It is no secret that the distribution of music on the Internet has led to a radical re-appraisal of its free-market value. With essentially every piece of music ever recorded obtainable at no cost through a well-planned Google search, the notion of paying $18 for 35 minutes of music has been rendered preposterous. This shift has come at significant financial harm to many artists (frequently lamentable) and record labels (infrequently lamentable), but it has also come with a number of pleasant surprises.
The most pleasant of these, of course, is the ever-expanding universe of free and legal music. What was once a friendly gesture has become a strategy for career growth and transformation, with established artists using it as a way to explore their creative margins (see: Radiohead), and unknowns using it as a low-risk path to stardom (see: Drake). Each month we are flooded with free new releases, most of which we will never even know exist. This year, Frontier Psychiatrist will attempt to remedy this gap with our new column Free And Easy. Each month we will discuss some of the best free and legal releases from the month gone by, with the hope of making this endless sea of new music more navigable for you, the reader. Given that this is our first column, we may venture back a little further than one month; as always, we hope you’ll find something that piques your interest. Now, on to the music.
The Weeknd – Echoes of Silence + Chopped and Screwed Trilogy
The third of The Weeknd’s 2011 mixtape trilogy (the first two of which ended up on our Albums of the Year list at #2), Echoes of Silence Abel Tesfaye’s most consistently excellent work to date. While it lack the sheer decadence of House of Balloons or the burnt-out paranoia of Thursday, it displays a sense of unabashed confidence lacking on both of those recordings. Once you’ve absorbed all three tapes, be sure to download Slim K’s “Chopped and Screwed” versions of each of them; for those of you who may not know, “Chopped and Screwed” is a fancy way of saying “really slow.”
Symmetry is the pseudonym of electronic producer Johnny Jewel (also obviously a pseudonym), and the “Imaginary Film” in question is in fact a real film, specifically Drive. The cover art gives this fact away, even if you are unaware that Jewel was orignially charged with scoring that excellent film, only to have his work largely passed over in favor of the work of Cliff Martinez. What is left is this moving and powerful collection of wistful electronica. The record deserves close, headphone-level attention, although it serves just as well those looking for contemplative ambience. While you can’t download the record for free, you can listen to it in its entirety on Jewel’s Soundcloud, or, if you happen to get the free Soundcloud app, on your fancy phone.
I am a big fan of mainstream rap, but I have to admit that I’ve never really gotten Rick Ross. To my ears, he’s always been more charisma and talent, his gruff barritone essentially daring you at gunpoint not to call him dope.
Rich Forever may have changed my mind; it is certainly Ross’s most successful effort to date. Full of shameless grandiosity and terrifyingly heavy beats, this mixtapeis exactly what we all expect out of the best commercial hip-hop. Ross’s songs are so effective that they make Drake sound tough and make Diddy sound like a real rapper. Highly recommended, and all for the price of nothing.
Download Rich Forever
As reflected in our Best Hip-Hop of 2011 list, the past year proved something of a renaissance in New-York-area rap. It’s a pleasure, then, to see that some of New York’s finest hip-hop veterans can still impress, and impress they do on Raekwon’s latest mixtape. My utterly biased opinion is that everything Wu-Tang is worth a listen, even more if the likes of Mobb Deep and Busta Rhymes are involved. And, for those of you who think this is all dinosaur talk, there is even a track produced by Statik Selektah, the mastermind behind the excellent new LP by future star Action Bronson.
Download Unexpected Victory
Despite all of the exciting new releases over the last month, no discovery thrilled me more than the blog Press Play And Record. Throughout the 1980s, NME (the British music rag New Musical Express) released a series of cassette tapes that are now legendary in the music nerd community. Post-Punk, New Wave, Metal, World Music, Country, Jazz, Blues: no genre went uncovered on this spectacular series. This heaven-sent blog has now collected all of these tapes (save one) for free and easy download. I recommend starting with C81 and C86, although really you can’t go wrong. Finally, a chance to relive the 80s.
L.V. Lopez is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He lives in Brooklyn and drinks craft beer. He is more “NME” than “Rick Ross.”