Contrary to the belief of many a Sunday shopper patrolling the Costco aisles with toothpick poised, not all samples are free.

For recording artists, the line between sampling and stealing can be very fine. And copyright infringement can be an expensive lesson learned. Just ask Vanilla Ice when he “sampled” the bass line from David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure.”

With over 900 individual samples in The Avalanches debut LP, Since I Left You, it’s amazing this album was ever released. In fact, it took the Australian group two years to track down all the copyrights and gain permission from every artist featured on the album. All the more surprising considering one of the artists was Madonna: The guitar line from “Holiday,” used in “Stay Another Season,” is the only authorized Madonna sample to date.

Since I Left You was worth The Avalanches’ efforts.

Successful sampled albums are a rarity. It is hard to produce something that, while consisting largely of other people’s material, sounds fresh and original. The Avalanches make it look easy.

Sampling from an impossibly eclectic mix, including animal noises, ’80s video game sounds and ’60s saccharine pop vocals, The Avalanches breathe new life into old snippets and stamp them with a unique style and humor. “Frontier Psychiatrist” – with vocal biopsies proclaiming, “You’re a nut! You’re crazy in the coconut!” together with radio-friendly hip hop beats and brilliant scratching over the sample of a parrot – is a winner.

What makes this album special is its depth and continuity. The group’s subtle repetition of sounds seamlessly weaves together each unique track into a cohesive album that works as either the perfect party soundtrack or the perfect recovery music for the morning after.