If you're anything like me, you've probably spent most of the week finding great albums and artists, relaxing, and putting these records on repeat. I'm kidding; that would have been healthier than staring mouth-agape at election results rolling in and learning about the ins-and-outs of Georgia and Pennsylvania counties' voting histories. Even though there's an important presidential election that will hopefully be settled by the time this publishes, we still vote with our wallet every day. When it comes to independent artists who have lost all touring income, do we just send them fractions of a penny through streaming services or do we buy their albums and merch?
The answer is clear, and it's why we continue to offer recommendations for stuff you can buy on Bandcamp Friday, the godsend initiative from the music platform that gives labels and artists 100% commission. Just this week, Spotify announced a new discounted royalty rate for artists who want to have their song promoted in the algorithm days after the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers started their campaign to get Spotify to pay out a penny per stream. That's a slap in the face for artists who are already screwed by the algorithm, and it's unsustainable for so many musicians who are scraping by. Bandcamp Friday's vision of the future for independent music is much better, and it's something we should all support.
In honor of this month's installment, VICE has rounded up some great releases that deserve some love and your dollars. From the goofy country of Dougie Poole, Open Mike Eagle's devastating introspection, and the stunning collab LP from Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou, there's a lot to love here.
Adulkt Life, Book of Curses
The visceral new album Book of Curses from U.K. post-punk supergroup Adulkt Life is a pretty relentless listen. Though it's been a quarter of a century since frontman Chris Rowley has been in a band since his tenure in the influential defunct '90s punk outfit Huggy Bear, he makes up for lost time here. Joined by members of the noise pop trio Male Bonding and drummer Sonny Barrett, Rowley sounds revitalized on these tracks. On blistering debut single "Country Pride," he's biting yelping lines like "Evil is bleeding through / Stupidity so easy too" and "Call them masses for a reason." There's quite a few post-punk LPs from U.K. artists out right now, but add this one to the top of your queue.
Dougie Poole, The Freelancer's Blues
New York City’s Dougie Poole is a country crooner who fills up the songwriting on his sophomore LP The Freelancer’s Blues with heaps of wit, charm, and a deep reverence for the classic sounds of the genre. The album opens with a woozy song called "Vaping On the Job" as well as a raucous barnstormer in "Buddhist for a Couple Days" but the real stunner comes in "Los Angeles," which has a sing-along-worthy chorus and a relatable "should I move out west?" internal monologue. Though I missed it when it came out earlier this year, few albums this year have hit this immediately for me in 2020.
Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
Emma Ruth Rundle’s gothic folk makes a perfect albeit surprising pairing with Thou’s doomy sludge metal. Throughout the collaborative LP, which runs at a lean 36 minutes, the songs are loaded with brutal riffs and gorgeous textures. There's pummeling heaviness in Thou's riffs and gurgling screams but Rundle's floating voice elevates the arrangements into something beguiling and compelling. This is an LP could be a perfect gateway to metal for those who have little experience with the genre but love overwhelmingly powerful instrumentals and Rundle's catalog.
Fire Talk Records has had an incredible 2020, with stellar releases from Dehd, Deeper, Pure X, Corey Flood, and Lunch Money Life already under the New York label’s belt. The self-titled debut from Atlanta via Austin quartet Mamalarky that’s out later this month keeps the streak alive. On this LP, which is out November 20, the band creates adventurous and endlessly listenable indie rock. "You Make Me Smile" is a good place to start.
Open Mike Eagle, Anime, Trauma and Divorce
Open Mike Eagle’s unabashedly raw new LP Anime, Trauma and Divorce deftly covers everything listed in its title. According to a New York Times profile, the LP came out of a miserable year for Eagle that saw the dissolution of his marriage and personal upheaval. When his therapist told him to "write your feelings" these songs followed. On "Bucciarati," which references a character from the JoJo's Bizarre Adventure manga series he raps, "I had a direction and split from the thesis / Now I need more fingers to pick up the pieces." Elsewhere, he vividly paints the scene of the dissolution of his marriage on "The Black Mirror Episode," where the refrain is "The Black Mirror episode ruined my marriage" and features lines like "Shit should've came with a content warning."
Routine, And Other Things EP
Routine is the new collaborative project between Chastity Belt bassist Annie Truscott and Jay Som's Melina Duterte. Here, Truscott takes on vocals while Duterte produces and accompanies throughout the five songs on their debut EP And Other Things. The first taste of the release, which is out November 20, comes in "Cady Road," a shimmering pop single that flirts with country and folk touchstones: there's faint banjo, steel guitar, and a subtle twang in Truscott's voice. There's a powerful calming energy to this pairing and while it might be that Duterte and Truscott are partners outside of music, their debut single feels just right.
Various Artists, Pandemophenia
Bloodshot Records has put out great albums this year, especially the ripping rockfest from Chicago's Rookie but it's been a pretty turbulent 2020 for the scrappy alt-country label. Following the messy departure of co-founder Nan Warshaw in 2019 after her partner was accused of sexual assault, the non-owner staff of the label sent out a letter over summer to its roster detailing her botched royalty payments, missing financial documents, and the possibility of the label being sold as she still owns a 50% stake in it. It's an awful situation that I hope ends with Bloodshot surviving and being free from its disgraced co-founder. Over the last few months, I've been going through their back catalog and remembering how many great memories I associate with the label and the good people who work there. This compilation, released over the summer, features an incredible roundup of the talent and the defiant spirit of Bloodshot. This label has been an essential part of my record shelf.