It’s yours, and mine, and everyone’s favorite day of the month. It’s Bandcamp Friday! The day we get to share our love of music and support artists as Bandcamp waives its fees for a full day.
As is now our want and our tradition, we’ve put together a shortlist of recommendations for your consideration. We’re pretty stoked on all these albums, and we hope you will be too. If anything strikes your fancy, you can make a purchase by following the links in each artist’s respective media players. It’s pretty straightforward, and it does some good to boot!
If you want more information about Bandcamp Friday (and their platform in general) you can get it directly from the source here.
G. Brenner – Bushfire (Very Jazzed)
Emerging from the ash and clouds from burning embers, adorned in fire-resistant attire, G. Brenner, formerly known as Pastel, reflects on loss and legacy on his debut LP Bushfire. Through gospel grounded and soul-searching melodies, Brenner contemplates the way in which his mother was taken from this Earth after a battle with cancer, amidst not only a pandemic but an apocalyptic reckoning with global warming in California, taking the form of an unstoppable forest fire.
While Brenner’s vocals strain under the weight of the emotions welling up inside of him, while the surrounding instrumentation comprises os alternating states of soothingly warm reprieves and oxygen sapping blow-ups of trance and hard techno beats that will steal your breath away. What ties all these disparate moments together through this sensuous bath of fire is a message of hope. One that perseveres despite the odds. You can singe it, dowse it with ash, and surround it with smoke and smolder, but you can’t kill the human spirit, or its will to seek a new, brighter day.
Charlotte Day Wilson – Alpha (Stone Woman)
The original stone woman, Charlotte Day Wilson, is both pliably firm and powerfully flexible on her debut LP Alpha. The Toronto singer and songwriter established a mood-chasing melding of hazy R’nB, Motown-revival molded soul, and sedate easy-on-the-ears funk over the course of a few EPs and collaborations (including a stellar vocal performance gifted to BADBADNOTGOOD’s for their track “In Your Eyes,” a favor they return on “I Can Only Whisper” for her debut).
While I think it’s fair to compare Charlotte’s style and performance to her contemporaries like Lianne La Havas and Jorja Smith, her own unique creative presence is not reduce-able to trends and associations. Her sound feels very much informed by both mid-century gospel and classic pop, similar to Natalie Bergman’s efforts on Mercy, only with a decidedly secular-leaning and orientation as well as a dusky, worldly delivery.
Tracks like “Mountains” and “If I Could” are beset by a weighty air of solitude and inner clarity, while album highlights like “Take Care Of You,” featuring the inimitable Syd, present lush and complexly harmonic motifs, whose vertical rhythms anticipate the confident, danceable stride of later tracks like “Keep Moving.” Naming your debut Alpha, is a bold move, but it’s one that has clearly won fortune’s favor for Charlotte.
Catbite – Nice One (Bad Time Records)
Philadelphia’s Catbite have me thinking that there might be something to this ska revival that folks have been shouting about. While ska fusions never really went away in the rest of the world, the punk variety in the U.S. had its day during the late ’90s and early ’00s and then promptly receded into the background.
Listening to Catbite’s second LP Nice One, though, it makes me feel like whatever wave of ska we are on at the moment; it’s here to stay. For starters, there is plenty of familiar pop-punk energy on this release; from the revved-up opener “Asinine Aesthetic,” to the adrenaline spiked and badly smitten shake up “Excuse Me Miss,” both of which could be mistaken for configuration of No Doubt after they had listened to nothing but Rancid’s Life Won’t Wait during a crosss country tour sometime in the late ’90s.
What really gives me hope for their staying power though is their embrace of more perennial aspects of ska’s DNA, hitting their stride with a two-toned, doo-wopping skank on “Not Ur Baby” and diving headlong into Carribian music and dub of “Stay.” You might not think that ska music needs any heroes to keep it relevant, and that might be true, but Catbite aren’t necessarily the heroes we need, but they’re definitely the heroes we deserve. Because it’s been a long year, and at this point, you and I deserve something nice.
Mothercell – Powerhouse (Metaphorest Records)
Dark and brooding hyperpop trio out of Brooklyn with roots in Detriot, Mothercell blenderize harsh ’90s techno, digital hardcore, and industrial dance into a primordial silicon slurry from which a new species of homicidal electro-punk has emerged. Their debut LP, Powerhouse, might look like a collection of Pitchshifter b-sides or a free comp of European house music that the cashier threw in your bag while checking out at a Best Buy circa 2003.
However, it’s so far away from either of these reference points that it might as well have been recorded on another planet. The palpable anger, sharp, and angular grooves, and coercive persuasion of the rhythms on Powerhouse bare the devious imprint of MIA’s Maya, while the obvious anti-capitalist and anarchic messaging of the lyrics give the impression that it’s an updated and drastically improved version of Ten Notes on a Summer’s Day.
Here is hoping that Powerhouse fuels a few dissonant dance parties in places where it might annoy some cops, politicians and/or bankers this afternoon.
Gumiho – Gumiho (Self-Released)
Gumiho’s self-titled EP is the final statement from the Seoul-based punk band. It’s a shame to see them go because they could really throw a riot when they wanted to, employing nervy, clashing grooves, and crisscrossing vocal and guitar hooks that graze your cheeks like superheated volleys of sugar-coated cannonballs fired from the broadside of a charmingly antagonistic pirate ship. They capture that kind of bright and flashy style of ’80s power-pop-infused melodic punk that Tsunami Bomb, The Soviettes, and few others were able to produce during a brief window in the mid-’00s.
“Cigarettes” burns down like a fuse on a stick of dynamite, sizzling every second in anticipation of the next big, swooning hook. “When Your Regret Isn’t Regret” trades in whiplash melodies that drag you along on the tumultuous twists and turns of a doomed relationship as it careens toward the sheer drop of a cliff. “Dusty Memory” is probably the most anthemic of the songs on the album, borrowing the pout and push of early Paramore and combining it with a smooth cut of knife-like guitar work, reminiscent of My Chemical Romance as they transitioned out of their metalcore phase.
It’s a bit a departure from the other tracks on the album, but it definitely works in context. I think every band hopes they can throw themselves this grand of a going-away party when they decide to call it a day.
Camp Trash – Downtiming (Count Your Lucky Stars)
This has been out for a little while but it’s worth giving it a whirl if you haven’t already- especially if you like good but sappy stuff like The Get Up Kids and Oso Oso. Camp Trash is a buzz-worthy emo band with members all over the county (one of which just so happens to be Keegan Bradford, editor of the music blog The Alternative). Their debut EP, Downtiming,was partially composed via voicemail and released this past winter, although it has such a summery vibe that it would be a real shame not to mention it before the leaves change and fall gets into full swing.
The lyrics from the opener “Bobby” hit abruptly and sink in immediately due to their familiarity. It represents a conversation that I think a lot of us had in our more listless phases during college, especially while on break. “Sleepyhead” sounds like it should be blasting from a portable set of iPod speakers next to your laptop while you debate who to add as your top friends on your Myspace page (and in what order!).
On the following track, the drawl of the vocal melody compliments the confident amble of the guitar strums on “Potomino” in a way that feels a little too self-assured for a proper emo song, but, hey, I’m not complaining. Downtiming closes out with “Weird Carolina,” a gushy and bittersweet ode to friends departing for parts unknown, or, you know, New York. Let Downtiming help you celebrate the few remaining warm nights we still have ahead of us in 2021.
Lysol – Soup for My Family (Feel It Records)
Seattle’s Lysol are pure rock ‘n’ roll. In 2021, that might seem quaint to say, but it shouldn’t take more than a passing encounter with their latest album, Soup for My Family, to evaporate whatever lingering cynicism of that sort you have lingering in your mind. This is a band with a ticket to roll roughshod over convention, category and common courtesy the way a monster truck treats a family-sized minivan like a speed bump.
While you could permanently damage your inner ear and irrevocably shatter your sanity attempting to unspool every nod to The Cramps and Teengenerate, every toast to Milk Music, and every jolt borrowed from Raw Power that Lysol has worked into the grooves, cracks, and crannies of Soup for My Family, it is advisable to simply take the album on its own terms, and just enjoy it.
Indulge in its belligerence and gin vapor swagger. Allow yourself to be showered in piss and vinegar—drink it in and savor it like it was sparkling wine you bought on impulse at the CVS following a meeting with your divorce attorney. Sometimes you just need to let yourself appreciate something—like a cold beer, a good record (Ahem! Soup for My Family), or that momentary feeling of weightlessness you experience between the point where your car jumps the barrier wall of a bridge and the time where the entire weight of your vehicle bares down around you as you collide with the concrete canal below. You know … the little stuff life has to offer.
Diskord – Degenerations (Transcending Obscurity Records)
Honestly, if John Zorn were going to attempt to make a straightforward death metal album, I would expect it to come out sounding a little something like Diskord’s Degenerations. The third LP from the Norwegian, self-described, dissonant technical death metal band sees them impeccably entwining hacksaw toothed death metal in the tradition of Demilich with robust threads of rhythmic jazz to construct an intimidating and antagonizing display of menacing musical acumen.
Diskord have that cartoonish quality to their grooves that gives Voivod their improbably flexible character, while remaining closer to Gorguts or Athiest in their displays of vicious, impenetrable abstraction and meditations on the inescapable contradictions of human existence. They also just sound extremely carefree and feral, displaying Butthole Surfers levels of expressive excess—a fact that is kind of confounding given how complex and attentive to detail Degenerations is.
It’s like a piece of fine art, produced by Leatherface for his combined Master’s dissertation in jazz studies and human vivisection. It doesn’t feel possible that an album like this should exist, but hearing is believing.
Moratory – The Old Tower Burns (Planet K Records)
Moratory have been working their way up to the release of their debut LP The Old Tower Burns for literally a decade. Forming in Moscow in 2011, they’ve sharpened their skills over the course of a consistent string of singles, splits, and EP, and now they’re finally ready to mount their steed and charge headlong into battle … or a mosh pit, or whatever. Point is, Moratory are ready to make a scene and they are going to sound downright medieval while doing it.
Now, the band plays in a very time-honored style of crossover thrash, but what makes them unique is the way in which they bulk up their weight class with d-beat rhythms, early black metal attitude and enmity, and pure, metal-punk hostility. This last part is especially evident in the vocal department, where singer Ilia Moratory sounds like GBH’s Colin Abrahall doing a JJ Janiak impression.
The cover of The Old Tower Burns actually tells you a lot about what to expect on the album, a crowd of armed and mohawked peasants, adorned in battle jackets with homemade Venom patches on the back, storming the bastille and raising the citadel to the ground. Moratory are here to spread a brand of rebellious rock ‘n’ roll that will be a catalyst for a new day of revolt. The dark ages can be over, but only if you want them to be.
Anti-God Hand – Wretch (American Decline Records)
Anti-God Hand are a mysterious and atmospheric black metal band out of Canada. They’ve been around for less than a year, and they already have a debut LP out and ready to rattle your nerves—one that is suitably titled Wretch. The album is a patient display of disdain for the human condition and its vulnerabilities—its dependence on and fear of nature, its susceptibility to age and senescence, and the ambiguities presented by the mere fact of having a body and its susceptibility to both ridicule and injury.
The layering of the mix is one of the album’s more striking aspects, with bass, guitars, and drums each perfectly balanced and articulated, while still managing to create an atmosphere that resembles white-out conditions during a snowstorm. The vocal work is also unique and impressive. It’s common to describe the dry rasp of black metal vocals as reptilian, but here, they are more of a straight-up hiss. You can almost feel the venom speckling your cheek with each terse and deadly whisper as it escapes from between the vocalist’s chapped and scaly lips.
It’s almost comparable to the warning noise some birds of prey make, such as nighthawk when it feels trapped or cornered. It’s an unnerving singing technique that contributes mightily to the unearthly quality of the entire exhibition of the album. On Wretch, Anti-God Hand demonstrate that they know the suffering of all the desperate creatures of the Earth, and their disdain for the forced and inalienable nature and their plight is palpable.