The statistics of Bandcamp Friday speak for themselves: In the year-plus since the launch of the campaign, during which the platform has waived its revenue share for music purchased on the first Friday of each month, fans have paid artists more than $50 million dollars. “Bandcamp is like my life source,” metal auteur Trevor William Church told Rolling Stone in 2019, no doubt speaking for many creators in the age of meager streaming royalties. Bandcamp Friday continues on May 7th — read on for a slew of recommendations from RS staffers on what to throw into your virtual shopping cart.
Juliana Hatfield writes some of the most acerbic, delightful pop songs out there — she gets you bobbing your head to her catchy melodies and sweet voice, then lays you flat with a line like, “I’m living in a nightmare and I can’t wake up/The whole world is controlled by fascist, blood-sucking thugs.” Continuing in the same vein as 2017’s Pussycat — which crackled with rage directed at then-president Donald Trump — Blood oozes with blatant and bleak imagery that lands like a deliciously inappropriate joke. From “Nightmary” (which yields the above line) to the riff-heavy “Chunks” — “Someone’s gonna kick you in the head/Someone’s gonna choke you out” — Blood is the kind of catharsis we all need right now. B.E.
Yaya Bey, The Things I Can’t Take With Me
There’s a lifetime of emotional depth in this six-song EP, where the Brooklyn singer-songwriter rolls past hurts and present joys into luminously soulful music. “I really, really wanna love you, but I got my walls up,” Bey offers on the opening “The Root of a Thing,” before explaining some of the reason why in a casually devastating couplet: “I never seen my daddy treat a woman good/I don’t know what it’s like to be understood.” Family history and post-breakup regrets weigh her down, but by the second half of the EP she’s floating over the sunny brass loop of “Fxck It Then” and the languorous guitars of “You Up?” “I make music to cope,” Bey said in her recent Artist You Need to Know feature. Listening to The Things I Can’t Take With Me makes you want to hear where that process brings her next. S.V.L.
Dinosaur Jr., Sweep It Into Space
The resurrection of Dinosaur Jr. is one of the most welcome surprises of this here century. Ever since the original trio reunited in 2007 for the stunning comeback Beyond, the classic Massachusetts power-sludge pioneers have been on a roll — their place in history already assured, they’ve got nothing left to prove except that they’re still the only band that can do this. J. Mascis teams up with spiritual twin Kurt Vile for “I Ran Away,” which makes sense given how much of his mojo Kurt got from the original 1980s Dinosaur Jr. trilogy of Dinosaur, You’re Living All Over Me, and Bug. Lou Barlow contributes two of his quintessentially melodic gems, “You Wonder” and “Garden.” J. Mascis shines brightest in his fanboy confession “I Met the Stones,” which by his standards qualifies as one of his emotional love songs. R.S.
Cable Ties, Live at the Scrap Museum
Punk trio Cable Ties, who have made electrifying takedowns of social injustice their calling card, haven’t yet gotten the chance to tour internationally in support of Far Enough, their energetic second LP, which came out in March 2020, just as pandemic-related lockdowns forced them to stay at home in Australia. So when given the opportunity to perform live in “the Scrap Museum,” a space within a Melbourne recording studio — on land which they acknowledge was stolen from the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation — they decided to record it for this special release. Listening to the fury with which they play Far Enough songs like “Tell Them Where to Go” (a takedown of hyper-masculine punks) and “Anger’s Not Enough” (about indigenous rights), you can hear how their anger about the state of the world has only grown over the past year, and just how badly they needed to rage about it in a live setting. K.G.
Zach Schmidt, Raise a Banner
When Pittsburgh-area songwriter Zach Schmidt moved to Nashville in 2013, he immersed himself in the twang and tradition of the old-school country scene, all the while determined to keep his own sound current. He finds that sweet spot on Raise a Banner, a 10-song country-rocker produced by Sadler Vaden, guitarist for Jason Isbell and an increasingly in-demand producer (he worked on Morgan Wade’s sublime Reckless). For Raise a Banner, Vaden brings along the entire 400 Unit as Schmidt’s backing band — including a cameo from Isbell himself, whose electric guitar drives the rambunctious lead track “Foregone Conclusion.” Some fans will surely come for the 400 Unit, but they’ll stay because of Schmidt’s songwriting and warm voice. He pines for better days in “Go My Way,” pledges devotion to his wife and bandmate Jackie Berkley in “I Can’t Dance,” and co-opts the melody of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” for the equally lonesome ballad “I Look Different Through Your Eyes.” If only Schmidt’s beloved Pirates were as consistent as his album. J.H.
Pearl Charles, Magic Mirror
As the title suggests, Charles’ second album is a glittery haze of self-reflection, fueled by psychedelics and life in the California desert. The 29-year-old singer-songwriter draws influence from the Seventies — specifically ABBA and Gram Parsons — culminating in 10 tracks that veer into cosmic country-disco. Charles navigates through one-night stands (“Only for Tonight”), identity (“Imposter”), and savoring the present before it slips in the rearview (“Take Your Time”). On the highlight “What I Need,” she sends a glamorous kiss-off: “’Cause when I see your face/It’s gonna be the last time I do/And it’s easier to live this lie/Than to tell the truth.” Magic Mirror arrived in January, but it’s still available in sleek blue vinyl via Bandcamp. “It’s cosmic country because the universe is weighing in,” Charles told Rolling Stone in a recent Artist You Need to Know feature. “The songs, they speak for themselves. I just tell it like I see it, man.” A.M.
Credit to Bandcamp’s own Stephanie Barclay for pointing me to Batea, the debut album from Bejuco — an 11-piece from Tumaco, Colombia — in a weekly release roundup back in March. The album is named for an old, reliable tool/tray that’s used for everything from washing clothes and digging for gold to selling goods and cradling babies. The music Bejuco make is similarly versatile. It’s steeped in the Afro-Colombian style currulao, driven primarily by the melodic plunk of the marimba and traditional percussion like the cununo and guasá. From there Bejuco construct a sound that draws significant inspiration from Fela Kuti and Afrobeat, while nodding to cumbia, dub, hip-hop, highlife, and more. On top of it all are Bejuco’s tremendous vocalists — William Jaír Martínez Riasco, Joan Andrés Micolta Ospina, Angie Liseth Micolta Ospina, and Edwin Iván Jiménez Tenorio — who deliver Batea’s songs of nature, tradition, work, hope, and celebration with equal parts power and warmth, and rock-solid harmonies befitting a true musical community. J. Blistein
Three-Layer Cake, Stove Top
The Covid-era jam reaches an exploratory apex on Stove Top, an upcoming album — out May 14th, but now available for preorder, with three tracks streaming — by a virtual trio of sorts named Three-Layer Cake. “I’ve really outgrown that genre shit,” punk-and-beyond lifer Mike Watt, the band’s bassist, said in a press release. In that case, he’s aligned with the right partners: Percussionist Mike Pride is a seasoned jazz drummer who’s also done a stint with Texas hardcore institution MDC, and guitarist-banjoist Brandon Seabrook has spliced adventurous rock and jazz for years in a series of galvanizing projects. Befitting their name, they built these tracks through file sharing, one instrument at a time, but that somehow hasn’t stopped them from jelling like they were in the same room. On pieces like “Primary Fuel” and “Big Burner,” Seabrook’s atonal sound shards clash winningly with Watt and Pride’s dubby, insistent grooves, while on “Beatified, Bedraggled and Bombed,” the rhythm section sketches out a kind of minimalist art-funk as Seabrook’s hyper-speed banjo lines zip across the sonic canvas. Elsewhere on the record, glimmers of playful melody peek through, sometimes performed by Pride on glockenspiel. None of that genre shit here, in other words, just three open-eared musicians forging fresh connections during a singularly weird year. H.S.
Samantha Crain, I Guess We Live Here Now
For the past decade, the Oklahoma singer-songwriter Samantha Crain has been one of the most compelling under-the-radar voices in indie folk. Coming on the heels of her meditative 2020 full-length, A Small Death, Crain’s latest four-song EP is a relatively upbeat offering of moving reflections that find Crain at her songwriter-ly best. On “Bloomsday,” Crain places her stamp on the canon, re-imagining standards like “This Light Light of Mine” and “Okie From Muskogee”; on “Two Sitting Ducks,” she offers a portrait of nostalgia, aging, and companionship. “We drank too much shit beer at the Oxbow lake,” she sings. “We said nothing could kill us/Prey to no hunter for blood.” J. Bernstein
Evan Greer, Spotify Is Surveillance
Boston-based musician and activist Evan Greer named her latest album of scrappy pop-punk tunes after a grassroots campaign against the leading streaming giant — could this record be any more suited for Bandcamp Friday? Luckily, Spotify Is Surveillance is much more than a pithy slogan. These songs are full of fire and feeling, from the trans history lesson of “The Tyranny of Either/Or” to the sweet rock-lifer memories of “Back Row” (“Do you remember when/Basements felt like stadiums?”) to the awesomely titled leftist screed “Emma Goldman Would Have Beat Your Ass.” Greer also turns in a fuzzed-out garage cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” giving a new feeling of freedom to a timeworn classic. It adds up to a convincing argument to unplug from the capitalist machine and rage on IRL. S.V.L.
Eric Slick, Wiseacre
Not to be confused with Earl Slick, the guitarist who played on Bowie’s Station to Station, this is Eric Slick, the drummer who plays on Taylor Swift’s new version of Fearless. (That’s him on “We Were Happy” and “You All Over Me.”) He’s the Nashville-via-Philly drummer in the long-running and much-beloved indie band Dr. Dog, but his excellent solo album Wiseacre might have slipped past you when it came out in August 2020. It’s a crackpot singer-songwriter fantasy of 1970s AM-radio art-pop splendor, filtered through his hometown hero Todd Rundgren. (He recently dropped a Bandcamp cover of Todd’s “Can We Still Be Friends?” from Hermit of Mink Hollow.) Wiseacre thrives on moody grooves like “Haunted,” which could pass for a lost Gerry Rafferty/Bob Welch jam, and “Closer to Heaven,” a duet with his wife, indie-pop singer Natalie Prass. The peak: “When You Come Down to It,” which sounds like Hall and Oates going to couples counseling. R.S.
Origami Angel, Gami Gang
Gami Gang is the second album from the D.C.-area band Origami Angel — and it’s fun as hell. Out on Counterintuitive Records, it’s an ambitious double LP that still manages to stay true to its punk and emo roots, clocking in at under an hour. There’s plenty going on here: poppy sing-alongs, shredding riffs, trap beats, hand claps, samples, gang vocals, bossa nova, and hardcore breakdowns — usually in the same song. The lyrics are self-aware and self-deprecating (“That guy with the clear fuckin’ skin/And the nice denim pants/Man, I wanna be him/But my bony-ass self lookin’ like a pterodactyl/A huge fucking asshole”) or about appreciating good times with friends. Oh, and the whole thing was made at home by only two guys in their early twenties. These dudes rock. R.C.
The Moving Pictures, Fake Books
The second LP from this Olympia, Washington, indie pop project plays like a diary you might find at an estate sale in an old mansion, full of the private laments of a decadent poet from who knows when. Hayes Waring, who’s released some great music from others on his small label Perennial, is a skilled outsider artist himself, wrapping his melancholy musings in simple but pretty guitar figures and plenty of reverb. The ethos is DIY, but there are echoes of rock & roll’s past grandeur in the lonesome “Be My Baby” backbeat of “Holiday Ennui,” the half-remembered “Crimson and Clover” dream of “Late Dahlias,” and the timeless ache of “Nothing Fades Like Love.” Dim the lights and drift away on someone else’s loneliness for a change. S.V.L.
The Georgia Thunderbolts, The Georgia Thunderbolts
Thanks to bands like Blackberry Smoke, the Steel Woods, and the too-tough-to-die Lynyrd Skynyrd, Southern rock continues to thrive in the 21st century. Add the Georgia Thunderbolts to that list. The Rome, Georgia–based five-piece check every box on their self-titled debut EP, from ramblin’ references to “trains too far gone” (“Looking for an Old Friend”) and celebrations of the blue-collar hero (“Spirit of a Workin’ Man”) to life lessons about battling one’s demons (“Lend a Hand”). But these Thunderbolts aren’t a low-voltage knockoff of the greats who came before. Rather, they keep things fresh by committing to lean, muscular songs. The outlier is the closing track “Set Me Free,” which at 7:06 is two minutes shy of “Free Bird” and features a stellar vocal performance from singer TJ Lyle that’ll make you wonder if Ronnie Van Zant is communicating through him. J.H.
Nap Eyes, When I Come Around EP
Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes specialize in wry, wordy folk-rock rambles, with Bob Dylan and Lou Reed looming like twin suns over every jingle-jangle morning horizon on LPs like 2018’s I’m Bad Now. It turns out they’re also dedicated fans of Nineties pop-punk, as heard on this upcoming EP. The title track (which you can hear now while you wait for your preorder) is a sincerely moving cover of one of the best singles from Green Day’s Dookie, slowed down with some sweet pedal steel to bring out the tenderness in Billie Joe Armstrong’s words. “The quality of the song speaks for itself; it’s one of the greatest songs ever written, in my opinion,” Nap Eyes frontman Nigel Chapman explained in a press statement. “I’ve been working under the influence and in the shadows of this and other Green Day songs, periodically reconnecting with and being floored by them, ever since I first began writing my own songs years ago.” Who knew? S.V.L.
If you’re gearing up for the upcoming Summer of Love, the bittersweet Irish dream-pop guitars of Bedrooms offer a perfect soundtrack to all the doomed crushes you’re about to have. The Dublin boys call themselves “shoegaze, slowcore, and everything in between” on their ace debut EP Afterglow, produced by the Coral’s Bill Ryder-Jones. The killer is “For Today,” with swelling mega-romantic guitars in the mode of Duster, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, or the Pale Saints, building up to a monster of a ballad, the sound of a young heart so overloaded the emotion spills out in the form of ecstatic noise. R.S.