Top downloads of 2009

The best Internet-only music of 2009

It feels strange to write this, but downloads are a dying breed.

There are no downloads anymore, since there are only downloads. At least, everything is on iTunes and nothing is free. After all these years, the music industry finally came around to digital music and began embracing it. It used to be that if an artist didn’t have distribution or rights to a sample or even enough songs, he or she would offer music for download only. Now everything goes straight to iTunes for $1.29.

That’s why this list will probably not see the light of your computer screen next year. Everything will be a download, but nothing will be free. So, while they’re still around, here’s a list of the year’s best downloads.

1. Solange – Stillness in the Night

A sure-fire way to ignite the Internet: cover blog-favourites The Dirty Projectors’ Stillness Is The Move and leak the MP3 to P4K. What we said when it came out: Solange’s version takes the catchy indie soul song, and turns it into a genuine slow-burning R&B jam. D/L.

2. Gucci Mane – The Cold War Mixtapes

With three simultaneously released, Cold War-themed street tapes out in one day, Atlanta’s lovable Gucci Mane took over the mixtape mantle Lil’ Wayne left in 2009. Gucci’s Guccimerica, Great Brrrtain, and Brrrussia was a hilarious concept that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. But anytime the three hours of music dragged, it was saved by either straightforward great rapping, Gucci’s dry humour or just plain gusto. Download them here.

3. Paper Bag’s 7 Year Itch

Woodhands covering Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue. Slim Twig covering OutKast’s Behold A Lady. CFCF covering OMC’s How Bizarre. That should be enough to convince any fan of Toronto’s Paper Bag records to download their free seven-year anniversary tribute album. Download here.

4. Freddie Gibbs – The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs

Gary, Indiana’s old school-influenced Freddie Gibbs released hours of music online this year. So much, that one mixtape alone was 80 minutes of rapping. That there are people that listened to all of it is incredible. Part of the reason he gets away with it is all his mixtapes are produced and arranged as if they were legitimate albums. Gibbs wrote and recorded a gang of music for his label, with producers like Polow Da Don and Just Blaze, but then was dropped. He shopped it around a while, but then ended up doing his own distribution online. It worked. Look for Gibbs to go mainstream in 2K10, but download this first.

5. Drake – So Far Gone

Toronto’s very own. Not much more needs to be said about this entry, since he topped nearly every chart (though, surprisingly not many year-end lists) this year and was written about nearly everywhere (including here at the beginning of the year). D/L the mixtape here.

6. Boris Dlugosch – Bangkok

Out of the trillion million MP3’s to come out of BeatPort, this one is worth the listen. Dlugosch was forced to release it there after it leaked to YouTube and racked up the views (the wax Nic Cage didn’t hurt its popularity either).

7. Slim Twig’s hip hop mixtape

On his MySpace, Toronto’s Twig lists his musical style as musique concrète, a near-extinct style of French style of electronic acoustic music. This mixtape is hard to classify, sure, but it’s not quite concrète. It’s RZA-inspired beats and beat poet-inspired rhymes. Weird and wonderful. Read and download here.

8. Lil Wayne – No Ceilings

Nowhere near as good as any mixtape that came out in 2008, No Ceilings is more like a poke to remind the world Lil Wayne still existed. There are some highs on here, but none that live up to his past Internet-dominating greatness. Download.

9. Pill – Trap Goin Ham

Another rapper with a mixtape, granted. There are more than enough Internet-only mixtapes on this list, but this one is notable for this gritty video:

10. Theophilus London – This Charming Mixtape
Throw a stone in Brooklyn and you’ll hit one of these non-violent, literate, skinny jean-wearing, out-of-left-field hipster rappers. So many that it’s getting difficult to sort the good from the bad. Theophilus’ Smiths-referencing mixtape (with Elvis Costello-checking cover art) might not put him out in front of the pack, but it definitely makes him one to watch.[rssbreak]

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