Tag Archives: Amazon

Great music you may or may not have listened to, Vol. 4

Back by popular demand (mostly Quinton’s demand), here are some gems I’ve found while trawling the great sea known as Amazon’s free music.

Butterfly Kisses by the Depreciation Guild

I have no idea what they are saying, but the music is fun to listen to! It’s pretty typical of most indie songs — great melodies and music, but the singing is kind of…experimental. I guess that’s what makes it indie? Either way, the singing doesn’t get in the way if it’s not your cup of tea, which is what makes this song so great.

Fall Hard by Shout Out Louds

This song reminds me of the alternative I would listen to in high school, in a strange way.

Missing Something by Auto Vaughn

A song that is incredibly existentially emo, but uplifting at the same time somehow. The musical style is nothing new; it’s pretty reminiscent of what I also used to listen to in high school, but it’s still a great song.

Good to Be by Backyard Tire Fire

This song breaks no new ground, but it’s a fun feel-good song with some solid, classic alternative.

Answer to Yourself by The Soft Pack

Like Good to Be, this song doesn’t really break any new ground or is experimental, but it’s another fun feel-good song extolling the wonderful virtues of individualism and owning yourself. It’s a fun, solid, classic alternative, which is sometimes what you need, and really what more could you ask for?

Animal by Miike Snow

No, the extra ‘i’ in Miike is not a typo; he’s just one of those idiosyncratic people, I guess. Anyway, this is a fun, whimsical alternative song, and it’s pretty catchy.

Drink Drank Drunk by A Sunny Day in Glasgow

And now for something completely different! A Sunny Day in Glasgow is like a mix between Sigur Ros, Frau Frau, and Delirium — ethereal electronica plus ghostly soprano lyrics that fade in and out. This is usually not my cup of tea, but there’s something eerily compelling about A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s music, and you should listen to it.

Robin by Soy Un Caballo

Unfortunately, I only have this video to go by, which is a shame because the actual published and polished song is amazing. It’s also sadly no longer free, but you can purchase it for $0.99, which is cheaper than a McChicken, and 500% more filling.

Lille by Lisa Hannigan

This song is so adorable and cute and amazing — and the music video is just as adorable and cute and amazing! For those of you who love Celtic folk songs (and who doesn’t? Communists, that’s who), this is the song for you.

Counting Backwards by Josh Preston

This song is so meloncholic and beautiful at the same time. To this day, I have no real clear theory as to what this song is about (though I have plenty of hypotheses), and its mystery (as well as its simplistic beauty as a song) is what keeps it compelling for me.


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Picky reader

Packing up your life and moving has never been my favorite thing to do, and as I slowly whittle away at our book collection, I’m glad that we sold a lot of them to used bookstores like Half-Price. Over the years, I’ve become intensely picky about the books I buy out of necessity (lack of shelf space) and have developed a criteria which I’ve used to weed out my book collection.

1. Can you find it in the library?

The public library is one of the greatest inventions, ever. And King County has one of the better library systems in the United States. Thousands upon thousands of books available to me — for free! You can’t beat free!

Because of this, I’ve sold most of my fiction and a lot of my non-fiction that I enjoyed but didn’t make it into any of my top lists. Libraries are not going away any time soon (I hope), and maybe a reliance on the library will help motivate me to provide more support for the library systems around me. Plus, there’s no reason to try and overlap our collections — the public library ninety-nine times out of a hundred will do a better job than I will with my limited income. Better to focus our resources on building a library that really reflects who we are as a family, which leads me to my next criterion.

2. Can you buy it easily?

Because I can find most books I want in the library, I keep only keep the ones that I really like (Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, for example), and when I do go peruse the bookstore, I try to find things that are rare. Trawling through the clearance sections of used bookstores, for example, can often procure amazing treasures that you can’t find anywhere else. If you can buy a book at Barnes and Noble or Borders or Amazon easily, then you can probably find it at the library. The last few books I’ve purchased have mostly been from either academic presses or independent publishers. That way, any book I own I can genuinely justify by citing the fact that they may actually be rare someday, and by keeping them in good condition, I extend the shelf life of knowledge.

Through these two criteria, I’ve managed to whittle the book collection down by quite a bit, but apparently by not enough.

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Great music you may or may not have listened to, Vol. 2

It’s that time again!

So, back by (not so) popular demand, here is a sampling of songs that I’ve found free on Amazon, which goes to show it pays to sift through a lot of the garbage out there. A product of my fascination with indie music and my childhood memories of casing out the small record shops in Seattle for interesting music that came cheap that nobody’s ever heard of before (but still sounds good), the internet has only made this obsession easier to carry out (much to the chagrin of my wife, sometimes, who must endure me listening to terrible music with a pensive expression on my face as I nod and wait for two or three minutes before I decide a song is, indeed, in fact, quite terrible). Some of the songs I write about are unfortunately not free anymore, but I try to indicate this is the case when this is, well, the case. The others are, at the time of the writing, still free on Amazon, and you should totally snatch it up.

Also, there is a ton of free Christmas music on Amazon right now. So, if you’re in the mood for Christmas music…

The following selections are the best of the best, the musical gems that I have come to adore and play over and over again. Enjoy.

Go On by Elephant Revival

Here is their song played live. This is a great song, and I love it. No, seriously, I love this song. This is a great band, and you need to download this song, and then download all of their albums.

After listening to this, I immediately thought to myself, man, this should be my friend Quinton’s theme song.

Winter Night by Little and Ashley

So their songs are frequently featured in Amazon ads, which may be why they are offered for free on Amazon, but Little and Ashley is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists of all time, hands down. The song in the ad is cute; the actual song is cuter and is one of the few modern-day Christmas/winter songs that I actually like.

I’m serious, guys, I will probably ask my wife to buy me all of their songs for Christmas.

Also, I really want a Kindle.

Lover’s Carvings by Bibio

I had never heard of this artist before finding this song in the free section of Amazon, but it’s pretty good. Peaceful instrumental intro (and I am a sucker for well-done instrumentals, an influence from my obsession with video game music as a child, I’m sure). This makes for good writing music, as long as you are not writing any hardcore action scenes.

Sex and Reruns by Matt Duke

I talked about Matt Duke’s song Kingdom Underground before (still one of my favorite songs), so I was happy to hear Matt Duke had another song for free on Amazon called Sex and Reruns (unfortunately, it’s not free anymore). This YouTube video is him explaining the history of this song and then playing an acoustic version of it. Ironically, despite my love for acoustic versions over the more polished, produced versions, I actually really, really like the produced, finished version. However, the acoustic version is still great and worth a listen or two (or three).

Also, despite the title, this song has very little to do with sex and more with existential dread.

Between the Bars by Elliott Smith

I do not know much about Elliott Smith, but apparently he is well loved. This song is haunting. And it’s free.

Hand-in-Hand Grenade by Bedroom Eyes

Gotta love bands that are so small they don’t even have official music videos on YouTube or something.

Okay, in all seriousness, I am in love with this song. It’s got catchy hooks and a fun, new melody. Download it; it’s still free! The version for free on Amazon is a much higher quality than this live edition, though this live edition is not terrible as far as live music goes on YouTube.

I’ve Set Sail by Toh Kay

This song is adorably indie. I don’t know why, but I love this song. I honestly couldn’t point at any single thing that makes this song endearing. Everything just combines to make a very pleasant, awesome song.

Westfield by Kristin Chambers

This is usually not my cup of tea, but for a free album, this is pretty good stuff. She’s got a really strong, Broadway-esque voice, and apparently she’s a singer/songwriter so I think all of this material is original (don’t quote me on that)? I highly recommend finding this entire album and downloading it. It’s for free, right? Can’t hurt.

This song especially seems to resonate with me, for some really bizarre reason.

Robots by Dan Mangan

This song is about robots. Well, it’s about two rival gangs using robots to fight each other, but when one robot tries to take a more compassionate route, well…

Just download it and give it a listen. It’s contemporary folksy pop telling a fascinating story with an interesting morale which could possibly be interpreted into a message about our alienating post-industrial society, but you know, whatever.

Also, the whole free album, Robots vs. Indie Queens, is worth it. It’s three songs in total, all good.

Just do it already, okay?

One Picture by Peter Bradley Adams

I’m not sure if this song is still free on Amazon, but check. Quinton introduced me to a Peter Bradley Adams song that I loved, which led me to discover I had downloaded one of his songs before that was in my “Top Rated” folder, which led me to search for more, which led me to this song which was free.

This song is amazing in capturing how I feel about my wife (cheesy, I know), and it subverts deliciously a certain familiar patriotic line. This is the type of music that I listened to as a teenager and hoped would come true.

I’m happy to say it has.


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Embracing Our Evil Overlords

We often have a tendency to rhapsodize the past while lamenting how we’ve somehow lost something essential to humanity in the present.

For example, I talked to a friend of mine seven years younger than me. He eulogized on how the Internet had killed the personal relationship, and how it’s so much harder to actually maintain any “real” relationships with anyone nowadays because of the Internet.

I laughed.

I remember the days of America Online, when you would receive tens upon tens of CDs in the mail to try this new “World Wide Web” thing. I remember the days when my mother would carefully schedule phone calls home in order to get the best rates in long distance. I remember upgrading our rotary phone to a touch tone phone, when we upgraded our corded phone to a cordless and the freedom it provided during a phone call, when we got our first answering machine and how dependent we grew upon it, how if your sister was talking to her friend on the phone you had no choice but to wait or yell at her to get off so that you could talk to your friend on the phone. I remember the past, calling my friend’s home phone and letting it ring six times before giving up and deciding they weren’t home to answer it.

I remember when the best way to keep in contact with my friend in Sandy, Utah was to write hand written letters. We communicated perhaps once a month at best. Snail mail used to be the standard procedure for communicating anyone with whom you didn’t want to pay long distance to talk to on the phone. When we got America Online for the first time, I remember how maybe a total of twenty websites existed commercially. The first time I logged into a chat room (remember those), I marveled how easily it became to connect with people who had the same interests you did.

I could go on.

No, maintaining relationships is so much easier with the advent of the Internet. I can follow friends who I otherwise would have no real feasible physical contact with, peering into the minutiae of their life through Twitter, talking with them on Google Chat, and commenting on their photos with Facebook. My friend Quinton and I remained great friends despite never living in the same state for seven years straight. My friend David and I have started a collaborative project together collecting Mormon folklore despite the fact that we live over a thousand miles away. And my missionary brother and I can send emails instantaneously, even though from time to time, my brother doesn’t even live in the same day as me.

In other words, life is awesome.

Which is why I laugh when people complain about targeted ads.

Do people not remember how advertisements used to work? How ad agencies would have to dilute their ads to the lowest common denominator in order to placate as many demographics as possible? Remember how we used to only get coupons if we checked in the mail, how 99% of them didn’t apply to you (and still don’t today)? Remember how the only way you could figure out what was on sale at your favorite store was to either physically check the brick-and-mortar storefront or to sign up for a newsletter  that they mailed to you?

Today, I get Borders coupons straight to my email inbox. I print out the ones I want and bring them in. Best Buy lets me know what discounts are available this week without me ever leaving the house. I sign up for newsletters from various small companies that would normally never be able to broadcast their services if we still needed to push information through some form of physical medium. For example, every month, a small organic farm in Carnation, Washington lets me know scheduled events. Every week, the Farmers Market Alliance lets me know what’s currently in harvest. My wife gets JoAnn and Michaels coupons, comparing which are better. Instead of just sending the mainstream music I abhor, Amazon carefully analyzes what I download for free and lets me know which indie bands released what this week. Usually, it’s pretty spot on. Meanwhile, my wife recently bought knitting needles through Amazon – she now gets notices that such and such knitting product is on sale.

In fact, it’s gotten to the point where traditional marketing irritates me. When Facebook ads are completely off the mark (and they usually are), I roll my eyes and huff a little. Whenever we have to sit through another asinine car commercial while watching Hulu, my wife and I groan and move on to something else. But whenever an ad is specifically targeted at us, our eyebrows raise, we look at each other, discuss the pros and cons of purchasing the product, and then make a decision. If we decided it’s useful (and we try to exercise caution in our consumer habits), then buy it and usually, we get some value out of it. If we decide it’s not useful, we ignore it and move on.

I find the whole opposition to more and more precise marketing research through the collection of demographic information somewhat hilarious. We spend our entire lives carefully crafting a self-image (a brand, if you will). We willfully choose what we wear and what we eat and what we read and what we buy and what we use and what sports we play and what music we listen to in order to send a message about ourselves. Even those who “don’t care” often will carefully craft their nonchalant attitude towards consumerism. This we do to communicate Who We Are to our friends, family, and even strangers. But when big bad marketers decide to help narrow down our product searches, instead of viewing it as a symbiotic relationship, we cry foul. Strange.

Does it really matter whether or not someone in a corporate office knows that you like ABBA and Ikea’s Swedish meatballs?

And how come nobody seems to care that the previous Republican president illegally wiretapped American citizens?


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Great music you may or may not have listened to

Optional title: Songs that totally make me want to make a music video for them.

Optional title #2: Why it’s totally worth it to sift through a lot of mediocre music Amazon offers for free, even if my wife thinks it’s a waste of time.

Right now, I’m working through my music, rating everything on the paltry 5 star rating iTunes offers in order to provide some decent order to the 2.5 days worth of music I have (and that’s not even counting all of the CDs I have yet to rip onto my computer). Through it all, I’ve discovered some great gems of songs that you may or may not have heard (but the indie part of me really hopes you haven’t).

Tus Ojos and Nada De Mas by Bellanova

I discovered Bellanova through a Flash movie with Tus Ojos as the soundtrack. Both songs sound differently than the pop music that seems to permeate today’s American industry, and both of these songs are pretty upbeat and peppy (despite the fact that my rudimentary Spanish hints that Nada De Mas is actually depressing).

Airbrushed by Anamanaguchi

These guys are the ones who did the Scott Pilgrim The Game soundtrack, and they are masters of the old skool video game music genre. If you go to their website right now, you can actually download this song along with a bunch of others for free! Free good music! Seriously! Get it!

Race You and Perfectly Perfect by Elizabeth and the Catapult

Along with one of the best quirky band names, they also have a great album, Taller Children. They’re an incredibly talented group and you should totally buy their music (though their music videos are kinda weird).

Pitter-Pat by Erin McCarley

This song I downloaded for free from Amazon at one point. The acoustic version is the most amazing version (I’m not biased at all!). The one I have is a simple cello/acoustic guitar arrangement that gives me goosebumps. The one available below has a piano/acoustic guitar arrangement which is still incredibly lovely.

Heydays by Great Lakes Myth Society

Aside from having quite possibly the awesomest band name in the world, this band specializes in mellow alternative rock, and unfortunately I only have this crappy YouTube video from a live performance to show you. Seriously, look these guys up; it’s one of the few bands that both my wife and I can agree are talented and pleasant to listen to.

Stole My Heart by Little and Ashley

This song is adorably cute and you cannot listen to this song without feeling happy. Apparently it was used for the Amazon Kindle’s commercial. And I got it free on Amazon. Coincidence?!

Kingdom Underground (Acoustic) by Matt Duke

This is seriously one of my favorite songs in the world. It combines three of my favorite things in the world: acoustic guitar music, theology, and literature. When I first listened to this song, it sent chills up my spine. It still does every single time. Another song I got for free at Amazon.

Fall Into Love by Rabbit!

Another great, cute, indie song. Also free on Amazon. Actually, you can get some really great music for free at Amazon. You have to just wade through about 2.5 days worth of mediocre music first. But if you love music (me) it’s totally worth it.

1br/1ba by Vienna Teng

This is an amazing song, and it captures a very real part of everyone’s life very poignantly – living in an apartment and learning to share your living space with others around you.

Polythene Queen by Miss Li

Miss Li possesses a really strong, unique voice and most of her songs on the album I bought (Dancing the Whole Way Home) also has some strong social critiques, such as Polythene Queen. Others that are fun to listen to (and available on YouTube) – Dirty Old Man and The Boy in the Fancy Suit.

Fancy Beer by The Two Gentlemen Band

Another song I got for free on Amazon (why are they giving away jewels like this for free?), this is a poor quality live video, but shows how awesome they truly are. This song reminds me a lot of my friend Quinton for no real reason (except for the fact that he does like fancy beer). These band is also bursting with talent, so you should check them out. They are also gentlemanly (a plus!).

The Best Treasure Stays Buried by Zoey Van Goey

This song I got for free at Amazon (you can probably see a trend here), and it had always stayed on my amazing top list of music. It’s a great, ethereal sounding indie song. But one day, I listened to the lyrics while on a road trip and the story that quietly unfolds disturbed me. For some reason, this only added to the appeal of this incredible song.


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This is a soundtrack for our movie

I really can’t explain it but I,
I hear the music when I look at you.
Orchestrating the song to accommodate the moment.
– Soundtrack For Our Movie, Mae

Lately, Amazon has been selling mp3 album downloads for around $5 (the recent sale says that for every $7.99+ album you buy, you get one of the $5 albums for free), which means I’ve been on a music buying frenzy. A lot of my music library is confined still to the compact disc format, and my music tastes have changed drastically from my high school years.

I’ve taken advantage of this opportunity to start building up my woefully lacking “coffee house” music, which my wife looks upon with relative indifference. Some of the music I’ve picked up (Ingrid Michaelson, Owl City) she’s embraced with enthusiasm, while others (Mirah, Rocking Horse Winner) not so much. Because her interest in keeping up with music has waned with age, I have open season on the music I’m snapping up. I’ve found I have a slightly curious way of deciding whether I want an album – while snacking on the samples available on Amazon, I close my eyes and see if it will match up with my anticipated next six months as a soundtrack – or if it would fit well with the sitcom that Quinton and I always talk about writing and producing someday (which explains the “coffee house” obsession; also, for what it’s worth, this is really how I choose my music).

At the moment, I’m poised to purchase Dreaming Through The Noise by Vienna Teng, Wind-Up Canary by Casey Dienel, Maybe I’m Dreaming by Owl City, Fireflies and Songs by Sara Groves, Taller Children by Elizabeth & The Catapult, and One Cell in the Sea by A Fine Frenzy. We’re still waiting for about $100 of Amazon credit to process, so there will be more music purchased. Oh yes, there will be more.

Which brings me to this thought. It’s been a fairly long time since I’ve bought music (I tend to buy music in maniacal bursts separated by years of disquieting silence and furious consumption of what I have). How do you buy music? What do you look for in what you purchase? And got any suggestions?

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