Tunes that won't break the bank


Surfing the Web for new music, video and MP3 downloads can be a serious time investment. These picks from Los Angeles Times staff and contributors will help take the drag out of click-and-drag music choices. Some downloads may contain explicit lyrics. All are free, except as noted.

"Thunder Road": Tortoise & Bonnie "Prince" Billy, In their deconstruction of Bruce Springsteen's 1975 signature anthem of longing and highway liberation, Billy (an alias of indie crooner Will Oldham) and Chicago experimental noise specialists Tortoise invert the Boss' adolescent brashness to articulate a haunted 3 a.m. take on foiled dreams. Cost: 99 cents.

"Long Walk to Freedom": Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Oral history never sounded so buttery. The Soweto eight-man choral group rocks it a cappella on the title track from its new LP. (The song is inexplicably billed as "Halala" on this Web site.) Recounting 1993's Oslo negotiations that effectively ended apartheid, the group sings, "Congratulations, South Africa," just as the video changes from images of tribal idyll to footage of Nelson Mandela, "you've reached democratic elections!"

"Hate": Cat Power, Although it might sound like a lyric culled from the Kurt Cobain songwriting academy - "I hate myself and want to die" - the artist also known as Chan Marshall brings a Southern Gothic solemnity to those murmured words. The glamorous melancholy is enhanced by her choice of accompaniment: lonely strumming on a lonely guitar. Cost: 99 cents.

"Not Rich, Still Tryin'," 50 Cent, On this deliberately sensationalist DJ Kay Slay-produced mix-tape, the rapper with the monetary moniker offers his retort to the Game's "Stop Snitchin, Stop Lyin" - a broadside swipe at 50 Cent. Mocking the Game's gravel-tinged growl, 50 details his rival's creative travails, family problems and managerial issues. Ultimately, however, 50 undercuts his own macho posturing - is it just us or does 50 sound like a giggly little schoolgirl at the track's close?

Chris Lee writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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