday from a link on Mojave3online.com. It looks like an interesting mag — something I’d read, judging by the artists interviewed within its pages. But the feature in particular I wanted to link is the online-only "Bonus Protest Issue Quotes & Photos."

Issue 7 of Under the Radar, The Protest Issue, features a special 33-page section that examines the intersection of music and politics. The section features three main articles that examine different aspects of politics and music: The History of Protest Music (which traces protest music from peace to punk), The American Perspective (in which we spoke to current American indie-rock musicians about politics and political music), and The International Perspective (which examines how musicians from other countries view politics and political music). We interviewed a wide range of musicians for these three articles and so there were a lot of great quotes that we simply weren’t able to fit into the issue. Below is a selection of the best quotes that didn’t make it into the issue, sorted by article and then by artist.

So take a look if you’re interested. Remember, this was published just before the presidential election.

As for my own politics and my own music: I’m not sure. None of my songs are political. At least, I don’t consciously try to infuse political messages and views into my music. The same goes for my writing (fiction, anyway…obviously this blog demonstrates otherwise). I write music for the sake of the music, not for the sake of politics. This all reminds me of what William Gibson said in his blog entry referencing Forster.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this later on.

Posted at 11:01 pm | Filed under Music |  

Music to help keep me sane and healthy VII

Continuing the list of free and legal MP3s of some of my favorite songs and artists:

  • Early Day Miners – I just discovered and am enjoying this group. I was surfing Epitonic and randomly downloaded a few songs of artists I didn’t know. So far of the Epitonic discoveries, EDM is my favorite. The band’s scenic music reminds me of the Six Parts Seven (also in this list). As luck would have it, EDM has a show at the Knitting Factory’s Alterknit Lounge on January 26th (only 7 bucks!), but I don’t think I can make it. Anyway, aside from the download recommendation below, there are more free mp3s at the official EDM site.
       » Go to the downloads from Epitonic.com. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: I like "Autumn Wake" quite a bit, thanks to the strings)
     
  • Mojave 3 – If you haven’t guessed, I’m on more of a mellow musical kick right now. This is more folk/acoustic-geared songwriting than the others on the list. Mojave3online.com has become the official Mojave 3 site and offers mp3s of unreleased material and a few shows. You do have to register to be able to access the files, though, but it’s free. Epitonic (no reg req’d) offers two excellent songs. Also check out Neil Halstead‘s solo work; he’s the lead singer/songwriter of Mo3 (there’s a free song, "Two Stones in My Pocket" from Epitonic
       » Go to the downloads from Epitonic.com. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: my personal favorite is "In Love with a View")
     
  • Sigur Rós – I try to highlight bands or artists that don’t really receive the attention they deserve, so I’m not sure I should list Sigur Rós here. Apparently many, many more people know about the group since it toured with Radiohead. Nonetheless, the music isn’t exactly top 40 platinum, so it’s included here. I’m not even sure which songs to recommend, because many of them are different, but Eighteen Seconds Before Sunrise (the official Sigur Rós site) has many free mp3s. I suppose I’d recommend starting with a song from the album Àgætis Byrjun, then working your way to ( ) (yes, that’s the album title). Epitonic also has a couple of mp3s from the former.
       » Go to the downloads from Eighteen Seconds Before Sunrise. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Olsen Olsen" or "Staràlfur")
       » Go to the downloads from Epitonic. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Svefn-G-Englar")
     
  • Six Parts Seven – Soundscapes…that’s what comes to mind when I listen to 6p7. I first heard this group a couple of years ago. The music is like a soundtrack — not to a movie (although it could be for a movie, I suppose), but to a personal experience that winds its way through various points. It’s sort of hard to describe, and the style of music is why Early Day Miners reminds me of 6p7. AFAIK, 6p7 doesn’t have vocals (EDM does sometimes), but I could be wrong. Most of the tunes I’ve heard are instrumentals.
       » Go to the downloads from Suicide Squeeze Records. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "A Blueprint of Something Never Finished" and "This One or That One?" are good introductions to the band. There’s also a free mp3 by Iron &Wine guy Sam Beam covering a 6p7 tune (Iron & Wine was featured on a previous list); and note that the song "Yearnin’" is actually a Black Keys song, not a 6p7 song)
     

As always, please support the artists and their music by buying their albums and attending their shows.

More music: Aside from Weekend Becomes Eclectic and the CDs pictured at left (if you’re reading this from the front page, that is…right now it’s Chet Baker, Richard Buckner, Vince Guaraldi, Jean-Michel Jarre, Patrick Park, and Wilco…all of whom I’ve mentioned before I think, except for Jarre).

Posted at 10:05 pm | Filed under Music to help keep me sane & healthy |  

Saturday, 31 July 2004

Music to keep me sane and healthy VI

Continuing the list of free and legal MP3s of some of my favorite songs and artists:

  • John Wesley Harding – I first heard JWH on a compilation CD from Acoustic Guitar Magazine, performing "Kiss Me, Miss Liberty" and I’ve always meant to listen to more. His official site houses some full MP3s: check out the "Live MP3s & Rare Singles" sub-section under "Music."
       » Go to the downloads from johnwesleyharding.com (Flash required). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: my personal favorite is "Pull" — a performance culled from a live solo session at WUMB radio)
     
  • IvyLong Distance (2001). This album is a few years old, but I’m surprised not many people seem to know about it. Or maybe they do? In any case, I first heard Ivy three years ago, when Anne Litt played "Edge of the Ocean" a few times on Weekend Becomes Eclectic (KCRW). It’s catchy music with a lush arrangement and a cool beat; the same can be said for many of the tunes on the album. You might also be interested in the band’s cover of "Sing."
       » Go to the downloads from thebandivy.com (Flash required — click "band" and then "mp3"). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: without a doubt, "Edge of the Ocean" — there are two versions available, but I recommend the 5.1 Mb, 160kbps MP3 a little farther down the list)
     
  • Anne McCueRoll (2004). Admittedly, I have not heard the full album from this Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist. Anne Litt plays tracks from Roll fairly often on her show, and although I haven’t really gotten hooked to the very ’80s-sounding "I Want You Back," but I’ve been playing "Stupid" and "Crazy Beautiful Child" repeatedly over the past few weeks. If I had to choose, I’d categorize the songs as being more pop/rock with a country flavor, rather than alt-country, but that’s primarily because of the arrangements and the overall sound. Think of a less twangy Lucinda Williams, but still catchy and with interesting lyrics.
       » Go to the downloads from Messenger Records. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Stupid" — but they’re all a little different, so try all three if possible)
     
  • Patrick Park – I’ve mentioned singer/songwriter Park a few times — his site has MP3s of various clips of songs, but only recently put up a couple of full-length MP3s: the original demos (that eventually got packaged into The Basement Tapes) of "Desperation Eyes" and "Nothing’s Wrong." "Nothing’s Wrong" is one of my favorite Park tunes, and although I can listen to the fuller arrangement (and Eric Heywood on pedal steel!) on the album Loneliness Knows My Name, it’s nice to have this sparer, more intimate sounding recording.
       » Go to the downloads from patrickpark.net (Flash required — click "listen"). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Nothing’s Wrong")
     
  • Elliott Smith – I mentioned last time that PasteMusic has many free MP3s from artists, including Smith. One of my favorite Elliott Smith songs is here: "Between the Bars," from Either/Or. If you have time, you might want to grab all four of the songs (all from Either/Or or Elliott Smith) and hear the beautiful and haunting qualities in the stark, no-nonsense arrangements of his music: "Speed Trials," "The Biggest Lie," "Punch and Judy" and "Needle in the Hay."
       » Go to the downloads from PasteMusic (reg required — Smith is under the "Indie Rock/Emo" section). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Between the Bars")
     

And as always, please support the artists and their music by buying their albums and attending their shows (if possible).

Other tunes in my playlist lately:

The latest "caught in my head" tune has to be "How on Earth" by Ron Sexsmith — excellent songwriting. I haven’t heard the entire record yet, but from what I’ve heard, I think I like it better than Cobblestone Runway (2002) — not just musically speaking, but his singing even sounds stronger than I’ve heard before.

And, of course, I’m still listening to Richard Buckner (this time, the more sparse arrangements, e.g. those in Richard Buckner). His new album, Dents and Shells, will be available for pre-order on the 1st of October! From the new songs I’ve heard in his more recent concerts, I can’t wait. It’ll be interesting, as always, to hear how he arranged the music on the record.