Build a Better iTunes Library with Amazon’s $5 Album Sale

Amazon is having a sale on MP3 albums — 1,500 albums are only $5 until the end of May. Obviously, this is a great opportunity to fill some holes in your iTunes library, but trying to wade through that many choices could get a little daunting. Never fear, Autostraddle is here to help you pick out some old staples and some new favorites!

Here’s our picks for the best of the bunch. And remember, if you use any of the links on this page to get to Amazon, Autostraddle will get a portion of the proceeds from whatever you buy. Everybody wins!

CRYSTAL, MUSIC EDITOR

Nine inch Nails – The Downward Spiral


This album is so good and so essential that seeing it discounted down to $5 makes me feel a little dirty. The Downward Spiral is a concept album about the journey to self-destruction, which is a little macabre but also a masterpiece. Buy it.

Incubus – S.C.I.E.N.C.E.


This is an old Incubus album that not many people seem to know about – probably because it was written before “Drive” – and that’s a shame because it’s so damn good. It’s slightly heavy, but it also has layers of electro and so you can choose to dance or head-bang, whatever you’re into.

Michelle Branch – The Spirit Room


Prior to hearing this album, I listened to heavy rock & punk almost exclusively. The Spirit Room filled my heart with warmth and sunshine and transformed me into the hardcore pop lover that I am today.

Dazed and Confused Soundtrack – Dazed And Confused


This is probably my favorite soundtrack. It’s filled with rock classics that remind me of being an American high school student coming of age during the 70s even though I’m not an American and I wasn’t alive in the 70s. That’s how good it is.

Green Day – Insomniac


This album is a bit like the novel ‘Less Than Zero’ in that I really, really love it, it’s one of my all-time favorite things, and yet I can’t recommend it to you without including some sort of disclaimer because deep down I know that it’s not very good. So. Buyer beware.

 

BONUS PICKS

Guns ‘N Roses – Appetite For Destruction

Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique

Everclear – Sparkle And Fade

ANNIKA, WRITER

The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

The Queen is Dead is quite possibly the best album of the 1980s. The Smiths captured the melancholic mood of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and created a timeless masterpiece of indie pop. Morrissey’s cheeky (and ambiguously queer) lyrics intertwined with Johnny Marr’s beautiful guitar work. What’s not to love?

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

This album is hauntingly gorgeous. Two years ago, Bon Iver hosted a sleepover in the middle of a cemetery that included a Wes Anderson film, chanting Buddhist monks, and a sunrise concert that I will never forget. Sometimes all you need is some incredible folk music to help you unwind from life’s daily stresses, and For Emma, Forever Ago always hits the spot.

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

This is the first of Bowie’s many excellent releases, and a classic in the glam rock genre. The fact that the song “Changes” isn’t even one of the best tracks on Hunky Dory speaks volumes about the quality of this album. You can’t go wrong — it’s Bowie! And check out that hair!

Paul McCartney and Wings – Band On The Run

Are you a fan of the Beatles? Do you like catchy, cute melodies that you’ll find yourself humming for days? Look no further than Band on the Run, which is hands down one of the best solo albums by any member of the Fab Four. My girlfriend and I are especially fond of the song “Bluebird,” so much so that we created our own dance to go along with it.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory

Do you remember in The Big Lebowksi when the Dude’s car got stolen? More than anything else, he was concerned about losing his Creedence tapes. And for good reason — with its psychedelic brand of “swamp rock,” Cosmo’s Factory is a great way to travel back to the late ’60s hippie scene without having to wash the smell of patchouli out of your clothes.

ALEX, DESIGN DIRECTOR

Billy Idol – Greatest Hits

If you love the ’80s, or romanticize the ’80s as much as I do, all Billy Idol hits are MUST HAVES. Actually, you don’t even have to like the ’80s in general… if you don’t have Mony Mony in your iTunes library, it’s incomplete.

Panic at the Disco – Pretty. Odd.

Very underrated in my opinion. I enjoy this album still. It’s the kind of thing you listen to while driving long distance or while cleaning your room. Something you can whistle to, knowwhatImean? Easy listening, slightly happy yet contemplative.

KT Tunstall – Eye To The Telescope

This is about as close to female emo-acoustic music that I will get. Probs all the lesbians have this already. But if not, the good news is that $5 is a steal for this album. It’s awesome.

LINDSAY, MUSIC WRITER

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

This is a thing I wrote on a blog once about Hunky Dory that best explains my feelings: There’s a certain quality about albums like this one or Revolver or Beggars Banquet, the album that comes right before the massive career-altering opus (in this case, Ziggy Stardust, Sgt. Peppers and Let It Bleed, respectively) that will go down in history as a turning point for rock ‘n’ roll. It’s hard to explain, but I imagine it’s a lot like watching your kid graduate from high school: joyful, relieving, affirming in its own right, that feeling of being caught in between the joy of the now and the excitement over what amazing things will come next.

Raekwon – Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang

The hip-hop section is a bit hit-or-miss — on the one hand, you have Aesop Rock, Talib Kweli and Rick Ross’ smash from last year, Teflon Don, but on the other hand, you have Lil Jon’s hits compilation (?!) and some guy named Boondox who apparently performs at the Gathering of the Juggalos, which is totally cool if that’s your thing. But the easy winner in the bunch for me is the Wu-Tang vet’s solid, sample-packed follow-up to Only Built For Cuban Linx II. It’s packed with guest stars, from heavy-hitters like Nas to Dinah-Shore-veteran songstress Estelle on ‘Chop Chop Ninja.’

Wye Oak – Civilian

2011 has been an incredible year for folk and folk-related releases so far — The Decemberists, Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes, and, of course, Baltimore duo Wye Oak. I’m a little embarrassed that I slept on this band for as long as I did. This album is gorgeous and ethereal but still grounded and adjectives are hard today, just listen to it okay. And the title track opens with the best FEELINGS!-inducing line of 2011 so far: ‘I am nothing without pretend.’ To be added to your ‘shitfaced and lovelorn’ playlist immediately.

Weezer – Weezer

Alright, so many of you will probably already have this anyway or went through your big Weezer phase like 10 years ago. But for those who don’t, this is a perfect opportunity to procure one of the best pop albums of the past 20 years for a reasonable price. From the first fist-pumping moments of “My Name Is Jonas” to the wistful “Only In Dreams,” you’ll be hooked the whole way through. Also, “Buddy Holly” is like the ultimate nerd party anthem.

Otis Redding – The Very Best Of Otis Redding

This one time while I was at home over the summer, I walked in on my mother getting teary-eyed while watching Dancing With the Stars. The reason? Jennifer Grey was performing “These Arms Of Mine” in tribute to her late Dirty Dancing co-star, Patrick Swayze. It was a perfect tribute, and an emotional one, and truly, there is no one better to soundtrack your intimate feelings for another person, romantic or otherwise, than Mr. Otis Redding. An iconic voice, a life cut tragically short, a legacy of classics.

Dawes – North Hills

This album was released in 2009, but I feel like a lot of people are getting into it — and its soaring single, “When My Time Comes” — now. It’s as good of a time as any, I guess. It’s a summer in the Midwest, in album form.

JESS G., MUSIC CONTRIBUTOR

Wye Oak – Civilian

On their third full-length, the Baltimore duo finds themselves on the brink of breaking through to mainstream audiences. Just listen to the title track — it gives me chills! Jen Wasner’s brooding vocals and noisy guitar solos combined with multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack’s wall of sound make for one of the best rock records of the year.

Rilo Kiley – Take Offs and Landings

What? You haven’t heard Rilo Kiley’s Take Offs and Landings? Say goodbye to that indie kid street cred. This is my favorite album from one of my favorite bands. The lyrics are intelligent and witty, and each song — with its often unusual structures and long instrumental bridges — seems to defy genre and expectation.

Blink 182 – Dude Ranch

The album cover may prominently feature a pair of bull’s testicles, but that’s no reason to turn away. Dude Ranch was Blink 182’s last album that could truly be characterized as punk. The vocals are more raw, the guitars are messier, and the songs, like “Josie,” are perfect for the angst-ridden youth in you.

Various Artists – Music From Vanilla Sky

There’s no denying director Cameron Crowe has good taste in music, even when his movies kind of suck. Crowe curates a little bit of everything in this soundtrack, from the electronic experimentation of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” to the “sadcore” indie rock of the Red House Painters.

Afternoon Delight – Starland Vocal Band

This isn’t a joke. If you are a folk junkie and love to sing harmonies in your car/when you’re walking/on public transit, this album is chock full of winners. And of course, there’s the hilarious and amazing title track that we all know and love.

LAURA, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Jonsi – Go

This is actually my favorite album in the whole world. Once I heard a song from it at H&M and wanted to cry because it was the most beautiful thing I ever heard, and I was afraid I’d never hear it again. Luckily a Facebook group called “I heard it at H&M” came to my rescue.

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

Iron and Wine : spring and summer : : Bon Iver : fall and winter.

Michelle Branch – Hotel Paper

Eeee guys can you believe that Michelle Branch has another album coming out soon? Go buy Hotel Paper and practice singing along with her so that you’ll want to buy her new album, and she’ll be happy, and make more, okay?

Norah Jones – Come Away With Me

Do you know who Norah Jones’ dad is? He’s Ravi Shankar aka sitar player extraordinaire aka the guy who taught George Harrison how to play the sitar. Norah’s pretty talented herself and this album is nice music to listen to with your grandma while drinking raspberry iced tea.

Enrique Iglesias – Greatest Hits

Henry Churches: the lyrical genius who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between fucking and loving. He really shined on Now 3, Now 4, and Now 6, but now you can have all his greatest hits in one place.

GABBY, WRITER

Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More

The sound of Marcus Mumford’s voice makes me want to fight for love by writing sonnets while drinking Jameson. “Love will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free.” Haven’t pulled this album out of rotation since I purchased it in January.

Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

Metric is that band your new girlfriend likes that you’re trying to ignore but find yourself humming along to when she’s not around. One up her with an older album, haha. Give in to their jubilant rock synth happy tracks like “Dead Disco” and “Combat Baby.”

Talib Kweli – Quality

Talib Kweli creates solace and beauty in the noisy often reckless world of hip hop. He is the spoken word griot flowing over a beat reminding you what rap music is capable of. Talib makes music for grown folks.

John Coltrane – The Ultimate Blue Train

For that rainy Sunday in the crib with the wife. Bustelo coffee, npr moth podcast, bootie slippers and some sticky green. Coltrane provides jazz nerdy mellow ambiance without dominating the nesting space.

Janet Jackson – Janet.

Forget wardrobe malfunctions and tacky, over-CGI’ed music videos. This is the real Janet Jackson. Funky, melodic, and she makes you wanna slow dance by your damn self. This is the album you make sweet lady love to without needing to skip any songs.

RIESE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Dazed and Confused Soundtrack – Dazed And Confused

At this point this is a double nostalgia classic — a throwback to when soundtracks were still relevant (1993) and when this movie took place (the ’70s).

Huey Lewis and The News – Greatest Hits: Huey Lewis And The News

You guys! Huey Lewis and the fucking News! I still know all the words to all these songs and find “I want a new drug” relevant to my interests.

Radiohead – OK Computer

I really just bought this for real, because why don’t I own it yet. I’m not afraid of being a hipster.

Various artists – Romeo & Juliet Soundtrack

Little Star! And an excellent interpretation of When Doves Cry and that sad slow-dance song Kissing You. I don’t know, I just really liked this soundtrack.

John Coltrane – The Ultimate Blue Train

Did you know that John Coltrane and I have the same birthday? It’s true.

EMILY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

There’s a reason why The Arcade Fire won some big award for this album: because it’s really freaking good. I’m a total fan of concept albums, and The Suburbs is really complete when you listen to it from beginning to end. I feel like there’s always something new I notice when I listen to it.

M. Ward – Hold Time

When I was writing a paper about China I listened to this album and M. Ward’s other album which is not available for $5 BUT WHICH YOU SHOULD ALSO BUY ANYWAY, and now I am going to China. I have to say that these albums are two of my favorite of all time. Do you need a better recommendation than that?

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

I don’t know how to describe Fleet Foxes other than harmonies sung by little woodland elvish creatures. When I listen to this album I often think of “dwarves,” “forest,” “hills and mountains,” “yellow leaves.” They also recently released a new album, which I’ve heard is really good.

Norah Jones – Come Away With Me

When you need a break from Sarah McLachlan.

Okkervil River – The Stand Ins

I liked this album so much I named my blog after a line in the song “Lost Coastlines.” Seriously, Okkervil River has a way with words and making me have #feelings. This album is easy but full of layers, and I would highly, highly recommend it. Like, more than the others I picked.

SEBASTIAN, WRITER

Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes

The first time I heard anything from the Violent Femmes other than “Blister in the Sun” was when Pauline and Victoria dance to “Add it Up” in Lost and Delirious (excuse me sir, your lesbian past is showing). Anyway, I’ve been hooked ever since. Perfect for dancing, being angsty, being sexy, and even cleaning your apartment before the new roommates move in this weekend!

The Rosebuds – Birds Make Good Neighbors

The Rosebuds were a very important part of my high school soundtrack. Super melodic sing-along indie pop at its best. Plus this album hosts one of my favorite love songs, “The Warm Where You Lay,” which you should all have for crushin mix tapes.

LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

Listen, people. I’m a DJ so I know dance music, mmkay? And LCD Soundsystem has made some of the most musically brilliant dance music I’ve ever heard. It is SO fun. They get you boogie-ing without being in your face with heavy bass lines and predictable vocal samples. And believe it or not, the lyrical content is actually very sophisticated.

Okkervil River – The Stage Names

Speaking of lyrical sophistication, Okkervil River has some of the best written (and most heart-slaughtering) lyrics ever to grace my headphones. And you know, the music is really great, too. This entire album is pure gold, but “John Allyn Smith Sails” cements the record as one of my top 5.

Tennis – Cape Dory

Since none of my other recommendations are exactly “current,” I thought I’d include one of my favorite recent releases. If you want music that feels like summer, this is the album for you. It’s cute and simple and upbeat and mostly about boating and oceans and sunshine. Pitchfork sums up their charm quite nicely: “Above all, Tennis strive to evoke an unnamed but certainly more innocent past.”

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44 Comments

    • it makes me feel old, but this was THE party cd when i was at university. i still have “blister in the sun” and “add it up” on my ipod. “get drunk and scream the lyrics with yer mates” material.

        • While Apple is all about their 30% cut off the top of everything purchased on an iOS device/from iTunes, Amazon is all about volume. Writing to the Amazon support page and asking “When will this be available in Australia?” (not if, when) can only help because it contributes to the perception that there is a critical mass of demand.

    • I currently use it and feel kind of weird about it. It automatically signed me up for a year free trial, with the assumption that I would start paying for their storage after a year. I plan on doing no such thing, even if that means giving up the two albums I currently have stored on there.

      Also, their user interface is super fussy and unlovable, imo.

      • Everyone gets 5Gb free storage. You got the extra 20Gb trial as a promo when you bought an album.

        Anything you buy from Amazon is stored for free and doesn’t count against your 5Gb/20Gb so you can cancel the trial and keep your albums.

    • The player is simple and fine, perfect if you tend to listen to entire albums or shuffle. The interface is click-heavy compared to iTunes’s drag-and-drop and that takes getting used to if you’re trying to build playlists. You can access cloud content from any device with a browser – the device doesn’t have to be registered with your iTunes library.

      Amazon’s giving away the first 5Gb of storage. Mp3s you buy from Amazon don’t count against your storage limit. You can upload any digital content, not just music.

      You can set preferences to deliver your Amazon music purchases to the cloud and then automatically download to your iTunes. That way if the cloud’s down, you have a local copy. If something happens to your local drive, you have a cloud copy.

      Personally I wouldn’t have my music only in the cloud yet. The cloud can go down and the record labels really don’t want this storage locker model to succeed. If the labels take it to court and win, conceivably they could seize the cloud and if that’s your only copy, you could be inconvenienced or even lose access to your content.

      As free offsite backup with a decent player, though, it’s a no-brainer to me.

      • Whatever mp3s you buy from Amazon can launch in your cloud player but you also have the ability to download the album to your computer. So if you are afraid of the ‘cloud going down’ I’d download to your computer from the cloud player. No way you can lose it then.

        I like it so far. Automatically grabbed everything off my new lappy and placed into cloud player and whatever new albums I buy doesn’t count against my 5 gigs storage? Since I use my phone as my backup mp3 player I like having all my songs on the ready.

        • Anything you buy from Amazon doesn’t count against your storage limit. From Amazon’s help http://amzn.to/lv19pb

          “Cloud Drive is Amazon’s secure storage solution for music and other digital files. Music purchases saved to Cloud Drive are stored for free, do not count against any storage limits, and are accessible through Amazon Cloud Player for playback or download on any PC, Mac or Android device.”

          For all the iPod/iPhone/iPad users – http://cnet.co/jfd5Bv Just last week Amazon updated the cloud player to work on Safari. There’s still no dedicated app, but you can get to your music through the browser http://www.amazon.com/cloudplayer

      • Sooo….. Dumb question alert:
        Do I need this Cloudy-whatsit to download Amazon mp3’s to iTunes? I only just cope with iTunes, the prospect of yet another program scares me.
        If not, can I just automagically download it to iTunes somehow?

        • You do NOT need the cloud player to download Amazon mp3s to iTunes. I’m pretty sure the first time you buy an mp3 Amazon asks you where you want to store your purchases. You can also manually upload and download music at any time. Note: Amazon music only stores for free if you send it to the cloud drive at the time of purchase. If you send it to iTunes first, then upload it, it will count against your storage limit.

          If you choose the cloud player, there’s a setting for the cloud player to automatically download new music to your iTunes library. So you can have the best of both worlds, even if you just use the cloud as an offsite backup.

          The main help page http://amzn.to/mjLyWo has a couple of videos that explain the basics well – one for why you’d want to use the cloud drive and a much drier one for how to use it.

      • Clarification: Amazon music purchases are only stored free on the cloud drive if sent to the cloud drive at the time of purchase.

        If you download it to iTunes first, then upload it, it will count against your storage limit.

    • I’ve really liked it so far. I haven’t had any troubles streaming the music from the cloud player on my phone or computer. And it’s really easy to download them to your computer if you want to burn them onto cd’s or mp3 players.

  1. “For that rainy Sunday in the crib with the wife. Bustelo coffee, npr moth podcast, bootie slippers and some sticky green. Coltrane provides jazz nerdy mellow ambiance without dominating the nesting space.”

    best description ever!!! and i want this!! i have coltrane all i need is a lovely lady and coffee sundays !! 😀 omg.

    also i love the queen is dead and hunky dory albums sooooo good 😀 <3 to annika

    in all autostraddle: this is the best way to come home from work!! sweet post!

  2. The Stand Ins is such a great album, I think I actually got it because Emily said something about it when there was an Auto-music guide last summer. It was all that I played during my never ending college tour roadtrip. That and Sigh No More. And Fleet Foxes. Basically I enjoy all of this music, rock on Autostraddle.

  3. gabby’s list covers all my favorite music genres with new albums in half of them. awesome.
    also, amazon’s mp3 store has a twitter, which tells you about daily deals. which are amazing. and so dangerous. because what’s another album at 3.99 or 5 dollars? …until you buy one every day. whoops.

    thanks for the music suggestions, so many new things to discover!

  4. I have to second a lot of these but especially the Bon Iver, Metric, and Arcade Fire love. Bon Iver makes me melt.

    Go by Jonsi (of Sigur Ros) and Swoon by Silversun Pickups are definite worthy buys as well.

    They also have Sixteen Stone by Bush on sale and there’s probably not another cd that reminds me of my teenage years better than that one.

  5. well, I just listened to the first three songs of the violent femmes album and my life is completely different.

    they remind me of teenage years listening to placebo’s early b-sides in the best way possible.

  6. Jesus, I was literally 10 years old when the first mentioned Incubus album came out, and I know I thought….’This is what music is meant to be!’.

    So yeah, then I fell in love with Kylie Minogue and the Goo Goo Dolls; so maybe take my opinion with a grain of salt. Johnny Rzeznik owns my heart 4eva! Word.

  7. Everything is cheaper in America! I have to scrounge through HMV’s £5 sales for cheap albums, but $5 albums? That’s 3 FOR A TENNER and like TWO THIRDS THE COST OF BRITISH STUFF I CAN GET SO MANY ALBUMS.

  8. You gals improve the quality of my life–which is already pretty awesome. You are the discovery channel for all kinds of goodness from AA boy shorts to BuskFilms to all kinds of good cheap albums. You are doing a very good job. Very good. Just moved to say thanks a mil.

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