What the Bandcamp Daily editors are listening to right now.
The Joy of Sects
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
A word of advice: whenever you feel like the sky is falling, seek out Chemtrails. The Manchester-based quartet, formed in 2016 by guitarists and vocalists Mia Lust and Laura Orlova, approaches power pop not just as an easy avenue for hooks, but a whole existential apparatus fueled by absurdity and gallows humor: “worship songs for a post-apocalyptic world,” they call ’em. Hence, their third LP, The Joy of Sects, props its surfy, post-punk-inflected earworms—check “Sycophants Paradise” and “(Post-Acopalystick)” for a taste of B-52s on acid—against the apocryphal backdrop of nukes, pollution, extinction events, and doomsday cults suggested by the song titles. Chemtrails’ bright arrangements, propelled by Lust and Orlova’s deftly interwoven harmonies and riffs, suggest a thorough study of the New Pornographers playbook, and the nihilistic wisecracks and animated delivery are bound to resonate with Tropical Fuck Storm fans. Cursory points of comparison aside, though, the end result is as novel, refreshing, and charming as it gets. Armageddon rock forever.
The Flower That Knew
Candian rapper DijahSB released The Flower That Knew in the waning weeks of 2023, when it was easy to get lost in the Best-of-Year content deluge. That’s a shame: like their excellent 2021 album Head Above the Waters, The Flower That Knew is a feast of breezy, jazzy production and understated bars. It also exudes the kind of confidence that comes from weathering turmoil. On “Cap,” over a swaying electro R&B backdrop. Dijah proclaims: “Almost crashed through a brick wall/ now life feels sweeter than some Kool-Aid,” and on “Chantel’s Garden,” they revel in the growth that can come with being in a healthy relationship, rapping, “Waking up to you is a dream that I can’t believe/ You water me daily, I’m seeing the growth now/ I’m seeing you change me/ I’m starting to bloom now.” The album’s sunny production reinforces these themes of uplift—woozy, dreamy R&B on “Back Outside”; bright, bass-heavy funk on “Forest”; brisk, vaporwave-y sizzles on “On Sight.” In the dark months of winter, The Flower That Knew arrives to nourish the spirit.
A longtime resident of Cincinnati’s indie scene, Mol Sullivan steps into her own on what is set to be her debut album, GOOSE, a collection of songs that charts the singer-songwriter’s growing pains as she enters her 30s newly sober. Her folk-leaning chamber pop maintains the Americana-lite flourishes of her previous EPs, but in teaming up with producer and Chicago indie stalwart Sima Cunningham, her evocative storytelling finds its other half in artfully restrained production and lightly textured arrangements that feel full despite their simplicity. Perhaps the strongest instrument on this record, however, is her voice. For Sullivan, tone is a storytelling device; whether she’s tight-rope walking a girlish lilt across the self-effacing “Goose,” howling playful awoo’s on the twangy “Cannonball,” or dropping into a husky alto to chide those who have you “eggshell dancing” around their self-made problems. She holds a shaky mirror up to her newfound sobriety on songs like “Still Tryin’” and “Biting Your Teeth” and conjures anxious self-doubt on the title track, begging the question, “Am I the swan or just a goose?” In other words, Am I the protagonist or the punchline? Well, for being 15 years in the making, GOOSE is a swan of an album.
Cassette, Compact Disc (CD)
Rhûn is the duo of multi-instrumentalist Aaron Charles and drummer Ray Capizzo, founding members of Falls of Rauros. Their primary band—arguably the best-known, most forward-thinking metal band in Maine—are more or less the aural embodiment of the average New England winter; their unpredictable song structures, cascading instrumentation, and roaring landscapes—rendered all the more expensive thanks to the lengthy runtimes and diligent sequencing, add up to a listening experience that resembles a prolonged Polar Bear Plunge. Rhûn, who formed in the summer of 2021, are much more hot-blooded by comparison, particularly where riffs and melodies are concerned. The guitars here sound impressionistic and heady instead of angular and grounded, which is to say there’s a pronounced uptick in movement; Charles’s trippy solos and layered rhythm parts weave in and out amid his demonic howls, jockeying with Capizzo’s blast beats for the newfound sonic space. Take the ferocity and expanse of Krallice’s atmospheric black metal, add a dash of Oranssi Pazuzu’s madcap psych, and you’ve got a rough approximation of what to expect from Conveyance in Death. In other words, it’s a must-add to any metalhead’s collection.
Sadness Sets Me Free
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
The new one from Gruff Rhys comes with something of a romantic backstory: Rhys and his fresh-off-the-road band posting up in a studio outside of Paris and making Sadness Sets Me Free in three days. The result is melancholic chamber pop with a cosmic bent; a record where Laurel Canyon twang is just as at home as disco strings and glam-y piano ballads, and all of it sounding crisp and present and expertly played. Nothing about this record feels dashed off or experimental but Sadness Sets Me Free is also a “fuck the government” record, the politics of which align with many musicians of Rhys’s vintage. It’s a balance he mostly maintains throughout so you either don’t really notice or you’re okay with his whole deal; he only occasionally pushes his luck with overly-literal lyrics. But mostly this record is content to be weird and metaphysical, a pleasant baroque pop wonderland for grown-ups from a band between stations.
European Primitive Guitar (1974-1987)
2 x Vinyl LP
A crucial piece of musical history is established and documented on this compilation from NTS, which links John Fahey to European musicians influenced or inspired by his work, a cross-cultural exchange that sees the roots of American primitive excavated by its forebears to fascinating effect. The artists (including some true Euro underground weirdos and experimentalists) tease out various aspects of Fahey’s sound, resulting in music that runs the gamut to from meditatively pretty, brimming with chiming tones, to cerebral and blissfully austere; warmly twangy to solemn, prickly, and traditional—but all of it very beautiful. A grand achievement from an ethnomusicological standpoint exceeded only by its compulsive listenability.
The Sydney group Watchglass first got on my radar with last May’s Every Conversation in June, a record that channelled both the spookiness of early Cat Power and the radiance of Cocteau Twins into its spartan songs. That album, as it turns out, is an outlier in their catalog: made at a moment where it seemed like the band may not continue, its loose, demo-like feel captured—deliberately or otherwise—the uncertainty of the moment. The rest of their catalog is more lush, and the radiant Beautiful Dust is a return to those verdant sonics. There are still whispers of Cocteau Twins in the drifting, bewitching vocal melodies, but songs like “How Will You Know Me” are fleshed out with thumping rhythms and hazy electronics. “Paper Wings,” with its faint brushstrokes of guitar, recalls early 10,000 Maniacs or The Innocence Mission, and “Nothing Could Keep Me Away” plays out like a deconstructed Laurel Canyon ballad, the center scooped out completely to let the vocal float above the faint pulse of a rhythm. Taken in full, Beautiful Dust only deepens the group’s aura of mystery—as hushed and evocative as a ghost story whispered around a campfire.