We were all particularly cash-strapped this year, what with Brobama refusing to give us all the free money he promised. Can a millenial live? In 2013, we let our bank accounts hover dangerously close to the red, and bought forties with pennies (as far as we know, that is still considered legal tender) and any dollar we had, we threw at these guys. For the empty-wallet crew, we've got something you might consider an early Christmas present from us, your friends (and cultural beneficiaries) at Impose. We've collected a list of the greatest, freest music that was released on the 'net, and though it'd be a shitty gift, I'm sure your Dad would prefer a Lee Bannon mixtape to an ugly pair of toe-blankets*. The list leans heavily on our hip-hop side, so don't be alarmed—but bands, take note. We love free shit.
Flying Lotus, ideas+drafts+loops (self-released)
After reaching 300,000 followers on Twitter, the LA-based producer offered a generous glimpse into his workbench of demos with a 24-song free download folder entitled, "ideas+drafts+loops". While each piece remains largely incomplete, the collection contains a smorgasborg of vintage FlyLo sounds like "Stonecutters", "Chasing Apples", and "Osaka Trade". The wealth of material in the digital link also includes a remix to Kanye's "Black Skinhead" (feat. Thundercat), demos for the Aqua Teen theme song, and collaborations with Mapei, Baths, The Underchievers, and Shabazz Palaces.
The Saturday EP is two cuts geared toward late nights when the house gets deeper and the exhaustion is a far cry from stifling the dance floors' power to move. "Saturday 001" finds a balance that can only be described as tribal-futurism, as the bongo percussion blends into the programmed synth flourishes. "Saturday 002" counters with a hypnosis of chants and vocal samples that reverberate through the pristine synths and tropicalia percussion. Though the EP cannot transplant to the hour it wishes to represent at only two tracks stretched to 10 minutes, the free download serves as an offering to deejays who are in need of a few bangers to slip into the set—no cost.
Usually music nestled within our "Approved Theft" category tends to be heavy in the hip-hop or dance genre, mixtapes dropping left and right. Today we're happy to share something new and unexpected through experimental drone artist Jonáš Gruska, whose Солнце EP is available for free download below. If you're riding out the dark, introspective waves of winter, this contribution will put you in a pensive state, as the blips, bleeps, and broad tones help to settle out the kinks in your brainwaves.
Hemsworth began taking a noticably sweeter, more digi-inspired vibe—less direct cuts from rap songs, more of a syrupy goodness pop music vibe—on this EP, released earlier this year. He's barreling down a summer stream in Japan and making us all cry a little bit in the process. His deepening emo vibes show through on the first track, "Empty Thoughts Over A Shallow Ocean", and in the download you get some sensual photos, as well as a great remix by Taquwami of the first single, "Perfectly".
NYC impresario rapper Le1f shared his third mixtape earlier this year, a 14-track friends-and-co contribution. Featuring production from FaltyDL, The-Drum, and features from Junglepussy, Lofty305, and more, it's an allstar roster with Le1f right at the heart of it all. It's a surprise that this didn't end up on more yearend lists, but who are we to judge?
From 2009-2011, Serengeti couch surfed in Berkeley, CA, posting up in Odd Nosdam's cottage studio known as Burnco. The album art for C.A.R., one of three records born of those sessions, properly displays Geti's life for two years. In addition to C.A.R., Geti recorded his Kenny Dennis EP, and then he released the remainder of the collection, a seven-song EP entitled C.A.B. produced entirely by Odd Nosdam with Jel on the cuts and a guest appearance by Dose One. C.A.B. is not a collection of leftovers. It's a complete song cycle, bound to the C.A.R. sessions in the production nuances of bluesy samples, that borders on autobiographical, even though it's never been easy to ascertain the difference between Serengeti's fiction and waking life in song.
Tasty Morsels, the new web-based label with little biographical information to provide, released their second comp earlier this year and it's full of high-bliss 60s-and-70s-inflected grooves and bedroom play-fun. Vol. 1, which follows up the label's first release, Music to Play Tony Hawk To, was our favorite Tasty Morsels output this year.
Clicky Clicky Music rounded up several favorite bands to release a comp of Lilys songs, aptly titled And I Forgot A Long Time Ago How You Feel. Attached with the download is a long, emotional missive on the site that explains why the Kurt Heasley-fronted D.C. shoegaze band is so important to the blog and the bands. It's a cool little offering and once you listen to the tracks, you'll easily be able to tell where these bands get their inspiration from.
I first heard Phemale through a friend, during a long car ride. We listened to A Root Terror, a perfect album for speeding somewhere between North Carolina and New York, very late at night. I was immediately transfixed by Phemale’s peculiar pop music, unbound by genre or pretension. It turns out that this was a very serendipitous introduction to the project, as I may not have found out about it otherwise. Mixed media artist Michael Donahue, who has been playing under the moniker Phemale since 2008, is sort of a secret. And that’s not because he’s unknown, as he is widely loved in certain underground circles. And it’s not because his music’s not readily accessible, as anyone can download all eleven of his albums for free via the WFMU free music archive. I guess it may be because he just doesn’t really promote himself. –JC
If you're like me and you've been gunning for total Drake dominance for years, but were overwhelmingly disappointed with Nothing Was The Same, you will find peace in a release from Ahnnu and D/P/I, the sideproject of Deep Magic's Alex Gray. An eleven-track reimagining of NWTS called She Was No Tame Thing, the two production masterminds chop up every undersold track on Drake's third and turn it into gold. –DE
If you've been fiending for a fix of some pedal-abusing, foot-stomping music for the angrier, grungier days, then this compilation will likely serve those urges. It features The Black Lips, Mikal Cronin, King Khan and the Gris Gris, Cheap Time, Mind Spiders, and more, which are more than enough to fulfill your primal side.
Famous Class is known for delivering all of the hits with every release they put out, so it's no surprise that when a little EP called Private Property went up on the FC Bandcamp, it was going to be a good one. The EP is helmed by Cyrus of Famous Class and Jamie of Snakes Say Hiss, and it features incredible dance, hip-hop remixes of everything from TLC to Jennifer Lopez to Ludacris, and it's a worthy way to wake up this morning if you haven't touched your coffee yet. And if you have, get working with this 7-track free download tonight when the light's go out. Just make sure you're ready to sing along on some serious karaoke feelings.
The best of the FACT Mag mixes this year comes from Portland's Liz Harris, aka haunting sound queen Grouper. This collection of songs is a surprise collaboration between FACT and Grouper, two worlds we thought might never collide, but it's a cherished addition with operatic vocals and melancholic string quartets. The mix doesn't have a tracklist because, as Harris puts it, there are several "traditional tunes that are hard to track down." Fine with us. It starts with the ominous soundbyte of a British woman reciting a line from Scottish poet and humorist Ivor Cutler: "The best thing about being dead is that you no longer have to say I wish I were dead," and it carries on from there, inciting Halloween memories any time of year.
On the Place/Crusher EP, Bannon's overture of notty, false starts is a deconstruction of his rap origins. Those who know him as a producer within Joey Bada$$'s circle will be checking liner notes to determine if it's the same guy. Those who know Bannon's experimental EPs which brought gothic overtones to trap wave instrumentals, could not have predicted the current incarnation of Bannon either. The EP is a menace to stasis. For every breakbeat-worthy moment of discovery Bannon unveils, there's a mutation to deny an extended stay. With a casual manner Bannon layers ethereal r&b/soul samples atop jungle patterns and just when it feels appropriate to catch the rhythm, he washes it clean for drones and glitchy pings.
Technically this came out at the very end of 2012, making it the official sleeper of this list, but allow us to refresh your memory. The four New York-based producers/musicians that make up The Guild—Sean Blaze, Takstar, Dun Dudnik and Yuri Beat$—each bring a distinct ingredient to the collaboration, which accounts for the creative dynamism of the album as a whole. It features raps from Kass Won, Big Baby Gandhi, That Kid CG, Young $lobo, and Lexington Steeleberg. But there’s too much else going on in the way of sophisticated instrumentals and brainy sampling to neatly categorize it as pure hip-hop, whatever that would mean, anyway. More importantly, it’s a gem that gets more interesting with each listen.
Sigils' Transverse EP is a place where the sampler-magic-square-pushing gives cinematic readings of seals that reveal a talismanic aura of enlightened electronic musicianship. With a twenty-first century perspective of technology's advancements of digital genre/post-genre developments, the Sigils sound shares more in common with the schools of archaeology, cultural anthropology, Greek mythology, meditation, paleontology, and Sanskrit surveys. Creating an ambience you can virtually reach out and touch on the following seven tracks, Herrera accomplishes this from summoning the practices of forgotten studies, while wielding planetary seals and analogically processed glyphs to graph music for unmade films.
Isaiah Toothtaker's latest collaboration is a record produced entirely by Jacob Safari (brother of Wavves) which is built entirely from Nine Inch Nails samples. El-P was the first to invite Reznor into the hip hop world with his appearance on "Flyentology". Toothtaker and Safari incorporate Reznor's band in a manner that celebrates his body of work by manipulating it into a new lease on life. The biggest artistic leap in the record is Safari's ability to draw from the quiet side of NIN. On "La Mer" Safari crafts an understated piano instrumental, clearing a path for Isaiah's stories of wrongdoings. One might expect a rap record built from an industrial powerhouse with an oeuvre spanning over 20 years to be a loud as hell, rock box of a record.
As Juiceboxxx tells it himself, this mixtape is "very blown out and the product of a winter listening to Beastie Boys and Guided by Voices on my phone while waiting for the bus in east LA and eating a Yum Yum donut. I collaborate with a few friends (Antwon, ISSUE, White Rainbow, Gnar Tapes/White Fang, Fielded, Schwarz, Fat Tony, Kool A.D.) but mostly this tape is about one-take vocals thru a fuzz pedal and basic survival. Just trying to keep things free and honest. If you listen to it the whole way thru a story unfolds. ALSO, don't sleep on the record I put out last year, I DON'T WANNA GO INTO THE DARKNESS. It is very underrated." Well, you heard the man.