You’ve been at Penn for a few weeks now, and you're finally back in the school-time groove. Unfortunately, you’re most likely grooving to the same old songs. It’s time to branch out, and we’re here to tell you how. Check out our favorite blogs, apps and tools created to help you cut the crappy music cord.

Disco Dust: Aside from a super-cool name, DiscoDust.blogspot.com has a lot to offer for house aficionados and aficionado wannabes alike. Thanks to the site’s meticulous editors, its featured songs and artists are truly the cream of the dance crop. If you’re a music fan on a tight budget, you’ll also be a fan of their free downloads — just don’t tell the RIAA.

Punknews.org: Punk rock isn’t dead yet, and Punknews.org is a blog dedicated to keeping it that way. It features news from the worlds of punk, metal, hardcore and everything else loud and in-your-face. Readers can submit their own news as well as concert and album reviews. These are vetted by a group of prolific editors devoted to keeping punk rock out of the shadows. Coined “the home-grown world-wide-webbed CNN of neo-punk” by Rolling Stone and Spin contributor Matt Diehl, the site puts little emphasis on differentiating between indie and major label artists and more on spotlighting quality rock 'n' roll.

Hear-It-First: Think of Hear-It-First.net as Str8 Hip Hop’s less daunting cousin. Rather than featuring every single hip hop album and song, HIF offers an edited-down collection in a much less intimidating blog format. Since its inception, the site has become well known among hip hop heads, so much so that rising artists often give exclusive interviews and tracks to the site long before they hit it big. Also, as with Str8 Hip Hop, all the songs are free.

Str8 Hip Hop: To talk about music blogs and not feature Str8HipHop.com is to commit a grave sin against hip hop music. By the time iTunes or Amazon features a hip-hop album or single, Str8 Hip Hop users have already been rocking to it for months. Though the site’s expansive forum is legally questionable, it boasts every upcoming and recent release. If you’re looking to bulk up your hip hop collection or score that new Wale CD before it drops, Str8 Hip Hop is the place to go.

Pitchfork Media: If you want to know MGMT’s whereabouts at all times, PitchforkMedia.com is the place for you. Covering every indie band worth its weight in skinny jeans with up-to-date news on releases, concerts, signings and collaborations, Pitchfork will keep your iPod relevant and rocking. In the past few years, the site has branched a little farther into the mainstream and will probably let you know what they think of Jay-Z’s new album, too. Their lists of the best albums and songs of the past few decades are worth checking out, as is pitchfork.tv for its interviews and exclusive live performances.

Stereogum: With similar content and coverage, Stereogum acts as an alternative and a competitor to Pitchfork. Stereogum is easier to navigate and broader in terms of the genres and labels it covers, making it the best place for quick and general music news. The Free Albums tab is a plus, with different music offered every week. If you’re into alternative music and the occasional dose of mainstream news all in an organized place, Stereogum.com should be your next stop.

Tripping Franklins: TrippingFranklins.com is Penn’s very first student-run music blog. Responding to an absence of Penn and Philly-related music coverage, the site was started to keep readers informed about concerts, releases and Penn music events. The blog is dedicated to exposing new campus bands and paying homage to older ones. A detailed concert calendar shows readers when acts of all genres are coming to town, and there’s even an art section that displays pieces created by student artists. Watch for the Tripping Franklins crew to throw events on and off campus, including “crazy-doodyface raves” and shows with Brooklyn-based bands and DJs.

Bolachas: We’re not sure about this blog’s origins, its writers or even its legality. That said, it’s incredible. Most of the posts involve album releases with brief descriptions along with links to purchase or download them. Better yet, the blog is the music world’s clairvoyant; it has practically every leak that hits the Internet, so you can get your hands on some albums before they’re officially released. Pearl Jam’s new album may or may not be available for free download already… you didn’t hear it from us.

Amazon MP3 Store v. iTunes Music Store: So, you’re trying to download music legally. We applaud you. But which service to use? It’s a toss-up. Both stores offer 99-cent songs and partial song previews, but a portion of iTunes’ tracks are still rights-protected. For the less music-savvy among us, this means that you can’t share the songs with friends without handing over your iTunes account info. Amazon’s tracks and albums, however, are free to be shared, mixed, mashed up… anything you can think of. Comparatively, we love the iTunes Music Store’s interface, and their Genius function is (as of now) unrivaled — it’s a great way to find music that matches your tastes or expands your horizons with only a few clicks.

Last.fm: Last.fm is an Internet radio and music community Web site from the UK. Like Pandora, Last.fm uses recommender software to keep track of your musical tastes through the Web site, a downloaded plug-in, or your iPhone. The site simultaneously works as a social networking site where you can share your musical tastes with friends and learn about similar artists from others. You can play certain tracks on demand, streaming from the Web site, and access previews of other tracks.

Grooveshark: Grooveshark.com is one of the most unknown, and perhaps best, online radio Web sites. Users can pick tunes from a database of millions of songs and build playlists with a Pandora-like autoplay feature. When you’ve clicked the smiles and frowns (like Pandora’s thumbs up/thumbs down) enough and come across a playlist that is really awesome, you can save it and listen to it on your free account at will. The site also has a Twitter-like feature where you can follow your friends, making it easier to get recommendations from them on a regular basis. Grooveshark lets you upload music from your own hard drive onto the network, which means that its library of music is forever expanding. The site gives you hours and hours of music you like, without the repetition of Pandora or the confusing navigation of Last.fm.

Acquisition: Sorry PC users, this one’s just for Apple-inclined readers. The days of Napster came and went long ago, but P2P download programs do still exist. Acquisition is unquestionably the best one out there; songs download quickly and your computer won’t be killed by viruses. Splurge for the $25 upgrade to the “pro” version — it’s well worth it for a life without annoying ads and download limits.

Beatport: Beatport.com is, without a doubt, a dance music junkie’s mecca. With hundreds of thousands of songs from 2,700 labels (yes, you read that right) and an up-to-the minute blog, both veterans and newbies will be able to find something they love. The best features are the top download lists and guest DJ charts, as well as exclusive remixes and early releases. Trust us: if you’ve heard it in a club (or at 4000 Pine), it’s here.

BitTorrent: The rise of BitTorrent marks the latest Internet revolution in file sharing software. Torrent files can be found at a number of search engines online, the best one being isoHunt.com. With a quick download of a BitTorrent client you'll have entire discographies at your fingertips. And no, it’s not totally legal, so don’t go Torrenting your face off at Van Pelt or anything.

Audio Hijack: If you’re scared to use Acquisition, Audio Hijack is certainly worth a try. For $32 you can record audio from, quite literally, anywhere: a YouTube video, a streaming TV show, or even a Pandora playlist. Unfortunately, this app too is only for Macs, but there are plenty of PC counterparts that can be found via a quick Google search. Audio Hijack is ideal for ripping audio from podcasts or online radio shows — content you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. All the Hijacks record in MP3 format and open right in iTunes… ideal for rookies and music pros alike.

CrooklynClan.net: If you love mash-ups and aren’t a member of Crooklyn Clan’s Vault, go join. Now. Sure, it’s designed for DJs, but that doesn’t mean we regular music lovers can’t get in on the action. At around four dollars a song, the tracks don’t come cheap, but they’re well worth the investment. From sugary pop hits to classic hip-hop anthems, the DJs of Crooklyn Clan know no bounds when it comes to the components of their mash-ups. We promise you’re paying for truly unique tracks that your friends won’t be able to find anywhere else (well, unless they read Street).


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