30 albums from 2020 we recommend buying on Bandcamp today
With the coronavirus causing tours to be canceled at least through the spring, musicians need to rely on sales of their more than ever. Today, March 20, Bandcamp is waiving their cut of all sales though the website, which includes digital downloads, vinyl, CDs, cassettes and even merch. So if you have been wanting to buy some new music, today would be a good day to show your support of artists and indie labels -- some of whom have pledged to also donate all of their revenue to artists, and/or made their catalogs available for "pay what you want" -- via Bandcamp. (This is in effect till midnight Pacific.) With that in mind, we've put together a list of 30 records from this year we recommend that you can buy from Bandcamp, plus a few upcoming releases we're anticipating, too.
A Girl Called Eddy - Been Around
We said: This is an exquisitely produced album, lushly orchestrated and a much more classic-sounding record than her debut. With its chromatic harmonica solo, “Been Around,” which opens the album, sounds like a Burt Bacharach recording from 1968. “Jody,” one of a handful of songs on the album to feature backing vocals from The Watson Twins, sounds like Rickie Lee Jones covering Steely Dan, while “Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart” is the kind of chiming, swoony guitar pop that just doesn’t get made much anymore. Ditto for “Two Hearts,” a swelling chorus that might get you a little verklempt.
Bambara - Stray
We said: Continuing from where they left off on 2018’s excellent A Shadow on Everything, Stray refines and polishes their dark, romantic sound whose #1 asset remains pure swagger. (That sound lurks somewhere around Nick Cave/Rowland S. Howard, Leonard Cohen, and Swans.) This one is a little more of a sultry after-hours record, lit in red neon, made in dark alleys and dimly lit dives where well liquor is the only thing being poured.
Bill Fay - Countless Branches
We said: Like his last two albums, it was recorded with producer Joshua Henry, but they took a slightly more stripped-back approach this time, recording much of the album with just Bill, his piano, and "some rudimentary home recording equipment." Bill of course has the resources to make something much grander sounding at this point in his career, but he sounds best at his most intimate so it's a real treat that he chose to make the new album this way.
Bombay Bicycle Club - Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
We said: The songs are all distinct, but they're all generally in the same orbit, and that orbit tends to include krauty jams, lots of atmosphere, synths that sound like strings and horns and vice versa, killer basslines that sound like killer guitar riffs, and repeated refrains that lodge themselves into your brain on first or second listen. The album starts out on a high with the hazy intro track "Get Up," kicks into full gear on the krauty, driving "Is It Real," and then stays on that level for the rest of the record.
Caribou - Suddenly
We said: It’s been six years since Our Love, Dan Snaith’s last album as Caribou. He’s stayed busy, with tours, making records as Daphni, and some serious life stuff, but he’s also admitted new album Suddenly just took the longest to make. Snaith had made over 900 little loops, riffs and samples that he then poured through, combining, discarding, embellishing, to make this 12-song, 44 minute album. It seems like an insane, Eno-like amount of work, but Suddenly feels entirely effortless and, more than any previous record, connects the early psych-heavy Caribou (and Manitoba) records with the housey, electronic sound he surprised fans with on 2010’s Swim.
Cindy Lee - What's Tonight to Eternity
We said: As Cindy Lee, former Women singer/guitarist Patrick Flegel makes music that is eerie, beautiful, nostalgic, and sometimes a little disquieting, like the Lady in the Radiator from Eraserhead covering The Carpenters by way of Sonic Youth and The Radio Dept. The Carpenters, and the tragic story of Karen Carpenter in particular, were a direct influence on Cindy Lee’s fantastic fifth album, What’s Tonight To Eternity?, a record whose otherworldly pop is perfectly matched to its quizzical, somewhat nihilistic title.
Cornershop - England is a Garden
We said: Coming up on their 30th anniversary as a group, Cornershop have kept busy, releasing collaborations with Bubbley Kaur, one-off singles, their disco side project Clinton, and reworking older material, that it doesn’t seem like it’s been 11 years since their last proper studio album, 2009’s Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast. Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayers sound as switched on and in touch as ever on England is a Garden featuring their signature blend of Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones and Marc Bolan peppered with sitar, tabla and other traditional indian music and pop.
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats - UNLOCKED
We said: When UNLOCKED first arrived, I said its brevity, surprise release, carefree attitude, and the fact that it was recorded in three days shouldn't make it seem any less essential than the landmark albums Denzel Curry recently released, and that already feels like an understatement. Now that it's had time to settle in, it just feels like Denzel Curry has yet again made some of the best new rap music around. UNLOCKED pays obvious homage to a lot of turn-of-the-millennium rap music, from its Matt Doo-like artwork to the MF DOOM style production to the DMX style cadences, but Denzel and Kenny make it all their own.
Destroyer - Have We Met
We said: Have We Met is like a third cousin twice removed to 2011’s brilliant Kaputt (one of our favorite records of the last decade). This is a much different beast, though. Where Kaputt was warm, rainswept, neon-lit and thick with saxophones and flute, Have We Met is gleaming and sleek, like brushed steel in outer space. Boldly going where Destroyer hasn’t gone before, it’s colder, louder, more bizarre, but still sexy.
Empty Country - Empty Country
Get Better Records
Empty Country, the new project of Cymbals Eat Guitars frontman Joe D'Agostino, is quieter than the Cymbals albums but just as vast, and fans of Joe's immediately recognizable singing and songwriting style will probably agree that this album nails a balance between the new and the familiar. (And despite being quieter, Joe does sometimes raise his voice to the roar that gained his previous band some associations with "emo.") Joe has a way with subtly off-kilter melodies that's on full display on Empty Country, and his words are so personal and specific that they feel like a window into his world, yet he writes in such a way that even the most specific details can feel relatable on a near-universal level.
Floral Tattoo - You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start
We said: It has that mid 2000s indie vibe where it sounds small and lo-fi on the surface but it's bursting with arena-sized ambition, and it seems to almost effortlessly hop between different styles of music. There's wall-of-sound shoegaze, there's emo that ranges from the nasally Modern Baseball/Weakerthans kind ("She") to the mopey Tigers Jaw kind ("Oar House"), there's ska-tinged punk that kinda sounds like Keasbey Nights-era Catch-22 ("Don't Try Things"), and there's even an interpolation of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" (on "[redding forest fire / fermi]"). The whole album sounds dense and claustrophobic, but the melodies and the emotion all find a way to shine through.
Four Tet - Sixteen Oceans
We said: Four Tet remains so good at making dance music sound shimmering and devastatingly beautiful. When we included 2010's There Is Love In You among our favorite albums of the 2010s, we mentioned it was just one of many great records that Four Tet released during the decade, and Sixteen Oceans -- his first proper full-length in three years -- picks right up where his seemingly never-ending hot streak left off.
Frances Quinlan - Likewise
We said: ...going solo doesn't mean stripping back her sound in Frances' case. Just the opposite. She and Hop Along guitarist/producer Joe Reinhart made this record together, and they used all kinds of instruments -- including synths, drum machines, harps, strings, and more -- to achieve a sound that's just as grand as the recent Hop Along records. As ever, Frances remains a hell of a vocalist, with a larger-than-life voice that reels you in every time she opens her mouth.
Honey Harper - Starmaker
We said: William Fussell has been in a few bands over the last 10 years — all various strains of dreampop, including Mood Rings and Promise Keeper — but has found his voice with Honey Harper that incorporates everything he’s done before but applies it to ’70s-style country.... Starmaker is like Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” by way of Weyes Blood’s wide-eyed, wide-screen space-pop and the floating guitar cascades of Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie (if he sported a Stetson).
Human Impact - Human Impact
We said: Last year came the bummer news that Unsane frontman Chris Spencer left the band after 30 years (effectively ending the band), but it was immediately revealed that he'd instead be dedicating his time to a new band, Human Impact, whose lineup also includes Jim Coleman (Cop Shoot Cop), Phil Puleo (Cop Shoot Cop, Swans), and Chris Provdica (Swans). ...going by the sound of their debut album, Chris sounds totally reinvigorated as a singer and songwriter and the hype for the singles has been tangible. Sterilize was a great record in general, not just for a band nearly three decades in their career, but Human Impact's self-titled debut is the freshest sounding thing Chris has done in a while.
Irreversible Entanglements - Who Sent You?
Irreversible Entanglements is the collective of poet/MC Camae Ayewa (aka Moor Mother), saxophonist Keir Neuringer, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, bassist Luke Stewart, and drummer Tcheser Holmes, and Who Sent You? is their masterful, enthralling sophomore album. It's like part free jazz, part Gil Scott-Heron, and it sounds like an underground performance arts space come to life in your headphones. Trying to describe it doesn't really do it justice; it's so lively and powerful and spontaneous and you kinda have to just hear it for yourself to understand why. I promise you won't regret it.
Jeff Parker - Suite for Max Brown
We said: Tortoise's Jeff Parker made this one with a similar band to The New Breed -- bassist/producer Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann), alto saxist Josh Johnson (Leon Bridges), and drummer Jamire Williams (Solange, Moses Sumney, Christian Scott, Big K.R.I.T.) -- and this time he also brought in Bright Eyes' Nate Walcott on trumpet. The band may be full of indie rock and hip hop connections, and there are definitely some modern, non-jazz sounds to be heard on Suite for Max Brown, but it can also be a very classic-sounding, '60s/'70s-style jazz album, and not just on the '60s/'70s covers (it features a version of John Coltrane’s 1963 song “After the Rain" and Gnarciss,” an interpretation of Joe Henderson’s 1977 song “Black Narcissus”).
Juniore - Un Deux Trois
We said: Parisian trio Juniore make what they call “yé-yé noir,” which is to say a sound steeped in mid-’60s artists like France Gall, Françoise Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Dutronc, but with a sultry surf-psych twist. It’s in the same universe as La Femme and The Liminanas, and if you dig slinky French pop at all — or even things like Khruangbin — Junior’s new album Un Deux Trois is definitely worth a spin. Basslines are groovy, the drums really snap, twangy leads snake through songs, vintage organs add an air of mystery, and leader Anna-Jean has that breathy, sexy voice this kind of stuff demands.
Katie Gately - Loom
We said: Loom may get compared to artists like Bjork (who Katie has also remixed) and Holly Herndon, and while I do implore all fans of those artists to listen to Katie Gately if they don't already, I also think Loom continues to prove that she's a force of her own and doesn't really lend itself to any easy comparisons. The album is full of inventive electronic production, supernatural sound manipulation, and rich vocal layering, and Katie matches the complex, innovative arrangements with songs that really get stuck in your head.
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges - Texas Sun EP
Dead Oceans/Columbia/Night Time Stories Ltd
We said: If you dig psychedelic soul classics like War or Cloud Nine-era Temptations even more than you dig the smoother stuff Coming Home was routinely compared to like Sam Cooke, you might agree that Texas Sun is the most appealing thing Leon has done yet. Khruangbin's trippy atmospheres and snakey guitar lines can really take you there as well as anyone who played the original Woodstock, and Leon's voice makes the songs soar in a way that even Khruangbin's vocal-oriented songs don't. They bring out the best in each other.
Moses Boyd - Dark Matter
We said: ...one of the most exciting new jazz musicians around. It features collaborations with two other artists from We Out Here -- Nubya Garcia (of Nérija) and Joe Armon-Jones (of Ezra Collective) -- as well as UK R&B/soul singer Poppy Ajudha and Afro-fusion artists Obongjayar and Nonku Phiri, and as you might guess from that list of guests alone, Dark Matter completely breaks down lines between genres. It's jazz, it's hip hop, it's soul, it's psychedelia -- it's a lot of things, and whatever subgenre you wanna call it, it's a grooving, entrancing record that hooks you in from the start and ends way too soon.
Moses Sumney - græ (part 1)
We said: ...græ is shaping up to be one of the most monumental albums released this year. It gracefully moves from classical-inspired chamber pop to militant art rock to shimmering jazz to acoustic singer/songwriter material and beyond, and Moses ties it all together with his soaring, often-falsetto voice that can rival anything from Frank Ocean's indie-soul croon to Thom Yorke's psychedelic mumble. And his lyrics can be poetic, personal, and political, and they're impactful whether he's being blunt or relying on imagery and metaphor.
Nadia Reid - Out of My Province
We said: Joining the Spacebomb family not only gave Nadia more visibility in the US, it also allowed her to work with the label's in-house production team of Matthew E. White and Trey Pollard, who have earned themselves a reputation for their grand string arrangements thanks to their work on recent albums by Foxygen, Natalie Prass, Bedouine, and more. The strings do wonders for Out of My Province, which is a beautiful sounding record and the most massive sounding album Nadia has released yet. But as much of a sell as they are, Nadia never relies on any of the embellishments to drive these songs home. Just like her first two records, Out of My Province brings you to the edge of your seat with the power of Nadia's words and voice alone.
Ovrkast - Try Again
Ovrkast caught a lot of people's ears as a guest on Earl Sweatshirt's Feet of Clay last year, and this year he released his own great album, which features Mavi (who was also on Feet of Clay), Navy Blue (who was on Earl's Some Rap Songs), Pink Siifu, and Demahjiae. As you might expect from a cast of collaborators like that, Try Again is in the same general psychedelic underground rap world as Earl, MIKE, etc, but he puts his own twist on it with a style of head-nodding jazzy production that he can really call his own. It's one of the year's best and most underrated rap albums thus far.
Pictish Trail – Thumb World
We said: A contemplation on “life repeating and gradually degrading, the inevitable cyclical nature of things, and the sense of their ultimately being no escape,” Thumb World cites our opposable digits as the things that both separate us from “lower species” but are also what we use to operate our handheld devices. That idea is also borne out in the album’s awesome cover art, which was created by Swatpaz (aka Scottish artist Davey Ferguson who worked on Adventure Time), which also ended up inspiring some of the song’s lyrics. Undeniably whimsical, Thumb World is also delightfully realized and tuneful, and his style falls somewhere between Grandaddy, Super Furry Animals, Spiritualized and Mercury Rev.
Porridge Radio - Every Bad
We said: Misery loves company — just look at arenas full of Cure, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails fans — and sometimes you just want to wallow with someone that’s down there too. Please welcome Porridge Radio to the stage. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dana Margolin is wallowing, stewing, obsessing and generally spending too much time in her own thoughts across the whole of Every Bad, the band’s brilliant new album. “I am waiting for you to get out of my mind,” she wails on “Don’t Ask Me Twice,” one of 11 visceral, memorable songs on the record that aims straight for the gut.
Power Alone - Rather Be Alone
We said: Rather Be Alone has clear-as-day but still gritty and unpolished production courtesy the great Paul Miner (Kill Your Idols, Curl Up and Die, Thrice, etc), and it's a straight-up, little-to-no-frills hardcore record and about as ferocious as they come. Rather Be Alone's got big, chunky, heavy-as-all-hell riffs and killer grooves, and Eva Hall tops it all off with a venomous bark and cutthroat lyricism that straddles the line between personal and political and sticks a middle finger in the face of anyone who gets in her way.
R.A.P. Ferreira - Purple Moonlight Pages
We said: Purple Moonlight Pages is a substantial, immersive album that lends itself to repeated listens and reveals more each time, and it already feels on par with Rory's best work. Production wise, it varies between far-out psychedelia, real-deal jazz, and eerie atmospheric instrumentals (provided by the Jefferson Park Boys, aka Kenny Segal, Mike Parvizi, and Mr. Carmack), and Rory's raps vary between the unconventional flow and tongue-twisting lyricism that has been part of underground hip hop since the early '90s, spoken word, slam poetry, and flashes of the more conventional, accessible style of the boom bap era. And within all the off-kilter wordplay and oddball references, Rory always has a message or a story to tell.
Real Estate - The Main Thing
We said: Real Estate were breezy right from the start but have mellowed further with every record. The Main Thing, the band’s fifth album, is their most settled yet. Also one of their most enjoyable. This is Real Estate’s second album with Julian Lynch as the group’s other guitarist, alongside frontman Martin Courtney, and everything feels comfortable if thankfully not quite predictable. Keyboardist Matthew Kallman’s presence is increased, with swirling synthesizers intertwining with the rippling guitar leads, and Jackson Pollis is credited not just with drums but drum programming. In that way, there’s an added emphasis on rhythm and groove, with Alex Bleeker’s basslines more fluid than they’ve ever been before.
Stephen Malkmus - Traditional Techniques
We said: While associated with staunch indie rock snobbery, Stephen Malkmus has long dabbled in jam band territory, all the way back to Pavement’s final album, Terror Twilight. (Before? Maybe.) So when he announced Traditional Techniques, his third album in three years, as “stoner folk” it wasn’t really as much of a stretch as Matador may have wanted you to believe. At least not in that way. It is, however, his quietest, most introspective and straight-from-the-heart record he’s ever made.
Courtney Marie Andrews - Old Flowers (Fat Possum)
FACS - Void Moments (Trouble in Mind)
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Reunions (Southeastern)
Land of Talk - Indistinct Conversations (Saddle Creek)
Protomartyr - Ultimate Success Today (Domino)
Public Practice - Gentle Grip (Wharf Cat)
Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams - Aporia (Asthmatic Kitty)
Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud (Merge)
Woods - Strange to Explain (Woodsist)
Yves Tumor - Heaven To A Tortured Mind (Warp)