Music, Podcasts, Uncategorized

Five Top Singles of 2011 That I Downloaded for Free (Legally, Too!)

Your humble Monkey spends a lot of time at work listening to music.

Since his addled brain needs constant stimulation, he is always seeking out new bands to listen to.

He currently subscribes to two different Song of the Day podcasts (Thank you very much KEXP and 89.3 the Current), and the following videos represent some of the best free songs that he has heard this year.

If not for these radio stations and artists giving away something for nothing, your Monkey may never have discovered these songs.

As an added bonus, you probably won’t find many of these on most critics’ top 10 lists, so perhaps you will find something here that you might have otherwise missed.

Editor’s note: Please, dear friends, do not think that all the free songs that come your Monkey’s way are as good as these gems. Your Monkey has had to kiss a LOT of frogs to find these princes and princesses. 

1. Austra “The Beat and the Pulse”

This Toronto-basedgroup makes some great atmospheric music that is part dance, part industrial gothic and part electropop.

This video is a little on the explicit side, so if you are offended by blurred nudity and webbed appendages you may want to proceed with caution. This is the “clean” version, too. For purists, the explicit version can be found with a pretty quick web search. That version apparently does not lend itself to embedding on blogs written by Monkeys.

Before you think your Monkey is just a typical male having a knee jerk reaction to a little female skin, you should know he fell in love with the audio version of this song long before he ever saw the video.

2. Fistful of Mercy “Fistful of Mercy”

This indie pop supergroup of sorts features Dhani Harrison (son of George), Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur.  This song features great chord progressions and wonderful harmonies, and this video does an awesome job of bringing together all the parts to make a whole.

3. Polica “Wandering Star”

This song is immediately striking, and this live radio performance is utterly unforgettable. Do not hate the voice altering vocoder, my friends, it can be put to good use. And for god sakes, let’s talk about the double drums for a second. They give you the chills. At least they should give you the chills. If they don’t, you may be a Blade Runner-esque replicant unaware of your own wretched artificial existance.

4. John Grant “Marz”

This song proves that lyrics don’t mean all that much when there is emotion and melody behind them. A melancholy piano backdrop accompanies a series of apparently nonsensical words and the effect is sad and bittersweet.  Here is a cool enhanced performance from the Later with Jools Holland show.

5. PJ Harvey “The Last Living Rose”

Ok, so PJ Harvey might be a little more of a household name than some of the others on this list, and her album “Let England Shake” is certainly well represented on top 10 lists this year. But this song is just too damn good to leave off the list, and your Monkey may never have fallen in love with it if he hadn’t gotten it as a free download.

Music, Podcasts

Five female-fronted music groups you should be hearing — plus a link to a free Mp3

Recently, your Monkey narrator has been hearing a lot of excellent female artists that are deserving of some attention. Some of them you may know, some you may be hearing for the first time. But all of them are worth your attention.

  1. Ida Maria: Your Monkey has written about this high energy punk pop Norwegian songstress in the past, and if you haven’t checked out her American debut album “Fortress ‘Round My Heart” yet, you are in for a treat. Start with the singles “Oh My God” and “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” and see what you think. They will only cost you two bucks on itunes, which is pretty much what thi Monkey gets charged for every ATM visit.
  2. Metric: The latest album from this Toronto-based group fronted by singer Emily Haines has been getting a lot of good buzz recently. For the highly competitive price of free, you can download an acoustic version of their latest single “Help I’m Alive” from their site. Pretty good deal if you ask this Monkey. Link to site is here.
  3. P. J. Harvey and John Parish:  The latest album between the well-known Harvey and the lesser known Parish is called “Woman A Man Walked By.” Harvey first perked this Monkey’s ears last year when she released the moody, contemplative and piano-driven album “White Chalk.” Since Rhapsody does not have this album, your Monkey has not been able to listen to the whole thing yet, but the song “Black Hearted Love” was featured on a recent All Songs Considered podcast and is well worth your time. Here is a link to the podcast.
  4. Connecticut-based band Eula was recently featured as one of Christopher Laird’s artists of the week on his weekly Radio Nowhere radio show and podcast. This three-piece band has a nice low-fi  sound with a little more aggression than you might expect. Here’s a link to their website.
  5. The Birthday Massacre: This might be a product of your monkey’s abnormal brain, but there is something strangely comforting about this band’s unsettling, industrial synthpop sound. It be the mix of the melodic and the menacing. Check out a video below.