Elle Varner

I love our first lady.

She can Dougie. She can Oscar. She listens to Frank Ocean. And that’s just what we learned about her this past weekend.

It all started on Friday night, when she appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Not only did Mrs. Obama participate in an “Evolution of Mom Dancing” skit with Fallon, demonstrating how hard it is for people who can dance well to act like they can’t (and how oddly convincing Jimmy Fallon looks in drag), she also sat for an interview and talked about the music that the first family’s been listening to lately. Two of the names she mentioned — Frank Ocean and Beyoncé — were familiar, but she mentioned another, less-familiar artist — Elle Varner.

The context in which Varner’s name came up is my favorite part.

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Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt

Before I start evangelizing, let me acknowledge one thing: collecting vinyl ain’t always cheap. Record stores turn into self-control battlegrounds, and you never know when you’re going to fall in love with the $40 imported pressing of some album you already own and don’t actually listen to all that often. Add in the cost of a turntable, maintenance, a receiver, speakers… you get the idea. Things can get out of hand. Wallets can suffer.


Collecting vinyl can also be unconscionably cost effective.

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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

For the second time this week, I’d like to hand the YHT keys over to someone else. This time’s a little different, though, because the designated driver isn’t a friend of mine and doesn’t actually know he’s a guest poster. He’s Ben Haggerty, aka Macklemore, of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis fame.

I’ve been a big supporter of his since October of last year. “Thrift Shop” quickly became one of my favorite songs, in part because it offered a rare fusion of fun — “Smells like R. Kelly’s sheets” — and seriousness — “I call that getting tricked by a business” — all while exhibiting an acerbic intelligence and a refreshing message of anti-consumerism. In the past week, he’s had to defend that message because of his participation in the intro to last Saturday night’s NBA All-Star festivities (posted above).

I have to admit — as I watched last weekend, I was a little surprised at the intro’s song choice, but I want to let Haggerty tell you the story himself for two reasons.

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[Editor’s Note: I’m excited and honored to welcome my good friend Brian Gorman back to the blog. Gormie works for an accounting firm, but he’s also one of my favorite writers on the entire planet (his letters to customer service are the stuff of legend). If you’ve been reading for a while, you might have caught his touching piece about listening to B.B. King while getting an MRI. If you didn’t, be sure to check it out here.]


If YHT fans were going to the movies at all back in 1994, they will probably remember a certain iconic film with a floating feather and a moral lesson about a box of chocolates. And if you were like me, you may have been too busy watching your favorite shrimp boat captain bounce his way through the decades with his heart-warming mix of dopey antics and life-affirming optimism to realize that you were also simultaneously listening to one of the great compilation soundtracks of the 1990’s. Think about it, that flick had everything: Elvis, Hank Williams, twang master Duane Eddy —  then Forrest grows up and he’s jamming out to Creedence and Jefferson Airplane. But it was more than just a “Greatest Hits” collection for nostalgic Baby Boomers and aging hippies. The music gave that flick a sense of time flow and defined whole periods and settings of American civilization as they passed by. Add to that The Supremes, a very healthy dose of The Doors, and as a final topping, the very memorable original score by composer Alan Silvestri. Memorable is the right word. For the rest of your life you will never see a feather glide to and fro upon the breeze without hearing the title theme come streaming into your head via an invisible piano. All in all, Forrest Gump was almost as good for the ears as it was for the heart.

Almost 20 years later (I know! can you believe it’s been that long?), Silvestri and filmmaker Robert Zemeckis have teamed up again on another great compilation soundtrack.

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Bryn Davies

So the Grammys were this weekend…

I know, I know.

A sizable percentage of you are probably groaning, closing this tab of your browser and saying something like, “Ugh, I can’t stand hearing about those self-congratulating millionaires and the mass-marketed, radio-friendly, auto-tuned crap they give each other awards for making.” Maybe a few of you even added air quotes when you said “making” to drive the point home. Would have been a nice touch.

As much as I enjoy and care about the Grammys, I can’t blame people for detecting, and reacting to, a degree of fakeness. Sunday’s broadcast certainly had its share of artifice, with a Maroon 5/Alicia Keys duet that perfectly embodied pop music’s insider culture and a Bob Marley tribute that hit so far off the mark it seemed genuinely bizarre. (Speaking of which, I made a note a little while ago to write a post about how Bruno Mars might not be human. He’s too good. His voice, stage presence and skin are all unreasonably perfect, and he has this general aura of unreality about him. I’m starting to think that birthers have been rooting around for the wrong Hawaii birth certificate…)

But here’s the thing. There are real people at the Grammys, too. Actual human beings who buy garlic and orange juice at the grocery store and make music that finds success on its own terms. I thought I’d use today’s post to tell you about one of those people, someone whose appearance on the TV screen during Sunday’s ceremony made me cheer out loud as reflexively as I would have if someone had told me that Chris Brown was stuck in an airport somewhere and wouldn’t be available for reaction shots. That someone is Bryn Davies.

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Who slam harder?

There are two things in this life that I love overthinking, and those things are music and basketball. So when fellow Richmonder and proprietor of breakout 2012 album Big Inner Matthew E. White posted the following question to Twitter, let’s just say that a few analytical gears started turning…

Matthew E. White tweet

I didn’t know until I started doing some research, but his query first appeared in “Slam Harder,” a cut from Onyx’s 2002 album Bacdafucup Part II. And while the song and its video (posted above) attempt to provide an answer — a cry of “ONYX” rings out immediately after the question is asked at the beginning of each chorus — we clearly can’t accept such a biased judgement. We’re going to have to dig deeper.

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