Once again, Bandcamp is waiving its fees so every nickel, dime, and dollar you spend on their platform will go directly to support the artist who you’re purchasing from. It’s been a welcome monthly tradition that we’ve all had to look forward to while living in the extra special purgatory of COVID Land, and I’m happy to be able to bring to another bushel of albums worthy of your consideration this Friday.
If you know an artist in need, by all means, support them! Send those people money so that they can keep doing what they’re best at: making life less miserable for the rest of us! You can send them money either directly, or through Bandcamp’s platform. Whatever works! But, per chance, you’re in the market for some new music, and don’t know where to start, why not consider the following…
Lava La Rue – Butter-fly (Marathon Artists)
London-born, Jamaican hip-hop and hyper pop artist Ava Laurel, known better by her anagram and stage name, Lava La Rue, is on the hunt for love and connection on their latest EP Butter-fly. The album was partially produced through the artist collective that they founded as a forge for their creative ambitions, NiNE8. Butter-fly is fluttery dream pop if a club-busting kick. Buttery tones grease hot grooves that press against your ears, insistently but reassuringly as if seeking to give a deep tissue massage to your brain. If you’re going to start anywhere with this one, maybe take a long, breatstroke lap within the honey-pool of queer love called “Angel” featuring Deb Never, and if that suits you alright, give the harp sampling heartbreak of “Goofy Hearts Club” a whirl, as well as the goading head-over-heal tumble of “G.O.Y.D.” Not everyone falls in love at the same time, in the same way, or with the same people, but I think everyone can relate to the vibe Lava La Rue is laying down on Butter-fly.
Butter-fly is out on Marathon Artists. Vinyl is available through Lava La Rue’s Bandcamp.
파란노을 (Parannoul) – To See the Next Part of the Dream (Longinus Recordings)
When you think of your average, mid-’00s emo-fan, you probably think of a dude with a lousy dye-job, sitting on the filthy carpet of his bedroom floor, scribbling in a notebook, while perpetually brushing his overly long bangs out of his line of sight and wiping his nose on his sleeve. As accurate as this image may be of an emotive-hardcore kid’s average afternoon circa-2004, it something rarely glimpsed from the vantage point of the music they enjoyed. Most of that music was actually recorded and performed outside of the shelter of its respective performer’s bedrooms, and often represented a thematic extension of the artist’s psyche in search of some connection or understanding.
Korean recluse, Parannoul provides an accurate glimpse of the inner cosmos of someone hiding from the world in their bedroom vault, but without lyrics that extend beyond their inward search for clarity. According to sources, Parannoul is a project made by a student studying in Seoul, whose parents do not know they make music, and who is not even going to give you the fuel to speculate about their life beyond the information provided on their Bandcamp page.
Parannoul’s second album To See the Next Part of the Dream is like a magic eraser sponge for its creator’s past failures and feelings of mediocrity. A surprisingly ambitious affair glimpsed through a smokescreen of crinkly production, and animated by arena-baiting, pop-emo hooks, blindingly exuberant synth twirls, and the insistent nip of clashing, dogged percussion. The album seriously sounds like something Brave Little Abacus might evolve into if they needed to step up for a world tour with The Get Up Kids. To See the Next Part of the Dream is bigger and more beautiful than its humble origins (and creator) would lead one to anticipate. Fantastic stuff!
To See the Next Part of the Dream is self-released and you can get it here.
Hello, I’m Sorry – Buddy (Self-Released)
Hello, I’m Sorry is the reflexively apologetic name of Seth Little’s band, where he explores music that makes him feel good and feel like life just might be worth living after all. Seth’s songwriting style is reminiscent of the subdued and introspective guitar pop of the late ’60s and early ’70s, augmented with a modern dream-pop sheen and riding a Southern rock rollick. There is a playful, bucking quality to a lot of the tracks on Hello, I’m Sorry’s latest LP Buddy, that makes it resemble a wild pony still learning to be calmed by the touch of a human hand on the bridge of its snout. Give the opening skip of the title track a spin and let it unwind your nerves in preparation for the breezy psychedelic skiff of “This Thing.” “I Don’t Know You” is like a blast of cool, refreshing air blowing through the curtains during a rainstorm, and the talkative guitar work on “Lucky” will make you feel like you’re speaking with a trusted friend and confidant. Buddy really is the perfect title for this release.
Buddy is self-released and you can get it on vinyl via Seth’s Bandcamp here.
Retreaters – Retreaters EP (Self-Released)
Retreaters is a DIY indie rock project from Chicago locals, Suzanne Erin and Neal Markowski. Their debut self-titled EP is preciously lo-fi and captivating in its off-kilter momentum, feeling like a demo stage experiment by Built to Spill enhanced by something akin to a motorik undertow, or Quasi preparing for a Moon Duo cover set. The first track, “Go” leaps into drive with a jolt, living in the odd juxtaposition between Suzanne’s unhurried vocal delivery and the resolute tug of the song’s groove, creating the sensation that you are rushing through space while standing in place. “Driftless” banks along the curvy psychedelic potential in the band’s sound, while “Tipping Point” sounds like a lit book of matches shoved beneath the heel of Lush singer Miki Berenyi’s boot, where the fire has spread to the sound dampening foam stapled to the walls. Sometimes you hear a record and realize it’s got something special hidden away inside. Will Retreaters’ self-titled be that record for you? You’ll have to give it a listen to find out.
Retreaters EP is self-released and you can get a digital copy as well as some sweet pins on their Bandcamp.
Dollhouse – The First Day of Spring (Toxic State Records)
Dollhouse hit the scene in 2019 like a pack of roaches swarming a hotdog left out on the sidewalk, and now their back for a second helping, filthier, uglier and hungrier than ever. The First Day of Spring is Dollhouse’s follow-up to last year’s homely and obtuse demo, and somehow manages to make all the cutting corners and rough textures of that earlier release even more sharp and unaesthetic. Dollhouse is comprised of members of Mommy, Hank Wood, L.O.T.I.O.N., and Pharmkon, and while they may be a New York-based hardcore band, they sound nothing like the Lower-Eastside crew. Instead, these dirty little playthings have elected to recreate the chaos of Nervous Gender by squeezing some demented NOTA riffs through one of Lumpy and the Dumper’s unclean orifices, and dropped someone who does a very convincing impression of Ould Wound’s Kevin Iavaroni in front. Punk was meant to be nasty, but no one could have anticipated that it could be THIS rough on the ears. This one is for the true misfits in our readership. Have at it!
The First Day of Spring is out on Toxic State Records and you can get the 7″ here.
Steel Bearing Hand – Slay In Hell (Carbonized Records)
Steel Bearing Hand is a demonic-sounding death-thrash crossover and hardcore band right out of the heart of darkness, that pumps with ire and malice in the underbelly of the American Empire’s homeland. That’s right, Steel Bearing Hand is from Dallas, Texas. Texan metal bands have a unique brutality to them that is always welcome to my ears. Steel Bearing Hand is a proud bearer of the banner of savagery that bands like Power Trip and Mammoth Grinder have done the gruesome work of spreading across the land. Slay In Hell is the band’s second LP and follow up to their 2015 self-titled album. Really, all you need to know about this record is that it rips like a tornado through an old farmhouse. All resistance is thrown asunder or smashed into a fine grain in its wake. Smash play below and prepare to meet your fate!
Slay in Hell is out via Carbonized Records and you can get it on vinyl, CD, and cassette here.
Pearl Charles – Magic Mirror (Kanine Records)
If Jenny Lewis is the contemporary scion of cool country-pop, there should at least be an honorable mention somewhere in the same envelope that held Jenny’s award ribbon for Pearl Charles. For starters, she just has the perfect name for a country singer. I mean, you have the valuable mineral and first-name-as-last-name pairing thing going on. A person with a name like that is guaranteed to be either a trucker or a country singer, and without knowing more about her employment history, I can verify that she is at least the latter. Pearl launched her solo career with a self-titled EP back in 2015, and as of January of this year, she has released two studio LPs, of which Magic Mirror is the latest.
Magic Mirror successfully revives the lonesome sounds and righteous melodies of mid-century, chart-topping, country pop-balladry, doing justice to the legacies of Lynn Anderson, Olivia Newton-John, and Glen Campbell, among others. All of these tracks have an incredibly alluring, after-hours quality to them, helped along by some satisfyingly placed saxophone (“Imposter”), delicate piano and string harmonies (“Don’t Feel Like Myself”), and uplifting organs swells (“Magic Mirror”). You’ll feel like you’re being enticed to stay out an hour later than expected at your favorite saloon while making eyes at someone cute from across the bar, who, as luck would have it, is returning your longing gaze with expectant intrigue. Who knows what might happen if you both order one more whisky…
Magic Mirror is out via Kanine Record and you can grab it on vinyl or CD from Pearl’s Bandcamp here.
The Muckers – Endeavor (Greenway Records)
The Muckers frontman and Iranian-expat Emir Mohsseni has been working towards releasing a record like Endeavor since he was thirteen years old. After catching the Strokes on a Late Nite performance as a kid, his life ambition has been to be a rock star in the mold of David Bowie or Frank Zappa. As if guided towards his destiny by the wise and loving hand of the Universe itself, he finally arrived at John F Kennedy airport in 2017, despite the Trump Administration’s implementation of a ban on travel from several Muslim majority countries. This was due to an exemption made by a Maryland Federal District Judge’s ruling that blocked the ban as it applied to folks in Emir’s specific situation. The timing of his arrival could not be better, as we are well past due for a garage-revival-revival.
As just alluded, the Muckers sound fits in that odd pocket of sweet sonic mayhem that thrived in London and NYC during the first half, of the first decade of the new Millenium. A time when danceable, conflagrations of psychedelic grooves, stiff post-punk rhythms, blinding glam-rock solos, freaky folk harmonies, and fiery punk attitude, were not only welcome additions to the scene, but hailed as the harbingers of some latent epoch of rock royalty. The very idea of a sustained rock revival had more or less petered out by the time The Stroked tossed First Impressions of Earth out into the world, but thankfully not everyone has been poisoned by the cynicism that ultimately fatally wounded that era of rock music. As it stands, there is not a whiff of bitterness on The Muckers’ Endeavor, and we are all the better for it.
Endeavor is out on Greenway Records and you can get a vinyl copy from The Muckers’ Bandcamp here.
Def Sound – HUEM_N (Self-Released)
Def Sound is a fully, spherical sound artist who combines soul, RnB, hip hop and electronic music to construct modern sonic poetry about community and connection in a world of networks, engineered to propagate feelings of alienation and anonymity. True to his convictions, the album was built through a process of community engagement, were attendees of a live, in-person event in February of 2020, played the role of producer and consultant, selecting the rough cuts that would be mixed and produced for the final album edit, as well as the title of the album itself. HUEM_N is less the product of a committee and more the outcome of a collective expression of will.
That’s not to say that Def Sound has totally abandoned his own voice on the record, although, even in the voice department, he’s found some stellar collaborators. First of which to come to mind is Annabelle Maginnis’s lush, purring performance, and LAFEMMEBEAR’s brash, celebratory decorations, on the jangly, bop and hustle of “GREEN TREE 🌲 TOPS.” Other highlights include the neo soul, block-trotting shuffle of “MISKEEN TEE,” its laid back but heavy-hearted cousin “iSaid What iSaid,” and the jittery, break-beat chop and toss “BLK SYMPOSIUM.” A brief but impactful album, as well as an irreducible reminder of our shared humanity.
HUEM_N is self-released and you can grab a digital copy as well as a dank hoodie with the album art on the chest here.
El Michels Affair – Yeti Season (Big Crown Records)
You thought it was spring? Think again! April has been officially redesignated as Yeti Season. Every kid gets a yeti to walk them to school and protect them from bullies and mean neighborhood dogs. Just kidding, that’s a late April Fools joke. What’s not a joke though, is the solo project of producer and sax playing stallion, Leon Michels, known colloquially as El Michels Affair. He has a new album out and it’s titled (you guessed it) Yeti Season. Being a founding member of both Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and The Menahan Street Band would seem prodigious enough, but somehow each album with his El Michels Affair project feels more accomplished than the last. This time around, Leon has taken a deep conspectus dive into the world of Turkish funk and Mumbai soul.
Leon has returned from his sabbatical in the Near East with melodies so spellbinding they’ll lull you into a hypnagogic reverie, and grooves so sweet you’d swear someone had developed nates you can eat with your ears. While the real draw of Yeti Season is the hypnotic effects of Leon’s uniquely gifted sound craft, the intrigue of tracks like “Unathi” and “Murkit Gem” is certainly heightened by a collaboration with Bollywood vocalist Paya Mali. Her forceful presence is both taunting and conciliatory, and permanently heavy with an enceinte of clashing emotions. Yeti Season is another complex and inimitable album, that could only have escaped from a mind as magnificently curious, and been crafted in accordance with an ear as attuned to finding beauty, as Leon Michels’s.