A year ago I didn't know Napster from Quicken. Today, with Napster kaput, I don't know LimeWire from Morpheus from AIMster. The Web's flush with Napster replacements, and though I can't really figure out any of them, I've tried out a lot of them and even made a few work for a day or two. Here's what made the kicking and screaming worth it, listed in true emerging-technology style (i.e., in no order whatsoever).
1. Assorted tracks by Zwan: Billy Corgan made the live debut of his new band Zwan last month in a four-night zip through a handful of Southern California clubs; within hours of the end of the show at Pomona's Glass House, an intrepid siamese dreamer had posted the entire set on Morpheus. For those of us not there, the scratchy recording raised two questions: 1. How can Corgan really be so proficient at overdramatic, quiet-then-loud-then-quiet-again guitar rock?, and 2. How in the fuck did he get Dave "Papa M" Pajo, formerly of Slint and Tortoise, in the band?
2. Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman, "Something Stupid": Obviously the best selection from Williams' U.K.-only Swing When You're Winning LP, this breezy, surprisingly faithful rendition of the Frank-and-Nancy chestnut proved what I always suspected about Robbie: Americans will never understand why he's such a huge star in England. Somewhere, Rupert Everett is cackling a delicious, high-camp cackle.
3. Kylie Minogue, "Can't Get You Out of My Head": Australian pop tart Kylie Minogue will always suffer the same fate, though I can't really figure out why. This song, as good and as devious as anything on Madonna's Music, could be huge among American Britney fans who aren't girls and aren't yet women.
4. Modjo vs. Brandy & Monica, "The Lady Is Mine" white-label remix: I loved "Lady," the international dance-floor smash by French house duo Modjo, the first time I heard it, and loved it even more when Romain Tranchart, the more talkative half of the band, told me, "I think it's maybe the first house ballad, because it's a bit melancholic, a bit sad," as he sat on a train zooming toward Geneva a couple of months ago. When some bedroom genius out there fused the track to Brandy & Monica's already-wonderful "The Boy Is Mine," well, I don't really have to explain, do I?
5. Aerosmith, "Jaded": Couldn't give a shit about Steven Tyler if I tried (unless it's to turn off that horrendous duet with Pink on her new one), but this tune wounds my heart every time I hear it, and not for any extra-topical reasons. Simply the best, most perfect Superchunk song about fucked-up May-December romance ever played by guys with decades-old track marks.
6. Prince, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World": Simply the best, most perfect Smokey Robinson song about forgotten women ever played by a guy with several names.
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7. Robert Palmer, "Addicted to Love" and "Simply Irresistible": I spent countless hours rummaging through used-CD bins on a summer jaunt across the Midwest looking for Riptide and Heavy Nova, the albums that house these two numbers, in an attempt to understand how music so perfectly realized and so freestanding could exist outside the realm of the single. I never found them--maybe thankfully--so these swatches of beautiful yuppie ambition remain intact in my mind, free to run as they always have. And those sword sounds!
8. Assorted tracks by Hall & Oates: My dad, a classic-rock radio programmer who gets to offset the inevitable "Stairway to Heaven" spins by sneaking in the occasional "Deacon Blues," thinks Hall & Oates are Steely Dan if everything had gone wrong for those two guys. Given the pregnant pauses in "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," I'm inclined to agree.
9. Nelly Furtado, "Turn off the Light" Timbaland remix: Whoa, Nelly! Girl's got bounce!
10. Janet Jackson, "All for You" Rockwilder remix; "Someone to Call My Lover" So So Def remix: Jackson's found the perfect sonic architects in Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, as a sterling series of perfect pop singles will attest. But sometimes she only really gets cooking on her remixes, when the formal dependence on groove allows her to slip in and out of the rhythm like bedsheets. These two versions of songs already full of slip and slide made like salmon swimming upstream.