Today, online music service Bandcamp will once again be waiving their share of every sale made on the platform for the 24-hour period to aid artists currently affected by the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked upon the live music scene and its attendant income. That means 100% of every purchase, digital and physical, will go straight to the artists and their labels with no middle-men. The move has been done for the past three months to great success, although this appears to be their last instance for the time being. To mark the occasion, here are a few personally-selected recommendations for those who are able to afford dropping money on fantastic music. There’s also the recommendations list we put together from Bandcamp’s Juneteenth promotion you should check out at this here link.
I’m Glad It’s You – Every Sun, Every Moon [6131 Records]
Locating the sweet spot between the Clarity and Bleed American eras of Jimmy Eat World I didn’t know existed but turned out to have craved, the Californian emo band’s sophomore LP has quietly morphed into one of my favourite albums of the year so far. Inspired by the fatal van accident that claimed the life of close friend, mentor and emo legend Chris Avis, the band exorcise their demons and spill their grief over 11 soaring symphonic cuts that carry a power pop shine without entirely sacrificing the rawness and confessional release which can otherwise be polished off in levelling-up albums such as these. “Silent Ceremony” is in contention for my song of the year, if nothing else.
Shopping – All or Nothing [FatCat Records]
Take the wiriness and confrontationality of late-70s British post-punk and give it the energy and bass-centric no-wave dance-punk of ESG and you got yourselves Shopping, the British trio whose fourth LP All or Nothing has fast become one of my favourites of the year. Storming tracks like “Initiative,” “For Your Pleasure” and “No Apologies” showcase a band in full mastery of their craft, pairing anti-consumerist lyrics to spindly guitar lines and a new embrace of synths that add exactly the right amount of additional flourish and charge to the songs.
Dogleg – Melee [Triple Crown]
It fucking rips and it’s named after Super Smash Bros., what more do you want from your post-hardcore? Detroit trio Dogleg smash their way through the front door, cathartically cave skulls in with glorious gang vocals and charging instrumentation that can spontaneously spawn moshpits even if the album’s playing in an empty building, and then tear out after 10 tracks and 35 minutes leaving joyous destruction in their wake. Get on this.
YAMMERER – Reality Escape Resort E.P. [Restless Bear Records]
Five-piece psychedelic post-garage-punk band based in Liverpool, YAMMERER have been building a reputation on their wild improvisational live shows and intentional air of mystery (there are no social media pages or websites or mailing lists or anything of that sort). Fortunately, their four-track EP from 2019 kicks a lot of arse even when divorced from that live context, like we all are right now, bridging the gap which separates The Fall from Can and those two from Gang of Four.
Otoboke Beaver – ITEKOMA HITS [Damnably]
Frenzied Japanese punk that tears through 14 listed songs within 27 minutes but honestly feels like more songs than that given their propensity for steering hard-left into an entirely different tempo, arrangement, breakdown, whatever without even so much as a howdy-do. ITEKOMA HITS is extremely fun and bursting with ideas that, even when the transitions may be jarring, are virtuosically performed by the quartet.
Ratboys – Printer’s Devil [Topshelf]
Like scrolling through a radio station of every possible permutation of 90s pop-rock, Ratboys’ third LP, and their first where leaders Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan recorded with a full band, is an absolutely delightful burst of a thing. At once familiar and comforting, but no mere rehashing of past sounds thanks to extremely strong songwriting and hooks upon hooks upon so many hooks. “Alien with a Sleep Mask On,” “Victorian Slumhouse,” “I Go Out at Night,” the hits just keep on coming without cease.
Located out of Manchester, the duo of Addz Milner and Kat Gillatt put together pulsating old school techno and EBM music that could’ve come straight out of the turn-of-the-90s and would sound right at home soundtracking one of those seedy techno-thrillers that were all the rage in Hollywood as Y2K drew ever closer. Honestly, that’s a compliment coming from me. They’ve only recently started releasing music, but the singles currently up for sale and streaming do the thing with gusto. Will be interesting to see where their evolution goes.
Octo Octa – For Lovers EP [Technicolour]
On a similar techno throwback tip, albeit coming at it from a different angle, Maya Bouldry-Morrison’s most recent EP finds her refashioning dusty breakbeats, trance-like stretched-out grooves, buried abstract vocal samples, and deep house mixing to create three gorgeous electronic blissed-out queer meditations. It’s an excellent EP and the album which followed it, Resonant Body which we named one of 2019’s absolute best, refines these sounds to near-enough their maximum potential.
Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud [Merge]
Katie Crutchfield has been turning out alt-country/indie folk goodness so consistently for so long that some folks may start underrating her records by taking her for granted. “Yeah, of course Saint Cloud is another brilliant collection of glistening emotional stunners. That’s just what Waxahatchee do!” But don’t let that come off as faint praise, cos few other artists out there are doing the kinds of songs Crutchfield puts together better than her. She’s even at the point where she can blatantly bite the opening riff to “Suspicious Minds” on a track (“Lilacs”) and completely get away with it cos the song is otherwise still that damn good!
Rampa, Adam Port, &ME – You Are Safe [Keinemusik]
Bringing together three of the German electronic music label’s brightest talents, this collaborative LP runs the gamut of electronic sounds as a calling card for what both the three men credited for its creation and the Keinemusik at large are capable of. Some tracks creep and burble with unresolved menace (“Café Des Schicksals”), others release through steaming synths and percussive solos (“Civilist”), some aren’t too far removed from straight-up synthwave (“Lover”), whilst others are ultra-minimalist yet magnificently transcendent (“Muyè”). One more for the head than the dancefloor as you know it, it’s nonetheless a great record.
squiggy boi – The Importance of Daydreaming [Self-Released]
Sheffield-based non-binary bedroom musician squiggy boi makes sweet, charming pieces of part-ambient, part-dream, pop all-queer music that go down smoothly. There are tracks on their debut album proper, The Importance of Daydreaming, that invoke minimalist electronica, others which have the delightful plink and plonk of a 16-bit JRPG soundtrack, others still that mine the understated skiffling beats of old trip-hop, and all of them demonstrate an artist slowly finding their sense of self through the art they make. Lotta promise there.
Riz Ahmed – The Long Goodbye [Mongrel]
Those who know know when it comes to Riz Ahmed’s music career. In 2016, he teamed up with former Das Racist breakout Heems and producer Redinho to form Swet Shop Boys and their album, Cashmere, was one of the year’s absolute best; I still bump it regularly today. This year, in what was setting up to be one of those big breakout years for the multi-hyphenate creative – with multiple acclaimed films intended for release, one of which was co-written by him – he also found time to put out a blazing concept record chronicling Britain’s long racist history towards South Asians and British Asians. Every bar is spit with righteous fury, Redinho’s production perfectly complements the break-up concept with a surprising range of sounds whilst still remaining cohesive. Frankly, I don’t think people are talking about this one enough.
LIFE – A Picture of Good Health [Afghan Moon]
Oh, hey! These total strangers! Hull’s own LIFE play rollicking punk rock with lacerating wit and swaggering self-confidence. Their sophomore LP from last year saw them refining the potential of debut album Popular Music into a forceful series of noise-blasts that also function as giant pop songs (in a world where guitar music gets regular mainstream radio play anyway).
Anamanaguchi – [USA] [Polyvinyl]
The cult chiptune outfit perhaps most well-known for composing the soundtrack to 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game at long last finished their sophomore album proper last year and not only was it worth the wait, not only was it the best thing they’ve ever done, it was no qualifiers one of the best albums of 2019 full stop. Synthesising a near-decade’s worth of sonic experimentations – pushing their sound into the realms of prog, bubblegum pop, even festival-worthy EDM – into a tight, cohesive yet expansive collection of magnificent tunes which effortlessly trigger serotonin receptors whilst still leaving plenty to chew on, on both songwriting and production levels.
Kero Kero Bonito – Bonito Generation [Double Denim]
This is mainly a catch-all entry to inform you that certain big names in the spheres of Indie music recently uploaded their discographies onto Bandcamp with the vast majority of sales made through there being donated to various Black Lives Matter charities and affiliates. Parquet Courts and Björk are the two most notable artists to do this, but I’ve chosen to make Kero Kero Bonito the main representative for two reasons. 1] Their music fucking slaps. 2] They did the theme for Bugsnax. Your fave would never!
MonoNeon – Toxic Wasteland 2 The Hills [Self-Released]
Dwayne Thomas, Jr. is an ultra-prolific musician. He’s so ultra-prolific that he has released three entirely new singles just months after this highlighted album dropped (one whilst I was in the process of writing this piece), whilst Toxic Wasteland 2 was released just over three months after his last album, Living the Best and Worst Life at the Same Damn Time! in September 2019. Much of his music is a surreal series of squelchy funk pastiches that exist in their own fanciful universes unmoored from our own. They’re pretty damn great and this one’s a good place start.
elkyn – beech [Self-Released]
Joseph Donnelly from Leeds releases his first musical statement under the new name of elkyn today, a seven-track mini-album of hushed indie folk that combines softly-plucked guitars and twinkling electronics with candid vocals. The most immediately obvious influence point would be For Emma/Blood Bank-era Bon Iver, and lead single “yue” has a similar wintery understated sensation to that forebearer.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways to New Italy [Sub Pop]
Hey, you! Do you like guitar music? Specifically, do you like Indie guitar music? Great, then you’ll love Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever! This Australian five-piece have been consistently putting out exquisite jangly Summerjams for the past four years, at this point damn-near perfecting their deceptively simple sound of interlocking guitars, rolling low-end, and intricate three-piece vocal harmonies from its distinctive lead vocalists, and their sophomore LP dropped last month. And if you don’t like them? Then, buddy, I’m afraid to tell you that you just don’t like guitar music; that’s scientific fact.
Midwife – Forever [The Flenser]
Madeline Johnston grapples with loss, both from displacement and of a close personal friend, throughout the dreamy, hypnotic shoegaze-y slowcore of Forever. Describing her sound as “heaven metal,” Midwife’s newest is that rare work of devastation that’s incredibly easy to get sucked into the hurt and darkness of thanks to the tender drones and spacious reverb which barely rises above a whisper, but where the wallow in that pain subtly and effectively manages to coalesce into a cathartic release of emotions by the album’s close as death becomes something to no longer fear at least for a little while.