You probably don’t need us to tell you that musicians have taken a major financial hit in the last few weeks as Coronavirus fears close music venues across the country.
It’s been well documented that, over the last decade or so, concerts have overtaken album sales in terms of literal payoff for musicians. The sudden cancellation of not just major festivals, but smaller public gatherings, has left artists, venue owners, and the entire artistic community that we cover daily reeling from surprise and worried about the financial future.
The (relatively) good news? There’s been a flood of quality releases from local artists just since the beginning of this year, and you can help offset the loss of income by buying merch instead of concert tickets.
Whether you want to stave off quarantine cabin fever with a quick download or are willing to wait for the warm, rich sound of a physical vinyl copy, there are plenty of incredible records that are yours for the purchasing to help out local musicians in this uncertain time. What’s more: Bandcamp offers the option to pay more than the asking price for an album. Since live music is on hold for the time being, here are some recently recommended albums from our staff that you can snag right now.
“It’s an exploration of Afton’s identity as a queer artist in 2020. She uses her music as a platform to express her discontent with the political landscape. “The Veil,” which is the opening track, was written three years prior after Afton was invited to play at the Women’s March in San Francisco. Her sultry voice is thick with emotion as she takes us on a personal journey in ‘Back in San Francisco’ of how the city has worn her. Consideration comes at an apt time. Amid another election season as well as International Women’s Day, Afton reminds us of the power of our voices and the consequences of silence.” — Cindy Huang
“Combining elements of jazz, neo-soul, pop, prog-rock, and experimental electronic music, Shapeshifter is unpredictable in the best way possible — flighty, fierce, calming, and propulsive all at once…Lead vocalist Marica Petrey places their songs in a world filled with its own mythology and poetic exploration. Travis Kindred’s slinky and clever bass playing regularly peeks out and surprises. Drummer Mogli Maureal tosses in plenty of syncopated grooves…And Eli Wirstschafter’s glossy violin-playing both complements the music’s rich orchestral arrangements and adds an element of impromptu flair.” — Ben Einstein
“Whiskerman have returned with Kingdom Illusion, their most visceral, jarring, incensed, and immediate set of music to date. For the last several years, Whiskerman has been one of the absolute best live bands in the Bay Area — weaving between psych/glam dance floor spectacle and haunting balladry like it was no big deal. Their latest incarnation is all of these things too — but intensified with razor-sharp clarity. Kingdom Illusion manages to find the band simultaneously more volatile and yet pinpointed than ever. It’s an enthralling combination.” — Ben Einstein
“The Saxophones’ sophomore album, Eternity Bay (out March 6 on Full Time Hobby), is a touch peppier than their 2018 debut album, Songs of the Saxophones, but not by much. In a good way. Eternity Bay is an album with some of those Erenkov existential touches — à la those wedding vows — which he jokes are a result of growing up in a Russian household in the Bay Area.” — Michelle Kicherer
“In the creation of their third album, St. Juste strove to let an inner force guide the story, emotion, and message. She is open about her struggles with depression and strives to bring messages of connectivity and resilience into her songwriting. “Some of this record is dealing with a lot of sadness and figuring one’s self out,” says St. Juste. “In those times, I turn to the ocean and to water and all of these symbolic things to kind of figure some of that out.” Named for the deep green-blue color of the ocean, CYAN takes a new direction for the band.” — Michelle Kicherer
“Turning beloved teenage influences (N.E.R.D., Blink-182, Crystal Castles) into dark and delicate trap, Last Summer Sucked is Ricky’s self-indulgence on wax. But through the haze, he finds some clarity on the shining production lent by some of his label cohorts for this pendulum swing of reflections — At times he’s in the fast lane (“Princess Diana”) and armed with bottle in hand (the Michael Sneed-assisted “Gone in July”) but as he exits, Ricky ruminates on regrets and lost loves on “Sailor Moon” and single “Subtweets for You.”” — Nina Tabios
“Pond King comes after singer (and director) Cooper Kenward relocated from Oakland to Los Angeles, but we’re still claiming it in The Bay Bridged hall of acclaim. Kenward worked extensively with producer Rob Shelton and the fine folks at Tiny Telephone on the album. For fans of Andy Shauf, Grizzly Bear, Wilco, Willie Nelson, warm guitar strumming and vibrant colors.” — Michelle Kicherer
“Every time I think I’ve forgotten about Mia Pixley, she pulls me right back in with another enchanting work. Also known as Baeilou, the Oakland cellist released a single with her artist husband Kevin Shaw, joining their respective mediums for a new EP that confronts their new status as parents.” — Jody Amable
“If no one told me that there were only two musicians on this project, Nate Sherman and Ty Mayer’s playing could easily be mistaken for a whole ensemble.” — Walker Spence
Spoiler alert, but there’s a feature story on Ismay’s debut record coming once this pandemic panic takes a hike. For now, here’s what we said about “When I was Younger I Cried” it near the end of last year:
“This song came into my inbox yesterday and whew, it’s a beauty. Just gorgeous. I want to live in it.” — Jody Amable