Bandcamp Fridays are going to keep on rolling, baby! That’s right! Due to the fact that performance revenue is still going to be in question for the remainder of 2021, Bandcamp is going to continue to waive their fees for purchases made through their platform for the first Friday of each month. So open up your wallets and show some artists how much you appreciate them! If you need some suggestions on who to support or are just looking for something new to jam this Friday, then you can check out my list of hand-selected suggestions below. Enjoy!
Mia Joy – Spirit Tamer (Fire Talk)
Spirit Tamer is the debut LP from Chicago singer and poet Mia Rocha as Mia Joy. The way the young artists talks about this album, it feels less like it was written and recorded and more like it was lovingly pulled out of her soul as if it a thread from a ball of yarn. What Mia manages to weave on this album, deftly and thoughtfully aided by keymaster Joseph Farago and beat-channeler Emerson Hunton, is a subdued but satiating exploration of shoegaze and experimental pop, that finds as its locus, a species of contemporary R’nB that seems better suited to a dream than waking life. At its most insistent, such as on “Freaks” (which name-checks Korn, of all influences), Spirit Tamer pours a slightly acidic perfume through the coarsely textured arteries of the heart, much the way St.Vincent early on in her own career, affecting an apt degree of whimsy in the process. At its most elusive, the album manages to direct towards the listener a piercing but ambiguous stare that catches you in its magnetism and clinical curiosity, such as on “Haha,” which splits the difference sonically between Chastity Belt and Hand Habits. But where Spirit Tamer feels at its most comfortable and unabashed, it spills into sonic fountains of pure mood, reminiscent of the clean but turbulent rivers of emotion that flow from the fount of Grouper (who Mai openly admires, and yes, she will brag to you about how they use the same effects pedals if asked). Set loose your wild curiosity and give Spirit Tamer a spin!
Honshu-Wolves – Cosmic Creature Capture (Voodoo Rhythm Records)
As a band that supposedly operates out of a trailer park somewhere in Switzerland, you’d expect Honshu-Wolves to sound a little haunted. Covered in the scars of past mistakes and compounded betrayal, and dogged by the hungry ghosts of past lives and disregarded lovers, they sound exactly as you’d expect… and yet there is something more sinister writhing below the skin of this band, something that even apt comparisons to Patti Smith and Shilpa Ray don’t quite capture. There is a sense in both Maryanne Shewolf’s vocal performance and poetry that she is reclusive for our protection, not her own. Like she’s afraid of what might happen to one of us if we were to meet her in the light of a full moon, and how assuredly we’d never be seen or heard from again. On Cosmic Creature Capture, Maryanne, along with guitarist Fabu and drummer Mige, harnesses the irradiated strands of space dust and errant light that reach us from the vacuum of the void above to construct a post-punk wicker man on the out edge of civilization, one that burns to the tune of the Kills and Dead Moon, and whose smoke envelops even non-believers, and wards off the sting of creeping madness. Pour yourself something strong in a chipped mason jar and give this one a spin.
Pinkshift – Saccharine (Self-Released)
One thing that’s felt missing in the last decade or more of emo revival is a really good new pop emo group. One that isn’t afraid of haters and whose undeniable catchiness is more than capable of knee-capping and dispatching jealous criticism without having to directly engage it. Do you not know where this is going? Ok, well, let me spell it out for you. Pinkshift is a Baltimore based pop-punk and emo band with a sound big enough to crack the foundation of an arena, with lyrics piercing and personal enough to feel like they sprung from the poetry book you keep next to your bedstand, and hooks so sharp, keen, and irresistible that they’ll curl under your mandible and drag you across a lake bottom for half a mile, and still leave you begging for a second helping. Pinkshift’s influences on their cutting new EP Saccharine are what you’d anticipate- early Paramore, My Chemical Romance circa Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, No Doubt at their most theatrical, maybe some Fall Out Boy and Metric as well, but delivered with a punch that will require more than a consultation with your therapist to recover from. There is nothing artificial about Saccharine. It gets the feeling right from the moment you take it out of the wrapper to the moment when the last of its sticky residue washes off your tongue. What else do I need to say? Get your ticket for the Pinkshift bus now!
S.U.G.A.R. – Self-Titled (Alien Snatch! Records)
Berlin’s S.U.G.A.R. was formed seemingly to keep its members from dying of smoke inhalation and liver failure during quarantine. Once the pandemic restrictions went into place it would have been easy for many of us to have spent the remainder of 2020 lighting up and kicking back with a couple cases worth of beer. Thankfully this trio of ne’er-do-well had slightly more ambition than the rest of us and got their shit together enough to write, record, and release an album with Alien Snatch! They haven’t played any live shows yet, but you can probably imagine how they’d have a tendency to implode. They can probably manage to get through most of these Southern California-inspired, proto-hardcore and reprobate-rock and roll tunes while drunk enough to be legally dead, and I’m sure the band is eager to prove this fact in front of worried audience members and dismayed paramedics alike. If you’re not sure where to start with S.U.G.A.R.’s self-titled album, then drop a needle on the dancing cobra-chord angler and Agent Orange tinted “I Don’t Want To Be Your Friend,” then hop over to the Saints by way of Johnny Thunders-esque rumbler or “Feel Alright,” and then take a dip into the fully-loaded, methadone-chewing, Suicide Commandos trench raider “The Cure.” If you dig those three, hit reverse, start from the top, and give this skuzzy enchilada the time it needs to exhibit all the cheesy, hair-brained gusto it has to offer.
Book of Wyrms – Occult New Age (Desert Records)
Richmond, Virginia’s Book of Wyrms demonstrates the treasures that can be properly divined by a suitably calibrated third eye on their third LP Occult New Age. This distinguished-sounding psychedelic doom band has honed their mystical prowess to a transcendental art form on this release, sifting through the currents of the cosmos, panning for the insights that will lead humankind into a more enlightened age of mystery and an intimacy with the divine. Their sound is far more studied and confident on Occult New Age than on their previous efforts, approximating both a more whimsical version of Frayle and a more cosmically enchanted parallel to Blood Ceremony, without embracing the medieval ambiance (or flute playing!) of either in particular. One of the things that I think makes Book of Wyrms feel so refreshing is the fact that they are able to write and perform pelagic blues riffs in a way that feels like they have an intractable momentum and like they are moving towards a destination that only the illuminated mind is trained to observe. This is demonstrated on the regal drift and glacial drag of “Hollergoblin” as well as acid rock, mind-dredging plow of “Speedball Sorcerer.” You could take my word that this album is great or you can judge it based on that gorgeous album art by Taralyn Phillips, which I think actually tells you more about this album than I ever credibly could. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Book of Wyrms’s Occult New Age, you definitely can, and should.
Mother Nature & BoatHouse – SZNZ (Closed Sessions)
SZNZ is the latest mixtape from rising Chicago DIY hip-hop duo Mother Nature, comprised of Klevah Knox and the indomitable TRUTH. The record is their second release for the Chi-town boutique imprint and incubator Closed Sessions, and their first collaboration with the label’s resident producer BoatHouse. SZNZ is unapologetically oriented towards the R’nB and rap of the early to mid-90s, hustling to pavement pounding boom-bap beats and golden-toned, unflappable hooks. The confidence of these tracks are so infectious that they make you feel like you could waltz right through a brick wall, Bruce Banner style, while they’re flowing through your headphones. There are many intimate intonations on SZNZ like the high-riding, glitzy, TLC tinged stroll of “BIG WHEELZ” and sugary, chiptuned crunch and wholehearted hug-box of “TREEHUGGAZ.” However, the best parts of SZNZ are the sections that go the biggest, which includes tracks like the breathy release and dream-pop shadow boxer “CLOUDZ,” which features a slick and assertive verse from Cool Kids commodore Sir Michael Rocks, and the dicing swagger and stomp of “NUTSO,” which features floaty, ice-cool interplay between sovereign verse choppers JEFF K%NZ and GR8SKY. Mother Nature have yet to release anything short of an excellent album and SZNZ indisputably extends their winning streak.
Sophia Chablau e Uma Enorme Perda de Tempo – Selt-Titled (RISCO Seal)
Sophia Chablau e Uma Enorme Perda de Tempo (or Sophia Chablau and A Huge Waste of Time) is Sao Paulo indie band who have sequenced together with a short subject worth of cinematic mood pieces that could set the pace or tone for any number of cinematic subjects, from a wrenching break up at a sidewalk cafe, to a hijinx punctuated chase scene through a department store. You see, the band got their start as a soundtrack band, releasing their first single through a 2019 film titled Aqua Movie, and have continued producing evocative musical vignettes ever since. “Pop Cabecinha” is a wild, bucking corral of freaky snap and snarl garage rock. “Se Você” is an ambient track that rides a weightless pontoon above a cosmic river. “Fora do Meu Quarto” is a soul-warming drift in a felty love-seat that begins in a hip basement club and ends on an alien planet. “Deus Lindo” hits the ignition switch and takes off on a mad-cap rescue mission with Spacemen 3 directing the daring operation via radio back at HQ. “Hello” is a late-evening, beachy bossa nova romp. “Debaixo do Pano” is a funky soul-pop shake-up that sets the mood for the subtle build of the misdirection laden, yé-yé themed house of mirrors “Moças e Aeromoças.” Finally, the album closes out on an incredible high note with the disco-fire nightrider and slam-beat powered purr of “Delícia/Luxúria.” Let Sophia Chablau and Co. lead you on a personal tour of the cinema of the mind today.
Spectral Lore – Ετερόφωτος (I, Voidhanger Records)
Greek atmospheric black metal band Spectral Lore have previously described their music as “transcendental.” Yes, transcendental. In the same sense, you might apply the term to an Alice Coltrane album. And I think they might be right. Their most recent album Ετερόφωτος manages a strangely hypnotic quality despite being more muscular and traditionally rock-oriented in its approach than previous efforts. “Traditional” may be a bit of a misnomer, though, because while many of the elements here may be familiar to fans of Enslaved, Darkthrone, and even Kyuss, there is almost no consistent theory of musicality that unites these songs or Ετερόφωτος as an album. But its still good! It’s so good! Leads are commanding by short lived. Chords are abandoned almost as quickly as they are introduced. Tempos flag and contort without commitment, mutating almost as soon as they are established. Twelve minutes of this kind of thing is disorienting; after seventy, you’ll feel like you’ve had an out-of-body experience. And you’ll probably come back for more. Ετερόφωτος is a mature and deftly executed album that is confident in approach and knows that it will be able to hold your attention for the entirety of its runtime. What’s even more interesting is the band’s stated goal for the album, which is twofold: one of personal reflection and to inspire in others the will to (as quoted from their Bandcamp page) “finally see beyond the Self: to where our light comes from.” This is a pretty bold statement from a band performing in a genre that is as intensely individualistic as black metal. Unorthodox in both style and approach, Ετερόφωτος is a black metal album aimed at uniting the human race. A lofty goal, but I think Spectral Lore is up to the task.
Buy Ετερόφωτος on CD and vinyl here (the latter is going fast!).
Plankton Wat – Future Times (Thrill Jockey)
Plankton Wat is the progressive psychedelic project of Portland mood maestro Dewey Mahood. He’s known for his work with the exceptional ego-piercing psyche ensemble Eternal Tapestry, but his solo work is also held in high regard by many. On Future Times, his latest album under the Plankton Wat name, Mahood takes open-ended jams, and with the assistance of Horse Feather’s Dustin Dybvig and producer Victor Nash, furnishes them depth and dimension to better serve as psycho-sonic imprints of the previous year, its most definitive events and dialogs. The album begins by parting a fog of destruction to reveal a forset on fire and city besieged by looming environmental disaster on “The World is Burning,” where precariously teetering guitars give the song an ominous and lamenting aura. “Nightfall” follows with its subtle intensity, penetrating sense of disharmony, and quiet rhythms, appearing as an excellent companion to the end of the Trump era, exhibiting how all moments of madness in history are eventually absorbed and metabolized into the flesh and the cycles of time, where old scores are settled and new rivalries are born. “Dark Cities” takes a determined and pattern-black psychedelic approach to building and sustaining momentum in reflection of the reckoning with racial injustice and the reemergence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer. And finally, the calm and clear, jazz trumpet and cosmic ray accented hymn of “Defund the Police” speaks for itself. Our future can be better than our past, if only we can take the lessons we learn today to write a better chapter for tomorrow.
Rata Negra – Una Vida Vulgar (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)
Madird’s Rata Negra are back with their third, and possibly their best, album Una Vida Vulgar. It’s a collection of crass, sharp and melodic punk tracks that draw from early Californian punk and British new wave to give voice to catchy and caustic numbers that express an absolute disgust with the present state of affairs that humanity finds itself in. The hooks here are insistent and the melodies precise in their falaying pass. It reminds me of the desperate and impassioned melodic punk of the mid-00s from groups like The Soviettes and Smoke or Fire, bands who took ’80s sonic motifs and made them feel more than modern and urgent to the moment. Check out the sour-toned and brashly hooky threat “Venid A Ver,” the X-marked, shadowy rockabilly skitter of “Maldición,” the ricochet surf burst of “En La Playa,” and the rubbery Epoxies-esque pogo-bust of the sardonic “Lo Sublime.” Embrace your inner vulgarity and discontent with the help of Rata Negra today.