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.
10. Geometry by 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.