This year we've featured more -- and better -- exclusive downloads on Audiofile than ever before. Midway through making my list of favorite Audiofile downloads of the year, I realized that all of them were Salon exclusives -- not so surprising, really, because nine times out of 10 an exclusive is my favorite song from the album it's on, a song I was excited enough about to go through the trouble of getting permission to post it.
Anyhow, here are my 20 favorite downloads from Audiofile this year. As usual, they're not as eclectic as I'd like, as it's still the case that indie rock is the only genre to have fully embraced the Web and the idea of giving away songs on it as an effective promotional tool. Regardless, much as I wish there were more jazz, more world music, any classical, etc., this is still a batch of 20 songs that I'm proud to have hosted. Tell me where you think I went wrong in the comments. Thanks to all the artists and labels for allowing us to post their music, and thanks to you for listening.
1. "Looter's Follies," Destroyer exclusive download | review The best track from my favorite record of the year, a songwriting tour de force.
2. "Ambiguity," David Thomas Broughton exclusive download | review The opening track from Broughton's debut, recorded live in a church.
3. "Jolly Jolly Jolly Ego," Dirty Projectors exclusive download | review An astonishing, brilliantly constructed song from one of the most innovative minds in modern music.
4. "No Education," Plush exclusive download | review An equally brilliant construct from an anachronistic pop classicist.
5. "Lies," Carl Hancock Rux exclusive download | review A standout track from one of my surprise favorites of the year, Carl Hancock Rux's "Good Bread Alley."
6. "Marla," Grizzly Bear exclusive download | review The gauzy, impossibly tender emotional core of Grizzly Bear's brilliant "Yellow House."
7. "Maybe in Another Year," Jennie Pearl exclusive download | review A haunting song from 15-year-old Joni Mitchell wannabe Jennie Pearl.
8. "The Legend," Willie Nelson exclusive download | review An elegant take on a classic Kris Kristofferson song, by one of the great interpreters of our time.
11. "Truth Is Marching In," Marc Ribot and Spiritual Unity exclusive download | review The guitar great leads his new quartet through a tribute to Albert Ayler.
12. "O Yes My Lord," Voices of Conquest exclusive download | review A Detroit choir backed by a single drummer -- one of the strangest things I've ever heard.
13. "Polska på övervåningen," Väsen exclusive download | review The legendary Swedish folk trio giving a gorgeous performance of one of its best compositions.
14. "La Llorona," Chavela Vargas exclusive download | review A legendary and heart-wrenchingly ravaged voice in her Carnegie Hall debut.
15. "Bells," Albert Ayler exclusive download | review The legendary free jazz saxist (that's three legends in a row, best take a break) in an 18-minute-plus performance of one his signature tunes.
16. "Prepared (2)," Lambchop exclusive download | review Whispered, nearly indecipherable intimacies from the masterful Kurt Wagner.
17. "I Cried Last Night," Junior Kimbrough exclusive download | review Junior Kimbrough definitely stands out among modern bluesmen, not just for his singular evocation of the Delta blues ethos but because of how loose and weird and mysterious his music is.
18. "De Makeba," The Jazz Dazzlers exclusive download | review For me, South African township jazz is an instant dopamine booster.
19. "Give All to Love," Niobe exclusive download | review A gorgeous and disorienting song from a German electronic music artist.