Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 3/30/2023


It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring Spiral XP’s whirring noise rocker IT’S BEEN A WHILE and Grave Goods’ punky lo-fi TUESDAY. NOTHING EXISTS!

Grave Goods EP Cover


Genre: Punk, Post-Punk

Favorite Tracks: “None,” “Story”

The price for making music used to be recording in smelly closets with hand-me-down equipment. The proliferation of modern technology and affordable instruments nowadays means you can sound purposefully crummy (or you’re just massively incompetent). Grave Goods (featuring members of September Girls and PINS) explored this same dynamic on last September’s TUESDAY. NOTHING EXISTS. It’s seven tracks that display a nostalgic interest and novel recontextualization for a feel/tone steeped in the punk rock annals.

Sure, a fantastically lo-fi, DIY-centric approach ain’t new; Grave Goods do it in a way that’s charming in its devotion and earnest passion. It’s in the slightly hollow drums of “Come”; the chaos of the instruments battling across “Miles”; and that unshakable sense of dead air underpinning “Eneeway”—it’s a subtle, effective blast of retromania. It does more than honor punk roots: it aligns the EP with old-school sensibilities in a way that’s nigh subliminal. Where they separate themselves, then, is that these production choices place the onus on listeners, and that’s thrilling. It’s decisions made to foster a mood without full-on gimmickry. Still, repeated listens mean that the band’s “tricks” eventually become obvious, and you’re forced to reconcile what this magic ultimately means. When the band craft something greater, we get “None,” where all the momentum and context is jettisoned to focus on the edgy ramblings of singer Lois Macdonald (who is equally unsettling and compelling). On the flip side, we get “Story”: that jumbled noise around Macdonald might be more lethal punk bravado, but it relies too heavily on genre tropes to achieve a meaningful existence. It’s not that it’s bad, or that the former is better than the latter. It’s added proof that subtlety is king, and the band’s most compelling when they use history and context as tools and not a formula.

When you look at the EP’s more “uneven” approach, key truths emerge. There’s a level of “performance” happening here—the band’s aware of key techniques/approaches that accompany post-punk. Said knowledge makes them great players but it also colors some elements. Similarly, there’s the question of why some factors–the isolated vocals, the overarching mixing, etc.–are emphasized/deemphasized; it makes you wonder if it’s an overt mastery or if they merely landed on “flukes.” Plus, a reliance on some ideas and sound components means GG operates in a specific niche, for better and worse. That niche may rock like a mofo, but it does mean you can almost see the strings and larger narrative develop. It might feel reductive to say, “This punk band is good for sounding like they’re playing from a teeny nightclub under a falafel shop.” Yet that’s important as it speaks volumes about the band’s contextual standing, their songwriting, and their relationship with audiences. Not every expression of this approach is as compelling, but the band emphasizes layers to stand out and provide a novel commentary to the larger scene. ‘Cause lo-fi junk can be important and meaningful—it just doesn’t always seem that way. Listen to it now over on Bandcamp. [Chris Coplan]

Spiral XP cover


Genre: Noise Rock

Favorite Tracks: “The End,” “The Hunger,” “Big Sky”

It is impressive that, in the midst of one of the best Yo La Tengo album rollouts in years, a tiny band from Western Washington could release an EP that pound-for-pound featured solos that stand up to Ira Kaplin’s iconoclastic style. Close your eyes listening to “The Hunger” and you can feel the lost control permeating through the pulsing, uneasy guitar tone, something so singular to YLT’s sound (and readily available on their latest masterstroke THIS STUPID WORLD) that it’s almost shocking to hear replicated well elsewhere. Can a band even do that? Are they allowed? If you’re Spiral XP, a project helmed by Max Keyes (of the unsung indie rockers Versing), the answer is bullishly and ecstatically “yes!” The crunchy melodies on the six song EP IT’S BEEN A WHILE are each hopelessly and presently nostalgic, often jangle pop in spirit but grunged up in execution. And while Spiral XP define themselves by those whirring guitar parts and a penchant for loud, hazy, thoughtful instrumental passages (the descending longing at the close of “Big Sky” is among the most emotional moments in a song all year), the occasionally baggy and always unrelenting rhythm section propels the whole record into one remarkable waking dream. One day Ira and Yo La Tengo will be long gone, but an onslaught of noise rock gems from across 40 years of history will still be there to discover. Spiral XP’s IT’S BEEN A WHILE is one of the best EPs of the year so far that you can check out on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

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