Bandcamp Picks of the Week is back and better than ever
The Cowboys – THE BOTTOM OF A ROTTEN FLOWER
Genre: Power Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Open Sores,” “Now With Feeling,” “Red-headed Girlfriend”
Everyone is obsessed with cowboys right now. Be it Amari Cooper breathing life into Dallas, lengthy discourse about the long-dead John Wayne, Lil Nas X’s viral rehauling of country and rap, Mitski’s reinterpretation of the iconography, or Mac DeMarco’s trolling of Mitski, it’s a complicated time to be a cowboy. That is unless you’re the Cowboys, whose breakout fourth record, THE BOTTOM OF A ROTTEN FLOWER, is one of Bloomington, Indiana’s finest recent musical exports. With an appropriate level of grime, The Cowboys rip through power pop-infused rock ‘n roll reminiscent of lost acts like Pointed Sticks or The Shivvers with astonishing precision—these songs waste absolutely no time getting into and out of memorable hooks and catchy choruses. While their previous records had flashes of this kind of focus, the lo-fi recording and frequent forays into slower, more experimental tracks held them back from the kind of no-nonsense rush they’re capturing on THE BOTTOM OF A ROTTEN FLOWER. Consider the album’s playful middle, which features a sprint of punky, last-day-of-high-school celebrations, starting with the frisky piano jam “Now with Feeling” (complete with dazzling saxophone solo) and concluding with the zany “Bodie, Don’t Jump,” which features one of frontman Keith Harman’s goofier performances. The Cowboys are constantly having an insane amount of fun on this album, and even when they drop into a jogger’s pace for more melancholy swings like “My Conscience is Clean” or “My Ohio River Valley View,” there’s still a slow-motion quality to the songwriting, as though we know the band is moving at full speed even if we’re experiencing something with less zip than, say, true guitar ripper “Red-headed Girlfriend.” They may not be engaging in lasting and lofty discussions about what being a “cowboy” means, but in fairness, the Cowboys’ music never seemed like that was a discussion they were interested in having. Like the best power pop bands, they create music that seems like it’s here for a good time, not for a long time. Give THE BOTTOM OF A ROTTEN FLOWER a listen over on Bandcamp.
Chain Wallet – NO RITUAL
Genre: Synthpop, Chillwave
Favorite Tracks: “Lost Somewhere,” “What Everybody Else Could Find,” “Knowing Eyes,” “No Ritual,” “World I Used To Call Mine”
The sell on Chain Wallet is not a complex one: Do you love ‘80s chillwave? Do you love soaring revivalist synth pop? Do you enjoy Wild Nothing or, for that matter, most bands on Captured Tracks? If you answered yes to any of the following questions, you need to put on a copy of NO RITUAL on as soon as humanly possible, because it’s the best version of all of those things I’ve heard in many moons. The Norwegian trio Chain Wallet make lush and driven dream pop that, while being firmly indebted to many of the ‘80s influences we’ve come to expect, nonetheless feels lived in. The vocals are authoritative, the tempo is up, and the guitar and synth tones take cues from less sexy reference points, like Tears For Fears’ underappreciated 1989 album THE SEEDS OF LOVE, or most of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s larger discography—sounds that aren’t afraid to be overly sentimental, but are of course updated with a slick modern aesthetic. If you’re not sold by this just general description, take on the rushing swell of guitar that opens “Lost Somewhere,” an immediately gripping and dramatic open to an album filled with huge, operative guitar swells. “Ride” hits similar highs, with Stian Iversen’s vocals hitting mountainous pop highs, and tracks like “No Ritual” or “Closer” give the album much needed space, serviceable pop ballads that still project a kind of indescribable European night-time energy that runs through all of Chain Wallet’s music. Every song on NO RITUAL takes on its own pop aesthetic, less an intentional throughline of that night-time energy and more individual explorations of it, from the morning-after perkiness (“What Everybody Else Could Find”) to its more mysterious intermissions (“Inner Space”). If anything about this seems like its your brand of vodka (and you’ll know if it is immediately), don’t skip Chain Wallet’s latest, one of the most thoroughly enjoyable escapades through ‘80s synth music in a minute. Give it a listen on Bandcamp.