Monthly Archives: February 2016

CD Monday

WXPN

Mrs. YHT comes from a family of devoted WXPN listeners. Her parents still listen regularly despite having moved from Harrisburg, PA to Northern Virginia, and Robert Drake’s “Night Before” Christmas music marathon has become a really fun tradition. Every year, my brother-in-law manages to garner an on-air shout-out via Twitter, which means that every time Drake pauses the marathon to list songs and make announcements, everything stops. Abruptly. Whoever is talking is aggressively shushed and we wait to see if he’ll mention us. (Keep in mind there’s a fair amount of red wine involved.) It’s hilarious. “Shut up he’s talking!!!”

Mrs. YHT’s dad passed along this sampler CD a couple weeks back. The Langhorne Slim song on there is one I especially enjoy. Listen below.

Langhorne Slim & The Law — “Strangers” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Friday News and Notes

Friday1

Another new feature for 2016! I always end up with posts I didn’t manage to finish throughout the week, so I’m going to make a list each Friday of stuff worth hearing/seeing/looking out for. Really hoping I can keep up with this one. We’ll see.

  • Landlady posted to their Facebook account about Adia Victoria, who has a debut album coming out later this spring. The first song to hit the interweb is “Dead Eyes,” and I’m digging it. Especially this morning, thanks to Baby YHT’s pre-dawn wake-up. Because why not loudly list the names of all your daycare friends at 5 a.m.? Really, it’s the best time for that.
  • I found a really neat Jimmie Rodgers album this week — The Unheard Jimmie Rodgers Vol. II. A bunch of unused cuts from country’s first superstar. Remember the scene from O Brother, Where Art Thou? where the Soggy Bottom Boys sing “In The Jailhouse Now”? A version of that is on there, along with a bunch of songs about how he’s the saddest person on planet Earth. Sample lyric: “I’m lonely and blue/I’m downhearted too.” Yeesh. Great stuff though!
  • Doug Nunnally of Sound Gaze alerted me to a fantastic version of Miguel’s “waves” that turns the song into a duet with Kacey Musgraves. It’s perfectly assembled, and fits in a really interesting place between a remix and a cover. Well worth a listen. Shouts to Mrs. YHT for finding the best comment on the video: “Kacey is LOVE, Kacey is LIFE. #country”
  • A big YHT high five to Lucy Dacus for her Pitchfork review today. So excited. Here are my thoughts about the album, in case you missed Wednesday’s post.
  • Some great shows going on this weekend. Clair Morgan’s Good Day RVA video release at Hardywood and Wood Brothers at the Broadberry tonight, Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins, and Anaïs Mitchell at the Modlin Center tomorrow night, and Son Little at Strange Matter on Sunday. That Patty Griffin one is sold out, so I guess I’m just bragging at this point. Really psyched about it.
  • There’s also the Chris King DJ set happening at Steady Sounds on Sunday. They’re celebrating the release of Why The Mountains Are Black: Primeval Greek Village Music (1907-1960), and King will be spinning original copies of tracks he included on the album. A genuinely unique opportunity. Shouldn’t be missed.

That’s all for now — happy Friday, y’all!

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Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus

I’ve been eager to hear a full-length Lucy Dacus album since I first heard “I Don’t Want To Be Funny Anymore” last year. This was my ANTI. This was my The Life of Pablo. My… whatever Frank Ocean’s next album ends up being called.

The craziest part — No Burden is even better than I could have hoped.

It’s easy to write about music you like. It’s hard to write about music you love. There can be so much to say that the blank page starts to feel like that commercial where the cartoon people all try to run through a tiny door at once. The best I can do right now is share — single-file, one thing at a time — reasons I’m so wild about this album.

Her voice. It’s hard not to start here, because it’s so immediately striking. And while you could throw adjectives at it all day (I’ve used “singular,” “arresting,” and “expansive” in the past), it’s not the texture. Dacus’ phrasing is just as remarkable. One example: In “Troublemaker Doppelgänger,” the way “I saw a girl who looked like you and I wanted to tell everyone to run away from her” packs in syllables while somehow sounding perfectly natural AND sneaking in a subtle rhyme… it’s really something. Even with just one word — “sometime” in “Green Eyes, Red Face” — Dacus can pace lyrics in ways that feel musical beyond melody, like the way people say that poetry is musical.

The lyrics themselves call poetry to mind, but in a different way. Here’s what I said the first time I wrote about her:

Dacus’ writing is superb, both in terms of how she puts a song together and how she puts lyrics together. I’d compare her words to my favorite poetry — the kind that’s comprised of clearly stated, boiled-down, complete sentences that would hit you just as hard if they were buried in the middle of a paragraph on related subject matter.

I’m learning from listening to No Burden in full that her words don’t just hit you “hard,” — they can devastate you. Here’s a sampling of lines that I find absolutely crushing, whether they’re sad, touching, or especially incisive.

  • “I don’t believe in love at first sight, maybe I would if you looked at me right.” I first heard this at the Broadberry and went straight for my phone so I could write it down. I don’t even know what I was going to do next — text it to someone, keep it for a blog post about Dacus — I just had to capture it, knowing it might be a while before I heard it an on album.
  • “Without you, I am surely the last of my kind.” This first made me think of a dinosaur that saw all its friends and family die out — probably the most cartoonish interpretation imaginable — but what it’s come to represent is much more serious. After 11 years together, Mrs. YHT and I have so many shared experiences and habits and inside jokes… we’re the only two people who can claim those things. We’re a kind. I can’t imagine being the only one bearing the weight of those shared experiences. It’s truly unfathomable. I need to stop typing about this.
  • “Too old to play, too young to mess around.” Did you know that “I Saw Her Standing There” originally started with “She was just 17/Never been a beauty queen”? It was later edited to employ the edgier “You know what I mean.” This line in “Troublemaker Doppelgänger” gets to that same idea from a different — but just as cutting — angle.
  • “Is there room in the band? I don’t need to be the frontman.” The yearning for identity, the desperation, the self-effacement… it’s like she hacked my middle school brain. It hurts to hear in a really good way. The irony of course is that Dacus absolutely does need to be a frontman. To paraphrase Vanilla Ice, anything less would be a felony.

The last thing I’d point out before the enthusiasm door gets jammed is the way songs build and manage momentum. A few songs have big builds — “Troublemaker Doppelgänger,” “Dream State…” and “Map On A Wall” to name three — and as fun and goosebumpy as those crescendos are, what happens after is really interesting. (It’s convenient that the advance stream was posted via Soundcloud, because you can actually see the dynamics in action.) “Troublemaker” gives you a few blank bars at the very top, holding you there in suspense, “Map On A Wall” deploys a third act, and “Dream State…” has a whole other companion song, “… Familiar Place,” which brings No Burden to a close.

Maybe this is my fondness for meta-connections acting up, but I’d like to think this control — this mindful management of chaos — is an indication of what the future holds for Lucy Dacus. There’s been so much excitement ahead of No Burden, from Rolling Stone to NPR, and I like the idea that this is just the first act. That we’re only starting to see what Dacus and her band are capable of. Regardless, I’m excited to watch the crescendo grow in the weeks and months ahead.

Lucy Dacus — “Strange Torpedo” [Soundcloud/iTunes]

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CD Monday

James Supercave

A kickass signed test press of James Supercave’s debut LP was spinning at YHT HQ all week, thanks to a lucky like and comment on Plan 9’s Instagram feed. It came with a CD copy, so I’m rolling with it in the car this week.

I wasn’t familiar with the group before this, but I enjoyed what was available on Spotify when the contest was posted, and I’m all in on Better Strange. It has a remarkable consistency to it — as a whole, it maintains a cohesive groove and quality without the tracks running together. The net effect points to a strong foundation and a high ceiling, the kind of statement any band would kill to make with a first LP, and the whole thing feels like a win-win-win: I have a unique version of Better Strange; it was, ya know, free; and I’ve connected with an album I might not have if Plan 9 and the band hadn’t teamed up to offer the contest.

Driving around this week is going to feel like one big victory lap.*

*Speaking of victory laps, Denny’s last lap at Daytona is the best thing that’s ever happened and I’ve never been prouder to rock my #11 license plate holder.

James Supercave — “Burn” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Seen/Eaten/Heard

Avidan 4

A couple weeks back, my mom visited Richmond for dinner and a Duke game. She brought a perfectly roasted chicken and a late Christmas present: Asaf Avidan’s Gold Shadow album on vinyl, which came from a seller in Israel (Avidan is Israeli, and that’s where the record was pressed). That’s the inner sleeve art above.

I thought I’d also share a few pictures of the postage and packaging, which was really striking. The look of the stamps is what initially grabbed me, but looking into what’s represented on them — the Cyrus Cylinder and the Battle of Beersheba — has been an education. The ancillary benefits of physical media, y’all.

Avidan 3

Avidan 1

Avidan 2

Asaf Avidan — “Over My Head” [Spotify/iTunes]

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CD Monday

Sufjan Stevens

Per local ordinance, Sufjan Stevens must be played ASAP after snow starts hitting the ground. It’s on the turntable, it’s the car… it’s the law.

Sufjan Stevens — “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Seen/Eaten/Heard

Early Bird

I love Early Bird. Lately, it’s become routine for me to check the clock after depositing Baby YHT at daycare to see if I have time for a pre-work biscuit run. Sadly, this routine has an expiration date — they’ll soon be moving into a bigger space on Robinson St. in the Fan — but I can’t be too sad, because I’m thrilled to see Early Bird doing so well.

I got to interview Tim the owner for Richmond Grid magazine a while back, and he’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. He’s also got great taste in music, and one of my favorite things about stopping by is that we always end up talking about what we’ve been listening to or which shows are coming up. I was there on Tuesday, and in the span of just a couple minutes, we talked about the Hot Seats (I recently interviewed Jake, he took guitar lessons from Josh), Alison Krauss, and the Robert Plant/Cheap Trick show that took place at the Richmond Coliseum in 1988.

Oh, and I got a delicious andouille cheddar biscuit, a brownie, and two pralines. Happy Mardis Gras to me.

The Hot Seats — “Darling Of Mine” [Spotify/iTunes]

Cheap Trick — “Southern Girls” [Spotify/iTunes]

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss — “Killing The Blues” [Spotify/iTunes]

 

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CD Monday

Bright Eyes

Just spent some time on the Wikipedia page for the term “equivocate.” Apparently, it has a very specific meaning related to logic and polysemic words, but I was planning on using it to say that I tend not to be very decisive. The fact that I couldn’t commit to using a word to describe my tendency to waver before looking it up takes this idea to a whole other level of absurdity. Or maybe it’s irony. I can’t decide.

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that my enjoyment of Bright Eyes is rooted in Conor Oberst’s voice — more specifically the conviction he communicates. Like simply writing and singing his lyrics isn’t enough. Like he’s spitting them out so they’ll hit as hard as possible. Consonants are more percussive, and long notes end up wavering under the weight of all the emotion he’s putting into them. Pretty sure that’s ironic too, the wavering. It’s strength and weakness all tangled up together.

While I hopped on the Bright Eyes train around the time I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn came out, Cassadaga was the first full album cycle I was on board for, and it’ll always be a favorite. Gonna get real self-righteous in the You Hear Thatmobile this week.

Bright Eyes — “Four Winds” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Covered: Super Bowl 50

I’d say a long day of Super Bowl prep — braising a pork butt, assembling elaborately unhealthy pigs-in-blankets, etc. — calls for some situationally appropriate album art.

Michael Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Stephen Stills — Super Session

Super Session

Stephen Stills’ second Covered appearance in two opportunities. Not sure what’s happening here, but Super Session seems entirely appropriate at this juncture.

Michael Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Stephen Stills — “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” (Bob Dylan cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

The Beatles — Live at the Hollywood Bowl

The Beatles

Different bowl, similar setup —  a bunch of people crowded into a California stadium, shrieking.

The Beatles — Live At The Hollywood Bowl, August 23, 1964 [Discogs]

The Grateful Dead — Live at Hampton Coliseum

The Grateful Dead

The game is being played Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers, so a little Dead is called for, I think. Going with Live at Hampton Coliseum, which came out on Record Store Day 2014. While I never got to see the Dead at Hampton (or anywhere else), I did see Phish there, and the building’s rep as a jam-band Mecca rings true for me. That was a fun show. Except for the part where a friend passed out from dehydration. And the part where another friend got turned away because the ticket he bought turned out to be fake. Otherwise — fun show!

The Grateful Dead — “Eyes Of The World” [Discogs]

 

Beyoncé — Beyoncé

Beyonce

This goes out to the halftime performer who deserves right of first refusal on all halftime performances everywhere. I wish I were as perfectly suited for any task in the entire world as she is for halftime shows. It’s like watching Bob Ross paint or Mrs. YHT spoon Nutella out of the jar — it’s what they were put on this Earth to do, and they do it more gracefully and perfectly than anyone else. Fingers crossed she does “Formation” tonight.

Beyoncé — “Formation” [YouTube]

Marvin Gaye — Super Hits

Marvin Gaye

This one’s for Cam. I heard through the grapevine he’s gonna win — 28-18.

Enjoy the game!

Marvin Gaye — “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Off Your Radar

Off Your Radar

Psyched to tell y’all about a new writing project I’m contributing to called Off Your Radar. It’s an email newsletter about albums that might not have gotten the recognition they deserved, and it’s got a neat format: A bunch of writers giving their thoughts on a single album each week, so you really get to dig into it. The first edition just came out yesterday, and it focused on The Noyelle Beat by Standard Fare.

Here’s what I had to say:

Keeping a diary is an exercise in keeping track of the trees, not necessarily the forest. You chronicle the ups and downs, with as little varnish as possible, and usually it’s a solitary affair. But when I listen to Standard Fare’s The Noyelle Beat album, I hear a shared diary. Moments and emotions are crystallized–longing (“I know it’s hard being apart”), fights (“I know I made a fool of you”), regrets (“I’m wishing I was him now”)–with lots of “you,” like a detailed, itemized accounting being done on two accounts at once. Two voices. Little studio polish. Honest vocals without the comfort of reverb. Clear and present drums. It reminds me of how this kind of record-keeping isn’t just useful for looking back or determining trends–it’s a healthy part of a thoughtful person’s daily routine. Reflection. Processing. But there are also the moments that zoom out, where you see the whole forest. Like on “Married,” where Emma Kupa sings “I always said that it was you I’d marry,” or on “Dancing,” where she sings “There’s always gonna come a time when we don’t know the answers / always gonna come a time when we should just go dancing.” I love that.

14 other writers gave their impressions, and Emma Kupa actually saw it and responded on Twitter, which is fun.

Click here to subscribe. Then click there again to subscribe someone you know. I think you (and they) will really enjoy it. Having an album to obsess over is a way better reason to look forward to the start of each week than Monday itself, am I right? Many thanks to Doug Nunnally for including me in the project — such a thoughtful, talented bunch he’s assembled, and it’s a thrill to be part of it.

Here’s the song off The Noyelle Beat that I grew to love most.

Standard Fare — “Married” [Spotify/iTunes]

 

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