Ode to iTunes Song of the Week

iTunesAs of December, iTunes no longer offers its free Single of the Week. It was a feature Apple’s music store offered for well over a decade and was one that helped me to discover many great songs and artists.

I’m a casual user of iTunes. Most of the music I buy is on CD and vinyl but occasionally, I do buy music digitally. If one of my favourite artists has just announced a new album and they put a single on iTunes, I’ll buy it. I’ll buy a full album if I’m not hard pressed to own a physical copy of it but still want to have it. A non-essential, if you will.

The iTunes Free Single of the Week was a major draw for me and it brought me to the digital store every Tuesday. Admittedly, I downloaded them less than half the time and they were pretty hit or miss but I can credit iTunes with my discovery of some great songs and artists over the years.

Lindi Ortega - Little Red BootsThe iTunes Free Song of the Week was what introduced me to both Nicole Atkins and Lindi Ortega, two artists I likely never would have found otherwise, when their songs The Way It Is and Little Lie was the weekly offer, respectively. It was also where I found Basia Bulat‘s Tall Tall Shadow, one of my favourite songs of last year, and Jon Bryant‘s Deaf, a song I get lost in regularly.

The feature also introduced me to an array of other artists that I may or may not have found through other means such as Martha Wainwright (You Cheated Me and I Wish I Were), Hey Rosetta! (Welcome), Ash Koley (Brighter At Night), Hannah Georgas (Bang Bang You’re Dead, Somebody and Enemies), Whitehorse (Emerald Isle), Chvrches (Recover), HAIM (The Wire) and Kacey Musgraves (Follow Your Arrow).

They were also first on previewing artists who would become well known eventually anyway, such as Adele (Chasing Pavements), Lana Del Rey (Born To Die), Florence & The Machine (Kiss With A Fist), Lumineers (Ho Hey), Ed Sheeran (The A Team) and Lorde (Tennis Court).

There are dozens of CDs I’ve purchased over the past few years thanks in part to songs iTunes made available for me to check out. It wasn’t my primary go-to spot for new music but it was a significant source that was easy to access and proved itself to be quite rewarding.

iTunes US just launched a new Free on iTunes section that offers a selection of free music, not all of it newly released. As of now I don’t see it on iTunes Canada so it may just be limited to the Americans store. Hopefully they’ll expand it because it is an awesome way for lesser known acts to be promoted and for users to discover new music.

Scott Helman – Augusta

The next generation of singer/songwriters is in full force now following the success of artists like Ed Sheeran. Both Hozier and George Ezra are rising talents on the world stage and now Canada has someone jumping on board.

My first time hearing Scott Helman was through regular airplay on CBC Radio 2, which picked up on his song Bungalow last fall. His youth oozes through the song but not in a way that makes it juvenile. Continue reading

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game

Historical thrillers are an almost guaranteed must-see when they centre on a situation that wouldn’t be believable if not already documented in truth. They become acclaimed when they star someone with the ability to take on such a role the way Benedict Cumberbatch has become Alan Turing, British mathematician and cryptanalyst.

The film is set in different periods of Turing’s life. First, we’re introduced to him post-war as a man under suspicion by the police following a break-in at his home. Occasionally there are glimpses into his childhood and the relationship he has with his only friend Chris. Mostly, it’s set in the early part of the war, when Turing volunteers his abilities and intelligence to the British army. As he says, they need him more than he needs them. Continue reading

Paul? I don’t know him

Paul McCartney

Kanye West released a brand new song New Years Eve featuring Sir Paul McCartney. The song, Only One, vastly different in sound to his last album Yeezus, is more of a keyboard ballad with Kanye’s autotuned vocals that are reminiscent of the 808s & Heartbreak era. Along with vocals, Paul also shares the writing and production credits. When it debuted at #38 the week after, it was the first time since 1989 a song credited to McCartney made it to the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. Continue reading

Madonna – Rebel Heart (so far)

Madonna - Rebel Heart

Following the leak of demos from her then-yet-to-be-announced album Rebel Heart last month, Madonna took a proactive stance by immediately releasing the finished songs to digital outlets and a release date for the album.

The six tracks that make up slightly less than one-third of the record – 19 tracks! – offer a sample of her upcoming 13th album and judging by their sound, there’s a lot of ground covered. Continue reading

The Interview

Would anyone have ever guessed that a movie starring James Franco and Seth Rogan would be a beacon for freedom of speech and national pride? Likely not, but following the Sony hacks by the self-dubbed Guardians of Peace, and subsequent terrorist attacks on theatres that screen The Interview, directed by … Continue reading

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