January 25, 2017

Music discovery and 19 bands I have found on Bandcamp in the last 12 months

To start this post, let me add to my Bandcamp love and promotion with some exerpts from their 2016 annual report released today:

...Every aspect of Bandcamp’s business was up in 2016. Digital album sales grew 20%, tracks 23%, and merch 34%. Growth in physical sales was led by vinyl, which was up 48%, and further boosted by CDs (up 14%) and cassettes (up 58%)...Hundreds of thousands of artists joined Bandcamp in 2016, more than 2,000 independent labels came on board...Fans have now paid artists nearly $200 million using Bandcamp, and they buy a record every three seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The record business overall did not fare as well. According to Nielsen, it grew 3% in the U.S. in 2016, while sales of digital albums fell 20%, tracks were down 25%, and physical albums dropped 14%. These declines are not at all surprising given the industry-wide push toward subscription music rental offerings... (which pose) some serious problems for fans, labels, and music as an art form.

As more people subscribe to music rental services, the already paltry rates paid to artists are going down (and no, artists don’t necessarily make it up in volume). But it’s not only artists who are struggling...

Longer term, if subscription music rental can’t work as a standalone business, then it will only exist as a service offered by corporate behemoths to draw customers into the parts of their businesses where they do make money, like selling phones, service plans, or merchandise. And when the distribution of an entire art form is controlled by just two or three nation-state-sized companies, artists and labels will have even less leverage than they do now to set fair rates, the music promoted to fans will be controlled by a small handful of gatekeepers, and more and more artists will be hit with the one-two punch of lower rates and less exposure. The net effect for music as a whole is worrisome.

I continue to encourage you to either (1) stop your subscriptions to Spotify, Apple Music, etc. or (2) use those streaming services only to supplement the albums you buy directly from artists, whether physical or digital. Bandcamp is often one of the best and simplest methods of supporting artists in that way.

As I have mentioned before, Bandcamp also makes it so easy to discover great new music. In the first couple weeks of the new year I subscribed to a label, which will give me advance downloads of all the music they release this year, and I bought a label's entire back catalog of music.


My discovery of new music is at insane levels right now. I decided to analyze my year-end best-of lists from the last 10 years and the percentage of the bands that were "new" in each list. (New = bands I discovered that calendar year that released their first full-length within 3 years of my hearing them for the first time. Most of the musicians that make up the large majority of my best-of lists are ones I have been following for 5-30 years.)

2007- 12% new (3 of top 25)
2008- 20% (4 of top 20)
2009- 10% (2 of top 20)
2010- 15% new (3 of top 20)
2011- 5% new (1 of top 20)
2012- 10% new(2 of top 20)
2013- 20% new (4 of top 20)
2014- 15% new (3 of top 20)
2015- 40% new (8 of top 20)
2016- 40% new (12 of top 30)

A jump from an average percent of 12% new artists per year to 40% in 2015 is crazy! I am not sure if I am just paying closer attention or what other reasons there are to explain my discovery of new musicians over the last couple years. Maybe my move to Europe had something to do with it? But I know Bandcamp has enabled me to hear more bands from more parts of the world than ever before (that don't rely on a record label for distribution).

Here is a list of 19 bands and artists I have discovered in the last calendar year, and I wonder how many I would know of if not for Bandcamp. My only complaint about Bandcamp at this point is the inability to make playlists. Because if I could, that is what this would be. Instead I'll provide individual links to my favorite song from each release. (I still make mixes with the length of a CD in mind--80 minutes, so if you were to download all these songs they would burn onto a single disc.)


I discovered Crying in December and they ended up with my #1 album of 2016. I am seeing them in concert with the Hotelier in Zurich in two weeks!

White Lung has been around longer than most of the bands here, but I didn't know about them until last summer.


Paper Wounds is from St. Petersburg, Russia and they have put out two EP's, one of which is a terrific 7" record I got a couple weeks back. They were part of the bulk discography I bought from the German label Life is a Funny Thing.

Snail Mail was an artist of the day from Bandcamp themselves, and released their debut EP in 2016.


Camp Cope released their debut album last year and are from Australia.

Mint Green is another Bandcamp artist of the day from 2016 who released their debut EP last year.


Glacier Veins is from Portland and released their debut EP in 2016.


Box and the Twins is from Germany and this is their debut album, a 2016 release.


For Everest has been releasing EPs since 2013 but their debut album was released in 2016.


Overwatcher is from Nashville and have released two EPs, one each in 2015 and 2016. I discovered them because of Angela Wooten's (Bandit) vocals on this track.


Foxwound is out of Atlanta and their 2016 debut made my top 10 albums of 2016.


Sinai Vessel's debut album is out Friday and it was my first download from my annual subscription to Tiny Engines.


We Love You has released a bunch of singles and EPs over the last two years; a part of the Life is a Funny Thing batch purchased download.


Secoué released their debut EP in 2016 and another one from the Life is a Funny Thing batch purchased download.


Причал is a Russian band I know almost nothing about and from the Life is a Funny Thing batch purchased download.


Факел is another Russian band I know almost nothing about and from the Life is a Funny Thing batch purchased download.


Hollow Jan is the first Korean band I have ever heard and this amazing song is the only one they have on Bandcamp, released on October 1, 2016. Also from the Life is a Funny Thing batch purchased download.


The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die has been around 5 years or so, but I discovered them almost a year ago when I saw them open for mewithoutYou in Luzern, Switerland (concert review from February 1, 2016).


I discovered Julien Baker almost exactly a year ago, and her debut album was a late edition to my favorite albums of 2015. This is a new song she released a couple weeks ago and hit Bandcamp before any other site.

If you've actually read all the way down to the bottom of this post, you might be interested in checking out my Bandcamp collection.

January 15, 2017

1987 and the year of U2

Like last year, I am going to spend much of this year exploring and listen to music released 30 years ago. I am starting by making a list here of all the albums I can come up with that I want to listen to that were released in 1987, and I encourage you to comment to add to my list.

One thing that is initially apparent is that I am already much more knowledgable and own much more music from 1987 than I did 1986. After listening to tons of 1986 music throughout 2016, here is the top 10 list I came up with.

I have known my favorite album of 1987 for as long as I can remember, as it is one of my favorite albums of all time; U2's Joshua Tree. It is the first LP I ever purchased on vinyl; a used copy at a record store in Auburn, Alabama in the Spring of 1997. Crazy that it was 10 years old when I bought it, and that it is now 30 years old.

In college, probably around that time, U2 was on tour supporting Pop (maybe my least favorite album from them) and a few of my friends went to see them. They asked me to come along, but I turned down the chance to purchase a $100 ticket. The comment I made at the time, and rang true for years and years, was: "I'd love to see U2, but only if I could go back in time to 1987."

In college I acquired a cassette tape copy of a U2 bootleg called Rock's Biggest Ticket (named after the TIME magazine article). It is regarded as one of the best U2 bootlegs ever recorded. In fact, while researching this post, I found that it can still be downloaded for free all over the place. The bootleg was recorded live in Chicago, on April 29, 1987 at Rosemont Horizon.

As you have probably seen by now, U2 is doing a 30th anniversary tour this year in which they will play Joshua Tree in full. I am dying to go, but I seriously doubt I would be able to afford it. However, after having a conversation with my wife about it, she agreed that if we were ever going to see them, this is the time. For one, they are getting old, and two, she also enjoys Joshua Tree more than the rest of their work.

1987 albums, listed alphabetically by category:

Own on Vinyl
Altar Boys- Against the Grain
Connells- Boylan Heights
Def Leppard- Hysteria
Fleetwood Mac- Tango in the Night (purchased two days ago used on eBay)
Leslie Phillips- The Turning
R.E.M.- Document
Starship- No Protection
Steve Taylor- I Predict 1990
U2- Joshua Tree

Own on Cassette
10, 000 Maniacs- In My Tribe
Guns 'N' Roses- Appetite for Destruction
L.S.Underground- Shaded Pain
The 77's- Seventy Sevens

Own on CD
The Crucified- Nailed (2009 re-release)
Jesus and Mary Chain- Darklands 

Don't own but will listen to and maybe buy in 2017:
The Alarm- Eye of the Hurricane (never heard)
The Cure- Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (heard some of)
Dead Can Dance- Within the Realm of a Dying Sun (never heard)
Depeche Mode- Music for the Masses (heard some of)
Echo and the Bunnymen- Echo and the Bunnymen (heard some of)
Dinosaur Jr.- You're Living All Over Me (never heard)
The Flaming Lips- Oh My Gawd! (never heard)
Hüsker Dü,-Warehouse: Songs and Stories (never heard)
INXS- Kick (heard some of)
Love and Rockets- Earth, Sun, Moon (never heard)
Michael Jackson- Bad (heard much of)
George Michael- Faith (heard some of)
Midnight Oil- Diesel and Dust (never heard)
Sinead O’Connor- The Lion and the Cobra (never heard)
Pet Shop Boys- Actually (heard some of)
Pixies- Come On Pilgrim (never heard)
Prince- Sign O the Times (heard some of)
The Replacements- Pleased to Meet Me (never heard)
Rites of Spring- All Through A Life EP (never heard)
The Smiths- Strangeways Here We Come (heard some of)
Sonic Youth- Sister (never heard)

January 8, 2017

Predicting the best albums of 2017

I have written "most highly anticipated albums of" posts in three prior years (2010, 2011, and 2012), and sometimes tagged them on to my annual best of lists. But this time I am going to put a little bit of a different twist on it. Not only will I list my most highly anticipated new music of 2017, I am also going to predict the order I will prefer them (if they happen). Note that for many of these albums I have no concrete evidence they will be released, but that I just either think and/or hope they will be.

I will continue to update this post throughout the year as I get more information; most recent update was on June 17.

February 9 update: I just discovered a huge omission; the new Jeremy Enigk album! I am even a supporter of it on PledgeMusic, but it has taken so long it slipped my mind. It seems to be getting close though, so put it in the top 10 here with a 90% chance of being released in 2017.

February 16 update: Another glaring omission, once again an album that I helped crowd-fund! Stavesacre is set to release their first LP in a dozen years later this year. They posted lots of studio pics on Facebook in January, and mixing is taking place now. Chance of being released in 2017 is 99%.

1. Wolf Alice- TBA
June 17 update: Album is titled Visions of a Life and will be released September 29! Also I bought tickets to see them play in Pittsburgh on July 13. First single can be watched and heard here!

Stage of recording: 20%? (Band has posted studio pics)
Chance of being released in 2017: 40%. Even if they finish recording in 2017, I would guess that the release would come early 2018.
Last album: 2015's My Love is Cool

2. Taylor Swift- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown. Many music publications believe it will be released this year.
Chance of being released in 2017: 50%. 2018 seems more likely to me personally, but I hope I am wrong.
Last album: 2014's 1989

3. Arcade Fire- TBA
June 17 update: Album is titled Everything Now, will be out on July 28 and they have released two songs from it. The title track is pretty terrible, sounds like a bad reworking of Dancing Queen. The second track, Creature Comfort, is far more interesting.

Stage of recording: Unknown. Many music publications believe it will be released this year.
Chance of being released in 2017: 80%
Last album: 2013's Reflektor

January 27 update: Arcade Fire released a new song last week, "I Give you Power", featuring Mavis Staples. The video is cool, but honestly I find the song pretty boring:



4. Rosie Thomas- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown; only a hopeful guess. Rosie has taken a few years off to be a mother, but hopefully she had continued to write.
Chance of being released in 2017: 25%
Last album: 2012's With Love

5. Blank Books- TBA
Stage of recording: Complete? My 2015 blog entry is just about all the information that has been released, but this collaboration between brothers Aaron and Jesse Sprinkle seems to have been finished for awhile.
Chance of being released in 2017: 90%
Last album: This would be the debut, but the brothers of course have been prolific in other ways for 25 years.

March 12 update: Jesse Sprinkle was interviewed on Billy Power's Urban Achiever podcast, and said a Blank Books EP is complete, but is currently being held from release because of Aaron's solo contract with Tooth & Nail. Argh.

February 16 update: Aaron Sprinkle just announced another solo electronic album. Honestly I am not that excited. He is a great song-writer, but the electronic pop stuff he has been putting out over the last few years I find to be greatly subpar to his guitar based rock and folk past. You can decide for yourself (at least the album cover, a photo of Aaron 30 years ago, is hysterical):


6. Eisley- I'm Only Dreaming (February 17)
Stage of recording: Complete.
Chance of being released in 2017: 100%
Last album: 2013's Currents

January 17 update: Eisley released a 3rd song from the record, "Louder than Lions":



7. Appleseed Cast- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown, but as Chris Crisci is always touring and recording, I am sure at least demos exist.
Chance of being released in 2017: 80%
Last album: 2013's Illumination Ritual

8. Fleming and John- TBA
Stage of recording: In progress, halfway done? This was funded through a 2015 Kickstarter campaign, and they have been slowly progressing with updates and recent photos.
Chance of being released in 2017: 90%
Last album: 1999's The Way We Are

March update: the band released the first complete track to Kickstarter supporters.

9. Bandit- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown, only a hopeful guess. Based on a podcast I listened to today, singer/songwriter Angela Wooten is currently in school for psychology and doesn't have much time for music.
Chance of being released in 2017: 60%
Last album: 2015's Of Life

10. Mates of State- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown. The band stated a few years ago they would only release EPs moving forward. I hope they changed their mind.
Chance of being released in 2017: 75% (Chance of an EP being released in 2017 or 2018 would be close to 1000%)
Last album: 2015's You're Going to Make It EP

February 16 update: Mates of State released a new single, "I Got No Time", which is only available via through the Rough Trade Song A Day Subscription.

11. Pinback- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown, only a hopeful guess.
Chance of being released in 2017: 50%. They are touring in early 2017, and Rob Crow is active again, so have to wait and see.
Last album: 2012's Information Retrieved

January 18 update: Temporary Residence announced the release of Pinback's 1999 and 2003 EPs on vinyl for the first time, combined into one LP, Some Offcell Voices. Great news, because the "Offcell" EP specifically might be my favorite Pinback release. However, this might drop the chance of a new album being released to 30%.



12. Cat Power- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown. Chan Marshall tweets a lot, and hasn't mentioned new music, but it has been awhile. So one can hope!
Chance of being released in 2017: 10%
Last album: 2012's Sun

13. Julien Baker- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown. Julien released a new song and pre-release for a new 7" this week. She signed to Matador, and signs point towards an LP later this year.
Chance of being released in 2017: 80%
Last album: 2015's Sprained Ankle

14. That dog.- TBA
Stage of recording: Mostly finished. The band had a Kickstarter campaign in November that I sadly missed out on and only discovered this week.
Chance of being released in 2017: 99%
Last album: 1997's Retreat from the Sun

15. Manchester Orchestra- TBA
June 17 update: Album is titled A Black Mile to the Surface and will be released on July 28. The first track they have released from it is one of the best songs they have ever recorded:

Stage of recording: Complete? Were recording in the fall, see below.
Chance of being released in 2017: 99%
Last album: 2014's Hope and Cope
January 25 update: The band tweeted that mixing has begun. 

16. Mountain Time- La Pausa
Stage of recording: Complete. This is the new project from Chris Simpson, formerly of Mineral, the Gloria Record, and Zookeeper. While the final Zookeeper album was simple folk, based on personal conversation and reading, I expect this album to be more electric (but not a return to Mineral-style).
Chance of being released in 2017: 99%
Last album: 2014's Pink Chalk (Zookeeper)

January 31 update: From a Chris Simpson email, "I am working diligently on 'La Pausa'. Hopefully it will be shareable soon!"

17. Cush- TBA
Stage of recording: Partial. Prickett and company are always working on new music, but rarely released anything. Here's hoping this will finally be the year an LP gets released publicly.
Chance of being released in 2017: 5%
Last album: 2015's Super G (kuxh)
January 14 update: I doubt many people will even see this, so I'll post a secret I just learned: First the bad news, no new Cush this year or ever. But the good news is that there might be a new Prayer Chain EP in 2016!

18. Tess Wiley- TBA
Stage of recording: Complete? Tess definitely recorded in 2016, and released this new studio video in September.
Chance of being released in 2017: 90%
Last album: 2013's Little Secrets

February 16 update: Recent communication with Tess says she is nearly complete with her all-German EP.

19. Fiona Apple- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown, only a hopeful guess.
Chance of being released in 2017: 1%
Last album: 2012's The Idler Wheel...

20. Forget Cassettes- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown, only a hopeful guess. If Beth Cameron releases an album this year, I am guessing it will be under her name or another, and not the Forget Cassettes moniker.
Chance of being released in 2017: 50%
Last album: 2013's O Cursa

21. Haim- TBA
June 17 update: Something to Tell You will be release on July 7 and here is a video of the first single.

Stage of recording: Possibly complete. Have played new songs live and have hinted at this album for a couple years.
Chance of being released in 2017: 99%
Last album: 2013's Days Are Gone

22. Lorde- TBA
June 17 update: Melodrama was released on June 16.

Stage of recording: Unknown, but many music publications are listing it on their 2017 most anticipated releases.
Chance of being released in 2017: 90%
Last album: 2013's Pure Heroine

March update: Lorde has released two new songs, and her new album Melodrama will drop on June 16.

23. Spoon- Hot Thoughts (March 17)
Stage of recording: Complete. Has been announced for a March release date as the band's return to Matador Records.
Chance of being released in 2017: 100%
Last album: 2014's They Want My Soul

January 17 update: The title track from the album was released, and dang it is good. Also the album pre-order information is up.





24. The Shins- Heartworms (March 10)
Stage of recording: Complete
Chance of being released in 2017: 100%
Last album: 2012's Port of Morrow









25. The New Pornographers- Whiteout Conditions (April 7)
Stage of recording: (Jan. 27 update, see below, complete!) Unknown, mainly a hopeful guess. As complicated as it is to get the whole band together, I would say a Carl (or A.C.) Newman solo album more likely.
Chance of being released in 2017: Newman solo 60%, New Pornographers 25%
Last album: 2014's Brill Bruisers

January 17 update: Band just announced a tour, which makes the prospect of a new full-band album more likely.

January 27 update: A new album it is! I feel pretty good about this one as I thought only a 25% chance a few weeks ago. There is a new track streaming online, but frustratingly only on Apple Music and Spotify. I'll embed when it reaches more friendly services. Whiteout Conditions is due April 7

26. Pearl Jam- TBA
Stage of recording: Unknown, but based on other publications seems like if not 2017 then 2018.
Chance of being released in 2017: 30%
Last album: 2013's Lightning Bolt

27. Alvvays- TBA
June 17 update: Antisocialites will be released in September:



Stage of recording: Unknown, but based on other publications seems like it is pretty far along.
Chance of being released in 2017: 95%
Last album: 2014's Alvvays

28. Lo Tom- TBA
June 17 update: The self-titled album will be released July 14 and can be pre-ordered here. First single:


Stage of recording: Complete. Jason Martin + David Bazan + T.W. Walsh + Trey Many= Bliss.
Chance of being released in 2017: 99%
Last album: All four musicians are prolific, but this will be their debut as a band.

29. Grandaddy- Last Place (March 3)
Stage of recording: Complete. I wasn't a huge Grandaddy fan the first time around, but mainly because I was unaware. The video for the first new song is wild and a must-watch.
Chance of being released in 2017: 100%
Last album: 2006's Just Like the Fambly Cat

30. Sinai Vessel- Brokenlegged (January 27)
Stage of recording: Complete. For the first time ever, I subscribed to a label on Bandcamp. Which means for a calendar year I am paying $9 a month to be able to download every song Tiny Engines releases, and early. This band was new to me, but enjoying it so far.
Chance of being released in 2017: 100%
Last album: 2013's Profanity EP.





February 9-June 17 updates: Albums I wasn't counting down to initially, but now have either bought or pre-ordered:
Allison Crutchfield- Tourist in This Town (January)
Oso Oso- The Yunahon Mixtape (January)
Jesca Hoop- Memories are Now (February)
David Bazan- Care (March)
Wild Pink- Wild Pink (March)
Aaron Sprinkle- Real Life (March)
Demon Hunter- Outlive (April)
Charly Bliss- Guppy (April)
Overcoats- Young (April)
football, etc.- Corner (May)
Cayetana- New Kind of Normal (May)
Big Thief- Capacity (June)
Deb Talan- Lucky Girl (June)
Sufjan Stevens and more- Planetarium (June)
Ratboys- GN (July)
Waxahatchee- Out in the Storm (July)
Rainer Maria- S/T (August)
Mogwai- Every Country's Sun (September)