I’m sure you’ve heard people who are confronted with an adorable baby or puppy say something to the effect of “Oh my god, [he/she/it] is so cute I just want to eat [him/her/it] right up!” Everyone knows they’re not cannibals or puppy eaters — it’s just an expression that spills out as a result of overflowing enthusiasm. (Then again, cuteness has been shown to activate the part of our brains that regulates aggression…) You hear similar language in book reviews. Prose is “gobbled up” when it’s particularly enjoyable. Some things are so good you just want them to be a part of you — to be absorbed, so you can go about your daily life with the elevated level of joy you felt when you first encountered them.
There’s a close cousin to this type of enthusiasm, and it’s another book review mainstay — “I just want to crawl inside it.” When a writer builds an especially vivid and inviting fictional universe, the words pull you in, and before you know it, you’re wishing you could cross the page’s divide and join the world the characters get to inhabit. (It happens in movies too — you might remember that a number of movie-goers were swept up in a wave of depression after seeing James Cameron’s Avatar because they couldn’t cope with the fact that the idyllic Pandora wasn’t a real planet they could emigrate to.)
That — minus the delusional depression bit — is how I feel when I listen to Daniel Bachman play the guitar.
I have a bunch of Spotify playlists, but one has become absolutely indispensable since I started adding to it — my hastily named That’s My Jam playlist. It’s where I drag the songs I get most excited about and want to hear over and over (well, the upbeat ones — I have a separate sad sack playlist I’m too embarrassed to share the name of). Sometimes a song jumps out at me and has to go on TMJ right away, other times I’ll decide that I like a new album and will add one of its tracks so I’ll have a lasting tether back to it. “Lasting” is the operative word there, because I would be crushed if I lost this playlist. Whenever I have trouble logging into my Spotify account, a deep-seated, panicky feeling rushes in. (I really need to back up this list somewhere, but you’re talking to the same person who puts off doing laundry until he’s wearing bathing suits for underwear, so who knows when that’ll actually happen.)
I recently started another list called Favorite Whole Albums, for releases that seem are particularly suited for front-to-back listening. Usually they’re cohesive in some meaningful way, like how Beck’s Morning Phase feels like a single idea played out over multiple tracks, or how Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city tells a story that builds from beginning to end, with interludes that need to be played in the correct order.
When I step back and look at those last two paragraphs all typed out, it’s painfully clear how helpless trying to categorize and catalog your listening really is. It’s like trying to bottle up wind with a napkin, or something — just plain insufficient when you zoom out and consider the massive musical universe and all it has to offer. Taxonomy can feel insufficient in micro sense too, as Landlady just taught me.
One more Commonwealth of Notions Presents memory from last Friday — Lightfields covering Archers of Loaf’s “Web In Front,” with a vocal assist from festival organizer and Clair Morgan bassist Shannon Cleary.
Music is full of little miracles that are easy to overlook. One of the most fundamental is the fractured nature of performing as part of a band.
When you’re at your favorite venue, hearing familiar songs come out of a few, huge speakers, it’s easy to process it all as one thing, and to forget that the parts of that whole are the result of individual human beings putting into motion an unfathomable number of neural pathways and muscle groups in just the right order, at just the right time. It’s what makes being in a band so frustrating and so rewarding. When you get up on stage to perform with other people, you’re on a tightrope together, and the gravitational pull of chaos never abates. The universe does not want to be as ordered as you’re forcing it to be when you play a song.
After spending a few days thinking about why I so enjoyed seeing Clair Morgan at Strange Matter on Friday night, I’ve decided it has something to do with the remarkable way they walked that tightrope, and the daring way the band’s frontman and namesake (“Clair Morgan is and is not a band,” as the t-shirt I bought at the show explains) courts chaos, making the walk all the more thrilling.
If not, the long and the short of it is that if you agree to buy a vinyl copy of Spoon’s soon-to-be-released (8/5, to be exact) They Want My Soul album from a participating, locally-owned store, you get to take home a 10-inch record with three of the album’s songs on it. They’re calling it Vinyl Gratification. The offer went into effect this Tuesday, and I’m not sure how many each store got, but you can click here to find a participating location — they may still have copies of the above-pictured 10-inch.
I got mine at BK Music on Tuesday, and I was pleased to find that the two They Want My Soul tracks I’d heard and fallen madly for — “The Rent I Pay” and “Do You” — were both on it, but I’m even more pleased by the Vinyl Gratification idea in general. Offering perks for pre-ordering albums isn’t new, but this initiative has a wonderfully collaborative feel to it. Just read the open letter Spoon frontman Britt Daniel wrote to introduce the promotion. There’s a palpable sincerity there, and an understanding that correcting the imbalance that currently exists between the amount of music people consume and the amount of money that music-makers make will involve bringing all the stakeholders together. The fix, as it almost always does, requires us to work together.
The majority of bands obviously can’t afford to offer free 10-inch records when you pre-order their albums (pressing an LP to vinyl is an expensive undertaking to begin with), but part of the reason I love what Spoon’s doing is that the idea has a bit of the same spirit that Jack White’s recent efforts have had. I haven’t said much about Lazaretto — I’m pretty sure it’s falling into the same “I like it so much that I have no desire to write about it” category that Modern Vampires of the City occupied last year — but I will say that the ultra LP created a genuine moment.
Good ideas can’t be contained. They expand to fit people’s appreciation of them, and Shannon Cleary’s notion that Richmond’s music scene deserves a weekend of celebration and acknowledgment is a great example. We’re nearing the fourth edition of the WRIR and the Commonwealth of Notions Presents festival, and Cleary has outdone himself yet again, putting together a winning lineup of bands that will showcase the depth and breadth of Richmond’s musical talent over the course of four gloriously noisy days.
With the start of the festivities set for this Thursday, I asked Cleary a few questions about what goes into planning for the event and how this year’s festivities are shaping up.
Almost exactly two years ago, when writing about Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, I coined a term (sounds so much better than “made up a word,” doesn’t it?) that I’m still waiting for popular culture to whisk away. It’s confrenzus — the consensus frenzy that results from a book, movie or album that is so clearly worthy of acclaim that everywhere you look, someone is heaping praise on it.
There’s a confrenzus brewing, and it’s about to bubble over at the Broadberry. Tonight is the release show for Greenwood Shade — the new album from Richmond-based band Sleepwalkers — and I can’t resist joiningthechorus in saying that tonight’s event (which also features Black Girls and Dead Professional) is well worth your time.
You heard me say this less than two months ago, but it bears repeating: I owe a great deal to Todd Herrington. As part of DJ Williams Projekt, he helped open my eyes to the vast array of homegrown musical talent I’d been blind to during my four years as an undergrad at the University of Richmond, and nine years later, I’m still in awe of how transformative those Tuesday nights at Cafe Diem were.
Given that history, and how much enjoyment I’ve gotten from his Things album since it was released last year, getting to interview him moments before he kicked off a Monday evening performance with Mekong Xpress & The Get Fresh Horns was a profoundly rewarding experience. I assembled the highlights of that conversation in an article for West End’s Best magazine, and it just hit the interweb. I sincerely hope you’ll check it out.
Many people dismiss the rapture as absurd religious dogma, but it’s not. It’s real. Just ask my CDs.
The great reckoning came the weekend before last, when the room-by-room cleaning, organizing and culling spree Mrs. YHT and I have been conducting to make way for all things baby-related reached the office, where stacks-on-stacks-on-stacks of CDs had been accumulating for as long as we’ve been in the house. During those five years, my vinyl collection grew like crazy, but my CD stash, which included everything from albums bought with my parents’ money in high school to mix CDs burned by college friends in Kazaa’s heyday, went largely ignored. It grew too, but more gradually, like a tree you barely notice until is its roots start cracking the sidewalk. My mom still surprises me with CDs — she’ll mail me things she hears about on NPR and finds interesting — and I love when she does, but I usually upload them to iTunes and listen via my phone. Once they became part of the plastic forest in the back corner of the office, the likelihood of seeing the inside of a CD player again was slim.
That forest is gone now. It wasn’t easy — I attach sentimentality to physical objects like hapless bugs attach themselves to spiderwebs — but after dragging the whole mess out into the living room and going through it item by item, all that’s left is a nearly full 120-slot CD tower and a few binders and spindles that still need sorting. It was a serious bummer in a lot of ways, but I thought I’d share the process I used in case it’s of use when you’re forced to perform your own deforestation.
[Editor’s Note: What follows is a Night Before Christmas-inspired poem I originally posted three years ago in anticipation of July 4th, though I’ve edited a few lines and made some administrative updates. Happy 4th, everyone!]
‘Tis the Thursday before the 4th of July
and all through my street flags are set out to fly.
We’ve done all the prepping that patriots do,
with this year’s fiesta well within view.
The pig has been ordered, the smoker tracked down,
on loan from the frat guys who live across town.
That porker’s on ice at the butcher, but soon
will make up a feast that lasts all afternoon.
The kegs have been scouted, the charcoal is bought,
the buns, plates and cups all successfully sought.
We’ve even located a table for pong
(hey — just ’cause we’re thirty, that don’t make it wrong). My team U.S.A. jersey’s hanging with care,
preparing to bare pasty arms and chest hair
with additional feelings of pride for our play
in the World Cup and things that Tim Howard could save.
But something’s amiss … what can it be?
I know that I made sure to R.S.V.P.
Got my camouflage hat and tri-color balloons…
OH SNAP! The music! We need us some tunes!
I need to crank up the Ameri-swag quick,
but where should I turn? Toby Keith is a dick,
and Miley is partying, but who can tell why?
(OK, I’m obsessed with that song, I can’t lie.)
There has to be music that rings pure and true
when I think of the spirit of red, white and blue.
So I scour my iTunes collection, bar none,
leaving no stone unturned, and no song unspun.
And then in the very last place I would look —
the perfectest verse with perfectest hook!
But this just can’t be — a song for the 4th
that’s sung by K’naan, our friend from the north?!?
That’s right — he’s Canadian! Somalian too,
his formative days spent in Mogadishu.
But being a foreigner shouldn’t detract
from the fact that his song “Wavin’ Flag” is jam packed
with the message we’re coming together to send: That freedom and justice will win in the end.
So raise up your bottles and barbecue tongs
to this most unlikely but fitting of songs
and the two-hundred-thirty-ninth time we can say
“Suck it!” to England! It’s Independence Day!