Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks 7/3/20

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Bandcamp Picks of the Week is back and better than ever

Bandcamp Picks Bad Moves

Bad Moves – UNTENABLE

Genre: Power Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Local Radio,” “Cape Henlopen,” “Toward Crescent Park,” “End of Time”

File this one under “Top 10 Albums To Quit Your Job To!” BAD MOVE’S second album, UNTENABLE, is a rock-solid, no-skip, all hits, primal-scream-on-the-highway-home-from-your-shitty-job kind of album.

Have you ever been a sad teenager living in one of the 41 states that don’t require employers to give you a rest break, so you take up smoking so the bosses at your minimum wage job will let you go outside and sit on a stump for a few minutes during your six-to-10-hour shifts, and every day when you drive home you just want to scream and then one day you hear “Common People” by PULP and you’re like, “Oh hell yeah, I have to listen to the rest of this album, these guys get it,” and then you drive two hours to buy a used copy of DIFFERENT CLASS, and my God, you find out that it’s an album chock full of stinkers? I mean, really, like three decent tracks. But you spent money on it and you feel like you should like it, so you play it in the car for a few weeks, like maybe if you listen enough it’ll somehow improve itself, and of course it never does, so you chalk it up to being truly one of life’s smallest bummers? And then years later, you listen to UNTENABLE and think “Holy shit, these guys have what Pulp wanted.”

UNTENABLE is an album that soaks generations of anger in the sweet sound of power pop perfected. It’s rooted in the exhaustion born from living in the hostility of capitalism—and yes, I know, those are depressing words, but UNTENABLE isn’t interested in hopelessness, or even moodiness. By all rights a song called “Working For Free” that includes lines like “The worker, the smothered, Dickensian sucker” should be a dirge, but instead it’s the perfect mid-album energizer that’s just caustic enough to allow your own anger to surface without stripping you to the bone. That’s the magic of power pop—with 12 little songs, it can take you dancing through all five stages of grief and leave you with the energy for action. Sell DIFFERENT CLASS on Ebay and then go buy a copy of UNTENABLE on Bandcamp. [A.E. Hodge]

Bedtime Khal – FOG

Genre: Goth Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Black Tears,” “Alone”

I’ve waxed poetic elsewhere on this site about my love for the surfy goth pop niche of DIY right now, from High Sunn to Shindigs to Surf Curse—my unabashed belief that The Drums’ PORTAMENTO is a masterpiece blindly guides me through this broken world and I shan’t apologize for it. That’s why you can believe me when I tell you Bedtime Khal is one to watch. Khal Malik’s navigation of this indie pop aesthetic carries a charming looseness, vocals that feel instant and spontaneous against memorably gorgeous, twinkly guitars and groovy drums that recall the franticness of sonic contemporary Sports Coach. FOG comes on the heels of a pretty prolific 2019 that saw Malik dropping vibey EPs left and right (“Dream Spot” on HARD TO FIND is a cut I wish I’d had in my life sooner, arguably his tightest song to date with driving, summer bummer melody), and in many ways it’s him at his most presentable and playful. “Black Tears” wastes no time launching into this sound instantly, uplifting breakneck coming-of-age beach music. The five-song EP cuts to the Id of what I really love about this type of music, that summer-after-high-school freedom, wandering around empty streets on warm nights just looking to put off the fear of what’s coming next in the world, and everything in Bedtime Khal’s arsonal nails that vibe as well as anything I’ve heard since Castlebeat’s VHS. We’ve been in need of that kind of energy, and FOG has it in spades. You can give it (and all of his other equally great releases) a listen over on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

Bandcamp Picks Jau Ocean

Jau Ocean – POST SADBOI FUNK

Genre: Indie Pop, Experimental

Favorite Tracks: “Hazy Morning,” “Get a Job,” “Lexicon,” “H8 & Adela,” “Zen Garden,” “St. even,” “Cosmosis”

This summer when most people think of Washington DC, they’ll probably brace themselves for bad news. While we’ve gotten used to a pretty constant stream of contradictions and general depravity from the folks on Capitol Hill, the good news is that DC’s music scene is still quietly churning out standout releases to soundtrack days spent stuck in our homes getting angry about systemic injustice. Jau Ocean’s POST SADBOI FUNK is a genre-bending and uniquely singular kaleidoscope from DC scene stalwart Rick Irby that effortlessly mashes together trip hop, lo-fi rap, indie rock, and, of course, funk. The record’s impressive list of guest features reads like a who’s-who list of notable DC artists: rappers NappyNappa and SIR E.U each make multiple appearances that don’t sound out-of-place alongside noise rap up-and-comers like MIKE and Medhane, Virginia darkwave musician and Irby bandmate Den-Mate hops on dizzying standout track “Get A Job,” and District rock staples Wanted Man appear on the top-down, post-Shuggie Otis banger “Make It Real.” There’s a lot of comparisons I could make to get non-DC readers interested in this record, but ultimately the best thing about POST SADBOI FUNK is that it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It has the blown-out psychedelic production of early Tame Impala fused with the wonderfully nonsensical “what the fuck” factor of Philly artists like Draag Me or Pedazo De Carne Con Ojo. In a year when the United States capital could not be more under fire in the media, Jau Ocean’s full-length debut is a redeeming and exciting reminder that the humans that occupy the world’s most powerful city are also making some of the most groundbreaking sounds east of the Mississippi. It took Irby three years of recording, countless collaborations, and a Boiler Room video to finally put out POST SADBOI FUNK, but all of the hard work resulted in one of the best Babe City Records releases to date. It’s available over on Bandcamp. [Ted Davis]

Nation of Language – INTRODUCTION, PRESENCE

Genre: Indie Synthwave

Favorite Tracks: “The Motorist,” “Indignities,” “Tournament”

It’s not very hard to sell Nation of Language’s INTRODUCTION, PRESENCE, a record that exists neatly at the intersection of some of the most beloved indie rock acts of the last decade with the character of the darker synthpop of the ‘80s. Nation of Language spends this record moving to different points on that spectrum, sometimes closely resembling a synth-led take on the sound of The National (“September Again,” “The Motorist”) and other times bringing a contemporary atmospheric synthpop production style to the sound of groups like Joy Division (“Indignities,” among others) and Devo (“Friend Machine”). INTRODUCTION, PRESENCE is a successful debut record by being immediately familiar and accessible while building bridges through clearly drawn connections to the group’s influences, and it’s hard to point to another recent debut record where those connections are so abundantly clear. Like many of the groups that they pull from, Nation of Language’s songs sit on the edge of an outward cry, with a cool and effortless romanticism and subtle danceability that make them the perfect soundtrack for sitting inside and wishing you could go out instead of avoiding a virus. The challenge in making music that has these clear connections is in keeping it from being too clearly steeped in nostalgia to be coherent or relevant, and Nation of Language nimbly traverses the edge of that line to prevent from becoming artists of pastiche. INTRODUCTION, PRESENCE proves to be equally classic and modern, equally ambient and anthemic, and Nations of Language clearly has the tools to hone their excellent instincts into becoming a keystone indie rock artist in the coming decade. Check it out over on Bandcamp. [Adam Cash]

Paysage d’Hiver – IM WALD

Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Favorite Tracks: “Im Winterwald,” “Alt,” “Le rêve lucide,” “Weiter, immer weiter, “So hallt es wider”

Look, if you’re the type of person who’s inherently put off by a two-hour, one-man, lo-fi-leaning black metal project, then I don’t know what to tell you. Well, I do know what to tell you: go and check out one of the other selections on the list. But once you’ve made your way through all of those, I’m still here, waving my flag, insisting that you’re doing yourself a great disservice letting IM WALD pass you by. Popularly touted as a late-genre highlight in the tortured and beleaguered field of black metal from musical communities in the know, Switzerland’s Tobias Möckl has truly locked into something powerful and arcane here with his 11th solo full-length as Paysage d’Hiver, acting merely as the vessel for IM WALD, a twisted, misanthropic myth that’s been whispered from quiet, shadowy corners for ages and ages on end. Melodic while staying kvlt, raw and ragged while mixed in such a way that Möckl’s barren screeches flit across the consciousness like a blustering, not-all-too-unpleasant ambient wind instead of a screeching barrier to entry, and featuring a bottomless well of distilled technical physicality (pay attention to the constant militancy of the drum work… insane!), IM WALD easily rises to the top of any discussion of metal from the past few years, never mind 2020 and the decade it’s doing a piss-poor job of kicking off. Black metal is uniquely suited for isolated listening, many of its creators and propagators as cold and alien as the musical soundscapes they conjure up, but what’s most impressive about what Möckl does here is imbuing everything with a sense of scope and wonder, “epic” in the more dictionary-specific interpretation of the word through its light but deft touch when it comes to incorporating nature recordings and dark ambient touches. The world that IM WALD exists in is at first not all that unbecoming, enticing you into a long trek through a crepuscular copse, only to build into something furious and blindly gnashing by the end, an absolutely soul-obliterating journey that will leave you in fragmented shards of your former self. If that sounds dramatic… it’s meant to be! But this is dramatic, larger-than-life, or even consciousness, music, haunting reveries from an atavistic nightmare that won’t stop rattling around your skull. Anyone willing to take the plunge will not be disappointed. IM WALD is available over on Bandcamp. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Bandcamp Picks Whoop-Szo

Whoop-Szo – WARRIOR DOWN

Genre: Sludge, Folk

Favorite Tracks: “Long Braided Hair,” “6.1//6.2,” “Oda Man”

By their own estimations, Whoop-Szo’s music is meandering and constant, a tag they’ve given themselves on Bandcamp and a pair of descriptors that fit their brand of gripping metal with simplistic ease. The indigenous Canadian sludge metal act deliver memorable peaks and valleys across their excellent sophomore release WARRIOR DOWN, channeling the towering energy of Black Sabbath with a keen, passionate focus. “Long Braided Hair,” the album’s lumbering, two-and-a-half-minute highlight, is a stick of dynamite whose fuse you can slowly feel running down, Adam Sturgeon’s vocals taking on a bit of Ozzy’s demonic chaos as he rides the thrashing finale out on a high. Those moments of lightning-in-a-bottle intensity are made more exciting by how eclectic the ebbs and flows of the album are; “2CB” is itself a seven-minute encapsulation of many of the album’s various looks, transitioning from free-flowing post-rock melodies to grungy, mountainous guitar soloing to a fading, singular drum beat with intention. Chilling piano interlude “6.1//6.2” and the quiet, reverberating acoustic closer “Cut Your Hair” allow for the dissections of more traditional heavy metal music (“Nshwaaski” and “Oda Man,” especially) to feel fresh and powerful. Whoop-Szo use WARRIOR DOWN to explore well-known sounds and make them feel fresh, and it’s an album well worth putting an ear to regardless of your relationship to metal more generally. Check out WARRIOR DOWN on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

Dime in the JQBX: Good Eye Records

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