Unbound Words

Bandcamp Friday Returns In 2022

While official statements played it pretty close to the chest about resuming Bandcamp Friday after 2021, I saw a hint on Twitter in January 2022 about the return of the promotion this year. Someone had shared a screenshot of their email to Bandcamp support asking when they could expect any information about future Bandcamp Friday dates. The support associate had indicated that they would resume, and that indeed seems to be the case according to a refreshed post on the Bandcamp website & the updated single page answer to the question: Is it Bandcamp Friday?

I take this as exciting news, as I have concentrated most of my Bandcamp purchases on these promotional days which funnel a little extra money to artists & labels. There are about 3 hours and 12 minutes left before the fee waiver begins, so dust off your wishlists (and/or your digital catalogs). Failing that, mark your calendar for March 4th, April 1st, and May 6th, which are listed as future dates. Happy listening!

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Bandcamp Friday, November 6, 2020

Amid all of the turmoil in the world right now, many of us find focus and enjoyment through music. A way to share direct financial support with musical artists is by purchasing their works on Bandcamp Friday, when Bandcamp waives collection of revenue for digital sales (not including subscriptions). In general, this means an extra 15% goes to artists or labels on these days.

Here are some of my recommendations for what to pick up this Bandcamp Friday (or any other day).

Rosie Tucker – “Never Not Never Not Never Not ~ I first saw Rosie Tucker play in 2019 at the Top Hat in Missoula, MT. I was really blown away by the set & ordered the vinyl for this album when I got home. Rosie Tucker’s lyrics are multi-layered, but approachable. Their vocal styling is creative and unexpected. The deft production choices let brevity do its work, yet allow certain tracks more time to build dynamics and drive emotionally. All the while, the listener is drawn in by lyrics that feature the California landscape, emotional struggles, and the joy of having really good friends.

Sentimental Records – “NO MORE BANDS: AUTUMN 2020 ~ I mentioned production choices in the previous album which brings me to this compilation. I started following the Sentimental Records label online when I realized what a genius producer Wolfy is. I’m looking forward to checking out this comp and other things on the label to hear song-writing from Wolfy as well.

Norah Lorway – “Future Void ~ This recent release via the Distant Bloom label exhibits live-coded sonic creations from Norah Lorway. Featured among the best experimental music releases of October 2020 on Bandcamp, “Future Void” welcomes us to a world aptly expressed by Aaron Owen‘s topographical cover art. Slow builds churn up echoes and glacial shifts reflect light at their high points.

Aloud – “Exile: 10th Anniversary Edition ~ The political turmoil of the past week (… year? decade? lifetime?) has made Aloud’s “Exile” album one to which I perennially return for inspiration. It has been great to watch the band evolve from “Fan The Fury” until present, and, as a fan, this album has always stuck for me. Jen and Henry shared retrospective videos with fans this fall & I look forward to the insert/liner-note details about this record that expresses hope & heart during political and emotional exile.

That wraps up my suggestions for this month. Stay safe & share some love for musicians!

Edit: Here’s a link to a bndcmpr playlist of a few tracks pulled from these recommendations:

Unbound Words

Bandcamp Friday, October 3, 2020

Bandcamp has decided to continue its promotion of Bandcamp Friday through the rest of 2020. If you aren’t aware, on the first Friday of every month, Bandcamp agrees to forego their collection of revenue for digital sales (not including subscriptions). In general, this means an extra 15% goes to artists or labels on these days. If the Bandcamp model already piques your interest, this is a fun day to interact with the model & share direct support with some musical artists. These were, here are a few things I have checked out this month that I would recommend for listening today or on a future Bandcamp Friday.

Open Mike Eagle – “Anime, Trauma and Divorce” ~ Fans of Open Mike Eagle eagerly awaited this release, despite its challenging source material. And, to be honest, addressing emotional pains with anime references & indie rap sweetened the deal for some fans. OME has never shied away from confronting trauma, whether with humor or bluntly or some mix of the two. COVID-19 lockdown brought Quarantine Drive Time Radio for fans & supporters, as Mike and Video Dave did daily mixes / DJ sets / whathaveyou. And there was insight into how hard the past few years have been for Mike and his circle, well before the global pandemic set in. Maybe albums like this are ways to acknowledge our losses, pains, failures & trauma and grow forward. We’ll see.

Martha – “Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart ~ My friend sara had put a Martha song on a mix CD for me a while back & it’s so catchy that I quickly learned to sing along. I finally caught up with rest of the songs on this album, and I really enjoy the observations and insecurities captured in the lyrics coupled with the bubbling enthusiasm of the music. I saw Martha play one time at Off Broadway in Saint Louis, and this has become an enjoyable album that will get a lot of repeat listens from me.

Alice Bag – “Queen’s Quilt ~ I recently read a Razorcake interview with Alice Bag & really got interested in the stories she is telling with her music. Some of her songs are more general anthems for social situations that many people face, but this track gets very personal. According to the Bandcamp page, “This recording is from 1991, it’s from an old cassette demo. The band was called Goddess 13.” It’s a tribute to a time of life that wasn’t easy, but there were obvious things to celebrate. This memory of her parents dumpster-diving for cloth to make a living and to make something of value to honor their child is a tender one that even aging punks can appreciate.

Sa-Roc – “The Sharecropper’s Daughter ~ Sa-Roc has put out a few strong releases over time and has really honed her craft to tell the stories on this album. Unrelenting flow and defiance against a world that threatens a beat down, she crafts hooks that serve as food for the journey for anyone who has endured the financial and cultural exploitation that she outlines. Grabbing from various mythologies and literature, she crafts lyrics of the Black diaspora continuing to rise in Atlanta and beyond.

That wraps up my mentions for October 2020. Stay safe & share some love for musicians!

Unbound Words

Bandcamp Friday, September 4, 2020

Bandcamp is continuing its promotion of Bandcamp Friday through the rest of 2020. If you aren’t aware, on the first Friday of every month, Bandcamp does not charge their usual collection of revenue for digital sales (except for digital subscriptions). In general, this means an extra 15% goes to artists or labels on these days. If the Bandcamp model is interesting and useful to you, this is a fun day to interact with artists who utilize it & share direct support with those musical artists.

These were the digital releases I bought on Bandcamp Friday in September 2020.

Nick Keeling – “A Slow Dance With Someone Who Is Leaving You ~ A family member had told me about Nick Keeling’s music & show organizing in Ohio. This was a few years ago, and I noticed that Keeling and I had mutual social media contacts who booked DIY shows and did experimental / interesting music. This Bandcamp release really stuck with me. I find something warming about the loop practice employed here & the way it invokes affecting feelings. The music rises & falls but always presses on. Each listen exposes this tape’s unique creation and layers of the listener’s thoughts.

St. Lorelei – “Beast ~ Available for pre-order, St. Lorelei shared a few singles from their upcoming album ‘Beast’ prior to the October 2020 release. This New Orleans band, fronted by Jo Morris, has spent time perfecting the body of songs for their new album. Having seen Morris perform in Saint Louis years ago & picked up a debut EP “Ghost Queen” under her name, I’m excited to hear this new project & the vocal and thematic range it might present. God is in the TV gave an exclusive premiere of the track ‘Outside the Green’.

Rosie Tucker – “Ambrosia ~ Released about a year ago, this track was welcome relief to fans longing to hear Rosie Tucker’s voice and musical ideas. Though it hadn’t been that long since their last full album, this single release gave another taste of the metamorphosis going on in the studio. A lyric video from New Professor’s YouTube channel further hints at the culinary aspect displayed in this single’s cover image.

Rosie Tucker – “Brand New Beast ~ Another short track that makes the most of every second thanks to Rosie Tucker, Wolfy, and crew using their creative powers. I vaguely recall hearing that this track has some lyrical underpinnings from years ago, and it also seems to tie in the three-eyed frog on Rosie Tucker merch and social media. What does it all mean?!?

Big Step – “Focus ~ I think I saw Big Step play for the first time about a year ago at Foam in Saint Louis and had a really good conversation afterwards. Since Foam is permanently closed and many venues in the city are temporarily closed, I am thankful to be able to relive some of the experience of Big Step’s creativity and supportive ethos via a Bandcamp release. As much a personal stance as it is an encouraging call to join in collective support, this track moves between major and minor chords to acknowledge that oppressive situations won’t hold us down forever. We will get through these hard times if we focus and join in each others’ struggles.

Bad Moves – “Untenable ~ This far into the COVID-19 lock down, I was really energized by a work that reflects on systemic oppression and our personal stresses and responds with such heart. The music is athletic, and the lyrics (which include a brief riff on “The Ballad of John and Yoko”) are incisive about topics like pay inequality and the attention drain of social media engagement in a way that lodges phrases in your mind. “You think that poverty’s a role play, baby?” is one that sticks out to me. Give it multiple listens!

Bad Time Records – “Ska Against Racism ~ I got put onto this album because I chipped into a Kickstarter project of one my favorite bands of younger years, Five Iron Frenzy. Like any fans of a music genre, enthusiasts of the current wave of ska benefit from continuing to learn about the roots of the genre. Gladly, this compilation does service to that history and makes me feel like these ska kids are alright (okay, there are mostly adults on this comp). Anyway, I think rudies should always be against racism & this is a really good listen going into the fall election season in the USA & all the vitriol it brings.

cover image of the album Good Music To Avert The Collapse Of American Democracy - Volume 1

Various Artists – “Good Music to Avert the Collapse of American Democracy” ~ This compilation was only available for a limited time as a fundraiser. There are some hits and misses, but overall, it was worth it to me to kick in some money to assist with voter’s rights via Fair Fight. I was excited to see tracks from Bhi Bhiman, Jay Som, and several others. This is an overview of the album from

That wraps up my purchases for this month. Stay safe & share some love for musicians!

Unbound Words

Bandcamp Friday, July 3, 2020

Since the beginning of COVID-19 shutdowns this year, the online music company Bandcamp has been promoting “Bandcamp Friday”, starting on March 20, 2020 and occurring on the first Friday of the month every month following until today. On these days, Bandcamp agrees to forego their collection of revenue for digital sales (not including subscriptions). In general, this means an extra 15% goes to artists or labels on these days.

While not a perfect model, the monthly occurrence provides a calendar marker for giving deliberate support to small or medium-scale artists and labels. This might be the last Bandcamp Friday of this wave of COVID-19, so I’m sharing some music that I find exciting on Bandcamp.

Tré Burt – “Caught It From The Rye” ~ Tré Burt put out this well-balanced album on Oh Boy Records (the independent label started by John Prine). He expresses heartbreak both public and private in deftly executed songs & rounds out the sentiments with songwriter’s wisdom.

Our Native Daughters – “Songs of Our Native Daughters” ~ This Smithsonian Folkways release caught my eye after listening to Kaia Kater’s “Grenades” from the same imprint. Seeing Rhiannon Giddens’ name, I expected something great. I was further impressed by the other musicians in Our Native Daughters. One reason to buy things on Bandcamp these days is that digital downloads are sometimes bundled with pdfs, videos, or other files. The companion pdf to this album yields scholarship and provides context to the music, serving as a jumping off point for more learning.

Nicole Mitchell and Lisa E. Harris – “Earthseed” ~ I have not given this a full listen yet, but I’m eager to hear their exploration of the themes of Octavia Butler’s science fiction. FPE Records’ listing of the recording drew me in.

Nana Grizol – “South Somewhere Else” ~ This album delivers on Nana Grizol’s fun folk punk sound, pushing beyond it here and there with fresh ideas. For long-time listeners of the band, their lyrics have matured with the bittersweet passage of time. They grapple with the ongoing task of undoing xenophobic social conditioning, acknowledging biased falsehoods and the resulting behaviors with acumen that allows them to be dismantled.

Oxherding – “Unfolded Along The River” ~ This is my friend’s most recent release on Distant Bloom, an electronic record label from Saint Louis, MO. I can imagine river confluence scenes past and present while listening to these two tracks. I also appreciate that the label has taken a stand on social justice issues. Through sales in June 2020, Distant Bloom donated $520 to ArchCity Defenders, a non-profit civil rights law firm in Saint Louis.

Using one’s voice and other means of leverage is something that appeals to me with all of the musicians and organizations I am sharing in this post. When they get some extra money from Bandcamp sales today, it’s going back into sustaining actions that will make their part of the world a better place.

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Living Life’s Questions

Last fall, I was traveling with my friend Grace, and we had plenty of time to talk as we drove back to Missouri through the mountains. One thing she brought up for discussion was enduring questions to which we return. I replied that I had perennial questions which had been very useful, but when I began to elaborate, they seemed thin. What questions are worth asking?

Artifacts like personal journals have allowed me to dig back through these questions and my responses. Sometimes inquiries have made their way into song lyrics or blog posts. My broad questions include:

  • “Am I loving life today?”
  • “Am I living fully?”
  • “Am I listening?”
  • “What makes you sing?”

This collection of questions has provided intriguing prompts, but it doesn’t always get to the bottom of serious problems that I need to address in my life and community. These questions feel meaningful, but, numerous times, I have avoided probing further.

And this is where conversing and writing merge with the enduring questions I ask myself. Then I can draw out new questions and listen to the ones that others ask me.

I doubt that my act of writing is strong enough to nurture better questions. When I step away from the computer or notebook, I think that I have engaged in indulgent expressions that have further delayed my confrontation of major challenges. But I’m selling short the craft of writing. As Lyanda Lynn Haupt reminds us in her book Crow Planet, writing is a way of seeing.

Three years ago at a local coffee shop, a stranger asked me about my activity with my notebook in between sips of coffee. He wondered if I was a college student or a professional writer. I submitted that I was just writing on my own. I had no institutional impetus (other than the likelihood of certain coffee shops to inspire reading and writing). His countenance was brightened, and he encouraged me to “keep writing”. So that’s what I must do. I hope you do, too.

Archived Items

Show Throwback – May 16, 2009 – Illegal Tone Records – Belleville, IL

Eric Moeller and the Strummalongs Illegal Tone Recordings show flier - May 16, 2009

Digging back through my archives, I saw that it was eleven years since this show happened. I was playing with Eric Moeller and the Strummalongs at that time, and I made this flier for the show. Illegal Tone Recordings has closed, and there are some interesting notes in this RFT article about the venue.

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Earth Day, 50 Years On

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day in the USA. I’ve been reflecting on the significance of the day and what impact its activities hold.

In 1970, people were remarking at the changing pace and patterns of life fueled by petroleum. Wendell Berry calls attention to a piece published in the February 1970 issue of National Geographic. Berry elucidates how the piece, “The Revolution in American Agriculture”, would have us see as marvels the myriad tools of modern agriculture and its petroleum dependencies while breezing past the social, economic, and political realities that changing agribusiness brought to bear. Berry and others couldn’t ignore how all the pieces were fitting together to damage our planet and its future.

The 1970 Earth Day event was partially spurred by reactions to the 1969 Union Oil Santa Barbara oil spill. The momentum of the event grew as decades went on, but so did the global damage being done in the name of oil dependency. The even larger Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred on March 24, 1989. I was only three years old, but I recall seeing video montages of the aftermath as I grew up.

For me, images of oil-slicked animals and burning rain forests on television paired with trips to a local zoo that primed my awareness of environmental issues and how my personal behavior plays a role. That has to be one of the results of Earth Day and other similar movements that grew more notable during the last half of the 1900’s. Many more things are out in the open.

Yet no matter whether we look at the initial setting of this event or 50 years later, it seems that the movement towards the health of the earth is an uphill battle. I quote The Unsettling of America out of context, but the assertion fits here:

Our ‘success’ is a catastrophic demonstration of our failure. The industrial Paradise is a fantasy in the minds of the privileged and the powerful; the reality is a shambles.”

Wendell Berry
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Hello World – Idyllic Blog Post

I started writing on the Internet back when free web space didn’t exactly mean you were going to be mined for personal data or be a content creating laborer for a giant multinational. For those with the adequate devices and Internet services, there was welcome space to test out writing skills, upload pictures or experiment with HTML and CSS. Using the services was often coupled with learning about them, and the bar for becoming proficient wasn’t too high (creating static pages is still not that tricky in 2019, and it’s a skill worth maintaining). Actual computer ownership still excluded many people from engaging, but, once you had the tools and a short education, you were a cyber citizen. I saw it all as a peaceful civil space akin to the one John Perry Barlow demanded to keep free from tyrannical governments in “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”.

I’m not sure where we’re at now with freedom of self-expression and censorship, but I feel settled about posting on hosting that I set up myself, that I purchase with my own money, that I can monitor easily. I had always been comfortable with WordPress, having maintained a blog for years though letting its hosting lapse in 2016. I’m using that platform here and re-acquainting with its place in open software and online publishing.

So, once again, “Hello, world!”

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All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go…

We could change the world using communication technology. We could change our communities for the better. We have all the tools that activist Fred Moore might have sought (for instance, Meetup provides groups and common interests a place to accumulate members, LinkedIn provides people a place to connect professionally across careers and interests, blogs are a platform for anyone and any collective entity to express themselves, reddit, craigslist, etc.), but they don’t take most of us very far. What’s missing?

We have many tools at our hands to wrangle a list of contacts for any sort of discussion or event or ongoing group we might like. We’re all dressed up in the latest social networking tools, but going next to nowhere. Many of us use the prescribed methods of connecting with people online, but go no further. We post, tweet, poke, up-vote, follow, and crowdfund, but those things alone don’t create a deep abiding relationship or community. I find that when things do take off, they seem to be a flash in the pan. Popular until another trend wipes clean the collective awareness.

So what would bring us the connection and movement that Fred Moore sought? Perhaps we need the perspective to see that Moore was seeking to use lists and connections as tools to foster experiences and relationships with people in the real world. He sought to organize and advocate for peace. Are the present means suited to that end, or do we need to use different tools?