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Underground Apex's Bandcamp Friday Favorites

With today being the last Bandcamp Friday for the foreseeable future , we compiled a list of some of our favorite release and merchandise by artists we love.

1. 'Spirit Tamer' by Mia Joy Limited Edition Bright Pink LP $19.99

Pressed on Bright Pink vinyl and limited to just 300 copies. Includes unlimited streaming of Spirit Tamer via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

Mia Joy has had music in her bones her entire life. Raised in a spiritual home to Musician and Poet parents, Mia Rocha has been singing since she was a baby (“My mom said I used to sing myself to sleep. I would fall asleep listening to my CD player” she recalls) and joined the Chicago Children’s Choir at a young age. Mia Joy’s brand of ethereal pop is equally indebted to 90s R&B Icons such as Sade and Selena as to the ethereal ambient compositions of Grouper. “I bought my loop pedal because it's the same loop pedal that Liz Harris of Grouper had. I just spent my college check on it.” Spirit Tamer, Mia Joy’s debut record out on Fire Talk on May 7th 2021, draws influences from both: emotive synth pop (“Haha”, “See Us”) and yearning meditative interludes that trace the peripheral edges between tracks. The album title comes from a poem Joy wrote long ago (“writing was my first love”), and the melding of her creative upbringing interweaves a sonic history that unfolds as Joy herself attempts to piece together the fractured pieces that shape growing up and growing into your own skin.

2. 'Make a Shrine or Burn It' by V.V. Lightbody Limited Edition 'Half Moon Maroon' 12" Vinyl $20.00

Get your copy of "Make a Shrine or Burn It" on Cream Vinyl via Acrophase Records Includes unlimited streaming of Make a Shrine or Burn It via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more

An album of lingering farewells and cautiously optimistic beginnings punctuated by a deceptive wit, Lightbody - a.k.a. Vivian McConnell - turns her attention inward, exploring what it means to be with yourself after being with another; trading abstract, third-party narratives for those more poignant and conversational. With the June 2019 release of lead single “Car Alarm,” a siren song jokingly prophesizing death and legacy under the guise of horniness, it was apparent that McConnell was in the midst of transformation. Her lower register taking on a smoky, growl-like quality, she sounded ready to pounce; her warbly guitar swirling into a slick, bluesy solo as opposed to more languid, previous singles.“I wasn't necessarily trying to be comedic, but more direct...and being direct can highlight the funny bits of life in a way,” she says of her approach to composing the album. “I was tired of writing in metaphors and wanted to be more blunt, and people seem to be connecting to the lyrics more. Make a Shrine or Burn It” is an adventurous uptick in the dreamy, signature V.V. Lightbody soundscape. Her woozy romanticism a bit rougher around the edges, she’s found a new freedom in impermanence, lessons in mistakes and power in not making the same ones twice. With the climactic exhale “Offers,” she delivers a sweeping admonishment of gendered expectations and contortion of the female form. Culminating in the shadowy, stripped, cliff-hanger closer “USPS” – she dares to ask the question she can only hope to receive an answer to. At its end, “Make a Shrine or Burn It” soundtracks a journey of accepting where one chapter ends, and another begins – whether one’s ready or not

3. 'Flavour' by Paul Cherry 3rd Pressing Record/Vinyl

2021 is the 3 year anniversary of Flavour! The vinyl has been sold out for over a year, so we've decided to do a 3rd pressing to celebrate:) This limited edition run features a turquoise splattered vinyl with new insert designed by Paul containing photos from past tours, edition of 500. Includes unlimited streaming of Flavour via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

Paul Cherewick, aka Paul Cherry, came up during Chicago’s garage rock golden age in 2014. Despite being in the thick of the DIY scene with up and coming bands such as Twin Peaks and The Lemons, Paul has abandoned the all too familiar lo-fi rock sound of his first EP, “On Top”. The Cherry has completely reinvented himself and spent the last 2 years returning to his jazz roots on this upcoming LP, "Flavour". The first single, "Like Yesterday”, sets the tone for the record as a brilliantly written, mid-tempo pop ballad. It would fit nicely as a modern addition to Paul McCartney's “Ram” or Todd Rundgren's "Something/Anything," or even Player’s “Baby Come Back.” Paul Cherry crafts melodies on Flavour that sit at the intersection of 1970s yacht rock and Ariel Pink’s lo-fi dream pop. Lyrically, Paul touches on millennial culture with references to texting and social media, giving a modern light-hearted twist to age old old themes of love lost, missed connections and polar political climates.

4. 'Tethers' by Minor Moon Limited Edition 12" Vinyl $20

Includes unlimited streaming of Tethers via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

Minor Moon's Sam Cantor writes resonant journeys into songs. Across three albums culminating in Tethers (out March 26, 2021), the Chicago-based musician and sideman in Half Gringa has mined the pastoral and rollicking sounds of cosmic country for contemplative and thrilling songwriting. The core musicians who backed him on 2019's An Opening return—drummer Nathan Bojko, bassist Michael Downing and keyboardist Colin Drozdoff, with the addition of lap steel guitarist Konstantine Stebliy — but here, the band is more locked in than ever, conjuring up engaging Neil Young grooves, eye-opening atmospherics, and a healthy amount of Midwestern twang. Tethers came out of a period of upheaval for Cantor, a time where he had to confront uncomfortable personal realities. Following the disorienting dissolution of a long-term relationship, he sought help from regular therapy sessions and the wisdom of close friends and family, and slowly gained some clarity and steady footing. This process led to Cantor constructing a psychedelic and knotty sci-fi world in his lyrics in order to write about what he was going through with more freedom and imagination. "Minor Moon songs have always had this arc of discovery and I've always used them as a way to dive into really personal, philosophical, or emotional problems," says Cantor. "It's about finding some truth looking inward." The 10-tracks on the LP tell an evocative linear narrative plumbing the depths of personal disruption and coming out on the other side with humility and needed perspective. Lead single "No Lightning Fix" serves as the thesis statement for the whole record. On the track, which boasts warmed-hued guitars and an unhurried pace, the narrator finds themself lost in an abyss searching for answers or some deeper understanding. "Practically every song I've written before has been trying to tell a complete story with a problem and some grand realization,” says Cantor. “But here I am expanding that process over the course of 10 songs and opening myself up to there being a lack of a realization at the end."

5. 'Head of Roses' by Flock of Dimes Black Vinyl $20

A copy of "Head of Roses" on black vinyl. Includes unlimited streaming of Head of Roses via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

Jenn Wasner launched Flock of Dimes, a solo project formed in 2011 to explore the more atmospheric side of pop. Flock ofDimes allows Wasner to experience more experimental recording techniques and songwriting outside of the burgeoning success of her main musical outlet Wye Oak. On the album Wasner said"For me, the writing process is an attempt to understand myself, to see myself more clearly. And at times it felt a bit strange to make something so distinctly self-focused at a time when there is (rightfully!) so much energy being directed towards the collective. But a big part of what made the experience of making this record so powerful for me was the extent to which understanding myself better helped me make sense of so many things about our world that I’ve often found so difficult to understand. I believe that we, as a culture, are traumatized by various systems of harm—systems of which we are all a part, and by which we are all affected, to varying degrees. It’s painful to contend with these realities—that unchecked capitalism and exploitation of our planet ends in our certain destruction, for example; or that systemic racism pervades every facet of our society. It is in our nature to want to build a world around ourselves that makes us feel safe-- to see only what we want to see. I believe that it is this cycle—a knee-jerk avoidant response to the collective traumas we all experience—that is keeping us from moving forward together towards a more just, and less violent, world. At this moment I think we are being called to heal ourselves—not just for our own comfort, but for our collective survival. As we heal, we grow--rather than being frozen in place by fear, or shame, we can start to act from our highest selves, acknowledge the suffering of others, and begin to act in accordance with our values. And I think that’s our only shot at pulling ourselves back from the brink of disaster. Obviously I am no expert in these things—I’m just a lady who writes pop songs. But through this process I’ve managed to find a sense of something like hope, so I felt inclined to share. My hope for this record is that it is able to provide some comfort and ease and joy to you amidst your own journey of self-awakening, however that looks for you. To anyone who is reading this and has taken the time to engage thoughtfully with this record, or anything I’ve made—thank you. You’ve given me the life of my dreams, no amount of thanks could ever be enough, but I’ll keep trying."

6. 'Present Tense' by FACS Limited "Cheeto Smoke" Vinyl $15

Limited edition pressing of clear vinyl with wispy orange swirls mixed in (the aforementioned "Cheeto Smoke"). Includes a printed inner sleeve. Includes digital pre-order of Present Tense. You get 2 tracks now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more), plus the complete album the moment it’s released.

Chicago trio FACS never stop pushing forward; they’ve honed and refined their stark, minimal scrape and clatter for four years and counting, having risen out of the ashes of beloved Chicago band Disappears in 2018 with the bone-rattling intensity of Negative Houses. After three albums in the past three years, the trio return in 2021 with Present Tense, their fourth album and perhaps their sharpest statement as a band. Opener “XOUT” barrels forward like a tank, with Case’s guitar chiming like warning bells, until the climax comes crashing down, glitching out near the close. “Strawberry Cough” comes next, its fusion of corporeal playing and stately, electronic heartbeats punctured by random bursts of noise or backwards masked sounds. “Alone Without”, a track originally recorded for Adult Swim’s 2020 singles series appears next, albeit in different form; more menacing and serpentine. Side two opens with “General Public”, taking the loud/quiet dynamic as a jumping off point for the song’s unsettling seasick vibe. ‘How To See In the Dark” offers a brief respite, with its persistent, dark quietude that lingers until the song’s end. “Present Tense”, the album’s title track, offers up its first truly weird moment mid-song when the song changes mood distinctly, and the music drops out save for Case’s guitar and vocals. The album’s final track, the densely packed “Mirrored”, begins with a restrained, post-rock shuffle. The mind-scrambling cacophony that comes next takes its time to roll in, but once it does, it comes in waves, flipping back onto itself multiple times until it’s folded into oblivion. FACS once again shuttered themselves into Electrical Audio with lauded engineer Sanford Parker to lay down the basic tracks and overdubs for Present Tense. This time, the band approached their songwriting from a different angle “Alone Without was the first song we recorded and we really built it in the studio” Case says, “Alianna and I played different instruments, and I think that freedom informed how the other songs developed. All the lyrics were random phrases on a big sheet and were put together as the songs took shape, so I feel like I was collecting these thoughts and trying to figure out how to process them as a big picture vs making complete ideas in individual songs.” Case adds ”...letting the songs go where they wanted, without steering them into what we all think a FACS album should be.” The change is palpable from last year’s claustrophobic and fried Void Moments, but Present Tense is still ALL FACS, albeit draped in a layer of haze. Paranoia in soft focus, perhaps?

7. 'A Train Called Solitude' by Dylan Pyles Cassette Preorder + Limited Edition Print $15

Includes digital pre-order of A Train Called Solitude. You get 1 track now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more), plus the complete album the moment it’s released.

Dylan Pyles is a musician and songwriter from Kansas City. Currently, he releases music as a solo artist and plays in KC-based hardcore band Canyons. He released Popular Songs for the Heart, his first proper solo album, in 2019. In March of 2020, he released Evil Music for an Ugly World. Both records were written and recorded by Pyles at his home. He plays all the instruments on his solo records, but performs live with a variety of friends from the KC music scene. Pyles has been active in the KC music scene since he was 16, and has played in a variety of bands and released music as a solo artist for over a decade. His current projects range from country-tinged singer-songwriter tunes to instrumental guitar music.

8. 'Glitch' (The Wide Eye Remix) by Born Days x The Wide Eye Digital Track $1

Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

Born Days is Melissa Harris project, born out of grey Chicago skies & an experimentation with soundscapes that could evoke a dark + apocalyptic setting. Born Days makes electronic pop music that is rooted in her experience of daydreaming, darkness, and a fascination with retro synths and samples. Her sophomore EP, Where We Live, was released on October 4, 2019 on Rain Heart Records. She is currently working on making new music. Her music is streaming now on spotify, bandcamp, Apple Music, and beyond.

9. 'Isometry' by Emily Jane Powers Pre-Order 180-Gram Vinyl Record $18

First Pressing (Edition of 250) of 180-gram black vinyl with reverse-board printed jackets, pressed and assembled by Smashed Plastic in Chicago, IL. Inserts are offset printed by Fata Morgana in Chicago, IL. Includes digital pre-order of Isometry. You get 1 track now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more), plus the complete album the moment it’s released.

Over the course of a lengthy and shifting body of work, Emily Jane Powers' music evolved from rough-edged bedroom pop into songwriting that was intricate and unyielding, reaching an apex of unvarnished expression with 2018's Restless. Simultaneously lushly drawn and almost painfully raw, Restless was one of Powers' most vulnerable statements, crafting an emotional environment that felt self-contained. There's a change of course with the new album Isometry in terms of delivery, with familiar themes of mental health, loss, and memory being conveyed less with words and more through the inexhaustible possibilities of the guitar. Rerouting the conversation from her direct lyricism to something driven more by melody, texture, and sound, the Chicago-based musician set out to write an album that centered around the guitar. Initial inspiration for this move came from the extraterrestrial shredding innovations of Marnie Stern and the dueling guitarmonies of hard rock staples like Thin Lizzy. As the writing process progressed, Powers springboarded from these original inspirations to exploring new approaches to an instrument that had been an unwavering constant for years, experimenting with writing songs based around tapping, fingerpicking, playing with a bow, and layering contrasting tones. These new angles resulted in not just a new role for the guitar, but an overall expansion of the parameters of her songwriting. The album is just as intense as Powers' previous work, but its newfound articulation of weighty feelings hits in a way that's felt physically before it's intellectually understood.The album's full gravity comes in the moments when the instrumentation speaks to complex emotions that are too confused, painful or scary to relay with words. "Low Tide" comes off as a jagged rock song at first, but the lyrics quickly wind their way through patchy memories and half-imagined impressions from youth until Powers is face to face with the inevitability of someday losing friends, family, and loved ones. Overwhelmed by the scope of mortality, she closes the song with a blur of euphoric soloing, letting the guitars take over and work out everything she's too exhausted to say out loud. Heavy and beautiful, Isometry is one of the more unexpected chapters of Powers' work, and one that weaves together anxiety, sorrow, joy and abandon with staggering clarity. It's a shift in her musical voice and priorities that somehow emerges even more direct, more fearless through its embrace of dazzling guitar arrangements and wordless impressions.

10. 'Just Look At That Sky' by Ganser Limited Edition "Sky Blue Splatter" Vinyl

1 x 12" standard weight "Sky Blue Splatter" color vinyl protected in a white paper dust sleeve inserted into a 2-panel jacket & an 11" x 11" color print is also included. 2nd color pressing @ 300 Units Includes unlimited streaming of Just Look At That Sky via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more. Ships out within 10 days

Growth with no reward. Finding strength in your less desirable traits. Coming up with the perfect comeback hours later in bed, glaring at the ceiling. Asking yourself: am I improving, or am I just changing into something unrecognizable? Chicago quartet Ganser probe the futility of striving for self-growth during the chaos of our times for dark comedy and jagged sounds on their potent new album Just Look at That Sky, out July 31st on Felte. Equal parts Space Odyssey and Ghost World, Ganser released their debut LP Odd Talk in 2018 to favorable coverage from The New York Times, Billboard, and Stereogum. Building on their dissociative disorder namesake, the album’s tone vacillated between frenzied and contemplative, probing on questions of communication, intimacy, and avoidance. On Just Look at That Sky, Ganser further explores the personal inner climate of uncertain times. These are songs that never shy away from ugliness and confusion, that believe embracing the totality of the self sometimes means leaning into our dickish behavior. In the past, some listeners have had trouble reconciling non-male voices with the sorts of topics Ganser writes about, but that comes to an end with Just Look at That Sky. Co-produced with Electrelane's Mia Clarke and engineer Brian Fox, this is an assured, fully realized triumph of a record from an art-punk band that’s figured out how to focus on making great art, even if everything else around them falls apart.

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