by EJ Coleman
I have a lot of bad habits. I wake up every morning with just enough time to get dressed and brush my teeth before I have to leave. I do math in pen knowing full well I’ll mess something up. I tie my shoes too tight. I impulse buy merch from openers I hadn’t heard of ten minutes ago. You know, regular stuff.
I also open lots of tabs at once and promptly forget to look at them for months, only sending them to myself when my laptop needs to shut down and update with the full intention of looking at them later.
I never look at them later.
There are emails still sitting in my disorganized inbox from 2012 that consist of eighty Wikipedia pages, dead Tumblr links, photos I wanted to download for some reason, and a considerable amount of long gone Etsy pages.
There are also a number of Bandcamp links that I can only assume were recommended to me by a friend or blog or ad of some kind. Here are eighteen of said links and approximately how they came to me.
Track: “Never Be Famous” (Jul. 2007)
Tags: alternative, experimental pop, lo-fi
Favorite Lyric: “But they’re not brilliant, they’re just burning brilliantly. / There’s a difference, don’t you know?”
If you know me, you know how much I love Welcome to Night Vale. It’s pretty much the best podcast ever. It’s the radio show of a fictional town where sentient patches of haze do the ad buys and mountains are a myth, what more could you want? One of the best things about Night Vale, though, is the weather, which is nothing more than a song, originally sent in by listeners. That’s where I heard this song, in episode thirty-one, “A Blinking Light Up On the Mountain,” back in 2013.
Hussalonia is a little Night Valeian itself. Less of a band than a shifting conglomerate of whoever wants in, the Hussalonia founder (as he is only referred to as) calls it a “pop music cult,” and, in case that wasn’t enough to get you, the music “art-pop in the spirit of ‘60s beat and record-store-clerk-indie-post-punk-singer-songwriter-whatever-ness.”
The song is as fantastic as the artist. I actually can’t play “Never Be Famous” on Bandcamp anymore, I’ve listened to it too many times. Eventually you get to the point where they ask you to “open thy heart/wallet” and in all honestly, I probably will. Every Hussalonia song is short on purpose, to give you those precious moments of thrill before it ends and you’re left with “what was that?” This song’s driving beat does nothing to lengthen those two minutes and I just kept hitting play over and over.
Track: “Everything Falls Apart” (May 2011)
Artist: Carter Hulsey
Tags: acoustic, singer-songwriter
Favorite Lyric: “Wondering how they stole the ink / From all our favorite pens”
I saw Carter Hulsey last November at THE GARAGE with The Millenium, Whosah, and about eighty other bands. Especially among his pop punk peers, Hulsey really stood out to me as more Mumford & Sons than Modern Baseball. After he played his beautiful and funny “NPR,” I looked up the rest of his music on my phone in the middle of his set (I know, shame on me) and saved this link.
This is one of his earlier songs, one that I don’t remember hearing, but it’s very much indicative of his later work as well. It’s a little sad, a little nostalgic, a little hopeful, and very much beautiful.
Track: “Karl Marx in the Bath” (Oct. 2011)
Artist: Tom Rosenthal
Tags: alternative, folk
Favorite Lyric: “You, you used to read Karl Marx, alone in the bath, whenever / You were low, whenever you were low.”
I love YouTube and I love film and I love YouTube film, especially when there’s Tom Rosenthal soundtracks. I also love Tom Rosenthal. I need you to know this so you understand firstly, that I am incredibly biased when it comes to this song, and secondly, why I’m biased in the first place. I first heard him in Bertie Gilbert’s Rocks That Bleed, a brilliant film that Rosenthal did a Beatles cover for, and even on first listen there was something so compellingly familiar about his voice that I had to look him up.
Despite his music only getting better over the years, this song off his first album remains one of my favorites. There’s something odd about it. At first glancing listen, it’s a nice little tune with whistling reminiscent of a Simon & Garfunkel song your parents used to play when you were little. Upon reading the lyrics, it’s a little too absurd to be real, a little too sad to be made up, and a little too specific to wholly one or the other, and that’s exactly what makes it so good. It feels like a dream you once had, or someone once told you, or maybe never happened at all.
Track: “Snakes (Langley)” (Oct. 2012)
Artist: Matt Olsson
Tags: americana, folk rock, singer-songwriter
Favorite Lyric: “I know the secret. I know it all. / And I am better for it. I am better by the pound.”
When I find myself in hardcore procrastination mode, I like to watch the live feed of albums being sold on Bandcamp and click on whatever look interesting; a Russian Roulette of independent artists, if you will. I am 80% sure that’s where this came from.
Now, you know an album’s going to be good when there’s credit for a jug player, although it sadly isn’t for this particular song. This is a concept album about an American spy during the Cold War and, as interesting as that is, it’s a pretty good song in and of itself. It feels like when winter is finally over and you find you’ve forgotten what warm felt like but the snow is finally all gone and you know you won’t have to worry about it for a long while.
Track: “New Flesh” (Jan. 2013)
Tags: bedroom pop, dance, indie, lo-fi
Favorite Lyric: “I watched Videodrome and lost my mind”
I definitely don’t know where this is from, but this song is a bop. A possibly more accurate genre would be bedroom dance pop; this is the kind of song that plays in the opening montage of a John Hughes movie where the protagonist is deciding what to wear to school that day. TELE/VISIONS is now Current Joys, which sounds more like The Smiths, but thankfully the 80’s vibes carry on.
Track: “&” (Jul. 2013)
Tags: alternative rock, electric-sad, language arts rock
Favorite Lyric: “Hand over hand / I’m pulling myself together / on this itchy couch again”
I love Bandcamp tags. They’re really weird. They let the artist describe the genre the way they really want instead of picking from an allotted list of generalization, so you get a lot of very interesting and specific stuff, like “language arts rock,” which I assume is a variation on “math rock,” and “electric-sad,” which I feel on a spiritual level.
“Language arts rock” is very fitting description as an evolution of “math rock” with more verbose lyrics. I don’t think I’ve ever seen lyrics that more closely resemble an 18th century poem. I had to break out an honest to goodness dictionary for some of these (“mimetic” and “tessela” just to name a few) and that was truly an enjoyable experience. If you only read the lyrics, the ending looks like a bizarre cross between “Moonbase Alpha provides a realistic simulation of life on a natural satellite” and the ergodic and infamous House of Leaves, an interesting combination if ever I saw one, but really the sound of multiple ampersands is some nice folk-y rock.
Track: Move On (Nov. 2013)
Artist: Garden City Movement
Tags: electronic, chillwave
Favorite Lyric: “And the taste of bells / To the atmos-greet”
This came to me from some Buzzfeed-esque link dump of music videos with LGBT couples. Garden City Movement is an electronic indie pop band from Tel Aviv and, if I had to guess, I would say this is the definition of chillwave. I don’t really get the -wave genres, but chill is definitely true; it’s a relaxing but sad kind of nostalgic. Especially with the composed visuals of the video, this song feels like someone else’s memory.
Track: I Think I’m Old Enough (Jul. 2014)
Artist: Adult Mom
Tags: pop, bedroom
Favorite Lyric: “cuz it’s weird when your parents start actin’ like your pals”
Adult Mom comes with the endorsement of our fearless editor Sararosa, who I trust more than almost anyone to give good music recommendations. What does Adult Mom mean? A mom who is an adult? A mom for adults? Who knows! And who cares, really, because the sound is goodness incarnate.
This little song, in all its honesty and Friends references, is understanding to the point that it gets a little too real. If you like Bad Bad Hats (which you should), you will definitely like this (which you also should).
Track: “2048” (Aug. 2014)
Artist: Michael Cera
Tags: alternative, home recording, modest
Favorite Lyric: N/A
Remember when Michael Cera released an album? I swear to God, I thought it was fake when I first saw it. Then I thought it was a joke. Then I actually listened to it and fell in love, and not just because I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy. Never had I thought everyone’s favorite weirdo Michael Cera would come out with a surprise album of sincerely good music.
In all honesty, if you look up “odd duck” in the dictionary, there’s probably a picture of Michael Cera right there next to the words “one that is both out of place and endearing.” The album is just the same, with its haphazard electric-analog-ragtime folk and indie rock. While most of the songs are some variation of Elliott Smith-esque ballad bits, “2048” is nothing more than an electronic instrumental break. It’s better than it sounds, I swear it’s absolutely adorable. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s named after the app, which remains one of my favorite time killing pastimes.
Track: “Every Good Boy Does Fine” (Apr. 2015)
Favorite Lyric: “I’m a rare dying breed, and I’ll make it if I’m patient.”
Finding new music tip #1: Put your favorite YouTube gamer and voice actor on Twitter notifications and wait for them to tweet about their childhood best friend’s band. It totally works.
Ambient is a bit misleading, as far as genres go, though. This is definitely more indie pop than anything else, with just a splash of non-Brit Britpop. Infectious and upbeat, what could’ve been a simple song is taken to the next level by the combination of the staccato electric guitar and sweeping violin. This is the kind of song you listen to ten times in a row because every time you get to the end, you can’t wait to hear the beginning again.
Track: “Seeds” (May 2015)
Artist: Moses Sumney
Favorite Lyric: “Sickness can’t afford / What the hopeful sell”
Sadly, my journey to this has been lost to the sands of time. I’ll assume I saw it on Twitter; that’s as safe a bet as any.
It’s a very striking song, and very sad in a beautiful way which reminds me of Sufjan Stevens (always a plus) and I can only assume that the rest of Moses Sumney’s music is just as stunning. You can’t just pull this kind of sound out of a hat, it’s too well-crafted to be a one time thing. He’s now the third person I’ve followed on Soundcloud, and considering his only company is Keaton Henson and Lin-Manuel Miranda, both of whom I love eternally, that says a lot.
Track: “moss” (Oct. 2015)
Tags: experimental, nice
Favorite Lyric: “do you always live life / beyond no trespassing signs”
Music recommended by musicians is always the best. This one comes from the blog of Mitch Welling aka flatsound, an endearing niche of ephemeral poetry and embroidered lyric. I’ve always seen Mitch’s site as an old shoe box of things you’ve carried from house to house without ever stopping to think why, so, in keeping with that metaphor, I assumed this would be the equivalent of a mixtape from an old friend. In actuality, wishing is a side project of his (both the band and the concept, thought one can only guess at the later).
Wishing, and this song in particular, shows a side we don’t always see in flatsound songs. It’s almost as though his usual indie-filtered spoken word has been abducted by dreamy aliens. The trickling synth creates an atmosphere of singularity I highly recommend, the same feeling as watching old movies on a slightly corrupted VHS.
Track: “Boyfriend” (Nov. 2015)
Artist: The Goon Sax
Favorite Lyric: “And if I had a boyfriend / I’d tell him I care”
This song was released on my birthday and someone on Tumblr sent me the link. It said both happy birthday and please if I could listen to this new song by their favorite artist. The last time someone sent me a song for almost no reason turned out to be one of my favorite songs, so I figured I should take a look.
I spent the first thirty seconds of listening to this trying to figure out who exactly they reminded me of before I realized my brain was thinking about it as a song by The Vaccines and the similarities are frankly astounding. I didn’t think it was possible, but I think they’re better at the Vaccines sound than the actual Vaccines. A very happy birthday indeed, five months later.
Track: “Bleach” (Dec. 2015)
Tags: alternative, indie rock
Favorite Lyric: “lay down on my new carpet, baby / tell me what you thought of me from the start”
Local bands put Kevin Bacon to shame; pretty much everybody knows everyone else. Housewives, for example, I kept hearing about pretty much everywhere I went. Our art director Hana, who knows the girls, mentioned them at a meeting a while ago when we were talking about local music. I recognized them on someone else’s recommended albums on Bandcamp a week or so later and put them on my to-do list. Then, a few weeks ago, I finally heard them on The Current when Sararosa was on their “Ask a Cool Person” segment.
“Passive aggressive feminine indie punk” is both ideal and spot on. “Bleach” is both quietly resigned to regret and unperturbed. Undulating guitar strums are like you’ve been set out at sea, but honestly, it’s whatever, you know?
Track: “Entitlements” (Dec. 2015)
Artist: Parenthetical Girls
Tags: indie pop
Favorite Lyric: “sweetheart you are what you are / aghast, a gash, an earmarked bell jar”
I know I heard about Parenthetical Girls from someone else at THE GARAGE but for the life of me, I can’t remember who. Every day is a lot of back and forth and name-dropping with no intent of selfish betterment-by-association. Whoever it was, thank you.
I don’t know about any of their other songs, but this was like one of those “Wonderland was an allegory for a psychedelic drug trip.” It’s a theory that’s very good, kinda weird and synth-y, and maybe a little too much of a stretch for my tastes.
Track: “Only A Prayer, Nothing More” (Jan. 2016)
Tags: diy, pop, folk
Favorite Lyric: “i don’t know what i know anymore. i know what i love and nothing more”
This is also probably from the feed of albums just sold. If someone specifically told me about them, please come forward so I can hug you in gratitude, because this is probably my new favorite band.
Even with the random distortion here and there, “Only A Prayer, Nothing More” is first and foremost relaxing. This song is perfect for lying on your bed in the middle of the afternoon after you’ve finished all your errands and have nowhere to be. If you’re like me and are still obsessing over the Juno soundtrack, this sounds like a kinder version of the Moldy Peaches track. I could listen to these four minutes and forty seconds for four hours and feel content, if only Bandcamp would let me.
Track: “Had to Work” (Feb. 2016)
Tags: expérimental, post 9-11, post-folk
Favorite Lyric: “Your time has come now. / Your time is gone now.”
This song is really good. Let’s start with that, because there isn’t much of anything else. I seriously can’t find anything about this band or music anywhere else on the entire Internet. The website they have linked is pretty barren information wise, although some very specific Googling led me to this brief bio on the band or artist or whoever it is, and it’s got a lot of stuff like this on it, which is weird. I’m not entirely sure what happened when I was listening to this, but I liked it, and that’s all that matters.
Track: “Too Small For Eyes” (Feb. 2016)
Favorite Lyric: “i think i’m at my best / when nothing’s needing me”
I’ll admit, I religiously check the NPR YouTube channel, I am that obsessed with Tiny Desk Concerts. They’re a great way to find new music, or hear songs you already know in a different way. That’s where I found this song.
Mothers’s Tiny Desk Concert was absolutely beautiful, minimalist and hypnotic, and as soon as I saw the Bandcamp link someone had posted in the comments, I bookmarked about half their discography and proceeded to rewatch the video seven times in a row.
Reviews from their Bandcamp supporters say that most of their work is more percussive and dynamic, but the plucking guitars and overall softness of this sound is what makes it shine (although, in all honesty, I like the Tiny Desk version more). It reminds me of beachgrass, gulls, and green sea glass not unlike the vinyl in color. The lead singer’s voice is like a gentle breeze ruffling your hair to make you realize that you are alive.