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Monday, March 20, 2006

For Those Vaguely Considering to Rock...

A few weeks ago I wrote about the 50 free downloads from Paste magazine, and I finally took advantage of ‘em. What I didn’t know is that I didn’t need the card in the mag, as emusic.com offers a standard 50 free downloads trial membership. So, shame on Paste for pretending it’s something special for those who bought the mag, but cool tools for everyone else.

It works like this:

1) Sign up for an account by filling in the standard info fields (instructions on the site are straightforward), and by giving them a credit card number. The site is endorsed by a bunch of places, like Pitchfork Media, and they make the reassurances that your info is private, so by giving them my “junk” Hotmail addy that I use for any contests, I signed up. The site offers several levels of membership, where the more you pay, the more you can download per month. This doesn’t matter if you’re only taking advantage of the trial offer, of course.

2) Pick some music. There’s a lot the site doesn’t have, especially if you’re looking for mainstream artists. I couldn’t find the new Kanye West album or any White Stripes, for example. The trade-off is that the songs you download are yours to do with whatever you with, meaning they aren’t encoded to prevent them being loaded on certain devices or anything like that. For each song they offer, you can sample 30 seconds of the song. Each track counts as one download, which is sometimes dumb, particularly on discs with short interlude tracks or intros. Strangely, on some albums you can download these tracks, while on others you can’t, which kinda sucks if you want an album in its entirety. They should offer these ones for free or free with the entire album.

I spent a lot of time poking around the site, and it’s decently searchable (just make sure you spell titles perfectly) with plenty of categories and sub-categories. And if you’re not interested in mainstream radio stuff, there’s plenty there to snag. For example, a whack of the blues artists on Fat Possum, most of Neko Case’s discography, including her brand new disc, Sufjan Stevens, The New Pornographers, Johnny Cash’s Sun studio singles album, Felix da Housecat, The Arcade Fire, Ray Charles, the Danger Doom album, etc.

3) Get all 50 songs at once and shut down your account. There’s a tab to click on to do this, and they’ll ask you to answer some questions that you can ignore. This is important because otherwise they’ll start charging you after two weeks, and since most people are lazy, it’s better to snag 50 songs and jet right away (unless of course, you decide to stay with the service).

Like a true nerd I agonized over my picks. I didn’t want to waste my 50 downloads on stuff I was going to buy anyway, so I decided to find older stuff I either didn’t have on disc or mp3, albums that were tough to find or stuff I wasn’t going to take a chance on otherwise but was curious enough about to sample.

Here’s what I picked and why:

Public Enemy – New Whirl Odor

This is the new PE disc, which isn’t that easy to find as they haven’t been on a major for quite some time. Like their last few album, it relies too much on Chuck D shouting repetitive phrases over and over, and ranting over an average beat (like sitting in a lecture hall with a DJ). But, that said, there are a couple stand-outs that deftly combine Chuck’s rallying cries with some big old-school beats.

Drive By Truckers – The Dirty South

I’d been reading about these guys for a while. They’re often billed “the thinking man’s Skynyrd” (I’d hate to hear what the retard’s Skynyrd would sound like), and the one single I’d downloaded previously, Lookout Mountain, kicks considerable ass. None of the other songs seem to live up to it, but I’m really warming up to the disc and its harrowing, bittersweet stories of life in the South. Gritty, often sad, and occasionally transcendent in a way one doesn’t often associate with Southern Rock.

Deadboy & the Elephantmen – We Are Night Sky

I actually just stumbled across this first album from this White Stripes-ish twosome. Because the new release is on one of my fave labels, Fat Possum, I decide to give it a try. It’s a mix of Fat Possum style garagey blues rock and some slower acoustic songs. Lyrics include stuff like raining skulls and having your father’s bones under your bed. I’m all for that type stuff. It’s slowly growing on me. Like mould on a sleeping hobo.

Rocket From the Crypt – The State of Art is on Fire / Plays the Music Machine

Got this decade-old EP on vinyl, and I’ve always loved it, as it’s got some of the band’s best songs, including Human Spine. Sweet score; makes me sad the band played their last show this past Halloween. R.I.P., R.F.T.C.

The entire audio from Plan 9 From Outer Space

I had one track left and discovered that entire audio from the immortal Ed Wood classic was available as one download! The sound bytes on this alone make the entire trip to eMusic worthwhile. “Perhaps, on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it... for they will be from outer space.”

If anyone else takes advantage of this, let us know what you downloaded, so you can be mock- … er, celebrated.


Anonymous Paul C said...

Paul here. Do they still ask you for a credit card #, and is there a software download? Those were the main reasons I never bothered with eMusic in the past.

Nice score on Plan 9--I have that CD, but I'd actually hoped it was an album of library tracks that you picked up recently rather than just the audio portion of the film. I keep thinking I should upload the file and cut the 70+ minute song into 5 minute chunks to amke it a little more listenable.

8:47 AM

Blogger Dave said...

Yes, they ask for a credit card number, but all you have to do is cancel the account once you've got your 50 songs (within two weeks). I snagged all 50 in one swoop and killed it.

And they do provide a program to download 'em, which loads in a few seconds and can be deleted from your desktop when done.

9:28 AM

Blogger Superdude said...

Johnny Cash songs have very little copy protection.

3:53 PM

Anonymous Paul C said...

Well, I did the eMusic thing yesterday.

Don Caballero - What Burns Never Returns: late 90s math
rock. Never got into these guys at the time, which is
strange cause they're pretty great.

The Dukes of Hamburg - Some Folks: I've wanted this for a
while but it's out of print. 60s-style faux-British garage
band who dress up like knights when they play. Lots of fun.

Oblivians - Popular Favorites: Meant to pick this up for
years. Memphis bluesy garage.

Quintron - Are You Ready for an Organ Solo?: Again, meant to get this
for a while. Crazy organist from New Orleans who invented a drum machine
called the Drum Buddy that is light activated. Incredible. I've seen him
live twice, amazing shows.

Hella - Bitches Ain't Shit But Good People EP: Only had a
few tracks left, so got this EP from my new fave band,
totally wild math rock-y instrumental band with analog blips and bloops.

I'm actually considering staying on eMusic for a little
while to get some older stuff I missed on Matador, Fat
Possum, Touch & Go, etc. They have a really big catalogue now--last time
I looked at it, it was not that impressive. $10 a month isn't that bad
if I can grab 3-4 albums. Not sure, just thinking about it.

10:02 AM


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