CD Monday

RVA Playlist

A very special CD Monday today, y’all. The RVA Playlist 5th Anniversary party is this Thursday at the Broadberry, and I’m very sad to be missing it due to out-of-town-ness. But Andrew was kind enough to give me an advance copy of this incredible compilation he’s assembled in partnership with Triple Stamp Press. It’s a thoughtful and immaculately assembled representation of the music community RVA Playlist has done so much to support. From the track list to the materials used, it really is stunning.

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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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In my book, the very best way to listen to an album for the first time is to load the thing up on the ol’ iPod Nano and go for a run that’s as least as long as the album’s (no pun intended, I swear) running time. My mind is clear, my attention span is uncharacteristically long, endorphins are flowing, I can crank the thing up as loud as my eardrums will let me… it doesn’t get much better on planet Earth, as far as I’m concerned. I had one of these perfect runs a couple weeks ago while giving Goldrush’s debut full-length Greatest Hits a first listen.

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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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Promo photo

There’s being excited, there’s being really excited, and then there’s being so excited you pre-order a record the moment you can find someone who will take your money for it. That’s exactly what I did when I found out that Goldrush had recorded a 3-song single for Making Moves, a series of 7-inch records released by Drexel University’s Mad Dragon Records and curated by Motion City Soundtrack. With the release date set for August 28 and a record release show taking place shortly thereafter on September 2 at The Camel in Richmond, violinist Treesa Gold and frontman Prabir Mehta were kind enough to answer a few questions via email about recording the 7-inch, SXSW, and more.

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I (|>) RVA Music

How’s that for some quality punctuation manipulation in the title? OK, OK, I admit it’s a sorry excuse for a play button. And that it looks more like a sideways Andy Capp, purveyor of the finest vending machine hot fries in all the land. My homemade “rock on” hand, however, is no joke…


Awwwww yeah! Soooooo… what we were talking about? Right! Tonight’s “I Play RVA Music” fundraiser! This is quite the action-packed Friday, with the Lumineers/Brandi Carlile Groovin’ in the Garden show I mentioned recently and the last installment of Friday Cheers, but I’d urge anyone and everyone to head to Gallery 5 at some point this evening for their summer fundraiser, which starts at 8pm.

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We Don't Have To Worry

The word “timbre” has been rattling around my brain for the past week or so. Z’that ever happen to you? Songs getting stuck up there is more common, but single words get lodged from time to time, bubbling to the surface at seemingly random and uncomfortably frequent moments. I can source the start of this particular affliction to the fact that I’m making my way through This Is Your Brain on Music, by psychologist Daniel J. Levitin. The book starts by defining some familiar terms — “sound,” “melody” and “scale,” to name a few — and my reactions have ranged from “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought that meant” to “Whoa. I’ve been using that word inappropriately for years.” Timbre fell somewhere in between.

I had a vague understanding of what it meant, one that’s suffered because it seems to be one of the harder musical concepts to explain, but Levitin’s definition is as clear as it gets: “Timbre (rhymes with amber) distinguishes one instrument from another when both are playing the same written note.” Our brains decode the distinctive frequencies that different instruments produce, so we can tell a guitar from a piano, a saxophone from a flute, etc. Some like to call it sound’s “tonal color.” It’s one reason rock music and classical sound vastly dissimilar, especially when the two are juxtaposed. It’s also the reason Goldrush’s We Don’t Have To Worry EP is one of the most intriguing recordings I’ve heard in a while.

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RVA Hot Sauce

I’ve mentioned this before, but when I started writing You Hear That, I had no idea how much amazing music is being made right here in Richmond, VA. During the course of the past year, I’ve been completely blown away by RVA’s homegrown tunes, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to blogs like Richmond Playlist and Sounds of RVA for pointing me in all the right directions. And as inspired as I’ve been by outstanding groups like White Laces, Black Girls, Goldrush and The Trillions, there’s so much more to discover — especially when it comes to RVA hip hop. The Cheats Movement blog, which is a tremendous source for information about local rap artists (not to mention a seemingly bottomless well of positivity and enthusiasm), has helped me take a big step in that direction by posting the video above, which is the first in the series of clips that will document an event that took place on October 21, 2011 called RVA Hot Sauce. Much like the graffiti photos that got me hooked on Marc Cheatham’s blog several months ago, this video is a wake-up call as to the staggering amount of creativity flowing through this city, and I can’t wait to see the additional installments and hear more from performers like Black Liquid. Watch him and several other talented RVA folks in action in the video above (seeing Brian McDaniel from Dirty Richmond freestyle is particularly awesome), listen below to an older Black Liquid tune called “Life,” and keep an eye out for more RVA Hot Sauce videos down the road.

Black Liquid — “Life

The Rosebuds

Loud Planes Fly Low

If you’ve been to a fair number of concerts, you may know this feeling: You’re at a show, you’re having fun, the band is playing great, but you can’t escape the notion that you’re seeing the same performance that the Navy kids in Norfolk saw two nights earlier, which was the same show that plaid-clad Portlanders saw two weeks before that, the guests of Hotel Boulderado two months before that, and so on. Often there’s nothing deficient about these shows, but there’s still an unmistakable and indelible portability to them. If you know this feeling, then I bet you know its polar opposite: The notion that you’re seeing something that cannot be replicated, something that will inspire jealousy in the people who couldn’t make it out that night. Friday at the Camel was one of those nights for me. In fact, the Camel seems to be a magnet for these one-of-a-kind shows. One of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever seen happened there this past April, when Justin Townes Earle put on an emotionally-charged post-rehab performance that was equal parts frightening and brilliant. Though it wasn’t frightening (thankfully), Friday’s Rosebuds show was definitely brilliant, full of moments that stand out in their uniqueness, and I won’t soon forget it. Moments like…

…Landis Wine and Jay Ward of White Laces performing “Calcutta.” Wine and Ward kicked off the show with a special acoustic opening set, and I felt very lucky to be there to see it — not just because it’s fun to see talented musicians showcase their flexibility (Wine embraced the “VH1 Storytellers”-esque vibe, relaying stories about the songs they strummed, and Ward seemed perfectly at ease with a guitar in his normally bass-laden hands, even busting out a mandolin for one song) — but also because we were treated to a harmony-splashed rendition of  “Calcutta,” a track they covered for Love Me When I’m Gone: A Tribute to Ross Harman. It was a touching performance of a painfully beautiful song written by their late friend. You can listen to Harmon’s version here, and you can click here to contribute to a Kickstarter fund that’s raising money to have Harman’s music pressed to vinyl.

…Treesa Gold playing 1,243 notes in the span of 4 seconds (all numbers approximate). I liked Goldrush when I saw them at September’s RVA Music Fest, but I was standing too far away to fully appreciate some of the qualities I saw up close on Friday, like Matt Gold’s booming and brilliantly bowed double bass, Prabir Mehta’s swift guitar playing and pure frontman personality and Treesa Gold’s blindingly fast violin. I mean good lord, there were a lot of notes coming out of that violin. I’m pretty sure I looked like this for a while. The group offers songs that balance that type of complexity with fun and catchy melodies, many of which I could recognize right away from having heard them in September. I highly recommend a trip down YouTube lane to see and hear what I mean.

…someone in the crowd buying the Rosebuds shots. I didn’t know this until singer Ivan Howard mentioned it during their set, but Friday was the very last stop on the Rosebuds’ lengthy American tour. With a rear view mirror full of dates all over the country, some opening for Bon Iver, the Rosebuds seemed to be having a great time, and they sounded outstanding while they were doing it. The band paints such amazing pictures with their recorded music, and I’ve really enjoyed exploring their most recent record, Loud Planes Fly Low, so it was a thrill to see those pictures come to life in such vivid color and texture. There were so many moments to love — a captivating performance of “Cover Ears,” a Camel-wide singalong during “Nice Fox,” and, in what may have been my favorite episode of the evening, a good samaritan buying the band shots (I don’t know for sure what this person bought, but I heard someone say “Goldschläger,” which has to be the most hilarious shot to buy for a band), which they graciously knocked back and chased with a minute-long, improvised, bass-fueled jam. In those moments, the concert wasn’t just a concert — it also felt like the wrap party for a successful theater production, and I’m so glad to have made the trip to the Camel to help them celebrate. Check out the album version of “Cover Ears” below and click here to grab Loud Planes Fly Low on iTunes. Or, if you’re feeling frisky, head to your local record store, where you can buy the album from an actual, living, breathing human being who will be on your side of the Great Human-Robot War of 2034.

The Rosebuds — “Cover Ears