This is a music review with an agenda - to promote online music services that work. It is possible to design a downloadable music business in which the artists get paid royalties and the fans get what they want - quality downloads, no hassle and a fair price.
At the moment, unfortunately, Emusic is the only service I've found that fits the bill. For about 10 bucks a month, you get unlimited mp3 downloads. Once you've saved them, they can be transferred to a portable player or burned to CD, and they will still be available if you leave the service. Best of all, you can download an entire album with a click of a mouse. The service doesn't have much of anything available from major labels, but it's great for indie rock, jazz, electronic music and underground hip-hop.
My favorite downloads from the past month:
Mississippi John Hurt - Revisited & 1928 Sessions. If you like American music and don't already listen to John Hurt, consider this a recommendation. Call it country-blues, call it folk, call it genius. The 1928 Sessions disk is probably better than Revisited, and it certainly has more historical significance. Of course, it was recorded in 1928 - so it cracks and pops. The songs on Revisited were recorded live in 1965 and have decent recording quality.
Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights. Do the hipsters like Interpol because they sound good, or because it reminds them of that freshman year cutie, the one with the Joy Division poster?
Ornette Coleman - The Music of Ornette Coleman: Something Else! & Tomorrow is the Question. Ornette's first and second albums as a bandleader and already he’s changing the world. With Don Cherry on trumpet, these two albums sound fresh 40 years later.
Blackalicious - Nia. These underground rappers and producers hail from the Bay Area and hang out with Latyrx, DJ Shadow and other nonconforming musicians. This is a great find for any fan of smart, inventive hip-hop.