Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 6/7/2024

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It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring Lane’s quirky, and charming rocker RECEIVER, and A Country Western’s suburban coming-of-age tale LIFE ON THE LAWN!

Lane Album Cover

Lane – RECEIVER

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Track: “Loie”

By my count, the album’s been dying for some 20 years. But I get it—a legion of modern artists’ careers depends on single releases (and virality and touring and…) Luckily, we have RECEIVER, from Boston’s Lane, to supplement this debate. For this fella, the eight-track record is a prelude to “Loie,” a peak earworm and total song of the year. It’s sorta like Strokes by way of Guided by Voices, and even that’s an insultingly ineffectual description. It’s this uber-twangy, jangly ode to falling in love, capturing that sweet magic and mystery with absolute power and precision. (“The TV seemed to wash over / The sofa like a disco ball / Guess you had to be there / You had to be me”). With each re-listen, my brain is rewired to better understand rock music, romance, and the wonders of speaking something true onto the universe. If this smacks of overhyping, it merely hasn’t transformed you yet.

Where’s that leave the rest of RECEIVER? Generally good, even if it’s like a local gallery show that just so happens to feature Picasso’s GUERNICA. “Receiver” is a nondescript indie jam, but there’s a vein of the band’s scrappy passion. “Judy and Jackie” is math rock-y, and while it ain’t my favorite flavor, Lane have heart and range. Even “Surfer Girl” feels interesting as it lands as a tricky blend of reggae and actual surf rock. These are the sonic equivalent of popcorn and cheese before the best pulled pork ever at your local barbecue: they won’t fill you up, but they’ll make you hungry in the very best way. And that’s a 100% acceptable way to think about albums. If you have something as undeniable and maddeningly endearing as “Loie,” a bunch of “cool”/”alright” songs are still a proper accomplishment. The ongoing debate over the state of albums, and the rise of the singles-only approach, misses one essential idea: the presence of gems. Those nuggets that you discover only in the process of consuming an album that demands your enthused attention. Rising tides lift all ships, sucka, and there’s no way I could ever disconnect my unwavering love of “Loie” without RECEIVER’s fun, quirky, and charmingly uneven build.

All of this gets at the true value/utility of records. While I agree about the deification of some albums, they’re also products for me to rip apart and chew on like a puck of Hubba Bubba. “Loie” is that sweetest of treats that I earned through curiosity, commitment, passion, and understanding with something beyond myself. It’s not A or B, but this wholly personalized C that won’t be the same for everyone, but nonetheless moved me through my experience. It’s about recognizing that there’s no single model, surely for bands, but also fans, and that artists and albums succeed when they resonate however they’re going to resonate. Ultimately, we need albums/singles equally because we need as much great music to glob onto in this dumb universe. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to “Loie” for a full hour. Listen to it now over on Bandcamp. [Chris Coplan]

A Country Western Album

A Country Western – LIFE ON THE LAWN

Genre: Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Great is the Grip of the Hawk,” “Ridgeline,” “For A Voter”

During the latter half of my college years, and stretching well into my post-grad life, I lived in what was officially the oldest residential house in the city of Orange, CA. Known as “The Shaffer House” thanks to a sign that sat outside of the house that made it look like some kind of museum or a halfway home, the building was converted into apartments in the 1940s, and was actually six individual apartments. My coming-of-age story began and ended at that house—I turned 21, graduated from college, got to write about music professionally, and met my wife, all while I was in that house. I was lucky to live in the strange glow of its community.

I use the word “community” specifically, because as much as we lived in our own apartments—an always slightly rotating group of townies and college kids—the building was from the late 1800s and thus no one really had a “living room” space. Quickly our lawn was the living room… I would stay up until 2 a.m., smoking and drinking with a litany of degenerates from all walks of life until our upstairs neighbor Craig would come down, yell at us, and we’d do it all over again the next night. And while I’m sure I’ll write more about that experience with more detail, depth, and emotion somewhere else in the future, A Country Western’s LIFE ON THE LAWN captures the feeling of those days with such sharp accuracy, from the obvious connections in the title to transitioning in sound from the more angular, lo-fi experimentation of their self-titled 2020 album to the hooky noise rock that soundtracked my life during that time (Yuck, Japandroids, Cloud Nothings, etc). I can close my eyes, imagine myself a few beers deep on an afternoon while the warm Santa Ana winds howled around us, and hear the opening words as some kind of thesis: “Listen in if I wanted to / Blocking out for the afternoon / Whistling through the highest wind / Grappling with the greatest grip.

LIFE ON THE LAWN is the band’s most singular release yet—perhaps tamer than their endearingly freewheeling lo-fi debut, but as considered and focused as the slowcore primer BIRDFEEDER. It is the band grappling with a sense of domestication, a suburban coming-of-age sound that is appropriately listless and manic within renewed sonic limitations. This fuzzy, college rock transformation leads to not only their most classically Philly indie rock album to date, but also a more lyrics-forward record, one obsessed with time; “I don’t wanna take this for granted / Just another day or year” they cry on “Magnetic,” “Passing strangers, I’m lingering / Broken format, let’s blow this thing” they lament on “Wasting The Weekends.” Its unique anxiety is in some ways comforting. And that plodding, slowcore sound of their past still folds into LIFE ON THE LAWN, most notably on the six-minute cut “The Spine,” but it feels like their most conventional singer-songwriter song to date, a circular meditation on grief. The immediate connection I had with A Country Western’s latest is obvious, by this point in the review, but I do genuinely believe there is a universal quality to it that is remarkable. You can see if it’s this emotional for you over on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

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