[Editor’s Note: The London games have officially been declared open, and I for one am excited as hell — so excited that I’m setting aside a whole blogweek to dive into the crazy stuff that’s happened so far. So without further ado (please read the following words in a British accent), it is my honor to officially declare open You Hear That’s “OMG! OLYMPICS!” week!]
OMG, YOU GUYS! OLYMPICS!
Can we talk about the opening ceremony for a quick second? About the Queen of England (kind of) jumping out of a helicopter? About the hilarious squadron of Industrial Revolution dudes dancing in tuxes and top hats? About the terrifying, 100-foot-tall Voldemort? About the above-pictured sparks-spewing rings that themselves looked like something lifted out of Harry Potter? I must admit to being a little underwhelmed by the first few minutes, with the cricket-playing and the maypole-winding and the over-the-top pastoral bliss, but things picked up significantly, and if you didn’t catch it, I highly recommend you set aside those 3 hours you have just lying around the house and indulge in the most schizophrenic display of national pride you’ll ever see.
Oh wait, I would make that recommendation if NBC wasn’t criminally out of touch with how people consume media these days. They’re militantly policing the interweb, taking down full streams of the opening ceremony wherever they pop up, offering instead chopped up highlights, each with an annoying commercial tacked on to the front. And don’t get me started on how they still think it’s OK to tape-delay events like this to get bigger ratings. Ugh. Dicks.
Wait a minute… this post was supposed to be a celebration! I’m not letting NBC throw an ice pack on my Olympic fever! Let’s look at the sunny side…
I have a listening habit just as idiosyncratic that I’d like to share, and unlike the candy custom above, you can join in on the fun right this very minute! It has to do with cover songs. Often, when I find a cover I really like, I’ll listen to it, then listen to the original version, then the cover again, then the original again, cover, original, cover, original, over and over, until I absolutely, positively have to take my headphones off and and pay attention to something else. A little crazy, right? I’d say it’s like being a tennis spectator, glancing left and right to follow a rally, but if I’m being honest, it’s more like being the ball. And as nutty as it may sound, I could go on forever like that, comparing the songs, finding little differences in the phrasing of the lyrics, trying to imagine why certain decisions were made during the respective recording processes.
Wanna play a little cover tennis? C’mooooooon, it’s super fun. I’ve picked out three pairs of tunes, and I’ve even assigned a tennis player (two of whom are competing in the London Olympics) to each pair, based on how obsessed with them I’ve become. So let’s crack open a new tube of balls, take a sniff — because it’s the best smell in the universe — and get to thwackin’!
Oh, sensory overload. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
You make me smile. You pick me up and take me away from where I’m standing. You crowd out rational thought, clearing bandwidth for an input onslaught. You make me forget everything, but I can’t forget you.
I walked into the National last Wednesday already overloaded, having tried to cram the entire Blitzen Trapper back catalogue into the fleeting hours leading up to the show. This was no easy accomplishment (as evinced by the fact that I failed to accomplish it), given that the Portland group has been on an album-a-year tear for nearly a half decade, their steady stream of high-impact songwriting resulting in a mountain of material that’s wildly rewarding climb.
The experience of seeing Blitzen Trapper live was just as overwhelming. There were so many notes. So many chords, key changes, harmonies, and brain-bending, soul-saving, dead-raising guitar solos… it was pure inundation, and I wish every one of you could have seen it (check here to see if they’re coming to a town near you).
My favorite example of Blitzen Trapper’s remarkable musical wealth (if you haven’t guessed already) has to be the lead guitar licks provided by frontman Eric Earley and guitarist/Moog-master Erik Menteer.
I love this video. I love it to death. I want to wad it up and carry it around in my pocket. OK, well I guess I technically already am carrying it around in my pocket, but you get the idea. This is going to sound crazy, but I’m convinced that this video of a “flash choir” performing “The New Rule” from Philip Glass’ opera Monsters of Grace has got to be one of the hippest unhip things I’ve ever seen.
“WTF?!? Where’d the meerkats go? And is it just me, or did Narnia throw up on my computer screen?”
Do not be alarmed, good people of the Internet! You’re in the right place! You’ve navigated your browser to the same medium-to-long-winded music blog you know and love, just without the brazen misuse of intellectual property sitting atop the page (these Meerkat Manor fellas sure are cute, but my copyright conscience had, over time, transformed their adorably inquisitive gazes into guilt-inducing death stares). In addition to the new banner and background, I’ve also reclassified all 250-some YHT posts to keep things a bit tidier, subject-matter-wise. The 5 categories (links can be found on the left side of the page) include…
#nowplaying — record reviews and recommended listening
#live — concert reviews and performance videos
#features — recurring gimmicks and especially long reads
#rva — music that calls Richmond, VA home
#guest — pieces penned by anyone other than yours truly
Many thanks are due to my big sis for hand-crafting the YHT mascot that’s pictured in the new banner, and thanks also to pixlr.com for making a web-based version of Photoshop, because I’m too cheap to buy the real thing and too guilt-prone to download it illegally.
To celebrate the blog’s new ‘do, I’m posting a video I’ve been meaning to write about for ages — one that tells its own story of physical transformation: Father John Misty’s (NSFW) “Nancy From Now On.”
Does one song give you enough information to write an entire concert review? No, it doesn’t. But can one song give you enough information to get ridiculously excited about a band? You betcha.
The plan was to make it to Gallery 5 in time to catch my first glimpse of The Snowy Owls, who were participating in this past Saturday’s “WRIR and The Commonwealth of Notions Presents: Volume Two” — a 10-band sampling of the Richmond music scene organized by WRIR’s Shannon Cleary. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of The Snowy Owls’ set eating trail mix while driving east on Monument Avenue, because I failed to leave on time AND forgot to eat dinner. Not my finest moment. The silver lining to my gold-star-worthy failure was extra shiny, however, because I made it to Gallery 5 in time to pay the $10 admission fee, snag a beer and settle into a spot near the back of the room as the first few notes of set closer “Yr Eyes” were starting up. In the four and a half minutes that followed, I learned a few important things…
So we just found out on Tuesday that Bob Dylan is releasing a new album, entitled Tempest, on September 11. I don’t know about you, but album announcements don’t usually get me too riled up. It’s hard to get excited about a press release accompanied by a list of out-of-context song titles, especially when the payoff can be so far away. I mean, September is like a year away (delayed gratification and I are not friends). This announcement was different though, and not just because it’s Bob Dylan, and that’s reason enough to get one’s undies in a bunch. My undies bunched double because I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, the “Scarlet Town” that’s included on the track list was a cover of the “Scarlet Town” Gillian Welch released on her 2011 album The Harrow & The Harvest. I even spent like 30 minutes drafting unsent Tweets about it:
“Part of me is hoping that “Scarlet Town” from Bob Dylan’s upcoming album is a cover of the @gillianwelch tune. The other part of me thinks that’s wrong.”
Other drafts were less circumspect, focusing on how I’d probably pee my pants if my theory were to hold true. (Does anyone else routinely spend half an hour writing tweets they don’t send? Anyone? Please tell me I’m not the only one.)
But all that excitement and subsequent guilt over rooting for a cover from the greatest songwriter of all time vanished into thin air when I actually took the time to read the whole press release, which states clearly that Tempest features “ten new and original Bob Dylan songs.” Well, then. There goes that. Guess I should know better than to try to predict Bob Dylan’s behavior. After all, this exists.
My Tempest gratification may be delayed until September, but Tuesday was kind enough to balance things out by dropping a brick of pure, uncut, instant gratification in my lap via a text from my friend Tex (say that 5 times fast) asking if I’d heard the new Old Crow Medicine Show album.
When Mrs. You Hear That goes out of town, things tend to get a little… how shall I put this… chaotic. Meals are timed irregularly. Bedtime drifts further and further into the morning hours with each passing night. And showers? Might as well have never been invented.
I followed each of these trends faithfully this past weekend, when Mrs. YHT was up in Pennsylvania, riding Hershey Park roller coasters with her younger cousins. True to form, not one drop of water passed through the showerheads at YHT headquarters all weekend, I stayed up late Friday and Saturday nights working on elements of a YHT site redesign (I can’t wait to show y’all!), and if it weren’t for a thing of trail mix I bought from 7-11, I probably would have starved to death by the time Sunday rolled around.
Does all this make me a degenerate whose development was arrested somewhere between the beginning and end of college? Some might say so, but I know better. I’ve listened to Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music enough times to understand the real truth: I’m just in love.
I don’t know how you could go to a Neko Case concert and not fall in love with her.
For one thing, you’d have to hate hearing beautiful voices. Friday evening at the National in Richmond, VA was my first time seeing Case perform live, and I’m convinced that hers is a voice that you could listen to infinitely, as if hearing it were as natural and essential as respiration or a beating heart. Powerful without overpowering. Precise, but not robotic. Weighty, but nimble as all get-out. It was the main event, but it folded into songs comfortably, leaving plenty of room for backup singer Kelly Hogan to add depth and shape to the melodies (Hogan also served as Friday’s opening act – a feat of endurance that grew more and more impressive as the night went on).