Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

Fall is in the air, y’all. You know what else is in the air? mp3s — flying via WiFi from one spot on the interweb to another, payments bypassing Bandcamp’s bank account completely owing to the fact that it’s another bright and beautiful fee-free Friday.

Here are a few recommendations to start your October off right. Keep scrolling for a list of more releases I have my eye on, which I’ll keep updating as awesome stuff comes out of the Bandcamp Friday woodwork:

Poison Joy — Fortune Passes Everywhere

Kicking things off with a crucial heads up for the cassette crowd: $5 will get you this wonderfully wooly set of jams from Poison Joy, which I can confirm make for excellent walking-around-at-night-with-headphones-in accompaniment. I’m especially fond of “Discovery,” a nine-minute exploration in which low end takes center stage via an ascending motif that sticks with you long after the song is over.

Angélica Garcia — Echo Eléctrico

Another cassette heads up: As a writing this, just five tapes of Angélica Garcia’s upcoming Echo Eléctrico album are left on Bandcamp. The EP consists of reimagined traditional Mexican ranchera songs, and you can hear the first one to be released, entitled “Malagueña,” below.

Bartees Strange, Ohmme & Eric Slick / Anjimile — Province​/​Ever New

The stunning second installment in the new Psychic Hotline singles series has me falling back in love with “Province” from TV on the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain album, and falling in love for the first time with Beverly Glenn​-​Copeland’s stunning song “Ever New.” Speaking of Bartees Strange, if you didn’t pick up a copy of his Live Forever album at his recent show at the Camel, click here to fix that. (A snazzy new vinyl pressing is on the way.) And click here to snag his new single, “Weights.” Bartees is busy, y’all.

Spacebomb House Band, Deau Eyes — “Send Me No Roses

Spacebomb House Band and Deau Eyes pair perfectly covering country classic “Send Me No Roses,” which was on Tammy Wynette’s 1967 debut album, Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad. I love where SHB is going with these takes on country classics; the previous entry in the series was an also-excellent version of Patsy Cline’s “Back in Baby’s Arms,” with Erin Rae providing vocals. Crossing my fingers for a collection of these covers down the road.

Landon Elliott — “Bigger Fish

I was so thrilled to see Landon Elliott had a new tune out, and I was incredibly moved by the accompanying video, which was directed, produced, and filmed by Landon himself. The song and video are unflinching in their own ways — two distinct vantage points from which to view Elliott’s honest and precise artistry.

Punch Brothers — Hell on Church Street

Punch Brothers paying tribute to Tony Rice is a whole heaping cup of “Yes plz.” Can’t wait to hear more of the album. The orange vinyl version has already sold out and been replenished once on Bandcamp, so if those copies are gone again and the vinyl color matching the plumage of the bird on the album cover is your thing, keep checking back, maybe?

Various — 20 Years of Cherub Records

Bonus! I’d expected to see this go up next week, but the Cherub Records 20th anniversary comp is live now!

Other releases I have my eye on today:

DJ Harrison — Route 10 Mix
Justin Golden — “It Ain’t Much
Sylvan Esso — Soundtrack for MASS MoCA
DarkTwaine_ — Wilderness

Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

I’m celebrating this sunny August Bandcamp Friday in Bay Head, New Jersey, on a family vacation just down the street from where my grandparents lived. Beach badges. Coffee cake. Lots of pizza. Lots of bagels. (Too many bagels. I didn’t realize that was possible, but it is.) And lots of Springsteen, Bill Evans, and Screaming Females being spun in celebration of the Garden State.

We’re heading back to Richmond tomorrow, and while we won’t be able to avoid sitting in traffic, we’ll at least have a great soundtrack for the drive, courtesy of the artists below. As a reminder, Bandcamp Friday means the sales platform is waiving its cut of sales, so your financial support goes directly to labels and artists.

FONVILLE — VIBES FROM HOME

Another exciting expansion of the Butcher Brown Universe™.  Drummer Corey Fonville released this new set of VIBES FROM HOME just last week, and outside of a couple of guest contributions (from current and former Butcher bandmates DJ Harrison and Keith Askey), it’s his own work on drums, bass, rhodes, keyboards, and organ. Love this new window into just how complete Fonville’s skill set is.

Pace! — “Brass Villain” (Doom Tribute)

Reggie Pace of No BS! Brass Band and the Hustle Season pod released this excellent MF DOOM tribute back in July, on the late, great metal-faced rapper and producer’s birthday. Mm..Brass.

Doug Richards Orchestra — Space & Sound, Vol. 1

Recorded at Spacebomb Studios in August of 2019, arranged by VCU jazz program driving force Doug Richards, performed by so many Richmond luminaries that listing them all would stop this post in its tracks, engineered/mixed/mastered by Adrian Olsen and Trey Pollard… there is nothing not to like about this four-song collection, which just hit the ‘camp the other day. Absolute can’t-miss stuff.

Amelia Meath & Blake Mills – “Neon Blue

So excited the Sylvan Esso crew has started a label, and what a way to start a singles series — with an Amelia Meath/Blake Mills collaboration, and a Sam Gendel alternate version on the flip side.

The Modern Folk — Primitive Future II 

You may be shocked (shocked!) to learn that the guy who is simultaneously wearing a WarHen Records patch hat and a WarHen Records “Steal Your Hen” t-shirt while typing this sentence is psyched about the Charlottesville label’s newest offering — an instrumental album called Primitive Future II from The Modern Folk. Very much enjoying the two tracks that are streaming so far, “Essie and Lynlee” and “Club Sequence.” Very different moods, both wonderfully evocative.

More fun stuff on my radar for today:

Christian Lee Hutson — The Version Suicides, Vol. 3
Ohbliv — Not Of This Earth
Philip James Murphy Jr — guillotine
Dori Freeman — Ten Thousand Roses
Various — Habibi Funk 015: An eclectic selection of music from the Arab world, part 2

Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

As they did last year, Bandcamp is commemorating Juneteenth by hosting a fee-free Friday. 100% of the platform’s cut of sales will go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, so it’s a great day to pick up some new music.

I had a quick quartet of recommendations I’d like to throw out there, in case you’re looking for some inspiration:

Ohbliv — LewseJoints 9

New Ohbliv. If you rilly know, you know.

William Tyler & Luke Schneider — Understand

Leaving Records just announced this one, and I would very much like one of the 250 cassette copies to be sent to my house. Two guitarists I dig a great deal joining forces.

Charles Owens Trio — 10 Years

Charles Owens on sax, Andrew Randazzo on bass, DJ Harrison, drumming — excellence all around. This whole album is killer, but I must ask you to take five and a half minutes out of your day to give their version of “Rainbow Connection” a listen. It’s so wonderful. I’m especially fond of the interplay between Owens and Randazzo — how they team up to convey the song’s timeless lyricism. I think I’ve listened to it a dozen times since last weekend. Hoping to hear it when the Trio opens for Butcher Brown (long night for Randazzo and DJ Harrison!) at Friday Cheers next weekend.

Butcher Brown — ENCORE

Speaking of Butcher Brown, I had the pleasure of interviewing the band for Style Weekly, and the article went up earlier this week. I hope you’ll give it a read. Butcher Brown is as close to the beating heart of Richmond’s music scene as a band could be, and it was an honor and a joy speaking with them about their path through and out of 2020.

Also very much recommend giving their new ENCORE EP a listen. These five tunes were recorded during the #KingButch sessions, and while they may not have fit the scope of that album, they form a top-shelf 15 minutes of listening, every bit as varied and vibey as the tracks that did appear on the LP.

BONUS: tangent — The Great Society

Speaking of varied and vibey, I’m a big fan of the music Kelli Strawbridge has been releasing as tangent. He shared a four-song EP entitled The Great Society in May, and its greatness is rooted in Strawbridge’s versatility. All instruments and vocals done by Kelli.  It’s such an impressive skill set, and I love how “northerneck” explores the areas of his expertise.

BONUS: Pace! — “Coast City” feat. Lydia Adelaide

Speaking of Hustle Season podcast hosts with incredible skill sets, this tune from Reggie Pace featuring Lydia Adelaide has been a constant car ride companion since it was released in May. Amazing how it manages to evolve and unfold over the course of just two and a half minutes.

Side note: If you’re not yet part of the Hustle Season Patreon, click here to fix that immediately. I listen a little each night while I’m doing dishes and putting the house to bed, and I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes having that last part of the day be so enjoyable. As far as podcast routines go, I’d give it a resounding SLAP.

Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

Is this the last Bandcamp Friday? I certainly hope not. I’ve found these monthly fee-free days to be so fun and meaningful — maybe even a little frantic, but in a good way. There’s always so much going on, from new albums and surprise tracks to labels unearthing a few last copies of something you thought was sold out forever. (If you missed out on the “foxtail orange” variant of Tucker Riggleman & The Cheap Dates’ Alive and Dying Fast, I have good news…)

Then again, with more and more music fans getting vaxxed up and tours getting booked for summer and fall, I get that a post-COVID world is inching closer. We’ll see what Bandcamp decides to do. Regardless of what happens next, I applaud the way they stepped up and provided a lifeline to artists when one was so sorely needed, and I hope we all — fans, bands, labels — remember what these days felt like. You certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that Bandcamp Fridays cracked the code when it comes to fair artist compensation in the streaming era, it feels like there have been some valuable takeaways. The way clustering releases funnels and organizes demand… the way foregrounding direct artist support changes the value proposition… (Just now realizing how much this all mimics a farmer’s market. Hm.)

ANYWAY, let’s party like it’s 1999 and dance like nobody’s watching and love like there’s no tomorrow and snag some awesome music today. Here are a few recommendations I wanted to share:

McKinley Dixon — For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her

I want to wish a very happy release day to McKinley Dixon.  His new album, For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her, is stunning, and I had the honor of chatting with him about it for Style Weekly — you can read that article online here or snag a copy of Style around town over the weekend. I picked my paper copy of the article up on Wednesday, which also happened to be the day my snazzy orange vinyl copy of the album came in the mail. (Looks like there’s still some of those left — don’t snooze, though, because I can’t imagine they’ll last long.)

Dhemo — To Be In Reverse

Speaking of McKinley Dixon, guitarist Jake Adams is among a handful of musicians who contributed to all three parts Dixon’s trilogy (Who Taught You To Hate Yourself?, The Importance Of Self Belief, and the new one out today), and I highly recommend the album Adams released as Dhemo late last year, To Be In Reverse. It may scan as laid back, given track titles like “Been a Good Day,” “Slow,” and “Couch Song,” and the calmness of the cover art, but it’s a consistently adventurous set of songs — both Adams’ playing and singing are gorgeously expressive and ranging. Did I mention that several tracks feature sax from Nathanael Clark — another Dixon trilogy mainstay?

Bryan Hooten — OCCIPITAL1

Bryan Hooten also knows a thing or two about range. While his last release consisted of four solo recordings that explored multiphonic trombone techniques, OCCIPITAL1 features no ‘bone whatsoever. “I left the trombone on the stand for this one and explored some beats,” he said in a message to Bandcamp followers. (I wanted to say “No ‘bones about it” somewhere in here but Mrs. YHT advised me not to.) But I love how both albums give you a sense of Hooten’s process, and also how they feel like a reintroduction. I’ve seen and heard Hooten play numerous times with No BS! Brass Band, but getting to know him in this more zoomed-in context is really rewarding.

Gold Connections — “Confession

I’ve long admired the way Gold Connections songs stick with you — how Will Marsh manages to make memories into music and music into memories. But his new tune “Confession” is absolutely epic in this sense. It’s massive both in terms of the echoing depth of the song’s sound and in the way the lyrics in the chorus stretch time and space, illustrating how meaningful human connections span any distance. It’s an outstanding song, and here’s a Bandcamp Friday Fun Fact™ for you: Will Evans from Charlottesville’s Stray Fossa (included in April’s Bandcamp Friday post) assistant produced “Confession” AND contributed toms and hi-hat!

Prabir Trio — Haanji

I wrote a review of Prabir Trio’s “Slowly” for The Auricular last November — it’s such a moving song, and I jumped at the opportunity to pick up a vinyl copy of the album it’s set to appear on. Limited edition silk screen pressed album covers, y’all. Not many are available, so make it your first order of Bandcamp Friday business. It certainly was mine.

Speaking of the Trio, band member Kelli Strawbridge has a new EP out today entitled The Great Society.  Very excited to give that a listen as well.

PJ Sykes — Fuzz

Today’s also release day for PJ Sykes’ Fuzz, an album that grew out of Sykes’ COVID lockdown experience. The liner notes describe it as an “expression of life during extremely trying times,” and while there are lyrics that speak directly to the challenges of the last year, I’ve been visiting and revisiting “Holding On” as a result of a line that strikes me as totally timeless — a bittersweet truth that tends to sink in when you’re just on the other side of a turning point:

“And I swear when this is over / I’ll know just what to do”

The flip side of learning and changing is looking back on the emptiness that was waiting to be filled with new understanding, and I love how Sykes captured that here.

Annie Stokes — No Cover Covers vol. 8

You had me at “Lovefool,” but “Both Sides Now” as well? Couldn’t make room in the ‘camp cart fast enough.

More fun stuff on my radar for today:

Lightning Bug – A Color of the Sky
tangent — “Reset On You Pt. 1
Carlos Niño & Friends — More Energy Fields, Current
DJ Harrison — Vault Series 11: Tinted Ghetto Visions
Pace! — “Coast City” feat. Lydia Adelaide
Tennishu — Maybe
Alabaster dePlume — “Invincibility
Lonely Rooms — “All Good Things
DarkTwaine_ — “Esoteric Jam

Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

I’m currently knee-deep in some non-bloggy writing that I’m excited to share soon, but I couldn’t let a glorious spring Bandcamp Friday like this pass without sending out a few recommendations. Without further ado:

Opin — Hospital Street

Opin Tweeted out a heads up about this release on Wednesday, saying “38 minutes of hard techno/drone/soundtrack explorations on deck for Bandcamp Friday.” My reaction? An immediate and unequivocal “Yes plz.” (Sometimes there’s too much excitement for typing out whole words.)

DJ Harrison — Pen Eyes 💨

New DJ Harrison = another immediate “Yes plz.” (The emoji in the album title might be a YHT first. I’ll have to do double-check that, but I love that it’s handwritten in the album art as well 👌)

Curt Sydnor — The Consort

Been enjoying getting to know this album from Richmond-based pianist and composer Curt Sydnor. So dreamy, and so wonderfully off-kilter. A limited supply of transparent, hand-cut, 10″ lathe-cut copies are available.

Stray Fossa — With You For Ever

Speaking of dreamy, With You For Ever — courtesy of Charlottesville’s Stray Fossa — promises to be a 2021 highlight in the realm of dream pop. There’s a textural fluidity to these songs that makes them feel so beautifully built-out and multi-dimensional. Each listen hits a little differently. Full album out next Friday, but four songs are streaming now. (Cheers to Andrew Cothern for the heads up about this one in his excellent RVA Playlist newsletter!)

Gerycz / Powers / Rolin — Beacon

We don’t always get second chances in life, but the kind folks at the Centripetal Force label managed to secure a few more vinyl copies of the dulcimer-drenched drone-y excellence that is Beacon, the handiwork of a trio formed by Jayson Gerycz, Jen Powers, and Matthew J. Rolin. Don’t snooze. I bet these will go quick.

More fun stuff on my radar today (check back for updates):

Avery Fogarty — “until tunnels
Jones/Kuhl/Harris/Clarke/Pharr/Parker — 08​.​06​.​2013
Marisa Anderson/William Tyler — Lost Futures
Carlos Niño & Friends — More Energy Fields, Current
PJ Sykes — Fuzz (preorder just went live!)
Ohbliv — Rugged Tranquility Volume 1 & 2 (white vinyl still available)
tangent — “Rate Your Heart
Borrowed Beams of Light — No Cover Covers vol. 7

Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

Merry Bandcamp Friday, y’all! It’s that magical day when kids of all ages rush downstairs and check to see if the cookies and carrots they left out overnight were eaten before opening their laptops and showing the world that supporting art meaningfully and directly is not a thing of the past.

(Wait… y’all don’t do the cookies and carrots thing? Just me?)

It wasn’t clear if these would continue when I posted about December’s fee-free event, and we went without one in January, so it’s great to be back in action.

As we all know, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in this case, it would appear that how much fonder is directly proportional to the length of the absence. Having twice as long to look forward to the next Bandcamp Friday has translated to twice the usual number of recommendations.

Hope you find something you enjoy below:

Wild Pink — A Billion Little Lights

Speaking of back in action, are you signed up for the RVA Playlist newsletter yet? (If not, fix that immediately!) I love having Andrew’s music recommendations in my life, and one he shared in Issue #2 that I’d cosign wholeheartedly is the upcoming Wild Pink album. This is shaping up to be one of 2021’s musical high water marks. I’ve been so entranced by the songs out so far from A Billion Little Lights that I’ve been turning to 2018’s Yolk in the Fur for supplemental listening, and that’s another gem. And also available on Bandcamp!

Yasmin Williams — Urban Driftwood

Me last Thursday: Oh interesting — a guitarist from Woodbridge, VA was reviewed by Pitchfork. This album looks interesting, and lead single is really gorgeous.

Me last Friday: THIS ALBUM IS MIND-BLOWING AND INNOVATIVE AND AFTER REFRESHING THE BANDCAMP PAGE 12 STRAIGHT HOURS IT’S BECOME CLEAR THE FIRST PRESSING IS GOING TO SELL OUT WITHIN THE DAY THANK GOD I GOT MY ORDER IN H$^#*F*ZSA)^@

Life comes at you fast, y’all. If you’re vinyl-inclined and missed out, there’s good news: Williams’ label is taking orders for a second pressing that will be available in 4-6 weeks.

Tucker Riggleman & The Cheap Dates — Alive and Dying Fast

I’ve been spending a bunch of time with this one. There’s music you get, and then there’s music that gets you. Let’s just say I feel seen by the chorus of “Void,” which goes a little something like:

And I just want to listen to “Let It Be”
Westerberg not McCartney
I just need some attitude
To sing along to
Every night while I shout into the void

There are all these moments on Alive and Dying Fast where the lyrics perfectly crystallize a thought or experience I’ve been having. “I never know how to pray” at the start of “Spill The Blood” is one. Another is “I gotta try to love myself a little better this year,” from the chorus of “Manic.” In truth, serendipity isn’t the sole reason these lines resonate. Riggleman pairs moments of clarity with the everyday mayhem that surrounds them, such that you earn those rare realizations as you listen along. It’s beautifully immersive writing — highly recommended for a nightly shout into the void.

Patricia Brennan — Maquishti

Another one I’ve been spinning non-stop. It’s subtle. It’s daring. It’s soothing. It’s surprising. It’s at home both in the foreground and the background. When I’m not listening to this, I’m thinking about the next time I can. I’m completely in awe of what Patricia Brennan has created. Nearly an hour of solo vibraphone and marimba — a journey whose twists, turns, cliffs, and clearings have completely rewired my connection to these instruments.

Jones/Hopkins/Pollard — Kaleidoscopic Haze

Some Bandcamp pages are like worlds unto themselves — places that make you want to set up camp and explore every sonic nook and cranny.  (Can you tell that Mrs. YHT and I recently made our way through The Mandalorian?) I landed on the Bandcamp page belonging to Richmond-based jazz drummer Brian Jones on a weekend in late January, and my immediate thought was “I never want to leave this place.” My currently plan is to work backward through the 30+ releases there, starting with this killer four-song set entitled Kaleidoscopic Haze, with Jones on drums, Adam Hopkins on bass, and Trey Pollard on guitar. The force is strong with these three.

Madlib — Sound Ancestors

If you haven’t read the The New Yorker article entitled “The Obsessive Beat-Making of Madlib,” I recommend giving it a look. It’s a depiction of devotion as true as you’ll find anywhere. One line in particular has stuck with me: “For Madlib, making music is as elemental as eating or sleeping, though he claims to do very little of the latter.” He’s in that rarified air where you’re not just playing music, in the sense of playing an instrument or a melody. He’s playing music itself, in the same way people often describe Brian Wilson using the studio as an instrument. As you can hear so clearly on Sound Ancestors, Madlib’s love of music is zoomed-out and all-encompassing.

Scott Clark — This Darkness

I was so moved by This Darkness (and by Scott Clark’s work in general) that I worked up a review for The Auricular. A quick snippet:

Clark’s music stands out in its willingness to forge pathways to those places where introspection is needed most. The neglected places. The shameful places. There is just so much of that to contend with right now. It’s encouraging to think somewhere in there is a seed of progress waiting to grow. It’s equally encouraging to have music to turn to when you want to work toward cultivating it, and This Darkness is exactly that.

Opin — Media & Memory REMIXED

Opin and FM Skyline on the same track?

[Nods furiously in agreement.]

Koncept Jack​$​on & Ohbliv  — JET MagaZINE ’21 Reissue

Koncept Jack​$​on and Ohbliv together on an entire album?

[Continues nodding furiously in agreement.]

Hotspit — “Obsessive Care

Hotspit’s toolkit is a diverse one, and recently released single “Obsessive Care” provides an excellent overview. It ranges from ethereal to crunchy, pensive to powerful, restrained to riotous. It’s a seriously action-packed 5-minutes. (Also exciting: It’s the first single to be released from an EP that’s on the way.)

Clever Girls — Constellations

Speaking of range, the three songs released so far from the upcoming Clever Girls LP shine in such different ways, and I’m totally hooked. “Baby Blue” is especially arresting, with an opening riff that sets a vivid vibe, and a chorus that takes your breath away.

More great options for this month’s Bandcamp Friday:

Helado Negro — Dormído En La Sílla
Cassandra Jenkins — An Overview on Phenomenal Nature
Colleen — The Tunnel and the Clearing
John Calvin Abney — Wildfire Suite
DarkTwaine_ — The Psychodynamics Of Self Realization 
Alan Good Parker — Fakie
Sam Gendel — Fresh Bread
Drew Gardner — Drew Gardner
Michael Millions + DJ Mentos — “Steel Blue
Jake Xerxes Fussell — “Copper Kettle

Ohbliv

Important merch alert: The Ohbliv beanie is back.

If you’re like me, you’ve been scouring the Internet on a regular basis for restocks of those legendary green and blue winter hats bearing the great Richmond beatmaker’s name. Maybe you were even periodically searching eBay, hoping someone decided to sell theirs. If so, good news: Thrash Flow’s site has version 2.0 in stock now, complete with a new color scheme and an EP of new music as part of the purchase price. The three-track Visions You Can Hear EP is officially the first 2021 album I listened to in full, which feels appropriate given how big a role Ohbliv’s work played throughout the course of last year’s listening.

Beanie order in, new EP downloaded, copy of Sprit Medicine in the mail… It’s great time to be a fan of timeless instrumental hip hop coming out of Richmond. Act fast, though; I imagine the beanies will sell fast, and being left out in the cold in this case is both figurative and literal.

2020 in Review Part 7: RVA

Part 1: Duos
Part 2: Covers
Part 3: Survival Sounds
Part 4: Jazz
Part 5: Live
Part 6: Blasts from the Past
Part 7: RVA (You are here!)
Part 8: 31 Favorites

Think about a place that’s especially meaningful to you. It isn’t just a place, is it? It’s a feeling too, I bet. Maybe it’s a sound or a taste. A mode. A chapter in your life. You often don’t notice those associations until after the fact — until you’re away for a while, or until you’ve moved on. It’s hard to process meaning when you’re busy. I don’t know about you, but the life-on-hold stillness of 2020 has resulted in waves of meaning cresting and crashing constantly, and as the year comes to a close, I’m flooded with gratitude for Richmond music. It’s been a lifeline. A source of joy. A way to locate myself in the world. A way to remember that the world is still, in fact, out there. A reminder that community boils down to something more essential than physically being together. Charlottesville singer-songwriter Devon Sproule called that “The Gold String,” singing:

I’m imagining a golden string that is connecting
Everything but especially, beings where love has been.
I’ve imagined it again and again so often,
It isn’t even imagining, it is making it happen.

That’s exactly the pull I’ve felt when spending time with the albums below. I bet you’ll feel it too if you give them a listen. You’ll notice there are a few more in this list than the others I’ve posted before. Like I said — it’s been a flood. And my sincerest thanks go out to the artists mentioned below. 

addy — Eclipse

I am so happy Eclipse is in my life. There’s a specific sense of joy in putting it on the turntable and knowing that Adam Watkins’ voice is going to be drifting through the house, carving graceful and distinctive contours around their songs’ lyrics. I love this album, and while this may sound obvious, it seems uniquely worth saying that I love listening to it. It’s wonderfully layered and immersive, and Watkins’ singing is a big reason why. If you haven’t heard Eclipse yet, treat yourself to an enjoyably enveloping experience.

Saw Black — Horsin’ ‘Round

Looking back, it seems fitting that Saw Black was the first artist I posted about after the pandemic started getting truly scary. I’ve turned to his music during other difficult times and have found comfort and joy when both seemed hard to come by. In what’s either coincidence or fate, I spent a few sentences in that post playing up Bandcamp as a way to support artists — just before Bandcamp held its first fee-free Friday. The next such event isn’t until February, but there’s not a bad day to buy music at Bandcamp, and while this Horsin’ Around EP may be sold out, the WarHen Records page has plenty more Saw for sale.

Butcher Brown — #KingButch

In a year that was as eventful as any I can remember, this album shone like an event unto itself. The build-up, the singles, Mothership Mondays, finally getting to hear the whole thing… these were some of my fondest musical memories of 2020. That’s one reason why I put together a bulleted recap of those milestones on the week #KingButch was finally released. In a year that was deeply upsetting in so many ways, everything Butcher Brown did was a reason to celebrate. I feel lucky to be living in Richmond during the Butcher Brown era. If I have grandkids, I’m going to be bragging to them about that fact one day. I’m certain of it.

Deau Eyes — Let It Leave

I didn’t publish many interviews in 2020, but one artist I had the great honor of chatting with was Ali Thibodeau of Deau Eyes. Here’s a snippet from the intro I wrote for our Q&A, which was published by The Auricular:

Over the course of nine beautifully rendered songs, Thibodeau demonstrates vocal skills and versatility that were shaped by a past in musical theater, while giving listeners every reason to celebrate her decision to leave that world behind to pursue her songwriting. It’s an inspiring listen, whether you’re rocking out with the wry and retrospective lead single “Some Do,” or soaking in her soaring anthem to freedom, “Autonomy” — a live set staple that ends, simply, “Let’s begin.”

McKinley Dixon — The House That Got Knocked Down

Did y’all see this teaser clip announcing a 2021 McKinley Dixon/Spacebomb project? Mind blown. Details are scant, but whatever they’re working on, I can’t wait to hear it. In the meantime, I’ll keep spinning this excellent EP, which came out in early 2020. “Sun Back” is on one of the first mix CDs I made from my Bandcamp Friday purchases, and as a result, it’s been a constant — something I’ve come back to again and again to recharge and reset.

DJ Mentos — The Maxell Tapes Volume 2

It was so rewarding seeing this on Bandcamp Daily’s list of the best beat tapes of November. DJ Mentos’ work has an off-the-charts consistency when it comes to quality and impact. His beats hit hard, and the Bandcamp write-up confirmed as much:

The Maxell Tapes bumps from the middle of a boom-bap and trip-hop Venn diagram. These were beats for fans of Da Beatminerz and DJ Shadow, DJ Premier and Portishead. The Maxell Tapes Vol. 2 picks up where Vol. 1 left off, further mining and moving around that middle ground for more skull-cracking downtempo beats.

FM Skyline — liteware

Love this album. A few words from the very first Bandcamp Friday post, which, by my calculations, went up approximately 175 years ago:

With the backing of the 100% Electronica label, Pete Curry’s vaporwave project represents one of Richmond’s most ascendant acts at present.

Angelica Garcia — Cha Cha Palace

2020’s concert calendar was short but illustrious; I made it out to only a handful of performances before things shut down due to COVID, but the ones I did see were phenomenal. The release show for Angelica Garcia’s Cha Cha Palace was one of them. It was as magical and dynamic as the album itself, with decorations around Gallery5 that turned the venue into a living representation of the album’s visual identity. Take a look at that cover art, and imagine being immersed in that beautiful assemblage of personal history. It was so generous of Garcia to invite us in like that, and the energy she brought onstage was utterly unforgettable.

Gold Connections — Ammunition

Another artist I feel very fortunate to have spoken to for The Auricular this year (read the interview here) was Will Marsh of Gold Connections, who is as gracious in conversation as he is adept at writing songs that stay with you — both because they’re endlessly relistenable and because they pull zero punches lyrically. The material on Ammunition was written before the lockdown, but the EP feels as pointed and vital as anything I heard this year.

Hotspit — Hotspit Live Session

From October’s Bandcamp Friday post:

If you’ve been following this Bandcamp bonanza from the very beginning, you might remember that my very first Bandcamp Friday post included music by Avery Fogarty, who fronts the Richmond band Hotspit. That group just released a three-track live session, which is very exciting. I’m especially fond of the first track, which illustrates the range the group has, and how great they sound in exploratory mode. Well worth a download.

The Hustle Season — Volume 1

A quick snippet from my November Bandcamp Friday post:

I’m a relatively new listener [the The Hustle Season podcast], so I’m in that honeymoon phase of familiarizing myself with all the regular segments and recurring jokes, but no additional research is needed to know that the show’s hosts (Reggie Pace, Gabriel Santamaria, James Seretis, and Kelli Strawbridge) bring a super-deep pool of musical talent to the table, and their Volume 1 LP provides a kaleidoscopic glimpse of those varied interests and abilities.

Kids Techno — The Harmony of Spheres

While the creator of The Harmony of Spheres remains mysterious, the album’s impact has become familiar over the course of 2020, given its release right around New Year’s. With apologies to Radiohead, another fine purveyor of mystery, I put this on when I want to disappear completely. It’s such a great way to zone out or zone in — whatever you’re looking for. 

Lefthnd — ad mausoleum

From my review for the Auricular:

The album packs an abundance of ideas into 28 minutes, grabbing your attention from the outset and keeping it over the course of eight songs that form an exceedingly rewarding encapsulation of Lane’s talents as a player, songwriter, and producer.

Lonely Rooms — Until We Have To

From September’s Bandcamp Friday post:

I love this album. It’s remarkably poised, capturing moments of quiet turmoil and questioning made crystalline by melodies and structures that make you want to sing along and stay in the moment, however difficult it may be. And while there’s tremendous weight to the lyrics, closing track “Comeback” leaves you with a hopeful mantra I plan to return to repeatedly:

No alarms. No attacks.
Today wasn’t that bad.
I can take some comfort in that.
Try and figure out where my head is at.
I need strength and I find that I can
Feel it coming back.

Erin Lunsford — The Damsel

The chat with Erin Lunsford that I mentioned ahead of my covers list followed an earlier interview we did for an issue of James Magazine that came out in March. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a hard copy, but you can read the piece here. In it, she previews a solo record that would embrace her musical roots, and The Damsel is the extraordinary result of that sonic rediscovery. Lunsford has a rare vocal gift, and she pairs that power with generous, intimate storytelling for a totally distinctive set of songs — an album only she could produce. No matter where her path leads — and hers is clearly among the most promising of anyone’s in Richmond — this is an album future fans can return to when seeking a more complete understanding of her artistry.

Philip James Murphy Jr — bummer is icumen in

From the last Bandcamp Friday post of the year:

Philip James Murphy Jr has been a Bandcamp Friday MVP throughout this year… His music has a sense of melodic detail I enjoy, as well as a lived-in feeling that I’ve found to be comforting. Great winter listening.

Given that last bit, the song below may seem like an odd choice (the middle-English song it’s derived from references summer), but give credit where credit’s due: You can’t get much more right than releasing a song called “bummer is icumen in” in January of 2020. Come to think of it, WHAT DID MURPHY KNOW AND WHEN?!? We need answers.

Noah-O — DEADSTOCK VOL​.​1-8

Tremendous respect is due to Noah-O, who released an album a week from late April to mid June. Eight straight Fridays putting music out into the world, with sorely needed stories of perseverance and growth. Just incredible. A true inspiration.

Oneness of Juju — African Rhythms 1970​-​1982

Plunky Branch is another 2020 MVP. His front porch concerts were a staple of Byrd Park life for months. What a beautiful scene that was — lawn chairs, dancing, strollers, actual live music… I only made it out a couple of times, and didn’t get to stay long either time. When I did, I wished I could bottle those moments and carry them with me.

On that same day I got to see my first Plunky porch concert, I picked up a copy of this new comp from Deep Groove. The timing was impeccable; I’d just started to get into his music, and I wanted to snag something to spin at home, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Strut Records to the rescue with this excellent sampling of Oneness’ output.

Ophelia — Ophelia

From October’s Bandcamp Friday post:

A big part of past Bandcamp Fridays has been music that’s resurfaced — extra copies of pressings that had sold out, or albums that are seeing the light of day after spending some time on the shelf. This Ophelia album is such a glorious example of the latter, as it hit Bandcamp a couple of weeks ago after having been recorded back in 2010. After hearing it and enjoying it tremendously — including a magnificent listen all the way through on a long run at dusk — it’s hard to imagine this not being out in the world. 

Opin — Media & Memory

From October’s Bandcamp Friday post:

There’s a specific anticipatory joy that floods in just before you hear a new Opin song for the first time. Their track record of adventurousness means you’re never sure where they’re about to take you. It’s exhilarating — especially when, time and time again, you end up thrilled with where they’ve decided to go with their sound…

PANGEYA — PANGEYA

While exceedingly deserving of a place on this list on its own, the self-titled PANGEYA tape also stands in for the many other amazing 2020 releases from Ohbliv’s various pseudonyms. Here’s a list of the ones that were on my radar:

Bradford Thomas — Bradventure III
DarkTwaine_ — Shadow Work
DarkTwaine_ — The Hainted
DarkTwaine_ — BLACKRADIANCE
DarkTwaine_ — L’enfants Savage
Ohbliv — Foreverpayingdues
Ohbliv — LewseJoints Number 8 (a)
Ohbliv — LewseJoints Number 8 (b)
Ohbliv — Spirit Medicine
Ohbliv — Spirit Medicine B Sides

Only a legend like Ohbliv would warrant his own list within a list like this. And we’re not even factoring in the beats of his included on other amazing albums. Speaking of which…

Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin — FlySiifu’s

From December’s Bandcamp Friday post:

I already have my copy of FlySiifu’s, but I thought I’d include the album here for two reasons: 1. It’s excellent and well worth your Bandcamp bucks, and 2. The merch associated with it is A+. Can’t-miss holiday shopping right here. The work shirts are mostly sold out, sadly, but there are still long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts, among other items. Consider it a rule going forward that if your album invents/takes place in a fictional record store, and you then start selling merch for said fictional record store, you have my undivided attention. (Especially when said album happens to be one of the best released all year.)

Ruth Good — Haunt

I got more into cassettes this year, and was thrilled when I saw the Citrus City notification about this Ruth Good EP getting a release on tape. It’s a quick but super-substantive 4-song listen, with contributions from A-plus instrumentalists like Alan Parker and Eric Slick. (Not the last time you’ll see that name on one of these lists!) I’m especially fond of “All My Life,” which has a monster chorus that hits like something that would have been on a Traveling Wilburys album — big and memorable, the kind that makes for a killer live singalong. Hopefully one day.

Sons Of The James — Everlasting

I’ve spent a ton of time with “Things I Should Have Said” — to the point that the song’s distinctive fade-in has become a piece of music I look forward to in and of itself. No surprise there, given the mastery of sonic texture and detail that DJ Harrison brings to everything he produces. 

Spacebomb House Band — IX: The Best Played Lands

I’ve been a fan of these Spacebomb House Band tapes since they were released under the “Library Music” banner. They’re uniformly excellent and consistently surprising, and 2020 saw three new volumes added to the series. Picking a favorite out of those three is tough, since they collect so many unique moments and vibes, but I have to single out “The Bigs” from the ninth installment — a super-fierce beat that would have been right at home on Liquid Swords. So good.

Various — A Little Bit at a Time: Spacebomb Family Rarities

Speaking of Spacebomb, this comp is an absolute gold mine, showing how multifaceted the outfit’s impact is, from management and publishing to production. There are gems here from local and non-local artists alike, but I was especially thrilled to see an unreleased Sleepwalkers song on here. As someone who spent the years between Greenwood Shade and Ages eagerly awaiting more of their music, I value new Sleepwalkers tunes very highly, and the sudden appearance of “Why Am I So Sad” was a real treat.   

Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

Happy Bandcamp Friday, y’all! I’ve been eager to get this list out into the world since the first item hit the ‘camp a couple of weeks ago, so without further ado, here are this month’s recommendations. Remember, fees are waived, so it’s a great day to show your support.

Ophelia — Ophelia

A big part of past Bandcamp Fridays has been music that’s resurfaced — extra copies of pressings that had sold out, or albums that are seeing the light of day after spending some time on the shelf. This Ophelia album is such a glorious example of the latter, as it hit Bandcamp a couple of weeks ago after having been recorded back in 2010. After hearing it and enjoying it tremendously — including a magnificent listen all the way through on a long run at dusk — it’s hard to imagine this not being out in the world. It immediately feels canonical, given the strength of these tunes and the involvement of two Richmond favorites: David Shutlz (a Bandcamp Friday favorite) and Jonathan Vassar, who you might remember from the excellent Lonely Rooms album I wrote about last month.

PJ Sykes — “Rain in to the Sea”

Speaking of David Shultz, I absolutely love the “Rain in to the Sea” cover PJ Sykes released today. What a perfect illustration how a song can vibrate harmoniously on wildly different wavelengths. (Ocean pun fully intended.) Halfway through this new version, it’s easy to imagine the song having been written with this arrangement in mind, especially when it comes to the delivery of the central metaphor. So cool. And can we all agree this cover art wins Bandcamp Friday?

Opin — Media & Memory

There’s a specific anticipatory joy that floods in just before you hear a new Opin song for the first time. Their track record of adventurousness means you’re never sure where they’re about to take you. It’s exhilarating — especially when, time and time again, you end up thrilled with where they’ve decided to go with their sound, from their self-titled full length in 2017, to the EPs they’ve released since (including a cover of Mariah’s “Shinzo no Tobira” that I’ve listened to approximately 1.5 million times since it came out). I’m on pace to catch up with that play count when it comes to the first two songs from their upcoming LP, Media & Memory — out 10/30 on WarHen Records. I couldn’t decide which to embed below, so they’re both there. And while I don’t know where the other seven tracks on the album will go, I know by now to sit back and enjoy the ride, because Opin’s sense of sonic navigation is as good as it gets.

Bartees Strange — Live Forever

We’ve all heard “You are what you eat,” but “You are who (whom?) you hear” seems increasingly applicable the more time we spend with earbuds in catching up on the podcasts that reflect and shape our thinking about the world. The voice that’s been bouncing around my brain most during the pandemic has been Steven Hyden’s; his 36 from the Vault podcast about the Dick’s Picks Grateful Dead live album series has been my primary means of auditory escape. As a result, the line between his thinking on music and mine is starting to blur, and when he tweeted the following, I was eager to snag my own seat on the Bartees Bandwagon™:

Live Forever promises to be one of this year’s most celebrated albums, and today’s the big release day. I’m 100% in. It’s so good. The “Half Orange/Half Bone” pressing I snagged is sold out, but he recently added a “Red with Bone & Orange Splatter” variant, and copies of that are still available. Don’t sleep. As a side note, the Hyden-Strange connection came full circle with the publication of this Uproxx interview. Don’t sleep on that either. No sleeping whatsoever, ok? It’s Bandcamp Friday!

Hiss Golden Messenger — School Daze: A fundraiser for Durham Public Schools students

This is the second live album Hiss Golden Messenger has released during the pandemic — click here for my post about the first one. Proceeds are going to the same great cause — the Durham Public Schools Foundation — but not a single song is repeated from his previous live release, which is fun. One other Hiss-related recommendation: If you’re not already signed up for M.C. Taylor “Kitchen Table Speculator” mailing list, I recommend it highly. He includes poetry, books and music he’s been enjoying, and words of hope like these:

I realize that life is chaotic and complicated right now. I’m trying to remember to take some time each day or week to thank the folks that keep showing up, nose to the grindstone, every day. I’m trying to give back to my community with emotions as well as dollars. If you have the bandwidth, please consider donating your time, money, or other resources to an organization doing good work in your community. I’ve found it’s the best way to alleviate feelings of hopelessness.

I plan to heed that excellent advice by downloading School Daze right about now.

Hotspit — Hotspit Live Session

If you’ve been following this Bandcamp bonanza from the very beginning, you might remember that my very first Bandcamp Friday post included music by Avery Fogarty, who fronts the Richmond band Hotspit. That group just released a three-track live session, which is very exciting. I’m especially fond of the first track, which illustrates the range the group has, and how great they sound in exploratory mode. Well worth a download.

Other items on my radar today:

Sam Gendel — DRM
Spacebomb House Band — X: Kernel Eternal
Mdou Moctar — Mixtape Vol 6
Phil Cook — From the Kitchen: Winston​-​Salem, NC – 10​/​27​/​​2018 @ Ramkat
ragenap — “masters of war” (benefits Sustain Chicago Music)
Various — Good Music to Avert the Collapse of American Democracy, Volume 2 (benefits Voting Rights Lab)
John Moreland — Live at The Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC – 6​/​9​/​19
addy — re call/bug (benefits MAD RVA)
Durand Jones & The Indications — “Power To The People
Avery Fogarty — “sunken cities

Butcher Brown

So much is happening in the Butcher Brown universe, y’all. Every time I try to start a post, more stuff happens, so I’ve put together a bulleted list to keep track of it all, starting back in January, when the conversation around an upcoming album started getting louder…

  • Butcher Brown has long represented a creative North Star amid the beautiful universe that is Richmond music, and in early 2020, they started shining brighter than ever. A new partnership with the prestigious Concord Jazz label. Intriguing tweets like this one. Confirmation of an upcoming album, and a lead single that hit in early March. (I stayed up until midnight that night to hear it, and “Tidal Wave” did not disappoint.)
  • Unfortunately, we all know what else hit in March. Nevertheless, this impossibly versatile and endlessly proficient group kept the momentum going with their “Mothership Monday” video series — covers ranging from Bob James’ oft-sampled “Nautilus” to “African Rhythms” by Oneness of Juju. (Here’s a news story on the series.) They played a surprise show at the reclaimed Marcus-David Peters Circle. They announced their upcoming album was called #KingButch, and when preorders were made available, I ordered my copy just about as fast as is humanly possible.
  • Over the course of the six months that followed, they released three more songs from #KingButch — “Cabbage (DFC),” the title track, and most recently, “Gum in My Mouth” — and yet, with the album’s release day in sight, they blew everyone’s mind in a whole other way when it was announced that they’d lent instrumentation to the song that would replace Hank Williams Jr.’s Monday Night Football intro music — a new version of Little Richard’s “Rip It Up.” It debuted just a few hours before I typed this sentence, and the world was a better place for it.
  • Micro-Chop just published an excellent piece entitled “Visualizing the Process of DJ Harrison.” Not directly related to Butcher Brown, but still very much worth a read.
  • That brings us to present day. Whew. It’s a lot to look back on, and I’m sure I’ve left plenty out, but it’ll all come full circle this Friday with the release of the album we’ve been looking forward to since January. Click here to snag a copy. Or a hat. Or a slipmat. As I mentioned, my preorder is in (still gold vinyl variants left!), but there’s not a single thing in that merch store I don’t want.

A quick personal note: I had the honor of interviewing Butcher Brown guitarist Morgan Burrs in January for a magazine article. The idea for that piece was that I’d speak to a few of Richmond’s leading musical voices and get a sense for the scene at that point in time, and one thing that struck me was how often Butcher Brown came up — not just in my conversation with Morgan, as you’d expect, but outside of it. They are a true source of inspiration and collaboration for so many other musicians in town, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see their innovative influence spreading so broadly. In that sense, their new album has one of the most fitting titles I’ve ever seen.

Long live #KingButch.