It’s that time of year. December. Christmas if you are that way inclined. A holiday for some, but not all. Bandcamp has been a musical and sanity saviour for years, especially these past two pandemic-blighted years. So I couldn’t help but do a quick search for “Bandcamp Christmas Single” just to see what what pop up. I clicked on the first song that looked likely and intriguing and here we are with Brighton, UK lo-fi troubadour Peter Hoggarth’s “Rail Replacement Service Christmas Party”. Enjoy.

“Rail Replacement Service Christmas Party” has a ramshackle charm, and gets extra points for the sleigh bells throughout. After enjoying this quirky festive tale please take the opportunity to journey back through the artist’s back catalogue.

Music formats have come and gone. Some have come back again. Bandcamp feels to me like it is now a format as much as it is an online record store. Over the past century music has been distributed on shellac 78s, polyvinyl phonographic long-players (10″ and 12″ LPs) and 7″ singles, 8-track cartridges, flexi discs, cassette tapes, DAT, mini discs, compact discs, USB sticks… now on Bandcamp.

“Bandcamp downloads” are a world-changing new format for me now. It’s different to MP3 filesharing, streaming, and corporate digital music stores like iTunes. It’s a direct medium between musicians and their audience, small labels and their audience and even some larger more established independent labels too. It’s a virtual record store, a place of discovery, and it’s instant.

Bandcamp is also a great way to send friends and families the gift of music. If you are looking for some last-minute inspiration here’s 5 PopLib favourites from 2021.

  1. XR” by XR

“XR” by XR is the album I have played most in 2021. It’s just low-key perfect and I’m not really sure why I like it so much. My Bandcamp downloads are transferred onto a USB stick which I play through a network CD player through a stereo system. “XR” was released as a digital download, with no physical release formats. I really craved “XR” in a physical format so burned a CD and made a sleeve for it. “XR” was written and recorded between Melbourne and Sydney between 2019 – 2021 by Raven Mahon and Xanthe Waite, and was released in June 2021.

2. “Lammas Fair” by Henry Parker

“Lammas Fair” is a self-released modern UK folk album which mixes a bit of tradition with some 70s electric folk influences and some more psychedelic guitar flourishes. David Kilgour (The Clean, Stephen, The Heavy Eights) posted the title track on Facebook a few months ago, liking the drop D tuning. I bought the CD through Henry Parker’s Bandcamp and have been enjoying it since. It would appeal to anyone who appreciates the best of the UK folk guitar legends (Jansch, Renbourn) and also more contemporary guitar explorers (Steve Gunn, Ben Chasny). It’s even made the UK Official Folk Albums Chart Top 40 this month, on the back of Bandcamp sales of downloads, CD and LP.

3. “Two of the Same” by Ludus

Pōneke/ Wellington electronic composer-producer Emma Bernard has been making music for 5 years under the name Ludus and with “Two of the Same”, released in March 2021, delivered one of the best NZ electronic albums of recent times, pulsing with lush, atmospheric music. The album blends more familiar minimal techno and electronic music styles with its creator’s own exploration of sounds, field recordings, tones, moods and subtle rhythms.

4. “What’s Growing” by Wurld Series

Wurld Series combine enchanting melodic song-writing, brilliant lead guitar lines, pastoral mellotron folk psychedelia, and Luke Towart’s bemused delivery of skewed elliptical philosophical lyrics for this charming homespun album of wonky Ōtautahi/ Chrsitchurch guitar pop weirdness.

5. “Dream #12” by Mess Esque, Mick Hunter, McKisko

A nocturnal album of transcendentally sparse and beautifully fractured lullabies combining the music and instruments of Mick Turner (The Dirty Three) with the lyrics and voice of Helen Franzmann (McKisko), Beautiful and strange, low-key and sleepy (mostly), while also experimental, euphoric, heavenly and moving. Perfect for these unsettled and unsettling times. Easier to listen to than describe.