Surfing the Web for new music, video and MP3 downloads can be a serious time investment. Picks from Times staff and contributors will help take the drag out of click-and-drag music choices. Some downloads may contain explicit lyrics. All are free, except as noted.
Smith’s debut two years ago was a stunner. Among a gaggle of Emmylou Harris wannabes, her liquid voice stood head and shoulders above all. This is the lead track of her sophomore effort due in October. When Dan Dugmore’s pedal steel enters, oh brother, it’s crying time again. She is similar to Alison Krauss, for whom she has written a song, but there is something heartbreaking about the way Smith delivers the double-time bridge -- “Think it’s time we need to change a few things” -- a dialectic between strength and frailty, between determination and surrender.
“Ain’t No Other Man”
Christina Aguilera (fans only video)
Two videos currently run for Aguilera’s hit single: one is lavishly produced and strives for a nostalgic Cotton Club ambience; the other is a collection of fans filming themselves lip-synching to the track. This is the latter and the results range from the predictably imitative to the unintentionally hilarious. It provides a glimpse at some of Christina’s demographic -- there’s a Justin Timberlake look-alike and, most amusingly, one fellow with Mouseketeer ears dances with a life-size cutout of Aguilera. Submissions came from as far as Argentina, South Africa and Bulgaria.
“Dance Like a Monkey”
New York Dolls
A joyous animated challenge to creationists that smartly references “Inherit the Wind,” “King Kong” and Dick Cheney’s infamous hunting incident, the track gleefully rocks with Sylvain Sylvain’s guitar having noteworthy crunch. The filmmaker has not forgotten Syl’s cap! David Johansen has a visage that lends itself well to simian exaggerations, and this is put to good use as the entire cast of characters ends up in a bacchanalia of Curious Georges swinging from every available outcropping in the urban jungle.
Michael Zapruder’s Rain of Frogs
In the New Chamber Folk, arrangements are key, separating poet-composers from lonesome coffeehouse troubadours. Zapruder understands this and has built a house of many colors, utilizing cornets, accordions, cellos and violins. As one of the inheritors of Leonard Cohen’s crown of thorns, he explores themes of isolation and eros but without the customary whine. To access the track, click on “Info” for the album, “New Ways of Letting Go,” then click on the song title.
Gotan Project synthesizes occasionally disparate elements, and the video, directed by Prisca Lobjoy, does the same by shifting between cinematic exposition and pure design. One man, one woman, one milonga in a Buenos Aires tango salon, only the music isn’t quite tango despite the bandoneon whispering through the track. A lush, romantic string arrangement recalls a late-'60s soundtrack, and a Euro-dance pulse befits the European roots of the band (although Argentine musicians were used on the track and album). The video explores the notion of a doppelganger, often with comic intent, and Buenos Aires has never looked so alluring in its crystalline exoticism.
-- CASEY DOLAN