It sure has been a craaazy year so far, huh? (Yes, I know...understatement.) And in the midst of the insanity, some new releases may have (understandably!) slipped past your radar. After all, artists can't go out on tour to support this new music that they've labored over for months, sometimes years. In fact, many record labels have been delaying release dates, waiting for some of the chaos to subside. But some artists have been bravely continuing to release new music, providing us with an auditory escape while we wait for the right time for a physical one.
As online music retailer and streaming service Bandcamp yet again waive their revenue share on all purchases for 24 hours on Friday, August 7th (ending at midnight PST tonight), KEXP's Digital Content Team has put together a list of some of our favorite albums of the year (so far) that may have been overlooked in the middle of the madness. Check out our suggestions below, and then head over to Bandcamp. (And don't forget: many Bandcamp merchandise is priced with an "or more" next to it. Don't hesitate to use it.)
(Also, just for reassurance if you're ordering physical products, the Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidance maintain there is no evidence the coronavirus is spreading through the mail.)
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking during quarantine (plenty of time for overthinking these days) about what would be the ideal first live show back once things are safe enough to go back to crowded, sweaty rooms. Again and again, I come back to the same answer: Jayda G. I’ve been a fan of her for years and still have never seen her perform, but throwing on her records always makes me feel like I’ve been transported to the most jubilant, life-affirming DJ set of my life. That’s part of what makes her latest release, Both Of Us / Are U Down, such an essential listen in 2020.
Like a traditional DJ 12-inch, the record only contains the two titular title tracks along with Vancouver BC/London-based producer’s own remixes for both as well as a short edit of “Both of Us.” And yet even still I can’t help myself from putting this record on and listening straight through, often on repeat. For a while, I felt guilty for indulging in music and art that lifted my spirits. But now I’ve come to realize how essential it is to allow yourself to be uplifted.
These are some of Jayda’s finest songs in her already formidable discography. “Are U Down” dazzles with swells of hypnotic synthesizers pulsating against clapping rhythms and an inspired Instagram sample. The pulsing house beats and jittering piano samples of “Both Of Us” are musical Vitamin D, radiating joy with every beat change. Jayda is a master of creating atmosphere, conjuring sublime visions of dance clubs and bouncing crowds.
The chorus of “I just want to be with you” takes on a different feeling in these isolated times, transformed from burgeoning romance to a desire for connection and the people we can’t be with right now. But for now, at least we can blast this song on our phones and speakers, dancing in our homes and dreaming of the day we can be in the same room together reveling in the magic of the dance floor together. — Dusty Henry
On the cover for Illuminati Hotties’ surprise release This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For, the word “Not” is underlined while a 2016 mugshot of Sarah Tudzin almost nearly sort of smirks, seemingly daring listeners to press play. The free mixtape is most certainly not what you expect after the tender power pop of 2018’s debut Kiss Yr Frenemies. Defying all boundaries, Tudzin experiments with the broadest ranges of sonic frequencies from droney dirges to B-52’s-esque call-and-responses to industrial breakdowns.
Made because of and in response to a massive dispute with their label Tiny Engines, which was accused of delaying payments and breaching contracts with artists last fall, This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For has the snarling energy of an artist scorned. Straight away, Tudzin comes in guns blazing with “will i get cancelled if i write a song called, ‘if you were a man you’d be so cancelled” whose cleverly vitriolic wordplay, punchy rhythms, and guitar breakdowns seemingly sets the tone for what’s to come.
Except there’s absolutely no way one could predict what’s going to happen over the following 20 minutes. Pummeling through like she’s trying to win a race, Tudzin flexes her hard-won production and engineering skills by utilizing African polyrythmics on “melatonezone,” droney post-punk for “content//bedtime,” and glitchy electronic sputters on “free4all.” Only 2 of the 12 tracks, “frequent letdown” and “b yr own b,” sound like they fit the Kiss Yr Frenemies version of Illuminati Hotties.
Lyrically, Tudzin holds zero punches about how she feels and who she’s angry with. In “free dumb” she rhetorically ponders “as the world burns / how could you care about a fucking record?” while skit track “K-Hot AM 818” cheekily and plainly relays the advice “hang on to your masters, folks.” If there’s such a category as “revenge records” then this is it and, in the end, I think she’s won. — Jasmine Albertson
Isolation was the magic key that opened a new musical chapter for Roberto Carlos Lange, known worldwide for his musical project Helado Negro. On his Bandcamp page, Lange is releasing uniquely moving soundscapes and sound experiences from his archives. When the pandemic loomed like dawn in February 2020, Love 1, 2, 3 & 4 came to light as a source of hope in times of stress.
These are four orchestral pieces recorded in 2003 while finishing his last year of study at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Based on some raw recordings of his friend Eddie Alonso, Roberto plays with time, memory, and space while manipulating like an artisan the classical sounds of flutes, cello, violin, celesta, piano, harpsichord, glockenspiel, and marimba until the shadow is extracted of themselves. The result is a spectacular trance, a kind of meditation.
The series Love 1, 2, 3 & 4 is only available in Roberto Carlos Lange's Bandcamp profile. It is a 40-minute piece of music that I especially recommend to accompany sunrises and sunsets, those moments of birth and death of something that pushes us to the inevitable contemplation of ourselves. — Albina Cabrera
Michigan-based singer/songwriter Anna Burch released her sophomore album, If You're Dreaming, on April 3rd, right as the world began to shut down around us. While the songs were obviously written before the stay-at-home orders went into place, there's something about them that just resonates with the emotions many of us are feeling right now: isolation, loneliness, uncertainty.
For Burch, those feelings came as the result of "several unexpected housing changes" (as her press release puts it) following her return from touring her 2018 debut LP Quit The Curse. Songs like "Party's Over" and "Can't Sleep" capture the introversion that comes as a result of transience, but also, unintentionally, the isolation, confusion, and, well, the exhaustion of this current pandemic.
Which isn't to say this album is a bummer: it's not. The charming jangle-pop she displayed on Quit The Curse is as strong as ever, just a little more melancholy this time around. Her girlish vocals are still lovely and sweet, even when singing about faraway friends or questioning relationships. Listening to If You're Dreaming is like commiserating with a good friend over warm tea on a rainy day, which can be a comfort even when it's shitty outside. — Janice Headley
Los Angeles-based harpist and composer Nailah Hunter that seems to exist beyond the metaphysical. To understand what that means, look no further than her debut EP Spells – out now on Leaving Records.
As the title would suggest, it’s music steeped in magic. Hunter describes each song on the record as being “its own incantation, its own spell, its own world.” With her harp, synthesizers, and field recordings of the natural world, Hunter creates brief but entirely immersive sonic worlds for us to lose ourselves in.
Clocking in at a total of 11-minutes and with minimal lyrics sprinkled throughout, Spells accomplishes impressive and enrapturing world-building akin to a fantasy novel. The harp brings an otherworldly power to the music. Never overdone, the plucking harp strings come and go between spacious arrangements that allow imagination to fill in the gaps. Vocal harmonies resound as a distant chorus on songs like “Enter” and “White Flower, Dark Hill.” Though the arrangements are minimalist, they are incredibly vivid – invoking mystic images not unlike the painted swords and gems of the album cover.
Hunter also expresses a desire to utilize her music for healing. In a world that feels increasingly overwhelming, Spells offers a moment of peace. I find myself more and more reaching for this record when anxiety and dread creeps in. Whether you want to be transported to another world or just need music to settle your soul, Spells is a worthy elixir. And for those who fall in love with the record but want more, Hunter also recently released the equally as lovely and engrossing singles “Black Valhalla” and “Nacre Meadow.” — DH
British band The Clientele have been around for nearly 30 years now, releasing lovely, melodic, pastoral-pop via Merge Records. And if you're curious how it all began, the band have just released a digital version of their 2005 compilation, It's Art, Dad, which was originally available as a tour-only CDR. (Remember those?)
It's Art, Dad takes its name from the exasperated refrain the band members would snottily retort from their attic recording studio to their disgruntled father downstairs. Recorded between 1991 and 1996, when the band members were just teenagers, songs like "Dear Jennifer" and "When She's Tired of Dancing" show that even in their infancy, they had a clear grasp of the gentle '60s psychedelia that would continue to permeate their sound decades later. — JH
In this special edition of Add to Cart, KEXP spotlights the plight of independent music venues in Seattle and things you can buy to help support them.
Today, Friday, June 19th, Bandcamp launch an annual tradition of waiving their revenue share on all purchases for 24 hours to support racial justice, equality and change. KEXP's Digital Content Team has rounded up some of the things we'll be adding to our carts today.
KEXP continues our series spotlighting stuff you should buy to help support your favorite bands during the quarantine.