A is for Accident, but also for Amanda

I’m not sure how I missed this one.

The Dresden Dolls live album A is for Accident (Collected live recordings 2001-2003) is available to download on a pay-what-you-want model from here. In this case “what you want” can also mean free, so you really have no excuse if you like their music.

You can also download their eponymous debut album under the same model from here. This one is definitely worth paying something for.

Musical discoveries of the weekend

Various freely available MP3s by Portugal. The Man – I’d not heard of this band until about 3 hours ago, but am actually quite taken with them now. It’s American indie with a strong side order of psychedelia, and I think I could handle a whole album of this easily.

The Butcher’s Ballroom by Diablo Swing Orchestra – Another great name, and an album that I can only describe as a cross between Opera and thrash metal. Except it is a lot better than I’ve made it sound, and is the sort of thing that should be made into a musical.

Before We Stand… We Crawl by Hungry Lucy
– Interesting trip hop, with a female singer who can sing, and some killer melodies to go with it.

All are freely available to download.

Review : Lots of free music

I may get round to reviewing The Mars Volta, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth and Placebo, but as you can read about all of these in a fair few other places I thought I’d concentrate on a couple of months worth of free music (all licensed under Creative Commons so download away).

The Sound of Music by Pinkle

I like this a lot. It’s lazy, charming and creative indie music, and fits the mood of a summer week off work perfectly. I’ve just downloaded two more albums in the hope that they are at least half as good (see http://www.jamendo.com/en/artist/Pinkle for a full catalogue of releases). I’d buy “The Sounds of Music” and will certainly be trying to find out more about the artist (EDIT: I’ve now found a website at http://www.pinklemusic.com which explains more).

Dinner for One by Amity in Fame

Quite heavy, in a largely acoustic way (in the same was the new Mars Volta album is). I like this, and have found that it has got better with each listen. The only downside is that I’ve not wanted to play it from end to end for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. Certainly a burn it, although the title track in particular I’d pay for.

Animals are People Too by The Wind Whistles

A record I waited over a year for, and one which has not disappointed. The songs are shorter than the last album, but there are more of them and they have a more indie rock feel to them. None of these are a bad thing, and I would gladly file it next to “Window Sills”, which has been played a very large number of times over the last year.

So High by Le Galago

A British melodic indie group who come from Birkenhead, and sound a lot like Muse to my ears. This is not a bad thing as such, and they certainly have a sound (and in particular a singer) that could take them places. I like this, but it doesn’t tell me anything new about the world or myself, but I’m more than happy to listen to their songs when they appear on my playlist.

2 Days a Night by The Liquid Kitchen

I downloaded this a while ago, and listened to it a fair bit on my way to and from work. To my ears they sound a lot like Neil Young fronting a bar band, and I really have to remind myself on occasions that I’m not actually listening to Neil Young. Great if that is what you are after, but it seems like this really is their only trick and I’m not sure it would stretch to a second album without an input of new ideas. Worth a download though.

Born in the USB by William Doyle

I downloaded this for the title alone, but the music itself is rather fine too. It’s indie with a slight psychedelic edge, and opening track “Beneath the Soil” is possibly my favourite song of the last few weeks. It tails off a bit towards the end, but still warrants a good few listens.

Review : Stages by Abscondo

I reviewed the first Abscondo album a while ago, and actually still listen to it a fair bit. So I was actually quite nervous about downloading the second one in case it didn’t live up to my expectations. Thankfully Stages builds on Midnight Snow, whilst at the same time not deviating too much from the style that made the first album so enthralling. It’s mainly all about the lyrics, which make me think a lot, and which are both political and personal without making me feel uncomfortable. There are also a couple of melodies that stick in my head like glue, which makes me think I’ll be dipping in to this album over and over again.

It’s availabe for free from Jamendo, and from the artist’s website, and available to buy from iTunes.

Trying to catch up on writing about music

Albums I’ve enjoyed over the last couple of months include:

  • The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
  • Robyn Hitchcock – Goodnight Oslo
  • …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Century of Self
  • Beruit – March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland
  • Chris Difford – The Last Temptation of Chris
  • State Shirt – This is Old (available for free)
  • Nine Inch Nails/Jane’s Addiction/Street Sweeper – NINJA 2009 tour sampler (available for free)
  • Split Seconds – So Sad About it All (available for free)
  • The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (and in fact all their other albums too)
  • British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
  • The Dada Weathermen – The Green Waltz (available for free)
  • Morrissey – Years of Refusal
  • ne:o – illoj (available for free)
  • No, Really – Rust (available for free)

I’d love to write about each one at some point, but I never seem to have the time.

Discovering Free Music

So where do you start? There are obviously thousands of hours of recorded sound available legally for free, but it is quite easy to get lost, and to end up with a large amount of downloaded music that is not representative of what is out there.

These are the places I go when I want something new to listen to and don’t have any credits left on eMusic:

  • Last.fm have a page of freely available (but not always freely distributable) songs available at http://www.last.fm/home/freemp3s
  • For an example of a site that makes individual songs available in the “sampler” model, try http://www.jagjaguwar.com/mp3.php. I’ve bought a lot of music based on listening to things downloaded from here.
  • Jamendo (http://www.jamendo.com/en/albums) have a vast array of great music licensed under Creative Commons. They also have a lot of recordings that should probably have never been made. I spend a fair bit of time playing “spot the difference”.
  • The Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/) has a lot of free music available, and if you look closely you’ll find live performances by some fairly major artists, as well as a few things also available on other sites mentioned above.
  • For an example of a net label that understands about free music you could do worse than try http://aaahh-records.net/. They released the Wind Whistles album last year which makes them great in my book.
  • For an example of a single-artist model of distribution, try http://www.joshwoodward.com/music/. I’d recommend almost anything on here really.

I’d like to recommend iTunes singles of the week, but they need to strip the DRM off first. Although I should say that I did buy something on iTunes this week which plays fine in Rhythmbox, so the claims of trying to make their music more accessible to non iTunes/iPod users are not just an empty promise.

Freely available albums of the year 2008

As promised, a top 20 just including freely available music released under a Creative Commons license.

  1. The Wind Whistles – Window Sills
  2. Abscondo – Midnight Snow
  3. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals
  4. The Rest – Atlantis, Oh Our Saviour
  5. Robin Grey – Only the Missile
  6. Nine Inch Nails – The Slip
  7. Death by Panda – House Made of Glass
  8. Josh Woodward – Not Quite Connected
  9. Depressive Art – Bye Bye Dear Everything
  10. Robin Grey – I Love Leonard Cohen
  11. Josh Woodward – The Simple Life
  12. Brad Sucks – Out of It
  13. Icarus Crash – 13 Segundos de Caida Libre
  14. After The Ice – It Happens All The Time
  15. Mountain Mirrors – Dreadnought
  16. Death by Panda – One Fifteen Four
  17. Silence is Sexy – This Ain’t Hollywood
  18. Sungod Abscondo – Imperfect People
  19. Saint Jean – Zikophren
  20. Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I-IV

Introducing aaahh-records – home of free and charming music

I’ve just stumbled upon this net label, whilst trying to determine which year the Wind Whistles album was actually released in (the answer being 2007 and 2008 in different places).

The label has so far only released three albums, but two of them happen to already be on my list of favourite freely available music for this year, which makes me think I’m likely to like anything they put out.