Ever since I got an iPod early this summer, I have really enjoyed finding new music. My taste frequently coincides with that of Jeremy Schlosberg at Fingertips Music, my favorite of the free mp3 review sites (Jeremy has also amassed a huge index of musicians and bands, and has pointers to a wide array of other music sites; highly recommended.), and I find plenty of good recommendations at 3hive, too.

So what have I gotten myself into? Well, I have bought more music since May than I bought in the previous four years. This is, of course, a modest amount, owing to the not-for-profit employment of my grassland-fire-ecologist spouse and my own indentured servitude to higher learning. Still, I did go on something of a bender in the last handful of weeks.

  • I have become completely enamored with The Shins: Their latest Chutes Too Narrow and the prior album, Oh, Inverted World, are both just great. Now I see that they already have a new EP available. Super. Get mp3s at the band’s Subpop site.
  • The Two Gallants blew me away the first time I heard them, and are still doing so. Imagine that Bob Dylan (circa Blood on the Tracks, with a little Oh Mercy and some Blonde on Blonde) wrote lyrics and played harmonica for the Clash, and you have some idea of what these two guys sound like. But more. Check out, in particular, the mp3 of “Nothing to You” from their web site. Favorite album of the year?
  • Jesse Malin, The Heat. I don’t know what genres are hip these days, but I think Malin is in the Americana camp, sounding sometimes like Neil Young. On the stereo, some of his songs come across sounding a little too soft (especially given Malin’s history as a punk rocker), although I imagine that they’re really a treat live. Free stuff available from his web site. “Mona Lisa,” “Hotel Columbia,” and “Scars of Love” are good starting points.
  • Secret Machines, Now Here is Nowhere. These guys have been compared to the Flaming Lips and Radiohead. To me they sound like contemporary (not as in “top-40” but as in “opposed to classic”) progressive rock with a little bit of a psychadelic thump thrown in. Epitonic has an mp3 to try out.

But that’s not all! I have also downloaded, but not yet bought, songs from the following:

  • Owny Rutledge The Truth is You. I can’t say anything about this guy better than a reviewer at CD Baby: “With a striking, signature voice—hoarse and wasted and raspy—there’s something especially engaging about these songs, speaking from a feeling similar to dried up American dreams, sun-baked and cracked desert highways leading to never-ending red rock horizons.” Heather says he sounds like Peter Gabriel, but with a dried-out folk feel.
  • Shapes of Race Cars. These guys have a rock-pop sound that will, unfortunately, get compared to bands like Blink 182. Resist the comparison, because they’re better than that. Check out “Captain” and “ICU” which are available on the band’s very red, flash-driven site.
  • The Black Keys are another band with a short, narrow, hard-to-use web site. Their Rubber Factory just came out, and their web site features several mp3s from that album and the prior one. They play solid, rowdy rock and roll with some bar blues thrown in. Cool stuff.
  • The Mendoza Line. 3Hive says that “if you enjoy The New Pornographers, Bob Dylan, and/or Mazzy Star, or any facsimile thereof, The Mendoza Line is sure to please your punch.” Okay, I’ll go for that. Neat. Check out “What Ever Happened to You” and “Way of The Weak,” the latter of which sounds a lot like Lucinda Williams.
  • Shutterspeed. Australian rock band with a sound somewhere between Springsteen and Tom Petty—and sometimes veering sharply to either pole. Start with “Under Control” from their web site (where you can download a bunch of free songs).

Okay, that should keep you busy for a while. That’s it for this episode. Next time I’ll review favorite recipes for all that squash that’s coming up in the garden.