transmothra: (Default)

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

Recently, a friend asked me (me: the master of all things electronical) for some recommendations for downloading free music legally. Although i was hard pressed to name any legit source of free major label music, i have enough links to some really amazing sites that feature and host very good free music. Much of it is licensed under various Creative Commons licenses, and most is both free (as in beer) and free (as in free speech). As always, read the fine print for exact details for each site and every download. Additionally, check your local laws if you’re unsure about the license (personally, i have not found any gray areas here, since most of the music is either offered by the artists themselves as free, or is licensed freely, or is in some cases even public domain).

Since many of these are blogs, i highly recommend getting to know RSS feeds, and adding their feeds to your favorite feed reader. If you have no favorite feed reader, Google Reader is a great place to start.

So, without further ado, here are my top picks for really cool free, legal mp3 sites, in no particular order…

Here are some free albums and some cheap albums. A whole lot of really good free stuff. At the top right you can select “Price: low to high” to get all the free stuff listed first, but the default setting is “bestselling, so that one shows the most popular free stuff, mixed in with some good cheap deals too. You can also go to single songs, too, and browse the links on the right by price and genre, etc.’s free music and netlabels categories

I could spend days without sleep sifting through some of these really amazing collections. You can drill down by keyword and genre and popularity. Very little big-name artists, but some serious gems (also a lot of duds, too, but if you look at the download counters you can tell which ones are liked – or at least downloaded – the most).


This netlabel has tons of free samplers and whole albums by nobody you’ve heard before but every minute is really good, and they have an excellent mix of genres. I guess you could call them a metalabel, since their compilations frequently feature artists on other netlabels. One of the best free music sources around.

Note: these next two exemplary sites, despite my egregious lack of better-apt descriptions, are among my very favorite resources, not only for the wonderful personal touch you can find, but also for the incredible variety and sheer scope of their blogs and the insight gleaned from reading their notes on each feature, which are like meta-liner notes. These are both, as they say, earnest labors of love for their respective curators. As i’ve noted in a comment below, the best possible thing to do in lieu of giving you a lengthy and drooling description, is to implore you to go and dig deeply and feel the fresh cool sand between your fingers, and linger, and wonder at how new and interesting things can truly be when experienced with fullness and vigor. And maybe leave a note of thanks whenever you see something really cool that you enjoyed.

Free Albums Galore

This site frequently features avant-jazz and minimalist techno, but you can also find some fantastic alternative, pop, rock, folk, et cetera. Another great resource.

Catching the Waves

Another great free music source. See Free Albums Galore above. Same thing applies here.


Bandcamp has tons of music from indie bands. Some free, some not. It’s fun to sift through, and you can find some real cool stuff here, sometimes even some up-and-coming bands that are just beginning to fly above the radar. Try this link for free stuff. I don’t use bandcamp that often, since i’m usually directed there by one of the other sites above.

The Peppermill

I have not heard anything from this label that i didn’t fall in love with immediately. TRUST ME ON THIS ONE. And try The Box: I cannot tell you anything about this record, except that it is freaky and weird and quirky, and yes, you DO recognize that tune.

I would be not only remiss, but probably also shamed before my peers, and quite possibly also drawn and quartered, if i didn’t point you to


…who have awesome compilations and records, covering all kinds of genres, though a lot of it is maybe more techno and hip-hop and trip-hop oriented. Their massive year-end best-of mixes last year were pretty amazing.

Free Music Archive

Possibly the granddaddy of all free music sites, the FMA is a project of WFMU, “the most renowned freeform radio station in America”. They feature music of all kinds. This is one amazing resource that is just as much fun to sift through as it is to listen through.

Lastly, here’s one i just found out about:

Thomas’ Posterous

Having no experience with this one, all i can say is that it comes highly recommended from Catching the Waves.

Other great sites, archives, and blogs to check out

Oddio Overplay
The Silent Ballet
Netlabel Index
largehearted boy: daily downloads
RedFerret’s wikidump
WFMU’s Beware of the Blog:mp3s
Netlabels Noises
Ektoplazm: free music portal
Jamendo (the King of free music sites)

Lastly (ok, really lastly), here’s my Google Reader bundle: Free Music et cetera (OPML)

Happy sifting!!

transmothra: (Default)

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

album cover

Sometimes You've Gotta Fight to Get a Bit of Peace

On July 27, 2010, Hornbuckle Records is releasing Sometimes You’ve Gotta Fight to Get a Bit of Peace, the brand-new, highly anticipated album by Austin, TX one-man indie rock wrecking crew The Cocker Spaniels. Over three years in the making, this new CD, a masterpiece with a whopping 18 songs – each and every one a soon-to-be classic – could well be the one that blasts head Spaniel and master musician Sean Padilla into the stratosphere, alongside such not-dissimilar artists such as TV on the Radio and indie legends Guided By Voices.

A while back, i emailed Sean to ask how his record was coming. I knew he’d been working on it for a long time and was getting anxious to hear it, being a massive fan of his last CD, the brilliantly-titled Withstand the Whatnot. He sent me a slew of tracks to listen to. This was probably a year or more ago, and he’s been tweaking it ever since, including having it professionally mixed and mastered. I have to say, the album in the form that i heard was insanely good. Then several months ago he sent me a new version, which sounded even better. It is unimaginable to me that the final version could improve upon Sean’s already masterful-sounding recordings and great mixes, and yet all indications are that it will in fact be exactly that.

Now you must understand here that The Cocker Spaniels is not Steely Dan. Their albums are not pristine, cold, surgical affairs devoid of soul. Although the sound is always crisp and clear, with everything in its right place spatially and frequency-wise, the heart and soul of this band is decidedly lo-fi. Not lo-fi in the sense that they were recorded on crappy boomboxes, or even four-track cassette recorders. Rather, it’s the DIY spirit of the things that recall the absolute greatest Guided By Voices records such as Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes. When you hear this music, you don’t think of some guys in a basement with a couple of crappy Radio Shack dynamic mics going into a consumer-grade stereo tape deck. What you hear is this: a young man with more talent than you can ever possibly imagine anyone on Earth having, absolutely driven (i mean truly, awesomely hell-bent for leather here) to make some damn incredible, original music, almost entirely by himself, a la early Todd Rundgren, or Stevie Wonder. And that frenetic energy is captured perfectly. No, the sound itself is actually pretty spectacular, especially considering that he did it all on his own in various apartments and spaces, without any sort of budget or outside producers.

If you don’t believe me, go and grab one of the mp3 versions he has up on his site for free. Right now, my personal favorite is a tossup between “The Overeducated Underclass” and “Cousin Ben.” As with almost all of his tunes, they are catchy; nearly overloaded with hooks that keep going for days (earworm alert!), featuring intimate-yet-intensely-fun lyrics straight out of real life and brimming with just the right kind and amount of crazy irony, laugh-out-loud stories, and all the joy, anger, and sadness to be found in the spectrum of the human condition, all performed with a passionate zeal and fluidly-jagged precision that will simply leave you reeling. Listen for some serious Frank Zappa chops in his playing, too. The guy can play circles around just about anyone, on virtually any instrument. (Prince who?) While you’re at it, grab some songs off his last record, since it’s out of print (for now), and a fantastic piece of work in its own right.

And yesterday, he started taking preorders, at a mere $12 a pop (that includes shipping anywhere in the U.S. – overseas orders are also available). Although he’s almost certainly sold enough already, the first 150 75 orders come with a special handmade “making of” zine which is sure to be a serious collector’s item when this guy hits the Big Leagues, which should happen at some point in the months following the aforementioned 27/07/10 official release date. (So get in on this one and hope for the best, because that one little limited-edition bonus is gonna be worth some serious cash on eBay someday, and you don’t wanna have to mope about how you had the chance to cash in on that but you didn’t take it.) Anyway, even if you aren’t one of the lucky 150 75, you’re gonna get some seriously amazing independent music out of the deal.

(And for what it’s worth, i hear his cookies are freaking crazy-making.)

March 2011

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