There is a multitude of music out there for free or for very cheap, and most of it is pretty bad. But when you can find a truly great record for $2 or less, you'd be a fool not to jump on it. All of these records fit that description. I'll give you links for guidance.
Matthew Perryman Jones
Throwing Punches In The Dark
This record is unbelievable - one of those albums that whenever you talk to someone who has it, they immediately start gushing with you, thrilled to find somone else who enjoys it. Jones an introspective singer-songwriter who's accented some fairly soul-bearing tunes with crunchy electric guitars and anthemic choruses. It's available on Noisetrade, a site a lot of indie Christian acts are using these days, where you can either pay what you want or email five friends about it. I emailed five friends, but now I feel that's not enough. I might go back and send along some cash. The album's worth it.
Download: 'Emily's Song,' 'Breaking Out The Windows,' and 'Waiting On The Light to Change.'
The Glass Passenger
Immediately after recording their debut record, Jack's Mannequin vocalist Andrew McMahon went to the hospital to check out some throat problems he'd been having, and was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He started chemo immediately and the band sat and waited to see the results. Three years and a clean bill of health later, The Glass Passenger finally arrives, and it's hear-wrenchingly sweet to hear it. McMahon's always been a singer prone to desperation and bravado, but hearing him sing it through waves of honest doubts of his mortality brings it closer to the bone. "Even if your voice comes back again," he ponders on 'Crashin,' "maybe there'll be no one listening." With songs as rawly emotional as this, that shouldn't be a concern.
Download: 'Caves,' 'Crashin,' 'Annie Use Your Telescope,' and 'Hammers and Strings.'
Killers fans seem to divide into two camps: people who think that that their first indie rock record was brilliant and their second album was nothing more than overwrought Springsteen worship, and people who think that Sam's Town was the first time big, anthemic rock has sounded alive in a very long time. I belong in the later camp, but whichever side you pick, Sawdust has something for you. One of those B-sides records where it's more of a lost tracks collection, the record is a bit hit-and-miss, but the highlights are some of the Killer's finest tracks.
Download: "Tranquilize" (featuring Lou Reed), "Under The Gun," and "Show You How."
I want to live where Jakob Dylan lives. I'm not sure exactly where that is, but it seems to be some combination of the South and Middle America in the 1920's. Everyone seems to be a coal miner sipping three-day old coffee or farmhand unwrapping cornbread from wax paper with their feet propped up on a potbellied stove. Considering his parentage, it's unsurprising Dylan grew up in a way where that's considered a normal way of life, but there's something authentic about Dylan's songs, as if maybe this perfect untouched America exists somewhere else other than his own mind. I hope so. I'd like to see it sometime.
Download: 'Everybody Pays As They Go,' 'Something Good This Way Comes,' and 'This End Of The Telescope.'
The Ringing Bell
Webb's always been a consistently good singer-songwriter, though he had a long stretch where he considered the sound of his speaking a more appealing sound than his singing, and so his concerts got a little self-aggrandizing. Still, Webb's always been a unique voice in the Christian world, cutting and insightful, demanding to be heard. The Ringing Bell is well named, an album that calls the listener to action, a battle cry of Christian love and peace, with previously untapped pop hooks bouncing underneath Webb's plaintive vocals. Of all the recordings of Webb's short but prolific solo career, this album may be his finest piece of work.
Download: 'Name,' 'I Want To Marry You All Over Again,' and 'This Too Shall Be Made Right.'
Sixpence None The Richer
My Dear Machine EP
Sixpence broke up about four years ago, figuring that the time had come and it was time to follow other musical pursuits. Everyone went off and did their own thing for a little while before they all realized that the whole band was much greater than the sum of its parts, and got back together again. Good choice - Leigh Nash never sounds quite as good as when she's singing Matt Slocum's earthy, melancholy tunes. The EP will fill you with hope for the band's triumphant return.
Download: The album. It's only four songs long.
Total Cost: $5.40. Really, you can afford that.