Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Thao Get Down Stay Down

Y’all seen the Kazoo Kid meme? I started seeing gifs and snippets from “You on Kazoo” a couple months ago and decided unequivocally that the Kazoo Kid was awesome. My favorite was (and still is) the “Who are you?” line, which people have used as a reaction to shitty Internet comments. I love it.

A few days after I started seeing all this, I learned via Twitter that the Kazoo Kid is [insert drum roll] my buddy Brett — one of my favorite people in the entire world and a former bandmate (the same group that included Bandmate 4eva Doug). “You on Kazoo” was one of his first acting jobs, and he’s had many since — he’s an extremely talented dude. Incredible voice.

That double verification experience — saying “I like this kid” and then “No, wait — I actually know and like this kid” — it was wild. Like truth itself was confirmed. It was also a little like “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” but the plot of that song makes my skin crawl, so let’s pretend I didn’t mention it.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because the same thing happened with Thao’s new album: I heard it and loved it when NPR did a first First Listen, and then weeks later learned via Instagram that one of my absolute favorite Richmond musicians — the amazingly talented Charlie Glenn of the Trillions and Avers — has guitar and keyboard credits all over A Man Alive. Made me so happy. Double verified: A Man Alive kicks ass. Need triple verification? Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs produced it, and that influence — the focus on rhythm and general sense of mischief — is strongly felt throughout. So damn good.

Check out early favorite “Nobody Dies” below.

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down — “Nobody Dies” [Spotify/iTunes]

Record Store Report: New Orleans

New Orleans

Another new feature for 2016: Going to do a better job of reporting back about the out-of-town record stores I check out. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Davy, this is just an excuse to work record shopping into the trips you and Mrs. YHT take.”

I have only one response to that accusation.

Let’s start in the Big Easy, where Mrs. YHT and I spent three nights two weeks ago. Taking a trip right before Christmas, one of the most stressful times of the year, may seem a little crazy, and it felt a little crazy when we were making final preparations, but it was awesome. Relaxing, even. We went to a Saints game, ate beignets every morning, walked around the French Quarter a bunch — hand-in-hand, booze-in-hand — and we even got to stop in a few record stores.

We hit three, and while one was atrocious (going to let that one go unnamed), two were excellent. They were:

Euclid Records (3301 Chartres St.)

Euclid 3

What a selection. A ton of new vinyl, lots of used to flip through, a generous New Orleans section for tourists like me, and an upstairs jazz collection that I barely even scratched the surface of. I could have spend half a day there. We were there for a solid hour before Mrs. YHT — very reasonably, it should be said — shot off the “Hey, we’ve been here a while…” flare.

Euclid 2

The person at the counter was extremely friendly when chatting with other customers (OK, so I have a habit of eavesdropping while flipping through records), and he was nice enough to give me a media mailer to keep my two acquisitions safe on the flight home. Those acquisitions:

tUnE-yArDs — Nikki Nack (used, $8)


I passed on getting this when tUnE-yArDs came to the National earlier this year, though I did pick up a few other items. One was this “Water Fountain” 45. I love “Water Fountain” (I’ve embedded the Song Exploder episode about it below), and the 45’s B-side is a Nikki Nack supercut, which started out as fun but gradually made me regret not getting the actual album. Very glad to have gotten a second chance at it. While Discogs says the $8 price point is normal for this pressing — translucent red vinyl! — it still felt like a steal.

Song Exploder 38: tUnE-yArDs

Soul Jazz Records — New Orleans Funk, Volume 1 (new, $32)

New Orleans Funk

Had a minor panic attack trying to decide which volume in this series to get, because they all looked excellent. This is the side of funk I enjoy most — the earliest takes on the genre that linger closer to blues and soul. It wasn’t cheap, but the three discs pack in a ton of great stuff. The day after we got back to Richmond, I had this on from about 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. straight, just cycling through the sides and feeling funky as hell. Looking forward to checking out volumes 2 and 3 (3 is actually on Spotify).

The Meters — “Hand Clapping Song” [Spotify/iTunes]

Skully’z Recordz (907 Bourbon St.)

Skullyz 2

Just a block or two away from our hotel in the French Quarter. So often, stores that are close to the main tourist drag are crap, but I loved Skully’z. It’s tiny — you’d probably measure its footprint in square inchage instead of footage — and that’s definitely part of its charm.

Skullyz 1

You have to work together with the other patrons to make the best of the space, and I got this neat, “We’re all on the same team” vibe while I was in there. Way more fun than the “I’m terrified and we need to walk away very quickly” vibe I got when we stopped in front of the LaLaurie House on the way back to our hotel.

Snagged two things:

Professor Longhair —Hadacol Bounce (new, $23)

Professor Longhair

This was part of the store’s New Orleans section, and I was immediately drawn to the cover art. How badass does Professor Longhair look there? I mean c’mon. Baby YHT actually demands to stare at this record, because she loves the photo so much. It’s a German pressing, and as far as I can tell, it’s still not on Discogs, though I do see an Icelandic pressing. The person behind the counter (also very friendly — almost everyone we met in New Orleans was) said it had just come out the week before.

Not sure if this is the exact right version, but here’s “East St Louis Baby,” which is a dead ringer for Longhair classic “Go To The Mardis Gras.”

Professor Longhair — “East St Louis Baby” [YouTube]

The Shouting Matches — Grownass Man (new, $17)

The Shouting Matches

Found this in the very last bin I was going to look through. I love this album, and I’d been keeping an eye out for it — with no luck — since it came out in 2013. Which is funny, because the person I talked to (Skully himself?) said they’d done really well with it and sold a bunch when it first came out. Seems strangely appropriate that I found it in New Orleans. There’s a bluesy looseness to Grownass Man that reminds me of the atmosphere there. Maybe I’m manufacturing a connection. Either way, it was on my Phil Cook appreciation bucket list, and it may have been the find of the trip. That or Le Big Mac at Cochon Butcher. Holy crap, y’all. Life changing.

The Shouting Matches — “Avery Hill” [Spotify/iTunes]

Delicate Steve

Positive Force

I love me some good marketing. I loved the promotion for Delicate Steve’s last album (which involved a hilariously fictional press release from the desk of Chuck Klosterman), and I love the way Steve Marion introduced the world to the songs that make up his upcoming release, Positive Force. On June 26, he had a committee of 11 musician friends (musiciends?) tweet links to individual tracks from the new album that had been uploaded to YouTube. Through this “Positive Force Friendship Stream,” each song got its own “premiere,” with YHT-beloved groups like Yeasayer, Ra Ra Riot, Yellow OstrichtUnE-yArDs, and Akron/Family joining in on the fun.

Continue reading



Concert Catch-Up Week, Day 5: tUnE-yArDs
(click here if you missed Day 1: Todd Sniderhere if you missed Day 2: Justin Townes Earle, here if you missed Day 3: Radiohead, and here if you missed Day 4: Mariachi El Bronx)

I hate it when famous people I like don’t get along.

The subject of music feuds came up a few hours before my friend Coyle and I saw Radiohead in Washington D.C. And before you ask, no, the music feud I’m talking about isn’t the one about us buying the same M. Ward shirt, though I am wearing it as I type this — hear that Coyle?!? No, the subject came up because our pre-show listening regimen leaned heavily on Arctic Monkeys, to whom Coyle’s been listening quite a bit recently. As we talked about Suck It and See, Arctic Monkeys’ most recent album, it dawned on me that I hadn’t given the band a fair chance over the years, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of something Thom Yorke said a little while back. Of AM and their rapid rise to fame, Yorke was quoted in 2006 as saying:

“The fact that poor Arctic Monkeys are getting so much attention is purely based on the fact that the mainstream music business is such a bunch of fucking retards as far as I’m concerned.”

Looking back at this incident with the benefits of hindsight and Google, it seems totally unfair (and dumb) for me to have let a single utterance, especially a flippant one that was mainly directed at the mainstream music industry, steer me away from a group I’d been starting to enjoy. But a half decade of tepid listening, a heavy Radiohead bias and the fact that AM drummer Matt Helders had fired back a shot about Radiohead being boring all worked together to warp my memory, and I found myself saying to Coyle something like, “I haven’t listened to them much. I think they said something not so nice about Radiohead at one point.” It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I seem to have passively chosen a side in a disagreement that took place 6 years ago between two people I’ve never met, which means that I’m just now finding out how great Suck It and See is. Crazy, right?

Well, the crazy train keeps on rolling, with a stop two days later at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, where I was set to see tUnE-yArDs for the first time.

Continue reading

Mariachi El Bronx

Concert Catch-Up Week, Day 4: Mariachi El Bronx
(click here if you missed Day 1: Todd Snider, here if you missed Day 2: Justin Townes Earle, and here if you missed Day 3: Radiohead)

Consider for a moment the nature of applause. Giving someone “a hand.” Fairly straightforward, right? You applaud someone or something to show approval, with vigor acting as a measure of enthusiasm (excepting of course the legendary slow clap, which dramatically inverts the vigor dynamic and belongs in the nonverbal communication hall of fame, in this humble Rhetoric and Communications minor’s opinion). Cultures all around the world do it. You can golf clap, fast clap, clap seriously, clap sarcastically, clap enthusiastically, clap dispassionately, clap at completely inappropriate times… the variations are many; but one thing unites all of these types of applause: they’re externally directed. A tool for communicating outwardly. Which is why there’s something just a little bit weird about theater audiences clapping after movies (it’s not like the director can hear it), and why there’s something more than a little bit awesome about Mariachi El Bronx’s set opening up for tUnE-yArDs at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville on June 5. I’ll never forget how Mariachi El Bronx rescued me from a pit of despair… with my own applause.

Continue reading

YHT Top 10 Albums of 2011, Part 1

Aren’t top 10 music lists funny? They’re arbitrary, for one thing. Unless you’re quantitatively ranking performances (American Idol and X-Factor, I’m not going to call on you so please put your hands down), the order of your top 10 is usually based on gut feelings and random associations. Plus, they’re a dime a dozen — any yahoo, including this one, that listened to at least 10 albums in a calendar year can make one. Yet for some reason, people love to create them and debate them… and then debate them some more. And as annoying as it is to see people arguing about top 10 lists on the internet, therein lies their beauty. There may be no clearer testament to the fact that every human being experiences music differently, and that’s a good thing. Lists like these are a great way to discover bands that other people are crazy about that you might not even know existed. And someone’s conviction about an album you dismissed out of hand may finally convince you to give it a shot. I hope this list does one of those things for you, and if not, feel free join the ranks of these people and lash out about what’s ranked too high or how Bon Iver sucks.

10. Battles — Gloss DropGloss Drop

[Cue Most Interesting Man in the World music] I don’t always listen to math-rocky type stuff. But when I do… I listen to Battles. Their previous album Mirrored drew me in, even though proggy math rock isn’t really my thang, and Gloss Drop picked up right where its predecessor left off. Given that they lost a key band member in between that album and this one, I was impressed right away by how the group’s sense of intensity and adventure had endured, and had maybe even grown. “Ice Cream” became one of my favorite upbeat songs of the year, and I still can’t get enough of it. Listen below, read more about Battles here, here and here, and buy here.

Battles — “Ice Cream

9. Youth Lagoon — The Year of HibernationThe Year of Hibernation

Trevor Powers seemed to come out of nowhere, garnering lots of attention all at once thanks to a May Pitchfork article that linked to a few self-released songs, including the wonderfully haunting “July.” But his instant notoriety was no fluke, as his debut full-length The Year of Hibernation illustrates so convincingly. Powers is just 22, but his old-soul dexterity with themes of nostalgia and the fragility of youth is remarkable, and his album leaves you with the odd sensation that he’s older than he really is. Kind of like how it’s easy to forget that the basketball players you bet on each March in your office pool are really 18-year-olds who only recently learned how to drive. Now if only they’d learn how to hit their goddamn free throws. Listen to “July” below, read more here and here, and buy here.

Youth Lagoon — “July

8. tUnE-yArDs — w h o k i l lw h o k i l l

w h o k i l l is one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard in a long time, absolutely bursting at the seams with creativity. Merrill Garbus is one of those rare artists who is capable of committing great leaps of the imagination to tape without drifting off into the obscure or unlistenable. Watching her loop-happy live performances online is a special treat, as her execution is flawless despite the fact that she employs so many off-kilter, rhythmically complex and densely layered elements. My favorite of these videos came in August, when she played “Gangsta” on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon with members of the Roots. I’d give you a link, but none of the embedded videos are currently working because NBC is comprised of a-holes who don’t understand the internet. Listen to the studio version of “Gangsta” below, read more here, and buy here.

tUnE-yArDs –“Gangsta

7. Delicate Steve — Wondervisions

Delicate Steve was the source of equal parts laughter, enjoyment and regret during the course of 2011. Laughter because of Chuck Klosterman’s hilarious fake press release; enjoyment because his album Wondervisions is a twisting, turning and totally addictive monument to the endless possibilities of melody; and regret because I wish so badly I could have seen him perform on the tour he did with Ra Ra Riot, as my mother- and father-in-law did in Harrisburg, PA at Appalachian Brewing Company. Hearing my father-in-law talk about how much he enjoyed seeing Delicate Steve helped the bitterness pass though, as it filled me with excitement for whenever I finally make it to one of his shows. Listen to his song “Butterfly” below, read more here, and buy here.

Delicate Steve — “Butterfly

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr — It’s A Corporate World It's A Corporate World

I wrote about Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr incessantly this past year (please don’t do a search for the band’s name in the search bar to the right, my obsession is slightly embarrassing), and much of that writing was about the Detroit duo’s clever marketing and knack for PR. But when you look past their masterfully constructed image, you find sturdy electro-pop tunes that exhibit real heart and soul, as well as a clear gift for arrangement and instrumentation. It’s A Corporate World is an excellent listen from its first notes to its last, and I felt extremely lucky to have seen the album come alive in September at the Southern in Charlottesville, VA (complete with black lights and matching Tigers jackets, of course). Listen to their song “Nothing But Our Love” below, read more here, here and here, and buy here.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr — “Nothing But Our Love

Check back tomorrow for Part 2!