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Bandcamping: It’s Hip-Hop’s Turn To Take Over This Week’s Best Underground Albums

I think this column has done a good job at representing most music genres so far. Three weeks in, our top 5 lists have included psychedelic pop, indie rock, blues, dream pop, progressive rock, electronic, and hip-hop. The latter is what’s taking over the chart this week though, as it is rap’s turn to dominate. Sure, a hip-hop EP topped our list in Bandcamping’s inaugural post, but this week, two of the top five releases come from aspiring MC’s.

Before we get into it, I figured I’d share a couple things I’ve noticed up-and-coming bands do wrong, things that make me write them off almost instantly when I’m digging through the hundreds of Bandcamp albums I consider for this column every week.

First off, don’t have bad album art. It’s often the first source of stimuli related to your album that potential listeners will experience, so make that first impression count. Secondly, take some time to learn how to produce your stuff at least somewhat well. Lo-fi aesthetics be damned, that’s no excuse to have a record that doesn’t sound good (look at The Black Keys’ first couple albums for example of striking that balance well). Watch a bunch of YouTube videos on how to use Logic Pro or FL Studio or whatever production software you have available to you, apply that to your creative output, and before long, your music will sound a lot better and you’ll have gained some new skills.

OK, now…

5. The Ritz Club EP by The Ritz Club


Genre: indie rock, electronic
If you like: Beck, Broken Social Scene, experimental Wilco

You could argue we’re in a golden age for experimental rock, because of the increased amount of available technology and means of distribution. The Ritz Club’s self-titled EP is a fun romp that borrows from Pink Floyd (that warbling synth line in “Walk Away” is pure “On The Run”), Wilco (these tracks could have been B-sides on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot singles), and others. This Chicago-based group is also a real family affair, featuring three brothers–Sean, Ryan and Kevin Jacobi.

4. Lake County Rain by Lake County Rain


Genre: alt-country, folk rock
If you like: early Wilco, Jim Croce, Bob Dylan

This is turning into more of a testament to the broad influence of Wilco, but it is what it is (or “it’s what it’s,” if you’re a fan of unconventional contractions). Ned Warner, frontman of the Colorado four-piece, has a Dylan-esque voice, and that paired with upbeat, joyous, country-tinted folk rock makes for a beautiful sunny day soundtrack.

3. At Peace, Overlook by Tomoreaux


Genre: post-rock, shoegaze
If you like: Explosions in the Sky, Wild Beasts, The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die

When Explosions in the Sky made post-rock an en vogue genre, many soulless imitators emerged from the woodwork trying to get their piece of the Friday Night Lights soundtrack pie. Most of them, to be frank, suck. Tomoreaux introduces a different dimension to the mix, though, making for a spirited contribution to the post-rock genre with occasional vocals and a similar but impactful use of emotional and loud crescendos.

2. All Hail by Carlisle Jones


Genre: alternative hip-hop
If you like: Moby, Eyedea & Abilities, Mac DeMarco

If you want a bunch of interesting production choices in one album, you’re here. On All Hail, Alabama rapper Carlisle Jones’ instrumentals draw influence from pretty much everything, including lo-fi indie rock, trap, traditional oriental music, glitchy electronica, and contemporary hip-hop. Top that with Jones’ confident flow and you got yourself a record.

1. 444 by Granola


Genre: alternative hip-hop
If you like: milo, Vince Staples

This Colorado rapper is only 17, but he’s already showing tremendous promise with his immersive production and a laid-back flow to match his chilled-out instrumentals. It’s not exactly common for one kid to have a strong handle on both production and rapping, so we look forward to watching Granola’s artistic growth and seeing what else he’s capable of. Kids are the future, man.

And now, a few other things we also enjoyed this week:

Honorable Mentions

We Never Sleep EP by Black Eye
Genre: alternative, dark dream pop
If you like: Radiohead, Panda Bear

SALTY by Rolled Gold
Genre: hip-hop
If you like: Atmosphere, Tyler The Creator, Action Bronson

Tantric Shuffle EP by Louise Love
Genre: electro pop
If you like: Cat Power, Hot Chip

Chet by Chet Martel
Genre: indie rock, noise pop, alternative
If you like: Car Seat Headrest, Deerhunter

Sand Bar by The Wafflers
Genre: surf rock, instrumental rock
If you like: Dick Dale

Mixtape Memories by Crockett
Genre: instrumental electro
If you like: Com Truise, 80s electronic music

Thanks for being here, and until next time, let us know in the comments which of our albums were your favorites, what we missed, and what we should look forward to. If you missed last week’s top 5, here it is.

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