iTunes' miserly propensity to give away a pittance of free mp3s by new and emerging artists is a sort of open secret, a veritable whisper in the blogosphere's never-settling echo chamber of mp3s and streams and tour-date listings. It'd be nice to be able to tell you that everything Apple has doled out since January 1 is gold, but if I told you that, I'd be lying though my teeth. None of these folks are bum-rushing SXSW 2012, but there's always next year.
Also: no free sub-mixtape hip-hop, no credibility.
5. Thieves Like Us, "Maria Marie"
The Sound: cocaine; The Hacienda; oscillators.
Named after a New Order single? I certainly wouldn't put it past them.
SXSW Appearance: uh-uh, and they don't even have any tour dates lined up, even though Bleed Bleed Bleed drops March 20.
The Skinny: Who says stalk-pop is dead?
The Sweet-Spot: The last minute or so, when the boy-girl vocals cut out and the synthesizers are just quietly wigging out.
4. Gregory Porter, "Real Good Hands"
The Sound: Old-school, smooth soul.
Hailing From: Bed-Stuy, NYC. Just like Biggie!
SXSW: Not happening, but dates in Massachusetts, New York, and Michigan are on the horizon.
The Skinny: A genuine "I hereby propose to your old man and your old lady in a display of antiquated chivalry" slow jam in a world full of "I propose to you, let's kick it at Subway" slow jams.
The Sweet-Spot: Those brilliant, giggly saxophone runs: my lord. Whoever broke that off should be getting crazy groupie action backstage every night on tour.
The "But": One thing, though: isn't there a really smug, condescending-to-the-elders thing happening in this song, where the narrator presumes to know exactly what's on his beau's parents' minds? Couldn't this whole display elicit alienation and dismissal where none existed before?
3. Every Time I Die, "Revival Mode"
The Sound: nu-nu-nu-grunge and meeeeeeeeeeeeeetal, cracking up together at the local Hot Topic.
The Skinny: These dudes are almost, like, cartoonishly peeved; it's hard to make It through this song without preemptively howling "Can you front me some cheddar, bro?" seconds before singer Keith Buckley bellows "I've gotta pay the judge" like a 40-song tattoo artist freaking out in a small-claims court hallway.
The Sweet-Spot: None, which is probably the point.
2. Frankie Rose, "Know Me"
SXSW Appearance: no dice, but touring everywhere else.
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York.
The Sound: John Hughes bubblegum.
The Skinny: wrists, ties, and Smiths LPs, which are traditionally skinny anyway.
The Sweet-Spot: Whether or not you'll find anything to love in "Know Me" depends on how well you're set for 80s-revival bullshit. I'm kinda over it. 1. The Big Pink, "Stay Gold"
Hailing From: England.
SXSW Appearance: Nope.
The Sound: Surfer Blood dosed with codeine and My Bloody Valentine.
The Skinny: Like rotating slowly within a perfectly calibrated, showroom-new cascade-pop machine.
The Bummer: makes four minutes seem to drag on and on in perpetuity. I'd like to think that this opinion doesn't say anything about my attention span, but "Stay Gold" would set just right at about 90 seconds.