Occasionally, Media Play or Turtle Music would carry CDs from Polyvinyl and Victory Records; I found Burning Airlines’ Mission: Control! at Hot Topic; I spent more time at Christian bookstores than I care to admit. But mostly, I relied on short descriptions written in mail-order catalogs (Tooth & Nail, Revelation, Crank!, Takehold/Slacker 66 and any number of now-forgotten punk/emo labels from the late ’90s), took a gamble on an album without hearing the music and then trusted the post office with a wad of “well-concealed” cash tucked into an envelope.
Not every CD or 7” was a hit, but with a 56k dial-up and very few local resources (or friends with shared passions), I treasured that trial-by-fire education. Four-six weeks after making an order, I’d eagerly run to the mailbox after school. Ripping open the padded envelope, I’d rush to my room, load up the CD tray and crank it until my parents yelled at me to turn that racket down. Those packages were lifelines out of a bored, teenage suburbia.
Decades later, I still get a thrill opening the mail. In recent months, packages from Orange Milk, Flower Room, Polyvinyl, La Castanya and Postmortem Apocalypse have offered a familiar, but different lifeline out of quarantine — from ambient collage and peace-sign psychedelia to high-school nostalgia, Spanish emo and hesher tapes.
Lately, I’ve been buying records and tapes out of desperation for artists hurting during the pandemic, hoping that any little bit helps, but now I’m buying records and tapes out of desperation for the post office.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Gloom of night. That phrase looms in my head as I see my mailwoman, still smiling while delivering packages during COVID-19. The rest of the world falls around her, including and especially from the appointed head of the USPS, but she returns six days a week (even Labor Day) to connect worlds through postcards, letters and packages. — Lars Gotrich
31 tracks. Did Pharoah Monche finally get that Godzilla sample cleared? Whatever the reason, “Simon Says” is back on streaming services. Two sets of moody chord progressions that I could listen to for hours: from the South African spiritual-jazz ensemble SPAZA and Cincinnati indie-rockers The Ophelias. Finland’s Surut understands just how weird You Fail Me by Converge truly is, and runs with a copy of Deafheaven’s Sunbather in hand. Svalbard leans into that caustic-pretty tip, too, and very obviously loves Envy. I really need to spend more time with that new Oceans of Slumber record — Cammie’s got seriously gorgeous pipes and her doom-metal band’s got Cocteau Twins vibes for days. My queen, Mariah Carey, sings “Open Arms” en español. Most of this week’s playlist features music from the Viking’s Choice Guide to Bandcamp Day (CCR Headcleaner, Bumper, Phew, Balms, Moonkisser, Dunwich), so go ahead and load up your Bandcamp cart with those.