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Online listens help beat the musical doldrums

With the holidays in the rear-view mirror, the winter doldrums are infecting playlists and musical collections.

For many music fans, the go-to tunes stashed away on iPods and in album collections turn as drab and repetitive as short winter days.

The Internet has plenty of ways to help beat the musical blues. Many online radio stations will pick the tracks for listeners, while still allowing for some control in genre and the direction.

Here are a few sites to help tune out the musical blahs:

Pandora: Perhaps the Godfather of online radio, Pandora hovers between great, personalized radio and repetitive frustration.

By picking stations based on artists, tracks and genres, Pandora can often strike the right chord. The song catalog is vast, but stations begin repeating tracks quickly — within an hour. While it’s free, get ready to be bombarded by obnoxious ads — with the promise the ads will stop when you start paying.

Jango: Like Pandora, Jango is a great online resource when it hits, but it’s song selection doesn’t quite match Pandora. The ads may be fewer and more bearable, but listeners are bombarded with previews of new bands.

Last FM: The song selection is limited compared to Pandora, but it’s an ample site for people who listen to mostly modern music or Indie.

8tracks.com: This is one of the most intriguing — and addicting — online music sites. It’s the web’s update to the CD swap. Listeners can upload tracks to share mixes of eight or more tracks. Follow friends with familiar musical tastes or find strangers to follow with reliable mixes. Along with finding people to follow, forming mixes becomes a good way to dig into the dusty portions of your own music catalog. 8tracks can turn your music listening into a friendly competition to share a jamming mixtape. The site tracks how many listens a mix receives, which can be impressive and depressing.

Tunein Radio: Unlike user-guided online sites, Tunein is traditional radio — only it’s gone world-wide. Tunein takes listeners past the reaches of AM and FM receivers and acts like a database of radio stations. iTunes boast a similar collection of radio stations. However, it requires more digging than sites like Pandora, since most Midwest listeners won’t be familiar with typical plays on a station in, say, Connecticut. Find the right one, and you’ll be hooked.

These are just a tasting of the myriad of free, online music resources. Listen to a few and be sure to share favorites and other sites in the comments section on www.austindailyherald.com.