Monthly Archives: January 2016

Seen/Eaten/Heard

Adele

Saw this while waiting in line at Plan 9. Cracked me up. I’ve been looking for an excuse to post “Hello” without having to write a thousand-word hot take about it. I just… like it.

Side note for all you mashup fans: It pairs very nicely with Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.”

Adele — “Hello” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Cian Nugent

Cian Nugent

The truth is most powerful when stated plainly. Directly. Boiled down. Sometimes you hear a phrase or song lyric that gets so close to the essence of an idea that it sounds like it’s stating the obvious. Someone who can’t identify with that specific feeling might say “Yeah. Duh. Everyone knows that.” But to the people who are feeling that same feeling, it can be like a door bursts open and sunlight and fresh air start rushing in for the first time in who knows how long.

“Don’t you ever get tired of being so in between where you’re headed and where you’ve been?” It’s a line in “Lost Your Way,” the first song on Cian Nugent’s new Night Fiction album.

In the most literal sense, we’re all stuck in the present. Wherever we are, time-wise, there we are. But if you’ve ever had a dream that’s just out of your reach, or fallen into a rut you can’t to climb out of, the present is like a prison. It’s what you see when you look into the future, and depending on how long you’ve been stuck, it might even be what you see when you look into the past.

I think it’s the “so” that got me — the idea that you’re not just between where you’re headed and where you’ve been, but that both are somehow really far away. That maybe they’re growing more remote as time goes on. How scary is that?

The fact that this hit me so hard tells me that I’m not totally where I need to be. Knowing what changes to make is a whole other matter, of course, but man — listening to “Lost Your Way” for the first time was one hell of a wake-up call.

The rest of Night Fiction is just as excellent, I should say. The mixing especially — his guitar is always nice and high in the mix, which really suits his style and these songs. Feels distinctive. Shouts to Bill at BK Music for helping me get my hands on this soon — can’t wait to play it at YHT HQ.

Cian Nugent — “Lost Your Way” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Avers

Avers

Every year, in the hours and days after I publish my Top 10 lists and say to myself “Well that’s done, thank god,” I start planning a mea culpa post that lists all the mistakes I made. This year, for example, I can’t remember what I was doing but “I hit the weekend just like a freight” ran through my head and the realization hit me just as hard: “Shit. I totally left off Nashville Obsolete.” Definitely should have been in my Top 25. Maybe even Top 10. It wasn’t released on vinyl, so I didn’t have a physical reminder around the house, but still… wish I hadn’t blanked on that one.

I never actually write or post these mea culpas — I figure it’s a “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party” situation — but there’s one regret from 2015 list-making I can’t abide silently, and that’s not listening to Avers’ Wasted Tracks EP sooner.

I’ve been playing it repeatedly since New Year’s, and I really, really like these songs. It’s an interesting collection, because square-peg-round-hole EPs usually come out after the full length album they were trimmed from, but I read that these songs were cut from the band’s upcoming 2016 album. That they weren’t representative of the direction the band is going in. It’s exciting — trying to anticipate what that direction might be, having fantastic songs like “Calling Out To You” and “Come To Me Now” as points of predictive contrast. And “Beautiful Day To Die” is easily one of my favorite songs they’ve done so far.

Here’s to looking forward and backward and the same time.

Avers — “Calling Out To You” [Spotify/iTunes]

Avers — “Come To Me Now” [Spotify/iTunes]

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CD Monday

Apparat Organ Quartet

Baby YHT would like to direct your attention to this week’s CD, the self-titled 2002 album by Iceland’s Apparat Organ Quartet.

Confession time: I picked this because I had wintry weather on the brain, and I thought it’d be fun to listen to an Icelandic band while riding around and watching this foot of snow melt. Then I checked Wikipedia and saw that Iceland’s climate is unusually temperate for its latitude. Technically, the highlands qualify as tundra, but the Quartet is from Reykjavík, which is subpolar oceanic, which… I dunno what that is.

This is an awesome album. I do know that. Shouts to friends of the blog Travis and Lyndsey for grabbing it while traveling in Iceland!

Apparat Organ Quartet — “Romantika” [Spotify/iTunes]

Apparat Organ Quartet — “Cruise Control” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Covered: Snow

Another new feature for 2016! (I’m just gonna keep saying that, and hopefully one of these will stick.) Let’s pick a bunch of albums to play based on how situationally appropriate the cover art is. The current situation? Snow. A shit-ton of it. Here’s what I’ll be playing to chase away the cabin fever:

The Band — The Band

The Band

Dudes in coats. Levon looks the chilliest. Garth looks the chillest. Danko is challenging Richard Manuel’s signature claim to creepiest, while Robbie is clearly trying to have sex with you. Or maybe just making it known that he’s open to having sex with you. One or the other.

Good point just now from Mrs. YHT: “Levon is the chilliest because he’s the only one from the South.”

The Band — “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” [Spotify/iTunes]

The Beatles — Help!

The Beatles

More dudes in coats. And the cover shot is from the movie’s skiing scene, which was filmed in the Austrian Alps. Those crazy moptops…

The Beatles — “Help!” [Spotify/iTunes]

Bon Iver — Blood Bank EP

Bon Iver

From which Kayne got the sample for “Lost In The World.” Great EP.

Bon Iver — “Woods” [Spotify/iTunes]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet — Brandenburg Gate: Revisited

Dave Brubeck

Achtung! It’s cold out there!

The Dave Brubeck Quartet — “In Your Own Sweet Way” [Spotify/iTunes]

Jerry Butler — The Ice Man Cometh

Jerry Butler

What’s cooler than being cool?

Jerry Butler — “Only The Strong Survive” [Discogs]

Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars — Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars

Levon Helm

Levon. Paul Butterfield. Steve Cropper. Booker T. Jones. Dr. John. Duck Dunn. Robbie. Garth. Madonna.

OK, so Madonna’s not really on there. But all those other people are!

Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars — “Washer Woman” [Discogs]

Joni Mitchell — Hejira

Joni Mitchell

Anyone else invent an alternate universe in which “Coyote” is about Robbie Robertson?

Joni Mitchell — “Coyote” [Spotify/iTunes]

Paul Simon — Paul Simon

Paul Simon

Winner: Dude in a Coat category.

Side note — this may be the record that gets played most often in our house.

Paul Simon — “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” [Spotify/iTunes]

Bruce Springsteen — Nebraska

Bruce Springsteen

Saving this one for when cabin fever is really getting to me and things are looking peak-bleak.

Bruce Springsteen — “Atlantic City” [Spotify/iTunes]

Stephen Stills — Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills

This one qualifies twice — there’s snow on the cover, and the first song is “Love The One You’re With,” which is basically the theme song for cabin fever! Love the one you’re with… because leaving the house really isn’t an option right now.

Stephen Stills — “Love The One You’re With” [Spotify/iTunes]

Sufjan Stevens — Michigan

Sufjan Stevens

Some impressive average annual snowfall numbers for Michigan cities. Houghton gets 207.7 inches a year. If you know anyone living in Houghton, Michigan, definitely send them this blog post.

Sufjan Stevens — “Holland” [Spotify/iTunes]

They Might Be Giants — “Don’t Let’s Start” maxi single

They Might Be Giants

Let’s all hope this storm doesn’t get to the point where snowmen gain sentience, kill us all, and start burning our money. Kinda feels like it might tho. Stay warm out there, y’all.

They Might Be Giants — “When It Rains It Snows” [Spotify/iTunes]

 

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Matthew E. White

Matthew E. White

Guys. Guys guys guys.

Matthew E. White. Natalie Prass. DJ Harrison.

It’s like I’m watching Game of Thrones and two of the baddest-ass families — House Spacebomb and House Jellowstone — just joined forces. What’s a good analog… Tyrion advising Dany, maybe? I dunno, I understand about 5% of what happens on Game of Thrones. But I love watching it, and I love “Cool Out.” The beat… the interplay of Prass’ and White’s vocals… the cover art… love it all.

Westeros is never going to be the same.

Matthew E. White — “Cool Out” (feat. Natalie Prass) [Spotify/iTunes]

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CD Monday

WillieNelson

When I posted the Preservation Hall Jazz Band doing “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It,” it was more or less arbitrary. I couldn’t remember which songs I heard when we were there (aside from “Christmastime Is Here”), and I’m not even sure if the musicians we saw were part of the Band proper, so I picked something from Soundcloud at random. Then again, I love the song’s title, so maybe it wasn’t entirely random.

That title jumped out at me again this morning when I was looking through the tracks on this Two Men with the Blues album my mom got me a while back. Happy to have an excuse to put this in the car. It’s a feel-good album, Willie showing his knack for jazz and Wynton adding easygoing gravitas.

Speaking of titles, I’m glad they didn’t call it WWIII.

Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis — “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Clair Morgan

Clair Morgan

Very excited that my River City Magazine interview with Clair Morgan is up — click here to check it out at Richmond Navigator’s site. Or you can grab a print copy on newsstands now. My favorite is the red stand outside the Byrd Theatre, but there are a bunch of other places you can go. Here’s a full list.

I mentioned this on Instagram last night, but what a privilege this was to work on. These are some of the most talented and friendly musicians you will ever meet, and they took the time to chat about all sorts of fun stuff, including their upcoming album, New Lions & the Not-Good Night, which I’m 100% certain is going to blow minds and win hearts. Morgan won mine in our interview with how much forethought and emotional investment went into the album’s overarching narrative. Check out this snippet from the article:

While the music is light at times, heavier themes lend balance to “New Lions.” “When you think about an adventure you took as a child,” Morgan said, “when you’re looking through that lens, that really happened. But now you’re looking through a completely different lens, whether you’re an adult or a father, and you look back at that scenario from a completely different perspective. What did you not soak in that actually happened that you were not able to absorb?”

Mind already blown. Click here to read the rest, and don’t miss their show at the Camel tonight — they’ll be closing the book on their previous album cycle by playing No Notes in full. Here’s one of that album’s standout tracks, “Battleship Heart.”

Clair Morgan — “Battleship Heart” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall

One more post-New Orleans post.

Mrs. YHT and I made a big, long list of things we wanted to do while we were there. Record stores, Cafe Du Monde, po boys, muffalettas… but one of my biggest hopes for the trip was Preservation Hall. I didn’t know a ton about how shows there worked, and we almost didn’t get in, so I thought I’d share a few recommendations in case you’re in town and thinking of going. Which, if you are, you absolutely should. It was incredible.

  • Cash only. Tickets are $15 most days, $20 on Friday and Saturday. Bring extra cash — the merch is excellent.
  • Go early. Capacity is just 100, and while you can pay extra to reserve seats ahead of time, most people just show up and hope they’re among the first 100 in line. We were told to be there half and hour early and we barely made it in. There’s a street light that acts as an unofficial gauge of where you are in line. If you’re in front of it, you’re probably safe. If you’re just behind it, you’re probably going to spend a half-hour obsessing over the thought of not getting in. Or maybe I just have really bad FOMO.
  • Really… go early. They do three 45-minute shows nightly — 8, 9, and 10 — so if you try for the early show and don’t get in, you’ll still have two shows to try for. This is a “Do as I say, not as I do” situation, because we waited until the last show on the last day we were in New Orleans. So yeah. Don’t do that.
  • Beer! I grabbed a beer from a bar across the street to help assuage my FOMO, and it certainly made the rainy wait more pleasant. (Did I mention it was raining? It was raining.) To ensure a peaceful transition back into line — Mrs. YHT held our spot — I offered to grab a beer for the people behind us. They declined, maybe because they knew…
  • There’s no bathroom. I asked where the bathroom was right after our tickets were torn, and I might as well have screamed “I’M NOT FROM AROUND HERE” at the top of my lungs. Fortunately there’s a piano bar a few doors down and they don’t seem to mind people stopping in quickly. Even if they did, it wouldn’t be tragic — you’d just have to grab a beer there too. Win-win. But then I guess you’d have to pee again. Drink, pee. Drink, pee. That’s life, innit?
  • Turn off your phone. Preservation Hall is as strict about cell phone use as any venue I’ve been to. You don’t have to check it at the door, but you better not pull it out during the show. The band will — and actually did — stop the show to scold people who try to sneak a picture in, and the venue even had lookouts near the back who sprang into action the moment a screen could be seen.
  • Soak it in. Not being able to take pictures or video really makes you open up your brain’s aperture and collect memories organically. In that sense, they’re really giving you a gift beyond music — the opportunity to center yourself in what’s happening as it happens. That’s the irony of Preservation Hall, I think: By doggedly maintaining this old-fashioned, technology-free atmosphere, they’re forcing you to come to terms with the impermanence of musical performances. Notes ring out, then they’re gone, and you move on. The thing that’s stuck with me most — aside from the joy that overwhelmed me when they started playing “Christmastime Is Here” — is the lighting. This amazing, golden glow that dimly lit the front of the room and left the rest of the hall totally dark. Part of me wishes I had a picture, but I love the image I have in my mind’s eye so much. And I know having an actual photo to refer back to would erase that mental image. They may be onto something with this whole no phones thing…

Preservation Hall Jazz Band — “That Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” [Spotify/iTunes]

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CD Monday

M. Ward

Was going to skip CD Monday this week and let The Next Day linger a little while longer, given today’s news about David Bowie. But by some crazy twist of fate, the album I grabbed on the way out this morning — M. Ward’s Transfiguration of Vincent — includes a languid, somber version of “Let’s Dance” as its second-to-last track. Another crazy coincidence involving this guy whose birth certificate lists the same first and last names as mine.

I guess I didn’t know that David Bowie was sick, and I’m wondering if anyone knew. Was it a secret? Or maybe an open secret industry people knew about? Given the imagery in his recent round of videos, it seems like he was trying to tell us how close to the end he was.

This is a romantic idea, but I’d like to think that he saw and enjoyed how positively people were reacting to Blackstar. Obviously his legacy wasn’t hinging on it, but I hope he knew he was respected and deeply relevant in his final hour. So many artists fade to the back of our consciousness and then snap to the front then they die. I’m not sure when the videos for “Lazarus” and “Blackstar” were shot, but it couldn’t have been that long ago, which means he was still hard at work, making meaningful art, while staring grave illness in the face. Pretty wild.

There’s a reason this hits close to home for me. My dad died of brain cancer a couple years after I graduated college, and during those years, it wasn’t easy seeing him. He was bed-ridden, so he lost a lot of weight, and his ability to speak faded, so communication became very difficult. I did a terrible job of making trips to Norfolk to see him. I very much wish I could do those years over. And I wish he could have been able to say goodbye in some way, especially because words were so important him. He was a college professor, which meant that lectures were part of his everyday gig. And he loved chatting with people. I remember that he’d take forever getting home from work because people would stop him on his way out. I think about that when I see someone I know and pass by with just a “Hey.”

It’s not about going out with a bang, though I’d say Blackstar qualifies. Being able to do the things — or more to the point, the one thing that makes you who you are — right up until your dying days… not everybody gets to do that. Bowie now seems like the very embodiment of that good fortune, and while it brings up bitter memories, being reminded that it’s possible feels good.

Speaking of bittersweet, here’s M. Ward’s version of “Let’s Dance.”

M. Ward — “Let’s Dance” (David Bowie cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

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