On the Download 

So amid much fanfare last week, Rupert Murdoch's minions launched MySpace Music — a long-promised overhaul of the social networking's music functionality. Three of the remaining major labels are on-board at launch — a sure sign that, after years of foot-dragging, litigation, false starts and half-hearted embraces, the recording industry might just be seeing the light. Naturally, "official artists" — the Linkin Parks of the world for example — get the deluxe treatment. But the plebes get an upgrade too. The streaming audio player runs better, looks better, is more intuitively usable and actually has a more modern feel than its clunky, chunky predecessor. It's hooked up to amazon.com's mp3 store, so you can purchase aforementioned label partner jams directly.

There's not a helluva lot that's different for the average profile-having outfit. So you still have your show dates, blog entries, homemade embedded YouTube vids and all that jazz, but now the music takes a front seat.

But MySpace, for me at least, has always been about randomly stumbling onto hints of genius, connected by the six degrees spiderwebby confounding genius that has made social networking sites such a ubiquitous cultural presence that even my high school classmates and real live neighbors are finding me with much more (alarming?) frequency. [I just wish their tech/customer support didn't leave so much to be desired!—Ed.]

And MySpace Music makes it super-easy to put together a breadcrumb trail of your wanderings. So I now have an annotated playlist from local yokels this week that reads thusly:

THE PIZAZZ — "Living Like Animals": Allen Park's finest ratchet up the intensity of their new new wave-nodding melodic buzz. Equal parts future, past and perfect, it's pop action that's got a thin layer of sludge without the slug.

THE MAGIC SHOP — "Jenny Lee": When you've been around the block making as much masterminded racket as members of this band have, you know how to walk the walk. And "Jenny Lee" has a country-electric-blues-folk swagger that's born from the sonic soup of countless nights woodshedding and seeing clarity through the cigarette smoke and beer haze. Still can't believe I haven't seen 'em live. WTF?!

ARAN RUTH — "Fright Night": Speaking of catching a band live, I was lucky enough to stumble into the DIY Fest afterparty last Sunday and caught Ruth's set. She held sway over the giggly-sociable Club Bart crowd with hushed and lovely tunes equally pastoral and spacey — solo guitar with minimal accompaniment and a voice that feels like Beth Orton's but intones something more ephemeral. And this here jam confirms it wasn't just the good vibes talking that night — there's a childlike innocence to the sense of foreboding. Sorta like walking in the woods as the sun settles below the horizon and feeling the transition from day to night.

BEARD OF BEES — "DB Cooper MacDemo": Presumably recorded cheaply on garageband or something (See? I'm a title detective!), I love this jam wholeheartedly as an a) "DB Cooper" has been persistent fascination of mine since I visited my grandparents in Vancouver, Wash. as a child and they gave me a T-shirt with his countenance on it; and b) it's chock-full of that shittily-recorded haste and energy that bleeds through such dress-up notions as "production value" and hiccups along with a kind of off-the-cuff basement jam spontaneity that I've only grown to love more as I turn into a curmudgeon. [There was also a great Warner Bros. album by an artist calling himself DB Cooper released in 1980, Chris; "Forever Rock 'n' Roll" was his hit; never released on CD, though! —Ed.]

BREATHE OWL BREATHE — "Playing Dead": East Jordan, Mich.?! An exit off I-75 and a reference or two on the local blogosphere pushed my stumbling up north. And damned if that wasn't a helluva stumble! Like falling into a world where Jonathan Richman plays alongside Calexico circa "Spoke." The beguiling narrative here is delivered over brushed drums and quietly strummed guitars, in a slightly nasal sing-song: "When I was playing dead/I lied down/I wouldn't move/though everything else was/the swingset/kids playing catch/no one even noticed I was gone/till she came along." The "she" joins in and it just gets lovelier from there. Do visit.

There's more, but this isn't a bad sampling for a first week's worth of yet another set of bookmarks. My one beef thus far is that the little display accompanying tracks that indicates what album the music's from or the recording dates or whatevs is absent from the new player. Thanks, MySpace Music, you bastard. I'll be back.

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More by Chris Handyside

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