Well, would you look at that? Bandcamp Fridays are back! The initiative started as a way to help artists through the pandemic rolls ever onward after a short hiatus during June and July (we still did a list of recs for June, though). To celebrate, New Noise has put together a shortlist of recommendations for your consideration.
So how does Bandcamp Friday benefit the artists? Well on the first Friday of every month Bandcamp waves the fee for all purchases made through their platform for a full 24 hours. That means every cent you spend will go directly to the artist today. It’s worth noting that the majority of the money you spend on the platform every day goes directly to the artists themselves. It’s just slightly more today than usual. Every penny counts though, and we are still a long way off from being done with COVID. I’m sure any artist you buy from today will be grateful for your support.
Turning to our list, if you like what you hear and read for each selection, you can click the embedded player for each album and it will take you can purchase the album directly from the artist. Lighter is upfront, and heavier stuff is on the back end. We’re not keeping things separated as much as we are making it easier to find what you are looking for.
Alright, enough yapping. Let’s get to the good stuff …
Lorna Donley & The Veil – Time Stands Still (Dim Dim Dark Records)
Lorna Donley and David Thomas formed The Veil in 1986 in Chicago after they fell in love. They were both previously in another notable punk band of the era by the name of DH! but needed another outlet. Something that would allow them to entwine their talents in reverie for their shared affection for ’60s garage and glam. They recorded a couple of demos together with the help of Mike Ebersohl on drums, guitarist Joe Haynes and producer Timothy Powell in the summer of 1988. They played a lot of shows and became staples of Chicago’s punk scene. For a short while, it even seemed like they were going to get signed to a major label. Regrettably, The Veil was not long for this world.
They disband unceremoniously when Lorna and David broke up in 1989. DH! would reunite a few times over the years until Lorna’s tragic and untimely death of a heart attack in 2013. A few years afterward, David unloaded all of his old tapes at a Chicago thrift store where they were miraculously picked up by Dim Dim Dark Records founder Eric Clements. Eric saw the potential in The Veil tapes he had bought for mere pennies and managed to track David down in order to secure the rights to reissue the recordings on vinyl.
Time Stands Still is a collection of the group’s early records that David and Eric felt best represented The Veil at their peak and which did justice to their late compatriot, Lorna’s talent. Pause the clock and spend some time with Time Stands Still. Experience a dispatch from a period of Midwest punk and Chicago that now only exists in wistful memories and song.
Peyton – PSA (Stones Throw)
Fresh-faced, Houston R’nB artist and rising soul star, Peyton formally introduces herself to the world, following a break-out placement on Issa Rae’s HBO series Insecure, with a self-assured LP, auspiciously titled PSA. The Stones Throw debut pours on a perfect layer of melody from the fountainhead spout of Peyton’s imagination, drafting poetic portrayals of awkward growing pains and bruising life lessons in love, friendship, and general survival strategies.
The color-burst bliss of the breezy “Let It Flow” is given a helping hand by an easy gliding verse from rapper Brice Blanco, while the hot, black-top tango of “Big Flexer” helps bring out much of Peyton’s appreciable jazz influences. If there is a clear reference point for PSA though, it would have to be Erykah Badu’s Worldwide Underground, exemplified by tracks like “Ppl Say,” whose futurist tilt revives the sounds of a more optimistic era. There is a message here for you if you’ll only open yourself up to receiving it. Don’t make Peyton get her bullhorn.
Jodi – Blue Heron (Sooper Records)
The great blue heron is truly a majestic animal. Stoic, elegant and precise in its movements. It is a sage presence in the marshlands of the Midwest. As legend has it, it was an encounter with this striking and towering bird that caused singer, songwriter, and ex-Pinegrove member, Nick Levine to emerge from the depths of a deep mental well. The album Blue Heron is the product of Nick heaving themselves out of that dark place and putting their mental energy towards something positive.
Nick describes the album as queer country. Which makes a certain amount of sense. Country music often boasts of its author’s connections with the time and place that they find themselves in, and Blue Heron is nothing if not an examination of Nick’s feels of connectedness during the period in which it was written and recorded. It’s also very twangy, which helps. Overall though, Blue Heron is definitely on the softer, more ephemeral side country music spectrum, with only a few nods to heavier, but still spacious influences, such as on the song “Budy” and opening track “Power.”
However, the beauty of Blue Heron is probably best exemplified by the cooing brush and weighty, emotive bounty of “Softly.” Load this album up on your phone, hop in your pickup truck, drive out into the country, park in a field, and let yourself have a good cry.
John Grant – Boy from Michigan (Partisan Records)
John Grant is originally from Michigan but presently resides in Iceland. We know he must be doing ok over there because every three to four years he exports back to his birth country an album for us to enjoy. His most recent effort, Boy From Michigan, is a highly biographical and quirky, chamber pop self-portrait, that grapples with John’s status as an American in a post-Trump world. Not to spoil anything, but he’s got some feels to work through. Watching what was happening to the US while abroad was disillusioning for John.
Thankfully, he channeled his disaffection into his creative pursuits and didn’t allow himself to become struck by emotional paralysis. Working is not a cure for depression, but working can have some short-term benefits when something is weighing on your mind. One of the benefits of productivity is that it can keep you from thinking about things that make you feel miserable. And when all you can do about a problem is think about it- distractions can be very good medicine. In partnership with producer Cate Le Bon, John has pulled together an album of dreamy, champaign bubble, new wave (“County Fair”), Ultravoxing dance dirges (“The Rusty Bull”), twinkling space-agey balladry (“Mike and Julie”), and vignettes of Sparks emitting cabaret and Devo-esque diversions (“Rhetorical Figure”), and elliptical Berlin Bowie soul (“Dandy Star”).
The album’s thematic highpoint actually comes at the end, with closer “Billy,” a lush but direct piano-led missive that is soft as candlelight and which reflects on all the ways in which attempts to live up to masculine stereotypes prevent men from connecting with each other, and themselves. Open up your heart and let this Boy From Michigan make himself at home. You’ll be glad you did.
Girls Go Ska – Frente al Mar (Self-Released)
Check out that album cover. Look at all of those kids vibin’. Don’t they look happy? What do you think they are listening to? I will also give you one hint; it isn’t Propagandhi’s “Ska Sucks.” Girls Gone Ska is a Mexico city band that takes an orchestral approach to ska on their debut LP, Frente al Mar (By the Sea in English).
While ska’s profile has declined since its spike in popularity during the late ’90s and early ’00s, it never really went away in Mexico. What’s so refreshing about the music of Frente al Mar is that it revives the Caribbean character of ska, an aspect that was progressively strained during the ascension of third wave of ska to mainstream success in the U.S. All with a big, brass band approach, Girls Gone Ska keeps things brisk and snappy by including some heavy Latin rhythms and decidedly neo-soulful overtones.
There are times when I distinctly hear touches Janelle Monáe and Erykah Badu on Frente al Mar, especially on quietly confident numbers like “Felicidad,” but also the salty swivel of beach rock upshots like “Quédate.” Is this a new wave of ska? A fourth wave? I don’t know. But it sure sounds like the direction the genre as a whole could be headed. And if Girls Gone Ska is the vanguard of this transition, then I can totally get behind it.
Care Package – I Wanna Swim (Self-Released)
Pittsburgh-based dream-pop group Care Package have delivered a lovely portfolio of consciously self-searching and internally validating songs on their debut EP, I Wanna Swim. The album title appears to be a defiant statement, voicing the band’s desire to stay afloat on the turbulent waters of life, despite the ever-present choice to give in and simply sink to the bottom of the sea. This struggle is epitomized by lyrics like those found on the track “Pinch,” which reads, “Watch me as I walk away from everything I love and know / Watch me as I take a risk, it’ll be my last hope.”
The song allows singer Hal McDonough to demonstrate the captivating snare of their breathy pout, an aspect complemented by broad, clashing guitar strokes and precious, percussive chimes. This dusky array of sounds takes on a slightly more indie-pop dimension on a track like “Tough” which boasts some deliciously wiggly jangle guitars, chords that should be the envy of a band like Alvvays. Dive into I Wanna Swim and let it help you keep your head above water today.
Rolltreppe – Self-Titled LP (Bachelor Records)
Despite the implications of Rolltreppe’s name (German for escalator), the Austrian band doesn’t have much interest in elevating you on their self-titled debut. Rolltreppe have an aesthetic that is as unwashed, scrappy, and spiteful as any peace-punk whose current residence is the sagging floor of a master bedroom in a half-collapsed and abandoned row house. However, instead of rebelling against nuclear war or authority writ large, it appears that singer Rebecca is railing against situations that are a little more personal.
It’s possible that the circumstances she is pushing against do not even extend beyond her own immediate circle of acquaintances. Which certainly makes it a good degree more intriguing the fact that Rebecca sounds like she is constantly on the verge of initiating World War III.
I ask you, is the extinction of the human race really such a small price to pay to settle a grudge? Think on it. While there are obvious nods to The Fall and Swell Maps on Rolltreppe’s debut, the whiplashing vocals and shock-treatment dosed guitar work resembles more closely the carving wit and snarl and anguished expiation of groups like White Lung and Priests then anything that came out of the ’80s. If you like your post-punk with a little bit of a bite, coupled with a risk of rabies infections, look no further.
Wu-Lu – Times (Ra-Ra Rock Records)
London producer Wu-Lu follows up his racial justice anthem South, with another double-sided single, Times. On this new single we see Wu-Lu continuing to thread rough-hewn strands of garage, punk and lo-fi hip-hop into a whole cloth of smothering angst. The mood created by the stumbling breakbeat and the flagging ripple of the guitar work here is one of eternal tension and anticipation of apocalyptic calamity.
These dialectical components never quite reach a point where the dread it has built up climaxes though, but this fact only serves to heighten these compositions’ overall sense of unease and claustrophobic calm. A-side “Times” sounds like a Pixies collab with Local H vocalist Scott Lucas produced by J-Dilla, and B-side “Being” feels like it is being dragged by its feet into a literal, techno-dystopia, amongst a slowly enveloping squall of shoegazey discharge and cyberpunk gang vocals. Times are dark. And they’re only going to get darker.
Orphan Donor – Unraveled (Zegema Beach Records)
If you like it loud, cryptic and weird (and why wouldn’t you?) you may want to take a minute and let the corrosive cacophony of Orphan Donor coalesce around you like a sheet of coal silt belched from the smokestack of a 19th Century factory. You may think this is just a tortured metaphor (and maybe it is), but it does accurately depict the suffocating deluge of pitch-black emotions, burnt dreams and incredibly dense instrumentation that will rise to meet you on Orphan Donor’s most recent LP, Unraveled.
On tracks like “Death Exploit” you get a shot of Ken Mode grade adrenaline directly into the mitral valve of your heart, exploding it like a jello-filled balloon. “Forever Unseen” has progressive post-hardcore quality to its austere metallic compressions and croaking grooves, which along with the bog-corpse dredging “You Were Alive,” accurately conveys the feeling of being submerged in a frozen lake by an unseen assailant. “Celestial Mourning” rattles with pestilent, worm-eaten, spiritual surrender, while “My Friend, The Hornet” practices a patient collapse into self-annihilation.
Unraveled is an impressive and often shocking album, one that demonstrates Orphan Donor’s eager ability to reduce the listener to fertilizer, faster than they can shout “skramz revival.”
Nicolas Cage Fighter – Cast You Out (Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records)
When I’m in a pinch, I know you I want in my corner. Nicolas Cage! That dude is crazy! And with all the action films he’s starred in, he no doubt has picked up some sick jiu jitsu. If you’re his friend, I’m sure he would have no problem giving someone a karate chop becuase they got up in your face. Plus, he’s rich as fuck, which means you’re also covered if things get really messy and you need to hire a defense attorney.
If you can’t get Ol’ Nicolas Rage on your team, you can always settle for the Australian metalcore band, Nicolas Cage Fighter. This might be your best option in a fight anyway. For starters, there are four of them. All big, strapping boys, with face tattoos and bad-ass beards. You might not even need to raise a fist to win a fight. For as intimidating as Nicolas Cage Fighter, they sound waaaay scarier than they look. In fact, they sound absolutely menacing on their debut EP, Cast You Out.
The album was delayed due to COVID, but it’s out now, and there is not containing its fury! Nicolas Cage Fighter is metalcore very much in the lane of As I Lay Dying, a pummel that they intensify with a bit of beatdown and deathcore for good measure. Cast You Out really feels like you’re trapped in solitaire with a bear. Your encounter with it is going to do more than leave a mark. In fact, you’ll be lucky if there is enough of you left afterward to scrap into a doggie bag and mail to your Mom, marked “Return to Sender.”
Ancient Tome – Final Tomb (Transylvanian Recordings)
Ancient Tome is a blackened death-sludge abomination who have just given unnatural birth to their second unconsecratable spawn. An EP they have ignobly crowned, Final Tomb. It’s loud, it’s raw, and it’s impure. Is it also… weightless? There is an ambient quality to this bedeviling collection of cosmically hostile songs that never seems to touch the ground. Like the music is keeping aloft some eldritch being.
One that is levitating above you, observing you with a fluctuating mixture of indifference and disdain. It’s a powerful effect, achieved through some excellent recording and editing, layering the guitar melodies and the roar of the vocals with just enough distance between the two to produce the effect of asphyxiating in the airless void between two semipermeable and sorrowful palisades. Dislocated, isolated, and judged. Enter the void with the mesmerizing and brooding “Choleric” and then leave a piece of your soul behind amid the non-euclidean geometry and cracked facade of the golden-toned anti-chamber “The Amber Crutch.” Allow Final Tomb to set for you an eternal resting place amongst dead and dying stars.
Revenge – Attack.Blood.Revenge (Season of Mist)
This is here for kind of personal reasons. When I was getting into black metal, Revenge kind of anchored my understanding of the weird and wicked world of single-member black metal projects. So when I saw that Season of Mist was reissuing his debut EP Attack.Blood.Revenge I became more than a little excited. I hadn’t heard this release in its entirety before, and I’m definitely glad I checked it out. There is an early version of “Blood of My Blood” which is pretty cool if you’re only familiar with the version that appeared on his debut LP Triumph.Genocide.Antichrist.
There are also some weird vocal and atmospheric choices on the EP that give it a terrifying kind of found audio quality that I appreciate. It might bug some people that the instrumentation here is fairly thin sounding when compared to later releases, but the lack of muscle is made up for by some truly diabolical sounding recording choices. Effects that could only achieve with bargain-basement production quality. Through all the chaos, though, you can still hear Revenge’s solid grasp of composition. This record might sound absolutely insane at first, but if you give it some time, you’ll start to see how all the pieces fit together. There is an eerie genius to it that can’t be denied.