There's not enough good news. But thankfully, there's been one positive in an otherwise dire year and it's that Bandcamp has been waiving its revenue share for all online sales on the first Friday of every month since March. So far, the first four "Bandcamp Fridays" have generated over $20 million dollars directly for artists and labels. With live music on an indefinite and already-too-long hiatus, this is potentially life-altering money for any struggling artist. While it's not going to fix the struggles of the music industry this year, these promotions, which are continuing throughout 2020, are undeniably meaningful.
In a world where streaming services pay out fractions of a penny and Spotify's CEO Daniel Ek claims that "you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough," it's more important than ever to vote with your wallet. Buying directly from artists on Bandcamp—and from your local independent record store—are the absolute best ways to get money into the hands of musicians. While there's an endless list of deserving talents who need support, here is a list of five acts worth considering on August's Bandcamp Friday.
Joshua Virtue and Malci are two freewheeling and dynamic Chicago rappers who are also co-founders of Why? Records, one of the city's most vital bastions of underground hip-hop. Their JV + Malci EP came about over late-night studio sessions and 12-packs of beer and the result is loose, fun, and spontaneous. They both rap over the EP's eight tracks and split production duties throughout: Virtue shines on "After The Measles Outbreak" where Malci practically floats as he references Rambo and Halo on "Long Way." This inviting EP proves how effortless this duo's chemistry can be.
Eric Slick, Wiseacre
Eric Slick is best known as the drummer for Dr. Dog, but his solo work in the last half-decade has been consistently worthwhile, charming, and excellent. His latest album Wiseacre, which is out August 14, is named after the location where he got married to singer Natalie Prass, who guests on the mesmerizing single "Closer to Heaven." While these buoyant and breezy pop-rock songs deal with the happiness that comes from domestic bliss, Slick focuses on self-acceptance and combating your own insecurities. On the single "When It Comes Down To It," he sings, "Maybe I’m not perfect / I’m a simple person / When it comes down to it."
Madeline Kenney, Sucker’s Lunch
Madeline Kenney's delicate and potent indie rock is at its best on her just-released third album Sucker's Lunch. Here, the Oakland songwriter enlists Wye Oak's Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner, who produced her last LP 2018's Perfect Shapes, to round out her band and produce the album with her. The best of the 10-track bunch comes in single "Sucker" which features guest vocals from Lambchop's Kurt Wagner. His distinctive baritone is the perfect foil for Kenney's emotive voice as they duet over swirling guitars. It's a gorgeous track and Kenney's delivery of the line "Go on ahead without me" is stunning and haunting enough to make for one of the best indie rock singles of the year.
Video Age, Pleasure Line
New Orleans band Video Age is masterful at translating vintage sounds and timeless pop melodies into songs that feel refreshing now. The danceable single "Aerostar" effectively channels Prince, and the opening title track boasts synths that wouldn't be out of place on Tears For Fears' Songs from the Big Chair. Though they gleefully wear their influences on their sleeves, these songs are all uniformly strong, with ample grooves and effervescent hooks. This album is practically bursting with repeatable pop jams that never lose their staying power as they stick in your head. It's a hard formula to nail but Video Age has done it better than most.
Anjimile, Giver Taker
Though Anjimile has only shared one single so far of their incredible forthcoming LP Giver Taker, the Boston songwriter already has one of the most undeniable songs of the year in "Maker." Over pristine acoustic strums, they sound confident and explosive when they sing, "I’m not just a boy, I’m a man/ I’m not just a man, I’m a god/ I’m not just a god, I’m a maker." Most of these resilient songs were written as they were in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and "in the process of living more fully as a nonbinary trans person," and throughout Anjimile channels their vulnerability with tangible grace. This record is one of the year's most anticipated based on this single and when it's September 18 release comes, you'll be relieved you pre-ordered it.