Tag Archives: Off Your Radar

Devon Sproule

Off Your Radar readers might remember I nominated Devon Sproule’s I Love You, Go Easy album for issue #38. There are a bunch of reasons I’m crazy about that album, but here’s one I zoomed in on in my OYR blurb:

Lyrics that are this meticulously constructed shouldn’t flow so naturally, but here, they drift along on the gentle tide of Sproule’s prosaic gift.

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.

If you ask 10 people about how the universe is connected, you’re likely to get 10 fairly different answers, but my answer would probably involve language — maybe not words themselves, but the desire to be understood and to understand. The space between your brain and someone else’s isn’t just space if you’re filling it with communication. It really is a way to make something from nothing. I’m drifting a bit myself here, so I’ll close by saying that for fans of language, Sproule’s writing is a gift, and I’d recommend The Gold String in the strongest terms.

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

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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

devon-sproule

Lots of fun stuff going on this week — including a ticket giveaway below!

  • I picked this past week’s Off Your Radar album — Devin Sproule’s I Love You, Go Easy — and I want to thank the other writers for taking a listen. I’d also like to officially and publicly cop to not knowing that “Runs In The Family” was a Roches cover. Doug Nunnally may never forgive me. Click here to read this week’s issue.
  • Speaking of Doug, I can’t wait to read the RVA Magazine article he wrote about Andrew Cothern and his efforts with Virginia Tourism. Might have to go hunting for a copy after work today.
  • It has begun — the Record Store Day lust started welling up last night when I saw that this collaboration between Light in the Attic Records and the Aquarium Drunkard blog will be released on Black Friday. It collects Lagniappe Sessions — informal covers recorded for the blog — including Matthew E. White covering Randy Newman.
  • I picked up a copy of Nels Cline’s Lovers album last weekend, and it’s an absolute monster. I listened to it around when it came out in the summer of last year, but I guess I wasn’t listening intently enough, because it is so broadly and consistently brilliant.
  • Lucy Dacus did a Take Away Show. Lucy Dacus did a Take Away Show. [tries to catch breath] Lucy Dacus did a Take Away Show.
  • Just got my ticket for Helado Negro’s show at Strange Matter on 11/7 and was surprised to see another band listed as the headliner: Kikagaku Moyo. Checking them out now, both their album from this year — House in the Tall Grass — and this Revolt of the Apes profile.
  • Speaking of tickets, remember how I interviewed Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre? Exciting news — Richmond Navigator is giving away two tickets to tomorrow night’s show at The Tin Pan! Be the first to comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook and they’re yours!

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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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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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Sean Lennon

Off Your Radar

Last bit of catch-up for the week is about Off Your Radar — the weekly newsletter I’ve been writing for.

I haven’t been posting my blurbs because I’m hoping folks will subscribe, but I have to mention what happened last week. We all wrote about Sean Lennon’s Into the Sun album, which I really enjoyed getting to know. I especially enjoyed a jazzy track called “Photosynthesis” and spent all of my 200-some words extolling its virtues:

Forgive me — I have to freak out a minute about “Photosynthesis.” There are lots of jazz elements on Into The Sun, but “Photosynthesis” effectively hijacks the album for six and a half minutes and sends it into orbit. The bass line is just unconscionably, intensely groovy — the kind of pattern that begs to be sampled and repurposed. (Couldn’t find it on WhoSampled, so it’s not too late!) I could totally see it adorning a slow-mo sequence in a Guy Ritchie movie: gangsters in suits dragging some poor, bloodied soul into a room he’ll never again see the outside of. The other place I see it fitting is in a Radiohead song. Like someone gave the sheet music for the B-section of “Paranoid Android” to a jazz ensemble and said “Go nuts.” (Into The Sun was released while OK Computer’s massive wake was still rippling outward, so it’s not that hard to imagine that scenario actually playing out.) Maybe this will be more interesting to me than to anyone else, but it’s odd how, even though Sean Lennon has lived an international life — kindergarten in Tokyo, boarding school in Switzerland, college in New York — this one bass line pushed my mind toward two icons of late 90s British creativity. Is that because his father’s shadow was looming over him then, or because it’s looming over me now? Both, maybe?

What a thrill it was to find out via a really kind Twitter post that Lennon saw the newsletter and enjoyed it:

Sean Lennon tweet

Blew my mind. Cheers to Doug Nunnally for starting this thing — I’m really proud to be a part of it. Even prouder today, actually, because Doug just let us know that the incredibly insightful writer of AnEarful is joining up! Welcome, Jeremy — can’t wait to hear your thoughts each week!

Here’s that Sean Lennon track I loved so much:

Sean Lennon — “Photosynthesis” [YouTube]

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Off Your Radar

Off Your Radar

Psyched to tell y’all about a new writing project I’m contributing to called Off Your Radar. It’s an email newsletter about albums that might not have gotten the recognition they deserved, and it’s got a neat format: A bunch of writers giving their thoughts on a single album each week, so you really get to dig into it. The first edition just came out yesterday, and it focused on The Noyelle Beat by Standard Fare.

Here’s what I had to say:

Keeping a diary is an exercise in keeping track of the trees, not necessarily the forest. You chronicle the ups and downs, with as little varnish as possible, and usually it’s a solitary affair. But when I listen to Standard Fare’s The Noyelle Beat album, I hear a shared diary. Moments and emotions are crystallized–longing (“I know it’s hard being apart”), fights (“I know I made a fool of you”), regrets (“I’m wishing I was him now”)–with lots of “you,” like a detailed, itemized accounting being done on two accounts at once. Two voices. Little studio polish. Honest vocals without the comfort of reverb. Clear and present drums. It reminds me of how this kind of record-keeping isn’t just useful for looking back or determining trends–it’s a healthy part of a thoughtful person’s daily routine. Reflection. Processing. But there are also the moments that zoom out, where you see the whole forest. Like on “Married,” where Emma Kupa sings “I always said that it was you I’d marry,” or on “Dancing,” where she sings “There’s always gonna come a time when we don’t know the answers / always gonna come a time when we should just go dancing.” I love that.

14 other writers gave their impressions, and Emma Kupa actually saw it and responded on Twitter, which is fun.

Click here to subscribe. Then click there again to subscribe someone you know. I think you (and they) will really enjoy it. Having an album to obsess over is a way better reason to look forward to the start of each week than Monday itself, am I right? Many thanks to Doug Nunnally for including me in the project — such a thoughtful, talented bunch he’s assembled, and it’s a thrill to be part of it.

Here’s the song off The Noyelle Beat that I grew to love most.

Standard Fare — “Married” [Spotify/iTunes]

 

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