Shormey

A quick heads up for cassette-lovers out there: Physical copies of Shormey’s bright and utterly brilliant God Bless Bob Ross: A Collection Of Low Fidelity Recordings are now available over at Citrus City’s Bandcamp page.

As you can probably tell from my last few posts, I’ve been celebrating Bandcamp’s recent fee waiver events enthusiastically, and since those Fridays can feel somewhat frenzied, with new releases popping up left and right throughout the day, I’ve started making retrospective mixes to unpack all the beautiful chaos.

The hardest thing about making a mix in honor of Bandcamp’s June 6 event was deciding which track from God Bless Bob Ross to include. The whole thing is stellar. I ended up going with “honeydipper,” which is intoxicatingly propulsive and wildly inventive in how it builds and releases its kinetic energy.

Take a listen below, and click here to snag a copy on cassette. $2 from each sale goes to Chicago’s Brave Space Alliance.

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Cass McCombs & Steve Gunn

It’s another great day to buy from Bandcamp, y’all. In honor of Juneteenth, the benevolent music marketplace is donating its share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. (And they’ve pledged to do the same each Juneteenth going forward.)

I’m filling up my shopping cart now, and I’m planning to update the list of recommendations at the bottom of this post throughout the day. For now, I thought I’d pass along a heads up about a great 7-inch Cass McCombs and Steve Gunn just released. They’d hoped to sell it on a west coast tour, but since that run was canceled, they’ve made it available on Bandcamp. It pairs a Gunn-sung take on the traditional tune “Wild Mountain Thyme” with a cover of Michael Hurley’s “Sweet Lucy” (a song I hold near and dear — my daughter’s humming along to it as I type this) sung by McCombs.

You can hear both of those tunes below. And here are a few other items I have my eye on:

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Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

It’s time for another installment in Bandcamp’s series of fee-free Fridays, though this month’s event has an elevated sense of purpose amid the Black Lives Matter demonstrations happening all over the country. While Bandcamp started waiving its revenue share once a month as a way to generate income for artists who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and social distancing, several bands and labels are pledging some or all of today’s proceeds to organizations working toward racial justice, including the National Bailout Fund, Reclaim the Block, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and many more.

Whether you’re supporting black artists directly or pledging funds to the organizations listed above, there are so many great (and great sounding) ways to show your support during this pivotal moment. Here’s Bandcamp’s official list, and here are a few recommendations of my own:

Angel Bat Dawid — Transition East

Back in May, the composer, clarinetist, singer, and “spiritual jazz soothsayer” Angel Bat Dawid released a pair of new tracks — “Transition East” and “No Space Fo Us” — with the option to buy a vinyl/book/poster bundle that includes an outer space grey 7-inch, a copy of Emma Warren’s book Make Some Space, and a poster that bridges the two. “Transition East” was originally conceived as accompanying music for the audiobook version of Make Some Space, which tells the story of the dynamic London DIY music facility and community called Total Refreshment Centre. (Dawid and Warren met there in 2017.) What a beautifully rendered collection this is. And what beautiful music this is.

Damon Locks’ Black Monument Ensemble — “Stay Beautiful”

Angel Bat Dawid is also part of International Anthem labelmate Damon Locks’ 15-piece Black Monument Ensemble, which released the stunning Where Future Unfolds LP in 2019. Can’t recommend that one highly enough. Same goes for “Stay Beautiful,” which was recorded live in November of 2018 at Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory and released a couple of months ago as a single. It’s a tale of layered meditation, from the spoken poetry to poetry in motion (video available here), backed by Dawid’s pulsing clarinet and culminating with a cappella repetition of the title phrase.

McKinley Dixon — The House That Got Knocked Down

If you thought the Angel Bat Dawid thread in this post was finished, not so fast. Richmond-based artist McKinley Dixon released The House That Got Knocked Down in March, and as it turns out, Dawid is a fan of Dixon’s work. The clarinetist had this to say about “Sun Black,” the third track on the EP:

McKinley Dixon is an incredible MC. His new album… is full of laid back vibes, soulful beats and powerful delivery. I met McKinley at a film festival and we became great friends. When he told me that he had a new album coming out I immediately downloaded it when it was released and was completely blown away!

I had no idea this connection existed when I started working on this post. True story. I also recommend picking up Dixon’s entry in Saddle Creek’s Document Series.

Amaria Hamadalher — Music from Saharan WhatsApp 05

Sahel Sounds has a great thing going with its Music from Saharan WhatsApp series, which shares music recorded in the Sahel directly to cell phones. It’s immediate. It’s direct. There’s such electricity to seeing a new set of recordings pop up, knowing they’re unfiltered but not knowing what you’ll hear. This month’s featured artist is Amaria Hamadalher, and while I have heard her play before, it’s been with the group Les Filles de Illighadad. Excited to start exploring her work outside of that context. And can we all agree that this cover art is amazing? (I believe it’s from a shot that appears in the first issue of Third Man’s new Maggot Brain magazine, which is excellent.)

Mdou Moctar — Mixtape Vol. 2

Speaking of Sahel Sounds, Mdou Mactor released the first volume of this new mixtape series for the May 1 Bandcamp day, and it’s a keeper, mixing various live and acoustic recordings into one long track in a way that feels organic and alive. Speaking of “alive,” Moctar’s guitar is a live wire as always. Brings me back to the frenzied feel of his live shows at Strange Matter and Gallery5 over the past few years. While he may not have been able to perform at Friday Cheers this year as scheduled, these mixtapes are a great way to get a sense for what his sets are like.

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WarHen Records

Passing along a quick heads up about a great way to support those seeking justice for George Floyd’s death.

(If you haven’t yet watched the video, please stop and do that now. I firmly believe that being a person of conscience means absorbing these images and giving yourself the opportunity to be affected by them.)

WarHen Records just released a name-your-price label sampler via Bandcamp, and they’ve pledged all proceeds to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. The MFF is a community-based 501(c)(3) that “combats the harms of incarceration by paying bail for low-income individuals who cannot otherwise afford it.” Given the demonstrations underway, you can imagine how crucial those resources are right now.

Donating directly to the fund is an option as well (here’s a link where you can do just that), but I applaud WarHen for providing another avenue for people to get involved. It’ll take all of us to effect the kind of meaningful changes that make videos like George Floyd’s a thing of the past.

 

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Dave Brubeck

I was delighted to learn some folks give Dave Brubeck’s Time Out album a celebratory spin on May 4th — a nod to the unconventional 5/4 time signature of “Take Five.” Count me in (no pun intended).

Don’t worry, I plan to put on John Williams’ original Star Wars soundtrack as well. Feels like the day is big enough for both, right? And if I had to guess, the Venn diagram representing Star Wars fans and music theory nerds would have a some awesome overlap.

In any case, I can’t resist the opportunity to show off my weirdo copy of Time Out. My dad had more than one copy, and it wasn’t the only Brubeck album for which that was the case. Dude was a huge Brubeck fan. Then again, he had like three copies of the West Side Story soundtrack, and at least two of the South Pacific cast recording. No idea why. Forgetfulness? Unbridled enthusiasm? I keep a record spreadsheet for this very reason, but I still managed to pick up a second copy of M. Ward’s Post-War accidentally at one point, so this apple clearly didn’t roll too far from the tree.

This isn’t your average copy of Time Out, though. Side 2 is normal, but side 1 has the sticker that Columbia Records printed for Tony Bennett’s The Movie Song Album. The audio is fine; drop the needle on side 1 and you hear “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” just as you should. Yet it’s Tony Bennett’s name spinning in the center.

What makes things weirder is that a split Brubeck/Bennett LP does exist. It’s a live album called The White House Sessions, Live 1962, recorded at “an end-of-summer event thrown by the John F. Kennedy White House for college students who’d been working as interns in the nation’s capital,” according to the Amazon description. And that was released by Columbia… but not until 2013.

Anyone else out there have a copy of Time Out like this? If so, I’d love to know. In the meantime, I’ll be over here celebrating my brand new holiday. Maybe I’ll even watch a Star War.

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Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

Three cheers for Bandcamp, y’all! Once again, the impressively benevolent music community and sales platform is waiving its usual 15% cut to generate extra revenue for artists, so many of whom have been hit hard by the effects of COVID-19 and social distancing. The last event like this was hugely successful — $4.3 million in sales in one day — and it’s so great to see they’re running it back. Sounds like they have a couple more planned, as well — on June 5 and July 3.

Here’s a big long list of artists and labels who are participating. I didn’t manage to get a post with my own picks up last time until later in the day, so I started chipping away at this one earlier in the week. Here are a few YHT-approved ways to join in on the fun and show your support.

Rob Dobson — No Cover Covers Vol. 1

Charlottesville’s WarHen Records recently launched a series of digital singles called “No Cover Covers,” kicking things off with a great take on Neil Young’s “Barstool Blues.” Looking forward to more of these. (Volume 2 is out now.)

Also firmly on the radar: a limited cassette run of Saw Black’s Horsin’ ‘Round rarities album, which I posted about in mid-March.

Sam Gendel — Satin Doll

Satin Doll is described in its Bandcamp liner notes as (and I love this description) a “simultaneous synchronized sonic construction/destruction of well-known jazz standards.” It’s singular. It’s innovative. It sounds like the past and the future at the same time. I’ve wanted to snag a copy for a while now, and today seems like just the day to do it.

Andy Jenkins — “Far Away From Here” (feat. Erin Rae)

The age-old alchemy of masking complexity with breeziness has a worthy standard-bearer in Andy Jenkins. “Far Away From Here” seems to hang in the air effortlessly, yet the accompanying instrumental version provides a peek into the jazz-informed intricacy involved. Such a beautiful conversation between Alan Parker’s guitar and Jacob Ungerleider’s piano, echoing the A+ pairing of Jenkins’ voice with Erin Rae’s. A masterstroke of a musical still life painting here.

left.hnd — Mira

This is so beautiful. Grippingly so. I listened to this while running, and I was so wrapped up in it I don’t think I took in visual information during those eight minutes. It was like being spatially transported. The vocals and strings work together to play with your expectations for tension and release, keeping you in this perpetual state of needing the next note to happen. In terms of atmosphere, Mira makes me think about Frank Ocean. The boldness. The use of space. It’s really something. (Kudos to Calvin Brown on those amazing string arrangements.)

While you’re on left.hnd’s Bandcamp page, be sure to grab “Vessel” as well. It’s been a beam of positive energy for me throughout the last month.

Gia Margaret — Mia Gargaret

Speaking of music that’s helping right now, I’ve found ambient music to be an essential part of my daily listening diet these days, and I can’t wait for this full album to be released. The first two tracks are meditative gems, and I could see this getting a ton of turntable time when my copy arrives.

Pearla — Quilting & Other Activities

This one came out last year, but I recently got a copy and have been falling in love with it all over again. These songs stick with you in a really interesting way — hours after I’ve spun the album, specific moments tend to drift around my consciousness and resurface periodically, like vivid memories that steal you away from the moment you’re in. (Then you put the album back on and start the cycle over again!)

David Shultz — “Still Here”

Very exciting — this tune wasn’t due out until next week, but it’s a Fee-free Friday miracle! I posted about Shultz’s song “Spring Forward” not too far back, when it was time to set our clocks forward for daylight savings. More recently, I’ve been spending a bunch of time with his wonderful Rain in to the Sea album — keep an eye on Off Your Radar and you’ll find out why. “Still Here” is another bright spot — life affirming, defiant in the face of fate, and demonstrative of Alan Parker’s deep and wide instrumental skill set. (That makes two mentions of Parker in this post. Is this turning into an AP fan blog? Trick question! It already was.) If you don’t have a copy of Rain in to the Sea, I’d recommend heading to the WarHen Records Bandcamp page and snagging that as well. Just a few copies left! (Yes, this is a WarHen fan blog as well.)

Various — Sahel Sounds Label Sampler 2

Sahel Sounds is making all of their downloads pay what you want, and if you’re new to their catalog, I recommend this new sampler. Mdou Moctar, Les Filles de Illighadad, Luka Productions… so much great stuff here. (If you dig Mdou, he’s got a new mixtape of live recordings and demos out today as well.)

Thought I’d throw in a few other intriguing options, lifted directly from Bandcamp’s list of participants:

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Bedouine

This brings me so much joy.

I could add my two cents here on the political parallels involved, but the choice of song and timing say it all.

It’s perfect.

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Hiss Golden Messenger

I posted a few days ago about the live album Father John Misty released to raise funds for the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund — here’s another live set you can download to benefit a great cause.

M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger is passionate about public education. He’s the son of two teachers, he taught for a time at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and his wife is an ESL instructor in Durham, where his kids attend public schools. If you’ve been to one of his shows lately, you might have seen t-shirts emblazoned with “DEFEND PUBLIC SCHOOLS” for sale at the merch table. (They’re available on his website as well.) He’s even been pausing his sets to give teachers in the audience individual rounds of applause before launching into “I Need a Teacher,” the opening track from his most recent studio album, Terms of Surrender.

He’s keeping the momentum going during social distancing by offering up Forward, Children: A fundraiser for Durham Public Schools students, a new live album documenting his group’s recent two-night stand at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina. It’s available over at Bandcamp. Same deal as the FJM jam: $10 download, with those dollars going somewhere extremely worthy — in this case it’s the Durham Public Schools Foundation, which helps students impacted by school closures find their next meal. As a fellow son of two teachers, I applaud what Taylor is doing, and I hope you’ll join me in this exceedingly enjoyable show of support.

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Father John Misty

You may have seen news about the new Father John Misty live album elsewhere, but I wanted to add my own recommendation.

The download is just $10, with proceeds going to the Recording Academy’s MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund. And it’s an outstanding recording — horns, strings, a nice mix of older and newer songs, and most importantly, a number of tunes whose prescience is unmistakable in light of our current nightmare. “Things It Would’ve Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution” and “Pure Comedy” are especially affecting in this sense, and “I Went To The Store One Day” and “Ballad Of The Dying Man” strike me as more poignant than ever. Times like these bring out the relevance of his big-picture thinking, even if that thinking results in shrugging about how absurd life on this “godless rock that refuses to die” can be. And his gallows humor has never been more necessary.

So much of what I loved about the set he played at the Atria Theater in June of last year is captured here. Well worth a download — again proceeds go to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

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Tyler Meacham

Back in early February (aka 3.7 million years ago, news-wise), I had the opportunity to chat over the phone with singer-songwriter Tyler Meacham, whose pop-infused Property EP was one of my favorite albums to come out of Richmond last year.

It was such a fun and engaging conversation — the kind that makes you want the resulting article to be out in the world as soon as humanly possible. A month and a half — plus one worldwide pandemic — later, sharing it feels bittersweet in all the ways Meacham described in her Instagram post from Thursday. Social distancing represents an existential disruption for performers everywhere, and it’s especially devastating for musicians who had been (and still are) working to gain the type of momentum that leads to liftoff for a career as an artist.

Nevertheless, I have two pieces of incontrovertible good news:

Good News #1: If I’ve learned anything from listening to Meacham’s music, seeing her perform live, and speaking with her about her craft, it’s that her gift is as real as it gets. Her drive, her savvy outlook on what defines pop music (one of my favorite parts of our chat), her remarkable ability to take her own experiences and mold them into pieces of art that are broadly affecting — that stuff endures, and while I can’t say what the world is going to look like a year, month, or week from now, I’m certain that those are the characteristics you find in artists who thrive in the long run, through ups, downs, and whatever else is thrown at them.

Good News #2: There are so many ways to keep the momentum going for musicians right now. Here’s a quick list of ways to make your Meacham fandom felt:

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