On March 20, as the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic was just starting to be understood, indie music retailer Bandcamp made the bold choice of waiving their share of revenue for artists and labels who were cancelling shows and delaying album releases left and right. The result was more music bought by more fans than any day on the site, a record broken on the first Friday of May. Bandcamp Fridays have since taken place in June and July - plus the first of an annual occurrence when the service will donate its share to the NAACP Legal Fund on Juneteenth - and that spirit of giving will officially extend to the first Friday of every month in the remainder of 2020.
The Second Disc has proudly supported these events by highlighting not only our favorite catalog releases on the site or our most treasured "legacy" acts releasing new work, but also occasionally shining a spotlight on acts that deserve a first look as well. (Our spotlight artist in June, Meet Me @ The Altar, was named one of the 50 best current bands by SPIN last week.) Join us once more as we highlight some of our faves, old and new, for Bandcamp Friday!
The Psychedelic Furs: The armies on the dance floor who've seen British post-punk legends The Psychedelic Furs - founded by brothers Richard and Tim Butler on vocals and bass - have long kept the faith for a new album since they reunited in 2000 after a decade-long hiatus. Now, nearly 30 years after their last LP, 1991's World Outside, the group is indeed back with Made Of Rain, their eighth LP, issued on the Cooking Vinyl label.
Time and lineup changes - the Butlers are joined by their latest touring line-up, including longtime saxophonist Mars Williams, guitarist Rich Good of The Pleased and Information Society's Amanda Kramer on keyboards - have been kind to The Furs. Lead track "The Boy Who Invented Rock and Roll" was a centerpiece of their live sets last summer, and singles "Don't Believe" and "You'll Be Mine" slot easily next to the band's biggest hits like "The Ghost In You" or "Love My Way." Made Of Rain is available on Bandcamp as an LP, CD or cassette - truly everything but roller skates.
Taj Mahal: The COVID-19 pandemic is a blow to anyone who loves live music - especially a player well known for being "on tour always." Taj Mahal is one such artist, whose worldly take on the blues has overjoyed audiences since Columbia Records first issued the LPs Taj Mahal and The Natch'l Blues in 1968. In 2016, he released Labor Of Love, an album that lived up to its title: it was recorded nearly 20 years earlier in a hotel room in 1998, and issued in conjunction with the Music Maker Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to aiding and uplifting Southern roots musicians and the musical customs they preserve. If you thought you've heard all of Mahal, make sure you check this one out.
Long Neck: Named after the protagonist Littlefoot's nickname in the animated film The Land Before Time, Long Neck is more than a little similar to that movie - lovely and nostalgic, almost bittersweet in places. The New Jersey quartet - singer/songwriter Lily Mastrodimos, guitarist Kevin Kim, bassist Alex Mercuri and drummer John Ambrosio - released their sophomore album, World's Strongest Dog, this April, barely a month into the pandemic. (Mastrodimos, who started the project in college, has also recorded The Blow EP on her own, newly available today.)
Mastrodimos, who cites Swearin', Mitski, Lucinda Williams, Nana Grizol and Jeff Rosenstock among her many influences, finds inspiration for her own songs from a very simple place: nature. "I studied ecology in school. It's easy for me to dissect feelings and relationships when I look at them through the lense of the natural world," she told The Second Disc. "Being out in the field - birdwatching, conducting research, or just hiking - grounds me and gives me the space to dig deep into my psyche."
Releasing new music in 2020 was tough enough, but World's Strongest Dog had its own hurdles to release: initially tracked in 2018, the band bought the record back (with the help of a successful Indiegogo campaign) from a label that folded before it could release their work. The experience taught Mastrodimos how to be an advocate, not only for herself but her bandmates. "You are your own greatest ally. Don't be afraid to ask for the things you want or need, and learn how to be OK with rejection," she advised. "But most importantly, be proud of the things you accomplished in the face of the seemingly impossible.
"It's easy to feel like no one cares," she continued, describing the arduous self-release involving everything from pitching journalists to a trip to Virginia to pick up their shipment of the new album on vinyl. "But in the end, the thing that really floored us was the overwhelming support from the community - from the folks who listen to us, our friends, our family, and then utter strangers. That brought us back to earth, just the feeling of love that we received when the album was finally released."
While the group looks forward to practicing in one space again - they released a great remote video for album closer "Bad Words" in May - Mastrodimos is thrilled at the reaction to Bandcamp Fridays. "I get the greatest sense of community from it," she said. "You scroll through Twitter and it's just artists posting long threads of other artists to support. Everybody has each other's backs." (Lily's also pointing to the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, Orenda Tribe COVID Response, Seeding Sovereignty, Make The Road NJ and The Okra Project as causes that mean a lot to her right now.)
This Bandcamp Friday, we're sticking our neck out for Long Neck - check them out at the link above!
Alex Isley: If you'll forgive the easy joke - "who's that lady"? Alex Isley is the daughter of legendary guitarist Ernie Isley, part of The Isley Brothers' extraordinary "3+3" lineup. And it's clear from L U X U R Y, her third release (and sole available on Bandcamp) that the family's musical talent extends through generations. Wholly written, produced and arranged by Isley (save for a lush string section opening the album), Alex's classical vocal training and even some jazz chops are on display here. To pilfer another line from her family history: at her best, she is love.
Adrian Younge: A collaborator with hip-hop legends like Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar, Adrian Younge is well-known as a composer and producer, having scored 2009's blaxploitation tribute Black Dynamite and, with Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, both seasons of Marvel's Luke Cage for Netflix. You'll find Black Dynamite on his Bandcamp page - both standard and deluxe editions - as well as great projects like Twelve Ways To Die, an album he wrote and produced for Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah; his psychedelic soul breakthrough Something About April (2011); and 2013's Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics, an album of new tracks that pay homage to the Philly soul legends and their influence on hip-hop, complete with vocals from original member William Hart.