On Friday, the streaming platform will be directing funds from all purchases towards artists.
Photo: Graham Hunt performing in 2016. Photo by Steven Spoerl.
People who operate outside of traditional areas of employment, especially creatives, have suffered enormous financial setbacks as COVID-19 continues to impact every facet of their economic reality, from touring to promotion to general income. Bandcamp, the immensely popular streaming platform, saw an opportunity to help the artists that make their success possible by waiving their typical 15% cut on digital sales and 10% cut on merchandise. On March 20, the company made that idea a reality and saw their average Friday numbers balloon by roughly 15 times, with consumers buying an item every 11 seconds through the 24-hour window, ultimately reporting more than 800,000 sales for a rough total of $4.3 million dollars.
In addition to generating positive press for the company itself, the move earned Bandcamp a great deal of goodwill from the creative community. Following the astonishing success of that first run, the streaming platform has elected to waive their digital sales and merch cuts once more, offering another run of direct-to-artist/label purchasing this Friday, May 1. A few labels are taking the offer a step further, with Dirtnap Records announcing all proceeds will be going direct to their artists and Fire Talk Records pledging to make their entire catalog available as name-your-price downloads. There will also be a handful of benefit compilations going available, including what looks set to be the first volume of an ongoing local series to combat the economic impact of the pandemic. To help celebrate the occasion, we’re offering a list of 10 releases worth purchasing, from Madison-connected artists to those who had to postpone their Madison tour dates and beyond.
It’s very unlikely Madison will see a more widely recognized release this year. As I wrote in the second installment of our Spring Listens series, “Clever narratives and intuitive compositions abound on the record, which was clearly intended to be a statement release. Message received. Collector stands as a commendable, earnest work from a young, hungry band that’s already proving its worth.” Nothing’s changed but Collector has, impressively, managed to sound better with each successive play.
The Weasel, Marten Fisher, Real Deal Therapeutic Bullshit
Before making the transition to using his own name as his moniker, Colin Bares released music under several names and with several projects. One of those more recent eras of Bares’ creative output existed under the name The Weasel, Marten Fisher, which culminated in an astonishing collection of folk-adjacent songs titled Real Deal Therapeutic Bullshit. Released shortly after Bares moved from Stevens Point to Madison, Real Deal Therapeutic Bullshit is a fascinating and exhaustive demonstration of outsize songwriting talent. For all of its minimalist structure, this remains a release that packs enough beautifully crafted emotional poetry to leave listeners reeling.
Anna Burch / Fred Thomas, Split
In November of 2018, Anna Burch came through Memorial Union Rathskeller and delivered an entrancing set. Burch was set to make a repeat performance this Friday before the pandemic forced what’s either going to be a postponement or an outright cancellation. While Burch’s Quit the Curse remains an enchanting listen and the newly released If You’re Dreaming finds the songwriter locked into a very pleasant groove, it’d be a mistake to overlook a quietly released split 7” that featured Fred Thomas on the flipside. Thomas, no stranger to Madison shows, has been a creative partner for Burch on numerous occasions and their chemistry as collaborators elevates this release from a mere curiosity to something more essential.
As mentioned in the introduction, Dirtnap has pledged to take all of its proceeds on Friday and give them directly to the artists on the label. While label head Ken Cheppaikode has recently moved from Madison to Milwaukee, the label still has strong roots here and has released records from Proud Parents (a band that contains solo acts Claire Nelson-Lifson, TS Foss, and Heather The Jerk), DUSK, and The Hussy, who all have members that live in the city. The label’s most recent release came by way of Personality Cult’s excellent New Arrows but Dirtnap’s crown jewel remains The Marked Men’s Fix My Brain, a basement punk record for the ages and a modern classic. The Marked Men, and many others, were set to appear at High Noon Saloon’s Dirtnap Fest in June but the two-day event’s been postponed and, at last check, was aiming for a fall reschedule.
Tani Diakite, Live At Alchemy Cafe
Taken from a set at the Alchemy Cafe in 2019, Tani Diakite’s latest offering finds the musician confidently leading a stellar band (the Afrofunkstars) through a collection of blues-laced Malian music, delivered with a snarling punk bite. Diakite’s instrument of choice is the Kamale n’goni, an African instrument that predates the banjo and other similar instruments that have appeared in its wake. It’s an instrument that’s deployed expertly here, in a lively, and endearingly blown-out recording. A strong companion and successor to Diakite’s excellent 2012 effort Dalonkan, Live At Alchemy Cafe is empirical evidence that the songwriter hasn’t lost a step.
Graham Hunt, “Change Their Mind”
In October 2012, I saw Graham Hunt lead a relatively new band called Midnight Reruns through an absolutely scorching set at Frank’s Power Plant in Milwaukee. It’s been an absolute privilege to keep up with Hunt’s musical endeavors since that point, from the ensuing Reruns records to Midwives to Soda Road to Sundial Mottos to a spot as the touring guitarist of former Madison resident Mike Krol to his current solo work and a number of intriguing offshoots. In 2019, Hunt made the move to Madison and his presence has been extremely welcome. Around the time of that move, standalone single “Change Their Mind” was released, which remains a personal favorite. Whatever Hunt decides to put out next, it’s an easy bet that it’ll be worth the price.
Louise Bock, Sketch For Winter VII – Abyss: For Cello
The label Geographic North created a fascinating series that aimed to capture the tone of the winter season through various musical pieces. Experimental multi-instrumentalist Taralie Peterson, who records solo work as Louise Bock, was responsible for the seventh installment of the series, one of its finest and most absorbing entries. There’s a delicate sparseness inherent to the work on Abyss and an occasional menace, that’s pushed to the brink of confrontation via moments of aggressive distortion. Abyss was a central point of focus when Tone Madison Editor-In-Chief Scott Gordon and I discussed some of Madison’s finest releases of 2020’s first quarter in a recent podcast. Against some seasonal odds, the record’s stark, hypnotic appeal has somehow managed to strengthen with time.
Waxahatchee, Saint Cloud
One of the consensus early critical favorites of 2020 was Waxahatchee’s most recent effort, Saint Cloud, a dazzling collection of songs that found Waxahatchee bandleader Katie Crutchfield embracing a new level of confidence. Originally scheduled to play a show with Ohmme at the Majestic on May 22, the event has been pushed back to October 18. Crutchfield, whose twin Allison recently engaged Mike Krol, recently partnered with Kevin Morby, who also got dealt a Madison cancellation after being scheduled to perform at the High Noon Saloon on April 21. Morby and Crutchfield’s influences on each other seem to have crept into their respective creative output, creating the kind of lush Americana that critics rush to call “timeless.” Listening to Saint Cloud, it’s hard to argue that level of fervor.
Golden Donna, Hush
A disclaimer, up front: Golden Donna’s Joel Shanahan has carved out a place as a Tone Madison contributor and we value his work as a writer to a great extent. However, his work as Golden Donna predates Tone Madison by several years and is exceptional in its own right, which is a stance that’s been more than backed up by general reputation. Shanahan’s strong Madison ties makes his name a familiar one to anyone in the music community and his output as Golden Donna continues to impress, something evidenced by last month’s incredible Hush. “Wild,” Hush’s near-16 minute opener, showcases the inventiveness and ambition of the project with a great deal of verve and the record doesn’t let up from that point, marking a new artistic high from an artist worth celebrating.
Woke Up Crying, 3:27 a.m.
Following a demos collection and an early release of “Sycamore,” queercore basement pop trio Woke Up Crying released a proper EP in 3:27 a.m., making good on the promise the project had flashed in its earlier work. Scrappy, cutting, and extremely likeable, the band has landed on an incredibly endearing mix of defining characteristics and filtered them through a punchy, mid-fi production aesthetic that calls to mind the slacker punk movement of the early-mid ‘90s. Released in the opening weeks of 2020, 3:27 a.m. remains one of the most interesting releases to have come out of Madison’s DIY punk scene in recent memory. All five of the songs on this EP are standouts and deserve as many listens as possible.
All of those releases are well worth anyone’s time and tomorrow their purchases will be directed towards either the musicians, their respective labels, or both, without Bandcamp taking a percentage. Consider it a virtual merch table with an absolute guarantee the money will be going where it’s intended and, very likely, most needed. In addition to the releases above and those outlined in volumes 1 and 3 of the Spring Listens series, there are a variety of bigger titles outside of Madison set for official release tomorrow that you can purchase, including new records from Johanna Warren, Car Seat Headrest, Austra, Diet Cig, Pure X, Chicano Batman, Umbra Vitae, Caleb Landry Jones, Devon Williams, Konradsen, Mark Allen-Piccolo, Ride, V.V. Lightbody, Man Man, and many, many more.
Open your hearts and, if you can, open your wallets. Give back to a medium that makes life a little less lonely and support those in dire need of some positive reinforcement. Whether it’s local, an old favorite, or something entirely new, reach out and exercise a level of support and care. We’re all in this thing together and finding ways to support each other remains vital. Go out, do some good, and get something memorable in return.