There's no better way to ring in a new month than supporting artists on Bandcamp Fridays. Every first Friday of the month since March, Bandcamp has been waiving its revenue share on all music and merch sales on the platform. These days have been a godsend for touring musicians who are out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged shutdown of live music; according to Bandcamp, the campaign has brought in well over $20 million for these artists over just a few installments. Since the pandemic started in March, people have bought more than $75 million worth of music on the platform, which has surely helped out with rent checks or bill payments for hundreds if not thousands of working creatives.
And because it's another Bandcamp Friday, it's also time for the VICE staff to throw some suggestions out there on what to buy. We've been rounding-up some great Bandcamp buys since they started the promotion (and we've also highlighted our favorite songs every month so if these recommendations aren’t your thing), so if you're not sure where to start, try these out. As summer ends and autumn approaches, we’re recommending some plaintive, mellow, and still exciting releases from acts like Jon McKiel, Katie Von Schleicher, Corey Flood, Narrow Head, and more.
Sault, Untitled (Black Is)
Not much is known about who's behind Sault, the radical British experimental soul and funk collective. But whatever their elusive origin and makeup, their songs are brimming with defiance and resonance. Their latest album, Untitled (Black Is), was released in June as the world reeled from he unjust deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, and reflected on the systemic racism and police brutality that preceded and led to those killings. The album is a celebration of Black art as much as it is a protest against those evils. Songs like “Masterpiece” boast an understated groove and soulful backing vocals, while “Don’t Waste My Time” dives more fully into party-starting funk. But more than the genre-signifiers, it's the lyrics are that are most biting. On “Wildfires,” as a vocalist sings, “You should be ashamed/ the bloodshed on your hands,” the lines stick with you. “Take off your badge," they command. "We all know it was murder/ Murder, murder/ Murder” — Josh Terry
Narrow Head, 12th House Rock
What is it about 90s alternative rock that was so big and mean and heavy, yet so accessible, melodic, and anthemic? There's a generous pour of that special sauce on the second full-length from Houston's Narrow Head. If you prayed at the altar of Silverchair, drowned your feelings in Siamese Dream, or spent hours on your bedroom floor with the local FM rock station cranked on your boombox for any period between 1990 and 1998, you'll find nostalgia therapy in tracks like "Emmadazey" and "Night Tryst." There's also a heavy dose of fuzz and shoegaze worship on "Stuttering Stanley," a meditative homage to teen angst so potent that it might even make you miss the suburbs. Hanging out in parking lots, smoking cigarettes at the lookout point, making out on the roof—these are the moments that Narrow Head brings back, at a time when it's hard not to miss everything. —Hilary Pollack
Katie Von Schleicher, Consummation
Katie Von Schleicher has spent the last few years splitting time between playing in Brooklyn outfit Wilder Maker and performing solo. While both are examples of adventurous indie rock, her band thrives on cinematic guitars that settle into elongated jams, while her solo music is more intimate and self-contained. Her excellent 2020 sophomore LP Consummation finds its inspiration in small moments, like a lonely night-time drive on “Nowhere,” or trying to find the right words to express her feelings on the stunning “Loud.” Von Schleicher’s arrangements are serene and yearning throughout, able to strike the right balance between meditative and punchy on songs like “Wheel” and the synth-laden “Messenger.” — Josh Terry
Ulver, Flowers of Evil
The world is a harsh and cold place, and about to get colder—and actually, possibly harsher, considering we have a crucial election coming up and seemingly no end to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bleakness of the times we're in can feel overwhelming, but Ulver's Flowers of Evil, the Norwegian dark ambient band's 12th album, takes that dread and injects it with a sensuality that makes the brutality of the world feel cinematic. Per their Bandcamp page, the album explores "the fear and wonder of mankind’s fall from redemption." There's something oddly comforting in the album's ability to take the general disgust I feel towards our society, and articulating it in a pulsating, atmospheric dream world that feels heavy and airy all at once. That's especially evident on the opening track "One Last Dance," though that energy persists throughout, guided by singer Kristoffer Rygg's resonant vocals. "Machine Guns and Peacock Feathers" takes that reverberating sound to dancier places, and it's hard not to imagine myself in heavy dark eyeliner, racing down a darkened alleyway, like a lactose intolerant version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Flowers of Evil is exactly what the goth and/or sensitive metal kids need right now, in a time of uncertainty, anger, and insufficient humanity. –Alex Zaragoza
Corey Flood, Hanging Garden
After years grinding in Philadelphia’s DIY indie rock community, Corey Flood is finally releasing their debut album Hanging Garden. The trio makes blissfully nostalgic and compelling lo-fi guitar-pop that tries, as co-vocalist Em Boltz explains, "to encapsulate that moment I had and when I was sitting on [a good friend's] bed. The room had beautiful windows and the way the sunlight was shining through felt totally ethereal.” While that charming sentiment informs the LP's recent single “Down the Hill,” most of the tracks are chock-full of anxiety and tension. Opener “Heaven Or” is anchored by an understated jangle and a memorable hook, but it grapples with destructive thoughts and dissociating when co-lead singer Ivy Gray Klein sings “I know what I saw,” like a self-affirming mantra. — Josh Terry
Power Trip, Live in Seattle 05.28.2018
Last week, the world lost Riley Gale, the frontman of thrash/hardcore crossover behemoths Power Trip and one of the most promising and beloved talents in heavy music. With the outpouring of stories of both Gale's immense on-stage presence and his personal kindness and generosity in quieter moments, it's been difficult to accept his passing as just another casualty of a really fucked-up year. Power Trip had picked up incredible momentum over the past decade, especially following the release of critically acclaimed LPs Manifest Decimation and 2017's Nightmare Logic, one of our top picks for albums of the 2010s. In order to understand the crushing weight of Power Trip's riffs and the propulsive intensity of their lyrics, you just had to see them live, as they say. Sadly, many newer fans won't have the opportunity to do that, but thankfully, they can nab this stellar live album, recorded at a Seattle show just two years ago. It's a great way to feel the heat of some fan favorites, remember what made Gale a burgeoning icon in metal, and support the remaining members of the band. Rest in power Riley, see you in the pit… someday. —Hilary Pollack
Jon McKiel, Bobby Joe Hope
If there’s one album that warrants endless replays for the upcoming autumn, it’s Jon McKiel’s gorgeous and pastoral LP Bobby Joe Hope, released this past April. This collection is the result of the Canadian songwriter finding out his new tape machine had a wealth of instrumental passages already on it, made and left behind by a previous owner. Though he couldn’t find the original source, he started writing songs to the recordings, chopping up the found samples into tiny loops. Songs like personal song-of-the-year contender “Mourning Dove” offers swirling psychedelia, while another highlight, “Deeper Shade,” slowly builds until it dissolves into an almost krautrock-like passage. It’s meticulously constructed psych-pop that reveals more fascinating surprises every time you listen. — Josh Terry