Elisa Bray: Caught in the Net

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The Independent Culture

As the weeks unfold, the race for the Christmas No 1 spot draws closer. Or is it already set in stone, judging by the current charts domination by X Factor winner Leona Lewis (right)? As her single "Bleeding Love" sits in the top spot, Lewis is about to steal the Arctic Monkeys' crown for the fastest-selling debut album. If Spirit sells a whopping 400,000 copies by the weekend as predicted, she'll beat the Monkeys' Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not first-week sales in January 2006 of 363,735.

Even this past week's album chart-toppers Westlife were signed by Simon Cowell. So if the thought of an X Factor-produced one-off taking the Christmas No 1 sends shivers up your spine, you are not alone. In a bid to end Cowell's monopoly on the charts, the social music website Last.fm have launched their first Christmas Chart Attack. Stating "We don't want some rubbish one hit wonder hijacking a great British institution every year", they searched the site and chose three up-and-coming bands they claim are "a million times better than anything Simon Cowell will inflict on us". They're probably right. You can check them out for yourself and vote on the winner who the site will attempt to take into this year's Christmas Charts http://www.last.fm/group/xmaschartattack.

With 20 million users of the site, and the winning track being sold as a 40p download, they might just stand a chance... Girl-fronted lush pop six-piece Lucky Soul, from Greenwich, who have taken a more authentic non-manufactured career path, are currently in the lead and the winner is announced on Monday.

Meanwhile, there is some great music available exclusively online. If you can't wait for Cat Power's new covers album Jukebox out in January, she has released a track exclusively available via iTunes. "Song To Bobby", written about and for Bob Dylan, is one of two tracks from the album written by Chan Marshall, which otherwise features covers of Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Billie Holliday and James Brown tracks and more.

Ocean Colour Scene have put out a free download single, a new version of "Go To Sea", as a thank you for their fans' support. It's available now from the band's website www.oceancolourscene.com.

The UK independent label City Slang, home to bands such as Arcade Fire, Tortoise, Lambchop and Broken Social Scene, have a digital sampler available for free from www.slangstore.com/digislang There you can download tracks by Stars, Caribou and Kevin Drew and his Broken Social Scene.

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