Each month the Amazon MP3 Store will put 100 albums on sale for $5 a piece for the entire month. Amazingly each month there are tons of great albums to choose from, from both mainstream artists and lesser known indie groups. There’s a lot of great deals each month and for most people it’s hard to know which albums to go with. So I have decided to give you my top 5 choices out of the bunch each month. (I decided to disqualify Greatest Hits albums from making the list.) I obviously haven’t heard every single album on sale here, so if there is another album you would like to recommend please share it in the comments. Hope you enjoy some new cheap music.
This is the debut album from The Shins, the band made famous by Zach Braff and Natalie Portman in the soundtrack of ’04 indie cult film, Garden State. If you’ve only heard the two songs from this album that were included on the Garden State OST, then you are missing out.
This is the indie-electronica outfit’s 5th studio album, but the first record of theirs that really hooked me and made me a fan. I think this is an absolutely perfect album for an autumn drive. So get it while it’s cheap here in the Spring and you’ll thank me come October.
Radiohead – OK Computer
Many people consider this the greatest album of the 90’s. Depending on the day, this is my favorite Radiohead album. I am pretty partial to The Bends, as it was the first album of theirs that I fell in love with. But it is hard to ignore the brilliance of this record. If you don’t own it, you need to snatch up this deal right away.
There are a lot of albums that have come out over the past couple of years that were labelled as surf-rock and among those albums, I thought that the debut from Best Coast was by far the best. They are kind of like a garage band version of the Beach Boys without the harmonies and a female vocalist. I am a fan and think you should be too.
Radiohead announced yesterday the release of their new album, The King of Limbs. If I understand it correctly, the album isn’t officially released until mid-May, yet we will be able to pre-order it now and receive a full digital download this weekend. While they are not allowing us to name our own price this go around they are still being creative and innovative by offering to us the world’s first Newspaper Album, whatever that means.
Here is a list of everything that comes with the Newspaper Album that is priced at $48:
Two clear 10″ vinyl records in a purpose-built record sleeve.
A compact disc.
Many large sheets of artwork, 625 tiny pieces of artwork and a full-colour piece of oxo-degradeable plastic to hold it all together.
The Newspaper Album comes with a digital download that is compatible with all good digital media players.
One lucky owner of the digital version of The King Of Limbs will receive a signed 2 track 12″ vinyl.
I’m glad that they are still making actual records and not just a collection of singles and that they are continuing to provide visual art to accompany the music, but this seems a little excessive. Why would you need the compact disc and the vinyl record? Regardless it is exciting to know that I could be listening to a new Radiohead album in less than a week.
Go here if you want to pre-order a premium quality digital download for $9.
I’m pretty surre I’ve heard the argument made that every album, first through eleventy-billionth, is a band’s most important effort. Essentially, if you put out a horrible album, it can kill your career. When you get to sixth, the pool for comparison thins, and (under certain circumstances) it becomes a success in and of itself. This is where we are with Spoon and their newest, Transference.
Now, as I thought of other bands with six or more albums, my mind was of course drawn to Radiohead and analogies ran wild (hence the title). In a very rough way, Spoon is in the same place Radiohead was in with the release of Hail to the Thief (bear with me). The major difference being, Spoon’s last two albums have been their most accessible, while Radiohead’s 4th and 5th efforts were almost intentionally alienating. Spoon has picked up a lot of steam since “Gimme Fiction,” including multiple songs being featured on NBC’s “Chuck.” Accordingly, the boys were faced with a crossroad. A larger audience means more expectations. A good band shakes them with style. Radiohead (again same place, different circumstances) let loose and made the least accessible of their records with Hail to the Thief. Spoon, on the other hand, has taken a much more gradual step. (And no, I don’t think Spoon is better than Radiohead. Pshhh.)
On first listen, I was a little disappointed. I kept waiting for the radio-esque single and killer hook along the lines of “Don’t You Evah” or “I Summon You,” but it never really came. I was guilty of wanting another Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but I got something different, a little more cohesive and a little darker. And while I think there is a stronger glue holding Transference together than previous albums, the same cohesion has made it less memorable. By no means is Transference a flop. It has its own staying power, but it isn’t a catchy staying power.
Spoon’s bread and butter lies in not trying too hard, and they haven’t fled camp. The Spoon of old is recognizable, just with a few new tricks. They’ve been evolving over time, think “The Ghost of You Lingers,” and in due course Transference contains just a few more “Ghost”-like tracks. There is some synth-percussion on “Who Makes Your Money,” strange vocal delays on “Is Love Forever?,” and mid-song “I Saw the Light” completely changes directions, but for the most part it works.
Considering where Spoon is in their career, Transference makes sense. If they don’t start broadening out, all of their quirks will become predictably unpredictable. The same thing that has made Spoon so likable (simple, low-fi pop), is also their handcuff. There is only so much you can do with a buzzy guitar, drum, and an old upright piano. I see Transference as being a sort of stepping stone. A stepping stone with substance. Not my favorite album of the young year, but one I’m glad to have in my library.
You can also check out a listen of the new album at NPR.
The best time for contemplation is on late winter nights, a friend said to me. Sometimes he holes up in his bedroom and while the world sleeps, he thinks.
The cold harnesses the mind and hones the senses. We see divisions more clearly: the geometry of a bedside table, the sharp difference of darkness and light, the separation of communal identity and the lone self. In winter, the watercolor smear of summer is gone and the world has suddenly come into focus.
Winter keeps us indoors for long spans, which is hell for restless people. But more time affords longer commitments, like that of listening to a record in its entirety. Here are some frosty nuggets.
Music Has the Right to Children – Boards of Canada
Music Has the Right to Children is a future-music dream city submerged in murky water and subliminal messages. Melodies dissolve just as they reach boiling point. Many sounds are so subtle they hardly exist, so strap on some headphones. Hazy jams like “Aquarius” and “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” loom high, stretching a hip-hop beat and warping it forever past time. If Kubrick made beats…
Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
“All Blues” is the winter song on the jazz record. These alien chord changes don’t ever touch ground, despite heaps of praise. A tense theme for driving home from work at the end of dusk, the song has no peers. Kind of Blue is so unassuming but it demands your attention. This kind of record is extinct; it’s for people that have to wait for things.
Kid A – Radiohead
I remember first listening to all of Kid A in the early morning, on a stretch of highway in Colorado. We passed cranes and incomplete shopping malls, all of it dusted with snow, to the chug of “The National Anthem.” The car coasted around a mountain pass during “In Limbo,” a drugged funhouse mirror. It’s an album, man, and each song is a stream into one frigid reservoir.
Knives Don’t Have Your Back – Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton
Haines sets out on a desolate adventure from Metric, the electric-rock group, with nothing but a husky contralto and jazz in the liner notes. “The first three songs all begin with the same note,” a friend pointed out, and he’s right; this is a mood record. The music of a late winter night should be concentrated, sparse and factual. Haines’ path is sad and beautiful.