Our Favourite Albums Not on Streaming Services

Cindy Lee's 'Diamond Jubilee' is the latest in a small but significant line of releases missing from Spotify, Apple Music and other platforms

Photo: Luke Orlando

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished May 23, 2024

Streaming services have been financially devastating for musicians — but they're an absolute miracle for listeners, giving fans access to the entire history of recorded music for a little more than $10 a month.

Well, almost the entire history of recorded music. A small but crucial selection of albums is missing from Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming platforms — for reasons that range from bureaucratic ownership issues to moral opposition to streaming services.

A notable recent example is Cindy Lee's Diamond Jubilee — a glittering masterpiece of '60s throwback pop and forward-thinking DIY experimentation, the WAV files for which were unceremoniously plopped onto an outdated Geocities clone website. The entire two-hour behemoth is strung together in a single YouTube player without track breaks, the only place where it's streaming. It's a defiantly clumsy release that became a sudden sensation, proving that, at least in this case, incredible art can find an audience regardless of how it's released.

Since Cindy Lee's cancelled tour means that we won't be able to see Diamond Jubilee live like we'd hoped, Exclaim! staffers are celebrating the album by picking some of our other favourite releases that are conspicuously absent from Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services as of this writing. In every case, the albums we picked can be heard online, just not through the expected channels.

Animal Collective
ODDSAC (2010)
Reason not streaming: visual album

Part art film, part experimental record, Animal Collective's first visual album, ODDSAC, directed by Danny Perez, now lives on as a YouTube bootleg after spending a stretch of the 2010s in limbo — floating in the ether between out-of-print DVD and random low-res Vimeo uploads. Thankfully, I got my hands on a copy of the DVD back when it was first released (with a hefty border customs fee of around $50, I might add)! According to the band, their music and Perez's visuals informed each other in the process of its creation, neither element created independent of the other. This has led fans to believe Perez as the factor holding back the album's wide release, though the band have maintained that the album is best appreciated in its original format — despite its follow-up, 2018's Tangerine Reef, being widely available. Though they've been known to drop some of its tracks into live sets, ODDSAC remains an odd sac thanks to its absence from official streaming platforms.
Allie Gregory

Daniel Caesar 
Praise Break (2014)
Reason not streaming: pre-fame debut project

Although Freudian established Daniel Caesar as a force to be reckoned with in 2017, it was his debut project Praise Break that set him on the path to become the pillar of contemporary R&B he is today. Despite coming out three years prior to his first — and perhaps best-reputed — album, the seven-track EP acts as something of an introduction to Freudian. Caesar effortlessly blends his delicate R&B sound apparent on "Violet" and "We'll Always Have Paris" with decorative gospel influences, from the organ instrumental on "End of the Road" to the choir-like background vocals woven behind standout track "Pseudo." Now nearly a decade after its release, Praise Break remains Caesar's best-kept secret — a lesser known companion to his beloved catalogue that's essential listening nonetheless.
Ben Okazawa

Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down) (1999)
Reason not streaming: reportedly renounced by artist

Chris Burland, former partner in now-defunct indie label Bobby Dazzler Records, told Macleans in 2011 that Feist "doesn't want people to know she did the record." That being said, there's an obvious lineage between Monarch and the releases that followed, so it's hard to imagine why she would view this as some sort of stain on her artistic legacy. "One Year A.D." stands out as perhaps the biggest outlier, embracing rollicking cascades of electric guitar and a more driving tempo than anything else she's done, recalling her work in Broken Social Scene with its anthemic hook. In retrospect, so many threads Feist stitches in this stately and earnest first offering are ones she would follow — and entwine into entirely new beasts just to pull out again — throughout her singular trajectory.
Megan LaPierre

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson
Winter in America
Reason not streaming: unknown

The timelessness of Winter in America and its common heralding as the best political album of all time goes hand in hand. Sure, its takes on the Black American experience are just as true now as they were in 1974, but much of its permeance comes in its snide misanthry. This is juxtaposed by Brian Jackson's warm, jazz-derived piano lines and Gil Scott-Heron's dry, melodic storytelling. Its soulful touch wraps with a lengthy sketch of a political rally — equal parts angry and bitterly funny. This record is, above all else, one of resilience.
Sydney Brasil

Honey Is Cool
Early Morning Are You Working? (1999)
Reason not streaming: band's entire discography not streaming

Before Karin Dreijer was Fever Ray, before the Knife was the Knife, there was Honey Is Cool. Go ahead and ignore the band name and instead focus on this: Dreijer, pre-legendary art pop hero status, shredding guitar and fronting a post-punk band. Formed in 1994 in Gothenberg, Honey Is Cool toiled away in relative obscurity despite a steady stream of impressive music, releasing three EPs and two full-lengths before calling it quits in 2000. While all of their music is worth your time, and none of it is available on streaming, it's 1999's Early Morning Are You Working? that stands as their greatest achievement. A melange of glitchy dance-punk, baroque post-punk opulence and thunderous discord, the band's music sounds very little like the duo that would eventually launch their frontperson to left-field stardom. The synthetic sexuality and expansive textures that Dreijer would discover alongside their brother Olof is ultimately better suited to their alien frequency, but their voice nevertheless adds a welcome otherness to Honey Is Cool's comparatively traditional musical mode. 
Kaelen Bell

Loretta Lynn
Van Lear Rose (2004)
Reason not streaming: unknown

Despite writing some of country music's most enduring classics, it had been decades since Loretta Lynn had released an album entirely made up her own material. With producer Jack White's encouragement, she took over full songwriting duties on the outstanding Van Lear Rose, which combines her old-time country rusticity with the raw garage influence of White's accompaniment. Coming out a year after the White Stripes' Elephant, White was at the peak of his powers, while a then-72-year-old Lynn reintroduced herself for a new generation of listeners. It's one of those albums that deservedly pops up on best-of-the-decade lists, making its unexplained absence from streaming services as confusing as it is frustrating.
Alex Hudson

Mos Def
The Ecstatic (2009)
Reason not streaming: withdrawn following change in ownership

Part of my internet-centric interview with Cadence Weapon last month included a handful of questions about titles in his record collection, and the artist characterized Mos Def's The Ecstatic as an album that gets him ready to rap. Unavailable to listen to on streaming platforms due to ownership concerns, The Ecstatic unquestionably forms a "1A – 1B" tandem in the artist now known as Yasiin Bey's catalogue alongside his vaunted 1998 debut Black on Both Sides. Cadence Weapon's perspective makes sense given the scope of the sounds and subject matter Bey deploys on his fourth full-length. For an album crafted in a world with "more of less than ever before," like he describes on lead single "Life in Marvellous Times," The Ecstatic is stuffed with a little of everything: songs about international relations post 9/11, workers' rights, passion as pistol duelling, the artist's Brooklyn upbringing, samples of Bollywood music and Turkish acid rock, top-shelf Madlib beats, the genius of Georgia Anne Muldrow, a Black Star reunion before podcast streaming subscription were required, and a Brazilian funk finale reportedly too hot for Jay Electronica or Black Thought to join in on. By the end of the listen, you'll feel ready for anything.
Calum Slingerland

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