ESSENTIAL RELEASES Essential Releases, March 22, 2024 By Bandcamp Daily Staff · March 22, 2024

What the Bandcamp Daily editors are listening to right now.

Les Big Byrd
Diamonds, Rhinestones, and Hard Rain

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, 2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Formed in 2011, Les Big Byrd are a psychedelic jam band fronted by Jocke Åhlund, a Swedish pop-rock mastermind best known for fronting Caesars (whose “Jerk It Out” famously appeared in a 2005 Apple commercial) and Teddybears (whose “Cobrastyle” famously appeared in Snakes on a Plane, plus a bajillion other video games and ads), as well as working with the likes of Robyn and Giorgio Moroder. Åhlund and his bandmates (Christian Olsson and Nino Keller of Caesars and Frans Johansson of Fireside) probably won’t end up getting any primetime placements with their new album Diamonds, Rhinestones, and Hard Rain; its nine tracks traffic primarily in discrete, kraut-indebted instrumentals that eschew vocal melodies in favor of shape-shifting experiments that regularly extend past the five-minute mark, or even the seven-minute mark, as on cuts like “Eyes like Dead Stars” and “Catamaran.” Their objective here is less about traveling from point A to point B and more about getting lost on purpose, in the most hallucinogenic manner possible; the sole exception is the title track, an impeccably measured dose of ‘60s psych-pop sporting a flanged-out, sing-song chorus. And bearing witness to these pros’ far-out journey is a serious treat, especially when you’re listening on headphones.

Zoe Camp

The Mali Empire
The Mali Selections Vol. 1

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

Nowaah the Flood enjoyed a brief moment of above-the-radar buzz back in 2018 when it was pointed out that the cover art for Nas’s record Nasir bore a, let’s say, striking similarity to the cover of the Dallas rapper’s collaboration with Bay Area producer The Architect. Admittedly, the timing is tight: On the one hand, Nowaah’s record beat Nas’s by a mere five days; on the other hand, Nas’s record was helmed by Kanye West, who has a history of changing album artwork at the last possible second. In truth, Nowaah should have been receiving above-the-radar buzz for his rhymes which, since 2020’s brilliant and bleak Respectfully, have offered tough street sermons shrouded by hazy production. On Monday of this week he dropped The Mali Empire Vol. 1, an odds-and-ends compilation of Nowaah and his collaborators that is a testament to how strong even his castoffs are. The track listing features a murderer’s row of MC’s alongside Nowaah: al.divino, Estee Nack, Raz Fresco and, in a coup, Raekwon—whose co-sign should be enough to spur the curious to click “Buy Digital Album.” The production is exceptional throughout, though I’m especially partial to the spy-theme guitar Kyo Itachi laces through “GLE450” and the creepy horror-movie-piano score D-Styles lays beneath “Akbar Pray Day.” Maybe Nas can enlist one of them for his next record.

J. Edward Keyes

Bite Down

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

If 2021’s No Medium was Rosali Middleman stepping into vulnerability, Bite Down is where she reaps the rewards of her bravery. These songs fairly radiate a sense of peace and self-compassion that doesn’t feel effortless, it feels hard-earned, and it permeates even the most boisterous of the blues-rock stompers—and there are a lot of stompers on Bite Down. But life is worth celebrating when you’ve found your tribe, and Middleman has found kindred spirits in Omaha’s Mowed Sound, her crack backing band who are as instrumental to the sound of Bite Down as Middleman herself. Still an experimental artist at heart, there’s always a nebulous feel to Middleman’s songs, as if they have just a second before taken shape—listen to how the scattered intro of “My Kind” collapses into lockstep formation, the whooshes of white noise burbling behind “Rewind,” the heavenly prayer of “May It Be On Offer.” In such a way Middleman’s songs have the quality of a newborn baby, soul still streaked with stardust from the void, limitless and material at the same time, ready to drink in life in all its beauty and all its pain.

Mariana Timony

Fruit Galaxy

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Cassette

Standards, the Los Angeles-based duo of guitarist Marcos Mena and drummer Moises Pope, are far and away the cheeriest band in the history of math rock, and maybe instrumental rock writ large. Their first two albums, 2020’s Fruit Island and 2022’s Fruit Town, approached the pleasure principle as a kind of euphoric musical theory, leveraging their technical prowess to hit those good vibes from multiple angles; it’s the stuff of tapped-out riffs and jazz-punk backbeats, chiptune synths and chill-hop drum loops, raised on a diet of jazz, ’00s pop-punk, and classic video game soundtracks. (Three more points of evidence: Standards’ mascot is a smiley-faced anthropomorphic watermelon, their walk-out music is sourced from Super Smash Bros. and the Wii Shop Channel, and they describe themselves as “fruit rock,” all of which sounds pretty chipper to me.) Fruit Galaxy, their ambitious third album, pushes their feel-good philosophy into over-drive through a combination of maximalist arrangements, spontaneous dynamics, and radiant digital textures, best exemplified by tracks like “Dragonfruit” and “Wisteria.” It’s music designed for dancing, but also for dreaming, and nightmares have no place here. Happy Friday, indeed.

Zoe Camp

Tigers Blood

Tiger Blood continues down the path of Americana that Katie Crutchfield embarked on with 2020’s revelatory Saint Cloud, setting her oaky voice against stacks of ringing acoustic guitars. Blood is a smaller record than Cloud both in sound and in scope; the previous album’s pronunced hooks have been swapped for songs that are more ambling and conversational, and lyrically are more focused on life’s quotidian details. Contrast the big open epic ache of Cloud’s Indigo Girls-y “Can’t Do Much”—”I want you all the time/ …love you ‘til the day I die”—to the ease and comfort of that same emotion in Blood’s “Right Back to It”—”I’ve been yours for so long I come right back to it”—and you’ve got a good idea of the album’s homier scope. The album’s gentle arrangements evokes countryfied outings by alt-rock bands in decades past—the guitar line in “Crowbar” could have been lifted directly from R.E.M.s Out of Time—and every song feels like it was hand-crafted by Crutchfield for a different person in her life, and she sings them with that same kind of warm famliiarity. Saint Cloud was a sunbeam; Tiger’s Blood is a blanket, well-worn and comforting.

J. Edward Keyes

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