• Brad H

9 Great Modern Albums Not on Streaming Services




Frank Ocean - Endless


Genre: R&B, Electronic

Year released: 2016


What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


Released the same day as Frank Ocean's long-awaited, essential album Blonde, this more subdued and spacey album is often overlooked. It has a great hazy ambient-pop vibe, Frank's vocals often sinking into the background of rich soundscapes. It draws comparison to the work of James Blake, who is credited on this release. It's not really like anything that Frank Ocean had released prior, or since, making it a real curiosity for fans. Songs like Rushes, Sideways, U.N.I.T.Y and Slide On Me are arguably highlights in his discography. It's a really nice album and it's a shame that it's a bit hard to seek out.


How Can You Listen?


You can't! At least legally. It's only available to Apple Music subscribers as a video. So if you know your way around the internet I'm sure you can find it as a download somehow, but it remains an enigmatic move to keep this record as a video, especially when the "visuals" for this visual album seem a bit improvised and not directly tied to the music...




Toro y Moi - Samantha


Genre: Electronic, Hip-hop

Year released: 2015


What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


Toro y Moi is an alias of extremely prolific musician Chaz Bear who has released numerous projects not just under this alias, but others as well for over a decade at this point. One of his sleeper projects is this 2015 mixtape Samantha which is an atmospheric hip-hop adjacent series of tracks recorded between 2012 and 2015.


While not a concise album, made up of a lot of short beats, it's surprising how cohesive this feels. There's an enveloping hazy quality to the set of twenty songs that feel like they could soundtrack a warm summer night. This is his take on hip-hop, having previously explored chillwave, indie-pop, dance music and some tame indie-rock. It sounds unlike many other hip-hop beat tapes or albums, proving him to be a criminally underused producer, even if he's spotted some guest appearances with big rappers such as Travis Scott.

How Can You Listen?


It's unofficially uploaded to YouTube and has remained there for years. While the original post and link to a dropbox download has disappeared, a mediafire download link from 2015 is still live today.




Death Grips - Exmilitary


Genre: Experimental, Hip-hop, Industrial

Year released: 2011


What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


It's not often a music act comes along and makes you think "this is unlike anything else", but Death Grips did this with their mixtape Exmilitary, which followed a self-titled EP, which this inherits several tracks from. The combination of abrasive industrial and electronic production with similarly in your face shout-rapping from MC Ride. Instantly this propelled Death Grips to being one of the most exciting underground acts of the 2010's. A new breed of punk music suited for the musical landscape at the time. While they went onto arguably bigger and better projects, this first full project in their discography is essential and also a fine starting point for new listeners.


Featuring some of their best and most iconic songs, like Guillotine which is the sole song from the project currently on streaming services. The more esoteric sampling on this as well as the fact it still sounds so fresh to this day make it an essential album.


How Can You Listen?


It's on SoundCloud, and YouTube and their website includes a download link.




Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, ULTRA.

Genre: R&B, Pop

Year released: 2011


What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


Another Frank Ocean project, this one being his first mixtape which really put him on the map as an emerging singer-songwriter. This remains off of streaming services due to liberal use of samples, most notably one of Hotel California by The Eagles. This sort of pop-culture collage, including a Coldplay cover, film and videogame samples and reimagining's of songs by The Eagles and MGMT make this a unique sort of record that doesn't really have any points of comparison today.


How Can You Listen?


Only Novacane and Swim Good are currently on streaming, though a tracklisting (leaving out only The Eagles inspired track) is available on Spotify. Attaining the full thing legally doesn't seem to be an option and all original download links for the project are dead. So you'll have to sail the high seas to hear the record in full 🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️.



Earl Sweatshirt - EARL

Genre: Hip-hop

Year released: 2010


What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


Released at 16 years old at the height of the hip-hop collective Odd Future's cultural hysteria, Earl Sweatshirt's debut mixtape is a cornerstone of that era that holds up well. Compared to the Odd Future leader, Tyler, the Creator's album from the time, a 25 minute lyrical exercise in shock tactics is a lot easier to take in and appreciate. Earl is rapping so good here it's not hard to see why he was labelled a golden boy. Obviously in the eleven years since this mixtape's release, Earl Sweatshirt is a very different artist. So this remains a curiosity in his discography.


How Can You Listen?


Soundcloud. It's also available for a download on DatPiff. Any official links are dead at this point.




Bay Faction - Bay Faction

Genre; Indie rock, Emo

Year released: 2015


What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


Bay Faction broke up in July 2020, leaving just two albums to their name. Their self-titled debut is an emo cult-classic. This album was apparently wiped from the internet after the lead singer regretted how personal and excruciatingly honest the lyrics were. It draws some comparisons to Rivers Cuomo writing the classic Weezer album Pinkerton, which also leant heavily into embarrassing tales of lust, heartbreak and sexual frustration. Musically this is a lot of fun, it has scrappy charm and big hooks. It's instrumentals are quite upbeat, sometimes contrasting the inward looking lyrics which sometimes lash out unwieldly in frustration. It's a honest timestamp in a person's life (that being college) which deserves a place in the emo canon, though its creator's wishes to distance themselves from it makes it a project that will likely stay under the radar.


How Can You Listen?


You can purchase the band's full discography on bandcamp for $10 , with the proceeds going to charity. The first eight tracks encompass the self-titled album. Of course it's also unofficially uploaded to YouTube.




A$AP Rocky - Live.Love.A$AP

Genre: Hip-hop

Year released: 2011


What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


A$AP Rocky was one of the best rappers to emerge in the 2010's, so his breakout project deserves more listeners than it's currently getting due to its absence from streaming services. Live.Love.A$AP took the 'cloud rap' style to the mainstream, with fantastic, hazy production choices and A$AP Rocky provide himself to be a deft rapper from the get go with great flows and lyricism that exuded swagger and cool. Since this release he's excelled in the mainstream and even with more experimentally minded tracks, but his original mixtape remains an essential project for fans of hip-hop in the 2010's.


How Can You Listen?


Given Rocky's stardom it's surprising he hasn't cleared this to be put on streaming, since it arguably is part of a trilogy, including his following two albums. But it's available for download on DatPiff.




Flatbush Zombies - BetterOffDEAD

Genre: Hip-hop

Year released: 2017



What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


Flatbush Zombies provide a psychedelic take on contemporary rap music and to my ears, their 2013 breakout mixtape is still their best work. Mostly due to the inventive sampling and uniformly great production choices. It was the project that really proved the trio could come into their own and offer something fairly unique in the hip-hop landscape. Some of their most iconic songs, like Palm Trees remain isolated on this project. While their commercial albums are still enjoyable and their rapping has improved, the sound of this mixtape remains unmatched in the discography.


How Can You Listen?


It's on DatPiff. It's on SoundCloud.




Matt Champion - HARLEY


Genre: Indie-pop, Hip-hop

Year released: 2017


What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


Matt Champion is one of the most promising members of rap supergroup BROCKHAMPTON. A lot of conversation surrounding the group comes off of who, other than group leader Kevin Abstract who already has three solo projects to his name, will prosper the most removed from the group. Overlooked is Matt Champion's seemingly throwaway 17 minute project HARLEY released a few months before BROCKHAMPTON's hype started rising leading up to the release of their breakout project SATURATION.


While Matt Champion's role in BROCKHAMPTON is rap focused, this is more of a relaxed indie-pop record. It sounds cohesive, with a hazy late summer vibe and bedroom produced charm. It feels like the soundtrack to a great coming of age film. While three of the seven tracks have appeared as singles on streaming, the versions here are more stripped back and feel different enough to make them stand out.


How Can You Listen?


The full thing is on YouTube, though unofficially uploaded by a fan. Similarly it has remained on Soundcloud on what seems to possibly be a BROCKHAMPTON/Kevin Abstract affiliated account. A download link was posted on Matt Champion's official Tumblr account back in 2017 which has remained, though you have to do some digging to find it. Here's the download. Accompanied with this vague comment implying the project was a throwaway:




 


Also one that was missing until very recently...


Mac Miller - Faces

Genre: Hip-hop

Year released: 2014


What Makes This Worth Seeking Out?


A real loss for music occurred when Mac Miller passed away in 2018. His artistic growth was fantastic and arguably his best project is this 2014 mixtape Faces. A dark, honest and personal exploration of Miller's struggles with addiction and fame. As a project chronicling Mac Miller's self-destruction it is both tragic and morbidly fascinating. At almost 90 minutes you might be surprised at how consistently strong this album is, while also including some of his best ideas. The four song stretch of Happy Birthday, Wedding, Funeral and Diablo makes a case for some of Miller's strongest work. Overall it's not a particularly focused project, but it's the wild, varied nature that often makes it so consistently enjoyable.


How Can You Listen?


It's on Mac Miller's official SoundCloud as a long track. It's unofficially up on YouTube. You can grab it off of datpiff as well for the full album split into 24 tracks. It'll be up on streaming services on the 15th October. One of his most interesting tracks, the electronic soundscape of Colors and Shapes even got a brand new music video for the upcoming release:






6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All