Landlady

Landlady

Landlady broke my Spotify classification system.

I have a bunch of Spotify playlists, but one has become absolutely indispensable since I started adding to it — my hastily named That’s My Jam playlist. It’s where I drag the songs I get most excited about and want to hear over and over (well, the upbeat ones — I have a separate sad sack playlist I’m too embarrassed to share the name of). Sometimes a song jumps out at me and has to go on TMJ right away, other times I’ll decide that I like a new album and will add one of its tracks so I’ll have a lasting tether back to it. “Lasting” is the operative word there, because I would be crushed if I lost this playlist. Whenever I have trouble logging into my Spotify account, a deep-seated, panicky feeling rushes in. (I really need to back up this list somewhere, but you’re talking to the same person who puts off doing laundry until he’s wearing bathing suits for underwear, so who knows when that’ll actually happen.)

I recently started another list called Favorite Whole Albums, for releases that seem are particularly suited for front-to-back listening. Usually they’re cohesive in some meaningful way, like how Beck’s Morning Phase feels like a single idea played out over multiple tracks, or how Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city tells a story that builds from beginning to end, with interludes that need to be played in the correct order.

When I step back and look at those last two paragraphs all typed out, it’s painfully clear how helpless trying to categorize and catalog your listening really is. It’s like trying to bottle up wind with a napkin, or something — just plain insufficient when you zoom out and consider the massive musical universe and all it has to offer. Taxonomy can feel insufficient in micro sense too, as Landlady just taught me.

I listened through their new album Upright Behavior once and immediately added “Maria” to That’s My Jam. I loved the drum break right away – it felt like a pelting… almost like trying to pick out patterns in the rain, but somehow simultaneously more organized and frantic than that. Then I got near the end of the album and put “Washington State Is Important” on TMJ, because it was so epic and detailed and reminded me of the off-kilter, pastoral mood that regularly draws me back to Fleet Foxes’ “Helplessness Blues.” Then I listened through the album again and had to add “The Globe” to TMJ, because it kept getting stuck in my head and had this fantastic juxtaposition between a heavily drummed verse and a thin, delicate chorus. Then I started thinking, “OK this is too many songs from one album for TMJ — just put this thing on Favorite Whole Albums, for crying out loud.” Then I started questioning whether FWA was really meant for albums that are just plain awesome all the way through. Then my ears started to smoke and a paper readout started haltingly emerging from my mouth, reading “DOES NOT COMPUTE.”

Thanks, Landlady. My inner robot has to go in for repairs. I’ll be sending you the bill.

Landlady — “The Globe” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Lightfields

One more Commonwealth of Notions Presents memory from last Friday — Lightfields covering Archers of Loaf’s “Web In Front,” with a vocal assist from festival organizer and Clair Morgan bassist Shannon Cleary.

This was fun.

Archers of Loaf — “Web In Front” [Spotify/iTunes]

Lightfields — “Junior” [Bandcamp]

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Clair Morgan

Clair Morgan

Music is full of little miracles that are easy to overlook. One of the most fundamental is the fractured nature of performing as part of a band.

When you’re at your favorite venue, hearing familiar songs come out of a few, huge speakers, it’s easy to process it all as one thing, and to forget that the parts of that whole are the result of individual human beings putting into motion an unfathomable number of neural pathways and muscle groups in just the right order, at just the right time. It’s what makes being in a band so frustrating and so rewarding. When you get up on stage to perform with other people, you’re on a tightrope together, and the gravitational pull of chaos never abates. The universe does not want to be as ordered as you’re forcing it to be when you play a song.

After spending a few days thinking about why I so enjoyed seeing Clair Morgan at Strange Matter on Friday night, I’ve decided it has something to do with the remarkable way they walked that tightrope, and the daring way the band’s frontman and namesake (“Clair Morgan is and is not a band,” as the t-shirt I bought at the show explains) courts chaos, making the walk all the more thrilling.

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Spoon

Spoon

Y’all see this?

If not, the long and the short of it is that if you agree to buy a vinyl copy of Spoon’s soon-to-be-released (8/5, to be exact) They Want My Soul album from a participating, locally-owned store, you get to take home a 10-inch record with three of the album’s songs on it. They’re calling it Vinyl Gratification. The offer went into effect this Tuesday, and I’m not sure how many each store got, but you can click here to find a participating location — they may still have copies of the above-pictured 10-inch.

I got mine at BK Music on Tuesday, and I was pleased to find that the two They Want My Soul tracks I’d heard and fallen madly for — “The Rent I Pay” and “Do You” — were both on it, but I’m even more pleased by the Vinyl Gratification idea in general. Offering perks for pre-ordering albums isn’t new, but this initiative has a wonderfully collaborative feel to it. Just read the open letter Spoon frontman Britt Daniel wrote to introduce the promotion. There’s a palpable sincerity there, and an understanding that correcting the imbalance that currently exists between the amount of music people consume and the amount of money that music-makers make will involve bringing all the stakeholders together. The fix, as it almost always does, requires us to work together.

The majority of bands obviously can’t afford to offer free 10-inch records when you pre-order their albums (pressing an LP to vinyl is an expensive undertaking to begin with), but part of the reason I love what Spoon’s doing is that the idea has a bit of the same spirit that Jack White’s recent efforts have had. I haven’t said much about Lazaretto — I’m pretty sure it’s falling into the same “I like it so much that I have no desire to write about it” category that Modern Vampires of the City occupied last year — but I will say that the ultra LP created a genuine moment.

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#wrircon4

Commonwealth-of-Notions-2014

Good ideas can’t be contained. They expand to fit people’s appreciation of them, and Shannon Cleary’s notion that Richmond’s music scene deserves a weekend of celebration and acknowledgment is a great example. We’re nearing the fourth edition of the WRIR and the Commonwealth of Notions Presents festival, and Cleary has outdone himself yet again, putting together a winning lineup of bands that will showcase the depth and breadth of Richmond’s musical talent over the course of four gloriously noisy days.

With the start of the festivities set for this Thursday, I asked Cleary a few questions about what goes into planning for the event and how this year’s festivities are shaping up.

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Sleepwalkers

Sleepwalkers

Almost exactly two years ago, when writing about Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, I coined a term (sounds so much better than “made up a word,” doesn’t it?) that I’m still waiting for popular culture to whisk away. It’s confrenzus — the consensus frenzy that results from a book, movie or album that is so clearly worthy of acclaim that everywhere you look, someone is heaping praise on it.

There’s a confrenzus brewing, and it’s about to bubble over at the Broadberry. Tonight is the release show for Greenwood Shade — the new album from Richmond-based band Sleepwalkers — and I can’t resist joining the chorus in saying that tonight’s event (which also features Black Girls and Dead Professional) is well worth your time.

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Todd Herrington

Todd Herrington

You heard me say this less than two months ago, but it bears repeating: I owe a great deal to Todd Herrington. As part of DJ Williams Projekt, he helped open my eyes to the vast array of homegrown musical talent I’d been blind to during my four years as an undergrad at the University of Richmond, and nine years later, I’m still in awe of how transformative those Tuesday nights at Cafe Diem were.

Given that history, and how much enjoyment I’ve gotten from his Things album since it was released last year, getting to interview him moments before he kicked off a Monday evening performance with Mekong Xpress & The Get Fresh Horns was a profoundly rewarding experience. I assembled the highlights of that conversation in an article for West End’s Best magazine, and it just hit the interweb. I sincerely hope you’ll check it out.

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