It was basically one of the ways the iTunes library could promote some new-ish media to consumers. And when the price for these are 0 dollars and 0 cents, why not give them a shot?
I can't say that a lot of the songs they gave out were all that great, but they got the job done in terms of broadening my horizon. Plus there were some really fantastic acts I discovered through the promotion and today I thought I'd look back and say thanks to the iTunes - Single of the Week for some pretty good recommendations.
KONGOS - I'm Only Joking
KONGOS is probably known for their song Come With Me Now. Come With Me Now managed to get them enough buzz through its use as an ad-jingle (again, in the 2010's and beyond indie rock is all about the commercialism) and the South African quartet managed to get Platinum single off of that. I like that song just fine but the first time I heard them was when iTunes gave out their song I'm Only Joking for free. The drums in the back slowly build up and at when they speed up you can feel yourself feeling getting amped up too in the process. As for the lyrical matter it's oblique, it appears to be a guy telling his true feelings but because they're so outlandish he falls behind how he was only joking to protect himself from being thought as dumb or silly. A nice little jingle to drink to if you're in a singing mood under the influence.
Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
Consider this and the KONGOS track from before as being tied for first place, they're both really good but hard to put against eachother.
Passion Pit's debut single was put up for free on iTunes and I listened to it A LOT for that entire month. It was my first introduction to this indie-electronica type of genre and the sound interested me a lot (for reference up until this point my indie knowledge was limited to Franz Ferdinand and my electronica knowledge was limited to Justice). At the time I didn't particularly listen to the lyrics or message all that deeply but I remember a friend of mine (this friend is the type of music listener who reads Pitchfork religiously) saying that it probably fits me because it's a super happy sounding song despite it's incredibly dark nature. I love twisted contrasts like that. I've come to realize that yes, this is a dark song as the Sleepyhead in the title isn't about someone who needs coffee. The person is going to have the kind of sleep you don't wake up from.
Anyway Passion Pit is also like KONGOS in that they have another song they're better known for after being used in ad-jingles, Take A Walk. Trust me, you've heard parts of this song before, most likely the guitar riff.
PVRIS - St. Patrick
PVRIS is a little synth rock group comprised of Lyndsey Gunnulfsen, Alex Babinski and Brian MacDonald. Originally they were one of those screaming metalcore bands but decided to go into a more electronic route. You can still hear hints of their metal influence and lead singer Lyndsey Gunnulfsen can absolutely belt it all out with the best of them. Compared to the rest of the album St. Patrick is noticeably more upbeat and "poppier". The song itself is relatively simple compared to the rest of the songs on the album White Noise too. It's basically about a person who the narrator considers to be a godsend because they're good enough to distract them from all of the terrible shit consuming the rest of the world. Or at least that's my interpretation. Feel free to disagree.
I kind of liken PVRIS as what Crystal Castles would sound like if CC had used more guitars and less synth.
The Veragroove - Broken Glass
Veragroove was a reggae rock band from Arizona. It had a nice little run on the tour circuit before frontman Andres Rodriguez left the band. After that the band tried to keep going but has pretty much disappeared since 2015. A real shame because their stuff isn't bad for reggae music that's not made by Jamaicans. I certainly would've like to see this get big instead that Rude song. This song has a nice groove I like it.
Etiquette - Attention Seeker
Etiquette is a Canadian indie band consisting of two extremely talented Canadian artists you've never heard of. Those two being singer/song-writer Julie Fader and producer Graham Walsh. Both have been present in the indie scene for decades but did all sorts of projects under different names with a lot of different people. This song in particular is about someone who is being all "woe is me" and the singer just cuts into their bullshit and decides to tell them to get over themselves. That's basically this song lol. But it sounds great though. Walsh really did a fantastic job setting up the heavy and yet still relaxing atmosphere with the music (both on this song and on their other tracks) and boy it is a treat. This is a great song to get high to.
CHVRCHES - The Mother We Share
CHVRCHES is a Scottish trio consisting of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty. This is their debut single and probably one of their better known songs. If nothing else it practically launched them onto the scene in the U.K. and various parts of Europe. Pitchfork really liked it. As best as I can parse out the song itself is a post-breakup song and the pain the breakup leaves behind, but what makes it fun is the way this song just sounds. It's really hard to explain but I can imagine all three just having a fun time seeing what they could create with a sampling machine. And yes I heard this in an advertisement too. No indie rock song can escape commercialism.
Jay Rock - All My Life [(In The Ghetto) Feat. Lil Wayne & Will.I.Am]
Back in high school I was pretty obsessed with LA-based hip hop. Jay Rock here was one of many rappers who were making buzz as promising up and comers who would put California back on the map after a decade of Southern dominance. Obviously that didn't happen, but Jay Rock and his fellow Top Dawg Entertainment label-mates kept at it. Eventually TDE managed to produce a bonafide superstar in Kendrick Lamar, who went by the name of K-Dot back then. The first time I heard Jay Rock was on this free song. It was pretty amazing to me because this was one of the few times I could remember Lil Wayne performing on such a soulful sample (mainstream hip hop beats in the late 2000's were pretty bad). Anyway this song made me interested in Jay Rock's discography and that led to me discovering Kendrick Lamar (then known as K-Dot), Schoolboy Q and others. Fun fact, there is another version (the original version) of this track with Kendrick Lamar performing the chorus, which is a huge upgrade because Will.I.Am hasn't been good since his Ruthless Records days.
The Ting Tings - Wrong Club
Yet another band known for their other song. The Ting Tings are probably best remembered for their song That's Not My Name where Katie White lists off names that people call her and she clarifies that those aren't her names. Well half a decade after that the musical landscape shifted and like most acts, White and Jules De Martino adapted. This song was released in 2014 when people started realizing that instead of partying to garbage over techno beats they should go with throwback disco/soul/funk. For reference the biggest songs from around then were Get Lucky by Daft Punk, Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke and Treasure by Bruno Mars. I'm never going to say no to artists choosing to make their songs a little bit more upbeat and danceable.
WATERS - I Feel Everything
WATERS is the solo project of Van William/Pierszalowski. iTunes sure did love its indie rock didn't they? This song is a bit oblique but the lyrics suggest it's about the singer talking to a someone (possibly a girl?) who is under a lot of peer pressure and scrutiny from people around them. My guess is that it's that girl in high school was labeled a "slut" after rumors spread that she slept with possibly the narrator's brother. Then again, I could be off the mark entirely. I'll have to give this a few more spins to see what else pops up.
American Authors - Believer
American Authors are a rarity, in that they're a band from New York City. That city never makes anything. This is their second best known song behind Best Day Of My Life (which you all have definitely heard at some point). The quartet make songs that are either pseudo-feel good songs about being optimistic or looking back on the past and bad decisions made before that led to hoping for better days ahead. Apparently they've sold their songs to videos and commercials so you'll probably recognize a surprising number of songs by them even though they mostly sound the same and could easily be mistaken with Imagine Dragons, another group of jingle makers disguised as a rock band.
Broods - Bridges
Here we go, we finally have a band with the song they're best known for.
Broods is a sister-and-brother duo from New Zealand who made themselves known with this debut single. This song, as catchy as it is, is basically about a relationship falling apart in real time. From pushing aside issues at the beginning, to things starting to unravel, to the two knowing that things will never be the same no matter how much they want it to. Going so far as to wonder what could've even been said or done to ensure that it never got this far. Troubled relationships is a common theme for a lot of their discography BTW. If you're really into Lana Del Rey and Lorde you'll probably enjoy Georgia and Caleb Nott here too.
Banks - Beggin For Thread
Speaking of songs for people into Lana Del Rey and Lorde, here's a little fun track from Jillian Rose Banks, aka Banks. It's about her knowing that she's imperfect and the other guy in the relationship is going to need to be really crafty to make things work. And the song implies that he's not so they're in for a rough time ahead. If this song hasn't been used in a trailer for a movie yet I'll be really surprised.
Sufjan Stevens - Should Have Known Better
One of the last conversations I had with the Pitchfork reading friend I mentioned earlier was regarding Sufjan Stevens, an indie darling who is popular among people who like bands like Vampire Weekend and Arctic Monkeys. The way I'd describe his music is tranquil music you play while you sip tea and read a book at home on a rainy day. For me I need to be in a specific mood and place to listen to this. This is too whispy and mellow to be enjoyed in the loud clickity clack NYC subway, but it gets the job done in a quiet library.
The Glitch Mob - Fly by Night Only (Yaarrohs Cover)
Prior to this song I had known Glitch Mob by reputation as an electronica band so I was thinking that their sound would be more like Wolfgang Gartner. Instead I was hit with this. After the initial "good grief this is slow and boring" listen I gave it a few more tries and over time it grew on me like a lot of Florence and The Machine tracks do. Not that they're the same, but for me personally it takes a lot for me to listen to slow songs. I'm a "don't bore us, get to the chorus" type of listener. But something about this kept me coming back. I attribute that to Yaarrohs having a great voice. Sidenote, if you listen to this when you're high this song will feel like it's been going for an eternity even though it's only a two and a half minute song.
La Roux - Bulletproof
Let's finish this post with a song that became huge shortly after it was offered for free. At this time La Roux was a duo consisting of Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid. Langmaid has since left the band but the duo has enjoyed success pretty early into their group's formation. How many people can say that they managed to perform on Ellen or work with Kanye West? This is a fun little poppy song about being better prepared for the next relationship. A topic that was apparently popular in the late-2000's/early-2010's because there was another song with a similar premise released like two years after that.
So these were some notables I downloaded while iTunes still the did the free singles promotion. I hope that these were able to widen some of your horizons like they did for mine. I still have a few more free singles I wanted to talk about but I might incorporate them into my next what I'm listening to post.
As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).