My Favorite Albums Still on eMusic in Late July 2019

Most of the complaints about eMusic’s decline focus on the lack of new stuff that you’re going to buy in some format, from some source, no matter where. I agree that eMusic is no longer a reliable source for that in most genres, unless you can subsist on Merge & Polyvinyl alone. Surely asking people to pay $ to download stuff they’ve never heard of is a solid business model, right?

Not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed to have put my money where my mouth is: After making all those label lists, my Wishlist is now bursting at the seams (and I’m a little afraid about the site’s health), so I sprang for another $75 credit pack (that’s two in addition to a subscription in June/July). Loving a good challenge, here’s my favorites from 2015-2019 still available on eMusic as of late July 2019. In some cases, price has been taken into account. Obviously, we’ve all downloaded some that would be on a list like this but has joined the “Album Not Available” mega-majority (another reason I don’t want to lose the app). No one needs to be told to pick up Yeasayer, Ladytron, Amon Tobin, and the stuff that’s charting on the website, so I’ll focus on more obscure albums that I really enjoyed. Hope it helps push some folks over the edge back into subscribed consumption, and I can avoid purity test language.

Jump to: 2018 2017 2016 2015 Extras Labels Still on eMusic Worth a Look Favorites for 99-cents on Reddit

2019 (Directly addressing people's points that there's not enough new music available)

1. “Oofth” - Massimiliano Milesi. I wouldn’t know “good” jazz if I got bopped in the head with it, so rest assured this is eMusers-recommended and highly approved. Would never have found it or the label without the rec, and I’m excited to sample more of Jazz Engine.

2. “Meadow Lane Park” - Le SuperHomard. Comparisons to Stereolab are well made (smooth female vocal synth-pop)

3. “Unbalanced: Concerto for Ensemble” - Moises P. Sanchez. Minimally challenging, on the louder side, a near-perfect mix of brass, woodwinds, piano, percussion, and a female voice. A fine, long three-piece of nominal jazz, and what a deal at 99 cents!

4. “Breath” - Are Czernysz Trio. Accordion-led jazz is going to be a very hard sell for most folks, but I’ll take this over 90% of the jazz out there.

5. “Estrellas de Madera” - Arias. Upbeat instrumental rock in the vein of Tristeza, the Mercury Program, or early Errors.

6. “Hill Spell” - Northing. I’m a sucker for tubas, and the way it’s deployed on this already brassy jazz album is uniquely enticing.

7. “Reverie” - Goodbye Ivan. Slow piano on a bed of strings, or try the electronic remix album if you prefer to have a beat.

8. “Recollected Memories” - The George Kaplan Conspiracy. Unassuming synth-pop is catchy despite a pretty uninspired name.

9. “Why Do the Birds Sing?” - Production Unit. Two long, innovative tracks sometimes recognizable as music, bearing important environmental messages.

10. “Seven Birds” - Silva Rarum Arte. Nice new classical.

Honorable Mention: T“Encelado” - LUZ.


2018 (Last year still counts as new, I hope.)

1. “The Longest Day” - Toby Hay. Listed under folk, but I’d just say they’re a nice collection of rock instrumentals. A top choice doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, but it should invite repeat listening, which this absolutely does. In fact, it’s hard to imagine ever not wanting to hear it.

2. “Siri Ba Kele” - Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band. No list would be complete without a solid Afrobeat entry, though admittedly it’s getting harder to find lately. Not really much call & response (there might well be a better term to describe this style), but the rhythms are definitely here and stretch over properly long tracks. The album cover really plays up the exoticism, for better and worse.

3. “MOZAIKA” - ONUKA. The all-caps-ness of her name and song titles shows that an aspiring pop star needs to shout just to be heard, and I don’t gather she was successful, given that no one has rated the album. On the electronic side and confrontational rather than catchy per se, pop listeners should be pleased by this.

4. “Yokai” - Breek. A top nominee for EPs I wish were LPs, this is a subtle and all too brief collection of soft drum & bass and IDM, nicely layered for pure listening pleasure. And quite the album cover/price.

5. “Fire Behind the Curtain” - Adam Stafford. Working with loops on instrumentals, he’s front loaded his best material in organic-sounding melodic tunes combining piano and strings nicely. There’s an epic midsection, and the second half gets a bit droney. Will definitely check out his rock albums now.

6. “Impossible Star” - Meat Beat Manifesto. As fine an entry point into Jack Dangers’ longstanding, prolific, dark electronic dub as any.

7. “Year of the Dragon” - Hatchback. Another smoothly relaxing electronic one.

8. “Certainty Waves” - The Dodos. Always a driving beat to these guys’ songs. Fast-paced rock with thoughtful, emotive lyrics as ever. Said I wouldn’t put any Polyvinyl acts on here, but I lied.

9. “Put Your Hands Together” - Skeewiff. I actually prefer 2017’s “In Wonderland” album, below, for its wackiness, but this is where there was room. This album has more elements of disco and funk and is still upbeat and fun.

10. “Hate in My Heart” - DNTL. Maybe disappointing for those who prefer DNTL’s tracks with vocals, but there’s plenty of interesting noodling going on in this.

Honorable Mention: Collections of Colonies of Bees. “Un Hombre Que Camina” - Ramirez & Lainus. “Pandemonium” - Slugabed. “Homage to a Dreamer” - Goce Stevkovski Septet.


2017 (too much to list, really. I don’t know why 2017 is head and shoulders above other years’ remaining holdings)

1. “S/t” - Ko Shin Moon. Some will find this obnoxious, but I think it’s awesome. Organic rhythms spiral in meticulous control into full-on keyboard-driven Middle-Eastern dance parties. The name sounds Asian, and indeed the mid-section moves geographically to Pakistan and (SE?) Asia. Mostly instrumental, all exhilarating. This was missing from my life too long; don’t leave it out of yours!

2. “ Caballeros del Albedrio“ - Austin TV. Not as aggressive as a previous album, but they sustain Latin prog/post-rock as well as anyone over two “discs.” Mostly instrumental.

3. “Art in the Age of Automation“ - Portico Quartet. I presume Portico (on NinjaTune) is helping out here to make the jazz here more electronic. Great for headphones if you want to appreciate subtleties, also fine reading music.

4. “The Melody of Dust” - Hot Sugar. Not on any label, so it was risky. Smooth, deceptively simple electronic melodies make time pass like heated butterscotch.

5. “Twin Earth” - Aphir. There’s a lot of fawning and swooning over the stylish pop/electronic chanteuses out there, but this brief album manages to feel both poppy and experimental in a way that few can match.

6. “Into Olymp” - Laurent De Schepper Trio. This trio has a couple feet in jazz, where it’s listed, but all its others firmly planted in psychedelic rock. Both groovy and far out, with one vocal track.

7. “Negro Es El Poder” - Mohama Saz. At only 99 cents, this is a fine example of fusion between Spanish and Middle Eastern styles of rock.

8. “Abrada” - Ajate. Japanese percussion and vocals performed in the expansive style of Afrobeat. If that sounds like to much high concept fusion, just give it a whirl. They pull it off splendidly, and cultural reappropriation never sounded so good.

9. “Ibn El Leil” - Mashrou Leila. I’m not as fawning as the first reviewer. That said, sexy synth-pop in Arabic (or whatever language it is) kinda doesn’t seem like it should be possible, or at least not this sleekly produced and accessible to a Western audience. How ‘bout that album cover, eh?

10. “Shadow Work” - Mammal Hands. Gondwana Records is a big part of why I remain subscribed, and these guys never fail to make compelling jazz that doesn’t sound like jazz.

11. “I Am a Man” - Ron Miles with Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, et al. Challenging instrumental jazz with some big names who are clearly having a conversation through their instruments. Took this one out as I noticed Yellowbird’s catalog is a recent casualty.

Honorable Mention: “Pluto” - Floating Points. “Translation” - Transfigure. “CZ-5000 Sounds & Sequences” - Satoshi & Makoto. “Cosmic Dross” - Henge. “S/t” - Pauli Lyytinen Magnetia Orkesteri. “Skeewiff in Wonderland” - Skeewiff. “Kewali EP” - Flamingods. “Mercury Fountain” - The Physics House Band.


2016 (Another strong year.)

1. “Be Glad“ - Tom Terrien. Unpredictably seductive, piano-led quasi-jazz with unexpected forays into driving electronica.

2. “Commontime” - Field Music. As always, a thinking person’s rock band, with angular guitars and clever lyrics.

3. “Sisters” - Odd Nosdam. Short and sweet electronic album with choral flourishes.

4. “Mirror Bride” - Sin Ropas. This stripped-down emotional side project of Califone has provided many of my favorite albums since I was in college, and I was frankly shocked to find it still on eMusic. Dirty, messy, noisy folk rock with skin exposed and heart laid bare as ever.

5. “Nonagram” - Soweto Kinch. I miss when all his stuff was here, but this one can fill the need for forward-looking jazz and thoughtfully poetic lyrics with an eye on social justice (maybe that was a different album of his...he’s very eclectic).

6. “Peel Away the Ivy” - The Pattern Forms. Apparently an electronic supergroup, this album could satisfy a pop listener with its accessible songcraft.

7. “Frame Slip” - Dalthon. Two tracks run the gamut of rock, going wildly off the rails at times but mostly being quite pleasant, occasionally even breaking into singing. Imagine that.

8. “The Story of Marsha Lotus” - Pyramid Vritra. Maybe the only hip-hop album on these lists, its rambling MC is unimposing, and the beats get abstract over tracks spanning up to 18 minutes. 99 cents.

9. “Kafkudengun” - Miguel Conejeros. Though a beat does intrude, this 99-center offers some of the most soothing ambient tunes I’ve heard in a while.

10. “Fatal Light Attraction” - Kerridge. Horrible electronic noise that satisfies in all the best ways, combining industrial and glitch.

Honorable Mention: “The Phoenix Suburb (And Other Stories)” - The Woodleigh Research Facility. “Music for Life Cycles (I-VII)” - Suplington.


2015 (Might be fudging the release date, but it was most difficult to find ten albums from 2015 still on eMusic and worth highlighting.)

1. “With Julia” - Kid Francescoli. The album cover gets very up close and personal, while the electronic backing music may keep listeners at arms length. An altogether very listenable, lighter pop set that knows when to draw the vocals back and when to put them front and center. Inoffensive but not at all offensively so.

2. “Heart Failure” - Mydwem. Was hesitant to download this after sampling a few tracks—seemed a bit caustic and like it’d never establish a groove, but on listening to the full tracks they’re pretty ingenious, taking seemingly incongruous samples and patching them together into unexpected melodies that take one by surprise. Several deconstruct cliches of house music (i.e. women saying “oooh” or taking trite lyrics intended to get gut reactions with their inane simplicity and paring them down to the point of incomprehensibility) and repurpose them for slightly off-kilter purposes. Overall, it’s downtempo, but they pay very careful attention to the beats and could be danceable at times.

3. “The Third Eye” - Tellavision. Edgy and experimental electronic songs with vocals, found sounds and improvised instruments, she’s got a different approach to music that doesn’t wear out its welcome and is well worth a listen.

4. “1983” - Kolsch. A few transcendental tracks stand out on this electronic and quite possibly ironic evocation of the early 1980s.

5. “5 Journeys” - Sumrra. No bio on Allmusic, so I don’t know where they’re from, but wherever it is, these guys are that place’s answer to The Bad Plus. Hemming closely to that successful sound of piano-led jazz that rocks, I’m surprised they’re all but unrated. Long songs from apparently live set(s). Not a selling point, but someone apparently plays a balloon Pee Wee-style on the penultimate track.

6. “Everyone Was a Bird” - Grasscut. Glad to find them after their other/main label jumped ship. Another electronic pop album that goes down smoothly by favoring the former over the latter.

7. “Sarah Eat Neon” - VHS Head. Gutsy sampling of Labyrinth’s soundtrack kicks the nostalgia receptors hard.

8. “Evidentemente la Nube” - Bruno Delucchi Grupo. Pretty mellow but decidedly not smooth jazz, led by an active piano and occasional brass.

9. “S/t” - Calico. Instrumental music that’s neither jazz, rock, nor purely electronic. Just a nice little album.

10. “Instamatic” - Metamatics. Always a middle-of-the road IDM player in my view, one isn’t likely to be wowed by or disappointed with an album from them, and this is no exception.

Honorable Mention: “Cracks” - Desert Sound Colony. “Saint Claude” - Christine and the Queens. “Marble Planet” - Prism Pavilion.


Other unduly obscure favorites to plug from any year:

“The Tel Aviv Session” - The Toure-Raichel Collective. “S/t” - Atropolis. “Miracle Kicker” - Dark Captain Light Captain. “S/t” - NZCA/LINES. Holly Golightly (any). “Key” - Red Snapper. “Parergon” - Will Dutta with Plaid. “Plastic Orchestra” - Global Goon. “Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People” - Califone.


Apologies for everything listed that disappears over the course of time! It was nice to focus on music and leave the business end out for a while. A final note: Before sampling and downloading these albums, I’d heard of about 20% of the artists. Trying new things yields delightful rewards, so do not bow to the tyranny of “never heard of.” Listen for yourself!

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