By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
For those just joining us, On the Download is a feature in which we sort through the riffraff of the digital universe to provide you with links to the best in legitimate, artist-approved exclusives. It's instant gratification at its finest, minus the spirit-crushing regret and premium price tag. Have at it.
Writer's block has rarely been a problem for Sage Francis. The slam-poet-turned-rapper crafts his best rhymes out of political angst, and lately he's had plenty of material. His MySpace page is streaming "Civil Obedience," the first single from his upcoming LP, Human the Death Dance. Before he kicks off his summer tour, catch him live for an in-store performance at Twist & Shout on Friday, May 11. Until then, hit up the media page at his official site for an arsenal of MP3s, including rare tracks, exclusive remixes and plenty of anti-establishment overtones (www.sagefrancis.net, www.myspace.com/sagefrancis).
In Nebraska, a state known for its eerie abundance of corn, Conor Oberst is "he who walks behind the rows." Luckily, a Stephen King-style ending is nowhere in sight for Bright Eyes. Cassadaga, just released on the Saddle Creek imprint, marks the Oberst vehicle's seventh full-length and includes guest spots from M. Ward, Gillian Welch and former Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss. Stop by the band's page on the Saddle Creek Records site for free access to new tracks, including two cuts from Cassadaga—"Four Winds," the album's first single, and "No One Would Riot for Less"—and "Tourist Trap," the B-side from the Four Winds CD single (www.saddle-creek.com/cassadaga/).
The future of online radio is looking bleak—the Copyright Royalty Board raised the rates earlier this month—but KEXP 90.3 isn't sweating it. The University of Washington-owned station has made the jump from FM to dot-org gracefully, taking home a Webby Award for best radio Web site in the process. Along with streaming its diverse musical programming in high-quality, uncompressed audio, the station has built a solid selection of free podcasts, including a sizable "live performances" archive of in-studio sessions featuring bands such as the Long Winters, Beirut and Band of Horses. And, of course, there's the witty banter you've come to expect from public radio (www.kexp.org).