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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Score sweet sounds from MP3 blogs

Frank Sennett By Frank Sennett

Feeding the iPod beast can leave music lovers feeling downbeat.

After ripping favorite CD tracks, raiding friends’ digital jukeboxes and poking around iTunes, where do you turn to fill your player’s remaining megabytes? MP3 blogs provide one good answer.

Think of audio blogs as the online equivalent of that cool dude from the music store who always hips you to hot new artists. Curatorial in nature, these sites present a handful of fresh song files every day or so, usually along with contextual material such as thumbnail reviews, news and links to the featured band’s homepage.

Although you can download featured tracks, the point is to find blog proprietors whose taste you trust, sample the selected songs and then seek out and buy more stuff by artists you like.

In addition to helping you find music you might otherwise miss — and explore genres you’ve skipped (Cocaine Blunts & Hip Hop Tapes anyone?) — MP3 blogs can zap great bands back onto your radar screen. Upon visiting the venerable Fluxblog last week, I fell in love with a featured tune by Sonic Youth, an act I stopped paying attention to in the nineties. The blog’s review of “Do You Believe in Rapture?” — which pointed out the mellow Velvet Underground vibe — intrigued me enough to click on the file. And wow, the song’s as gorgeous as blogger Matthew Perpetua says it is.

Fluxblog’s mission statement sums up the ethic of polite enthusiasm that differentiates MP3 bloggers from all-you-can-eat free file-sharing services: “Please note that MP3s are only offered for a limited time and are changed frequently. Songs mean a lot when songs are bought, so please buy the records if you like them.” Many audio bloggers pledge to pull files if rights holders ask, and some say they only post open-license, public-domain and other legal-to-share music.

The Recording Industry Association of America so far has not launched a jihad against small-scale MP3 blogs and their kinder, gentler brand of copyright infringement. One reason this music gray market continues to thrive: Record labels use the blogs as promotional tools.

“If artists, record companies, publishers and others choose to use music blogs to distribute their music, that is their choice and we think that’s a great thing,” RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said via e-mail. However, he added, “It is important that bloggers… respect the value of music by obtaining the appropriate licenses from the copyright owners, or their designees.”

Seattle-based Sub Pop Records usually offers two tracks from each new release on its Web site for MP3 bloggers to post — hopefully along with full reviews, said Sarah Moody, Sub Pop’s Web publicist.

One blog recently posted two live tracks from Sub Pop act Wolf Parade that no one on the label’s staff had even heard. “It was getting people excited for the band and its new material,” Moody said. “The bad type of promotion is when blogs post a .zip file of the entire record for download.”

In addition to Fluxblog, other noteworthy audio blogs include Music for Robots, Stereogum, Chromewaves, Gorilla vs. Bear, Said the Gramophone, 3Hive, Soul Sides and Largehearted Boy. The Technorati search engine offers a directory of MP3 blogs, and you can find others by visiting blog aggregators such as Elbows and The Hype Machine.

And don’t forget to burp your iPod when you’re done.

Drilling down

With the president’s staff getting shaken up like one of James Bond’s martinis, former White House domestic policy adviser Bruce Reed offers an insider’s perspective on the bloodletting at his Slate politics blog, The Has-Been.

Guilty pleasure

Drew Sloan,

Inspired by a “Saturday Night Live” parody ad, this dude and his friends actually deep-fried a “Taco Town” taco wrapped in a burrito wrapped in a gordita wrapped in a crepe wrapped in a Chicago-style pizza wrapped in a blueberry pancake. Check out the photos, and then enjoy one on Cinco de Mayo—if you dare.