Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 11/3/2023

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It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring the warming black metal of Anti-God Hand’s BLIGHT YEAR and the slowcore exploration of Olivia O.’s EVERYONE IS A LIGHT! 

Anti-God Hand Album Cover

Anti-God Hand – BLIGHT YEAR

Genre: Black Metal

Favorite Tracks: “Barge of Light,” “Warped and Opalescent Swords”

In the liner notes of Anti-God Hand’s BLIGHT YEAR, Will Ballantyne claims that, retrospectively, the album acted as a way to have a conversation with himself—through the good and the bad. “There is supposed to be a way through… There is always a way through,” he says. You can hear small revelations and moments of understanding throughout; a brief period of quiet searching on “Barge of Light” gives way to full throated defiance, the meditative pause of static and calm on “Held” explodes into a rising, hopeful rush of skittering speed metal progressions. For Ballantyne, BLIGHT YEAR is about struggle and optimism in equal measure, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a black metal album this year that captures warmth with such effectiveness; as we get deeper and deeper into the album, a sense of keen benevolence reveals itself amidst the noise.

Musically, Ballantyne and drummer Greg Fox each play with tone in remarkable ways. Early on, we move from the thorny and exhaustive “The Horde at the End of Language” into the nearly meditative pounding of “Endless Brightness,” and similarly across the record each song progresses in and out of intense emotional swings plainly yet acutely, always somehow reaching a point of genuine relief. BLIGHT YEAR is not a long album, nor is it filled with long songs; in a genre filled with extremes, the emotional effectiveness of how quickly Anti-God Hand moves from song to song, moment to moment, works in its favor. The furiously percussive “Demon Sniper” acts as an angry 90-second interlude before Ballantyne returns sonically to a kinder, gentler conversation with himself on “Warped and Opalescent Swords.” That it feels like he finds a way through by the end makes for one of the most emotionally satisfying conclusions you could hope to draw from one of the year’s best metal albums. You can check it out over on Bandcamp! [CJ Simonson]

Olivia O Album Cover

Olivia O. – EVERYONE IS A LIGHT

Genre: Slacker Rock, Slowcore

Favorite Tracks: “RolyPoly”, “Fetch”, “Seam Ripper”

Next to the punky indie pop flair Olivia Osby has engaged in with her New York/Atlanta-based band Lowertown, her solo debut EVERYONE IS A LIGHT bears little resemblance. Any of Lowertown’s optimism is muted on her latest. The album features a haunting musical stiffness that recalls any celebrated slowcore band; she’s stripped back the musical palette and is working with a sparser canvas, tapping more into the solemn, muddy alternative rock that has made lo-fi indie rockers Duster so heralded—an intriguing pivot considering that her band has opened for beabadoobee.

Each song’s foundations are built from either acoustic guitar lines (the opener “Wax 2”), or a light, subdued downbeat that sounds like it’s holding your hand through lethargy. The second track, “Lingr,” covers the latter basis—it’s one of the album’s longest but most unchanging. The peak of this is “Seam Ripper” during the final stretch. It carries a particularly bittersweet guitar groove, marching hi-hats, and twinkly lo-fi chords expanding upon its suffocative sentimentality. It’s Duster’s stoic stillness laced with femininity.

This is a welcome change of pace given that slowcore’s frontrunners usually have male vocalists. In her spaced-out ballads, Osby delivers her lines in delicate, somber whispers, perfectly accompanying the stilted acoustic chords laid above unsettling ambience. The production stands out on “RolyPoly,” as both Osby’s recorded guitar and voice—which sound like they’re coming from a distance—become tinnier and more sharpened as the music comes to a cathartic close. Those little dissonant harmonies scattered across the album that make its atmosphere a treat to invest yourself in. This extends to “Fetch,” with its distorted, Modest Mouse-y guitar melody, which sounds like the instrument itself could be singing.

Like most slowcore, the lyrics are quite vulnerable: “Less color in my face each day / No sleep is eating me away” (“In the Air”) and “Wishing I could go back to being a kid / Wish I didn’t have to fight every day to live?” (“Second Shots”) are a couple standout lines, but most are buried under the lo-fi embellishments. Despite the music’s density, Osby’s harmonisations with herself are careful and precise, making the sparse soundstage quite larger than it truly is. Aesthetically soul-crushing, EVERYONE IS A LIGHT is another gem for those wanting to escape into the melancholic world of slowcore. During its short length, Osby provides a coping mechanism for all the existential malaise and unproductive ruts we routinely fall into. Let her words sink in after you carefully pick them out, and then their impact will be felt. Experience it over on Bandcamp. [Domenico Lepore]

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