Indie

Crate Digging: The Best Bandcamp Albums Of 2019

Crate Digging is Uproxx Music’s monthly exploration of the depths of DIY music distribution platform Bandcamp, in an effort to unearth some hidden gem albums that just might find their spot among your favorites.

All of the 2019 year-end lists have come and gone, but I have one more for you. This year, I’ve taken some time out of every month to dig through Bandcamp and highlight some of my favorite discoveries. Some of the music I came across over the preceding months has genuinely become some of my favorite of the year — The Kingdom Boogie Band’s Music To Make Breakfast To didn’t make the list below, but “Always/Never (Good Time)” was one of my most-played and most-loved songs of 2019.

Speaking of “the list below,” there’s a list below: I revisited all the records I wrote about this year, and now, I present ten of the best Bandcamp albums I’m most thankful that I discovered, made by artists who deserve spots in your regular listening rotation.

10. Elizabeth Goodfellow — Sea Ranch

You may not know Elizabeth Goodfellow, but she’s a trusted name in indie circles: She has worked with artists like Boygenius and Iron & Wine. She’s more than able to lead the show on her own, though, which she proves on her latest effort. Goodfellow is a drummer, so there’s great rhythm here, like on the percussive “Two Becomes Three,” a mallet-led track that does some experimenting without straying too far from its forward-driving path.

9. Zip-Zapp! — Zip-Zapp!

A lot of modern music is inspired by psychedelic rock, but Zip-Zapp! take the genre to its roots on their self-titled album. That’s not to say it doesn’t feel new and exciting, though: “Ronald Raygun” packs a lot of action into five-plus minutes, and its frenetic energy leaves you wondering (in a terrific way) what’s going to happen next.

8. Lucy Daydream — Awake & Dreaming

We’re in a golden age of pop music right now, and Lucy Daydream are another example of what can be achieved in the genre. Album highlight “Red” summarizes what the group does well: It has a huge hook, the electronic-influenced synths keep the song moving, and it has a great and patient rhythm. The rest of the songs on the album often stray from this formula, but this duo is a versatile one that thrives in a variety of situations.

7. Jeremy Blake — Soft Music to Do Nothing To

Electronic music is a crowded space (like most musical spaces are these days), but Jeremy Blake at the very least deserves his own corner. He captures a host of different moods here, like with the jaunty “Lost Inside” and the restfully enrapturing “Skimming.” The record becomes all the more impressive when you realize it’s not a studio creation, but that the whole thing was performed live.

6. Maker Of The Bear — Lost In The Fever

It’s hard to be original, but Maker Of The Bear are certainly forging their own path. They take risks on their latest album, and it pays off in natural-sounding ways. “Ghost In The Shade” begins as a meditative number before suddenly bursting into a gigantic and noisy post-rock catharsis, while “Day Breaks In” boasts glimmering piano and U2-style guitar tones.

5. Helgi Jonsson — Intelligentle

Björk and Sigur Rós have been terrific ambassadors for the adventurous music of Iceland, and one of the artists superbly following in their footsteps is Helgi Jonsson. The album-opening “Lofa Mér” is a cerebral, piano-led composition with Thom Yorke-style falsetto, and the rest of the record isn’t too far off that mark. Jonsson has performed (and produced) an impressive record, one that should scratch a huge itch for the right audience.

4. EVA — Truthfully

After working with Blood Orange on Negro Swan, EVA (full name Eva Tolkin) stepped out on her own in 2019 and walked away with an impressive debut album. The title track sets the tone, a synthy and rhythmic banger that has hints of Carly Rae Jepsen cutting through its otherwise low-end stylings (Jepsen collaborator Danny L. Harle worked on the album). “Lazy Day” is another highlight, a low-key pop tune that has a deceivingly catchy chorus, one that may not blow you away on first listen, but one that’ll rattle around in the back of your brain.

3. Orations — Receiver

The latest from Swiss group Orations is about as instantly exciting as albums get. The record kicks off with “All The Honey,” a gothic rocker whose big, distorted guitars give way to thumping drums and propulsive bass that bring immediate adrenaline. The record touches on different moods from there, but through and through, it offers engaging, kinetic, and mostly uptempo rock that’s hard to ignore.

2. FonFon Ru — Death And Texas

In a time where rock is in a strange, uncertain place (six of the decade’s ten top rock songs came from Imagine Dragons and Twenty One Pilots), the world needs great guitar music. Thankfully, that’s just what Portland, Maine group FonFon Ru has to offer. Their debut effort is a high-octane, no-nonsense effort, highlighted by true rockers like the rapid-fire “Last Chance” and the twinkling “Plan Ditcher.”

Disclosure: The author previously designed album art for Leverett, a band that featured members of FonFon Ru.

1. BEA1991 — Brand New Adult

A co-sign can go a long way, and Dutch artist BEA1991 got a big one from Dev Hynes (yes, another Blood Orange connection in this list), who plays bass on “Did You Feel Me Slip Away?” and provides additional production on “I’m A Goldmine.” Hynes is a tough benchmark by which to measure yourself, but BEA1991 incorporates a lot of his catchy experimentalism into her new album, like the warm and inviting “My Own Heaven” and the groovy “Did You Feel Me Slip Away?”

Now seems like a good time to note that this is the final installment of Crate Digging. To those reading this column now and to those who have read it in the past, I appreciate you being here, and I hope you continue to seek out new and exciting music that deserves more attention than it’s getting.

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