Tag Archives: Beyoncé

2019 in Review: Audiovisual

More than in past years, I found myself spending time with films that artists and bands created to accompany their music. This idea isn’t new — let’s certainly take a moment to acknowledge the greatness and importance of Lemonade in this area — but this year’s crop of albums with companion visuals struck me as especially noteworthy. Not sure if this’ll stay a category going further, but let’s celebrate what 2019 had in store for our eyes and ears.

Beyoncé — Homecoming: The Live Album

Just astonishing in its scope, importance, and execution. So many goosebumps. Beyoncé is no stranger to producing touchpoints, but I expect Homecoming will stand tall for generations as an achievement in communicating and celebrating culture, in much the same way Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace album has. Goodness radiates from the screen as you watch her many collaborators sing, dance, and play. The sheer volume of excellence put on display is jaw-dropping, as are the many moments in which sound and choreography combine to create crystalline moments of performance perfection.

Aretha Franklin — Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings

Speaking of Aretha…

Full disclosure, I haven’t heard the new Complete Recordings version of the album, though I did spend time with the long-awaited film of the album’s recording process. More goosebumps. Every grainy moment is awe inspiring, knowing that what she’s making will go on to become the best selling gospel album of all time. I only wish I’d been able to catch a theater showing. Franklin’s talent looms so large — the bigger the screen, the better.

The Lumineers — III

The Lumineers didn’t just release a new album this year. They crafted a whole narrative world — one that’s packed with pain and purpose relating to the legacy of addiction. The link between the audio and visual elements of III are built right into the packaging, as the actors who brought the album to life peek through the outer jacket from the inner sleeve. Here’s a link to the group’s YouTube channel. Regardless of what you think of the Lumineers’ success, or the omnipresence of “Ho Hey,” I recommend giving III a fresh look/listen.

Kevin Morby — Oh My God

I love the space this album occupies. Its connection to the subject of spirituality is sincere, but it never takes itself too seriously. It’s funny, but it never drifts off into parody. And the higher-than-usual degree of lyrical repetition signals rumination — like an idea you turn over in your mind a bunch of times without ever attempting to reach a conclusion or file it away. Quick story: I nominated an album of Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou’s tunes for the Off Your Radar newsletter, and in my blurb, I almost mentioned how I hear her influence here and there throughout Oh My God. Then I saw Kevin Morby’s “Oh My God” short film, which flashes the Éthiopiques 21 album art at the 8:30 mark. So cool.

The National – I Am Easy to Find

Given the way my appreciation of National hit suddenly while checking out their last album, Sleep Well Beast, I wasn’t sure if it’d end up being a one time thing, or if maybe something about that album was what I needed on that particular day. I Am Easy to Find has settled the matter convincingly, as I’ve been turning to it repeatedly when I’ve found myself on the emotional wavelength I was on when I connected with Sleep Well Beast. I got my copy during BK Music’s closing sale. Sigh. I miss BK. Speaking of sighing, if you haven’t checked out the short film developed alongside the album, remedy that below. It’s really powerful.

Sturgill Simpson — Sound & Fury

Hot damn. Sturgill Simpson is fearless. By taking a stylistic left turn and partnering with veteran anime creators, Simpson asserted his artistic independence in spectacular fashion. Sound & Fury the film is a whirlwind of violence and creativity, and the album itself is a scuzzy thrill ride that upends expectations while continuing to speak frankly. I’ve embedded the kickass John Prine cowrite “A Good Look” below, but I recommend listening from start to finish. Better yet, if you haven’t heard the album, watch the film first. That’s what I did, and I loved getting to know the music that way.

Thom Yorke — ANIMA

The Paul Thomas Anderson-directed short associated with ANIMA (find it on Netflix) showcases Yorke’s acting chops, including some really amazing choreography. Once I’d seen it, the ANIMA songs it features suddenly felt more significant and accessible. That said, “Dawn Chorus” would have felt significant with or without video accompaniment. It’s some of Yorke’s finest work yet — a testament to how less can be more in the right hands, whether you’re working with melody or any other musical variable.

More 2019 in Review:

2019 in Review: Instrumental
2019 in Review: Jazz
2019 in Review: RVA
2019 in Review: 25 Favorites

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2017 in Review: Blasts from the Past

Here are the reissues I spent the most time getting reacquainted with in 2017:

Beyoncé — Lemonade

This counts as a reissue, right? Maybe? I don’t subscribe to Tidal, and I really wanted to avoid double-buying Lemonade like I did Beyoncé’s self-titled masterpiece (iTunes then vinyl). So I waited. And waited. And OK so maybe someone sent me a download link at one point, but still — it was cause for much rejoicing when a (yellow, obvs) vinyl version was issued this summer. Gives me a second chance to recognize Beyoncé’s second consecutive masterpiece.

Beyoncé — “Hold Up” [iTunes]

Jerry Garcia & Howard Wales — Side Trips, Volume One

Posted about this last month:

It’s a pretty snazzy album. Howard Wales wails (GET IT?!?) on Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes, and you get to hear how Jerry Garcia acts and reacts in a jazz setting. Parts can feel less like jazz and more like the middle of a Dead jam, but whatever. The vibe is fun and intuitive and exploratory, and it makes for great unfocused listening. Zone in. Zone out. Your call. It’s also perfect dinner music, assuming your guests are cool with meandering, guitar-driven jam-jazz. OK so maybe it’s better this is being reissued after Thanksgiving.

Jerry Garcia & Howard Wales — “Space Funk” [Discogs]

Radiohead — OKNOTOK 1997 2017

I had a perfectly good copy of OK Computer. I told myself I didn’t need the 20th anniversary reissue. Then I heard “Man Of War.”

Radiohead — “Man Of War” [Spotify/iTunes]

Sister Rosetta Tharpe — Live in 1960

Another pressing of this gem is coming in January, but a 500-copy limited white vinyl run hit independent record stores in December, and I’m so glad I was in the right place at the right time to snag one. It’s a solo show — just Sister Rosetta and guitar — and her guitar isn’t mixed all that loud, so what the recording really amounts to is an extended sermon given by one of rock and roll’s under-appreciated progenitors. I don’t put much stock in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but it was nice to see she was chosen for induction this year. Credit where credit is due.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe — “Gospel Train” (live) [Spotify/iTunes]

Lal & Mike Waterson — Bright Phoebus 

I thought it was M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger who evangelized for this on Instagram and put it on my radar, but now I can’t find the post. In the process of trying, though, I found this video of Taylor performing the title track with William Tyler. Pretty awesome if you ask me. Side note: “Bright Phoebus” handily wins the title for the song that got stuck in my head the most this year. Oh, and my daughter digs it too, which is fun.

Lal & Mike Waterson — “Bright Phoebus” [Spotify/iTunes]

Gillian Welch — The Harrow & the Harvest

One of my favorite musical moments of 2017 was finding out one my favorite albums of all time was being pressed to vinyl for the very first time. (“For the very first tiiiiime…” Sorry, I still have “Bright Phoebus” playing.)

Gillian Welch — “Hard Times” [Spotify/iTunes]

Neil Young — Harvest Moon

I became semi-obsessed with “Unknown Legend” via the cover version on Shovels & Rope’s Busted Jukebox, Volume 1. (Volume 2 out now!) So when I saw Harvest Moon was being pressed to vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day Black Friday, I was all like “Oh cool, the album with ‘Unknown Legend’ on it!” I waited in line for more than two hours in sub-freezing temperatures with no socks on (dumb), snagged a copy, brought it home, and then got surprise-excited when I heard one of my other favorite Neil Young songs… “Harvest Moon.” That’s right — in all that time waiting for BK Music to open while my ankles froze, I never managed to connect “Harvest Moon” the song with Harvest Moon the album. Like I said… dumb. Great album, though. Played it nonstop that weekend and a number of times since.

Neil Young — “Unknown Legend” [Spotify/iTunes]

More 2017 in Review

2017 in Review: Live Albums
2017 in Review: Americana
2017 in Review: RVA
2017 in Review: 25 Favorites

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Friday News and Notes

The SoundView Project

How is it September? September is supposed to be, like, in the future. Not the present.

As tempting as it is to lament the end of summer, one early-September event has me looking forward to the month ahead, and there are a few other links I wanted to share:

  • Today kicks off the SoundView Project, a public art/music event in which Troy Gatrell of Clair Morgan and Way, Shape or Form will write, record, and mix five songs over the course of a month in full view of Broad Street passersby. (Yes, I was excited to pluralize “passerby,” just as I would have been to type “attorneys general,” which I guess I just did.) They’re having a kickoff party tonight during First Fridays to celebrate. Definitely going to stop by at some point to check things out — what a great idea, and it’s being done to raise awareness of the importance of music education.
  • Do you like shiitake mushrooms but lament the lack of songs about them? Your prayers have been answered. (Thank you for the heads up, Travis!)
  • A friend gave me a copy of The Band’s Anthology, which I hadn’t even heard of, for my birthday. A Canadian pressing at that. I have Moondog Matinee, but I clearly don’t listen to it enough, because their cover of “The Great Pretender” snuck up on me. It’s awesome.
  • I reconnected yesterday with Big L’s “Ebonics,” which is exceptional. Steady Sounds posted a pic a while back showing they had a copy of The Big Picture in, and I really should have bolted over there.
  • Speaking of exceptional… Beyoncé’s VMAs medley. Lordy. For whatever this commentary is worth, I just want to throw out there that I think what she did that night and what she’s doing with this album are incredibly important. I didn’t connect with the idea of a visual album before now — I’ve enjoyed her self-titled album greatly without spending much time with the videos — but Lemonade feels different. She’s staking her claim to broader emotional and cultural territory while putting her image front-and-center, as if to say “You know that two-dimensional pop star you’ve been taking for granted? That smiling face you’ve seen a thousand times? You’re going to see what it looks like when I’m pissed, because everything is not OK right now.” Or, put more succinctly, “Who the fuck do you think I is?” I have a huge amount of respect for that.
  • Just two quick show recommendations for Saturday — Stranger Things-inspired 80’s party at the Broadberry, and a great Camel show that will include My Darling Fury and Vexine.

Hope y’all have a great long weekend. Stay dry, East Coasters.

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Friday News and Notes

Simpsons

A few Friday News and Notes items to finish out the week:

  • CD Monday update: The Sufjan song is excellent, and I enjoy the Rafter track, but the real winner is the Helado Negro song I posted on Monday. Baby YHT (who isn’t really a baby anymore — maybe she should be Toddler YHT for now?) even liked it and gave it the “Again!” seal of approval a couple times.
  • I can’t remember what day this week it was, but I had to get out of the car right when Marketplace was starting a story about Radiohead’s finances and, presumably, how they start new companies for each record they release. Bandmate 4eva Doug unknowingly came to the rescue by sending me this Guardian article about the same thing a day or two later. Interesting stuff, I think. Maybe I need to start a couple corporations for YHT, especially now that I bought an actual domain for the site.
  • Hey! I forgot to tell y’all! I bought youhearthat.com, so there’s that. Feels like I got my own little plot on this great big internet, and it feels like I should be saying that while standing with a cup of coffee in one hand and a suspender strap in the other, looking out over my growing crop of blog posts through the early morning haze. That’s how the internet works, right…
  • James Blake? Gooood. Radiohead? Goooood. Beyoncé? I trust that it’s good, but I still haven’t heard more than a couple songs. I don’t want to pay to download it, since it might come out on vinyl at some point, and it’s not on Spotify, and I’m not about to sign up for Tidal while I’m still paying for Spotify Premium, so…
  • A+ Friday Cheers tonight, y’all: Phil Cook and Shovels & Rope. Don’t miss it. And might I suggest heading to the Broadberry after for The Big Payback and Life on Mars?

I’ll be heading up to NYC this weekend, which makes three trips up 95 in four weekends. Yet somehow I still get a kick from zooming through E-ZPass only toll lanes. It doesn’t take much.

Have great weekends! See y’all tonight at Cheers!

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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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Beyoncé

Flawless

There are few things I enjoy more in life than finding the perfect song to complement what’s going on around me.

I’m pretty sure I have my dad to thank for this impulse. He was a college professor, and every year, after he was finished grading spring semester exams and had driven into work to turn in grades, he’d come home, walk triumphantly over to the CD player in the den and play the Jamies’ iconic “Summertime, Summertime.” He was never happier or more carefree than he was when that song was playing. My sister, my mom and I all loved it.

I’ve carried on the practice by pairing meals with records and prepping for important basketball games by playing certain strategic albums — Mrs. YHT and I have even started a tradition of playing my vinyl copy of How The Grinch Stole Christmas and sporadically proclaiming “What a dick!” while decorating our tree — but there’s one accompaniment nut that’s been impossible to crack: What should be the first song my daughter hears after she’s born?

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My Answer to Question #26

Remember when the video above was on People.com? I do. I loved it. Even though I went to the University of Richmond, I love the Peppas. They do a killer job, whether they’re serenading NASCAR fans in the rain or ratcheting up the excitement at the Siegel Center, and the added touch of pumping Miley Cyrus’ voice in through the PA before blasting the chorus one more time is just outstanding. I get goosebumps when I watch that video — I really do.

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy Richmond’s pep band. Just this past season, I had the chance to take my mom to her very first live basketball game, and I made sure to brag about how our pep band’s director is David Hood from No BS! Brass Band. I even pointed him out, like you would a local celebrity or athlete who is poised become a big deal out of town as well. Plus, the recent Robins Center renovations have them repositioned in the center of the student section (they used to be tucked away in a corner at court level) — an improvement that vastly increases the band’s atmospheric influence. Will that result in a “Wrecking Ball”-type video in the future? With Hood at the helm, I wouldn’t rule it out.

So why am I talking about pep bands? A couple days ago, UR’s athletics department sent me a survey asking about the experience I had at the games I attended last season, and while I was most excited to complain about the food, everything changed when I got to this question:

Survey Question

They didn’t ask for a blog post, but they’re gonna get one.

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Top 10 Albums of 2013

Countdown gif

It’s customary to start year-end lists by chewing some fat about how making them is strange and difficult work, and in general, I find that these intros can be exceedingly skippable. Everyone knows that album rankings are subjective (even when they’re created on behalf of a publication or website), and no one needs to be reminded that the list maker didn’t listen — and couldn’t have listened, of course! — to every single thing that came out in the preceding 12 months. You don’t share Santa Claus’ knack for bending the space-time continuum. Understood. But before I get to my Top 10 albums, I would like to share a quick story about how I came up with my list, and how Beyoncé helped me find meaning in this whole strange and difficult exercise.

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Beyoncé

Beyonce

We now know, for real, that Beyoncé lip-synced her way through the national anthem at President Obama’s second inauguration.

This makes me sad.

During the course of last two weeks, we’ve seen/heard a range of reactions to the suggestion that her outstanding performance was pre-taped, from witch-hunty Fox News coverage to the dug-in defense that even if she did fake it, it doesn’t matter, because her recorded rendition was so good that it’s still worth celebrating. While I think there’s some validity to the latter – it’s a damn good rendition, after all – I think the truth does matter in this case.

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Beyoncé

Happy Inauguration/Martin Luther King, Jr./Beyoncé Raising the Bar for Future National Anthem Performances Day!

If anyone needs me, I’ll be listening to the performance above and “Countdown” on repeat.

UPDATE: I’m not convinced she was synchin‘. Gonna let this play out a bit before rescinding my excitement, though I will say that the fact that so many people (apparently) care if she did or didn’t bears out how fantastic her rendition was.

Beyoncé — “Countdown” [Spotify/iTunes]

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