Music

The Best Free Albums of 2010

Leor Galil
Photo by: Caroline Mort

Though it's a tough environment for musicians to try and make a living, some artists have built and broadened their audience because of their free tunes.

Perhaps everything is free in the age of downloading, but more and more artists are releasing music free of charge. Or, rather, free of the idea of initially charging for music. Though it's a tough environment for musicians to try and make a living, some artists -- such as Brooklyn hip-hop duo Das Racist -- have built and broadened their audience because of their free tunes.

With the growing presence of Bandcamp, which allows bands to upload and customize paying options for their music, the ability to share new, free music has never been easier. Which has also led to a certain glut of free music. Still, with so many free mixtapes, blog-sponsored compilations, and band-sponsored MediaFire download links, a handful of free albums have managed to stand out.

These may not be everyone's top picks, and there's always a good chance something no one's noticed this year will be a huge hit in 2011 -- Tyler, the Creator's free album from last year, Bastard, saw many reviews packed with praise just this year. Ultimately, these are the albums and collections of songs that stuck out and stuck with me in 2010.

 

Artist: Earl Sweatshirt

Album: EARL

Label: Odd Future

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/reviews_art/e/earl.jpg

Display Width: 200

US Release Date: 2010-03-31

UK Release Date: 2010-03-31

Display as: List

List number: 10

Earl Sweatshirt
EARL

Of all the rappers in the Odd Future crew, a collective of L.A. teens who have captured the minds of many music critics and bloggers, Earl Sweatshirt has the most palatable and accessible tunes. Much of the conversation about the crew has been focused on morality: that being, how can we listen to kids who spit out misogynistic rhymes about rape and violence that seem tethered to reality due to the sparse and bleak instrumentation beneath their shocking prose? Yet, Sweatshirt stands out because he fully confronts the absurd nature of his rhymes and lyrics. Take the opening few lines to "Earl": "I'm a hot and bothered astronaut / Crashing while jacking off to buffering vids of Asher Roth eating applesauce." Sure, it sounds dark and depraved, but there’s a bit of humor in the bleak imagery that's quite compelling.

Download Album

 

Artist: It's a King Thing

Album: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Label: Self-released

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/reviews_art/i/its_a_king_thing_buffalo.png

Display Width: 200

US Release Date: 2010

UK Release Date: 2010

Display as: List

List number: 9

It's a King Thing
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Philadelphia-area indie-pop act It's a King Thing has quietly been churning out emo-flavored pop-rock akin to the Get Up Kids for years. Perhaps that's why their newest album, despite having one of the more annoying album titles around, sounds so well polished. The twelve tunes in Buffalo are the kind that could easily pack a big venue with folks looking for hook-filled, sweet-natured tunes. Perhaps giving an album away for free will help It’s a King Thing get there.

Download Album

 

Artist: Wale

Album: More About Nothing

Label: The Board Administration

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/reviews_art/w/wale.jpg

Display Width: 200

US Release Date: 2010-08-03

UK Release Date: 2010-08-03

Display as: List

List number: 8

Wale
More About Nothing

Wale's major label debut, 2009's Attention Deficit, didn't quite light up the music world the same way his earlier collection of mixtapes did. But rather than sulk in defeat, Wale jumped back into the fold by returning to his breakout mixtape, the Seinfeld-inspired Mixtape About Nothing, with this year's More About Nothing. Perhaps the lukewarm reception Wale received for what was supposed to be his big mainstream hit was the kick in the pants he needed to churn out some more great material, though at 21 songs, More About Nothing is a tad sluggish. Fortunately, Wale's sheer passion and perseverance make More About Nothing an enjoyable listening experience.

Download Album

 

Artist: Caddywhompus

Album: Remainder

Label: Community Records

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/reviews_art/c/caddywhompus.jpg

Display Width: 200

US Release Date: 2010-05-11

UK Release Date: 2010-05-11

Display as: List

List number: 7

Caddywhompus
Remainder

New Orleans' Caddywhompus makes the kind of indie music that straddles the line between a perfect, complex mathematical equation and utter chaos. Though only a duo, the band is able to make lush blasts of noise that streamline diverse sounds that are trademarks of some top-tier names in indie such as No Age and Animal Collective. Sure, it may sound like a bit of a mess, and some points of Remainder certainly are turbulent: fortunately, the chaos on the album's eight tracks is the creatively induced kind that many musicians before Caddywhompus have tried, and failed, to create.

Download Album

 

Artist: BBU

Album: Fear of a Clear Channel Planet

Label: Ruby Hornet

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/reviews_art/b/bbu.jpg

Display Width: 200

US Release Date: 2010-03-15

UK Release Date: 2010-03-15

Display as: List

List number: 6

BBU
Fear of a Clear Channel Planet

BBU is the kind of hip-hop act that comes out guns blazing. "BB Who?", the first proper track on this year's Fear of Clear Channel Planet is an energized blast of fast-paced juke music that sees the Chicago trio passionately name-check everyone from OutKast to Bad Brains, Nina Simone to Gil Scott-Heron. The fact that the mixtape is a riff on Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet is intentional: BBU's sound owes a lot to P.E., and the mixtape features songs that juggle political sloganeering, unexpected and shocking blasts of noise, cultural demystification, and thrilling, danceable tunes. Clear Channel Planet isn't without a few bum notes, but when BBU is on, the result is electrifying.

Download Album

 

Next Page

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image