Mini-rant: The ethics of file-sharing are a little blurry, but I tend to think that concerns in the issue are overreacting to the abuses of the few and destroying the legitimate use of the many.  Napster and other file-sharing programs work mainly as a kind of radio-on-demand, a medium of exposure to music rather than an actual distribution channel.  It is not the case that every person out there can afford a broadband connection and an MP3 player and a cd-burner and the whole new set of technology which is required before the larger population can use shared MP3's as a substitute for purchasing CDs.  That time is coming, sure, but it'll be years before it penetrates to the masses.  Besides, most surveys have indicated that Napster users continue to purchase music at approximately the same rate as they used to, so artists aren't missing out.  And finally, see Dan Bricklin's commentary on the Napster phenomenon for what I think is the last word on what is wrong with music companies trying to stamp this out.  The essence of what he's saying is that "the users of recorded music want to use it differently than it is delivered." Since the days of vinyl, the delivery has been by either the $8 four-track single or the $30 twelve-track album, so record companies have made their fortunes by locking users into paying for more songs than they want.  Now that we can get exactly and only what we want, we're doing it en masse.  The fifty-year con-job is over, baby.

Most of what I like rides the border between alternative and the vague moniker of "adult-contemporary".  You never know what categories these guys are gonna show up in, come awards time.  I like music that sounds genuinely effortless, but still manages to get to your hips, so that's the kind of sound that dominates.

Australian Artists
I looked at my CD collection today, and realised that most of what I buy is Australian, not because of any loyalty or nationalism, but simply because I love Australian music.  So here we go, trying to get some wider exposure.

No Aphrodesiac - The Whitlams
One of the finest songs in Australian music history, in my ever-so-humble opinion.  Intimate, sad, and incredibly tangible.  These guys just won't stop putting out good music, and they have a brilliant range, and lyrics that transcend anything you've ever heard.  For the cutest little pop song you've ever heard, try I Make Hamburgers, for one that kicks ass and drunken good times, try You Sound Like Louis Burdett, but I'm a sucker for their melancholy stuff, which always has this edge of self-aware irony, so Melbourne, and Band on Every Corner, and Charlie#2 get my vote too.  (Why don't I just shove all three albums down your throat? Honest, I would if I could.)

Damage - You am I
Simple, plaintive, very lovely.

wrote down what I think
on the head of a matchstick
wrote it all short and sweet
all that made sense to me
The men who ran away from the circus - Karma County
A slight country music sound, but made cool and funky and irresistible.  Great lyrics, and a laidback guitar to die for.

Secret country - Karma County
In Australia, we are trapped in an English landscape aesthetic--beauty is thick leafy trees and rolling green hills, all that.  But this song was one of the things which helped me see the beauty of the landscape around where I grew up, the beauty of sparseness and silvery-greys and, in particular, the sense that the land is very, very, very old and haunted by the past.  This singer has also one of the most beautiful, velvety voices out there.

Sell it to the world - Oscar Lima
One of those songs that, the first time I heard it, I just stopped what I was doing and listened. Wry and soulful and just a little of that bitterness which seeps into a passion for a hopeless cause.  Kind of a 'sit back with a cigarette and a glass of whisky' song.  The rest of the album (Desert Caravan) was slow to grow on me, but it did.

Way I made you feel - Jimmy Little
This is an instant classic--a cover of a song written by legend Ed Keupper, sung by legend Jimmy Little, produced by Karma County's Brendan Gallagher.  You've never heard anything so smooth and sexy and, well, cool.  The album, Messenger, is fantastic--all covers of Australian songs.

anything by Alex Lloyd
Current poster-child of Australian music.  In particular, Black the Sun, Lucky Star and My Way Home.  Beautiful, soulful, and just charmingly, vulnerably sincere.

Time - Iota
Irrevocably a Methos song in my head.  His voice and the lyrics give me shivers. The rest of the album has a harder edge, kind of aggressive, hyperactive pop, but it's a fantastic sound.

Crazy - Cordrazine
Okay, the first time I heard this song, I was running through a park in the rain, late for the bus, walkman on.  And the announcer said, 'this showed up this morning, you have to hear it to believe it', and I heard it, stopped running, stood there and listened.  I got soaking wet, missed my bus, showed up to my new job an hour late, and bought the CD that afternoon, with my rent money.  Yeah, I liked it.  <g>

There are two versions of Crazy, one from the Time to Leave EP, which is the original, and a jazz-club-torch-song kind of version from the From Here to Wherever album, which, if it's possible, I like even better.  The singer is usually described as a cross between Jeff Buckley and Ben Harper.  The album has plenty more worth listening to--Untitled is my other favourite, and I've got a friend who demands four minutes silence whenever I Never Cared Before comes on.

Sleep in Perfection - Augie March
Another hear-and-stop-dead song.  These guys are, I guess you'd say they're on the artistic-sophisticated end of the music spectrum.  This is rearly a lullaby, music and singing which are just ethereally lovely.

I know y'know I know - Tex Perkins
Tex Perkins is a god.  A sort of huge, six-foot-something, animal-looking, hard-drinking, no-bullshit legend of a god.  Solo, he does these laidback, stripped-raw acoustic things which give me shivers, and I know y'know I know is my fave of the moment, although Fine Mess is also very cool.  As part of the Cruel Sea, he's meaner and madder--The Honeymoon Is Over is just, well, so bitchy it's cool.  As part of Don, Tex and Charlie, he's more 'sit back with a quiet drink and enjoy'.  Ah, so many more songs, I could go for pages.  Get into this guy.

Shivers - Screaming Jets
Speaking of shivers, God, I love this song.  Originally Nick Cave, but this version is my favourite.  It has, I think, the best opening line of a song ever: I've been contemplating suicide, but it really doesn't suit my style.  Screaming Jets, in their rock mode, also have a great song called Better, and there's one called Helping Hand, which is a semi-cheesy mix of hard rock and big band jazz.  It's catchy, it's cool, the lyrics rule.  Try it, you might like it.  <g>

True Tears of Joy - Hunters and Collectors (the version from the album Cut)
And old one but a damn fine one.  More fine lyrics, and very fine singing, and just, jeez, it's perfect.

Mountain - Chocolate Starfish
A little more power-ballad than my usual tastes, but a fantastic song.  Methos.  Also try All Over Me, for the dream any-pairing vid song.

Cry - Lisa Miller
Duncan vid song (TM) <g>

You don't know how to ease my pain...
You don't know how to play the game
And you cheat, you lie
You don't even know how to say goodbye
You make want to cry.
Okay, I can't find this on napster, and I don't have it on CD (it just barely pre-dates my CD-buying days), so I don't know if it can be got.  It's a cover of a seventies song, by Godley and Cream (?), but you really don't want that version, it's all falsetto and synthesisers.  The Miller version is moody and misty and rich and angsty, perfect HL music.

Frontier Psychiatrist - The Avalanches
You have to hear this to believe it.  It's nothing like any of the above, it's harder and dancier and quite cheesy and bizarre, but it gets my vote for best song of 2000.  It's sheer sound-editing genius--music played on samples to blend into this phenomenal tour de force of noise, ranging from operatic to flamenco in tone but still kicking out as a fantastic dance song.  I have favourite moments in the song like you'd have favourite moments in a movie--the parrot screeching over the 'Arabian Nights' sounding music, the bass swelling as the gothic singing and the trombones break in.  (Yeah, I said you'd have to hear it to believe it.  <g>)  Turn it up loud and let it blow your mind.  The whole album is astonishingly good, one of the best and strongest and catchiest I've ever come across.  I'd pay five bucks for every song on it, I swear.

Spawn - George
I love these guys.  I've seen them live a dozen times, and I recommend every song they've ever recorded, plus a bunch more.  The brother and sister singers have stunning voices, harmonise like angels, and make music that just fucking kicks out.  This makes me think of Q/O:

from where does fear spawn
from the older ingrained scorn
doesn't mean that my mind won't cry
and I can't believe that you're happy to bleed
from your cold eyes
Also look out for a song which I think is called The Special Ones, which will be on their soon-released (I hope!) debut album, as well as the current songs Polyserena and Bastard Son, which are slower and sweeter than Spawn.

A brief plug for the greatest radio station in the world: Triple J. It's a government-funded national youth radio station.  And it's alternative, and independent, and it has no ads and no pop music, but spans a huge range of other music styles.  And you can listen to it online.  It pisses me off sometimes, but I wouldn't be without it.  So there.

International Artists

Why Can't I Fall in Love - Ivan Neville.
If I've got a favourite song, one I love above all others, this is it.  Written by Leonard Cohen, from the Pump up the Volume soundtrack, this is the finest "three a.m., heartbroken, can't sleep, sit on the balcony with a cigarette and wallow" song in existence.

Walk this World - Heather Nova
I love this song, and I think it's actually (wait for it) a fantastic Mulder/Scully shipper song.  Yeah, go figure.

From the no brainer department--
Portishead (try Numb, All Mine, and Sour--fantastic Xena/Gabby)
Radiohead (High and Dry is to die for, but anything from Paranoid Android.  I haven't got into Kid A yet, but I think I will.)
Ani de Franco (if I've got a favourite album, it's Living in Clip, in particular for Untouchable Face and Overlap, but Swing, from the latest album, just rules.)
Garbage (Queer, and I have thing for Stroke of Luck, and I love Milk, and lots of others)

Okay, that's plenty enough music.  But if you, lovely reader, having got to the end and perhaps even enjoyed some of these, have some music recs to share with me, please go ahead. I'm a slut for good music.  Lay it on me.  =)