Category Archives: #nowplaying

Frank Ocean


I tend to overrate coincidences — or worse, imbue them with meaning — and Black Friday’s got me all twisted up.

I woke up early this morning to line up outside a record store in hopes of landing a copy of The Lagniappe Sessions — the Aquarium Drunkard-facilitated covers compilation I wrote about on Wednesday. Those hopes were dashed, unfortunately; the store I chose to wait outside had disappointing Record Store Day policies that involved letting regulars in earlier than everyone else in line and not letting customers browse the exclusive stock themselves. It was weird, but hey — I am a visitor here.

It wasn’t a total loss. I multitasked during the chilly, hour-plus wait by listening all the way through Frank Ocean’s Blonde for the first time. Before I left this morning, I saw that Ocean has opened up a one-day window to order Blonde on vinyl, and because I had, for months, incorrectly filed it under “Albums I can’t listen to on Spotify and will wait to buy on vinyl,” I hadn’t gotten to know these songs very well.

After listening once while in line and a bunch more while driving around Northern Virginia, I was still on the fence. With shipping factored in, the price point is pretty high, and I’m not sure I’ll end up connecting with Blonde the way I did with Channel Orange. I reread Pitchfork’s glowing review to see if that would help me decide, then remembered I’d saved the link for a recent New York Times interview with Ocean, and that’s when I saw it: lagniappe. The titular word I’d waited faithfully for this morning. The word I’d uttered timorously to a clerk at the record store just after 9 a.m. and just as shakily to two other area stores over the phone later on.

Ocean used lagniappe — which is defined as “An extra or unexpected gift or benefit” and pronounced “lan-yap” — to describe how it felt to release Blonde after maneuvering out of unwanted business entanglements:

With this record in particular, I wanted to feel like I won before the record came out, and I did, and so it took a lot pressure off of me about how the record even would perform after the fact. Once the goal is met, everything else is lagniappe. It’s not essential for me to have a big debut week, it’s not essential for me to have big radio records.

Seeing that word again brought my day into sharper focus. How much of what we buy on Black Friday is extra? A bonus? I can certainly live without that Aquarium Drunkard compilation, just as I can carry on if I’m forced to keep listening to Frank Ocean via Spotify. And I promised myself, in the wake of the election, to slim down to a leaner, meaner version of myself. More exercise. Less excess. I bet there are a zillion ways I could use my record budget to fight the oncoming storm of discrimination and shortsightedness our government is set to unleash in the next four years. Austerity suddenly feels righteous. Political, even.

Then again, records make me happy — listening to them, reading about them, writing about them, keeping them organized. Is turning away from that happiness wise? And the monetary reward I’d send Ocean’s way by buying a vinyl copy of Blonde is greater than I’d ever be able to send via Spotify; is denying him that money helping in any meaningful way? I really don’t know. I’m scared about the future, like a lot of people are, and I’ve built up this particular decision to the point where it seems like there is no right answer. Things feel very hazy right now.

How’s this for a coincidence: The first song of Ocean’s I could find to embed (after failing to find anything official on YouTube) was “Self Control.”

Frank Ocean — “Self Control” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Turkey Trottin’ Tunes


Remember my friend Gormie? He wrote guest posts a while back about the Flight soundtrack and about listening to blues in an MRI machine. During a post-election postmortem phone call, he mentioned that he had a Turkey Trot coming up and was looking for some new running music.

I made a Spotify playlist, and while the majority of songs on there wouldn’t necessarily be described as new, it should do the trick. If you have a third helping of stuffing and gravy tonight and need to run a few extra miles tomorrow, I reckon it’ll help you along. (Especially if you like the Pitch Perfect soundtrack.)

Check out the playlist below. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving.

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Record Store Day


The YHT crew is heading up to Northern Virginia for Thanksgiving, which means I won’t be making my semiannual early morning pilgrimage to BK Music for Record Store Day festivities. I haven’t decided if I’ll seek out a participating store near Alexandria. Previous attempts to celebrate RSD out of town have been haphazard, but if you have suggestions, I’m all ears.

That said, uncertainty hasn’t stopped me from drooling over a few of the limited releases that will be hitting shelves on Friday…

Angel Olsen/Steve Gunn — Live at Pickathon


Two people I admire and respect tremendously, both of whom I’ve gotten to see live — Olsen at Strange Matter and Gunn at Steady Sounds. Sign me up for this split live LP, which features some seriously snazzy cover art.

Angel Olsen — “Acrobat” [Spotify/iTunes]

Otis Redding — Live at the Whiskey A Go Go


I know that, when I need a live Otis fix, I can turn to one of the Stax/Volt Revue albums, or my copy of the Historic Performances Recorded At The Monterey International Pop Festival album that features Jimi Hendrix on the other side. But I seriously doubt I’ll be able to put Live at the Whiskey A Go Go down if I pick it up. (I’m just realizing how fitting it is that Redding and Hendrix share that Monterey album — both would be very, very high on my list of acts I’d travel through time and/or raise from the dead to be able to see live.)

Otis Redding — “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (live) [YouTube]

Aquarium Drunkard — Lagniappe Sessions Vol. 1


This is the one I’m dying to find a copy of. I’ve followed along with Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions, and Matthew E. White has done two now. One of those featured a cover of Randy Newman’s “I’ll Be Home,” and that’s the track that was chosen for this compilation. Given White’s prominent role in helping me find my way to Newman’s music, this feels like the nexus of something important.

Matthew E. White — “I’ll Be Home” (Randy Newman cover) [Aquarium Drunkard]


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Positive No


Today is a great day to stop by Positive No’s Bandcamp page.

The band is selling $5 “Posi 6 Pack” packets of buttons — featuring messages like “You are not alone” and “Believe women” — alongside their propulsive and impassioned new song, “Reinvent The Space.” Even the single’s cover art, designed by multi-talented guitarist Kenneth Close, makes a powerful statement — the hands you see were submitted at the band’s request by harassment survivors, and the proceeds are going directly to Hollaback, a non-profit that focuses on fighting harassment in public spaces.

Positive No is a force for good on so many levels. I got to stop by Pedro Aida’s Audio Verite studio while they were recording recently, and it was such a gift to spend some time with them and see them work. I made sure to snag my buttons first thing this morning to support good music and a good cause, and I hope you’ll do the same.

Positive No — “Reinvent The Space” [Bandcamp]

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Sound Gaze


As shock from the election wears off, the question of how to move forward looms large. Growing numbers of demonstrations and walk-outs offer a preview of how freedom of assembly can and should be used to oppose discriminatory rhetoric and practices. You can donate to worthy organizations who will face uphill battles in the years ahead. Subscribing to a newspaper seems like a solid response at the moment — never has it been more important that we commit to gathering information from reputable sources.

In addition to marching in the streets, there are other ways we can stand beside one another, and I thought I’d point to one gesture I admired:Doug Nunnally’s special “I’m With Them” Sound Gaze podcasts, which were posted over the weekend. Nunnally assembled more than six hours of songs by woman musicians — three curated by him and three more curated by other woman musicians. At a time when gender dynamics seem to have been set back decades overnight, it’s more important than ever to amplify the voices of those who are forced to fight against marginalization, and I think that’s what Doug is attempting to do here.

There are a zillion amazing artists included in these six hours, so I recommend chipping away a little at a time as I am, but I thought I’d close with a track from a personal favorite who was included in “I’m With Them,” Lianne la Havas.

Lianne la Havas — “Midnight” [Spotify/iTunes]

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I feel like I should have been engaging in the online political conversation more this year.

I’ve certainly ranted in private, but at some point, I settled into a “don’t feed the trolls” mentality with respect to Donald Trump, so I’ve held back from retweeting/reblogging/posting digs against him, regardless of how strongly I agreed with them or how funny they were. At several points, it’s felt like the more we paid attention to him, and the more we treated this election as entertainment, the more power we were giving him, though I fully understand that ignoring him isn’t realistic either. It’s really tough. Regardless of what happens today, we’ll have years before the next presidential election to untangle what happened and how we can better approach a situation like this — where one candidate lowers the bar so far that any reasonable sense of perspective is lost.

A side effect of that drastic bar-lowering is that it’s been hard to know how to begin a conversation about Trump. Arguments against his candidacy are like the pathogenic traffic jam that somehow keeps Mr. Burns alive — there are so many reasons he’s unqualified that it’s hard to know where to start. Giving a quick, elevator pitch against him is impossible, because you’re inevitably going to leave a bunch of stuff out that, in any other election, would be instantly disqualifying. Still, I don’t feel right letting the election come and go without saying something here, so I’ll say this and only this: Donald Trump needs to be kept as far away from elected office as possible. Please — vote today, and I beg you to vote for Hillary Clinton, the one person who has the potential to stop this incredibly dangerous, wildly unqualified, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic fraud from plunging us into a political Dark Ages that would be disastrous for generations to come. We’re better than he’s making us seem. All of us. We’re so much better.

The same goes for the Richmond mayoral race, in many ways. I was leaning toward Jon Baliles, so I’ll take his advice and vote for Levar Stoney. (It’s RVA Coffee Stain’s advice too, incidentally.) Richmond deserves a sensible, reasoned path forward, and I don’t feel confident that Joe Morrissey can offer that, given his history of legal troubles and the (frankly scary) temperament he’s shown in certain videotaped interviews I’ve seen.

Speaking of scary, I’ve been following along with the 30 Songs, 30 Days initiative, and I thought I’d close with my favorite tune from the series, this link to find your polling place, and this link to info about what kinds of ID you’ll (unfortunately) have to bring with you. Let’s end this truly embarrassing chapter of our nation’s history in the least embarrassing way possible — by showing our daughters that the majority (or at least the plurality) of Americans respect them, and that they can be president of the United States, too.

Death Cab for Cutie — “Million Dollar Loan” [Spotify/iTunes]


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Negative Gemini


FiveThirtyEight, y’all. It’s more than just a black hole absorbing and reinforcing your ever-expanding election anxiety.

They did a really neat article last month about “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons, which currently ranks as the most sampled song of all time. A part of it called the “Amen Break” is used in more than 2,000 songs. Wild, right?

Also wild is the fact that, immediately after reading that article, I clicked over to Spotify to continue listening to Negative Gemini’s excellent new album Body Work and there it was –in the very song I resumed playing, “Real Virtual Unison (Fake Edit),” which you can check out below. Talk about your head exploding — it felt like a glitch in the matrix. Like Laurence Fishburne was about to offer me pills. I guess the Amen Break’s prevalence is why I was reading the article in the first place, but still… it was spooky. Happy almost Halloween, y’all.

Anyone reading this get Body Work on vinyl? I’m antsily waiting to see that a store around here has copies. Might get a speeding ticket on the way there when I do.

Negative Gemini — “Real Virtual Unison (Fake Edit)” [Spotify/iTunes]


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