How To Succeed In Supporting The ACLU Without Really Trying, Part 1

So, tomorrow/today/very-hopefully-not-yesterday, whenever I actually get this post up, Bandcamp will donate all of its proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union, who have quickly become one of the most important and stalwart opponents to the current President’s reign of terror. The fine people over at the Wizrocklopedia will have something up giving you some ideas on great wizard rock you can purchase on Friday, February 3rd. I originally planned on doing something similar, but if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you already have a decent idea of what I’d say.

tl;dr – pick up your classics that you haven’t gotten around to yet, like HatP, DatM, Lauren, Whompy, etc; then dip into some Deluminators or Tianna or Seven Potters. I’ll put links here when I feel like it – you have google, right? Oh and the HPA has all of its charity comps up, grab those too.

But I’m not here to talk about those today. Instead, I am going to take one of my extremely popular excursions outside the world of wizard rock, and give some recommendations of other great music to purchase on the website Bandcamp.com. Almost all of these albums are somewhere in the nerdy music sphere, and many have tangible, if tangential connections to wizard rock. For each artist, I am going to give two recommendations – firstly, the album I think YOU should buy. Secondly, I will talk briefly about the album that I am going to buy! I am a Snob that puts thon’s money where thon’s mouth is.

If you end up purchasing any of these, please let me know, I’d love to know what you think! Enjoy, and if you have the means, please take this opportunity to support independent artists and independent speech.

Fishboy

Well, obviously. Look, I thought we might as well get the expected one out of the way, okay?

What You Should Buy

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Albatross: How We Failed To Save The Lonestar State With The Power Of Rock And Roll is my favorite album ever, and you probably know this by now. The rock opera story of a lonely musical shut-in who struggles with expectations and finds comfort in love and friendships, but true solace in accepting failure has been a constant rock and source of guidance and wisdom for me for close to a decade. It’s 8 dollars, and extra 2 will net you a vinyl as well, so if you haven’t gotten it already, do it. Just do it.

What I Will Buy

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An Elephant is Fishboy’s latest album, and one that took me a long time to get into. I tried it as soon as it dropped, obviously, but had problems with the difficulty in discerning the lyrics over the rough and tumble guitars. It all makes sense thematically, since this is the rock opera story of Topsy the Elephant who was famously murdered by Thomas Edison, and her long pursuit of revenge, but the barrier to entry was too much for a lyric lover like myself.

I later ended up listening to it through Google Play Music’s unlimited streaming thing, and I really grew to like it. I probably will still put it as the weakest of Fishboy’s three rock operas, but Fishboy’s weakest is still pretty incredible. “I’m A Ghost” is particularly great, having the fun frenetic energy of Zipbangboom but with modern polish. I’m gonna get the vinyl with the digital comic.

Kabuto The Python

KTP has long been one of nerdcore’s brightest talents, but his harsh style and refusal to pander and make songs about nerdy things he doesn’t actually care about kept him from true success. While I enjoyed his work, his frequent use of homophobic slurs kept me from enthusiastically recommending him to others. This all changed with…

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The Almighty was a huge step forward for Kabuto. It was by far his most polished work, and in many ways was his first true album – he previously peddled in mixtapes and EPs for the most part, as well as a prolific amount of tracks spread throughout various forums and compilations, but this was a polished, singular work. It was the first of his releases to have a price tag, but in true KTP style you could still get the entire thing for free – the scratch just netted you the deluxe version with bonus tracks and instrumentals. It was a bold step forward, but also possibly his final step, since there’s been no new Kabuto music since this album’s release in 2013.

This disc is both the album I think you should buy and the one that I will buy, since I’ve loved this album for years but never actually bought it. Today, that injustice will finally be corrected. Speaking of correcting injustices, The Almighty was made with the specific goal of cutting out the problematic language that had plagued Kabuto’s earlier work, a fact that he had expressed dissatisfaction with in the past. This is by far KTP’s most socially conscious work, with tracks correcting misconceptions about science, a song destroying the myth of the “Nice Guy”, and even a bell hooks reference. Oh, there’s also a song that recaps the entirety of the kids lit classic Mossflower, if you were worried it wouldn’t be nerdy enough for you.

Best Friends Forever

BFF is a small indie band I only know about because Fishboy once made a post on his MySpace blog about seeing them live and them being really great. Because this was 2009, and things like that still happened. They mainly peddle in female-fronted folky pop songs about relationships, but they have a knack for clever metaphors and odd historical tangents that make them a real joy to listen to.

What You Should Buy:

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Romance! Conflict! Adventure! is the second and possibly last album BFF created, and it’s damn good. The tunes range from pretty catchy to infernal earworms, and the lyrics are bursting with goofy creativity: “I would write you an epic album if I could do more than sing and play bass / And if I could do more than walk and run I’d drive to you and SING IT TO YOUR FACE”. Particular standouts are “Handpocket”, a bright and cheery song about all the times the singer almost died, but she survived so it’s okay to fall in love with your because she’s not a corpse yo, and “Eisenhower Is The Father” – possibly the best tour song disguised as a love story disguised as a history lesson about America’s infrastructure.

This album always makes me happy, and it will probably make you happy too, and God do we need that right now. Also, it is free, so you really have NO REASON not to get it, but given the circumstances of today, why not toss ’em a fiver as well?

What I’m Buying:

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Yes, that album art is oriented correctly. The eponymous debut album of Best Friends Forever isn’t something I’ve dipped into much – I bought “Sex Song” because the title intrigued my 19-year-old self, and the main piano riff is super catchy, but that’s all I’ve experienced from this album, and I’m excited to experience their early stuff. Besides, as far as I’m concerned, any album that contains the lyric “And I like the way you look, the way you look in pants” is worth my money. Plus its 5 bucks, so…

Homestuck

Anyone who has been paying attention has at this point realized that I’ve been obsessed with the webcomic/multimedia experience known as Homestuck since late 2011. Since then, the comic has ended (kinda), and the fandom has, as with Harry Potter, not left per se, but branched off into new obsessions (Steven Universe being the most direct corollary). However, one thing that will never diminish, also as with Harry Potter, will be my love for the music spawned around the property. Those familiar with my early work know I was a tad obsessed with wizard rock classifications, and everything had to be appropriately relevant to HP, or be relegated to the meta pile, along with Demons At The Helm. In fact, I went as far to say that Diagon Alley’s instrumental work didn’t count as wizard rock, because there were no lyrics! It could be about anything!

Homestuck changed my view on that. I’ve always loved instrumental music – routinely asking for bombastic classical tapes for Christmas as a child – but Homestuck really changed the game by having a truly enormous library of music, but all feeding off the same group of principles and themes. The joy I’ve had in tracing different themes and motifs throughout 7 years of music created by hundreds of musicians is indescribable. Best of all, while familiarity with the source material can increase enjoyment, the music is still absolutely kick-ass and recommended to any and all listeners.

What You Should Buy:

Figuring this out has actually been very difficult for me – where do you start? The collected Volumes 1-4 seems like an obvious choice, but while there are some amazing tracks on there, there’s also a lot of songs that work best in the full context of the webcomic, and aren’t the best songs on their own, nor are great introductions to the music for non-readers. One Year Older is an emotional rollercoaster and a testament to the sheer storytelling power of instrumental music, but without story context it does not work nearly as well. I finally decided to break down and give you three options instead of one, because I am so, so weak. However, I did choose three different albums for three different experiences, so choose the one you want. Or, you know, buy everything because my word is gold.

What You Should Buy If You Want A Complete Album Experience:

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I keep going back and forth. Is The Wanderers my favorite Homestuck album, but not the best; or is it the best Homestuck album, but not my favorite? A big part of this is the fact that this album never quite achieves the level of musical epicness that many other Homestuck albums have. It instead trades out these peaks and valleys for a rolling sandy desert with a much smoother and consistent sound and quality.

This concept album is inspired by a group of secondary characters in Homestuck that spend most of their screen time wandering around an empty, post-apocalyptic world. Really, the album art tells you everything you need to know. What I love about this disc is that it is possibly the most cohesive of all the Homestuck albums, setting up an unmistakable atmosphere that carries throughout the whole experience. But despite these cohesion, there is still plenty of variety, with expected country and middle eastern sounds mixed with distorted post-techno feedback, Celtic jigs, bagpipe sections, and samples from Blue’s Clues. And yes, it all works together beautifully. Top picks include the delightfully weird “Mayor Maynot”, the adorably cute “We Walk”, and the gorgeously sweeping “Litrichean Rioghail”.

What You Should Buy If You Want A Cleverly Conceived Album:

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Not every track on Cherubim is perfect, and I will happily admit that some are even snoozers. But the conceit of the album is so clever, enough songs are brilliant, and the price is cheap enough that it’s an easy recommendation. This album is centered around two diametrically opposed characters that share a body because aliens. The creators of this album paired off and created a melody. Then, one used that melody to make a song for the cheerful, optimistic, creative alien, and the other used the same melody to make a song for the immature, cruel, asshole fuckboy alien. Even the track art emphasizes this dual nature, and even when certain pairs aren’t that interesting on their own, it makes for a fascinating album. The first two tracks provide perhaps the clearest example of the album’s conceit, and “Carne Vale” and the album-finishing “Eternity Served Cold” are heart-pounding epics that should not be missed. Seriously, listen to ESC. Do it right the fuck now. It will be among the best 8 minutes of your entire life.

What You Should Buy If You Just Want Some Rad Tunes:

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Volume 10 is the final full release from the Homestuck music team, released a few months after the end of the comic, and it’s one hell of a send off that also works as a decent introduction. Like the other main-series Volumes, this album doesn’t have the same kind of cohesive theming as the side projects do, it’s just a collection of great tracks, and you’re guaranteed to find something you like. Like smooth jams? Check out “Moonsetter” or “Stride”. Want epic tracks about defeating abusers and claiming justice? Try “You Killed My Father (Prepare To Die)” and “Sound Judgement” (that last one is guaranteed to get you pumped up and ready to fight some Nazis). Just want a song about happy lesbians that aren’t agender space rocks? “Lilith In Starlight” has got you covered. This album’s a little more expensive than the previous two, but it’s also substantially longer, and all are definitely worth your money and are immensely enjoyable experiences, even if you have no interest in the source material.

What I’m Going To Buy:

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While the album art makes it look like some Independence Day side-project, Volume 7 is not to be missed. Darker and more brooding than previous albums, Volume 7 doesn’t add too many new themes, but it takes old leitmotifs and uses them in incredible new ways. It’s honestly a crime I haven’t gotten around to purchasing this album yet, and this is one injustice I am very happy to correct. The interested should check out “Terezi Owns“, “Savior of the Dreaming Dead“, and “At The Price of Oblivion“, but really, there are very few if any true stinkers on this album. I’m super excited to really dive in and give this songs the attention they deserve.

And so ends Part 1. I am splitting this list into two parts, simply because I want to get at least some content out there and give people some time and opportunity to read, select and browse. As soon as I publish this and probably go drop some copper, I’m gonna start up on Part 2, where we will pick up where we left off…

Until then, go now and support the ACLU, support some wonderful musicians, and get some great jams to help you mourn, rejoice, and fight. Let’s do this.

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