This is a pretty weird Bandcamp Friday. Without knowing the inside details, my initial thoughts are that for the time being Bandcamp remains the best place to buy music and that there are probably worse things that could have happened than an acquisition. At the same time, it’s hard to not long for a world where independent music distribution can afford to stand on its own.
Anyway, here are some artists you should support this Bandcamp Friday.
Bartees Strange - Heavy Heart
March 1, 2022, Indie Rock
Bartees Strange is an incredible writer and musician and I recommend owning everything he’s done. He just dropped this new single, and last fall he put out a great live album that you can still preorder on vinyl.
Guided by Voices - Crystal Nuns Cathedral
March 4, 2022, Indie Rock
A new GBV album that just came out today! They’re one of those bands that’s been around forever and never have been my favorite band, but I’ll always drop in and see what they’re doing. Chances are good you already know if Guided By Voices is your jam, but hey Beto O’Rourke likes them. Remember Spotify playlists are part of campaign platforms?
Alice Glass - PREY//IV
February 16, 2022, Electronic
If you liked Crystal Castles, it’s worth following back up with Alice Glass. After the band, she’s released EPs, singles, and collaborations, but this is her first full album. You can look at it like a spiritual successor if you want, but it’s a better to think of it as a return of one of the greats now fully in control of her destiny.
Deastro - Flood Demos 2015-2019
November 23, 2021, Electronic
Deastro is one of my all time favorite synth-pop/electronica acts. Flood Demos is a collection of attempts to release music from 2015-2019 that were lost to cruel circumstance.
Living in Detroit is no joke. Deastro has lost more than a few records to being robbed, floods, the hardships of life, etc. Flood Demos is an attempt to capture the floating remnants of what could have been with this project and a showcase of some of Randy Chabot’s live electronics.
It’s great work music and Deastro’s whole catalog is worth checking out.
Mass of Fermenting Dregs - No New World
July 4, 2018, Dream Pop
Crisp dream pop with hints of metal and noise rock. You should check this out if you’re interested in stuff that’s mathy and heavy, but you’re still looking for melody and hooks.
Injury Reserve - by the Time I Get to Phoenix
September 15, 2021, Hip-Hop
Experimental hip-hop out of Tempe, Arizona. By The Time I Get To Phoenix drifts into glitchy, dissonant territory, but never loses you.
I turned 37 this February. I didn’t listen to a lot of new music this month. I was so stressed out that I kind of stayed in familiar lanes. I checked out most of the new releases, but only a few things stuck.
Clear Capsule - Gravity Licker
February 1, Shoegaze
Clear Capsule is a wonderful LA based shoegaze band. Shoegaze is pure comfort food for me.
A Place to Bury Strangers - See Through You
February 4, Shoegaze
My favorite guitar pedal tech demo continues to produce great noise.
Black Country, New Road - Ants From up Here
February 4, Post-Punk
Right before this album came out, the lead singer, Isaac Wood, quit.
Hello everyone, I have bad news which is that I have been feeling sad and afraid too. And I have tried to make this not true but it is the kind of sad and afraid feeling that makes it hard to play guitar and sing at the same time.
It’s unfortunate that such a talented band would lose a key part of their sound on the verge of their album’s release, and I hope this helps Wood recover. I highly recommend their album, it’s one of the best albums to come out this year.
Tennyson - Rot
February 18, Electronica
Rot is such a strong, coherent album. It just whips right past you so you put it back on.
I think winter in Southern California is kind of a bummer. I know some folks who envy the year round t-shirt weather, but I think it’s boring. I’ve been spending my month playing Gloomhaven and digging through some old Wii U games. There have been some great album releases at least. Here’s some stuff I think you should check out.
The Velvet Teen - the Great Beast February / Immortality - 20th Anniversary
January 3, Indie
These two EPs were some of my favorite albums in high school. I found the band via their drummer Logan Whitehurst’s solo project. He had his AIM handle on his site and I would ask him who his favorite bands were, what his hobbies were. He told me his other band was releasing a CD, which collected these two EPs. Once I’d ordered it, I kept it in my car forever.
Underoath is a band I’ve been following since high school. I first heard them on This is Solid State Vol. 2 and have followed them ever since. Underoath’s post-Christian material is the best they’ve ever sounded. Metalcore is never a genre I’d describe as generally accessible, but Voyeurist is a strong album from start to finish. It’s tightly produced and engineered, crisp, and high in protein.
Speaking of bands who have reflected my own spiritual journey, Pedro the Lion just put out another great album. My favorite song is Teenage Sequencer, a bittersweet high school love story. David Bazan’s songwriting weaves beautiful, compelling narratives that wash over you.
This is my first “album of the year” contender. I guess they reworked the whole album in 2020 when their tour got canceled, and the result is potent. Strong, anthemic hooks and riffs dot the album like landmarks on a road trip. That’s right–this album has moved me to car metaphors. I just wish I could go to a mosh pit without throwing out my back or catching a highly infectious respiratory disease.
It’s been hard to remember to listen to music. When I worked in an office, I had music on all day to drown out the sounds of the office. But working at home, I’ll go hours or sometimes a whole day plugging away in silence. I’ve started to notice that I feel worse when I don’t listen to enough music. Even writing this now I just realized I’ve been sitting in silence for the last half hour. Despite this, music has remained important to me. If anything, it’s become increasingly important. I just need a smartwatch that complains at me if I haven’t had music on in awhile or something.
2021 continued 2020’s theme of punk-influenced music outplaying pop-influenced music. I still haven’t gotten back my taste for modern pop music and at this point I’m not sure if I ever will. There have been a few exceptions to the rule, but I’m really not interested in the unchallenging alternative acts the algorithms keep shoveling down my throat.
I’ve also shifted away from collecting vinyl this year as major label releases have clogged out most of the stuff I’m interested in. Moving crates of 180 gram releases to new houses didn’t help my opinion either. I still bought a few and will probably continue, but it’s less of an emphasis for me. Maybe I’ll get super into cassettes and Super Audio CDs in 2022.
I’ve tried to include direct digital purchase links for each album where available. For streaming convenience, I’ve included Apple Music and Spotify.
Turnstile - Glow On
August 27, Hardcore
I did not expect Glow On to be my album of the year. Turnstile has always been a band proud to wear their influences on their sleeves, and that remains true here. But the range and uniqueness of these influences brought together for this album makes for a deep and fulfilling experience.
I had Origami Angel’s first full length, Somewhere City, on constant repeat in 2020. Gami Gang follows up the PMA emo of their debut with deeper lyrics and the same power pop riffs. I’ll never understand how this band of two people gets such huge sounds.
Ultrapop is aggressive, uncompromising, and demands to be played loud. This album has as many influences as there are members and shows there’s no limit to how creative and diverse a band with gang vocals can be.
Every two years Tyler puts out a new thing to make my top ten. Though more of a straight up hip-hop album than Flower Boy or Igor, Call Me If You Get Lost continues Tyler, The Creator’s trend of self diagnosis of loneliness and belonging by way of an alter-ego. It’s full of catchy tracks and great collaborations.
Converge has been an important band for decades and somehow each album remains relevant. Blood Moon continues the trend, bringing in Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chrisholm, and Stephen Brodsky for a dark, cavernous album.
I haven’t been much of a mobile gamer since I left the Bay Area. No public transit means I’m either cycling or driving somewhere, so I don’t have my phone out. I still play a lot of games, they’re all just on my TV or computer.
This last year 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim dropped and I immediately knew it was for me. Part visual novel, part RTS, big robots, high school angst. But it’s exclusive to PlayStation 4. While I have a PS4, I’m not a big fan of using it. I prefer something on my computer or on my Switch so I can lay around the house chipping away at it. Resigning myself that I probably shouldn’t buy something I couldn’t play in an enjoyable way, I tried to push 13 Sentinels out of my mind. But then I saw this tweet from Patrick Klepek:
I wish Sentinels 13 was on Switch, but I’ve found an awesome compromise? This is an iPhone + Backbone controller + Remote Play combo. pic.twitter.com/1tWJjDRTvi — Patrick Klepek (@patrickklepek) January 9, 2021
After discussing it with my wife, I sprinted to the Backbone website to order one of their controller. It arrived a few days later (weirdly, the company ships from a place near here) and I’ve enjoyed using it almost everyday since. My primary use has been streaming PS4 games, but I’ve also tried streaming PC games, Xbox One games, and Google Stadia’s new browser mode for iOS. It’s all worked fantastically well.
The most surprising part is just how many iOS games support controllers right out of the box. I know that iOS 13 had come with better controller support and that had improved games to some extent, but I’d never dived this deep into. Some of my favorite games are on iOS with full controller support: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Fez, Doom, Marathon, Chrono Trigger, and others. So now I have a whole slew of portable games I’m enjoying plus the option to stream from more powerful devices.
The accessory’s hardware is impressive as well. The buttons feel great, including the two analog triggers and shoulder buttons. The analog sticks seem to have a great range and aren’t too tight or touchy, which is common with smaller sticks. The construction feels strong and comfortable. Really my only complaint is that you have to take your phone out of its case to use it. I like it so much I emailed Tim Cook and told him Apple should sell them in their stores.
Part of setting up this blog again was about trying to figure out a way to exist on social media in a way that made sense to me. I don’t trust that these applications are made in good faith and I believe they intentionally use manipulative UX paradigms to make disinformation and advertising appear as truthful as facts. The users are the product and making them feel engaged and informed is the service social media provides to their clients.
But that said, you really are left out of a lot. Deleting my Facebook effectively severed my connection to everyone. I even miss major family news; they write the post and forget to reach out to me about it separately. Petty stuff like anniversaries and birthdays go by without comment. Your friends will start referencing Twitter jokes you don’t understand. That’s a cost I can live with. Forcing direct conversations with friends and family has enriched those bonds.
However, it does suck to not be able to reply to people’s tweets or to give them likes. So, I came up with the idea for this blog. Spin up a Blot blog. And then set up a RSS feed to post it to my new handle @hrprmd. My posts will be primarily Blog posts, but I will use the account to reply to people. I’m also hoping this will keep down my feed reading as well, since I’ve found it’s really easy for tweets to mess with my mental health.
So that’s part of one of my goals with this thing. Just trying to be out there.