$5 Albums, C-Note Sounds (Vol. 2)

The Sound Medium continues its recommendations of the best $5 albums for sale at Amazon.com’s MP3 Store after a one (and 1/2) month hiatus.

Before we get started with our picks from this month’s 100 Album List, just a head’s up that The Whigs’ new album In the Dark is available in the MP3 Store for $5.99, for a limited time.

Follow us after the jump for our March picks from all over the map, and remember that the list will change in April, so pick up what you want now!

Classics

Radiohead – Kid A (Collector’s Edition) — This might be the biggest no-brainer of the bunch if you don’t own Kid A.  The full Kid A album, an entire second disc of live studio cuts from the Kid A touring years, $5.00?

David Bowie – Low — I’m not a huge Bowie fan (well, his glam rock version, anyway), but in the interest of covering all the bases, I checked out Low, the 1977 release on which he collaborated with Brian Eno.  It’s out there (esp. for 1977), but anyone who likes David Byrne or Lou Reed will find something to love here.  “Speed of Life” and “Sound and Vision” are standing out to me so far.

Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady — In the second “Oh Shit” classic discovery of this month’s “…C-Note Sounds,” I had never gotten around to listening to the Buzzcocks until now.  I have never fancied myself much of a punk fan, and while I can appreciate the Ramones and Iggy and the Stooges, I wasn’t in a rush to dive deeper into the first-wave punk scene.   One of the Amazon reviewers wrote that this is “punk music for rock fans” (I think that probably offends the “punk” spirit of it all, but whatever).  Check out “Never Fallen In Love,” “Why Can’t I Touch It,” “Orgasm Addict,” and the aptly named “Oh Shit.”

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals – Burn to Shine — Man, I wore this rocking, soul-bearing album out in Summer 2000.  Lots of people will remember “Steal My Kisses,” but I remember so many of these other songs before that one!  Just out of my first bad break up (which Ben seems to be feeling a lot on this album), bright sunny days in Chapel Hill, long rides to and from class and the summer job.  Love. This. Album.

Cracker – Kerosene Hat — I owned this record at one time in adolescence, and I am shocked I went this long without it (although I definitely wore out the bluegrassy “O Cracker Where Art Thou” collob with Leftover Salmon in college).  Straddling the fertile ground between early 90s grunge and alt-country, Cracker’s second album is best known for the MTV hit “Low” and songs like “Get Off This” and the formerly hidden 69th track, “Euro-Trash Girl.”   The rest of the album does not disappoint.

Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me — Not in the regular rotation at the Sound Medium by any means, but there is always an occasion to listen to the Chairman of the Board.  This album finds Sinatra in a playful, traveling mood, and features “Chicago” and the title track.

Newer Rock, Indie, Etc.

Spoon – Transference — New 2010 offering from the consistently excellent lo-fi indie rockers.   Call it stripped down, call it minimalist, but it jams just the same.  I am still getting around to diving in to this one, but these guys never make a bad album.

Band of Horses – Everything All the Time — One of my favorite bands these days, and one of my favorite concerts nights of 2009 (Chicago’s H.O.B. in August), Band of Horses just announced they are touring with Pearl Jam ahead of their third album due out in May.  If you are a fan of My Morning Jacket, the Shins, Built to Spill and/or Iron and Wine and don’t own Band of Horses, here is your chance to start where it all began.

Phoenix – It’s Never Been Like That — You didn’t think Wolfgang Amadeus… was a first album, did you?  2006’s It’s Never Been Like That may be a little more straight forward (and lacking in keys and synth) than its shining successor, but it’s an indie pop treasure trove nonetheless.

The Postal Service – Give Up — Get out from under your rock if you don’t know this poppy, electronic 2005 masterpiece already.  The world needs more Postal Service (a side project featuring Ben Gibbard of Death Cab and Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello).  So much so, that there are bands blatantly ripping it off with some success four years later (I’m looking at you, Owl City).  [Sidebar: In revisiting this album for the post, I realized that “Such Great Heights” may be the first song that wasn’t ruined for me forever by not just one (UPS), but two (M&M, via an Iron & Wine cover) ubiquitous TV commercial campaign spots.  It’s not the artists’ fault, I am just suceptible to advertising associations.]

Ugly Casanova – Sharpen Your Teeth — I had never heard of this album before, but on first listen I definitely recognized Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse.  The rest of the Sound Medium wasn’t aware of the 2002 side project either, but this stuff (including its urban legend-y backstory) is great!  I will let All Music describe:

The story behind Sharpen Your Teeth is odd yet plausible: a mentally unstable character named Edgar Graham (calling himself Ugly Casanova) met up with Modest Mouse, followed them around on tour, recorded some songs, gave the recordings to labels, and then mysteriously disappeared. Songs on tapes discovered by Sub Pop were later recorded by Issac Brock of Modest Mouse in hopes that Graham would resurface. The first solo record from the singer/guitarist, Sharpen Your Teeth, cuts into raw indie rock with spells of country and folk, while allowing Brock to explore a varying scope of sounds. He gets help from Brian Deck (whose production credits include Tortoise and the Sea and Cake), Tim Rutili of Red Red Meat, and Pall Jenkins of the Black Heart Procession. Ranging from heartfelt acoustic numbers (“Cat Faces”) to outright bizarreness with grating vocals (“Diamonds on the Face of Evil”), there’s no doubt that the mood sometimes coincides with the enigmatic Graham.

Patterson Hood – Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) — Solo album from the Drive-By Truckers frontman.  If you like the rock side of the DBTs more than the country side, this album is sure to please.

Dr. Dog – We All Belong — I first heard and enjoyed Dr. Dog’s retro-60s “pop worship” (as All Music refers to it) on 2008’s Fate, but 2007’s We All Belong brings a similar vibe.  For fans of everything from the Kinks, the Byrds and the Beach Boys to M. Ward and My Morning Jacket (the latter of whom first introduced the wider world to Dr. Dog when Jim James picked them to open for an east coast tour in support of It Still Moves).

The Hold Steady – Stay Positive — 2008 release from the rocking Minnesotans.  For fans of the Drive By Truckers, Springsteen, and REK.

Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight — 2008 album from the Pitchfork Media darlings.  I was “meh” at first, but it’s a grower.  Sample before you buy.

Iron & Wine – The Creek Drank the Cradle — Iron & Wine has come up a few times in this article already, and here’s your chance to get the first full length release from Sam Beam.  I have only grown to enjoy his music more as he’s added bandmates, but this 2002 album of quiet, strings-and-vocals acoustic songs is so, so amazing in its own right.

The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow — If you like the Shins, you should own this album.  If you don’t know the now-rather-famous Shins, start with Oh, Inverted World.

Citizen Cope – The Rainwater LP —  Continuing to straddle the crossroads of rock, hip hop, blues, and reggae, the newest Citizen Cope album picks up right where he left off.

Coldplay – X&Y — You know who they are.  I like Parachutes and Rush of Blood… better (which were in Amazon’s $5 sale in January), but here’s your chance to fill out the back catalog.

Hip-Hop

Zion I – The Takeover — One of my favorite hip hop albums of 2009.  Not easily categorized, underground vets Zion I update their sound (paradoxically, by experimenting with some boom-bap and 808 styles of decades past) and bring their A-game over a diverse palate of beats supplied by AmpLive.   This is an album from which every listener will have their favorites, but mine were “Coastin,” “Antenna,” “Caged Bird Part 1” and “Bring In the Light.”

Pharcyde – Labcabincalifornia — Second album from the Golden Age giants features “Runnin,” “Drop,” and “She Said.”  For fans of Tribe, De La, that breezy, jazzy hip hop sound that seems omnipresent in underground SoCal no matter the year (see below), and Jay Dilla (who produced 7 of the 19 tracks back when he was known as Jay Dee).

Hieroglyphics – Third Eye Vision — 1999 debut album from the underground hip hop supergroup from the Bay Area featuring Del the Funky Homosapien, A-Plus, JayBiz, Domino, Casual, Opio, Tajai, Phesto and Pep Love.  Think Common or Black Star channeling the Pharcyde group vibe.  Another true underground classic.

Galactic – From the Corner to the Block — I’m a sucker for hip hop over live instrumentation.  When that instrumentation is provided by New Orleans jazz-funk masters Galactic, it’s a no-brainer.  With guest appearances from the likes of Quannum label vets Lyrics Born, Lateef the Truthspeaker, Gift of Gab, and DJ Z-Trip, as well as Ohmega Watts and Boots Riley of the Coup, this album was a departure from Galactic’s earlier work (and a hell of a lot of fun to see live!).

El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead — If you like your hip hop extra experimental, it’s not supposed to get any better than El-P.  This critically-acclaimed 2007 album never really did it for me; but, lots of other folks liked it.  Maybe you will too!

Dance, Electronic, Neo-Soul and R&B

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights — If you like 60s soul music at all, it’s hard not to love Sharon Jones and her backing band (and anything from the Daptone label).   If my Dad — raised on funk, soul and beach music — can’t tell this album isn’t 30 or 40 years years old and is asking me to get him more, they are doing something right.  Look for the new Sharon Jones album “I Learned the Hard Way” due out on April 6.

Breakestra – From Dusk Till Dawn — Part of the 60s/70s funk and soul revival scene, Breakestra released this follow-up to Hit the Floor in 2009.  They don’t lay any new ground here, but if you are into the Meters, Tower of Power, the aforementioned Daptone label artists, or the New Mastersounds, give these guys a listen.  Check out “No Matter Where You Go” for an international shout out to other artists getting their tightly ensembled, beat-breaking groove on.

Brand New Heavies – S/T — These guys were doing the authentic 70s funk thing in the early 90s before its relative popularity in 2010 (as evidenced by the last two  albums above).   Definitely a cult classic among fans of the funk.

Fatboy Slim – You’ve Come A Long Way — I’ve always liked this album, but just realized that “Right Here, Right Now” is the Bobcats’ 4th quarter intro music, so it’s been in rotation more recently.  Since the ‘Cats are  <crosses fingers> about to make the playoffs, it could be there for a while!

Daft Punk – Musique Vol. 1 (1993-2005) — A “Best of” from this awesome French dance/electronica duo.  This is a great place to start if your iPod needs some unce-unce.

Air – Pocket Symphony — 2007 effort from another standout French band.  Not my favorite Air record, but if you’re a fan and haven’t heard it yet…

LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver — I feel like if you’re still reading this, you know whether you want this record or not.  Oh, and look for a new LCD album in 2010!

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~ by thecarolinarhythmsection on March 18, 2010.

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