Tag Archives: Hiss Golden Messenger

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

A few Friday notes for you — another person who has made it through another week in this weird world in which we find ourselves.

  • Very excited for the Chris Thile/Brad Mehldau album that was just announced. Quick story — when Bob Dylan’s Tempest album was announced and I saw “Scarlet Town” on the track list, I desperately hoped it would be a cover of the Gillian Welch song from The Harrow & The Harvest. It wasn’t. So when I saw that a “Scarlet Town” was on this Thile/Mehldau album, I braced for disappointment… but I needn’t have. Check out their excellent take on the Welch/Rawlings tune above.
  • In other album announcement news, Matthew E. White has a collaborative cover album (with Flo Morrissey) coming out in January called Gentlewoman, Ruby Man. Psyched for that. You can hear their cover of Little Wings’ “Look At That The Light Did Now” here.
  • I haven’t listened to the first Gillian Welch bootlegs album yet, but I’m gonna.
  • I have been working my way through Ennio Morricone’s new collection, Morricone 60, where he revisits some of his classic works. Read this article to learn more about the album and to see what it looks like when zero fucks are given during an interview.
  • File this Amanda Petrusich article about M. C. Taylor under “Two of My Favorite People in One Place.” It’s actually the second time she’s written about Hiss Golden Messenger — I wrote about the first time she wrote about him a little while back. And if you were to write about the time I wrote about the first time Amanda Petrusich wrote about M. C. Taylor, the universe would fold in on itself and 2016 would be over early, which would be delightful.
  • I hadn’t heard of Washington Phillips before Pitchfork wrote about a compilation of his that was recently released, but he sings exactly the kind of gospel that warms my heart, even (or especially) during difficult times. You know, like times when you’re joking about how the destruction of the universe would be delightful.

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Friday News and Notes

moses-sumney

Fancy a few Friday news and notes thingies?

  • Today’s an awesome release day (hello there, Hiss Golden Messenger), but I left two crucial releases off last week’s list: White Laces (wrote about No Floor yesterday) and Moses Sumney. Lordy, is Lamentations good. I pretty sure I remember “Worth It” from when he opened for Sufjan Stevens at the Altria Theater — it went straight on my “That’s My Jam” playlist after I heard this version. “Lonely World” is also outstanding, with an assist from Thundercat. Well worth a listen, if you’re not already a Sumney fan. Or if you are. And since everyone on Earth falls into one of those two categories, there’s no excuse for not listening.
  • Some really great Spacebomb news — their newest roster addition, Georgie, just released a song called “Company Of Thieves” and a corresponding video that looks like it was really fun to make. This is some seriously punchy stuff, both in terms of the strength of her voice and the oomph the horns provide. More plz thx.
  • Next long run I go on I’m listening to the Bruce Fresh Air interview. Can’t wait. Also looking forward to reading his book. There need to be more hours in the day so I can do that like… now.
  • Goodwill scores this week include Wynton Marsalis’ debut album, the soundtrack for The Empire Strikes Back, and two spoken word Star Trek albums, which include three or four narrated episodes each. I’m not all that into Star Trek, but they looked too campy to walk away from.
  • Too much good music this weekend. Lucy Dacus (with My Darling Fury and Spooky Cool) at The National tonight and the Richmond Folk Festival all weekend. Here’s hoping the weather doesn’t act up too much — Stephen Lecky and the whole Folk Fest machine put in so much work each year, and it’s such a gift to the city. Stop by early and often, and be sure to throw a few bucks into an orange donation bucket. You’ll probably get a sticker, and you can wear it like a badge of honor.

I whined a little about the weather earlier, but if you’re in Florida/Georgia/South Carolina and you’re reading this, be safe. Here’s hoping the storm heads east and doesn’t circle back around.

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Sound Gaze

Sound Gaze

Wanted to post quickly about Sound Gaze for two reasons. First, I wanted to thank Doug for having me on this weekend. He’s a class act, and if you’re not a regular listener, I’d highly recommend tuning into WDCE on Saturdays or subscribing to the podcast and catching up throughout the week. (I can confirm that it’s an excellent running podcast.)

Second, I thought I’d offer a few corrections and clarifications from Saturday, because I clearly have the recall of an overwhelmed chipmunk:

  • The new Head and the Heart album, Signs of Light, comes out on September 9.
  • The new Hiss Golden Messenger album, Heart Like a Levee, comes out on October 7.
  • I saw Xenia Rubinos open for Son Lux, not Son Little. In my defense, both shows happened at Strange Matter, and both were completely awesome.
  • That My Morning Jacket album I mentioned (with the amazing deluxe vinyl version) is The Waterfall.
  • Jump, Little Children did, in fact, form in North Carolina, though Wikipedia lists Charleston, South Carolina as their pre-breakup “adopted hometown.”
  • Apologies for smacking my gums before talking. I don’t think I normally do that, which makes it extra weird that I’d repeatedly do it on the radio.
  • Once again, I apologize for abusing the word “incredible,” though, if I were pressed, I’d probably defend any individual use of it.

I talked about having Carl Broemel’s album on hold at BK Music in part because I originally had “In The Dark” in my mix for Saturday but had to make some tough cuts, so I thought I’d share it below. I really, really like this Broemel album. I went straight to BK after the show to grab it and had it spinning just this morning. Well worth a listen, if you haven’t heard it.

Thanks again, Doug, and thanks to everyone who listened.

Carl Broemel — “In The Dark” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Friday News and Notes

Butcher Brown

  • CD Monday update: Didn’t end up listening to Blauklang much this week. Lots of singing on the way to daycare. Toddler YHT damn near did a recital yesterday. The setlist: “Old McDonald” -> “ABCs” -> “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” -> “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” -> “I’m Bringing Home A Baby Bumblebee.” It was [insert fire emoji here].
  • Speaking of fire emojis, congrats to Butcher Brown on the new EP. Love the title — Virginia Noir — and I love how tight they sound. What a machine they are. Fierce and smooth at the same time, somehow.
  • New Hiss Golden Messenger, y’all. 10/7. So damn excited.
  • Also excited for this new Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket) solo album. “In The Dark” has that same breezy, jazzy feel his older solo stuff has. Can’t wait to hear more.
  • I already posted to Instagram about it, but cheers to Steve Gunn and Steady Sounds for the in-store on Tuesday. What a treat that was. Eyes on the Lines is my first experience with his music, and I’m not sure I would have jumped in with both feet if it weren’t for Tuesday’s performance. Just voice and two guitars, but man, was it good. Both instruments totally under control, ebbing and flowing, effects on, effects off, singing, no singing… the whole thing was like a comfortable, confident conversation.
  • Are y’all as bananas for this new Avalanches record as I am? It feels like I’ll be getting to know it — the samples, verses, and interludes — for some time, like a book I know I want to reread while I’m reading it for the first time. So much going on, and so much fun to listen to.
  • No show recommendations this week — heading out of town again next week. But keep an eye out for next week’s recommendations

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Hiss Golden Messenger

ATOZ_12in_TIPON

I’ve had occasion to write this post a number of times, but this Oxford American piece about Hiss Golden Messenger from a couple years back is just such a great example of why I love Amanda Petrusich’s music writing, and I’d like to point out two quick things:

Thing 1: In every AP piece, there are sentences that are put together so perfectly and are so insightful that I stop reading and physically look around to try to figure out what to do next. Do I read it to the person nearest to me? Do I tweet a link to the article and quote that line? Do I take up engraving so I can engrave it on something? Here’s one from the HGM article:

If you think about art long enough—what’s good and why, how it works on you—it becomes clear that every argument for or against a work is predicated on the notion that we’re all capable of saying something true.

The whole article is great, and that section is particularly incisive, but holy crap — that sentence totally stopped me in my tracks, and I decided I had to write a post to finally satisfy this “I have to do something!” impulse that’s hit me so many times before. So here we are.

Thing 2: I savor Petrusich’s music writing like fiction. There’s almost always a moment while reading an article she wrote when I realize that I don’t want it to end, scroll to the bottom to see how much is left, and portion out the rest deliberately, so I won’t accidentally wolf it down too fast. I felt similarly about her Do Not Sell At Any Price book, which I’d recommend buying before you finish reading this post, if you haven’t already.

That’s it. I don’t mean to go on and on, I just (as described above) had to say something. Do yourself a favor and keep an eye out for her articles in The New Yorker and elsewhere. They’re consistently fantastic.

Hiss Golden Messenger — “I’ve Got A Name For The Newborn Child” [Spotify/iTunes]

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