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.
“Message in a Bottle”
With his commanding rabbinical presence, Matisyahu runs through a nearly note-for-note rendition of the Police chestnut. The “bottle” has a dual meaning this time, referring to both a vehicle for human communication and, unfortunately, a soft drink. This is a Pepsi Smash choice on Yahoo! -- the sponsorship is clear -- but you’d thankfully never know it in the video. The snap, crackle, pop of Stewart Copeland’s drumming on the original is missed, and the bass player isn’t Sting’s equivalent, but Matisyahu adds a toasting bridge/digression that raises the version above mere pale reflection, and the guitarist has obviously studied every note of Andy Summers.
In the democracy of the Internet, everyone has their 15 minutes of fame, but some deserve more time in the spotlight than others. Filaccio was a songwriter in the early ‘80s with the San Diego band the Puppies, who were briefly signed to Stiff Records. After several unsuccessful subsequent bands, he disappeared from sight a la Thomas Pynchon, eventually surfacing in Yreka, Calif. Apparently, he has never stopped writing. Perfect for this climate of ‘80s chic, Filaccio may draw sonic comparisons to Thomas Dolby and Gary Numan, but the songwriting craftsmanship is pure Lennon-McCartney, Paddy McAloon or Stephen Merritt. Filaccio’s attention to emotional detail and the mise-en-scene are commendable. The bedroom production may stall some listeners, as might Filaccio’s occasionally mannered vocals, but pay attention to one song (among many on the page) that deserves a film. Give this man a producer.
Elvis Costello & the Attractions
The bad blood between Elvis Costello and Attractions bass player Bruce Thomas may have prejudiced Costello in his later assessments of the band’s achievements. Ignore such negative comments. This was a band of flesh and blood, fire and ice, and it merits comparison with the greatest units in late 20th century popular music -- Miles’ second quintet, Springsteen’s E Street Band, Trane’s classic quartet. All three Attractions play with passion in this video from the 1979 Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands. Pete Thomas drives the band like a demon possessed, pushing the groove relentlessly; Bruce Thomas viscerally pounds his bass, adding the kind of jazzy harmonic lines you’d never expect from a pop player, and Steve Nieve earns respect for the much-maligned Farfisa organ with his inventive fills. And in front, our hero, resplendent in a bright pink suit, energetically spits out his vocals, knowing he has the crowd hanging on every syllable.
“Bridge to Nowhere”
The Sam Roberts Band
Luxuriantly photographed in black and white, the video features an existential Roberts facing the deep issues of where to go, what to leave and why to do it. The rest of the band is nowhere in sight, but we are treated to urban imagery that would fit neatly into “Minority Report” with the same sense of alienation and seen through filmy cataracts. The Canadian-based Sam Roberts Band is coming up strong with a slightly retro early-'70s sound and production, but that’s not overly audible on this particular track.
With what sounds like a harp, or a high-strung guitar, or a hammer dulcimer liquidly percolating, this dream of a track says so much with so little -- a simple repeated vocal figure, a moaning bass playing a simple slide to a single note, a tight (and live) drum track and cluster keyboard pads. The music hypnotizes, comforts. Parks is an enigma -- his picture on his MySpace.com site is purposefully blurred -- but he plays with the band Aloha for Polyvinyl Records and is a welcome intimate addition in the world of ambient electronica.