Despite the challenges facing the music business amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some bright spots. On March 20, indie music service Bandcamp waived their revenue share for 24 hours, allowing artists and labels to support themselves even more robustly. Thanks to impressive results ($4.3 million spent on music and merch, 15 times an average Friday’s revenue), Bandcamp will repeat the strategy not once, but thrice: the first Fridays of each month (today, May 1; June 5 and July 3).
To share some of the goodwill with our treasured readers, we’re taking today to share some of our catalog and independent favorites. Buy any of these before midnight PST tonight, and you’ll be helping make a difference to these musicians while filling your collection with great tunes.
X – It’s hard to find a lot of deep catalog acts on Bandcamp, but seminal L.A. punk band X is a noteworthy exception. Not only will you find the band’s first four Ray Manzarek-produced albums on the service (Los Angeles (1980), Wild Gift (1981), Under The Big Black Sun (1982) and More Fun In The New World (1983)), but you’ll also find the brand-new Alphabetland, the group’s first studio release since 1993 and their first to feature the complete original line-up since 1985’s Ain’t Love Grand! Recorded over the last two years and featuring a new version of early band demo “Delta 88 Nightmare” alongside newly-written material, Alphabetland‘s surprise digital release last week, bumped up from the fall thanks to the current pandemic and lockdown, galvanized fans new and old alike. One of the year’s can’t-miss releases.
Julian Velard – You won’t find Billy Joel’s catalog on Bandcamp, but you will find the works of this criminally underrated piano man. A modern-day mix of Randy Newman and Stephen Sondheim, Velard makes heartfelt, jazz-infused piano pop look effortless. New fans can start with the hooky, joke-y Mr. Saturday Night (2011) or his stirring conceptual tribute to life in his hometown of New York City, 2014’s If You Don’t Like It, You Can Leave.
More importantly, you can check out “Half Done,” his newest single and the first track to be released from his forthcoming crowdfunded album, Please Don’t Make Me Play Piano Man, consisting of tunes from a musical that, by all accounts, doesn’t exist. Though he’s reached his Kickstarter goal for the album, there’s still time to pledge and get your copy of the physical album (which comes with a mock Playbill that features some writing from TSD founder Mike Duquette!) and fund the stretch goal: a podcast about the making of the “musical” featuring 30 Rock‘s Jack McBrayer and comedian Paul Scheer.
The Mezzotint Label – Founded by brilliant indie-rocker Mark Mulcahy, Mezzotint is the label for all his musical ventures: jangle-pop combo Miracle Legion, “TV band” Polaris (who wrote the music for cult classic kid’s show The Adventures Of Pete & Pete and were slated to tour and reissue the album on vinyl for the now-reorganized Record Store Day) and Mulcahy’s own hypnotically beautiful solo rock (most recently last year’s The Gus). In the spirit of Bandcamp’s big day, a new live Miracle Legion album will be issued exclusively to the service; 4.20 Live At The Boot captures the group’s 2017 performance at Philadelphia club The Boot and Saddle, toward the end of the band’s reunion tour.
boy classic – Singer/songwriter/guitarist Sam Paxton led Maryland indie-pop outfit Ghost Hotel before moving to New York to join some college friends in The Hell Yeah Babies (who’ve got a one-day-only drop of demos on Bandcamp today and will release a new single in time for next month’s special day). But he never stopped writing for himself. “I’m a control freak with my songs,” he admitted, “so this is a way for me to have 100% control over how they turn out.”
Thus began boy classic, a solo “bedroom-pop” project inspired by grungy power pop of past and present (Weezer, Charly Bliss, PUP). In advance of a still-in-process album, Sam’s issuing some of the boy classic demos, including “Always Online” (a tongue-in-cheek rocker about Internet time-wasting that recently entered The Hell Yeah Babies’ rotation) and the swirling “Princeton.” “It has maybe the best chorus I’ve ever written,” he says, “and when I added some film audio to the bridge on a whim, it was a happy accident that really ended up tying the whole song together.” While we wait for the full album (“I’d love to be finished by the time quarantine is over, but who knows when that will be”), you’ve got a share of future classics from this boy to check out.
Nick Miller – between that Stetson and those immaculate sneakers stands Nick Miller, a talented songwriter from Western Pennsylvania who now calls Brooklyn home. Inspired in equal parts by John Prine, Nick Lowe and Smokey Robinson, Nick plays old time, good time rock and roll with a little twang and a lot of heart and soul. Like most artists, he says, no two songs are written the same. “If I have an idea in mind for a story or angle I want to tell, I start to try to chip away at that until something forms,” he tells The Second Disc. “Other times it all falls into place immediately and the song’s written in 20 minutes or so…There have been instances of me picking random lines out of [my Notes app] to make a song, or at least start one.”
After issuing a country-flavored EP, Heartbreaks & Honky-Tonks, in 2018 and some one-off singles along the way, Nick’s started 2020 off strong with a unique pair of singles. The most recent, “Bleed ‘Em Dry,” is a biting political singalong inspired by our strange times (“It’s never time to stop fighting for those you don’t know,” he said), while “Checkin’ In” took a strange Internet meme known as “the Brother check-in” and used it as inspiration about looking after those you love. (In the interest of full disclosure, our founder Mike Duquette is a proud member of the song’s “Check-In Choir”!) Ever the mensch, Nick’s donating all his proceeds from the song to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – meaning your downloads on this day will count even more toward a worthy cause.
Groceries For Seniors – Tompkins Square, the San Francisco-based label that specializes in blues, jazz, American primitive guitar music and much more, is also joining in to help the community with an album that will benefit Groceries for Seniors. All the proceeds from the album will go directly to the organization.
Groceries for Seniors is also the name of the 15-track collection of folk, jazz and blues recordings, eight of which make their digital debut. Followers of the label will no doubt be familiar with many of the artists features, among them Max Ochs, Bill MacKay, Duck Baker, and Luther Dickinson. For those who have yet to explore the rich catalog of Tompkins Square Records, this is the perfect opportunity to hear what they’re all about and help out those in need during this challenging time.