Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 1/26/2024

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It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring Powerwasher’s arty post-hardcore debut THE POWER OF POSITIVE WASHING and Eyes and Flys’ scuzzy rocker SWIRL MAPS!

POWERWASHER Cover

Powerwasher – THE POWER OF POSITIVE WASHING

Genre: Post-Hardcore

Favorite Tracks: “On Purpose”, “It’s Hard to Explain”, “I Made a Painting”

With 2024 seeing a new album from Baltimore/NYC’s Powerwasher, I pulled their 2020 debut back out for a revisit. THE POWER OF POSITIVE WASHING reaps the benefits of effective patterns—each song a microcosm of hummable guitar lines and bingo card arrangements with some truly enjoyable “Am I serious or silly?” vocals. This nimble energy keeps the album surprising and fresh across all seven songs, and the technique is thoughtful and sloppy in a way that rewards the prog-nerd in me while still letting me feel cool.

Thematically, Powerwasher is carrying the nerve-wrecked torch of exhausted paranoia. “I Made a Painting” mocks the idea of art (content?) creation and appreciation while the “Gather Moss” character is trapped in a dystopian feedback loop. “Tite Wire” sarcastically wanders through tone-deaf city messaging, a zero-surprise sentiment from a group living in major southeast cities. The overall snotty, casual vocal delivery makes me wonder if these messages are super vital or if they’re meant to deliver you to the next head-kicking breakdown. Either way, the music on this album deserves the attention it confidently demands. Each song feels like some sort of chaotic speed-run challenge Powerwasher has built for themselves. The ending of “On Purpose” drops beats left and right while the drums frantically try to push everyone off the road. “It’s Hard to Explain” brings itself to a slow boil before snapping into krauty art-rock. “Double Meaning” pinballs between heavy syncopation and arm-spread reprieves. I really wanna see this band live.

If my van still had a disc player, THE POWER OF POSITIVE WASHING would be one of those burnt-CD-Rs-living-in-my-seats-between-listens-until-it’s-scratched-into-skipping-oblivion type of albums. Go listen to it on Bandcamp! [Thomas McNeely]

Eyes and Flys - SWIRL MAPS Cover

Eyes and Flys – SWIRL MAPS

Genre: Punk

Favorite Tracks: “Cactus Flowers,” “Termino,” “Close Your Eyes”

The things I love most fit in boxes: comic books, Krave cereal, and records. That last one works literally and figuratively, as I engage albums to contextually place them in neat little packages. Sure, that often diminishes heaps of context, but it’s also the fundamental idea behind music criticism. (And we all know that industry is thriving.) So given that penchant, I should be mad and/or frustrated with Eyes and Flys.

Because on last June’s SWIRL MAPS, the Long Beach rockers made lots of decisions (intended and/or otherwise) that made my little box-making act nigh impossible. “Dogs on Beach” could be an album-wide baseline of ultra-fuzzy hardcore by way of extra-sludgy Meat Puppets. But then small tweaks in “Cactus Flowers” and “Empty Safe” toss us this accessibility curveball that confounds as much as it imbues heaps of momentum. The remainder of the record follows suit. “Termino” is an earnest folk ballad blasted to the seventh level of dissonance hell—only it leads to a desert rock-esque jam of big vibes and emotional evenness (“St. Roch”). “Return to the Earth” promises a recalibration to their bolder, extra-brash ways—until “Close Your Eyes” teleports listeners to a crunchy ’60s soundscape. It’s not just this twisting smorgasbord; the record’s temp and pH practically shift.

The “problem” here is that it all works so dang well. They exude a certain forethought to make these distinct moves even as it’s clear they’re just chasing some perpetually newer, shinier idea. They’re also wise enough (again, intended or otherwise) to never broadcast that next step. From that sonic instability, we see Eyes and Flys’ core strength: there’s more value in this ravenous pursuit, and with that they can then remix, recycle, and realign ideas and sounds with ample heart and gusto. They both understand their role in the rock canon and also couldn’t be damned, and in that space all things are grand, bruising, and maddeningly infectious.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Eyes and Flys aren’t unique here; slews of other rock bands have achieved this multifaceted “feat.” What makes this quartet special, then, is the unassuming nature of their work as well as how they approach these ideas. Which is to say, they do it with ease even as that nonchalance hums with endless passion, an air of romanticism for their heroes, and a deep creative yearning. That specific blend is a powerful reminder of why box-building sometimes doesn’t work, and why bands often buck against it in the name of uplifting albums as these weird, wonderful amalgamations of ideas, energies, timelines, etc. They’re imperfect storytelling machines, and that’s the thing worth continually reconciling. It doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop, but I can appreciate when these “ideals” bash up against one another. It’s that back-and-forth that continually teaches us about the artist-critic relationship, why we must perpetually shift the critical lens to better understand musical arcs, and why neat little packages are often a sham in the face of skull-blasting goodness. Listen to it now over on Bandcamp. [Chris Coplan]

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