Thursday, December 31, 2009 $5 MP3 Albums - New Lady Gaga, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Rihanna, and More

I usually point out (um, rather late)'s selection of $5 MP3 albums for each month, but right now they're offering more than 800 albums for that price. I'm not sure how many of these deals expire at the the end of the month (that's today), and how many will continue beyond that date. (UPDATE, 1/4/10: Amazon's site still says that "over 800" MP3 albums are available for $5 each, so you can probably assume that all the ones mentioned in the paragraphs below are still at that price.)

One Web page lists 100 $5 MP3 album downloadsfeatures selections including Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster, It's Blitz by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the self-titled album by Chickenfoot, and more, with genres such as rock, blues, R&B, country, etc. all grouped together. (This may be the December selection.)

Another list of more than 800 $5 MP3 albumsis broken down by genre so you can view, say, all pop or country albums. The 50 $5 pop albums include Lady Gaga's The Fame (not to be confused with The Fame Monster), Rihanna's Rated R, Classic Sinatra: His Greatest Hits, Mandy Moore's Amanda Leigh, Fergie's The Dutchess, and Australian guitarist Orianthi's Believe. Younger listeners may squeal with delight at the chance to get teen heartthrob Justin Beiber's My World for $5.

Among the classic rock titles are some real classics, including Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

With more than 800 MP3 albums on sale for $5, I'll be buying more than a couple (am especially interested in that Orianthi album).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Patti Smith Documentary Airs on PBS Wed., Dec. 30th

While legendary punk rocker and poet Patti Smithis performing the second of her three shows in New York City Wednesday night, PBS will be premiering a new documentary movie about the artist (see trailer above) as part of its POV series. (You can find a conversation with Smith about the movie at the previous link; the piece aired on the PBS News Hour on Tuesday.)

"Patti Smith: Dream of Life" will be aired for the first time on Dec. 30th; check the link for complete schedule of air times. As the description in the New Hour piece notes, fashion photographer Steven Sebring started shooting daily footage of the musician, and "captured Smith during a time of tremendous loss (she had lost both her husband and her brother), and then her subsequent return to the public eye. 'He wanted to join me as I tried to put my life together after a very difficult time,' says Smith."

Patti Smith has for years performed in New York City on New Year's Eve, usually with another show or two in town, and this year is no exception: she's playing Bowery Ballroom Dec. 29th, 30th, and 31st. All three shows are sold out, but sometimes additional tickets are made available close to show time.

Friday, December 25, 2009

R.I.P. Vic Chestnutt - Acclaimed Singer-Songwriter is Dead at 45

Some sad news for any day, but especially Christmas day: Vic Chestnutt, an acclaimed singer-songwriter who battled substance abuse and suicidal thoughts, has died, his record company and other sources confirmed. It was reported yesterday that he was in a coma, which some sources said was caused by a suicide attempt. Some Web sites said that he had died, as did a few Twitter feeds from musicians, but the Web sites later changed their articles to say that he was in a coma.

An article on Entertainment Weekly's Music Mix blog says that some reports stated that Chestnutt was in a coma earlier in the week, but that the cause of death has not yet been made public.

Originally from Athens, Georgia, Vic Chestnutt was injured in a car accident when he was 18 and had been a paraplegic ever since. His musician friends later held concerts and produced a tribute album, Sweet Relief II: The Songs of Vic Chesnutt, to help pay his medical expenses, and those projects gave greater visibility to his music and gained him new fans.

Our condolences go out to Vic's wife, Tina, and his family and friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Year's Best Tunes? Here's a Whole Bunch of "Best Music of 2009" Lists...

The end of the year is a time to reflect on the best (and sometimes worst) music of the past year. And in the case of 2009, it's also the end of a decade (or not, as some would argue), so there are a lot of lists tallying up the best of the '00s, or aughts, or whatever the hell this decade is to be called.

Here's a sampling of some best-of lists of the year and the decade, from music business sources and the general-interest press.

* L.A.'s KCRW considers the top 10 live performances that took place on its flagship program, Morning Becomes Eclectic.

* Also, KCRW's music librarian, Eric J. Lawrence, offers a preview of music forthcoming in 2010.

* At another one of my favorite radio stations, New York's WFUV, the DJs and staff weigh in on their favorite songs and albums of the year.

* MTV, which now seems more of a reality TV network than a music channel, surveys the best music (and artists, and films, etc.) from 2009 (which they have dubbed "The Year of Gaga")

* NPR Music, which produces a number of fine music podcasts, live concerts, and more, offers several lists detailing different staff members' favorite music of the year.

* The Dallas Observer reviews the year in Latin music.

* lists 88 "Outstanding 2009 Albums You Might Have Missed." Looking through the first page of the listing, I can honestly say I've heard of only one or two of these albums/artists. Will have to check them out.

* Rolling Stone gives its picks for the best albums and songs of the Aughts... I mean, 2000s ... you know, the still-unnamed first decade of the 21st century.

* And Idolator lists the top-selling songs and albums of the year at iTunes, along with its editors' picks.

Onward to 2010...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Congrats to Nota, Winners of the "Sing-Off" Finale

Nota, the six-man singing group from Puerto Rico, has won NBC's a cappella competition, "The Sing-Off," in the show's finale, which was televised live Monday night. The sextet won over the Beelzebubs, the 15-man group that has been an institution at Tufts University for more than three decades. (See the "Sing-Off" live blog from the Baltimore Sun for a blow-by-blow recap of tonight's show.)

Voices of Lee, a group from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, was eliminated earlier in the two-hour live broadcast. The show featured each of the final three groups performing a song with a special musical guest. Voices of Lee performed "Pocketful of Sunshine" with Natasha Bedingfield; the Beelzebubs sang Leslie Gore's '60s girl-power anthem "You Don't Own Me" with Pussycat Dolls singer (and "Sing-Off" judge) Nicole Scherzinger; and Nota performed the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles hit "The Tracks of My Tears" with Mr. Robinson.

The "Sing-Off" finale also featured performances from the show's other on-air personalities: Nick Lachey singing along with the final three groups; Ben Folds playing piano as the Beelzebubs and Nota sang "Why Can't We Be Friends," and Shawn Stockman singing a medley of Boyz II Men hits with the two other members of the group.

Congrats to Nota for the victory, and to the Beelzebubs, Voices of Lee, and the other competitors for being chosen for the show.

For those who want to hear what Nicole Scherzinger does when she's not when she's singing and prancing with the Pussycat Dolls, here's a video of her performing a song with Slash:

"Sing-Off" Finale: Winner to Be Decided Tonight on NBC

Voices of Lee performs Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" in last Wednesday's show.

The voting finished yesterday in the finals of NBC's a cappella singing competition "The Sing-Off," and the results will be announced tonight, Monday December 21st in a live show (after endless commercials, of course). The show airs at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

There are three finalists: Voices of Lee from Tennessee's Lee University; Nota from Puerto Rico; and Tufts University's The Beelzebubs (which I've written about before). See the official "Sing-Off" site above for an overview, videos of the performances, and more details.

To see specific performances: Nota singing Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," Voices of Lee performing Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," and The Beelzebubs doing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."

Tonight's finals will also feature a cappella performances from some heavy hitters: Natasha Bedingfield, Bobby McFerrin, Boyz II Men (the group that judge Shawn Stockman is a member of), and Smokey Robinson.

Voting took place from the end of last Wednesday's show until 9 a.m. yesterday morning, with viewers able to vote by phone or online, with up to 10 entries per e-mail address. So tonight's winner will probably be the group that conducted the best get-out-the-vote campaign. Good luck to all competitors!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Beelzebubs (The Bubs) Advance on NBC's "The Sing-Off"

If you watched NBC's "The Sing-Off" on Monday night, you discovered what a lot of people in New England have long known: that the Beelzebubs are impressive performers.

The Beelzebubs, also called The Bubs, are the all-male, a cappella singing group from Tufts University, and have been an institution there for decades. On Monday night, the first night of competition of "The Sing-Off," the Bubs wowed the audience with a lively version of The Beatles's "Magical Mystery Tour."

You can find out more about the Bubs, including their current and past members, their touring schedules, and their recordings, at the Beelzebubs official Web site.

The Bubs have been around for more than 45 years, and in that time have recorded 30 albums. On the group's album page on their Web site you can buy their albums directly, including their most recent album, Play the Game, which came out this year. The group's 2007 recording, Pandaemonium, includes their version of "Magical Mystery Tour." You can hear audio previews of many of the songs at the site.

The Beelzebubs made it through the first round of "The Sing-Off" and will face their next competition on Tuesday's show.

Oh, and yes, the Bubs have a Twitter page if you want to keep up with all things Beelzebubian: @tuftsbubs.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Free Streaming Christmas Music Online

If you're looking for some new Christmas music to get you in the holiday spirit but don't want to spend money on tunes you'll only listen to a few weeks of the year, check out these sites where you can stream Christmas music online for free.

* One of the leading online audio sites, Live365 has one of the biggest and broadest selections of holiday music channels (106, according to the site), with genres including jazz, instrumentals, easy listening, bluegrass, New Age and Celtic, and any more.

* AOL Music Christmas music: AOL is another major player in streaming music. Though it's best known for offering new pop CDs, it has more than a dozen Christmas offerings. Among the more unique options: Christmas songs from kids TV shows, holiday comedy tracks, winter solstice songs, and holiday songs from around the world.

What's more, AOL Music also enables you to listen to more than 30 full Christmas CDs free, including collections by current artists such as David Archuleta, the Beach Boys, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and A Fine Frenzy to Nat King Cole, Aretha Granklin, Ray Charles, and Frank Sinatra. Oh, there's also "We Wish You a Metal Christmas" (featuring Alice Cooper, Dave Grohl, and others).

* You'll find more than 30 streaming Christmas stations here spanning such genres as adult contemporary, instrumental, Latino, R&B, Top 40, country, jazz, rock, traditional oldies, and soundtracks.

* The Christmas music page of this Web site has links to 20 online radio channels, some from (see above). The stations cover everything from classic Christmas songs to holiday songs from the 1940s through 1960s and even a station that "plays only one thing: versions of 'Blue Christmas.'"

Whether you're into traditional Christmas carols, rock tunes, heavy metal songs, or endless versions of "Blue Christmas," you'll find something to suit your taste in these free online streaming Christmas channels. Happy listening, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

New York Concerts on Sale This Week: Jim Gaffigan, Julian Casablancas, Muse, Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck, and More

2010 is shaping up to be a great year for live music in the New York City area, if the first few months are any indication. Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck are returning to Madison Square Garden; Julian Casablancas of The Strokes is stepping out on his own; The Swell Season is back supporting its new album; and Alice in Chains are touring once again.

Here are some of the shows that have recently been announced recently or are going on sale this weekend, followed by concerts that are already on sale.

On Sale Fri, Dec 11:
Jim Gaffigan - January 23, Wellmont Theatre; Montclair, NJ - 9:30PM show added.

An Evening With YES - February 10, Wellmont Theatre; Montclair, NJ
February 13 & 14, Town Hall

On sale Sat., Dec. 12

On sale now:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Free Music: New Podcasts with Frank Black, Blues, and XTC & Motown Covers

Above: The bluesy Roadhouse podcast is one of several offering tasty tunes this week.

The holiday season in the U.S. began right on schedule for music lovers with plenty of great new podcast episodes coming out in the last week or so. (And I haven't even begun looking into podcasts offering holiday music... that will be coming soon.) Here's what's come out recently:

The Pixies are on tour, but their leader Frank Black (under the name Black Francis) is about to come out with a limited release of Der Golem, Black's music to accompany the 1920 German silent film of the same name. The podcast previews the album, which they say will come in a box set with a run of 500 copies, in their 12/1 episode, titled "The Golem - Investigated!" There are intriguing tracks from the album that show a different side of Black's songwriting and performing talent, including straightforward rock and tunes with horns and a more orchestral feeling to them.

Speaking of Frank Black, there are a couple of Pixies covers on the latest edition of Coverville, the cover song podcast, "Outside there’s a cover request waiting" (12/1). A couple of November Coverville podcasts offer cover versions of two classic artists: Berry Gordy/Motown and '80s British rockers XTC.

Blues podcast The Roadhouse is out with episode #249 (11/28), with tunes from Moreland & Arbuckle, Sue Foley, Bob Brozman, Doug MacLeod, and The Holmes Brothers. Or check out other episodes, including #248, which features Elvin Bishop, Harrison Kennedy, Bessie Smith, Arthur Adams, and others.