Great Alternative Rock Albums for $7.99 and less!


1. The National - Boxer - $7.99
People I know have called this the best album of 2007. It may not grab you on first listen, but when the album reluctantly opens up to you, you will marvel at its beauty. Spend some time with the lyrics, and you will marvel at how they reflect you. Put it on when you're driving on a dark road late at night and marvel in the instant appropriateness.

2. Regina Spektor - Fidelity - $7.99
You've probably heard a few of the songs from Regina's breakthrough album: Begin to Hope. Many of Regina's fans also adore her prior album: Fidelity, where Regina really started to come into her own.

If you haven't heard Regina, it's a bit difficult to describe. She is unique. You can compare her to Fiona Apple, but you have to replace moody angst with whimsical glee. You can compare her to Tori Amos, but you have to replace ugly crazy with adorable smarts. Her Russian/Jewish heritage are an important part of her work, as is her classical music background, but she wraps it all in a package that is fresh, accessible, quirky, and profound.

Highlights include: "Us", a dreamy tiptoe through the clouds that stunningly turns out to be about the fall of the Soviet Empire, "Somedays" and "Ode to Divorce" which will both tug at your heartstrings, and the irrepressible "Sailor Song" where Regina screeches out "Marianne's a bitch" and we still find her enchanting.

3. We the Kings - We the Kings - $5.99
I don't know much about We Are the Kings. They are opening for Boys and Girls and Metro Station on the road, and I like both of those bands, so that's a good sign. They sound pretty tight for a new band, reminding me of a younger Jimmy Eat World, or of their touring partners, Boys and Girls. Armed with tight harmonies, shaggy hair, and youth on their side, these guys could be going somewhere. It's a great deal, so pick it up if you're young and into new music.

Is the Starbucks Free iTunes Promo still going on?


Does anybody know if the Starbucks free iTunes promo is still happening? I think it was technically supposed to end 11/7, but iTunes still has links on their site to it. Are folks still getting hand-outs?


Great Mew Album for $6.99


If you haven't heard of Mew, you should definitely check them out. They are a Danish quartet, and they create music on an epic scale rarely heard these days. Their vocals float on driven, dreamy soundscapes that calm and rage simultaneously.

The first Mew album I heard was the 2005 effort "And the Glass Handed Kites". It's a brilliant effort, with an incredibly cheesy looking cover. Do yourself a favor, and get past the cover art and go preview 3 tracks: "Apocalypto", "Special", and the "The Zookeeper's Boy".

$6.99 is an absolute steal for this record, which is offered for $12.98 at Amazon.com and $14.88 at Walmart.com

More Good Albums for $7.99


When good albums are going for $7.99 on iTunes, we like to call them out, because that's a great deal for legit tunes.

1. The Office - A Night at the Ritz
'The Office' is the band with the unfortunately timed name. Every time I mention them to friends they respond, "Yeah, that Dwight guy is hilarious!" Despite the confusion with the similarly named television show, the band 'The Office' has produced one of the more satisfying albums of the year.

You may have picked up their free single earlier this year on iTunes. I strongly recommend that you pick up their full album now. This album is pure pop bliss: jangly harmonies, charming lyrics, and a sound that sounds simultaneously fresh and retro. At $7.99, it's a steal.

2. Mat Kearney - Nothing Left to Lose
You may not know it, but you've definitely heard Mat Kearney's music by now. It's been featured in Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, The Closer, and just about every other show ever produced that uses emotional pop filler in the background.

But don't hold that against Mat. He's struggled to gain his footing against all of the other singer/songwriter Matt's: Matt Costa, Matt Nathanson, and Matt Pond PA. But Mat is different in three major ways: 1. He only has one "t" in his first name. 2. he sings AND raps. Shockingly well. 3. He's really very, very good.

I love his voice. It sounds familiar to me somehow, like Adam Duritz and Chris Martin gave birth to a robust baritone with earnest, urgent delivery, who was also capable of leaping into falsetto or rap modes at any given moment. Pick up this album for $7.99 and you'll be getting some great songs, and at least four brilliant songs: the catchy "Undeniable", the soulful "Where we Gonna Go From Here", the pop anthem "Nothing Left to Lose", and "All I Need", the absolutely gorgeous ballad written for his friends in Katrina.

3. Big Change - Song for FINCA
Natalie Portman really wants you to buy this album. Or, that's what I've gathered from the giant picture of her head on the iTunes album page.

Seriously though, Natalie handpicked these songs and put together this album to support FINCA, an organization that offers a proven program of microloans to village entrepreneurs in Africa.

The album itself is a bit sprawling, plodding along with introspective singer-songwriter fare. I can't help but wish giving money to Africa made Natalie feel a little more uptempo. But who can argue with 16 tracks for $7.99? And there are some real gems on here: Tokyo Police Club's "Be Good" is undeniably infectious, the heartbreaking "Ain't No Reason" from Brent Dennen, and Rogue Wave's gently inspiring "How We Landed" is jaw-droppingly gorgeous when it opens up.

If you're feeling charitable and want some good tunes to boot, pick this album up.


Free Bright Eyes Track


I'm not terrible certain why this single Bright Eyes track is available for free, but it's Conor at his angriest and most powerful. It's definitely worth checking out. A highlight of some of the lyrics:

When the President talks to God
Do they drink near beer and go play golf
While they pick which countries to invade
Which Muslim souls still can be saved?
I guess God just calls a spade a spade
When the President talks to God

When the President talks to God
Does he ever think that maybe he's not?
That that voice is just inside his head
When he kneels next to the presidential bed?
Does he ever smell his own bullshit
When the President talks to God?

Get "When the President Talks to God - Bright Eyes" for free on iTunes.

Free Music Podcast of the Week


One of the least known, but best ways to get free music on iTunes is to subscribe to the music podcasts. Many of the free music podcasts offer a new single daily, or weekly. They are often from top notch artists as well. Sure, they show up in the "Podcasts" section of your iTunes library instead of the "Music" section, but you can still enjoy the great music, right? You can still put it on a playlist, burn a cd, etc.

This week's free music podcast is the KEXP Song of the Day. KEXP is an excellent radio station based out of Seattle that plays an eclectic mix of indie bands. Artists recently featured on their podcast include Tunng, Metric, Pinback, Band of Horses, Tokyo Police Club, the Editors, Spoon, Iron & Wine, and more! KEXP - KEXP Song of the Day

This Week's $7.99 Albums: Solo Female Artists


iTunes offers a subset of its albums at the great price of $7.99. Don't bother hunting through to find them all -- we take care of it for you!

This week is a great week to pick up some great solo female artists if that's your scene. All for $2 less an album than your traditional iTunes music.

1. Sara Bareilles - Little Voice

Some compare Sara to Norah Jones or Fiona Apple, but she has neither the fluidity nor the agenda to align with either of those artists. I would instead label her "the female Ben Folds": apt at creating potent, poppy melodies (with the occasional jazzy hook) that tell vivid stories. I have listened to her album more times than I can count this year. Highly Recommended.

2. A Fine Frenzy - One Cell in the Sea

According to the VH1 video that I saw, "A Fine Frenzy" is just a 20 year old girl with orange hair. She sings pretty well, but on piano she's limited to pounding out simple chords in 4/4 time. Despite the pervasive too-tender angst, the songwriting doesn't underwhelm, and sometimes surprises. It's unchallenging music for a rainy day.

3. Vanessa Carlton - Heroes & Thieves

It was impossible for me not to like Vanessa Carlton's first album with the "Thousand Miles" song, but then that got played three billion times, and then I saw randomly saw Ms. Carlton peddling Candie's shoes in my local mall, and the mystique was just gone for me.

But a further listen of her latest album is surprising. The songwriting is tight and fresh. Songs like "Spring Street" showcase a seriously maturity emerging in her work. Her voice is sometimes a little too precious for me still, but Vanessa Carlton is no longer playing it safe.

4. Emmy Rossum - Inside Out

If Imogen Heap, a posse of opera singers, and a flock of ethereal chipmunks made sweet sweet love and had a baby, it might produce this album. Last time I checked, Emmy Rossum has an awesome voice, so I'm not certain why her production team is hiding it behind an army of effects and dubovers.

The sparser tracks might have the answer. Emmy sometimes can bust it out and leave you surprised and breathless, but other times has trouble fleeing her diaphragm-supported, open-vowel, operatic roots, and embracing something a little rougher. For $7.99, it's an interesting acquisition. For any higher, only buy it if you are a 14 year old girl or a die-hard Phantom Fan.


Pre-Order the Live Earth album, get a free song


Live Earth was a concert to raise awareness of Global Warming that took place this summer. I think the general consensus is that it was a bit of a bust, but the live album coming out looks pretty fantastic, with live performances from Madonna, the Foo Fighters, The Police, Roger Waters, and more.

If you pre-order now, you get a free copy of John Mayer's live performance of "Waiting on the World to Change".

iTunes Store Free Singles of the Week


Free Singles of the Week for this week are:
1. Cheri Dennis - Remind You
Cheri has a great voice. The repetitive piano instrumental is pretty annoying, but I started digging the track despite it. It's not an iTunes free single classic, but it's tolerable free music.

2. Bengala - Miente
It's in Spanish, but it's passable enough adult contemporary rock.

3. Sterling Harrison - Don't you Mess with my Money
The best free track this week. This guy's got soul, and there's no denying it.