Starting in March, when the COVID-19 crisis flattened the livelihoods of many in the music business, Bandcamp has held a monthly holiday in which it waives its full revenue share on all sales. The idea was an immediate hit. Bandcamp Friday, which falls on June 5th this month, has successfully directed millions of fans’ dollars to the artists who rely on income from merch and music to pay their bills at a time of acute economic distress.
Today, there’s another reason to pick up that record or T-shirt you’ve had your eye on: As protests against racist police violence continue across the country, many independent artists and labels have chosen to give their proceeds this Bandcamp Friday to bail funds and other organizations working to end racial injustice. (See here for more details.)
Here are 13 releases worth your money this Bandcamp Friday, as chosen by Rolling Stone staff. You can find our first two rounds of Bandcamp picks here and here. For more ideas, try consulting this crowd-sourced spreadsheet with more than 1,000 Black musicians whose work is available for purchase on Bandcamp. It’s also worth taking a look through the bail funds, legal aid, and other groups compiled here, for some more direct ways to support protesters against police brutality right now. Once you’ve done that, why not pick up something new to listen to?
“You don’t feel what we feel, and it’s evident/That you shoot to kill,” goes the provocative first line of Sault’s “Foot on Necks.” Needless to say, this upfront track on police brutality feels especially timely right now, but “Foot on Necks” is just one of the sprawling 24 songs that the mysterious band released out of nowhere last year, across two LPs: 5 in May and 7 in September. (A vinyl release of the second one is due later this month.) Nobody really knows who Sault are — there have been links to London producer Dean Josiah (Michael Kiwanuka, Little Simz), as well as British soul singer Cleo Sol and Chicago rapper Kid Sister — but the group’s anonymity only gives their ESG-like combo of funk, Motown, and post-punk a sharper edge. May the life-affirming grooves on “Up All Night,” “Over” and “Let Me Go” inspire you as you march to your next protest. — Claire Shaffer
Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman return to their out-of-touch aging cabaret act alter egos, Kiki and Herb, for this three-song digital EP of never-before-released live covers. The intention behind the three songs — “Whitey On The Moon Medley” (based on Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 classic), Elliott Smith’s “King’s Crossing,” and Bright Eyes’ “First Day Of My Life” — are still relevant, and the 20-year-old raw recordings capture frustration and anger with humor and pathos. All profits are going to Black Visions Collective (BLVC), a Minnesota-based organization committed to a longterm vision in which all Black lives not only matter, but are able to thrive. As Bond and Mellman explained in a statement: “Kiki & Herb was born as a direct reaction to the AIDS Crisis and the government’s lack of response to it. We feel like in these times, unable to exist on stage, we wanted to give back to communities who are under assault by this administration.” — Jerry Portwood
The marriage of music and text has been at the center of Archie Shepp’s art for close to 60 years. So it’s not hard to draw a direct line from the urgent message and impassioned playing heard on classic Shepp statements like 1965’s Fire Music and 1972’s Attica Blues to 2007’s Chuck D-featuring Gemini and finally to Ocean Bridges, the 83-year-old saxophonist and poet’s new album with MC-producer Raw Poetic (who is Shepp’s nephew) and multi-instrumentalist Damu the Fudgemunk. The LP’s lengthy tracks unfold as loose studio jams, with Raw Poetic’s searching, socially conscious rhymes and Shepp’s sax — both his keening soprano and grittily majestic tenor — bubbling to the surface in turn. It’s the latest surprising statement from a musician who clearly views “avant-garde” as a philosophy rather than a style. — Hank Shteamer
This quartet’s fourth collection of SoCal roots-funk is a cratedigger’s paradise, traversing hip-hop (“Pink Elephant”), jittery psych-rock (“Polymetronomic Harmony”), spacey synth-pop (“I Know It”), and more. The title track is a timely plea for communion (“the concept of race was implanted inside your brain”), but it’s the band’s razor-sharp songcraft that makes their latest work their most fully-realized effort to date. As lead singer Bardo Martinez has said of lead single “Color My Life,” “my inspiration was that we just needed bangers.” — Jonathan Bernstein
This L.A. rock band’s second album is billed as a concept album about sin and suffering, but you don’t need to read the liner notes to get lost in its heady guitar haze. Singer-songwriters Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten are great at damaged riffs (“Biohazard,” “Derby”) and even better at disaffected melodies (“Carny,” “Double Dare”), and they know that grunge is just another word for pop. If you’re a generation or two ahead of them, some of the songs on Two of Me might remind you of Helium circa The Magic City or Sonic Youth circa Dirty, but at its best this album creates a twilight zone of its own. — Simon Vozick-Levinson
Supergroups — bands comprised of members of other, often bigger acts — have been a pop tradition for over five decades. In 1997, it was alt-rock’s turn to give the idea a spin. When covers of Stooges songs were needed for the soundtrack of director Todd Haynes’ glam-rock dramatization Velvet Goldmine, the Wylde Ratttz were born. And quite the indie-all-star lineup it was: Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton, Mudhoney singer Mark Arm, Minutemen and Firehose bassist Mike Watt, the open-to-experimentation Sean Lennon, and guitarist and all-around alt-rock compadre Don Fleming. Their version of “TV Eye” graced the movie’s soundtrack. But before Asheton’s death in 2009, the band reconvened and recorded an entire album of garage-punk originals, which was belatedly unveiled on Bandcamp in April. As a postscript to that release, we’re also getting two more, very different instrumentals from those sessions. “Judy’s Blues” is slow and sludgy — Sixties-style white blues with a layer of scuzz slathered across it. The keeper is “Flow,” eight minutes of guitar-squawk improv that’s reminiscent of the way Sonic Youth would draw out their songs onstage by way of discordant jams. With Asheton and Moore lobbing splotches of noise back and forth, the music lumbers, slithers and lurches into periodic spams. “Flow” conveys chaos, confusion, and imminent collapse. In other words, it’s an unearthed treasure that’s never felt more relevant than right now. — David Browne
Abstract music comes in many forms. For those times when, say, a soothing Eno ambient disc just isn’t cutting it, Jeremiah Cymerman’s albums bring about a very different headspace. A clarinetist and an ace sound designer, Cymerman crafts aural worlds of rare detail. This latest one — featuring Cymerman’s overdubbed clarinets, plus synths, electronics, and more, and drums by Brian Chase, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs member with a lengthy history of experimental soundmaking — evokes a sustained sense of creeping dread, erupting at times into outright alarm. Inspired by a mandala that psychiatrist Carl Jung drew in 1916, “wholly unconscious of what it meant,” the music likewise provides no easy answers. In the insanity of our present moment, there’s something almost comforting about that. — Hank Shteamer
If you haven’t already heard this Chicago clarinetist’s excellent 2019 debut, The Oracle, go check that out — few records will make you feel more like you’re voyaging among distant stars while also keeping your feet firmly rooted on our troubled earth. Then, if you’re looking for more of Angel Bat Dawid’s far-out sounds of liberation, turn up her latest single and let it help you dare to imagine another world. — Simon Vozick-Levinson
This 42-track Korean punk comp is a subgenre-spanning survey of what’s happening right now in Seoul. From garage to hardcore to ska to power pop to thrash to powerviolence, and even with a little NOFX worship in the mix, Golden Hits has something for anyone who ever wore studs on leather. GBN Live House is an underground club that Seoul’s aggressive music community calls home, and the compilation is a fundraiser to keep the doors open after COVID-19. Standout tracks include d-beat banger “Future” by Scumraid, modern hardcore anthem “The Trap” by Slant, brutal riff rocker “피에는 피” by Martyrs, and oi singalong “다정한 사람” by the 1234 Dah. There are certainly some weirder tracks on here as well, particularly the closing track, a synth and drum-machine downer in the vein of Joy Division, in which Tank Boys continuously croon, “I Don’t Want To Know.” A fun, varied listen if you want to hear what Korean punk sounds like right now. — Reed Dunlea
You could call the late Hal Willner a producer or booker, but when stacked up against his vast creative output, those stock terms fall short. Willner’s signature move was assembling dream casts, drawn from the worlds of rock, pop, jazz, the avant-garde, and beyond, and matching them with handpicked repertoire. His first such effort — a previously out-of-print 1981 tribute to legendary Italian film composer Nino Rota that’s back out thanks to the adventurous Chicago label Corbett vs. Dempsey — set the template for decades of brilliant work. It features everything from offbeat jazz genius Carla Bley tackling madcap themes from Fellini’s 8 1/2, to Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein appearing on a balmy interpretation of a piece from La Dolce Vita, and maverick improvisers Jaki Byard, Bill Frisell, and Steve Lacy putting idiosyncratic solo spins on assorted other Rota material. As a whole, Amarcord Nino Rota is pure Willner, and it couldn’t have emerged from any other mind. (The entire Corbett vs. Dempsey catalog is filled with obscure and unusual delights; check out a 1985 Willner-produced set of wonderfully surrealistic jazz from a band co-led by drummer Beaver Harris and pianist Don Pullen, and a stunning 1967 duo between Dutch improv legends Willem Breuker and Han Bennink.) — Hank Shteamer
The pedal steel has long been linked with the sound of country music, and Nashville musician Luke Schneider has played the instrument in its conventional way with Margo Price, Caitlin Rose, and Orville Peck. But on his solo album Altar of Harmony, released by Third Man Records, the Ohio native gives the instrument an ambient makeover across an instrumental suite of songs that range from soothing and placid to cosmic and rapturous. Every sound on the album was made by Schneider’s steel, be it the extended droning chord that underpins the opening track “Anteludium,” or the angelic, church organ-like tones that he teases out in “Mundi Tuum Est.” In “Umbra,” he evokes a cloud-like airiness, letting an amorphous set of tones drift slowly out into infinity as occasional low-end rattles dart out of the darkness. “Lex Universum” reaches past the clouds and into the heavens, finding something warm and welcoming like a sunrise on some distant planet. It’s gorgeous, and like the rest of this album, a perfect tonic for when the apocalyptic anxiety begins to overtake us. — Jon Freeman
Boston’s Marissa Nadler has built a cult following by patiently developing a folk-rock sound that’s as lovely and eerie as a long walk under a starless sky. (Try 2014’s July or 2016’s Strangers for two of her best full-length explorations.) It’s a style that’s suited well to acoustic covers, like this lonesome version of Simon & Garfunkel’s 1968 ballad. “This song to me now feels like a memory of a place that just doesn’t exist anymore, a romanticization of a forgotten era,” Nadler writes in a note accompanying the song, all of whose profits she is donating to Black Lives Matter. “A daydream of a better time. A desire to live long enough to look back.” — Simon Vozick-Levinson