After more than a year in lockdown, little in the music industry is certain. But in the near-absence of live shows, Bandcamp Friday has become a rare constant. The monthly tradition — a digital holiday of sorts, during which Bandcamp waives its revenue share, channeling all proceeds directly to artists and labels who sell their music through the service — brought in a whopping $40 million for creators throughout 2020. It continued in February and March, and is scheduled to run through May. In honor of today’s edition, here are a bunch of recommendations from Rolling Stone staffers for albums you might want to add to your Bandcamp Friday shopping cart.
Adult Mom, Driver
Adult Mom’s Stevie Knipe has been out here for years as one of indie rock’s great bedroom storytellers, with gems like Sometimes Bad Happens and Momentary Lapse of Happily. But ever since the 2017 breakthrough Soft Spots, with seething love-into-hate ballads like “Same,” Adult Mom has been primed for a full-band rock & roll album as powerful as Driver. As an obsessive fan of both R.E.M. and Taylor Swift, Knipe combines the best qualities of both, as if hearing “Nightswimming” and “You Belong With Me” as part of the same queer-punk underdog story. Even a longtime ride-or-die Adult Mom fan has to be blown away by the tenderness and rage Knipe brings to these songs, with confessions like “The only thing I’ve done this month is drink beer and masturbate and ignore phone calls from you.” You’ll spend this summer memorizing these songs — why not get started now? R.S.
This NYC trio has been floating around the city’s experimental/noise scene for a while now, putting out awesomely weird records and even stranger side projects for close to a decade. (Back in 2017, we named them an Artist You Need to Know for an album that featured a freaky-Friday Bee Gees cover.) But they’ve really leveled up with their fifth LP, which is full of impossibly catchy almost-pop songs like “No Way,” “Big Bad Want,” and “Hey!” These songs are bright, concentrated bursts of art-punk genius, with riffs for days and upside-down melodies you can’t forget. You might catch a hint of Sleater-Kinney, the Minutemen, or whichever band is your yardstick for this sort of thing, but mostly you’ll just want to hit play again. S.V.L.
Pianist Jason Moran and drummer Milford Graves began the fifth section of their 2018 improvised duet at Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival — a recording of which has been freshly unveiled for today’s Bandcamp Friday — with a dizzying cosmic tangle, Moran’s spiraling, rapid-fire lines racing through Graves’ dense web of taut bongos and booming tom-toms. Only minutes before, in the fourth part of the duet, they were playfully calling out one another’s names in cartoon-like voices. That duality — transcendent intensity mingling with lighthearted warmth — helps to illustrate why Graves, who died in February at the age of 79, was so beloved among his collaborators and peers. It’s hard to think of a better musical memorial than this vividly recorded set, which captures Graves’ elemental rumble about as well as any album in his relatively slim 50-year-plus discography, and matches the intrigue of his celebrated duets with pianist Don Pullen back in 1966. Two brief Moran remixes — “…manipulations of segments I yearned to hear drowned, draped and slowed,” the pianist writes — and an electroacoustic solo performance recorded at a recent Graves exhibition in Philadelphia round out the set. Make some time for this record, and while you’re at it, keep Jason Moran’s name in mind: Between Live at Big Ears, his new duet album with Archie Shepp (see below), and The Sound Will Tell You (a masterfully patient, introspective solo album released in January), he’s got the makings of a legendary year. H.S.
Nashville singer-songwriter Stephanie Lambring’s Autonomy is an album that rewards repeat listens. Avoiding the staid songwriting found on many Nashville recordings, Autonomy puts Lambring’s considerable courage and astonishing lyrical skill on display as she delves into a variety of difficult subjects. There’s a lacerating indictment of evangelical Christianity in “Joy of Jesus,” a sympathetic look at aging in “Old Folks Home,” and a devastating account of body-image struggles in “Pretty.” Throughout, Lambring confidently sticks the landing on hard-hitting couplets like she’s trying to out-Isbell Jason Isbell. “He said, ‘All that potential, but you don’t have the drive’/And all I learned how to do is how to prove him right,” she sings in “Daddy’s Disappointment.” Teddy Morgan’s atmospheric production keeps Autonomy from feeling too stark, with electric guitars that feel rooted in indie rock and washes of dream-pop Mellotron. Lambring’s eye for detail — a polka-dotted bathroom towel, tequila in communion cups, a man routinely bringing in the recycling bin — bring these songs to life in vivid color. The world Lambring sings about isn’t always a pretty or kind place to be, but Autonomy is so good that you won’t be able to walk away. J.F.
California folk-punk Sunny War has released a series of increasingly sharp collections of meditative modern roots music since her 2015 debut Worthless. Her latest, Simple Syrup, is her most exciting and pop-conversant collection to date, full of weary melodic blues (“The Losing Hand”), shrugged-off, humorous heartbreak (“Love Is a Pest”), and urgent rhyme schemes (“Mama’s Milk”). “I do not exist to uplift or appease you,” War sings in the latter, a manifesto for an album that insists on dictating its own terms. J.B.
On his debut album Now That It’s All Over, Seattle-area native Dillon Warnek brings tales of everyday waitresses, repentant convicts, and unrepentant grifters to vibrant life. Con men are a favorite writing subject of the Nashville transplant, who anchors his debut album with the unsinkable story-song “Titanic Thompson,” a rollicking back-porch jam about a legendary gambler who placed outrageous, impossible bets. (As in the one where he placed odds on his ability to toss an acorn over a building — using a nut secretly filled with lead.) There are no scams here, however; just Warnek’s rich, detailed character studies infused with elements of rock, country, and even Tex-Mex (the hungover lament “30 Miles From Birmingham”). It’s a superb road-trip record, a soundtrack for reacquainting ourselves with the U.S. and all its colors. Warnek gets an assist from early champions Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey, and Ryan Culwell, who sing backup and, in Ivey’s case, play harmonica. By album’s end, you realize that Now That It’s All Over is a misnomer — Warnek is just getting started. J.H.
Liner note: “We weren’t really planning on making another record; this album only exists because 2020 sucked so goddamn much.” But the long-awaited Too Much Joy comeback makes 2021 suck a hell of a lot less. These pop-punk jokers rose out of the mean streets of Scarsdale, New York, as one of America’s funniest bands — not to mention one of the most touching, with Gen X classics like “Kicking,” “Clowns,” “Long-Haired Guys from England,” and their very own “Theme Song.” (Manifesto: “A great idea when we were smashed/Turning anger into cash.”) They’ve published their songs as “People Suck Music” since their 1987 debut, Green Eggs and Crack. This album is full of joy, exuberance, wild-ass humor, with poignant moments like the lockdown tale “Shouting Across the Ocean”: “Getting ready for that perfect moment/When 10,000 bands play the same three fucked-up notes.” They also have a one-off Bandcamp charity tribute to their fallen hero John Prine, covering his song “That’s the Way the World Goes Round.” It took 25 years, but it was totally worth the wait for an album this great — too much joy, indeed. R.S.
Dry Cleaning, New Long Leg
The first full-length album by the bracingly original London band Dry Cleaning is already a strong contender for one of the year’s coolest debuts. Dry Cleaning are a great guitar band with a lead vocalist who carefully speaks her acerbically droll, often very funny lyrics, creating a sound that feels at once intimate and ominous, like a mumbled autopsy of our shared desires, terrors, and daily malaise. You can hear echoes of great indie-rock monologists from the Mekons’ Sally Timms to Craig Finn of the Hold Steady in Florence Shaw’s flat-line delivery, and the band’s cutting post-punk guitar grind, cavernous bass lines, and rugged pulse places them in an art-punk lineage that goes back to Pere Ubu and the Fall. Shaw’s lyrics are oblique yet conversational; the menacing “Unsmart Lady” begins, “Don’t cry, just drive,” while the wickedly hilarious standout “Scratchcard Lanyard” feels like a seething critique from the inside of middle-class social and gender expectations, rolling past evocative lines like, “I’ve come here to make ceramic shoe and I’ve come to smash what you’ve made,” before landing on the killer aphorism, “Do everything/Feel nothing,” which is delivered with the casually heedless distaste of someone coolly dropping cigarette ash out an open window onto a city sidewalk full of bustling rush-hour zombies. It’s par for the course on a record that makes negation seem new again. J.D.
Gary Bartz, JID006
Roscoe Mitchell and Mike Reed, The Ritual and the Dance
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra, Promises
Archie Shepp and Jason Moran, Let My People Go
Here’s a fact worth celebrating: Four jazz saxophone masters, all now in their eighties, have new albums out that rank with their best work from the past 50-plus years. Each one finds the elder artist in question teaming up with younger collaborators who respect where they’ve been but challenge them to go somewhere new, whether that’s composer-producer Floating Points laying out a splendid magic carpet for Pharoah Sanders on the transfixing ambient-classical epic Promises, pianist Jason Moran joining Archie Shepp to mine further pathos and profundity from the African-American songbook on Let My People Go, drummer Mike Reed matching the quicksilver sound shapes of Art Ensemble of Chicago co-founder Roscoe Mitchell with expert poise and momentum, or Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge crafting an impossibly cool retro-jazz-funk vehicle for Gary Bartz to steer on the sixth volume of their Jazz Is Dead series. It doesn’t matter if you know the Sanders, Shepp, Mitchell, and Bartz catalogs by heart, or if these records are your starting point — each is an enriching and inspiring listen. H.S.
Really From’s self-titled full-length came out a couple of weeks ago, but it shouldn’t be missed. A four-piece from Boston, they play jazzy/mathy/indie/punk music, but with a full-time brass player and plenty of room in their intricate songs left for instrumental excursions, their sound feels more jazz-focused than that of bands one could describe similarly, like The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower or Off Minor. Vocals are traded between guitarist Chris Lee-Rodriguez and pianist-bassist Michi Tassey, with probing lyrics about “reflections on identity” that confront a “question often thrust at the band’s mixed raced members—where are you really from?” As Tassey recently explained to Stereogum’s Ian Cohen, “I would say the most rewarding thing that can happen at a show is when someone who looks like me comes up and says, ‘I feel represented in your music.’ That’s the highest honor, I think.” R.C.
The Brooklyn-via-Virginia guitar master John Lindaman is steeped in the crafty prog of his guru Robert Fripp — one of the many highlights of his Bandcamp discography is a full-on cover of the 1981 Fripp classic Let the Power Fall. (As with most of Lindaman’s Bandcamp goodies, it sounds best when you hear the limited-edition cassette.) His freewheeling improv-guitar ouevre includes “Reflections on ‘Abacab’” and “Reflections on ‘Here Comes the Rain Again,’” as well as masterworks like his 2020 Majoring in the Minors. (Not to mention his classic 1990s Teen-Beat band True Love Always.) But Lindaman hits a new zenith with Center for Whatever, his collaboration with electro whiz Hampus Öhman-Frölund. Center for Whatever debuted with the superb Boogie Spiderland, featuring gems like “Receiving Transmission From Beyond Van Halen Belt.” Ensorcelled is an amazing peak of shamanic guitar brilliance, “dark improvisational magic” infused with 1970s metal: Frippertronics meets Cultösaurus Erectus. Best song title: “How Soon Is This It?” As always, the cassette is the way to go. R.S.