by JASON CHERKIS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & y age (I'm 34) and my demographic (I paid off my student loans years ago) suggest I am not on the recording industry's pirate radar. I'm supposed to be a good boy and worship the record release date. I'm supposed to love the record store. I'm supposed to believe that purchasing the Papercuts record is a moral good that will provide the band with some cushy health care in a private room at the Don Henley Memorial Wing at Cedars-Sinai.

And I did. For years I toiled as an honest rock nerd with a conscience, buying every album I wanted. This year, though, I became a thief. It's done wonders. I no longer think it's possible to fully nerd out without stealing. Without downloading, where would I have found Turkish funk, out-of-print Krautrock, or rare Studio One jams? Not on iTunes.

I haven't gone completely to the dark side, though. I still go to shows. I still think about purchasing real album versions of my favorite freebies. Ten years ago, the bands on the list below might've gotten hundreds of dollars out of me. This year, they got about 75 bucks. I think that's fair.

M.I.A., Kala

I went to the record store, held the rebel rapper's CD in my hand, and walked around the store with it as if I'd purchased it. The album was on sale for the low, low Best Buy-like price of $9.99. I felt like an asshole when I put it back on the shelf, but I knew I could get a burn of this from a friend. So I did.

No Age, Weirdo Rippers

I found this album after Googling the words "No Age" and "Sendspace." It's too easy. I eventually purchased one of the band's EPs and paid money to see them play. At the end of the show, I even eyed the merch table. Then I walked away.

YACHT, I Believe in You. Your Magic Is Real.

This is the last record I downloaded through Oink, so it'll always have sentimental value for me. YACHT's self-affirming, whimsical pop is buffeted by fake handclaps, cheesy keyboards, and mumblecore aesthetics. I'd like to think that I was a diligent Oink citizen. I uploaded my share. I'd also like to think that I adopted a sort of moral code by only giving away out-of-print stuff. But sometimes I strayed from my code. So apologies to Sleater-Kinney and Andrew Hill. Oh, and to you too, YACHT.

Fiery Furnaces, Widow City

A close relative Sendspaced me this one. I never actually got through the whole album, because I was too busy downloading other stuff. I have two albums and two EPs on my desktop awaiting my attention. I used to make time for the Fiery Furnaces. Now I just listen to the opener and cheer the band's reunion with guitars. I realize I miss Eleanor Friedberger's voice and the way it can warp and bend a song's run-on, laundry-list lyrics into a sort-of melody. I promise myself: I will buy this album.

Battles, Mirrored

I ripped this album from a message board so far in advance of the album's release date that it might've been before the album had a release date. Months later, after digesting the band's super-intricate, pixilated thumpers, I spent more than $20 on the LP for my brother. I caught the band twice, traveling to Baltimore, taking pictures, and worming my way up close to raise my fists and offer enthusiastic hand claps. Just like a real fan who pays to support them.

This article first appeared in Washington City Paper

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