Top 10 RVA Albums of 2014

Bob's Burgers

A few days ago, I saw yet another malcontented article about how 2014 wasn’t a great year for music, and how there were “good” albums but no “great” albums. I can’t remember where I saw it, and I’m not going to bother trying to find a link, because it’s crap. I’ll give you three reasons why:

  • One person’s good is another person’s great.
  • The way an album is perceived can and will change over time, so good now can be great later.
  • This was a great year for Richmond music.

That last one warrants its own list, so here are 10 reasons we should join Tina Belcher in raising a glass and toasting RVA music’s 2014. Consider it an alphabetically ordered top 10 that doubles as a drinking game.

Avers — Empty Light


Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because Avers shows how, in a tightly knit community full of talented people, the lineup possibilities are endless and endlessly rewarding.

Avers — “The Only One” [Spotify/iTunes]

Black Girls — Claire Sinclaire

Claire Sinclaire

Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because the snuff rock sound took a giant leap in terms of realization and articulation.

Black Girls — “Buyin’ Time” [Spotify/iTunes]

Butcher Brown — All Purpose Music

Butcher Brown

Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because truly groovy music — songs that find a pocket, set up shop and explore all the space it has to offer — can be enjoyed over and over, and in any situation.

Butcher Brown (ft. Nicholas Payton) — “Jellowstone Room” [Spotify/iTunes]

Dead Fame — Vicious Design EP

Dead Fame

Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because you don’t have to choose between intensity and danceability.

Dead Fame — “Joan Crawford” [Spotify/iTunes]

Everyone Dies in the End — All Things Lead to This

Everyone Dies in the End

Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because the cycle of creation and destruction is a powerful thing to witness.

Everyone Dies in the End — “We Bears Are A Proud Race” [Spotify/iTunes]

Lightfields — Junior


Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because the chorus of “Junior” feels like an invitation — the kind of singalong that makes you feel like a part of something.

Lightfields — “Junior” [Spotify/iTunes]

Sleepwalkers — Greenwood Shade


Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because every track being dynamite and not being able to pick a favorite is a wonderful problem to have.

Sleepwalkers — “Breaking My Heart” [Spotify/iTunes]

Sundials — Kick EP


Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because Sundials’ Kick EP packed a full-length album’s punch into six tightly crafted songs that can be enjoyed over and over without losing an ounce of their emotional impact.

Sundials — “Gained A Grip” [Spotify/iTunes]

Trio of Justice — Pookie’s March

Trio of Justice

Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because the roomy, thoughtful mastery of Pookie’s March tells us that Jellowstone’s success will be varied and fun to follow.

Trio of Justice — “Motherland” [Spotify/iTunes]

White Laces — Trance

White Laces

Reason We Should Raise Our Glasses: Because the word is getting out about White Laces, so Richmonders and non-Richmonders alike can cozy up to the many-splendored warmth of TRANCE.

White Laces — “Nothing Clicks” [Soundcloud]

RVA Playlist

RVA Playlist Dead Fame

A guest post I penned about Dead Fame’s new Vicious Design EP just went up over at RVA Playlist. I hope y’all will take a few minutes and check it out. RVA Playlist does so much for Richmond’s music scene, and it’s an honor to have my words featured on Andrew’s site (especially when those words are about a band that’s as exciting as Dead Fame).

Click here to take a look.

Dead Fame — “Joan Crawford” [Spotify/iTunes]

The Lagomorph

Lagomorph 2013

Yesterday morning, the latest edition of The Lagomorph went live, and I’m thrilled to have been included again this year. In case you’re unfamiliar, The Lagomorph is a document of the previous year in music, with retrospective pieces written by some of Richmond’s most talented architectural dance-partiers. I get such a kick out of being listed in the same table of contents as these dedicated writers. It really is an honor.

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Dead Fame

Dead Fame

Do you like Labyrinth?

Of course you like Labyrinth. That was a stupid question. Here’s a better question: Haven’t you always wanted to be, like, in the movie — especially the scene where everyone gets dressed up masquerade-style and a 39-year-old David Bowie seductively serenades and slow dances with a 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly?

Of course you have! Another stupid question. I’m just going to stop asking questions and let you know that your freakiest, Jim Henson-addled dreams are about to come true this weekend — twice.

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The xx


One of synth player Christopher DeNitto’s remarks from the Dead Fame interview I posted on Tuesday was bouncing around my brain later that night during The xx’s concert at The National. When talking about his group’s writing process, DeNitto evoked the saying that “A song is never finished.” Tuesday’s show demonstrated that The xx are a group that understands how true that adage really is.

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Dead Fame

Dead Fame

When it snows here in Richmond, even just an inch or two, things tend to shut down. Stores close early. Employers send workers home. Schools cancel classes before a single snowflake’s hit the ground. It can be a little ridiculous.

But there’s one intrepid organization that doesn’t scare so easily. A quintet that stares down Old Man Winter with ice in its collective veins. I’m talking about post-punk/New Wave-influenced indie rockers Dead Fame, who were kind — and brave — enough to stay late after practice two Thursdays ago, while a particularly wet, slushy snow was falling outside, and chat about their evolving stage setup, pre-Dead Fame musical experiences, favorite albums from 2012, and more.

Despite the inclement weather, this turned out to be the perfect time to catch up with the band. They’re performing at The Renaissance this Friday, February 1, for WRIR’s Party For the Rest of Us 8, and they’ve just released “My Body, My Fool,” which is the first in their new “Mask Singles” series. We kicked off the conversation by talking about the round of Pedro Aida-helmed recordings that gave birth to The Mask Singles.

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5×5, Part 4: RVA Long Plays

5x5, Part 4 - RVA Long Plays

(Click here for Part 1 – Songs, here for Part 2 – Collaborations, and here for Part 3 – Late Breakers.)

When Richmond Playlist posted its Best Richmond Albums of 2012 list last week, two things immediately became clear: Richmond produced a bumper crop of new music in 2012, and I managed to wrap my brain around only a small portion of that output. But instead of blaming myself, as is customary for a person with a guilt complex as highly developed as mine, I’m going to project blame onto the following 5 LPs, which were so damn good I couldn’t stop fawning over them. Here are my favorite full-length albums from Richmond artists this year, along with a bonus list of the EPs that loomed large as well.

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Dead Fame


It’s incredibly satisfying when a band you’re seeing for the first time meets the expectations that took root when you listened to their recordings. You know what’s even better? When those expectations are totally obliterated, the band is even better than you could have hoped, and you walk away feeling like this.

I’d been trying to make it to a Dead Fame show for months, and the big moment finally came last night, when supporters of Richmond Playlist packed the Camel for the blog’s super-fun birthday party (yes there was cake, and it was delicious!). DF took the stage as the second of three bands, installing a snazzy light show that included a roving, green laser that, while the band was working out a few technical difficulties, became the subject of a fantastic English-majors-talking-about-science conversation between my wife and me about how the laser seemed to be moving the smoky air it touched, and whether this was actually possible. Our conclusion? We have no idea what we’re talking about.

Dead Fame’s set got underway a few minutes later and, within the first few moments of “Glass Jacket,” I was floored. Blown away. Gobsmacked.

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