It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, a diverse lineup of bedroom pop from Good Posture, poetic garage rock from Hank May, and varied electronica from Nick Sena!
Good Posture – CHANGIN’ EP
Genre: Bedroom Pop, Synth-pop
Favorite Tracks: “Last Time,” “I Feel Fine”
Bedroom pop gets a bad rap—and it’s only deserved, like, 50% of the time. It can occasionally feel somehow painful in its homespun, desperately romantic vibes. However, for music made mostly by people who seemingly abhor the trappings of traditional rock stardom, a lot of it certainly isn’t lacking in pomp and circumstance.
Then there’s Good Posture, the project of “self-producing multi-instrumentalist” Joel Randles. Having moved from his home in the UK, and later to Leipzig, Germany and then Paris, France (and further abroad?), Randles has a unique connection to the very concept of home. That very dynamic inspires and encapsulates his latest EP, CHANGIN’. For one, the four-track effort doesn’t feel like your standard LP recorded in someone’s bedroom on a laptop. Part of that is that, even as Randles relies heavily on Ableton, his approach to music is more nuanced and complicated. “Last Time” may be a relatively “simple” dance-pop track, with little more than sleek bass and shimmery guitar, but it’s Randles’ presence and sensuous harmonies that make this feel like a proper anthem of some forgotten ’70s dance floor.
The same goes for “I Feel Fine.” There’s a heft and weight here thanks to Randles’ approach as both a performer and producer, and it’s a moment to shine for someone who is as thoughtful as they are truly effervescent. It’s all proof that Randles makes songs that balance between bodily expression and engaging songwriting. The EP’s title track and a new version of “Italy” may pull back a bit more, but the emphasis on vocals over robust production feels like a savvy choice. It’s these small gestures that show Randles’ true skill and depth, and that resourcefulness is central to this entire EP.
The cliche of most bedroom music is that it’s one person performing from a place of true intimacy—only that sometimes gets lost in hackneyed musical choices and derivative production value. Randles, meanwhile, really lets the listener in on the whole process, and cliched as it may be, there’s a sense that we’re watching him practically record these songs live. It’s a really charming glimpse into his life, and a way to understand a thoughtful young talent with great ideas about musical and emotional openness and exploration. We see Randles as both entertainer and curious soul in the best and most vulnerable of ways.
Maybe it’s not fair to deem Randles as some champion of a new era for bedroom recordings. Perhaps if he’d recorded in a “proper” studio, he might have made some different creative choices. But until that happens, this EP feels like a powerful statement from one artist about the power of intimacy and creative control. This really is bedroom music as it was intended to be: someone doling out sonic love letters, hoping the world might take a pause and listen. Listen to the CHANGIN’ EP over on Bandcamp. [Chris Coplan]
Hank May – ONE MORE TASTE OF THE GOOD STUFF
Genre: Garage Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Modern Medicine,” “High on LCD”
Hank May stands in front of a wall length mirror, crates of vinyl and open guitar cases haphazardly pushed to either side of him and his band. The diner-style overhead lights of the Permanent Records Roadhouse reflect off the red leather booths as they do every night, giving a hazy neon glow to the whole room—a dive bar energy that is often lacking in Los Angeles’s watering holes. The ragtag group of musicians fit the looseness of the whole vibe, somewhere between a backyard house show and a studio jam sesh; May’s strained throat clearing and slightly contentious banter feels decidedly more Tuesday night than Friday, compelling in its fly-on-a-wall irreverence.
Like his live performance, there is a charming shagginess to May’s debut, ONE MORE TASTE OF THE GOOD STUFF. While May isn’t a folk musician per se—the album leans on flourishes of vintage college and post-grunge radio rock, his husky vocals recalling a different era of frontman—the songwriting harkens back to Bob Dylan in structure, especially on the highlight “High on LCD.” Seeing him sit down on the stage’s singular stool exacerbates the idea of May as a poet laureate of an aging millennial generation, but both on record and live that idea doesn’t feel particularly outlandish. The folk genre’s ebbs and flows, outside of say, Father John Misty, never quite grasped how to tackle our modern age in a way that didn’t feel extremely corny; May takes on Tinder dates and sneakerheads, tech burnout and the ‘90s dying, each through sharp witticisms and commanding authority. ONE MORE TASTE OF THE GOOD STUFF has a guiding stoner logic to it—you can almost feel the delay between the idea occurring to May and his eventual delivery of it, reverberating around in his head to get the sentence worded correctly. With his gripping smoked out drawl, he slides in a detail like getting locked out of his phone on the title track closer and it feels natural and earnest rather than cheeky or self-aware. Smart and grounded, May is a Los Angeles songwriter worth keeping an eye on. You can hear the debut over on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]
Nick Sena – HIKIKOMORI LAKE
Genre: Experimental, Electronic
Favorite Tracks: “Disaree Meluoc,” “Rezevoir”
An artist’s accompanying blurb on Bandcamp is often quite rubbish—word salad to portray some sense of depth, humor, and/or intensity. But when Nick Sena says that he’s “in a cave somewhere in Los Angeles,” and then you listen to HIKIKOMORI LAKE, there’s little choice but to believe the man. Or else…
The 12-track LP is… well, it’s genuinely hard to encompass. To call it experimental music would be a vast oversimplification, and ignorant of its many, many layers. To label it as just electronic would be to ignore the deeply human elements that abound. The entire LP hinges on Sena’s cave analogy as an actual M.O., as if he’s cut off from the world, building songs from the remnants in his head and whatever haggard instruments are lying around. Once you understand Sena’s approach, it makes sense that he’d jump around musically with utter abandon. Album opener “Disaree Meluoc” is the mutant hate-child of ambient and chiptune, “Briner” is what happens if Beach House ever became a really dramatic darkwave band, and there’s so much more—the haunted EDM of “Rezevoir,” the earnest, organic tones of closing track “It’s All Malignant,” to only scratch the surface.
Sena’s dispatches only really make genuine sense if you’re the composer; for the rest of us, it’s hard to grasp the larger creative and emotional arc that he’s intended. But, ultimately, that’s a good thing, and the LP feels like a kind of “greatest hits” for anyone who loves inventive, freewheeling electronic-based music. Is every track a certifiable smash hit? No way, but Sena’s never afraid to build each track exactly as he sees fit. The real and true hook of this LP is that it’s the closest we can ever get to experiencing whatever Sena’s “cave” may feel like or represent. It’s the imperfect, molten-hot core of weirdness and emotionality that should exist readily in great electronic music. It’s a man using machines to speak to something truly human, and even if each layer of the overall message doesn’t work, the entire record crawls inside your head like a great conversation. It feels like engaging with someone in some new and foreign place, trying to get the lay of the land as much as the person. And Sena’s a great partner in this process, endlessly providing a kind of cerebral warmth as we get to know him and his weird mish-mash of sonics and sentiments.
You could just listen to this and enjoy some great, genre-bounding electronic music. But treat it instead like a first date, where Sena’s doing all the talking. Maybe you’ll be slightly perplexed, or even just a tad scared at other points, but you’ll likely walk away feeling as if you’ve made a new connection. Sure, that someone’s a mostly crazy, left-of-center stranger, but it’s also someone who wants to share that which is truly weird and wonderful. Listen over on Bandcamp. [Chris Coplan]