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Who Needs A Record Label? The 5 Best Bandcamp Albums Of 2011

Australian downtempo artist Oliver Tank, 21, is one of many underground gems on services like Bandcamp.
Courtesy of the artist
Australian downtempo artist Oliver Tank, 21, is one of many underground gems on services like Bandcamp.

In 2011, music distribution platforms such as Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Topspin became powerful ways for bands to distribute their music — and for music fans to discover them. Bandcamp has become one of my favorite ways to discover new sounds, in part because it's possible to sit for hours on end randomly discovering music by genre or city. There are also shortcuts: If you choose to allow music bloggers to sift through the thousands of releases on Bandcamp, the likes of Bandcamp Hunter, Dance Yrself Clean and Perfect Midnight World all do an excellent job curating Bandcamp for new gems.

Of the hundreds of bands I've discovered on Bandcamp in 2011, here are some of the highlights.

The 5 Best Bandcamp Albums Of 2011

Spanish Prisoners

"Los Angeles Guitar Dream"

The Brooklyn band Spanish Prisoners recently released a collection of dreamy, shimmering pop music called Gold Fools. The songs are wrapped in a warm melodic haze — lightly psychedelic and instantly memorable.

Fela Soul

"Stakes Is High"

Fela Soul is the sort of mash-up album that never gets tired. The concept is fresh and simple: Take the music of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and marry it with the raps of De La Soul. Fela Soul is the work of Gummy Soul producer Amerigo Gazaway, who makes his ingredients sound as if they were born to be together. (There's also an instrumental version of the album that you can also download for free.) Nashville's Gummy Soul, a boutique soul and hip-hop label, was founded by Walter Clark and started as a radio show on Vanderbilt's WRVU.

The White Album

"Guns and Ammunition"

Not to be confused with anything by The Beatles, The White Album is a trio from Copenhagen. The band's debut, The Album, is a gorgeous collection of indie-folk songs that recall the simple beauty of work by Jose Gonzalez and early Red House Painters.

Last Night I Heard Everything In Slow Motion

"Last Night I Heard Everything In Slow Motion"

Oliver Tank is a 21-year-old downtempo electronica artist from Sydney who released a gorgeous six-song debut EP called Dreams in November. There are already cries of Tank being "the next James Blake," but the differences outweigh the similarities. Tank holds the advantage on melody right now, and his arrangements may have deeper colors to them. That said, if you're fan of Blake, Oliver Tank's Dreams will likely be sweet ones.

The Dirty Feathers

"Midnight Snakes"

From Champaign, Ill., The Dirty Feathers' members drink from the same fountain of rock as Iggy & The Stooges, Jack White and any number of the bands that cut classic 45s compiled on the Nuggets box set of psychedelic rock. Bands like The Dirty Feathers pop up in almost every city in America, but this is clearly one of the best. Its album Midnight Snakes rocks hard from start to finish: The songs all sound familiar (a little Doors here, a little White Stripes there, a lot of garage rock everywhere), yet every song is played with serious conviction and psychedelic garage-rock proficiency.

Copyright 2011 XPN

Bruce Warren
Bruce Warren is assistant general manager for programming of WXPN in Philadelphia. Besides serving as executive producer of World Café, Warren also contributes to Paste magazine and writes for two blogs: Some Velvet Blog and WXPN's All About The Music Blog.