Shortly after Christmas, I also joined the ranks who use the iTunes music store to buy MP3s, and I think I'm hooked for life. There are all kinds of artists in stock there that I've been unable to locate at my local record stores, selling for about half the cost of a CD. There are also podcasts galore, of course, and I discovered all kinds of new stuff in that arena.
What follows here is a list of content you might want to check out next time you're using iTunes, plus some free stuff you can find there and elsewhere.Albums
Shad - The Old Prince
Shad is an extremely talented emcee from southern Canada with thoughtful, often amusing, carefully-crafted rhymes in the vein of K-os, A Tribe Called Quest and (occasionally) Kanye. He lets loose one mild profanity, but the album is otherwise squeaky clean. There are all kinds of rappers out there claiming to purvey "real hip-hop" these days. Shad is one of the few who deliver.
Ohmega Watts - The Find
This album is actually a bit old, and my arrival in the OW camp is quite late. Haven't been bumping this one as much as The Old Prince, but it's still well worth the $9.99 I paid for it. Decent beats overlaid with tight lyrics and none of the garbage that gluts mainstream hip-hop. The rhymes are positive, but subtle - another blessing.Songs
John Mellencamp - "Small Town" (iTunes)
I'm Canadian, and don't have much use for John-o's Good Old Boy persona and simple love for all things American. But to his credit, Mellencamp knows who he is, where he comes from and how identity and place are indelibly woven into one another. As a guy who has spent most of his life in and around small towns, I find this song extremely relatable. And catchy, too.
Bill Mallonee and/or the Vigilantes of Love - "You Know That," "Goes Without Saying" (free at www.pastemusic.com)
Another great band I didn't get into until recently. Mallonee's voice has the same laid-back, rootsy feel as the group's rhythm section, and the marriage is a beautiful one. Last I heard, they were no longer performing together, but thankfully their music remains digitally etched and (in this case) free for the taking.
Ayiesha Woods - "Happy" (free at www.freegotee.com)
This song loses its sheen after a dozen listens or so, but is eminently digestible until then. The lyrics are exceedingly simple and somewhat superficial, but the message is a great one about the vacuity of fame and the ability of the Almighty to satisfy. Ms. Woods hasn't made a huge splash yet, but her performance on this track suggests it isn't for lack of talent.
Public Enemy - "Harder Than You Think" (iTunes)
Chances are you won't agree with everything Public Enemy says or does, but it's hard not to be taken in by this track. The instrumentals are similar to those that appear on their tremendous single "He Got Game" from a few years back, but are much more punchy. The lyrics are characteristically deep and insightful, delivered in staccato bursts. You'll likely want to steer clear of the rest of this album due to the language found in it, but "Harder Than You Think" is profanity-free and suitable for the 14-and-up crowd.
Insight for Living with Charles Colson and Focus on the Family with James Dobson
Religiously-themed podcasts abound on iTunes, but these are two of my favourites. Colson is an extremely gifted preacher who rarely lacks relevance, and the content of FotF is usually (though not always) on point. Good soul food.The HM Magazine Podcast
One of the best music podcasts I'm aware of, featuring full-length songs from a bevy of faith-based hard rock bands. The interviews are sometimes a bit of a snooze, but the remainder of the package is top-notch.
Pardon the Interruption and ESN NBA Dish
These are totally non-music-related, but exceedingly worthwhile for sports fans. The PTI cast is composed of audio from the ESPN T.V. show featuring sports columnists Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. It's easily the best sports show on the tube and accessible here for no charge - as is Dish, which delves into the inner workings of the National Basketball Association with a crew of ESPN writers.
That's all I've got for now, but all of these downloads are worth checking out. As I mumbled to myself after stumbling across many of these finds in the iTunes database, "Man. I love the Internet."