Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 2/3/2023


It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring the focused garage rock of Toe Ring’s FOOTAGE and whispy psych folk of J. Wiegold’s NORFOLK SERPENT!

Toe Ring Cover

Toe Ring – FOOTAGE

Genre: Post-Punk, Garage

Favorite Track: “This is the End”

Maybe it’s my own rigidity, but when a band makes promises, I expect them to be honored accordingly. In the case of Philadelphia’s Toe Ring (the project of Leslie Burnette and Sims Hardin), the four-track FOOTAGE is “…not tethered to specific sounds but, rather, the pursuit of true experimental elasticity.” So, does the band stand by their word, or is yours truly set for another trip to Disappointment Junction? The answer is, yeah, welcome back to town, Mr. Coplan.

That isn’t to say that the EP is bad—if anything, it’s slowly become a recent fave (despite dropping a year ago). It just doesn’t exactly achieve “true experimental elasticity.” Rather, it’s something I might instead call “forced pretensions of sonic grandeur.” For instance, “Staring at the Sunn” facilitates this steady, droning rhythm that partially references the krautrock that the band clearly adore. But at the end of the day, it’s either generic enough, or proving too inconsequential, to move the track much beyond the realm of scuzzy, ’60s-inspired garage rock. Is that bad? No way—there’s still something powerful swirling here even if it misses some invisible mark.

The one-two punch of “Repeller” and “Collapsed Mine” are arguably greater steps for the EP’s experimental credibility, but even that’s not saying too much. The former relies on junky synth and sturdy drums to feel like organic krautrock—or Halloween music for a haunted house off your local freeway. And the latter cranks things down a bit, playing out like a Velvet Underground song by a German synthpop band. Together, that seems the recipe for true sonic wall-smashing, but the end result is still overly familiar. Or, done in a way that can’t shake the sense that we’ve heard this before. Again, though, I don’t think that means the EP is a total failure. Especially when you have a song like “This is the End.” It’s free of the pretenses and added sonic odds-and-ends of its fellow tracks; what’s left is a bare-bones, utterly infectious garage rock jam. Whether it’s the structure and melodies here, and/or just the vocal performance of Burnette, the experimental tendencies are minimized just enough to make them feel special. It makes for a track not bogged-down with ideas but empowered by the light and energy that a desire for “newness” should provide. Which is to say, it achieves its goals by holding on to nostalgic tendencies of garage’s yesteryear while finding space to innovate seamlessly and organically.

Even if not every song here excels as much as “This is the End,” it sets the tone for what makes this project compelling. That, and it shows the band’s capability and their earnest drive to break down new walls and achieve fresh insights. In that sense, their hunger alone is hugely compelling, and it makes clicking with the EP a breeze even if it doesn’t accomplish its goals. Because through all the blaring drums and pitch-black cool, there’s the promise that enlightenment is just one chord away. Listen to it now over on Bandcamp. [Chris Coplan]

J. Wiegold Cover


Genre: Psychedelic Folk

Favorite Tracks: “The Life and Opinions of the Last Enby on Earth,” “The Shirt That Folds Itself,” “Norfolk Serpent II”

There’s not a trace of heavy instrumentation within NORFOLK SERPENT, but that only means J. Wiegold’s storytelling holds more weight than ever before. Diving even further into psychedelic folk with gorgeous, multi-layered guitars and their lightest use of electronics yet, Wiegold’s latest album challenges you to grasp onto music that seems to evaporate in the air, yet leaves a massive impression on you as it does, their breathy vocals and sprightly guitar work rendering some of 2023’s earliest highlights through just how delicate and refined NORFOLK SERPENT is. The album doesn’t stray much from its fundamental blend of soft, fingerpicked guitar and light synth embellishments, but that’s because Wiegold doesn’t need to for their world of solemn, cathartic chamber folk to blanket you in its radiance. Their heartfelt songcraft prides itself on Wiegold’s ability to implant strong, pointed feelings into the album’s endless horizons, NORFOLK SERPENT a meditation not only on their understanding of themselves and their connections to others around them, but how both feelings of euphoria and intense misery reconfigure every thought along the way. It’s no surprise Wiegold transitioned the album out of the “high octane dream pop” they describe of its early stages into a blissful folk chimera—no other sound could carry such devastating stories so gracefully.

Often reliant on strong imagery and metaphors to express their feelings of suffocation and anguish, Wiegold takes advantage of the fantastical sound NORFOLK SERPENT drowns you in to speak of their emotions without always having to speak each feeling in its rawest form. “Stephenson 218” has them overthinking a relationship in colossal proportions—Wiegold wondering when “Will the atmosphere between [them] choke” and if a supernova will take the blame for “pushing [them] apart and then swallowing up [their] galaxy”—but their fingerpicked guitars and airy falsetto stay so subdued that all those worries seem to eternalize themselves within the song and give Wiegold’s mind a salve, something even wordless tracks like the heavenly ambient piece “Norfolk Serpent II” or “Viviette” manage by just giving Wiegold time away from their anxieties by making pristine, lonely folk music to capture every feeling. Wiegold made these songs by writing minimalist harmonies and then singing random syllables over them to get an organic yet lush and layered sound, the crescendos of sparkly guitar that craft the arc of “The Shirt That Folds Itself” or the gleaming arpeggios moving “The Life and Opinions of the Last Enby on Earth” forward marvelous ideas Wiegold takes advantage of without making the lyrics feel like background noise, each line still able to catch your ear even with the many other fantastic parts of the music happening around you. Though NORFOLK SERPENT leans heavily into its singular sound, its greatest strength is balance, Wiegold’s ability to situate celestial psychedelic folk next to writing that is comparatively saturnine and make it all work marvelously.

Available to purchase on Bandcamp at no cost or with an added donation, being able to listen to NORFOLK SERPENT is one of the greatest joys of early 2023, J. Wiegold creating their most beautiful and heartrending collection of songs to date that doesn’t sacrifice the bright colors and careful instrumentation that makes their endeavors from shoegaze to drone such rewarding listens. It’s always a treat to listen to simply because Wiegold’s music is nothing but their innermost feelings and the ways they can best express them through their music—it’s quite the blessing that it came in the form of NORFOLK SERPENT’s 10 lovely tracks. [Lurien Zitterkopf]

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