10 Best Free MP3 Downloads of 2012
We hope you've been enjoying Diffuser.fm's daily free MP3 downloads, which give us an opportunity to introduce you, our faithful readers, to some of our favorite up-and-coming — and sometimes more established — acts in a variety of genres, from straight-up rock, alternative and indie-pop to alt-country, electronica, R&B and more. We've been giving away free MP3 downloads each day for a good chunk of 2012, accumulating a stash of more than 120 in the process, and now we're sharing our favorites. While we honestly dig each and every one of those 120-plus tunes — we did hand pick them, after all — the following 10 stand out in our minds as the best of the best. So without further ado, here are our picks for the 10 best free MP3 downloads of 2012 so far.
Tashaki Miyaki, 'Best Friend'
California dream-pop duo Tashaki Miyaki earned a bit of buzz for their string of Bob Dylan and Everly Brothers covers before offering up this, their stellar debut single. Mazzy Star, Galaxy 500 and 'Loaded'-era Velvet Underground are all obvious touchstones on 'Best Friend,’ which features a bed of hazy acoustic guitar, fuzzy electric and subtle percussion, led, of course, by tambourine. It supplies the ideal backing instrumentation for singer Lucy's wistful, yearning vocal melodies.
“The song is about feeling lost in the world and how everything is a f—ing mess,” Chase King says of ‘Misty,’ the lead track off his latest solo album, ‘South Tropical Trail.’ And like his band, Slow Country, Chase’s solo expeditions into folk-tinged, sun-kissed Americana sound timeless – it’s not easy to gauge just by listening exactly which era of this messed up world he’s singing about. But even though certain influences shine through -- Jeff Tweedy and Dean Wareham, to name two – after a few listens, it becomes apparent that it doesn’t matter: We all feel lost, it’s always a f---ing mess and we’re all lucky to have music like this to get us through.
Nova Scotia-based indie quartet Wintersleep recruited acclaimed producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT) to helm their fifth full-length album, ‘Hello Hum,’ and the results were about as unexpected as a winter drought in the Great White North. ‘Resuscitate,' the next entry on our Best Free MP3 Downloads of 2012 list, is an Ethiopian-flavored track – yes, you read that correctly – that came about in Africa. “I had that rhythm, the kind of polyrhythm thing happening that I wanted to try after returning to Montreal from visiting my sister in Ethiopia and picking up some of the culture’s beats and rhythms,” he said.
Silent Drape Runners, 'Ten Se'
Brooklyn-based electronic duos aren’t exactly rare creatures these days, but Silent Drape Runners, consisting of Russ Marshalek and Sophie Weiner, put a surprise twist on the genre – and the result is something equally unexpected. “Lynchian Pop” is what they call it, and the feverish and frenetic track ‘Ten Se’ shows exactly why cult director David Lynch’s name can be dragged into the equation. Equal parts wild and mysterious, this is the aural equivalent to a Lynchian fever dream.
The Ampersands, 'Try This'
Sure, the opening chords of ‘Try This,’ the first single off the Ampersands’ 'This Is Your Adventure Too!!' album, sound like the like a preset option on a Casio keyboard – but that sure doesn’t last long. Soon, the pounding backbeat comes in, a fuzzy guitar flails and singer Aaron McQuade starts his manic, melodic ramblings. Then comes the insanely catchy chorus -- “Why don’t you try this/ Or you’ll never know” -- with vocals doubled by McQuade's partner in crime, Jim Pace. The whole thing is repeated once more, then it’s over before you know it. The perfect pop song?
The indie Madonna? The female Prince? Mayda has heard it all. Born in South Korea before relocating to St. Paul, Minn., the pint-size (four-foot-ten!), up-and-coming singer takes ‘80s pop in the tradition of Madge and the Purple One and gives it an indie-pop makeover with an edge that makes it palatable to the hippest of hipsters. ‘Panthers' -- which was bound to land on our Best Free MP3 Downloads of 2012 list -- showcases the best of both worlds, offering a peek into the sound that’s bound to make Mayda a star.
Smoking Popes, ‘Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground'
Here’s a band you’ve probably heard of before. Formed in the suburbs of Chicago more than two decades ago, pop-punk vets Smoking Popes recently reissued their breakthrough 1994 sophomore album, ‘Born to Quit,’ and this time around, it came with two bonus tracks, including a cover of country legend Willie Nelson’s ‘Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground. “Someday I’d like to do a full-length Willie tribute album. But for now, this humble interpretation of one of his classics will have to suffice.”
The Album Leaf, 'Descent'
The Album Leaf is the solo project of veteran post-rocker Jimmy LaVelle of Tristeza, who has been making stunningly gorgeous ambient music on his own since 1998. “I wanted to keep things raw,” Lavelle says of the ‘Forward/Return’ EP from which ‘Descent’ comes. ”Return to basics while the band moves forward.”
Magic Wands, 'Teenage Love'
Synth-pop duo Magic Wands originated four years ago when singer Dexy Valentine posted an early version of 'Teenage Love' on her MySpace page. Future bandmate Chris Valentine discovered Dexy’s page, and just like that, the band formed. The 'Teenage Love' featured here on our list of the Best Free MP3 Downloads of 2012 is a re-recorded version of the lo-fi original, upgraded with Suicide drums and syrupy synths that come together to create the catchy minor masterpiece as featured on their debut album, ‘Aloha Moon.'
Natural Child, 'Derek's Blues'
Nashville-based party monsters Natural Child know how to have a good time, even when they’re feeling blue. ‘Derek’s Blues’ tells the sad, sorry story of a love unrequited – hell, the word “blues” is even in the title – but you wouldn’t pick up on its bummer vibes just by listening to the music, which features a Southern-fried take on jam-band boogie, with long, expansive passages of guitar soloing to keep the party going. Whatever you do, just don’t call it garage rock. “There ain’t nothin garage about this song,” the band rants. “It’s about loving a woman you know you can’t have. The guitar solos can be translated into Eric Clapton’s life story.”