Tag Archives: Drive-By Truckers

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

leonard-cohen

Just two quick things:

  • As I write this bullet, it’s Thursday night, Mrs. YHT is sleeping next to me on the couch, and I’m listening to Songs of Love and Hate via headphones. It’s the first time something’s been spinning on the turntable since before the election. RIP Leonard Cohen. I know he said he was ready to die, but emotionally speaking, this is rain falling on saturated soil.
  • Very much looking forward to seeing the Truckers tonight. I admire American Band so profoundly. It’s more than an indictment. It’s that too, but it also points toward some greater level of understanding of this twisted situation we’re in. The Truckers have always treated the people in their songs like people — one reason Isbell’s writing fit so harmoniously in their repertoire — and regardless of how righteous the anger I’ve felt over the past few days may be, I’m going to need that kind of empathy to move forward from this week. We all will. Maybe tonight’s show will provide a head start.

That’s all I got, ya’ll. Have a great weekend. Be nice to people and hug the ones you love extra tight.

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Friday News and Notes

bon-iver

A few news and notes to complement your Friday…

I hope everyone has a fun weekend ahead. The band is recording all day tomorrow at Audio Verite with Pedro Aida. Trying to get three songs done. Fingers crossed…

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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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Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers

My iPhone’s been a real asshole lately. The battery life has tanked. It’s started shutting off unexpectedly in cold weather (“Oh, you’re trying to use Google Maps to navigate an unfamiliar city on foot in a snowstorm? Nap time, bitches!”). Speaking of naps, the sleep/wake button now requires an absurd amount of pressure, like a small and entirely un-fun version of that carnival game where you swing a sledgehammer to see how strong you are. Lately, its favorite trick has been refusing to send text messages or tweets for days at a time. Saturday — the day the Drive-By Truckers played at the National here in Richmond — happened to be one of those days. As a result, all my enthused mid-show exclamations went un-exclaimed.

In truth, it’s probably for the best. Looking back at the notes I took in my jerk phone’s Notes application, as well as the contents of my Twitter client’s drafts folder, I’m not sure my IPA-addled missives would have made much sense. All the same, I’d like to give a few of them a second chance and, since we’ve moved this party to the blogosphere, a little elaboration. We’ll call this Tweets That Never Were: Drive-By Truckers Edition.

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Queen

“Every day becomes better when listening to Queen.”

This quotation was culled from a tweet posted by the esteemed proprietor of Richmond Playlist, and I have to say that truer words were never spoken. When is the last time you heard a Queen song without your mood improving? I mean seriously, whose day was ever ruined by “Don’t Stop Me Now” or “Under Pressure“? And don’t get me started on “Fat Bottomed Girls,” a song that’s so awesome I had a hard time believing it was real the first time I heard it. Well just yesterday, a friend sent me a link to videographic evidence that conclusively proves this assertion beyond a shadow of a doubt. In the above clip, a drunk Canadian man sits in the back of a Royal Mounted Canadian Police car, having been arrested for, well, being drunk. But does he take that shit lying down? Hell no. He dusts off his vocal chords and performs “Bohemian Rhapsody” IN ITS ENTIRETY. Take that Mounties! This brave performer (who looks like the illegitimate love-child of Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers) clearly comes out the better man in this scenario and most certainly has some serious Internet stardom coming his way. The moral of the story? Queen makes everything better. So try not to get arrested this weekend, but if you do end up in the back of a cop car, you know what to do.

Queen — “Bohemian Rhapsody

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Jason Isbell

Here We Rest

Your favorite band is playing in town, but the show is completely sold out. Fortunately, a local radio station is giving away a pair of tickets. You time your phone call just right. You dial the number… busy signal. Shit! You hurriedly dial again… Holy crap, it’s ringing… “Congratulations! You’re our ninth caller and you’re going to see [insert favorite band name here]!”

Sound familiar?

Before last week, I had never won tickets to anything. Like, ever. And even though the scenario I described above may be a little old-fashioned, winning tickets remains one of those those cliched musical experiences (like meeting an idol or catching a projectile guitar pick at the end of an encore) that everyone should have at least once, despite the fact that the interweb has dramatically changed the way ticket giveaways are conducted.

I have Charlottesville’s Starr Hill Brewery and [gulp] Facebook to thank for my very first clichéd, fist-pumping, ticket-winning moment. Last Wednesday, Starr Hill posted a video to Facebook of a mystery substance being pumped into a huge mixing tank alongside the promise that “If you can guess what style of beer it’s going to be, you could WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS to see Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit at The Jefferson Theater this Friday night!” Finally — an opportunity to combine my [cracks knuckles confidently] formidable familiarity with beer and my love of concert-going in a way that doesn’t involve fighting through a crowd to pee halfway through a headliner’s set! Alright! Two guesses later — “Wheat beer” was wrong; “Belgian IPA” was right — I earned two spots at Friday’s Isbell show, which proved to be nothing short of amazing.

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