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]

Friday News and Notes: Holiday Music Edition


In recent years, I’ve made the mistake of waiting until the two or three days leading up to Christmas to start spinning holiday tunes, so I’ve been hitting it hard in the last week or so. John Fahey. John Denver (Toddler YHT’s choice: “I want the mountain one”). The Kingston Trio. Charlie Byrd. Here are a few web-based recommendations:

Too much good stuff, too few Christmases per year, y’all. One more thing: Don’t miss tonight’s No BS! Brass Band show at The Broadberry — it’s three things in one: A canned food drive, a beer release and, well, a No BS! show. Luray opens. Click here for tickets.

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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The Snowy Owls

The Snowy Owls

Thank you, Snowy Owls. I needed this.

Have you ever noticed how summer is filled with false endings? It keeps trying to end before it’s supposed to. Stereogum declared a “song of the summer” just 11 days after the season started. 11 days. What the hell? Can’t we get a little actual summertime to test drive a few? God forbid we agree on an anthem retrospectively. You blink your eyes and peaches are disappearing, Sam Adams Octoberfest is popping up at Kroger and — worst of all — department stores start running back-to-school sale commercials. Those hapless meter maids of advertising. Nothing pissed me off more when I was a kid. They’d always show up when you were trying to wring the last drops of freedom out of summer break, folding a bitter future in with the sweet, fleeting present. Assholes.

In between, annual traditions come and go, making room for the special emptiness that moves in when there are too many days left to start counting down until next time. That feeling washed over me this past Saturday when Mrs. YHT and I started our traffic-doomed drive back from beach week. Those seven days offer a crucial counterbalance to all sorts of weightiness that builds up during the course of the other 358, and leaving the Outer Banks always feels like I’m starting over from scratch, no matter how many long, sunny days are left before fall starts killing all the bugs, green and daylight.

And don’t get me started on turning 30 in less than two weeks.

So. With all that going on, you can imagine my excitement when I came back from vacation to find that The Snowy Owls were about to release something called the Summer EP, which featured songs called “Feels Like Summer,” “What Summer Is For,” “All Summer Long” and “Next Summer.” Now that is what I’m talking about!

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Hoax Hunters/The Snowy Owls

HH:SO cover HQ

(This is the third [and probably final] post-Record Store Day open letter. To read the first, An Open Letter To The People Who Lined Up Outside BK Music On Record Store Dayclick here. To read the second, An Open Letter To The Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr Album That Made Me Bleed On Record Store Day, click here.)

An Open Letter To People Who Don’t Buy Records Regarding The Hoax Hunters/Snowy Owls Split 7-Inch That Was Released On Record Store Day

There’s something I want you to see. I want you to hear it too, but I want you to see it first.

Before we get to that, some quick background information… Record Store Day is an annual event that’s been held on the third Saturday of each April since 2008. Artists help independently owned music stores buoy bottom lines by releasing hundreds of limited-edition titles on vinyl all at once, generating anticipation, long lines and a subsequent buying frenzy that’s as beneficial for these locally owned businesses as it is retrospectively embarrassing for the (usually) mild-mannered folk who get swept up in the excitement and push and shove their way through crowds to grab at treasured items before they sell out. Think of it like a big game of musical chairs for record collectors, one that gives a shot of vitality to an industry that’s still in the process of reinventing itself after being hit hard by the advent of .mp3s, file sharing and iTunes.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Well damn. I like supporting local businesses and all, but I listen to all my music on my iPhone, and I’m pretty sure iPhones don’t play records.” If you said that, you’d be both correct and completely justified. Between iTunes, YouTube and Spotify, you can enjoy a lifetime’s worth of amazing music without ever leaving the warm glow of your favorite Apple device. Listening has never been more convenient, and I count that as a net win for society. But if you’ve completely given up on physical media, you’re missing out. Big time. And I’m not just talking about the free donuts Jay at Deep Groove hands out to the people waiting in line on Record Store Day.

I want to show you exactly what I mean, so I cleared off my coffee table, disassembled the split 7-inch that was released on RSD by Hoax Hunters and The Snowy Owls, and took pictures of each of its components. I want you to see the kind of stuff you’re missing out on by living your musical life solely in the digital realm…

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The Low Branches

The Low Branches

Positive feedback comes in many forms. A thumbs-up. A compliment. A vote of confidence. If you’re a dolphin performing tricks at SeaWorld, it comes in the form of a tasty, frozen fish. Yum!

But in certain situations, the best feedback of all is total silence. The Low Branches’ January 19 album release show at Gallery 5 is a wonderful example.

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The Lagomorph

Lagomorph 2012

I hope everyone had a fun and safe New Year’s Eve, and that being back at work today isn’t the ungodly nightmare it seemed like it would be when it was time to go to bed last night.

We may be done ringing in 2013, but that doesn’t mean we’re done wringing out the best of 2012. Just this morning, the 2012 edition of The Lagomorph went live, and I couldn’t be more excited to have been a part of it. This is the fifth installment of The Lagomorph, which is “a periodic document of musical experiences from the past year” assembled by Matt Klimas of standout Richmond band The Snowy Owls. It features musings, lists and photos from lots of talented folks, and you can check it out by clicking this here link.

Thanks to Matt for including me again and for doing such an awesome job putting it together!

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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The Snowy Owls

Within Yr Reach

So I’ve been excited to hear the new Snowy Owls tunes. How excited, you ask? So excited that, a few months ago, I compiled some of the Twitter-based progress reporting the group posted as they were preparing for the recording process. More details have emerged since, and I’m happy to say that the suspense bubble is set to burst tomorrow, when The Snowy Owls release the Within Yr Reach EP — a beautiful, 8-song, impressionistic portrait that showcases the band’s knack for pairing memorable, guitar-driven melodies with hazy arrangements that set a distinctive and mesmerizing mood. I had the chance to catch up with Owls frontman Matt Klimas via email this weekend, and he answered a few questions about the EP, his favorite pedals, Swedish pop music and more.

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

When I first started writing this here blog, the idea was that each post would highlight a way of finding new music. There are a million-and-a-half avenues for discovering bands these days, and I thought it would helpful to sift through them and talk up the ones I found most fruitful. I still think about that each time I sit down to write a post, but I can’t deny that I’ve slipped in this area. (My self-control in the face of Super Bowl halftime shows and “Gangnam Style” is pretty much non-existent.)

With that shortfall in mind, I’d like to keep up the momentum I generated from yesterday’s posthere’s another link to the fantastic 70 Day Weekend — by dedicating this post to the people who are, without question, the reason I’m enjoying Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s new album so much. In this case, though, it’s not about who recommended Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! Instead, I’d like to talk about the bands that paved the way for my appreciation of an album I might not have given a fair shake a few years ago — bands that have opened my eyes to the glorious, noisy rock being made here in Richmond and elsewhere.

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