ESSENTIAL RELEASES Essential Releases, March 3, 2023 By Bandcamp Daily Staff · March 03, 2023

What the Bandcamp Daily editors are listening to right now.

Ankhlejohn & Look Damien!
The Dead Don’t Die

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Like all great artistic partnerships, the collaboration between the producer Look Damien! and the rapper Ankhlejohn—both based in D.C.—has worked to the benefit of both parties. Damien takes his name from an infamous scene in the 1976 horror film The Omen and, accordingly, his productions have a distinctly occult aura to them, full of churning string sections, icy pianos and skin-crawling glissandos that seem to portend something distinctly unholy. And Ankhlejohn has the kind of voice that makes it sound like he’s summoning demons even when he isn’t—a lean, insistent, gravelly snarl the menace of which is only amplified by his fondness for the ad-lib “six six six.” Their previous project together, Honey Sweeter Than Blood,was deliciously unsettling, strings drifting like spirits across the background while Ankhlejohn commanded the fore. The duo’s latest The Dead Don’t Die—once again available on limited edition vinyl courtesy of the excellent label Fxck Rxp—is another winner. Damien adorns the songs’ shadowy corners with weeping orchestras and spectral soprano voices (See “Celine at the Mat Gala” for this approach at its best), and Ankhlejohn sets them alight, as charismatic delivering crime dramas (“Tony Soprano”) as he is when digging deeper. “Miss You” is a prime example of the latter: a love letter to a D.C. that is now long gone, Ankhlejohn floods the song with memories, revisiting people and places from decades past. That song is another kind of ghost story—the past returning for a fleeting moment to allow one bittersweet final goodbye.

J. Edward Keyes

Brendan Eder Ensemble
Therapy

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

Is there anything Brendan Eder can’t do? In the past few years alone the creatively restless Los Angeles musician has done everything from score short films and helm a well-received concept record under the alias of a retired dentist, to playing drums on the last one from Colleen Green. On third full-length Therapy, Eder is back with the curious directive: “What would Aphex Twin do with a chamber ensemble?” The answer is, apparently, make a record of woodwind arrangements brimming with beauty and a soothing ambience worthy of the title, imbued with a solemnity that belies its high concept hook (though there are two Aphex Twin covers and they’re both great and will appeal to all the graying YouTube commenters who reminisce about coming down in their teenage bedrooms in the 90s while watching MTV.) Recorded in a Southern California church and partially inspired by Eder’s burgeoning interest in the metaphysical and a lot of near-death experience videos on YouTube, there is something of the sacred in these wordless songs with their concise, lovely melodies, enriched by contributions from guest musicians such as harpist Nailah Hunter, which do not attempt to provoke any particular reaction from the listener, but rather provide a safe cocoon of reassuringly pleasant sound through which all manner of emotions might be processed and released.

Mariana Timony

En Attendant Ana
Principia

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

Pity the indie pop bands fighting an uphill battle to distinguish themselves from all the other bands that sound exactly like them, amongst whom En Attendant Ana need no longer be counted. The Parisian quintet hit their stride and find their sound on Principia, a confident work of sophisticated guitar pop that leaves behind the rote shuffling and shambling of 2020’s overstuffed Juillet and lands somewhere in the realm of sparky, spacious post-punk of the kind purveyed by their labelmates Melenas with a hint of swing beneath the motorik grooves. Vocalist Margaux Bouchaudon steals the show throughout, her bright voice more forthrightly emotional than what is usually heard from too-cool French bands, but it’s the less-is-more approach to instrumentation and memorable songwriting (once heard, the surprisingly affecting two-parter “Wonder” will play on loop in your brain forever) that make Principia one of the first truly great records of 2023.

Mariana Timony

Gayance
Mascarade

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

What I enjoyed most about listening to Masquerade was that I was never sure where the vibe was headed. Gayance (born Aïsha Vertus) is adventurous, and the result is a debut album that feels like a journey through her various sonic influences. The album’s standout is the ‘80s-synth-heavy “Shore Apart,” which features singer Raveen. I also like the catchy and lowkey “Clout Chaser’s Anthem.” Other favorites include the thumping classic techno track “Nunca Mais,” the soul-rock title song which features more powerful vocals from Raveen, and the sumptuous “Dead End.” Masquerade is a fun project that really demonstrates Gayance’s range as a producer and it’s clear she’s not afraid to take risks.

Diamond Sharp

Ivy
Apartment Life (25th Anniversary)

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

College rock snobs over the age of 30, get ready to feel old! Ivy’s 1997 opus Apartment Life just got reissued by Bar/None Records for its 25th anniversary, in digital and—for the first time—on LP. For everyone else, consider this a long overdue introduction to one of the most crucial, yet chronically overlooked, power pop records of the late ’90s. The trio of Dominique Durand, Andy Chase, and the late Adam Schlesinger (eventual frontman of Fountains of Wayne, who passed away in 2020) cut their teeth in Manhattan’s underground rock circuit in the mid-’90s, before the post-9/11 angst, the hipster sleaze, and the runaway gentrification; their sleek, sunny guitar pop, often compared to My Bloody Valentine and the Pixies, bottled up the energy of that high-spirited era with equal parts punch and panache. Apartment Life, Ivy’s first and only album for Atlantic Records, polished that sound further still, showcasing Chase’s and Schlesinger’s economical songcraft alongside Durand’s dreamy, ASMR-inducing melodies. The LP might not have dominated the charts, but it captured the hearts of many, and the highlights (”You Don’t Know Anything” and “This Is The Day” chief among them) make it easy to understand why. How could you not fall in love?

Zoe Camp

Pandemix
Love Is Obliteration

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Vinyl Box Set

We’re obviously big fans of Pandemix here, and the Boston punk band really keeps upping the ante. As pointed, political, and catchy as always, but with a real concision to their energy, this feels like their most focused release to date as well as their most musically adventurous, with some of the most judicious use of sampling in punk I’ve heard in a bit. No hypocrisy is safe from vocalist Shannon Thompson’s incisive critique—the conservatism lurking at the heart of much of modern punk (“Pigs at the Trough”), the contempt at the heart of much philanthropy (“Scorched Earth Policy”). “The Next Crisis” takes aim at the way fascists use the instability of modern capitalism to call for greater policing and surveillance; when Thompson howls “the next crisis could be the last,” her voice fairly drips with acid. “The First Crisis,” closer to the end of the record, brings this all back to Columbine and the normalization of mass shootings. “World War None” draws the distinct line between Crass and Tragedy with the poetic patter of the former meeting the spine-prickling cinematic guitar lines of the latter. I’d like to mail “Dead Celebrities (“Album Version”) directly to Netflix: “I’m so excited for the reboot of the remake of a story that once meant something to me!” Thompson snaps. All of the righteous vitriol that builds up over the album is poured into closer “Learned it Young,” where Thompson casts an eye toward the formative mythologies of our stratified society on a track that’s part spoken word, part chant-along catharsis. Love is Obliteration is a smart, sharp, right-on record that melds the best aspects of hardcore, peace-punk, and crust into a blistering and distinctive sound.

jj skolnik
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