Tag Archives: Lucy Dacus

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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2016 in Review: Stuff I Wrote

river-city-magazine

So I’m going to attempt to end this jerk of a year with five wrap-up posts in five days. Fingers crossed this works. I tend to overwrite these things until they become albatross-y, so I’ll try to keep things snappy, starting with a quick list of links to music writing I did in 2016. Add in weekly contributions to the Off Your Radar newsletter and an August appearance on Sound Gaze and I can definitively say that this is the most blabbing about music I’ve done in a year.

Many thanks — seriously, too many to mention here — to the people I interviewed and the people who made what I wrote sound better and look prettier. Y’all know who you are, and I hope you also know how awesome and appreciated you are. Lots of fun stuff in the works for 2017. Until then…

Featured Off Your Radar weeks:

For Boomer Magazine:

For Richmond Navigator online

For River City Magazine

For RVA Magazine

For West End’s Best

 

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Friday News and Notes

nels-cline

  • First, a quick follow-up to yesterday’s American Tunes post — if you have any songs you’d recommend for the series, please let me know. Would love to get more people involved.
  • I’ve been on a serious Steve Gunn binge. After getting the split Record Store Day 12-inch he released with Angel Olsen, I’ve snagged used copies of two of his older albums, Time Off and Way Out Weather. Deep Groove had both, and after chatting with Chris at the counter about Steve Gunn for a bit (he said this era of Gunn’s career was when his John Fahey and Jimmy Page influences intersected), I decided to keep the pair together.
  • I’m very much digging the new Ryan Adams tune, and I got way too many chuckles out of the “interview” he did with Lil’ Bub. “Do You Still Love Me” has signifiers that date its influences pretty clearly (it’s hard to hear that first big hit without thinking of Survivor), but his use of space on the song is really interesting. It sounds so empty, and given the emotional place he was writing from, there’s a solid form-theme relationship happening there. Really neat, I think.
  • Noam Pikelny — the banjo player from Punch Brothers — has a new album coming out soon, and he’s shared a track called “Waveland” that’s simply amazing. If this is any indication, Universal Favorite could pick up on some of Punch Brothers’ more classical tendencies, which would be very exciting.
  • I was so excited to see Lucy Dacus on Bob Boilen’s top 10 list. She’ll certainly be on mine.
  • Heading to Gallery5 tonight for Nels Cline’s sold out show. Very psyched. I haven’t heard much of his non-Wilco work, and I haven’t done much research on the other two members of this trio, but all that was intentional. I know his jazzier stuff can get way out there, and I’m walking into Gallery5 tonight with no expectations. Blank slate. Let’s get weird. If you’re not headed there, I suggest Strange Matter, where Futurebirds, The Trillions, and Camp Howard will be playing. Great night for music.

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Friday News and Notes

caroline-shaw

A few quick pre-weekend notes:

  • Congrats to Bob Dylan on his Nobel Prize in Literature. It couldn’t have been a more fitting selection — choosing him transcended the honor’s boundaries just as Dylan gave songwriting a transcendent push in the twentieth century. It’s been fun watching tributes roll in, from favorite lyrics to pictures of tattoos of favorite lyrics to evidence of Dylan binge-listening. Inspiring all around.
  • And congrats to the organizers of the Richmond Folk Festival, for putting on another excellent event — this year in the face of shitty weather. I was only able to stop by on Sunday, but I will never forget what I saw: Rahzel doing “If Your Mother Only Knew.” I saw that. In person. It’s still sinking in. I have a crappy video I may upload at some point for the audio’s sake if folks are interested.
  • Last Friday’s Lucy Dacus show was outstanding. This review did a great job of explaining why.
  • New Phil Cook out today! Gorgeous, contemplative stuff.
  • My mom’s been sending me some delightfully out-there music recommendations lately. Here’s one — a movement from Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices. It’s a wild ride. I won’t say another word, because going in cold, without context or expectations, is really, really fun.
  • Another mom recommendation: Sacred Harp singing.
  • Were you lucky enough to get tickets for tonight’s Big Freedia show at Strange Matter before they sold out? I am envious. Post pics and videos plz.

Have a great weekend, y’all. Hope these links make it a little weirder.

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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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Friday News and Notes

HyperFocal: 0

Late-breaking Friday News and Notes!

  • Happy reissue day to Lucy Dacus, and happy release day to The Head and the Heart! Also to Wilco, though I grabbed a copy of Schmilco at BK Music’s listening party on Tuesday. It’s excellent. It sounded more understated and mellow when I was listening at BK, but listening at home was a whole other story. Very tense, like bottled up emotions slipping out a little at a time, with more fun weirdness and ornamentation than I heard at first.
  • Speaking of BK, while I was there on Tuesday, I flipped through their amazing new bluegrass/country section and found a copy of Tony Rice’s Manzanita. I’ve been looking for his stuff since I learned that the cover of Daniel Bachman’s Miscellaneous Ephemera and Other Bullshit album was an homage to one of Rice’s. Is Manzanita a good Rice starting point? They had a couple of others, but I kept seeing Manzanita described as a landmark/watershed album when I looked it up, so it seemed like a good bet.
  • Enjoying Amanda Shires’ new album — check out the First Listen over at NPR.
  • Another First Listen worth a… listen… Blake Mills produced Dawes’ new album. I’ve only heard a few songs, but they’re wildly interesting so far. Mills is a brilliant dude.
  • Insane run of shows coming up. Car Seat Headrest at the National on Monday, The Lumineers at RIR on Friday, then The Mountain Goats at the National the Monday after. There’s even a Willie Nelson show somewhere in the middle, though that one’s sold out. Someone please hold me to this promise: I will see him next time he comes to town.

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Friday News and Notes

Friday Cheers

Lots of fun stuff to check in about:

  • CD Monday update: New Lions & the Not-Good Night is a gift that keeps giving and giving. Even more in love with it than I was before. The band is heading out on tour today — get a taste of what those shows will be like here, and join the band in figuring out what their tour hashtag will be (current frontrunner is #thisisandisnotTOURture2016).
  • One Week One Band did Punch Brothers this week! I  read a fair amount of it, but I’m planning to go back through and make sure I saw everything. Might be my favorite OWOB week since I started following along. Really thorough.
  • Y’all see the Lincoln commercial where Sharon Jones covers “Midnight Rider”? It’s fantastic. You even get a little Matthew McConaughey at the end.
  • It was so rewarding following along on social media as Sleepwalkers played Red Rocks two nights this week. This may be the most excited I’ve been for shows that I wasn’t even going to. The pictures are breathtaking — hit up their Twitter account to check a few out. Prepare for goosebumps.
  • I dunno about you, but I’m fixin’ to hop on that there Bonnaroo live stream a fair amount this weekend. I wrote a thing a while back about about how much I love festival live streams. As a substitute for being able to co-locate and do all of the things at all of the times, they’re pretty snazzy.
  • Another song from the new Avers album hit the interweb! It’s called “Santa Anna” and I’m enjoying it very much. Listen over at USA Today’s FTW site. Speaking of FTW, they came out with a list of the 16 best songs of the first half of 2016 and Clair Morgan’s “Rogue Island” is ranked #5, between Chance the Rapper and ANOHNI. How cool is that?!?
  • No gig tonight, but I feel compelled to share with the world that, at last Friday’s gig, I got to say — all in seriousness — the following sentence into a microphone: “This one’s for the dude in the bouncy castle who requested Skynyrd.”
  • Tonight’s might be the season’s most anticipated Friday Cheers show — Kurt Vile and Richmond’s fast-rising phenom, Lucy Dacus — and I will most assuredly be there. Might even bring my copy of No Burden in hopes that Dacus will sign it. I did just that with my copy of Phil Cook’s Southland Mission album and, while I definitely felt like a nerd doing so, it was well worth it. Also bears mentioning that the National has a crazy run of shows coming up: Death Cab for Cutie tonight, M83 on Sunday, Fitz & the Tantrums on Tuesday, Violent Femmes on Wednesday… not too shabby. And the Broadberry has Lucius on Wednesday. Lots of good stuff to see.

See y’all at Cheers!

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