Bandcamp Recs: Escapist Tunes and Mood-Lifting Grooves to Melt Away the Blues

Chit Chat Records' 'Brazilian Compilation Series Vol. 1'; Orlando Julius' 'Disco Hi-Life; Brijean's 'Walkie Talkie.' (Courtesy of the artists)

Since shelter in place started, I’ve lost my taste for mainstream pop songs.

At first, being home alone 24/7 made me antsy. But now, instead of hustling from work to gym to party, I’m meditating, journaling and trying to become fascinated with my inner life instead of fixating on a stressful external world I can’t control.

I noticed my listening habits changing along with this shift in lifestyle. Pop songs packaged into a neat 3.5 minutes feel too structured and rushed when there’s nowhere to be. And the lyrics of mainstream releases describe things that belong to the old world. None of us are going to clubs and dancing with friends or strangers; relationships have taken on completely new shapes.

When this all started, I turned to an old favorite album, Journey in Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane, featuring avant-garde saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. Glittering with Coltrane’s resonant harp playing, the album’s mood is uplifting yet pensive, contemplative yet serene—a perfect soundtrack for making peace with a difficult reality while hopefully looking towards the future. Coltrane composed it shortly after the death of her husband, the legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, and it marked the start of a spiritual journey that eventually led to her opening an ashram in Southern California.

Playing that album on repeat renewed my appreciation for longwinded sonic explorations. My playlists suddenly became full of Coltrane, Sanders, trumpet player Don Cherry and pianist Lonnie Liston Smith, all top-tier jazz players whose music took a spiritual, psychedelic bend in the ’70s. That eventually led me to Nigerian disco and Afrobeat, Brazilian tropical house and other genres with funky pulses, smooth grooves and luxuriously lengthy runtimes.

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With Oakland-based streaming service Bandcamp waiving its fees on May 1 so that 100% of sales go to independent artists and labels affected by the pandemic, what better time to indulge in unhurried, mood-elevating and escapist tunes? Here are some recommendations sure to inspire a little joy and maybe a kitchen dance party—something we all need right now.

Orlando Julius, Disco Hi-Life


When COVID-19 anxiety begins to fill your brain, Orlando Julius’ Disco Hi-Life is an antidote best administered immediately and in large doses. The title track’s brilliant groove, sprightly horns, and uncomplicated, celebratory lyrics all come together in a propulsive dance floor jam that will keep you moving for all nine minutes of its duration. The Nigerian Afro-soul saxophonist, composer and singer originally recorded the project for Unicef in celebration of 1979’s status as International Year of the Child, and the record was only pressed in small, promotional batches. But Disco Hi-Life quickly transcended its originally narrow audience, with French label Hot Casa Records rereleasing the album in 2014.

Brijean, Walkie Talkie


Top-notch auxiliary percussion makes a welcome appearance in the ebullient house, disco and funk-inflected tunes of Brijean, a collaboration between Oakland conga wizard Brijean Murphy and producer Doug Stuart, best known for his work in the jazzy indie pop band Bells Atlas. Walkie Talkie, Brijean’s 2019 EP, pairs sepia-toned, ’70s synths with hip-shaking rhythms. Murphy’s impressively elaborate conga work is the standout element (she even adorably whispers “Nailed it!” after a solo on lead single “Show and Tell”). Walkie Talkie is as fun as it is dynamic.

The Mattson 2, Mattson 2 Play a Love Supreme


Identical twins The Mattson 2 made a bold move when they decided to cover John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, one of the most revered recordings in jazz history. On the exalted 1965 album, Coltrane channels a higher power through improvisation on saxophone (as the historic St. John Coltrane Church in San Francisco attests), and so the Mattson 2 tap into a spiritual musical connection they call “twinchronicity” in their 2018 version. The Los Angeles brothers reimagine the project with synths and guitars, rather than brass, as the main melodic instruments, injecting A Love Supreme with a warbly, psychedelic contemporary feel.

Xuxa Santamaria, Chancletas D'Oro


Oakland duo Xuxa Santamaria brings the drama on Chancletas D’Oro, an ambitious album where high-energy rhythms and moody synths interplay like dappled light. In their danceable, bilingual Spanish-English pop, the group explores—and sometimes twists, sometimes dismantles—narratives about women in myth and history, questioning gender roles that promote submissiveness and subjugation. A disco pulse mingles with darkwave reverberations, and even trap drums occasionally sneak in. Chanceltas D’Oro is an achievement for the ways it collapses the space between styles, cultures and even points in history to create a singular sound and concept.

Chit Chat Records, Brazilian Compilation Series Vol. 1 & 2


Los Angeles label Chit Chat Records recruited São Paulo dance duo Fatnotronic to curate two effervescent compilations with an eclectic array of remixes of ’70s Brazilian disco and boogie tracks. Released in 2015 and ’17, the series features L.A. duo Poolside (fun fact: aforementioned Brijean Murphy tours with them as a live percussionist), Daniel.T and Tony Adams. The sonic equivalent of a catnap on the beach, these comps are flush with warm tones, live horns and violins and rhythms that transport you to a balmy, seaside discotheque with a sweaty glass in hand.