Dazeases

The new issue of RVA Magazine (#28, to be exact) is out now, and in addition to a truly a gorgeous pink cover, it sports an article I wrote about Dazeases, one of the most exciting new artists to emerge from Richmond’s music scene in recent memory. Working on this was a genuinely inspiring experience. Dazeases has a true artist’s creative drive, and her compass is guided by a powerful sense of self-determination, whether you’re looking at her inventive approach to songcraft or her singular performance style. (Case in point: Her performance this Friday will include two venues and a 5-minute guided walk in between. How cool is that?)

I owe Dazeases my thanks, both for the inspiration she radiates and for all her help with the article, and I hope you’ll take the time to get to know her a little better by picking up a copy of the magazine or by reading online here.

Dazeases — “Laurel” [Spotify/YouTube]

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One-Line Enlightenment

Are you in the market for some fact-acting self-knowledge and/or spiritual fulfillment? Might I suggest one line each from these three newish songs?

JR JR — “Same Dark Places”

One-Line Enlightenment: “I know everybody goes to the same dark places”

It’s easy to feel alone and isolated when you’re suffering in some way, but there’s a really good chance that people — maybe even people you know — have gone through or are currently going through something similar. “Same Dark Places,” which was accompanied by a touching message about the song’s origins, does a wonderful job of shining a bright, compassionate light on those shadowy emotional spaces.

Future Islands — “Through The Roses”

One-Line Enlightenment: “It’s not easy just being human”

Speaking of compassion, when you approach interpersonal communication with a basic level of empathy — “This person I’m talking to has the same basic wants and needs as me and could be dealing with difficulties that aren’t immediately apparent, etc.” — it’s amazing how much easier it is to defuse charged situations and find positive outcomes. This line from the new Future Islands album reminds me of this in such a simple and powerful way. The video above ain’t great, but the message comes through loud and clear.

Eric Slick — “You Are Not Your Mind”

One-Line Enlightenment: “You are not your mind”

I often fall into the trap of assuming there’s a way to think my way out of every situation. I also tend to prioritize my inner experience when I’m feeling less than good about what’s going on on the outside, whether that’s the clothes I’m wearing or my inability to force myself to exhibit extroversion when it counts. And while the mind can certainly act as a refuge, I love the idea that there’s some other self that’s even more basic — something that’s not so readily accessible or easily tinkered with. I’ve read that meditation was a big part of the inspiration behind Eric Slick’s new Palisades album, so I’m sure he has a more precise idea of what this lyric is getting at, but just hearing it gives me this tremendous sense of relief, like walking away from an elaborate array of spinning plates.

To bring things full circle, here’s a video of Eric Slick speaking very articulately about the need for open discussion of mental health.

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Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann

So this new Aimee Mann album is excellent.

I gave it a headphones-in listen last night while grilling and damn near had an out-of-body experience when I got to the chorus of “Patient Zero,” which reads:

Life is good
You look around and think I’m in the right neighborhood
But honey you just moved in
Life is grand
And wouldn’t you like to have it go as planned

What a thing to have sung to you while standing in the backyard of your new home on a windy night, watching clouds zoom past the moon. That place she’s describing — the pocket of time before life grabs hold of the course you’ve plotted and adds twists and turns to it — that’s exactly where my family is right now.

And that ominous subtext… I feel that, too. This may sound strange, but it reminds me of carbon dating and how each of us carries around tiny amounts (hopefully) of radioactivity in the form of radiocarbon. You stop exchanging it with the environment when you die, and the degree of decay is what tells scientists when you lived, but part of being alive is having this weird, low-level hum going on inside you at all times. I feel like the chorus of “Patient Zero” hums that way, only instead of radioactivity, it’s putting off the trace amount of doubt that even an optimist can’t escape. Being subject to fate can be frustrating, especially when it comes to mortgages, but it’s the cost of still being alive.

Did I mention the video stars Josh Lyman?

Aimee Mann — “Patient Zero” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Markiss Blowfish

Really excited to spread the word about this. A few months ago, I had a chance to interview Mark Branch, the blues singer you might have seen at the entrance to the South of the James Farmer’s Market. My family goes there just about every week when the weather is warm, which makes Markiss Blowfish — that’s Branch’s stage name — the Richmond musician I see most often.

Whether I’m walking by in a hurry or stopping with my daughter to move along with Branch’s steady, chugging guitar playing, the amount of joy in my day increases as a result of hearing him sing, and I can report that speaking with him about music and his journey in life had the same effect. The experience left me thanking my lucky stars for my sense of place. Places matter, and they’re more than just locations. They’re the routines you settle into. The people you see. I’m so thankful for that market and this city and the feeling I get when I hear Branch’s voice booming in the distance when I’m walking toward him. Also Mrs. Yoder’s donuts. Can’t leave those out.

 

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of River City Magazine or read online to learn more about him. And be sure to check him out at the South of the James Market. It’s a wonderful, soul-nourishing way to start your weekend.

 

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Feist

One more dispatch from the moving/unpacking process:

I mentioned in my Tommy James post that it was fun filing away records I hadn’t seen in a while. This is one I’m not sure I’d even heard yet, so I gave it a spin. Feist covering Mastodon. Mastodon covering Feist. A tidy and memorable portmanteau serving as the title.

As you might have guessed, given the quirky pairing, this was a Record Store Day release. 2012, to be exact, which seems like ages ago, until you consider that Feist’s most recent LP, Metals, came out a year before that. Even crazier is the fact that The Reminder came out four years before Metals, which puts us all the way back in 2007. The irony here is that she’s a near-daily part of my life, thanks to my daughter, whose love of “1234” hasn’t wavered since I posted about it last August. It’s astonishing how well The Reminder holds up. I don’t know what I would have said if you’d told me in 2007 that, ten years later, I’d still be listening to this album regularly and that Donald Trump would be president. I probably would have just stared at you blankly.

Speaking of Donald Trump, here are a few lyrics from “Black Tongue,” the Mastodon song Feist covers on this 7-inch:

You own the darkness
Have taken my sight
You buried the stars underground
You’ve stolen the night

You can run to the sea
You can run to the forest
You can hide
But you’ll never escape

Really the whole thing can be read as a clairvoyant rendering of Trump’s media omnipresence and anti-Democratic tendencies. Except for the line later on in the song about running out of lies. He seems to draw from a bottomless well there.

What we were talking about? Oh yeah — unpacking records is fun! (And yay for new Feist at the end of April!)

Feist — “Black Tongue” (Mastodon cover) [YouTube]

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Record Store Day

So this may end up being the earliest I’ve woken up to wait in line at BK Music on Record Store Day. The sun will not be out. The birds will not be chirping. The Mennonites won’t even be making donuts at the South of the James Farmer’s Market. I’m talking oh dark thirty. (The time, not the movie in which Andy from The Office kills Osama bin Laden.)

Why so early? Mostly because of this:

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit — Welcome to 1979

Let me count the reasons:

  1. I’m not sure which I heard first, the studio version on Here We Rest or the live version on Live from Alabama, but Isbell’s take on “Heart On A String” put Candi Staton on my radar, and it represents a crucial part of his own personal history, given that Staton’s original version was recorded at Fame in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The phrase “full circle” comes to mind when I hear Isbell perform “Heart On A String.” It makes clear that he both remembers and understands where he came from.
  2. I haven’t gotten to see Isbell do The Stones’ “Sway” live, but setlist.fm tells me that the cover closed his 2008 set on Brown’s Island here in Richmond, which is neat. I have seen him do “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” however, and he does a great job. It’s one of those “Man, that dude knows how to get just the right guitar tone” songs.
  3. John Prine, y’all. No need to for elaboration there.
  4. 400 Unit renditions of Isbell-penned Truckers songs make the world go ’round, and “Never Gonna Change” was the song with which he ended his outstanding 2016 Altria Theater performance. Man, was that show good. I said on Instragram at the time that he “pitched a perfect game,” and the experience has only gotten rosier in retrospect.
  5. What can I say about “Atlantic City”? It’s on a very short list of “All Time” favorites on Spotify and I wrote a mini-essay on the song after spending time in the city for the first time, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Isbell perform it. I’m sitting here trying to think of a combination of artist and cover that would make we wake up earlier in the morning… Thom Yorke singing “Hallelujah”? Donald Trump singing “2 + 2 = 5”?

There must be something in the water, because four of the other titles I’m most hoping to see at BK are also live sets:

Would also be neat to snag the Lumineers’ Song Seeds 10-inch. As someone who’s contributed parts to music written by Wes, I like the concept of the album — hearing songs at different stages of fruition. It’s the same reason I was so psyched to hear the episode of Song Exploder that featured “Ophelia.”

I better stop there before I get carried away. See y’all in line on April 22nd.

 

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Seen/Eaten/Heard

A cold Guinness, a hot steak and Guinness pie, and a slow, sad version of “Danny Boy” drifting in from the distance, all before noon. Not bad, Church Hill Irish Festival. Not bad.

Here’s one of the slowest and saddest versions you’ll find: Harry Belafonte’s.

Harry Belafonte — “Danny Boy” [Spotify/iTunes]

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