Free downloads: Counting Crows, Rilo Kiley, Jason Bonham; streams of Squeeze, Eli Paperboy Reed
1. Grand Lake: "Oedipus Hex (Hwy. 1 North)"
Any band that takes a stab at channeling The Pixies into its own repertoire better be brave -- they helped invent indie rock and influenced everyone from Nirvana and Radiohead on down. Thankfully though, GrandLake turns in a respectful hat tip to Black Francis and his band with "Oedipus Hex (Hwy. 1 North)," a peeled back, surf-inspired jangle rocker that evokes the Pixies' classic "Wave of Mutilation."
2. Black Country Communion: "One Last Soul"
With his ultra-famous pedigree, drummer Jason Bonham (pictured) automatically inherited his dad's chair when Led Zeppelin reunited, but he's also manned the skins for Foreigner. These days, he's teaming with front man Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater) and blues axe grinder Joe Bonamassa for this swamp rocking super group that resurrects the psychedelic era.
3. The Empire Shall Fall: "ArcArsenal"
As the former front man Killswitch Engage, Jesse Leach is already respected in heavy music circles, but he's currently branching out with a new metal meets hardcore collective called The Empire Shall Fall. The group pays tribute to the genre's defunct but still-seminal At the Drive-In with this momentum-building cover, topped off by the leader's ferocious moans.
4. Counting Crows: "Miami"
The Grammy- and Academy Award-nominated veterans known for its hits "Mr. Jones" and "Accidentally In Love" are still logging plenty of miles on the road, as evidenced by this summer's "Traveling Circus & Medicine Show." Spread the word on Facebook and score this vibrant roots rocker that finds frequently-braided front man Adam Duritz at the top of his game.
5. The Waylons: "Liquored Heroics"
Speaking of social networking, tell a pal about this track on Twitter or Facebook and you get to keep it for free -- and for anyone who's heard The Waylons, that's certainly a steal. The Brooklyn-based band delivers an alternative country-doused tears-in-your-beer ballad, backed by pleading harmonies, slide guitars and a touch of accordion.
6. Rilo Kiley: "Science vs. Romance"
Even if Jenny Lewis splits her time between a solo career and Rilo Kiley, she's still amongst the most fun and fierce women in rock these days. Recall her early years leading the band with this amiable indie rocker taken from Rilo Kiley's debut "Take Offs and Landings," which laid the foundation for Lewis' lauded music career.
7. The Vaselines: "Sex With An X"
Based on the compelling (and ultra-sexy) song title alone, this is certainly worth checking out, but then again, The Vaselines have cranked out harmony-laden alternative rock with a noisy twist since 1987. Nirvana covered three of the band's tunes over the years and Belle & Sebastian are fans -- Stevie Jackson and Bob Kildea from Belle & Sebastian play guitar and bass on this colorful comeback attempt.
8. Squeeze: "Spot the Difference" sampler
Now that Squeeze songwriters Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford are back together, it's time to see if they still possess the same chemistry first displayed during their chart conquests throughout the late 1970s into the '80s. As these live studio performances indicate (especially "Slap and Tickle"), the pair's harmonies, melodic instrumentation and charming, dry sense of humor are spot on.
9. The GreatValley: "Stripped" EP
Catch a trio of tunes in the acoustic setting from this Wilmington, Del. acoustic duo composed of Louis and Nick Matos. The guys manage to get folksy and emo at the same time, though they're better off with straightforward singing instead of higher- pitched whines. Even so, there's no denying the pair's instrumental proficiency, which features guitars, percussion and piano played exclusively by the bros.
10. Spinner Spotlight featuring Eli "Paperboy" Reed
Taking equal cues from Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Buble as Adele and Amy Winehouse makes Eli "Paperboy" Reed a target for fans of both contemporary crooners and sassy singers with an edge. On this entire stream of "Come and Get It," he bridges the 1960s with now, touching on everything from piano pop to R&B grooves and singer/songwriter material laden with soul.