But in certain situations, the best feedback of all is total silence. The Low Branches’ January 19 album release show at Gallery 5 is a wonderful example.
When it snows here in Richmond, even just an inch or two, things tend to shut down. Stores close early. Employers send workers home. Schools cancel classes before a single snowflake’s hit the ground. It can be a little ridiculous.
But there’s one intrepid organization that doesn’t scare so easily. A quintet that stares down Old Man Winter with ice in its collective veins. I’m talking about post-punk/New Wave-influenced indie rockers Dead Fame, who were kind — and brave — enough to stay late after practice two Thursdays ago, while a particularly wet, slushy snow was falling outside, and chat about their evolving stage setup, pre-Dead Fame musical experiences, favorite albums from 2012, and more.
Despite the inclement weather, this turned out to be the perfect time to catch up with the band. They’re performing at The Renaissance this Friday, February 1, for WRIR’s Party For the Rest of Us 8, and they’ve just released “My Body, My Fool,” which is the first in their new “Mask Singles” series. We kicked off the conversation by talking about the round of Pedro Aida-helmed recordings that gave birth to The Mask Singles.
Just last night, Mrs. YHT and I had the pleasure of sitting in section 18 of the Robins Center and watching our alma mater, the University of Richmond, mount an unlikely last-minute comeback and beat #19-ranked Virginia Commonwealth University in overtime.
It was fantastic. Probably the best college basketball game I’ve ever seen in person.
That said, I had low expectations going into the game (VCU has been playing extremely well — UR, not so much), so when VCU started pulling away near the end of regulation, I wasn’t exactly shocked. What was a little jarring was how much louder the VCU fans were, despite the fact that they were the away team. It was impressive. Also embarrassing. At times, the VEE-CEE-YOU chants were so loud, the only thing that could take your mind off the ticket sales/team spirit disparity was the music pumping out of the arena’s possibly new and definitely booming PA system.
Since I failed to DVR the game and am desperate to relive it, and since the music they played in the arena during breaks wasn’t half bad, I thought I’d share with you a sampling of the songs that helped carry the Spiders to an unlikely victory.
It’s been an eventful past few days, eh? Martin Luther King, Jr. Day came and went… President Obama took the oath of office, kicking off his second term… the Ravens and 49ers won their respective conference championship games, thereby setting up the first-ever brother-vs-brother Super Bowl coaching matchup… lots to digest.
Amid all that excitement, it would have been easy to miss a development that’s just as momentous in certain circles — hockey is back! There were, like, actual games this weekend! The NHL’s 4-month labor dispute is finally over, meaning the players have gotten back to doing what they do best: skating around with sticks, flinging a stubby, rubber cylinder back and forth while collecting icing penalties, which are far and away the most delicious infractions in all of sports.
“Wait a minute. You’re not a hockey fan. Why do you care that it’s back?”
Happy Inauguration/Martin Luther King, Jr./Beyoncé Raising the Bar for Future National Anthem Performances Day!
If anyone needs me, I’ll be listening to the performance above and “Countdown” on repeat.
UPDATE: I’m not convinced she was synchin‘. Gonna let this play out a bit before rescinding my excitement, though I will say that the fact that so many people (apparently) care if she did or didn’t bears out how fantastic her rendition was.
The 2012 installment of the Pazz & Jop critics poll hit the interweb this week, and to the surprise of no one, especially not Robert Christgau, Frank Ocean’s breakout effort came out on top. I mention Christgau not because of his 33-year tenure organizing the Pazz & Jop poll, which invites hundreds of critics to assign point values to their top 10 albums, but because he published this preactionary piece, correctly guessing which 3 albums would sit atop the list and examining the consensus that sucked the suspense out of those top 3 spots.
I’m a fan of the piece he wrote for a few different reasons. His admiration for Todd Snider’s Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables is one; Snider struck me as a cross between a savant and a messiah when I saw him open for Justin Townes Earle in May, but I’m ashamed to say that a lack of external validation eroded my enthusiasm. It’s like Christgau’s words gave me an opportunity to say “I told you so” to myself, if that makes any sense. Felt good.
One part of Christgau’s piece struck me as especially thought provoking — the part in which he talks about the role his age may be playing in his lack of esteem for 2012’s anointed triumvirate:
If twentysomethings want to like Kendrick Lamar’s album more than Loudon Wainwright’s, I say more power to them. The Cloud Nothings’, even — there’s an imagined future there that neither Loudon Wainwright or I will ever know firsthand again, and why shouldn’t someone whose life stretches ahead cherish that? But it bums me that it doesn’t go the other way — that the residual formal mastery of someone like Wainwright seems incapable of touching musical aesthetes of a certain age…
He makes an excellent point, though I think there’s more at work here than just age (of the listener or of the artist’s recording career). I think the “mastery” itself deserves some of the blame.
I’m not a critic, and I certainly didn’t have a Pazz & Jop ballot to fill out, but I do know that writing about music that approaches perfection is difficult. When everything’s done well — great composition, great backing band, great performances, great recording — it’s hard to zoom in on what makes the song or album special, which I’d imagine would be frustrating if your livelihood depended on coming up with an angle that the rest of the Internet hadn’t already chewed up and spit out. It’s hard for me to believe that wouldn’t affect your enjoyment of a recording, or at the very least incentivize pumping up something that’s also brilliant but contains charming or revelatory flaws.
I felt this effect as recently as last week.
If you caught yesterday’s post, you already know that I spent a sizable part of last weekend’s visit to PA listening to kickass music with my father-in-law via his new Apple TV. Saturday was devoted to exploring the thousands of radio stations available for streaming through iTunes, but Sunday afternoon had a different focus. While Mrs. YHT and her mom were out shopping — effectively lifting the living room’s usual noise ordinance — Joe and I took full advantage, and things quickly escalated from “Hey, there’s a Dr. John song I wanted to play for you” to a virtual New Orleans music festival.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
On Saturday, Mrs. YHT and I met up with friend of the blog Trang and made our annual pilgrimage to the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and boy howdy was it fun. And fattening. The fried cheese was nice and cheesy, the milkshakes were shakin’, and the potato donuts left nuttin’ to be desired. I even snagged a free Tractor Supply Company hat, which I sported throughout our post-feeding frenzy tour of the the best and smelliest livestock the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has to offer.
It was a good day.
So how does one switch gears and return to the 9-to-5 city life after rockin’ camo at the Farm Show? How about a brand new tune from Justin Timberlake called “Suit & Tie?” Featuring Jay-Z? Even better.