Tag Archives: Landlady

2017 in Review: 25 Favorites

Last list, I promise. I limited this post to 25 albums, which is totally arbitrary, but I had to wave the white flag at some point. I always start writing these year-in-review posts with high hopes of streamlining the process in an effort to siphon as little time as possible from holiday celebrating with family, but something in me can’t help getting absorbed then overwhelmed. It’s a moth-to-the-flame thing. Odds are good it has something to do with mortality/the passage of time/wanting to hold onto and contain experiences so they — and by extension, I — don’t quietly disappear into a scary, nebulous past… but you didn’t come here for existential hand-wringing, did you? Oh, you did? Great! Let’s be sure to catch up after about physical media as an ineffectual bulwark against death!

A few notes before we get started:

  • I made some additions to the previous lists — Steve Gunn’s tour-only Dusted album was added to the list of live jams, and Elkhorn’s Black River album was added to the Americana list. I snagged both at Steady Sounds with Christmas money and it’s still 2017, so…
  • This is just the non-live, non-reissue, non-Americana, non-RVA top 25. Doing a ranked top 25 this year would have been really tough. I held on especially tightly to the music I loved this year. Maybe because I needed the distraction. Maybe because new music was just really good this year. It’s probably a little of column A, a little of column B.
  • Like the other lists, this one is ordered alphabetically.
  • I kinda regret not doing a list of EPs. Ian Chang’s Spiritual Leader EP was awesome, as was Delicate Steve’s Cowboy Stories. There’s also Kamasi Washington’s Harmony of Difference — I’m still getting to know that one, but I’m fairly certain it’ll become a favorite, based on what I heard at his show at the National earlier this month.

Enough preambling. Here are the best of the rest:

Ryan Adams — Prisoner

I didn’t end up connecting with the self-titled album that came before this one, in part because of the sound palette he was working with — more focused on 1980’s guitar sounds than is usually my cup of tea. Prisoner draws from the same well, but he seems more present in this one. And “Do You Still Love Me?” is a truly dynamite opening track. I was hoping he’d open his March show at The National with it, and he delivered. Love when bands do that.

Ryan Adams — “Do You Still Love Me?” [Spotify/iTunes]

(Sandy) Alex G — Rocket

I went a little nuts over this one. Step 1 was hearing the album and digging it. Step 2 was finding out that he played on Frank Ocean’s Blonde album. Step 3 was feeling crushed when I saw that a first pressing of the album had sold out via his Bandcamp page. Steps 4-18 involved various internal arguments about whether to order the first pressing from an online reseller — something I hate doing. I eventually caved. Not sorry one bit. It’s about as varied an album as I can remember spending time with this year — so many different flashes of brilliance.

(Sandy) Alex G — “Powerful Man” [Spotify/iTunes]

Dan Auerbach — Waiting on a Song

Did you know that John Prine has a writing credit on the title track? Or that Prine is pictured on the back cover? These are things I didn’t learn until I snagged a vinyl copy of Waiting on a Song the night Auerbach opened for Prine at The Altria Theater here in Richmond. What a show that was. That’s when this album went from something I enjoyed to something I really loved.

Dan Auerbach — “Waiting On A Song” [Spotify/iTunes]

Bedouine — Bedouine

There’s a quiet strength that runs through this whole album. It feels elemental. Inextricable. The Spacebomb flourishes are welcome and wonderful, but that strength never strays from center stage, making for an exceptionally compelling listen.

Bedouine — “One Of These Days” [Spotify/iTunes]

Father John Misty — Pure Comedy

I believe Pure Comedy was recorded before the last presidential election, and politics aren’t the focal point here, but I’ve found it to be of great comfort these days. Sometimes you need someone to point out life’s absurdities so you can maintain a little distance. As lyrically dense as these songs are, the net effect — for me at least — is like taking a breath of fresh air, or like hitting a reset button.

Father John Misty — “Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution” [Spotify/iTunes]

Fleet Foxes — Crack-Up

Speaking of dense… I’m not sure I’ve really cracked the surface of Crack-Up. Listening to the episode of Song Exploder about “Mearcstapa” was startling, in that I didn’t realize how much about the album’s sound was flying under my radar. That said, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and I’m wildly curious as to what this album will mean to me in five or 10 years.

Fleet Foxes — “Mearcstapa” [Spotify/iTunes]

Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Luciferian Towers

Part of an unholy trinity of excellent albums I’ve been playing loudly when I’m working from home in an empty house. Lots of tension and anger here, but so much light as well. The climaxes of these tunes can feel joyous — the melody at the end of “Undoing a Luciferian Towers” sounds like it could have been lifted from a Christmas carol written a hundred years ago.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor — “Undoing A Luciferian Towers” [Spotify/iTunes]

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard — Murder of the Universe

Another member of the unholy trinity. It occurred to me recently that King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard could be the Russell Westbrook of the musical world. Both band and baller set ridiculously ambitious goals for themselves (five albums in a calendar year for KG&tLZ, a season-long triple-double for RW) and it looks like both will be successful. Just amazing. Of the albums they put out in 2017, Murder of the Universe was my favorite by far. It’s pure fun — fast paced and delightfully creepy. On vomit splatter colored vinyl, no less.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard — “Altered Beast I” [Spotify/iTunes]

Pokey LaFarge — Manic Revelations

Pokey’s sound has grown bigger and bolder, as has the St. Louisan’s writing voice. “Riot In The Streets” speaks to the Ferguson, Missouri protests, concluding:

Our past won’t go away
It haunts us to present day
There’s so much left to learn
As the bullets fly and the buildings burn

Pokey LaFarge — “Riot In The Streets” [Spotify/iTunes]

Kendrick Lamar — DAMN.

I decided not to rank this year’s list, but this probably would have been #1. Lamar is this generation’s lyricist of record, in my opinion. To Pimp a Butterfly may have been more musically immersive, but DAMN. is just as vital to understanding our country and its culture.

Kendrick Lamar — “LUST.” [Spotify/iTunes]

Landlady — The World Is a Loud Place

A few words from my February post about the album:

I had a chance to see and hear a few of these new tunes when the band came to Hardywood in August [2016] — “Driving In California” for sure, and I think “Nina” and “Electric Abdomen” made appearances as well. It’s a fantastic album, every bit as imaginative, tightly executed, and soul replenishing as Upright Behavior. In fact, Landlady has become one of the bands –maybe you have a similar list — whose shows are more like exercises in spiritual fulfillment than just a pairing of people playing music and people watching those people play music.

Landlady — “Nina” [Spotify/iTunes]

Aimee Mann — Mental Illness

A very, very good album that was there for me in a difficult time. Here’s what I said in an April post after typing out the lyrics to the chorus:

What a thing to have sung to you while standing in the backyard of your new home on a windy night, watching clouds zoom past the moon. That place she’s describing — the pocket of time before life grabs hold of the course you’ve plotted and adds twists and turns to it — that’s exactly where my family is right now.

Aimee Mann — “Patient Zero” [Spotify/iTunes]

Mdou Moctar — Sousoume Tamachek

From the post I wrote after seeing Moctar perform in October as part of a screening of his Purple Rain remake, Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai:

I also walked away with a vinyl copy of Moctar’s newest LP, Sousoume Tamachek, signed by the three-man band I’d just seen in-person and onscreen. I’ve been spinning it nonstop — it paints a really varied and intimate picture of Moctar’s approach, with a nice mix of acoustic and electric guitar.

I’ve been seeing Sousoume Tamachek in other year-end lists, which makes me happy. Especially after hearing during the screening’s Q&A how tenuous the initial connection between Moctar and Sahel Sounds owner Christopher Kirkley was. A couple of missed phone calls and this album might not have been in my life.

Mdou Moctar — “Sousoume Tamachek” [Bandcamp/Spotify]

Mount Eerie — A Crow Looked at Me

I listened all the way through once, cried at my desk at work, and decided I needed some time before I listened again. I haven’t gone back yet, though I did almost buy a used copy at Reckless Records in Chicago while we were there on a family trip in November. It’s such a powerful album, and I could imagine it being there for me when I need it, but I never want to need it, and just thinking about needing it is terrifying. I have seen people talk about how listening to A Crow Looked at Me has actually been a life-affirming experience, and I get that, since it made me want to reach out to the people I love and let them know how much they mean to me. Still… it’s a little like looking directly into the Sun, emotionally speaking.

Mount Eerie — “Ravens” [Spotify/iTunes]

Mutoid Man — War Moans

This completes the unholy trinity! Come for the masterful riffing, stay for the lyrics about impregnating Satan’s daughter!

Mutoid Man — “Kiss Of Death” [Spotify/iTunes]

The National — Sleep Well Beast

This is the first National album that has grabbed me. Two contributing factors: 1. Reading this Amanda Petrusich piece about it, and 2. Listening for the first time when I was very sad for reasons I’m not sure I want to share here. What I will say is that I found exactly the right kind of musical sadness to soundtrack a moment of real life sadness, and that sense of harmony helped me find peace where I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Sleep Well Beast — “The Day I Die” [Spotify/iTunes]

Orchestra Baobab — Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng

One of my favorite assignments this year was writing about an earlier Orchestra Baobab album for Off Your Radar. I hadn’t spent a ton of time considering why that album — Specialist in All Styles — had wormed its way so deeply into my consciousness, and I came out the other side loving it even more. I’m enjoying this one a great deal, as well. Here’s what I said about it in that Off Your Radar piece:

[Original band member Ndiouga Dieng’s] death prompted the band to reunite and release a new album this year called Tribute To Ndiouga Dieng, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Gone is Barthelemy Attisso’s virtuosic guitar — he’s back in Togo tending to his day job as a lawyer — and in its place you’ll find oodles of kora noodling. While I initially missed that brilliant, nimble guitar work, I’ve come to appreciate deeply how different this new release is. Another masterful move from a band whose musical chessboard spans the globe.

Orchestra Baobab — “Mariama” [Spotify/iTunes]

Rostam — Half Light

I feel like this was one of the year’s most misunderstood albums. While it was reviewed reasonably well, I feel like the reviews I saw missed something crucial about how bold the album is in making his voice the center of attention and using it as a muse for experimentation. This was his big moment to step into the spotlight, and he did so in a way that strikes me as exceptionally brave. It reminds me of a one-word answer he gave in an interview earlier this year when asked what he hopes people will remember him for:

Fearlessness.

Rostam — “Gwan” [Spotify/iTunes]

Skyway Man — Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye

From my May post about the album:

Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye is tailor-made for someone embroiled in exactly [my] obsessions, with the spacey aspects of Cosmic American Music, the voluminousness and spirituality of gospel, Tyler’s exploratory spirit, and references to early 1980’s production that remove songs from the present moment, like they’re wandering untethered by time. It’s all here, along with the signature Spacebomb sounds that consistently fill my heart with joy.

Skyway Man — “Wires (Donny Angel and the Opening Wide)” [Spotify/iTunes]

Devon Sproule — The Gold String

Another artist I nominated for Off Your Radar consideration. Here’s what I said about The Gold String in May:

I learned just this week that Sproule put out a new album earlier this year called The Gold String, and it’s lovely in all the ways I Love You, Go Easy is, especially when it comes to the way the lyrics flow. In fact, she touches on a similar idea in the title track when she imagines an endless strand that connects everyone and everything. Her description of it is nothing short of elegant, in large part because form and theme are one; she describes this inspiring connectedness using verses that lead into one another and this amazing rolling rhyme scheme that weaves together phrases in ear-pleasing clusters. Her words become the string she’s singing about. It’s really incredible.

Devon Sproule — “The Gold String” [Spotify/iTunes]

St. Vincent — MASSEDUCTION

So my daughter, who is three and half and loves the color pink, keeps choosing this when I tell her to go pick a record from the shelf that has 2017 albums on it. Let’s just say the cover art is quite the conversation starter. Also, “New York” is one of the best songs of the year. Hands down.

St. Vincent — “New York” [Spotify/iTunes]

Moses Sumney — Aromanticism

The only album I could envision ranking above DAMN. It’s a towering achievement, both in terms of vocal performance and emotional articulation. While I didn’t manage to win a Vinyl Me, Please pressing at the Triple Crossing listening party in October, I managed to find a used VMP copy on the trip to Reckless Records I mentioned earlier. I know I put way too much stock in getting this or that pressing and having a physical copy of something that I can listen to online, but I love that Vinyl Me, Please did a pressing. It gave me an opportunity to sit around a table with new and old Sumney fans talking about all the ways in which Aromanticism is incredible.

Moses Sumney — “Lonely World” [Spotify/iTunes]

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau — Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau

From a Friday News and Notes post earlier this year:

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…

No disappointment here. Just an hour and three minutes of next-level interpretation and collaboration. And, yes, it’s the “Scarlet Town” I was hoping for.

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau — “Scarlet Town” [Spotify/iTunes]

Tinariwen — Elwan

This is the year I truly fell in love with Tuareg desert blues. So glad BK Music had a copy of this. I was wearing out Sousoume Tamachek.

Tinariwen — “Sastanàqqàm” [Spotify/iTunes]

The xx — I See You

I liked the first two xx albums, loved Jamie xx’s solo album, and found this to be a great middle ground. It’s funny this comes last alphabetically, because it was the first top-tier album released this year, and it makes me think about how fucking long 2017 has felt. Good lord. Hey 2018, maybe don’t be like that?

The xx — “Say Something Loving” [Spotify/iTunes]

More 2017 in Review:

2017 in Review: Live Albums
2017 in Review: Blasts from the Past
2017 in Review: Americana
2017 in Review: RVA

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Ian Chang

Been gnawing on a bunch of non-bloggy writing, but I thought I’d share one thing I’ve been playing on repeat while I work — “Romeo,” from Ian Chang’s upcoming album, Spiritual Leader.

I’ve gotten to know Chang’s virtuosic drumming via Landlady and Son Lux, and its hard to overstate how captivating he is in the live setting. He’s a show unto himself, which makes a solo album — especially this solo album — a natural fit.

Chang’s using a type of technology that allows him to express a wide range of sounds with his kit — sensory percussion, it’s called. Two things jump out: 1. He really can be a show unto himself this way, and 2. This opens the door to a whole new way of listening — form, tonality, decision-making… you get to think a little differently about all of it given how the music is being created.

And you get to hear Ian Chang play drums, which is always a gift. “Romeo” is below, and the preorder is here.

Ian Chang — “Romeo” [Spotify/Bandcamp]

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Landlady

landlady

Foregoing news and notes because this isn’t just any Friday — today is the day Bandcamp is donating their cut of all sales to the ACLU, which strikes me as a completely kickass move.

My plan is to snag Landlady’s newest album, The World Is a Loud Place. I had a chance to see and hear a few of these new tunes when the band came to Hardywood in August — “Driving In California” for sure, and I think “Nina” and “Electric Abdomen” made appearances as well. It’s a fantastic album, every bit as imaginative, tightly executed, and soul replenishing as Upright Behavior. In fact, Landlady has become one of the bands –maybe you have a similar list — whose shows are more like exercises in spiritual fulfillment than just a pairing of people playing music and people watching those people play music. They’ll be at The Camel on March 6, and I highly recommend grabbing a ticket. If you’re like me, you could use some spiritual fulfillment right now.

In fact, I was having one of those days just yesterday. I bet you know the kind. Checking Twitter every few minutes and bracing yourself for the awful shit it would reveal. Feeling sad/angry/confused about how so much could be allowed to go so wrong so quickly. I’ve had days that weren’t one of those days since January 20, but they’re the exception. Sad/angry/confused has become my new normal, even though I’m committed to the fight to keep intolerance from becoming America’s new normal.

You know who else is? The good people at the ACLU, and seeing that Bandcamp was doing what they’re doing today snapped me out of yesterday’s daze. I couldn’t wait to write this post and chip in.

Here are a few of the RVA bands and labels who are going a step further and pledging their own share of song/album sales to the ACLU:

And then there’s Lightfields, who have been donating their Bandcamp sales to Planned Parenthood for some time now. Richmond is full of amazing people. If you’re a band or label in town and I left you off the list above, please let me know so I can include you, because you’re awesome.

Happy Friday, y’all. Consider this today’s act of resistance. We’re just getting warmed up.

Landlady — “Nina” [Bandcamp]

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Friday News and Notes

Lots to catch up on since my last news and notes post. To be honest, I’m having trouble posting these days because the world seems so grim, but there is still so much good music worth celebrating, and I’m trying to let the light in. Here are a few things that have been shining particularly bright for me lately:

  • This is almost a month late, but I’d recommend Amanda Petrusich’s thoughts on the Mariah Carey NYE debacle. After reading it, my first thought was that it’s a pleasure to read along as Petrusich makes sense of things. It reminds me of one theory about dreams — that they help you process and file away the things that are happening around you. That’s Petrusich’s writing to me.
  • While I’m tempted to say the outfits are the best part of this hour-plus video of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters performing in Germany in 1974, the groove is too damn good. Cheers to Aquarium Drunkard for posting it.
  • I included Spencer Tweedy’s Geezer Love in my best EPs of 2016 post, and just weeks later, his brother Sammy released his own EP, called Canoe Country, comprised of looping synth sounds and guitar. Really neat. Jeff Tweedy has some talented kids.
  • How’s about a recent Daniel Bachman live set recorded in Richmond? While you’re at it, check out the Liza Kate set from that same show that starts with the following joke:
    “What do you do when you see a fireman?
    “Put it out, man.”
  • This Phantogram cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” is precise and wonderful and I don’t know how you repeatedly and consistently arpeggiate guitar chords like this without your name being Jonnie Greenwood.
  • I didn’t go too crazy for Conor Oberst’s Ruminations album, but hot damn am I psyched for this upcoming Salutations album. (This NPR write-up had me at “Guests on Salutations include Gillian Welch…”) I’ve listened to this updated version of “A Little Uncanny” more than a dozen times and counting. Fuck Ronald Reagan. Seriously.
  • So Ryan Adams is coming to The National here in Richmond, and I’ve managed to snag my ticket for the Sunday (3/5) show. Tickets for that one and the next night’s show are on sale now, unless they aren’t because they’ve already sold out. This might be my favorite pairing of artist and venue since Landlady came to Hardywood last year. (Oh yeah, they’re coming to Richmond — to The Camel — on the second night Adams is in town, so I get to see him and them on consecutive nights. Pretty sure I’m going to happy cry at one or both.)

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Friday News and Notes

Lucy Olympics

Happy Olympics, y’all! Can’t believe I didn’t say something last week.

Dunno about you, but I just about cried last night when Simone Manuel got her gold, and while I know what happened in the women’s individual all-around, I’m not going to say anything because Mrs. YHT is trying to achieve the informationally gymnastic feat of not finding out until she has a chance to finish watching. On a slightly less triumphant note, I’m worried about the men’s basketball team. That Australia game was slightly terrifying, even watching via DVR knowing what the outcome would be. Let’s hope they pick it up against Serbia tonight.

A few News and Notes items to keep you company until then:

  • Many thanks to Doug Nunnally for inviting me to my first Shockoe Session. We got to see a jazz group called Doors Wide Open, and I got my first glimpse of In Your Ear studios. Very cool space, very cool monthly event — check out Doug’s description of Doors Wide Open’s performance here. (Hoping to have a post of my own up about it next week.)
  • Cheers to White Laces on the cassette reissue of Sick of Summer! Stream it here and place your preorder here.
  • I know I said it yesterday, but BK’s latest used haul really is worth checking out. Two albums you won’t find there: The Clash’s London Calling and The Postal Service’s Give Up. Grabbed them when I went to pick up Durand Jones’ jam (say that five times fast). Gonna be a fun turntable weekend.
  • Finally watched the Michelle Obama/Missy Elliott episode of Carpool Karaoke. Planning to watch it whenever my faith in humanity needs to be restored, because it’s absolutely beautiful.
  • Hey! It’s my Off Your Radar turn this week! We’re going to be covering Jump, Little Children’s Magazine album, with yours truly kicking things off with the long first blurb. Click here to subscribe if’n you’re interested and haven’t yet.
  • The Big Payback is playing tonight at the Broadberry (read the article I wrote about them here) and Landlady will be at Hardywood on Saturday. Still can’t believe I’m getting to see Landlady there — the combination of one of my favorite bands and one of my favorite places to see music feels fated. Tailor-made. Cozy. It’s even Doug’s Pick of the Week for fellow OYR contributor Drew Necci’s RVA Must-See Shows. And get this — Landlady’s frontman, Adam Schatz, is making a guest appearance on OYR next week! So excited. Hope to see y’all at Hardywood!

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2015! Holy Crap! Part 3: Excellent EPs

Dead Professional — Young Hardware

Dead Professional

I’m either too lazy or scatterbrained to do a post compiling my favorite songs of 2015, but were I more industrious, “You Heard What You Wanted” would definitely be on that list. I called it an “architectural marvel” when I first wrote about it, and I can’t wait to hear what John Harouff builds next.

Dead Professional — “You Heard What You Wanted” [Spotify/iTunes]

Landlady — Heat

Landlady

Landlady is one of my favorite groups making music right now, and they gave us a wonderful EP in June, with covers of Sly Stone and Talking Heads songs and originals that had been shelved for different reasons. Their gift wasn’t just musical — frontman Adam Schatz also gave us (via the liner notes on Bandcamp) a most elegant description of what an EP can achieve. Like everything else Landlady does, those notes and the songs they describe feel a little more thoughtful — elevated, somehow — and I’m left feeling very, very thankful. So thankful, in fact, that I ending up buying a cassette copy of Heat for a coworker whose car has a tape deck. Then I started feeling jealous about not having a tape deck in mine. I have a problem.

Landlady — “I’m Afraid” [Bandcamp]

Natalie Prass — Side by Side

Natalie Prass

I had an A+ freakout trying to order this from Rough Trade when I found out that the UK label had pressed a small number to vinyl. Their checkout system was down, and I think their account registration system was on the fritz, too (this was my first order from the site), so I’m pretty sure I now have accounts via three different email addresses. Whatever — it’ll all be worth it when Side by Side arrives. It’s an excellent companion to Prass’ self-titled debut, giving her voice a chance to breathe via some sparseness and giving us all a chance to enjoy the electricity she creates in the live setting. Fingers crossed that Rough Trade order went through…

Natalie Prass — “REALiTi” (Grimes cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

Mavis Staples — Your Good Fortune

Mavis Staples

From when I first posted about Your Good Fortune:

-New EP from Mavis Staples? Check.
-Savvy electronic production from labelmate Son Little that lays down a haunting and murky atmospheric foundation while threading the reverence+newness needle? Mhmm.
-Two songs written by Son Little? Yup. One by Blind Lemon Jefferson and another by Pops Staples? Yuuuup.
-Perfectly unsettling background vocals (Son Little’s, I think) on “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”? Damn right.
-Worth a listen? You better believe it.

Mavis Staples — “Your Good Fortune” [Spotify/iTunes]

Thundercat — The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam

Thundercat

Have y’all started listening to Song Exploder yet? It’s a great podcast (short episodes — usually in the neighborhood of 15 minutes) in which musicians pull songs apart and piece them back together to share insight on how they were made. (The songs — not the musicians. I think we all know how the musicians were made.) Thundercat did an episode that detailed the production of “Them Changes,” and it changed the way I look at the song. What Stephen Bruner does can sound extremely complex, but when he describes his music, he makes it sound so natural. Off-the-cuff, even. And I loved hearing about how the vocals took shape. Long story short: Listen to Song Exploder, listen to The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam, be happy you did both.

Thundercat — “Them Changes” [Spotify/iTunes]

More retrospective fun!

Part 1: Fav Physical Releases
Part 2: Blasts from the Past

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Landlady

Landlady

On repeat. All day. Can’t wait for tonight’s show at The Camel.

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