Tag Archives: Car Seat Headrest

Car Seat Headrest

Have y’all checked out Dust Up Mag yet? Some truly talented and dedicated folks have set their sights on covering live music in Richmond and beyond (the site’s motto is “Get to the gig”), and they were kind enough to let me review the Friday Cheers finale from last week. Here’s a link. This was my third time seeing Car Seat Headrest since Teens of Denial came out, and I walked away wildly impressed yet again. Hope a fourth time isn’t too far off — there’s something beautiful and therapeutic about singing along with Toledo’s songs. Read the full review here.

Car Seat Headrest — “Fill In The Blank” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Friday Cheers

fridaycheers2017-logo-color-highrez

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
-Christmas song written by someone who hasn’t witnessed a Friday Cheers schedule rollout

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Friday Cheers is my favorite part of the year. It’s warm but not sweaty, the weekends feel longer, since the early Cheers start times mean you’re outside and enjoying yourself ASAP… it makes me so happy. Here’s the full schedule. Things are going to be a little nutty this year, given that Mrs. YHT is set to deploy Baby YHT #2 in early May, but here are three of the shows I’m hopeful that we/I/y’all will be able to make:

Lee Fields & the Expressions with Kings — May 5

This show being announced was my Lee Fields wake-up call. I see his records nearly every time I go to Steady Sounds, and I keep meaning to learn more about him — now’s the time. I’m doing it. You can’t stop me. Friday Cheers has hosted two of the best soul shows I’ve ever seen — Charles Bradley and the late great Sharon Jones — so this one shouldn’t be missed.

 


Conor Oberst with Big Thief — June 2

Already snagged a ticket for this one. I wrote a short time ago about how psyched I am for his special-guest-heavy upcoming album Salutations, and since it’ll be out by the time this show rolls around, I’ll almost certainly be spending some quality time at the merch tent on June 2.

 

Car Seat Headrest with Gold Connections — June 30

OK, so I saw them twice last year. I don’t care — as Toddler YHT’s hero Ariel once said so poignantly “I want more…” Speaking of wanting more, I managed to find a used copy of Teens of Style, the album prior to Teens of Denial, and I was surprised by how many of the older (relatively speaking — he’s released ocean of material already) songs I knew. I recommend prepping for this show by diving into Will Toledo’s earlier stuff, which can be found on Bandcamp.

Hope y’all are getting excited as well. Here’s another link to the full schedule and here’s a link to an article I wrote last year about Friday Cheers that includes an interview with Venture Richmond Festival Manager Stephen Lecky.

 

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2016 in Review: Top 10 Albums

Last 2016 in Review post — I promise. That said, I lied about the “Top 10” part. I’ve included the rest of my top 25 at the bottom, as well as some albums that I couldn’t resist mentioning, because they’re also amazing.

Without further ado…

1. Lucy Dacus — No Burden

Lucy Dacus

Earlier in December, in a New Yorker piece about her favorite songs of 2016, Amanda Petrusich wrote something that helped me name the reason I so badly wanted to place Lucy Dacus’ No Burden at the top of this list:

Whole musical worlds were invented this year, and, perhaps most notable, listeners seemed better equipped than ever to accept and navigate them. I sensed both a collective ache for progressive work and a willingness to metabolize it.

Between the in-town excitement that accompanied the February release of No Burden, the wave of national acclaim that rushed in, the consistently excellent shows she played all over town, and the poised atmosphere she commanded at each of those performances, Dacus really did establish her own new world here in Richmond. It never ceases to amaze me how truly talented musicians can create something out of nothing but their own experiences and insights. It feels like an exception to the rule in physics that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

The second part of the Petrusich quote above also resonated — the idea that audiences are looking for something progressive. Something that will move us forward. I sense that in Dacus’ music in large part because meaningful change hinges on truth, and her writing displays an honesty that’s both outwardly and inwardly directed. It’s why she was such a joy to interview, and it’s why her lyrics have so much substance. Would this country still be in the mess it’s in if people took a hard, unflinching look at their own motivations? Probably, but the mess might not be quite so bad.

In these last days of December, I find it impossible to imagine what this year would have been like — what my world would presently be like — without No Burden in it. For that reason, it’s #1 in my book.

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

2. David Bowie — Blackstar

David Bowie

In a word, transcendent. Blackstar turned out to be RVA Magazine‘s #1 album, and I was given the opportunity to write about it. I tried to put in context why it loomed so large over 2016, and talking about it ended up being strangely therapeutic. Here’s the first bit:

2016 will be remembered as at least these three things: The Year We Hated and Wanted to End Early, The Year Donald Trump Was Elected and Brexit Happened, and The Year All the Famous People Died. David Bowie’s death in January, just days after he released his dark and jazzy masterpiece, Blackstar, cast a pall over months ahead in which we lost one towering cultural figure after another. Like Prince, Bowie dying felt especially cruel, because of the life-affirming, self-empowering spirit he brought to his art. Bowie was evidence that you can take control of your identity and invent yourself in the image of your choosing, and he carried that artistic approach with him from life into death. His last artistic act was nothing short of transcendent.

David Bowie — “Girl Loves Me” [Spotify/iTunes]

3. Frank Ocean — Blonde

frank-ocean

It was an honor to blurb this one as well for RVA Magazinetake a look here. I couldn’t help throwing a little shade at the start:

While plenty of artists in the realms of pop and R&B were out there cultivating a public persona drenched in faux sensitivity, Frank Ocean was quietly at work, making some of the most powerfully vulnerable music I can remember hearing.

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

4. Radiohead — A Moon Shaped Pool

radiohead

Another one I wrote about for RVA Magazine’s year-end bonanza. Such a beautiful album, such heavy subject matter. A Moon Shaped Pool acts as a reminder that lists and rankings pale in comparison to the lived experiences that make music and lyrics possible.

Radiohead — “Burn The Witch” [Spotify/iTunes]

5. Car Seat Headrest — Teens of Denial

car-seat-headrest

To say that Teens of Denial grew on me would be misleading — you usually hear people say that when they were unsure about an album initially but learned to love it. But Teens of Denial did grow in my estimation in the sense that, every time I listened, Will Toledo’s genius would seem more profound. I was one of the people for whom Car Seat Headrest’s newest album acted as an introduction, despite the fact that Toledo’s already released more albums than many artists release in a career and a half. That said, I recently snagged a used copy of 2015’s Teens of Style at Plan 9, and I hear that same undeniable (sorry) gift for fusing melody and energy. I may be late to the party, but it’s great to be here regardless.

Car Seat Headrest — “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” [Spotify/iTunes]

6. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam — I Had a Dream You Were Mine

rostam

This one probably has the highest ratio of number of times I listened to it to number of words I wrote about it. I did write a quickie review of it for the Winter RVA Magazine, and here’s how I closed it:

Hamilton Leithauser’s smoky vocals ascend seemingly without limit; when paired with Rostam Batmanglij’s knack for producing in styles both old and new, that voice — “the same voice I’ve always had” — soars with an inspiring freedom.

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam — “Sick As A Dog” [Spotify/iTunes]

7. Drive-By Truckers — American Band

drive-by-truckers

Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley are in a really interesting position right now. They have roots in a red state but personal politics that lean blue, and because they’ve been consistently making some of the best and sludgiest Southern rock around for decades, they have the ears of fans from all over the political spectrum. In my mind, that’s why this album was and is so important — it represents a bridge spanning the huge chasm that separates America’s populated coasts from its rural center. It’s honest, just as the band is honest at their shows about where they stand when it comes to social justice. (“Black Lives Matter” was prominently displayed in their stage setup when they came to The National in November.) At a time when social media algorithms are making it harder and harder to encounter opinions that conflict with your own, the Truckers make me hopeful. Fingers crossed people are actually listening.

Drive-By Truckers — “Surrender Under Protest” [Spotify/iTunes]

8. Bon Iver — 22, A Million

bon-iver

I thought Bon Iver’s self-titled album would be a tough act to follow — maybe impossible — given that it was the realization of such a big, colorful, well-rounded vision. But 22, A Million is proof that Justin Vernon’s vision is a renewable resource. An unexpected joy this album has brought is seeing who it resonates with — identifying other people who like their musical beauty laced with a healthy dose of obfuscation. It’s like we looked at a Rorschach and all came up with the same answer.

Bon Iver — “22 (OVER S∞∞N) [Bob Moose Extended Cab Version]” [Spotify/iTunes]

9. Paul Simon — Stranger to Stranger

paul-simon

In terms of style, Stranger to Stranger is cut from cloth similar to that of Graceland, Paul Simon’s 30-year-old masterpiece. That said, his new album doesn’t feel retrograde, in part because Simon’s witty, acerbic writing seems sharper than ever. (Who else could turn concert wristband drama into a genuinely enjoyable, insightful song?) A piece of advice: If you missed Simon on this year’s tour — I did :/ — check out his recent Austin City Limits performance. It’s excellent and has probably earned squatter’s rights on my DVR by now.

Paul Simon — “Wristband” [Spotify/iTunes]

10. Angel Olsen — MY WOMAN

angel-olsen

I thought about splitting this year’s lists into weirder categories like “Albums I Was Going To Like No Matter What” (Hiss Golden Messenger, Sturgill Simpson) and “Albums I Know I’m Going to Like Later But Haven’t Spent Enough Time With” (Beyoncé, Solange). MY WOMAN made me want to create a category called “Albums By Artists Who Had A Whole Other Gear We Didn’t Know About.” I thought Angel Olsen had truly found her form with her last album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, but Olsen’s direct, intense writing is just as effective in a setting that calls to mind early rock and roll. This may be my dad’s Memphis roots talking, but I hear a ton of Roy Orbison in MY WOMAN, and “Shut Up Kiss Me” is quite simply one of the strongest songs of the year.

Angel Olsen — “Shut Up Kiss Me” [Spotify/iTunes]

Here’s the rest of the Top 25 I submitted for RVA Magazine

11. Hiss Golden Messenger — Heart Like a Levee
12. Wilco — Schmilco
13. Lambchop — FLOTUS
14. Clair Morgan — New Lions & the Not-Good Night
15. Sturgill Simpson — A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
16. Steve Gunn — Eyes on the Lines
17. Allen Toussaint — American Tunes
18. Dori Freeman — Dori Freeman
19. A Tribe Called Quest — We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
20. The Lumineers — Cleopatra
21. Julian Lage — ARCLIGHT
22. Solange — A Seat at the Table
23. Avers — Omega/Whatever
24. Durand Jones & the Indications — Durand Jones & the Indications
25. The Head and the Heart — Signs of Light

…and here are 15 more albums I loved dearly but am too tired to rank…

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down — A Man Alive
Chance the Rapper — Coloring Book
Cian Nugent — Night Fiction
Daniel Bachman — Daniel Bachman
Kyle Craft — Dolls of Highland
Nels Cline — Lovers
The Avalanches — Wildflowers
Colin Stetson — SORROW
Anna Meredith — Varmints
Carl Broemel — 4th of July
Blood Orange — Freetown Sound
Animal Collective — Painting With
Negative Gemini — Body Work
James Supercave — Better Strange
Andy Shauf — The Party

OK, I swear I’m stopping now. If you’re still reading, you’re a peach. See you in 2017.

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Friday News and Notes

rostam

Just a few quick things this Friday. Hope y’all have an awesome weekend ahead!

  • Be on the lookout for the return of CD Monday next week…
  • Haven’t seen it yet, but NPR has video of The Head and the Heart performing their new album at NYC’s City Winery. Definitely watching that. That album is very, very good.
  • And hot damn, is the Hamilton Leithauser/Rostam album good. “The Bride’s Dad,” y’all. You gotta hear it. NPR is streaming it — click here to listen and click here to sign my petition asking for them to be a band forever and for that band to be called RostHam.
  • Car Seat Headrest was excellent at the National on Monday. Was not expecting a Frank Ocean cover (“Ivy”) but was so excited when he announced it was about to happen that I guiltily videoed the whole thing. Then I listened to it on the way home and felt… OK, still guilty but I’m happy I can revisit it. Here’s a video someone took of him doing the song Asheville.
  • Lumineers tonight at RIR. The same RIR Denny Hamlin kicked ass at last weekend. OK, so it’s technically at an amphitheater near the track, but whatever. Something tells me the smell of victory (burnt rubber, beer, pee) is still floating around that place. Might need to wear some #11 merch tonight to soak the win in fully.
  • If you’re looking to go out Saturday night, there’s Ben Folds at the National and I heard from bass player Ted that Angelica Garcia is playing as part of a trio called Whatever Honey at Poe’s Pub.

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Friday News and Notes

HyperFocal: 0

Late-breaking Friday News and Notes!

  • Happy reissue day to Lucy Dacus, and happy release day to The Head and the Heart! Also to Wilco, though I grabbed a copy of Schmilco at BK Music’s listening party on Tuesday. It’s excellent. It sounded more understated and mellow when I was listening at BK, but listening at home was a whole other story. Very tense, like bottled up emotions slipping out a little at a time, with more fun weirdness and ornamentation than I heard at first.
  • Speaking of BK, while I was there on Tuesday, I flipped through their amazing new bluegrass/country section and found a copy of Tony Rice’s Manzanita. I’ve been looking for his stuff since I learned that the cover of Daniel Bachman’s Miscellaneous Ephemera and Other Bullshit album was an homage to one of Rice’s. Is Manzanita a good Rice starting point? They had a couple of others, but I kept seeing Manzanita described as a landmark/watershed album when I looked it up, so it seemed like a good bet.
  • Enjoying Amanda Shires’ new album — check out the First Listen over at NPR.
  • Another First Listen worth a… listen… Blake Mills produced Dawes’ new album. I’ve only heard a few songs, but they’re wildly interesting so far. Mills is a brilliant dude.
  • Insane run of shows coming up. Car Seat Headrest at the National on Monday, The Lumineers at RIR on Friday, then The Mountain Goats at the National the Monday after. There’s even a Willie Nelson show somewhere in the middle, though that one’s sold out. Someone please hold me to this promise: I will see him next time he comes to town.

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Friday News and Notes

Heart

That’s a heart-shaped leaf I found on the sidewalk, because I love all you weirdos. And these are Friday News and Notes!

  • Congrats to Adam Henceroth — Mr. EggHunt Records himself — on this great Style Weekly profile. EggHunt is on one hell of a winning streak, and the albums they’re putting out are serious points of pride for this city. Adam is also just a very friendly person, so it’s nice seeing him get this kind of recognition. Applause emojis all around.
  • Anyone else think this fairly snazzy new Britney Spears song would sound right at home on The 20/20 Experience? Is that you I hear, Timbaland? And can someone tell me why I have to look up the spelling of Britney Spears’ first name every time I type it?
  • Really wish I would have found out about this Durand Jones & The Indications album before it’s resell price got up to $75…
  • Y’all see that they just pressed John Prine’s In Spite Of Ourselves to vinyl for the first time? Feel very fortunate to have snagged a copy at BK. It’s a fantastic album of duets, and the title song might be my favorite song of his.
  • I’m enjoying the hell out of next week’s Off Your Radar album, Dear Bo Jackson by The Weeks. Not sure what I’m going to say about it, but it’s definitely getting filed under “How on Earth did I miss this?” Southern rocky, soulful, horns, pedal steel — like shooting fish in my musical preferences barrel.
  • Just bought a bunch of concert tickets I’d been meaning to get. Car Seat Headrest and Mountain Goats are coming to the National on consecutive Mondays — that’s going to be a fun week. And Drive-By Truckers just went on sale today, and I grabbed a couple for the Friday show. That Thursday show is pretty tempting as well, though. Hm.
  • Did y’all know that video killed the radio star?

Hope a great weekend awaits each and every one of you, and that random heart-shaped things pop out at you wherever you look.

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Car Seat Headrest

Car Seat Headrest

That’s one of several crappy iPhone photos I took at the Car Seat Headrest show in D.C. last week.

It’s a borderline miracle that I was there. Deciding to go was a last minute thing — I saw they were playing at the Black Cat that morning, and I’d only been listening to his/their stuff for maybe 48 hours. Plus I’d sworn off weeknight shows in D.C. and Charlottesville. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people (with a not-entirely-subconscious “Look how adult I am” tone) that I just can’t make those trips anymore. It’s too hard. I get so tired the next day, and my completist instincts make me want to swear things off entirely to protect myself from the pain of missing out on individual parts of that thing, if that makes any sense.

And here’s the kicker: I was getting sick. I sorta-kinda knew it at the time but was playing the denial game, and I ended up with a fever the next night. But Mrs. YHT was hosting book club that night, so I was going to be out of the house either way, and I just… I had to do it.

Going under masochistic circumstances turned out to be fitting. A few days after the show, I read an interview with Pitchfork that Will Toledo did and saw an applicable quote:

For a long time, concerts were not really my bag, because I thought it was a needlessly painful experience—between the noise of the music and having to just stand there for hours, there wasn’t a lot of enjoyment for me. But I saw Swans a year ago in Seattle, and it really blew me away. I had heard a lot of cautionary bullshit about how loud they are and how it’s the most damaging concert you’ll ever see, so I was a little concerned. But for some reason, the fact that Swans were supposed to be kind of painful actually made it more enjoyable for me.

And man was CSH loud. My friend Coyle and I were standing just a dozen or so feet away from the stage right speakers — a few rows of people behind Bob Boilen, incidentally — and I felt that rush of “Is this safe? Am I in danger?” that instinctively accompanies sensory extremes. It’s been ages since I felt that at a show. (Thanks to my pasty skin, I feel that way every time I go to the beach, but that’s a different conversation.)

But volume wasn’t the whole story. Far from it. The band was excellent, in part because “loud” is only one of the gears they can choose. There were so many changes of pace — quick left turns where distortion abruptly gave way to quiet (and the other way around), nimble lead guitar that was clear as day in spots and blissfully muddy in others, a generous emotional range, from funny to sardonic to downright angry… Toledo is a gifted, restless writer, and the group he’s put together definitely takes advantage of that.

That said, there is a constant, and it’s Toledo. His voice, especially. He conveys a deadpan manner both between songs and during them, and that matter-of-fact tone makes the language in his lyrics absolutely dance in relief. I won’t be the first or last to make this comparison, but the way Toledo emphasizes certain words via long, extended vibrato-less notes reminded me of Bob Dylan, and I ended up thinking a lot about Dylan during the band’s set. Kurt Cobain, too (probably because of the quiet-loud transitions, which Nirvana did so well). Looking back, I’m struck by how Toledo’s words and delivery represent both achievement and promise: The present seems even more impressive because of how bright the future looks for him.

Saying so might make me sound older than I am, but the truth is that I was thinking about my age almost constantly at the show. It wasn’t the crowd — there was a healthy age distribution — it was everything else. It was the fact that I knew I was getting sick but was pretending I wasn’t. It was the fact that I’d told so many people that I don’t go to D.C. shows on weeknights anymore… yet there I was. And I was there listening to guitars that were louder than I’d heard in a long time.

I think a lot about a study I saw (can’t find it at the moment) that showed how people’s taste in music calcifies between 30 and 40. I tend not to worry about that, because I love learning about new bands almost as much as I love listening to the music I already know I love — and I’m fine knowing that the brilliant new musicians I’ll be learning about in the future will, for the most part, be younger than me — but it’s weird to think that the people at the shows I go to will keep getting younger by comparison. Even though the difference wasn’t especially pronounced at the Black Cat, that idea really started to sink in, and I can’t figure out whether that bothers me or not. I’d like to think it won’t, but I’m not sure. Hopefully asking and answering the question now will help in the long run.

A few days after the show, I saw that Car Seat Headrest will be playing in Richmond in September. I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time, because I’m really glad I went to this one. It didn’t make me feel spontaneous, like I thought it might. I guess I ended up feeling like myself, which isn’t a thing that should be taken for granted. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that’s one of art’s highest callings — helping people inch closer to who they really are.

Car Seat Headrest — “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” [Spotify/iTunes]

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