Tag Archives: EMA

The Best Albums of 2017: #20 – 1

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The wait is over. These are the 20 Best Albums of the year.

Last year, the Bandcamp Daily staff put together our first “Best Albums of the Year List,” 100 albums we felt defined 2016 for us. At the time I remember thinking, “This is tough, but it will probably get easier as the years go on.” Now, one year later, I’m realizing that I was wrong. The truth is, the world of Bandcamp is enormous, and it contains artists from all over the world, in every conceivable genre (including a few who exist in genres of their own invention), and at every stage of their career. The fact of the matter is, any list like this is going to fall short because, on Bandcamp, there is always more to discover. Right now, there’s probably someone in their bedroom in Buenos Aires, making a record on their computer that is going to end up on next year’s list. So as comprehensive as we’ve tried to make this list, we realize that, even at 100 albums, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s available. The albums that made this list, though, were the ones that stayed with us long after they were released—the ones we returned to again and again and found their pleasures undimmed, and their songs still rewarding. These are Bandcamp’s Best Albums of 2017.

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The Best Albums of Summer 2017

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Every three months, the Bandcamp Daily editorial staff combs through the stacks to present our favorite records of the year to date. The albums presented here run the stylistic spectrum, everything from noise to indiepop to hip-hop to everything in between. And if you like what you see here, check out our picks for winter and spring of 2017, too.

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Album of the Day: EMA, “Exile in the Outer Ring”

It’s hard not to read Exile in the Outer Ring, the third unsettling record from experimental futurist Erika M. Anderson, who goes by EMA, within a political framework: it’s about an America that moves through suburban basements and conspiracy-theory message boards. But EMA began working on her album over three years ago and devotes it to something more cryptic and timeless: a place she calls the Outer Ring.

Occupied by 24-hour Walmarts and generic apartment complexes, the Outer Ring is EMA’s version of the metaphysical layer separating rural expanse from urban density, which she sketches with jagged feedback and gut punch-heavy beats across Exile’s 11 disorienting tracks. It’s a place she began exploring with her much-celebrated, defunct noise trio Gowns, and here she draws on thematic highlights from their sole album, Red State. On “Breathalyzer” and “Always Bleeds,” drones build and burn, anxious and spacious, to cacophony that feels like a rite of purification; on “Blood and Chalk,” the tender, melancholy lyrics and rhythmic repetition evoke Red State’s wrenching closer, “Cherylee.”

Since going solo in 2011, she’s also truly refined her own unique derivation of rock; Exile revels in power chords that add heft and grit to all the synths and feedback. Her confrontational refrain of “Tell me stories of famous men / I can’t see myself in them” on “Aryan Nation,” snarled over stadium-echo drums in between guitar solos, would be anthemic if it weren’t so disquieting. EMA excels at creating such unsettled, ambiguous spaces, and although the Outer Ring is not a comfortable place to be, she makes it impossible to turn away.

—Zoë Beery