Who are these guys? They are awesome.
That's a direct quote from the notes I made whilst listening to some new music recently. Doing this blog has enabled me to hear all kinds of interesting music, and occasionally I discover an artist that really blows me away. In this case, "these guys" are Thumpermonkey (also known as Thumpermonkey Lives! on their latest releases - I'm not sure why the name changed), a British band that absolutely defies categorization. As of January 2, 2008, all of their music can be downloaded freely from the Internet Archive.
Their music is primarily progressive rock-based, twisting and turning its way through all kinds of tempo and time signature changes; where it will end up from one minute to the next is anyone's guess as you're taken on an epic journey through musical lands both familiar and unfamiliar. For example, I think that fans of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle will love this band; the vocals in particular show a strong Mike Patton influence, and the music has the same out of control, chaotic feeling that was often present in the music of those bands. "Shchrodinger's Cat Lives!", in particular, sounds like a mutated resurrection of Faith No More's "Surprise! You're Dead!" Other parts of the album remind me of Tool (the instrumental section in "Slug City"), Fates Warning (the main riff in "Asymptote", although it is much groovier than anything I've ever heard from Fates Warning), and Steve Vai (some harmonized guitars near the end of "My Reality is Stronger"). None of this is meant to say that the music is unoriginal in any way; I am merely trying to describe it in terms of music that I am familiar with so that people who are also familiar with those artists may have some idea of what to expect. Thumpermonkey Lives! have definitely managed to forge their own sound, which is something that's not always easy to do.
Bring Me Sun for Breakfast is the latest release from Thumpermonkey Lives!, and so far it is my favourite. But their older albums and EPs are well worth checking out as well, and it is amazing to hear how far they have progressed in such a short time. Links to all of their releases are included below. From what I've heard so far, Thumpermonkey Lives! will definitely be a band to watch out for; I'm already looking forward to hearing more from them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Inmates [EP - 2001]
Alpha Romeo [EP - 2003]
Pigheart [LP - 2004]
Chap With The Wings, Five Rounds Rapid [LP - 2006]
Bring Me Sun For Breakfast [LP - 2007]
Who are these guys? They are awesome.
I also maintain a list of the most popular content on this blog. There you can see what posts have been popular over the last week, month, year, and of all-time.
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (Choral Symphony / Ode to Joy) (Ludwig van Beethoven)
"All You Need is Love" (Grayson Matthews)
"Angel" (live from Lilith Fair) (Sarah McLachlan and Emmylou Harris)
"Beds Are Burning" (various artists)
"Child of the Night" (Trans-Siberian Orchestra)
"Creep" (Radiohead cover by Allison Crowe)
"Down the Road A Piece" (Moonalice)
"Earthquake Song" (video) (Melissa Pierre-Louis)
"Echoplex" (Nine Inch Nails)
"Going Home Tonight" (Allison Crowe)
"Let Me Roll It" (Paul McCartney)
"Meat Free Monday" (Paul McCartney)
A few brief updates (September 2009)
The classical music of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Beethoven's Last Night album
The end of an era (April Fools' Day post)Free album from Suburban Home Records
Free your mind: the legality of free music
Halloween Treat Bag
Happy Star Wars Day!
Most Popular Content
Some free music for Easter
(Before I go on, I feel I should make one thing clear: I am not in any way affiliated with We7, nor do I receive any form of compensation from them. I merely think they offer a cool service, and this post is my way of helping to spread the word about them.)
The We7 site can be browsed by genre, artist, album, or song title; a search option is also available. There are recommended albums, artists, and songs all over the place, and everything can be rated by users; ratings are used in the compilation of charts to see which items are the most popular. If you are a registered user, you are able to download songs once you find something you are interested in (sadly, some artists seem to be available only in certain regions; as a Canadian, I am currently unable to download music from Megadeth, Motorhead, and Frank Sinatra, among a few others that I have tried). Downloads are in MP3 format, and each downloaded MP3 contains a short ad at the beginning; the ads are what keep the music on We7 free, as artists are paid with revenue from the ads.
At this point, I think it's a fairly safe bet that you're thinking something along the lines of "Ads? In music files? How on Earth could that ever work?" I thought the same thing when I first read about that, but after hearing how they work, I am convinced that this system has potential. On the album I downloaded, each ad was between 5 and 8 seconds long; over the course of 30 minutes, the ads totalled no more than about 45 seconds. Considering that most TV shows have about 8 minutes worth of ads in a similar time frame, I think that this is definitely acceptable. Granted, the songs I downloaded are all about 4 minutes in length; perhaps if you download a bunch of much shorter songs the ads might seem more intrusive (although for all I know, the length of an ad may be dependent upon the length of a song - I'll have to try this out with songs of different lengths).
As I was registering for the site, I was informed that I would occasionally be asked to complete short surveys or questionnaires (taking no more than about 20 seconds of my time) in order to help target the ads toward my own preferences and interests. I haven't had the chance to do this yet but I think it would be a good thing, as all the ads in my first downloads were about We7 itself, which I am obviously already aware of. Also, once you have had files for 4 weeks, you are given the opportunity to obtain ad-free versions of those files, up to a total of 20 files per month. I've still got 27 days to go before I can begin testing this feature, so I can't say anything more about it yet. 20 files a month is not a huge number, but I can't see it really being a problem unless I start downloading huge amounts of music from We7.
I think We7 could really benefit from having more users right now. A lot of artists I am unfamiliar with don't have any reviews of their material up yet, so it's hard to know what I should be checking out; as it was, the one album I did download had a comparison to Pearl Jam (one of my favourite bands) in the review, so that was an easy decision for me. I would highly recommend that anyone reading this head on over to We7 and register with them. Once you discover some good music there, write a review so that others will have some idea of what to expect from it. Also, leave a comment here about your discoveries so that other readers of this blog can be made aware of them; I will be highlighting any albums, artists, and songs that I feel are particularly noteworthy.
Posted by Jeff Taylor at 22:30
This post was originally going to be about Saul Williams' excellent new album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! However, I just visited that site for the first time in a couple of months and discovered that it is no longer available for free. At $5 it is still an excellent deal and I would highly recommend the album, but since this blog is about free music, I will say no more about it here.
Trent Reznor, the producer of that album, is better known as the mastermind behind Nine Inch Nails, who have consistently been one of the most popular alternative and industrial artists of the last 20 years or so. Remixes have always been an important part of the Nine Inch Nails catalogue, with singles often containing half a dozen or more remixes of various songs, and most albums also spawning a remix EP of their own. Recently, Reznor has decided to take the concept of the remix a step further and release multi-track files for selected Nine Inch Nails songs on his website (and also on a DVD-ROM included with Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D, which contains multi-tracks for all of the songs on the 2007 album Year Zero); this allows anyone at all with access to the proper software to create their own remixes of these Nine Inch Nails songs.* Recently, a new section has been added to the official Nine Inch Nails website to host remixes created by both fans and professionals alike; point your web browser to remix.nin.com to check it out.
One thing about the remix site that has not been highly publicized is that, in addition to containing some excellent fan-made remixes, it also contains a treasure trove of officially released Nine Inch Nails remixes. In the bottom right corner of the website is a little playlist browser. Clicking on "featured" brings up a list of "Featured Playlists". Currently featured are the singles for "March of the Pigs", "The Perfect Drug", and "Closer to God", as well as the remix EPs Fixed (companion to Broken), Further Down the Spiral (companion to The Downward Spiral), and Things Falling Apart (companion to The Fragile); all of these playlists feature the majority of the tracks from these official releases. There is also a "Rare and Unreleased" playlist, which is a kind of odds and ends compilation of various official remixes; there are a lot of gems here, but my favourites are the Butch Vig remix of "Last" (which was originally intended to be included on Fixed), and "Right Where It Belongs v2". Finally, Reznor has included instrumental remixes of 2 complete albums: The Downward Spiral and Year Zero. In addition to being able to listen to all of these remixes directly on the site with the included Flash player, those who register for the site (registration is free) are able to download MP3 versions of them for free.
A little more digging around can reveal a few more official releases. Clicking on any song in one of the playlists mentioned above should show you that the remix was uploadeed by the user TRENT_REZNOR; this is in fact Trent Reznor himself, and clicking on the username brings up a list of all the remixes he has uploaded. A perusal of this list will yield an instrumental version of "Dead Souls" (NIN's contribution to the 1994 soundtrack of The Crow) and the tracks from the "Everyday is Exactly the Same" single, which includes two remixes each of "Only" and "The Hand That Feeds". There is also a note on the main page stating that "as we sort through more archives of older material we'll be posting what we come across." Given the quality of what is already available, that sounds very promising indeed.
All of this is not to take away from the main purpose of the site, which is for fans to create and share their own NIN remixes. To aid in finding the best of these remixes, playlists are available to show the highest rated fan mixes, both of all time and of the current day. If you find a remix that you really like, you can also click on the user's name to find other remixes created by the same person. You can search for remixes by title. By clicking on MIX at the top of the page, you can also gain access to multi-track files for a number of songs, including two Saul Williams songs.
remix.nin.com is an extremely cool website. I hope that other artists will be inspired by this and create similar sites that allow fans to interact and share their own creations. In the meantime, please feel free to share your favourite NIN finds by leaving a comment here. Happy listening!
* Want to try creating your own Nine Inch Nails remix? Grab some multi-track files from remix.nin.com and load them into Audacity, a free digital audio editor application. Play around with the files in Audacity to make them sound however you want. You can then upload your remix to remix.nin.com for the whole world to hear. If anyone who reads this post has made their own remix, please post about it in the comments, as I would love to hear it.
Saul Williams NiggyTardust site: http://niggytardust.com
NIN remixes: http://remix.nin.com
One band that I was always kind of a casual fan of is The Smashing Pumpkins. I liked a lot of the songs that I heard, such as "Today", "1979", and "Tonight Tonight", but never really enough that I wanted to buy any of their albums; I'm sure my elitist attitude didn't exactly help. I'm sure I'll eventually get around to obtaining some of their albums, but recently I was delighted to discover that one of their albums was released for free on the Internet. The album is called Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music and was released in 2000; until their reformation in 2007, it was actually their final studio album.
Not only is it free, but it is also a very good album. There is a lot of heavy rock, such as the rapid-fire album opener "Glass", the slower "Dross", and a cover of James Brown's "Soul Power". There are also a lot of more melodic songs like "Real Love", "Go", and "If There is a God". Also included in the download is a collection of "B-sides" to the album, which include alternate versions of a few of the songs, including a beautiful piano & vocals version of "If There is a God", which is one of the true highlights of the album. Some other highlights of the B-sides include "Slow Dawn", a melodic, mid-tempo number with a wonderfully warm sound, and "Try", a nice poppy song.
Now, because of the nature of this album's release (only 25 vinyl copies were made and distributed to online Smashing Pumpkins fans, with instructions to redistribute it on the Internet for free), there are a number of sources to download it from. I don't know if any of these sources is better than the others; the one I have does sound a little muffled, but it is definitely listenable and doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the album at all. The Wikipedia page about the album lists the following sources:
SmashingPumpkins.com (160 kbit/s CBR MP3) (doesn't seem to be available now)
Billy-Corgan.com (320 kbit/s CBR MP3) (no longer available)
ThePumpkins.net (192 kbit/s CBR MP3)
MetroChicago.com (192 kbit/s CBR MP3)
Archive.org (192 kbit/s CBR MP3)
Archive.org (Q101 transfer, FLAC, OGG and MP3)
Archive.org (Virgin transfer, FLAC, OGG and MP3)
SPIFC.org (192 kbit/s CBR MP3) (seems to require a password now)