Thursday, 13 December 2007

Off on a Tangent, part 7 – Monarch: The Lost Album of Leslie Feist

Monarch (Lay Down Your Jeweled Head) was Leslie Feist’s first solo recording, released in 1999 when she was just 23. Subsequent releases have had the benefit of major label clout behind them, but Monarch was released on a tiny Canadian label, and was predominantly sold at shows. It’s been out of print for years, and apparently copies go for more than $500 on EBay (when they ever appear that is).

Even getting to hear the songs on the album is difficult enough. There’s a dodgy Russian mp3 website that apparently has the whole thing available as a download, but my credit card doesn’t have a death wish, so that’s out. However, there have recently been a couple of BitTorrent sites with the whole album available for download (one’s here). My technical ability in this area is positively laughable, but over the weekend I managed to grab all eleven tracks in glorious all singing, all dancing MP3 format.

And it’s absolutely fantastic.

There’s obviously a reason as to why this album has been out of print so long, but I’m damned if I know why. If it was a major departure from Let It Die or The Reminder, then I could understand – but it isn’t. Songs such as It’s Cool to Love Your Family or One Year AD wouldn’t sound out of place on Feist’s new long player, and a song such as La Sirena (two fifths Cocteau Twins, two fifths torch song, one fifth ambient guitar wig out) is as gorgeous as anything that Feist has ever recorded (sorry, I haven’t a clue how to post MP3 files on this blog thing – someone write and give me a tutorial).

However, all this leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I used to work with a guy who downloaded all his music for free using a variety of undoubtedly dodgy websites, which to me is a crime on a par with touting concert tickets on EBay. The problem with Monarch is that it’s simply not commercially available in any form, nor is it likely to ever be so. All the 'official' MP3 sites I looked at turn up nothing but dead ends, so what’s a guy to do? I could send Ms Feist a few Canadian dollars, but unfortunately I don’t have her PayPal details ;-)

So for the moment, I’m enjoying the album for free, which just doesn’t seem right somehow.

Perhaps I need to make a donation to some musician’s benevolent fund or something ;-)


Anonymous said...

The russian mp3 sites are quite safe to use. Been using one for over 3 years without problems (

Chip Smith said...

Thanks Anon - I read something on a message board somewhere that basically said if you're having second thoughts, don't do it - but no-one really had any horror stories about using these sites. My excuse is that I'm a big scaredy cat.

Also, isn't there some weird legal exemption that these Russian sites have whereby they don't have to pay royalties to the artists whose music they're selling? Happy to be corrected...

Robin Kelly said...

I've bought loads of stuff on the Internet since it was invented and the only time I was ripped off was off-line when I had my card copied in a restuarant. Even then it was just for a £20 mobile top-up which I got back as it was obviously fraud.

The Russian sites don't pay royalties to anyone so it's the same as using bit-torrent really. There was a loophole in the law but even though it has now been closed for a couple of years the sites have carried on because it's not being enforced.

As someone said, the Russian police don't arrest someone in the street for selling knock-off stuff so they're not going to bother online where it's harder to find someone responsible.

Chip Smith said...

Me too, Robin - I basically buy all of my music from the internet now, whether it's physical product or downloads. And so far, I've never been ripped off, touch wood (getting crappy CDs off EBay is a case in point tho').

Robin Kelly said...

Although I'm confident of using my card online and being repaid in the event of fraud, I do use a specific card online which has a low limit.

Mentioning eBay reminds me of the trawling around I did for deleted records there and at every offline store in the UK and online store in the world before finding it only via a file-sharing site.

The Russian sites might be naughty but the sooner their business model of DRM free and pay as you go downloads becomes the norm the better.

(Although comes close and you get 50 free downloads and a audiobook at the moment)

Imagine every deleted album online available to buy at sensible prices. They'd make a fortune.

Chip Smith said... is great, but the range of stuff on there at the moment is a bit limited I find. I'm sure it will improve...

Deleted records: your last point sounds like an absolute dream to me. I get thorougly sick & tired of trawling Ebay looking for stuff - and when I do find it, it's usually in such a dog eared condition I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole!

Jon Peacey said...

I presume you use the saved searches function on eBay? And presumably with somewhat free search terms. And patience is a pretty useful thing. It does me right...