Some (good) free samplers on Amazon

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1. Jan. 2011, 15:34

One of Amazon's better-kept secrets is that their site offers an abundance of free music in the form of single tracks from albums and, even better, album-length samplers by smaller labels.

Here are links to some that I've enjoyed listening to/learning from this past year. I should note that these things' shelf life as freebies is not indefinite; there are a couple other excellent samplers that would appear here but are no longer available for free. So, check now, and check back often--new stuff gets added quite often:

Barsuk Records: 2009 Amazon Digital Sampler. Home of indie- and experimental pop. The best-known bands here are probably Death Cab for Cutie, Mates of State, Ra Ra Riot and The Long Winters (whose best song, "Pushover," is here). Other fine groups, though, are Menomena and Viva Voce. Nary a miss here.

Six Degrees Records Global Grooves Sampler. Six Degrees is a fairly well-known dance-oriented "world music" label, and this sampler attempts to represent that breadth. One can quibble (Vieux Farka Touré, Ali Farka Touré's son, is well worth listening to, but all of Africa is represented by two tracks by him (on an 11-track sampler), but on the whole this is a solid introduction to some very good--and danceable--music. The Brazilian selections (Céu and Zuco 103) are especially fine, and this disc served as my introduction to a good European group, The Dø.

Rotana Presents: Music from the Middle East. Rotana specializes in music from the eastern and southern sides of the Mediterranean. Not all of this is my cup of tea, to be honest, but it's here because it's good to remember that, here, Al-Qaeda gets our attention, but far, far more Arab kids are listening to stuff like this. That disco thump means the same thing in Arabic that it means here.

The Orange Mountain Philip Glass Sampler Vol. 1. Two reasons to get this: 1) For better or for worse, Philip Glass is an unquestioned giant of 20th-century American classical music; 2) Orange Mountain is Glass's own label, which means this sampler can--and does--range across the vast expanse of his body of work. There's an hour's worth of music here, from his soundtracks, solo piano pieces, symphonies, operas, all of it among his very best work. This cd makes for a perfect introduction to this fellow.

Digital Bang: The 2010 Sub Pop Sampler. Sub Pop introduced the world to Nirvana and grunge two decades ago. This sampler shows that they have since broadened their musical palette: there's some post-rock (The Album Leaf), some alt-folk (Blitzen Trapper), some experimental pop (Foals, CocoRosie), and even some music from west Africa (Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba). If one wants a quickie survey of the present state of things in that vast realm called indie, this does the job pretty well.

Merge Records 2010 Digital Sampler. Merge's best-known artists are Superchunk (who also established the label), Lou Barlow and Spoon. They're here, along with other bands you may be hearing much more about in the months/years ahead: Shout Out Louds, Caribou, She and Him, Lambchop, and Wye Oak.

Four Quarters--20/20 World Vision. Another world music release, but there's more musical diversity here than on the Six Degrees sampler. Sara Tavares, Hugh Masekela, and Yasmin Levy are three extraordinary singers who would be huge stars here if we 'Murrikins weren't so picky about wanting our music without subtitles.

Frenchkiss Records Super Sampler. Yet more "indie" music that tends toward the adventurous rather than the mainstream--but Local Natives, The Antlers, and The Dodos (the latter two represented by two songs each) are very, very good.

Too Big to Fail: The Tompkins Square Label 5th Anniversary Amazon Sampler. Those of you whose tastes run in the direction of folk (broadly defined) will almost certainly find something to like here. "Eclectic" is the adjective we're looking for: everything from Charlie Louvin's old-time bluegrass to James Blackshaw's ensemble's gorgeous acoustic wall of sound.

Tango and Folklore Music of Argentina--Epsa World Music. I don't know much at all about tango, but the quality of playing and variety of styles on this disc make this a fun place to begin learning more about the present state of Argentina's musical gift to the world.

Happy new year, all.

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