close menu
Bandcamping: The 25 Best Underground Albums of 2016 So Far

Bandcamping: The 25 Best Underground Albums of 2016 So Far

With this column, we’re not doing anything that you yourselves aren’t capable of. Once a week, we check out Bandcamp‘s website, go over the latest releases from the past seven days, and figure out which ones we like the best. If Bandcamping as a column is anything, it should be a lesson that discovering new music shouldn’t be scary, and that you could totally do it.

However, the process is somewhat time consuming, so since the start of 2016, we’ve been an open-minded surrogate for those who may not have the time to sift through hundreds of obscure albums vying for their attention. Over the past six months, a few albums have stuck out more than others, and that’s what today’s installment is all about.

If you’re not familiar with this column, you can check out the archive here, but if you’re looking for a more expedient summary, we’ve taken the liberty of ranking our 25 favorite releases that have appeared in this space so far this year. There’s everything from indie folk to dark electronica to ambient electronica to grungy rock included, so take a gander at what a few of the best musicians you’ve never heard of have been up to in 2016.

25. Creatures by Ari Mason
Genre:
alternative pop, electronic
If you like:
Fever Ray, darkwave
Original post: Week 13

24. Ghosts & Bubblegum by Oh My Love
Genre:
electronic, indie pop
If you like:
CHVRCHES, Daft Punk, Sound Tribe Sector 9
Original post:
Week 19

23. L’amour Propre by Ephèbe
Genre:
electronic, indie pop
If you like:
Com Truise, Chromatics, The xx
Original post:
Week 16

22. No Burden by Lucy Dacus
Genre:
indie rock, alternative rock
If you like:
Best Coast, Cage The Elephant, The Men
Original post:
Week 9

21. Night Songs by Benedict Benjamin
Genre:
indie rock, 60s folk
If you like:
My Morning Jacket, The Coral
Original post:
Week 13

20. GONE EP by Keanu Blunt
Genre:
alternative hip-hop
If you like:
Yung Lean, Bones, DeJ Loaf
Original post:
Week 14

19. The Great Cold by The Great Cold
Genre:
post-metal, post-rock
If you like:
Red Sparowes, God Is An Astronaut
Original post:
Week 8

18. Big Dust by Big Dust
Genre:
indie rock, trip-hop
If you like:
Yeasayer, Nine Inch Nails, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Original post:
Week 5

17. Have You Lost Your Faith In God? by Bür Gür
Genre:
indie pop, experimental, electronic, indie folk
If you like:
Yeasayer, Alt-J
Original post:
Week 14

16. Maiden Voyage Suite by Signor Benedick the Moor
Genre:
alternative hip-hop, experimental
If you like: milo, Chance the Rapper, Frank Ocean
Original post: Week 1

15. St Howard by St Howard
Genre:
indie folk
If you like:
Ray LaMontagne, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver
Original post:
Week 19

14. Naive Boy by tetanman
Genre:
indie rock, alternative
If you like:
Mac DeMarco
Original post:
Week 7

13. Demain est une autre nuit by Essaie Pas
Genre:
electronic, minimal techno, indie pop
If you like:
LCD Soundsystem, Chromatics, Lindstrøm
Original post:
Week 8

12. Lake County Rain by Lake County Rain
Genre:
alt-country, folk rock
If you like:
early Wilco, Jim Croce, Bob Dylan
Original post:
Week 3

11. Nurse Corkscrew by Bobbie Peru
Genre:
rock, garage rock, post-punk
If you like:
The Pixies, Sonic Youth, Dead Kennedys
Original post:
Week 18

10. Geometry by Mountain Projector

mountain projector

Genre: indie rock, dream pop, psychedelic pop
If you like: Vetiver, Nada Surf, The Clientele
Original post: Week 10

This claim might seem bold, but “One Nine Five Two” is one of the most sneakily catchy songs of 2016. The vibes are super chill, and the titular hook is an instant earworm because it’s simple and it’s sung with an elegant beauty that most songs aren’t subtle enough to nail. The rest of the album is similarly entrancing and an absolute gem of a soundtrack for a peaceful afternoon of laying on the grass and trying to decide if that cloud up there looks more like a rabbit or a dog.

9. The F-word by Froströyk

frostroyk

Genre: indie rock, ambient pop, post-rock
If you like: The xx, Lady Lamb, Bon Iver
Original post: Week 18

As post-rock has grown in underground popularity, more traditional bands have incorporated the instrumentally based anthems into their own sound, and Froströyk is doing it better than most people. The debut effort from this Welsh group shows a beyond-their-years understanding of how to create an immersive environment with a controlled use of reverb and carefully considered composition.

8. Tonight Is by Jagged Jaw

jagged jaw

Genre: indie rock, indie pop
If you like: Tame Impala
Original post: Week 9

There’s really no getting around that this album sounds a lot like Tame Impala, but that shouldn’t be a detraction. It’s immersive and the songwriting is tight, and it just so happens to sound like one of the better rock bands of the past few years, albeit with perhaps more of an electronic spin. That seems awesome to us.

7. Oceans.Canyons.Unknown by Neu Lake

neu lake

Genre: instrumental surf pop, dance, ambient
If you like: Future Islands, The Postal Service, 80s film or DOS game soundtracks
Original post: Week 2

This release was actually just one of many honorable mentions on the second installment of Bandcamping, but since then, it’s grown on us tremendously. It’s supremely basic, yet it manages to be both engaging in a foreground way while being able to lean back into an ambient vibe. Try it out in the car at night and you’ll see what we mean. Oceans.Canyons.Unknown is also a testament to the power of modern technology and the accessibility of music production tools: It was made entirely on a mobile phone, using the FL Studio Mobile HD app.

6. JFK Boulevard EP by JFK Boulevard

jfk boulevard

Genre: indie rock, dance-punk
If you like: Foals, Vampire Weekend, Young The Giant
Original post: Week 20

It’s anthemic, it’s dance-ready, it’s jittery, it’s frenetic… it’s JFK Boulevard. This is a young band we’re extremely excited about, because they bring an energy and songwriting prowess that aren’t seen that often in contemporary indie rock. If you find yourself in Belgium, you owe it to yourself to see if they’re playing any gigs in the area.

5. Horse Jumper of Love by Horse Jumper of Love

horse jumper

Genre: slowcore, alternative rock, shoegaze
If you like: Codeine, Deerhunter, ’90s alternative
Original post: Week 11

Fade in: Rainy day, circa 1993. Our grungy hero is driving a beat up but reliable car on an overcast day. Horse Jumper of Love is playing on the radio, perfectly scoring the scene despite being created over 20 years after it. This self-titled record is like a time capsule whose contents are still surprisingly relevant today.

4. Dreamstate by Horace Bray

horace bray

Genre: jazz, jazz fusion
If you like: BADBADNOTGOOD
Original post: Week 21

Horace Bray is young, but on his latest album, he’s well on his way to establishing himself as a confident, skilled, and adventurous bandleader. Dreamstate is an ambitious-but-accessible effort that, if given broader exposure, would help turn people who don’t get jazz into people who do get jazz.

3. Psychic Materials by Casey Mecija

Psychic Materials by Casey Mecija

Genre: indie pop, dream pop
If you like: Tennis, Beach House, Lana Del Rey
Original post: Week 2

It turns out this CBC Radio host is adept at using her voice in multiple ways, especially as the vocalist on a terrifically dreamy indie pop album. This is her debut solo album, and while it may have flown under the radar, it should be an effort that launches Mecija into the stratosphere.

2. 1.6.16 by Mark Mills

'1.6.16' by Mark Mills

Genre: electro pop, indie pop
If you like: Chromeo, Geographer, early MGMT
Original post: Week 1

Mark Mills has given us a well-produced and consistently engaging electro pop album, and while lowlights are few and far apart, the highlights are absolute peaks: “Bank Account” is a funky lovechild of Chromeo and Flight of the Conchords, “Silver Fox” is a smoother and decidedly more Hot Chip-like affair, and “Colonial” has fun hints of Devo. This album’s underground status isn’t indicative of its quality.

1. SUI // RAP by youngster jiji

sui rap

Genre: alternative hip-hop, alternative, experimental
If you like: Tyler, The Creator, Death Grips, Yung Lean
Original post: Week 10

This Odd Future-approved breed of aggressive hip-hop might be a controversial No. 1 pick due to its polarizing, Death Grips-like nature—you’ll either love or loathe it—but the fact remains that it brings a phenomenally intense energy that avoids being overbearing, by handling its kinetic force with all the control of a bullfighter dealing with a particularly angry specimen. “FWM” makes you want to tear somebody’s arms off and beat them over the head with their own limbs, and that’s not an everyday vibe in any regard.

If you’ve been reading this column all year, we appreciate you very much, and we hope this round-up has brought some closure to the first half of 2016 for you. It certainly reminded us of how much good music there is out there, and that all it takes are curious eyes and eats to find it. So go forth, find yourself a neat new album that not many people know about, and simultaneously bolster your media library and your indie cred.

We’ll be back with our standard weekly top 5 next Friday, but in the meantime, have a beautiful week, and thanks for being here with us. We love you.

Image: sedagenvakna

Here's How to Forge a Post-Apocalyptic Sword from a Monkey Wrench

Here's How to Forge a Post-Apocalyptic Sword from a Monkey Wrench

article
Solve These DARK TOWER Riddles in Honor of the 19th (Exclusive)

Solve These DARK TOWER Riddles in Honor of the 19th (Exclusive)

article
Custom Horror Movie Themed Pop-Tarts are Bloody Marvelous

Custom Horror Movie Themed Pop-Tarts are Bloody Marvelous

article