Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 6/5/20

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Today is Bandcamp Day, meaning Bandcamp is waiving any cut they would traditionally take from those who use the platform. An overwhelming number of artists and labels are donating whatever profits they see today to justice-driven charities, so we encourage you to also go grab an album or two. You can see a partial list of participants here, and you can see a list of all of our own Bandcamp Picks from the last several years here

Bandcamp Picks 2nd Grade

2nd Grade – HIT TO HIT

Genre: Power Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider,” “Velodrome,” “Shooting From The Hip,” “My Bike,” “Boys in Heat”

True to its title, 2nd Grade’s HIT TO HIT is 24 bite-sized pieces of power pop bliss in the grand tradition of GBV’s patchwork epics. The group tries on several great looks, from pleasantly twee Teenage Fanclub-esque chimers like “Velodrome” and “When You Were My Sharona” to endearingly goofy ’Mats-y punk pastiche (“Baby’s First Word”), NRBQ-style yeehaw tunes (“100 Hrs”), and Big Star’s patented tender teenage ennui (“You’re So Cool”, “Boys in Heat”). “Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider” wraps a “A-B-C and 1-2-3 / If you want my love you gotta run with me” refrain into an indelible piece of popcraft that would be coveted in equal measure by the likes of Tobin Sprout, R. Stevie Moore, and a young Jonathan Richman. Frontman Peter Gill (Friendship, Free Cake For Every Creature) exudes the same dogged, aw-shucks gentle goodness embodied by Joe Pera, and he’s more than happy to share the mic with his bandmates as they play musical Calvinball. The world yearns for wry, funny, immaculately written power pop instant classics in the wake of Adam Schlesinger’s tragic passing, and on HIT TO HIT, 2nd Grade prove adept at doing that thing they do. Here’s hoping they have a couple more records as great as this in them. They’re donating 100% of the Bandcamp proceeds today for their sophomore LP HIT TO HIT to The Movement For Black Lives (#M4BL) and The Loveland Foundation, so you have no better excuse to check out this wonderful set. You can find it here on Bandcamp. [Luke Phillips]

Arbor Labor Union – NEW PETAL INSTANTS

Genre: Cosmic Americana, Folk Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Laso,” “Flowerhead,” “Riddle Snake Blues”

The cosmic Americana of Arbor Labor Union’s NEW PETAL INSTANTS is a rare sound to behold, a mix of fuzzy, low-key funk and car chase rock ‘n roll that fuses into a music that’s reserved mostly for singular acts like White Denim who can straddle explosive, jammy grooves and jazzy precision with indie rock sensibilities. By the time the Atlanta, GA act reach closer “Highway Loop,” you can feel the seven-minute runtime ready to give way at any moment to more exploratory turns, the thump of the walking bass a steady rhythm for the narrow-eyed and angry guitar soloing at the end of the song. The majority of NEW PETAL INSTANTS keeps things pretty locked in—three-to-four-minute slices of heady guitar rock predicated on an emanation that’s spiritually loose but musically tight. Highlight “Flowerhead” is some excellent guitarwork, a downhill jam with some focused yet furious drumming that feels as though Arbor Labor Union could blow it all up at any given point and take the track in a new, equally furious direction. It gives me the impression that Arbor Labor Union are a beast live, songs like “Riddle Snake Blues” midtempo centerpieces for lengthy soloing and musical asides. Three records in and their first in four years, Arbor Labor Union have made a pretty drastic shift in sound, fully pivoting away from a lot of the lengthy post-hardcore heaviness that made them a pretty intense force back on 2016’s I HEAR YOU. You can tell this is the same band with some of that heaviness prevailing (“Crushed by Fear Destroyer,” in particular, feels like a song that would’ve had similar makeup with different results four years ago), but it’s like the time between records saw them doing psychedelics and listening to Widespread Panic and it’s a great sound for them. Listen to Arbor Labor Union’s latest, NEW PETAL INSTANTS, here. [CJ Simonson]

Bandcamp Picks Irreversible

Irreversible Entanglements – WHO SENT YOU?

Genre: Jazz Poetry, Avant-Garde Jazz

Favorite Tracks: “Who Sent You – Ritual,” “No Más,” “Bread Out of Stone”

When I heard that Philadelphia experimental hip hop artist Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa) was involved with an avant-garde, free jazz poetry record this year, I had high hopes that it would be a certified Thomas Hit™, and thankfully, I have been proven correct. If you’re not aware of Moor Mother’s work elsewhere on the musical spectrum, use this as an opportunity to get a Bandcamp Pick within a Bandcamp Pick: last year’s ANALOG FLUIDS OF SONIC BLACK HOLES remains some of the most striking, challenging, and affirming music I’ve ever heard within the larger sphere of what can be considered “hip hop.” At the forefront of an ensemble that includes respected free improvisation saxophonist Keir Neuringer and Luke Stewart of Blacks’ Myths on bass, Ayewa offers missives emphatic and cryptic, often both at the same time, over 43 intoxicating and entirely immersive minutes of artfully agitated drumming and intersections of bass, alto, and trumpet that bring to mind everyone from Peter Brötzmann to Kaoru Abe to the work of Matana Roberts in her defining COIN COIN series. The key emotion of WHO SENT YOU? rests somewhere just south of chaotic, a steadily simmering hotbed of kinetic, erratic movement just barely anchored by Ayewa’s comparatively measured musing. It’s not music that explodes in the way the overarching exasperation at injustice did this month, but it’s music that certainly feels like the precursor to that, a feverish alchemical concoction that consistently zigs left when you expect it to zag right: just listen to closer “Bread Out of Stone,” who’s consistent sense of build without ever breaking is one of the more musically impressive moments on the album. But the most effective moment by a longshot goes to album highlight “Who Sent You – Ritual,” which allows the floodgates to open in a teeth-grinding, harried account of coming across a police officer in a neighborhood where they clearly have ill intent, ending in an apocalyptic chant of “Here comes the end.” Needless to say, it’s essential listening. Check in out here on Bandcamp. [Thomas Seraydarian]

keiyaA – FOREVER, YA GIRL

Genre: Neo-Soul, Experimental

Favorite Tracks: “Hvnli,” “Hvnli (reprise),” “Forreal???”

I’m not sure there’s a piece of neo-soul music released in 2020 that has the kind of living, breathing pulse keiyaA’s FOREVER, YA GIRL does. The woozy, swelling production is a hypnotic heartbeat, and the irregular pattern it takes on at times is mysterious. keiyaA navigates these strange palpitations with a kind of relaxing ease, and her layered vocals begin as an anchor before becoming relentless in their ability to get lost in the mixes’ own hypnosis. The muzzy, high-pitched synths on the reprise of “Hvnli” find the lyrics focused, and almost dizzying in their delivery. It’s one of FOREVER, YA GIRL’s most memorable and elated moments of freeing expression, the mix of music and word not just striking but visual, and it’s a feeling keiyaA delivers so consistently across her debut that you’d think the magic of it would wear off by the end of the album—but not quite. The final four tracks represent one of the year’s best closing runs, the 8-bit running synths of “Forreal???,” the experimental, off-kilter hollow beats and soulful vocal runs of “F.w.u.,” the spacey hi-hats and vivacious echo of “Nu World Burdens,” and the exemplary, pounding jazz of closer “Keep It Real,” each varied in production and technique. FOREVER, YA GIRL has rightfully turned some heads, and with an artist this assured in her ability, it’s easy to see why. It’s available right now on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

Bandcamp Picks Iojii

lojii – LO&BEHOLD

Genre: Lo-Fi Hip Hop

Favorite Traps: “lo&behold,”  “uhoh(whereyoho@?),” “each day (i pray for),” “longwayhome”

Fittingly, under the description section of lojii’s Bandcamp page, it simply says “(rap / ???) ∞.” Those three question marks could easily be filled in by a variety of more specific genres, as LO&BEHOLD is a fantastic beat tape of neo-soul, cloud rap, chillhop, and space-jazz influence were we looking to be more thorough. But the three question marks don’t interest me, as it’s the infinity sign that I find to be the most compelling. A 32-minute album dominated by songs that clock in at under two minutes, there truly is a kind of endless appeal to hearing the Philadelphia-based rapper effortlessly go circles over succinct, hazy loops of distant jazz, funk, and soul. And by all accounts he could go on forever—a run through his excellent collaboration with producer Swarvy, DUE RENT (who also delivers LO&BEHOLD standouts “lo&behold” and “uhoh(whereyoho@?)”) will quickly reveal his propensity for short, tonal tracks that create an aura more than a straightline narrative, an hour-long, 40-track album seemingly on the table should he choose to. Certainly I’ve written many-a-word on this exciting crop of musicians existing on the fringes of hip hop right now (see: Medhane, MIKE) and if the vibey focus of those artists speaks to you at all, LO&BEHOLD is absolutely a must. It’s up here on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

Dime in the JQBX 6/5

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