I have been doing extensive Bandcamp discovery over the last week or so, and below are my finds. I have been digging through 2016 releases trying to find the best of the best.
First of all though, if you are new to my blog, Bandcamp is bar none the best way to support independent artists. Best way to find them to start (their music discovery tools are outstanding), and then the best way to buy their music.
For one, when an artist sells an album or track on Bandcamp, they get to keep 85%. That is far and away the highest percentage in an industry in which the percentages are usually single digits, or even tenths or hundredths of percents.
Secondly, artists have many options when putting their music up for discovery and purchase. For example, when an artist puts an album up on Bandcamp, they can decide how many tracks stream for free (most of the time all, but sometimes only two or three). They can also decide how many times a listener is allowed to stream it (sometimes unlimited, but often times after two or three streams there will be a pop up window requesting or requiring purchase). I have bought many albums on Bandcamp in this manner: I was streaming, the pop-up appeared, told me I had streamed 3 times, and then asked me to purchase. My reply? "Yes!"
This is the problem with other streaming music services and why artists get so little. For a monthly subscription fee you can listen to all the artists you want, as many times as you want, and you never pay more than your flat fee. This is helpful for a personal budget, but not helpful for the longetivity of the career of an independent musician. So even if you use mainstream streaming services, maybe come up with your personal formula for how many times you will stream a song or album before you support the artist in some way directly (buying a digital album, CD, cassette, or vinyl record, buying a t-shirt, or going to their concert).
Now, on to the bands I have discovered this week and their awesome 2016 releases. Been streaming these all week and already purchased a few:
November 30, 2016
I have been doing extensive Bandcamp discovery over the last week or so, and below are my finds. I have been digging through 2016 releases trying to find the best of the best.
November 26, 2016
1976: Led Zeppelin- Nobody's Fault But Mine
1977: Fleetwood Mac- Second Hand News
1978: REO Speedwagon- Time for Me to Fly
1979: Pink Floyd- Comfortably Numb
1980: Talking Heads- Once In A Lifetime
1981: The Police- Invisible Sun
1982: Dexys Midnight Runners- Come On Eileen
1983: Def Leppard- Photograph
1984: Echo & The Bunnymen- The Killing Moon
1985: Tears for Fears- Head Over Heels
1986: R.E.M.- I Believe
1987: U2- I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
1988: The Church- Under the Milky Way
1989: The Connells- Motel
1990: The 77's- Love Without Dreams
1991: Toad the Wet Sprocket- All I Want
1992: Adam Again- River On Fire
1993: Smashing Pumpkins- Mayonaise
1994: Poor Old Lu- My World Falls Down
1995: Sixpence None the Richer- Love, Salvation, the Fear of Death
1996: The Violet Burning- Low
1997: Mineral- Gloria
1998: Sunny Day Real Estate- How it Feels to Be Something On
1999: Jimmy Eat World- For Me This is Heaven
2000: Elliott- Calm Americans
2001: Death Cab for Cutie- Why'd You Want to Live Here?
2002: The Gloria Record- Good Morning, Providence
2003: Nada Surf- Inside of Love
2004: Lovedrug- Down Towards the Healing
2005: Sufjan Stevens- Chicago
2006: Brandtson- Earthquakes and Sharks
2007: The New Pornographers- Challengers
2008: Mates of State- The Re-arranger
2009: Thrice- The Weight
2010: Arcade Fire- City With No Children
2011: The Belle Brigade- Losers
2012: Cat Power- 3, 6, 9
2013: Tegan & Sara- I'm Not Your Hero
2014: Luxury- You Must Change Your Life
2015: Wolf Alice- Silk
2016: David Bazan- Trouble With Boys
|Me in 1979; what was I listening to?|
November 15, 2016
Now that my best-of lists stretch from 1991 all the way into the present, I have decided to "go back in time." I didn't really fall in love with music until the 90's, so my appreciation and knowledge of music prior to 1990 is lacking. As I get older I hope to spend more time listening to and learning about music from the past rather than my typical obsession with whatever new album that will be released tomorrow.
For my first "old" list, I decided in January to take much of 2016 to discover and listen to albums celebrating 30th anniversaries. All year long I have listened to and purchased 1986 albums, many of which I had never heard before.
Top 10 albums of 1986:
First heard? Probably heard a song or two from this album in the late 80's, but the first R.E.M. song I consciously liked and credited to the band was "Losing My Religion" in 1991. Didn't heard this album in full until I bought it as a freshman in college in 1995.
Purchased: 1995 on CD, 2006 on used vinyl
Thoughts: Whenever asked about my favorite R.E.M. album, I usually reply with 1998's "Up" because that album got so much criticism at the time. While I do love "Up", "Lifes Rich Pageant" is equally as meaningful for me.
"'Lifes Rich Pageant' was R.E.M.'s most pop-oriented and accessible album up to that point. Recording frequently and touring almost constantly, the band had been nurturing a grassroots audience throughout the early 1980s, and Pageant is a pivotal album in their career, representing the moment when their Southern post-punk sound anticipated larger venues and began expanding to fill those spaces. It was also, strangely, their most overtly political collection, with songs addressing environmental crises and political malaise." ~From the 2011 Pitchfork review of the 25th Anniversary Release
First heard? Heard "Fight for your Right" on the radio when it was first released, but did not hear complete album straight through until this year.
Purchased: 2016 on used CD
Thoughts: Beastie Boys is one of those bands I adore when I hear, but never listen to them without a prompt. The 30th anniversary of this album was one prompt, and this scene in Star Trek Beyond was phenomenal.
"From the very first moments of the Led Zeppelin-sampled drumbeat of 'Rhymin’ & Stealin’,' it was apparent that music lovers were in for something brand new. Three young white guys from New York had been playing together since they were teenagers, and on November 15, 1986, unleashed their unique mix of stealing from the best, pop-culture based rhymes, and unbridled beats. The Beastie Boys had arrived with 'Licensed To Ill', and rap music, not to mention the still-burgeoning genre of 'alternative,' was never going to be the same." ~The AV Club's roundtable 30-year review
First heard? The first Smiths song I heard was on a mix from a girl in 1995: "Please, Please, Please"
Purchased: 2014 or so as MP3s from Amazon
"But Queen is a successful outing. It’s memorable in a minor-league way and if nothing else it demonstrates the most admirable trait about the Smiths and about Brit rock in general — the wonderful breeding and development of those two-headed songwriting units. There’s something inspiring about these U.K. teams — Lennon and McCartney, Lennox and Stewart, Jagger and Richards, Godley and Creme — these bonded mates who seem to weather thick and thin for the sake of the song. That’s why even the breakup of Wham! had its sad side. Over here in the U.S.A., it’s more like every man for himself. So if the Smiths put you uptight, loosen up and give ‘em a little room to breath. Remember they’re different over there in England. ~From the hysterical, original 1986 review from SPIN
First heard? Heard the title track and "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" on the radio in the 80's. Did not hear full album until 2000's.
Purchased: On used vinyl in Savannah, GA in 2006 or so.
"Genesis combined two things that critics didn’t digest well: progressive rock (the roots from whence the group came) and adult contemporary (a direction that Collins was credited, or blamed, with bringing them in)...
"The band’s old-school prog-rock fans would often grouse about the group’s more accessible work. But by the mid-’80s, Collins, Rutherford and Banks were in their mid-30s; at that point in one’s life, not every song is going to fit on a black-light poster. Divorces happen; so does heartbreak and other disappointments that come with adult life. That’s the “adult” part of “adult contemporary.” It may not be sexy, but artists like Collins, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt and Billy Joel were writing and singing about what it’s like to be a grown-up (which was not necessarily what rock and roll was designed to do).
"But no matter what was going on in their lives, Genesis never forgot their prog-rock roots, and that was one of the things that made 1986’s Invisible Touch so effective and successful; it did a lot of different things, and it did them all well." ~Radio.com's Re-evaluating Genesis’ ‘Invisible Touch’ 30 Years Later
First heard? Had never even heard of the band until this year.
Purchased: Have only streamed on Amazon MP3 up until this point, but looking to buy it on vinyl. Most all this band's music in all formats is out of print and very expensive.
Until I heard this album a few months ago I honestly had no idea music like this was being created as long ago as 1986, because I never heard anything like it until 1993. Now I know where much of the 90's hardcore music drew its inspiration, because Cro-Mags are incredible. There are two versions of this album: The original that was actually released in 1986 is called Age of Quarrel and most modern reviews call it "overproduced." The version that I first listened to, and refer to here, is the original raw demos that weren't widely available until reissues in the 90's: Before the Quarrel.
"The Cro-Mags’ first LP, 'The Age of Quarrel', was apparently one of the albums that defined what would go on to become New York Hardcore when it was released back in 1986. The band took punk and made it bigger, heavier, and infused enough metal into it to give it a certain crossover appeal (and went on, several albums later, to become more of a speed thrash band). In 2000 they released 'Before The Quarrel', which is actually the demo recording of 'The Age of Quarrel'. It sounds raw and urgent, practiced and determined. The best way I can describe it is it sounds like something that was happening, and had been for some time, and people still weren’t wise to it, but someone stumbled into it and happened to have a tape recorder.
"The difference between the original album and this demo version is pretty startling. Compare the original version of 'By Myself' and the demo re-release. The original barely sounds heavy. The drums echo a Winger track, and the vocals are pinched and weak. The demo version is bigger, the sound messy. The vocals are inaudible in some tonal ranges. And this is why it works. It’s deliciously ragged, the guitars sounding underrepresented at times and flailing wildly in the foreground in the occasional drunken solos. The rhythm section chugs, even though the bass is recorded terribly and you can’t really make out half of the drum set. That’s why this recording is so good." ~365 Spins on the differences between the original and demo
First heard? Heard "Don't Dream It's Over" on the radio in the 80's. Did not hear full album until this year.
Purchased: On used CD in 2016.
Crowded House has gone out of their way to recognize the 30th anniversary of this, their debut album, by re-issuing all of their albums in deluxe vinyl and CD sets with tons of unreleased tracks. Here is a link to band members Neil Finn and Nick Seymour discussing the details that went in to the recording of this album.
First heard? First heard Adam Again in 1992, and was a huge fan for all of the 90's (and still am). Didn't hear any songs off this album though until the 00's. This is a unique album for sure, but pales in comparison with everything Gene Eugene would do in the 90's.
Purchased: Digitally at some point around 2005 or so.
As interesting as this album is, the highlight for me might be the cover, a painting by Howard Finster. I love his work, and he also painted the cover of the R.E.M. album Reckoning.
"Their first two records, 'In a New World of Time', which featured cover art by reverend and southern eccentric Howard Finster, and 'Ten Songs By Adam Again', were exercises in a kind of gauzy, synth-heavy hybrid of funk and new wave. Though both are fascinating in their own way – particularly Ten Songs, which is a close-to-perfect record by a band that would excel at making close-to-perfect records – there are no jagged edges to be found on any of them. Their best songs are awash in color, synths streaking down like a watercolor left out in a sun shower." ~From J. Edward Keyes' fantastic blog, An Atheist's guide to Christian Rock
First heard? In 1993 Tooth and Nail re-issued the band's first two demos, 1986's Take Up Your Cross and 1987's Nailed on CD for the first time (had previously only been available on cassette).
Purchased: 1993 on new CD.
Thoughts: When Tooth and Nail Records launched in 1993, I bought everything they released, and this was no exception. At the time I had never heard of the band, but I loved the album cover, and was excited about I would potentially hear on the CD. For years I was pretty disappointed. But I had no clue at the time it was only demos and not a proper album. It wasn't until The Crucified's 2008 box set, that included their "lost" 1991 album, "The Pillars of Humanity" that I truly appreciated all of the band's discography. Of course by then I had loved the musicians with their other projects, most notably Mark Salomon & Jeff Bellew in Stavesacre.
First heard? Heard "In Your Eyes" in the 80's on the radio, and of course through the movie Say Anything. Did not listen to complete album straight through until this summer.
Purchased: Have only streamed it at this point, looking for a used vinyl copy currently
"After 30 years, So has sustained the reputation of a great album that does not sound the least bit dated by 1980's production values. Rolling Stone placed it at #187 in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all-time and at #14 in the 100 Best Albums of the 80's. It catapulted Gabriel into international superstardom. At one time, 'Sledgehammer' was the most played music video in the history of MTV, but Gabriel's talent and influence is so much greater than just that video. Go ahead. Play this album again. Hopefully you have a version that offers the original running order, with 'In Your Eyes' in its proper place. It really doesn't matter though, for by the time 'Sledgehammer' finishes, you'll be sucked in, just as you were the first time you heard it." ~Albumism's 30th Annivesary tribute article
First heard? When I got married in 2004 my wife had it on CD and that was my introduction to Kate Bush.
Purchased: 2007 or so on used vinyl
I don't typically include compilation albums on lists, but as this was my introduction to Kate Bush, and my overall 1986 appreciation is still lacking, it works here. If you are going to buy one Kate Bush album though, go with 1985's Hounds of Love (3 songs from that album are on this "best-of" release).
(I only own one of the following, so if you have a used copy you want to send my way, please do!)
Bad Brains- I Against I
Dead Kennedys- Bedtime for Democracy
Depeche Mode- Black Celebration
Hüsker Dü- Candy Apple Grey
Lifesavers- A Kiss of Life
Madonna- True Blue
Paul Simon- Graceland
Run-D.M.C.- Raising Hell
Sonic Youth- Evol
Talk Talk- The Colour of Spring
October 7, 2016
I am hoping to post something with more substance soon, but realistically there will probably only be two posts with actual writing, substance, and commentary during the rest of the year: my "Best of 1986" sometime in November, and then my "Best of 2016" around Christmas. After writing prolifically here and on Medium in 2015, this has been a down year with other priorities.
Jimmy Eat World debuted a new song last night, their third from their upcoming October 21 LP Integrity Blues. "You With Me" is a longer, more epic track than the first two new songs, and continues Jimmy Eat World's resurgence. I commented last month that "Sure and Certain" might be the best new Jimmy Eat World song in a decade, and this one is even better:
mewithoutYou has a brand new video for the song "Watermelon Ascot", which is my favorite song from their 2015 LP Pale Horses. The weird get weirder...
September 20, 2016
The Anniversary is on a reunion tour right now, and I am so sad I can't see any of the shows. I am thankful I got to see them in 2001 in Athens, Georgia at the 40 Watt, but it would be fun to see them now I have been desperate to find videos online. Until today, I was mostly unsuccessful in that search. But finally here is a great one from last week. Don't watch it for sound quality necessarily, but it captures the fun and energy of The Anniversary's live show:
Next popping up in my YouTube feed was a new video and song from Tess Wiley. I have been a fan of Tess for over 20 years, and this is the most electric, rocking song she has recorded in the last 15:
Finally, Thrice released the first song from their live studio sessions, re-recording songs their 2016 album To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere:
September 16, 2016
This is my first post after an unexplainable break, and I am going to keep it simple. Here are some new, great songs from upcoming albums:
This is the first track to be released from the next Eisley album, which is going to drop in early 2017. It is the also the first song from the new incarnation of Eisley in which Sherri is the only one of the original three sisters (along with Stacy and Chauntelle) to still be in the band.
(If this video is blocked for you use ProxFlow to watch it)
This is the second track to debut from the new Jimmy Eat World album, Integrity Blues, due out on October 21. I haven't hid my disdain for Jimmy Eat World's last album, Damage, which is by far the worst LP they have released in their two-decade existence. "Sure and Certain" has them back on track, and I said this on Twitter when I first hear it:
When Sleigh Bells released their debut album Treats in 2010, many thought the band was a gimmick and would be short-lived. But as the band prepares the release of their 4th LP, Jessica Rabbit, on November 11, they have proven they are here to stay and are at the top of their game.
I inexplicably missed out on the first American Football album in 1999, despite them being right in the middle of the scene I was obsessed with. Seventeen years later they are back with their 2nd self-titled LP.
Eins Zwei Orchestra is the musical identity of husband-wife duo Stefan and Lydia van Maurik (most notably the front-woman of Brown Feather Sparrow. I wrote a more detailed post about this band a few years ago, and their new album releases next week.
June 1, 2016
New shirts for old-school Tooth & Nail Records bands: Bloodshed, Havalina Rail Co., and Ninety Pound Wuss
The most recent entry into my "new shirts for old bands" idea is Bloodshed. They gave me permission and free reign to design something new. After posting a poll with four designs, the following shirt was chosen by the fans and went on sale today!
I want to say again and make it clear that I am doing this for fun and as a service for the fans. They are priced to sell, not for profit. Also, there are dozens of different styles and colors available, not just what you see in the pictures below or on the TeeSpring site.
Along with selling the Bloodshed shirt, I am trying again on the Havalina Rail Co. shirt. I wrote about it in detail here.
Ninety Pound Wuss shirt back up for sale that did so well in March. So if you missed it the first time, it is back. Here is the backstory and the detail on it.
May 23, 2016
I recently read a story on OC Weekly that listed Thrice's top-10 songs. I am frustrated by how incomplete and limited it is. Maybe the writer knows the band's history, but the opposite seems true. Not that the 10 songs aren't good--of course they are, they are great--but they are such a small, stereotypical snapshot of what the band has accomplished. Every writer is biased in someway, including me, but three of the 10 songs they picked, including their #1, won't appear on my list.
I did find some other Thrice lists online that were much better and more thought out (but are mostly dated). I find this top-10 list on an IGN message board to be ultra-impressive, as it considers and includes many lesser-appreciated songs from the band's catalog. There is another simple yet impressive list on Sputnik Music. Both of those lists pre-date Thrice's 2009 and 2011 albums however.
The most recent Thrice top-20 song list I found is on Jason Pye's blog. It unfortunately shares much in common with the OC Weekly list: it completely ignores Thrice's quieter, more experimental side and focuses on the edgier rock songs.
|Thrice at Hevy Fest, UK, August 2015. Photo by me.|
As much as I love Thrice, their final album prior to their hiatus, 2012's Major/Minor, was a disappointment for me. The songwriting and musicianship is outstanding, but the creativity and experimentation of the band was completely forgotten. One can say it is Thrice's most focused, cohesive album, but it leaves me somewhat bored and wanting more. I will admit is is some of Dustin's most profound lyrics, but only two of the songs from Major/Minor make it into my top 25.
Based on everything I have read and heard so far from the new Thrice album that will drop in 5 days, I am thrilled that they have once again branched out and tried new and different things. I recently came to the realization that I love Thrice's super-heavy songs and their quiet, experimental songs; but the more straightforward rock songs that fall in the middle just don't do it for me, comparatively.
Before I get into the top 25, it would probably be helpful for me to rank the albums and show where my biases lie. (My number 1 is clear and definitive, but then numbers 2-4 could easily change places. I find a huge gap between 4 and 5, and an immense gap between 6 and 7.)
Note: while working on this blog post last night Thrice debuted a new song "Death From Above", which is spectacular and would immediately jump high up this list. I greatly prefer it to all songs on Major/Minor.)
All lyrics by Dustin Kensrue
I was always one the good ones, Keeping tabs on everyone else, Sure that I was, One of the chosen
But I was a child of hell; But you buried me in the bright light, Yeah, you held my eyes to the sun till I could see that, That I was worse than I ever feared I could be, But somehow, I was loved more than I ever dared to believe
24. The Artist In The Ambulance from The Artist In The Ambulance
Now I lay here owing my life to a stranger, And I realize that empty words are not enough, I'm left here with the question of just, What have I to show except the promises I never kept?
23. Daedalus from The Alchemy Index: Volume III Air
22. In Exile from Beggars
21. Come All You Weary from The Alchemy Index: Volume IV Earth
20. Atlantic from Vheissu
'Cause my eyes are open, and everything still moves in slow-motion, breathless and blue, and behind your eyes the sea, oceans of light envelop me
19. Flags Of Dawn from the Red Sky EP
So put away your fear, the morning star will soon appear, and bring an end, to this dark night, and we must run if we're to meet the light, watered by the blood of martyrs
18. At the Last from Beggars
Am I a good man? I thought I was, But the rewards of this life now count for naught. My body: soon buried and left to rot. The time’s gone, how quickly it all has passed. My God, now I see how I’ve squandered each and every breath.
17. Silhouette* from The Artist In The Ambulance
Your eyes, followed me here. Your eyes, sifting my soul. They leave me broken and forge diamonds from the coal.
16. The Earth Will Shake* from Vheissu
15. Paper Tigers from The Artist In The Ambulance
14. Open Water from The Alchemy Index: Volume II Water
13. Beggars from Beggars
12. Red Sky* from Vheissu
11. The Arsonist from The Alchemy Index: Volume I Fire
10. Hoods On Peregrine from The Artist In The Ambulance
9. Words in the Water* from Major/Minor
8. Doublespeak from Beggars
7. Deadbolt from The Illusion Of Safety
6. The Messenger from The Alchemy Index: Volume I Fire
5. Of Dust And Nations from Vheissu
4. Stare At The Sun* from The Artist In The Ambulance
3. The Weight from Beggars
(Note: Most Thrice covers I have heard are terrible, but while writing this post I did discover an outstanding cover of "The Weight" by a band called The Material.)
2. The Whaler from The Alchemy Index: Volume II Water
when are you coming home to me?" "Darling why do you leave, as the north wind begins to blow? Will you be coming home to me?"
1. For Miles* from Vheissu
May 11, 2016
I am pleased to announce that I have my second shirt up for sale recognizing an under-appreciated band from the 90's: Havalina Rail Co., also just known as Havalina. Havalina remains to be one of the most diverse, eclectic, random, strange, yet talented group of musicians I have ever listened to. This shirt was primarily designed by Matt Wignall, Havalina band leader. After I got in touch with him and we emailed back and forth ideas and below is the result. The price is set low to be just a fun, comfortable item for fans new and old to wear. The American Apparel Triblend is especially comfy, I highly recommend it. Buy it here and it's only available for one week! (Note: if you know me personally you can order and select "pick up" from me and pay no shipping costs. I will be in three countries and at least a dozen U.S. states between now and mid-August.)
|Available in a dozen different color and style combinations|
Like I said, much of Havalina was wild and eclectic, but they did have a couple more catchy, pop-type tunes. This is one of my favorites:
May 6, 2016
|From the NYC Public Library Digital Collction|
I chose the band Luxury to build my talk around, as they are one of my all time favorites, and have recently been more in the "news" as they released a new album and have a documentary due out this year. This is the video clip that was used to fund their Kickstarter campaign, and I showed an edited version of it today before I spoke:
As can been seen in the video, Luxury is a fairly bizarre band in that 3 of the 5 members are Orthodox Priests. While not Orthodox personally, I am fascinated by the church due to its emphasis on the arts and on mystery. I cut this part out of my talk due to time constraints, but Luxury bass player Chris Foley's essay Man as Priest of Creation has a huge impact on me and greatly influenced my presentation. I highly recommend you read the whole thing, but here is a relevant passage:
"I found that the emphasis on the Incarnation of Christ stressed the goodness of creation and that now matter is united to God. This means that matter matters and beauty is not just something external to God (i.e. – optional) but an energy emanating from from God Himself – an absolute. I discovered that the early Church rejected anything that divided or separated Christ’s humanity from His divinity. As I learned more about the Orthodox faith, I found that the Orthodox teaching that every aspect of life is sacramental underpinned every teaching of Christ and the Church . This idea that matter matters speaks profoundly to faith as it relates to the creative process."
As I wrote in these essays on 1995 music last year, I struggled much in my teenage years about the secular vs. sacred divide. This divide tore at me for a long time, and thankfully, eventually Jesus revealed to me the divide is not truth. My essay on Fleming and John and Hoi Polloi ended this way (feels strange to quote myself):
My faulty, black-and-white world of “Christian music” and “secular music” was greyed so much by these two albums that the line no longer existed — there was just music.
My main point today (when I spoke, and I as I now write) is that music is mysterious. Music requires us to take it seriously, and examine its beauty and depth. And we can apply to this mystery to many aspects of our lives, and open ourselves up to things we don't understand. Music has allowed me to embrace mystery- both in art, in the world, and in the fractured Christian church. And as someone who grew up legalistic and judgmental, embracing mystery has allowed me to follow Jesus better: by loving God and loving others, many of whom are very different than myself.
5/10/16 Update: I uploaded a rough audio recording to YouTube of the 30-minute chapel talk if you are curious to listen (and watch).
I made aYouTube playlist of 8 songs I used in my presentation today, both directly, and by reference: