Happy Halloween!

Sleepwalkers

My October had an auspicious start — on Wednesday the 1st, I got to sit down for an interview with Michael York and Alex De Jong of Sleepwalkers, who made what many (including me) consider one of the best albums released in 2014. I’ll have more to share about that conversation soon (the issue of River City Magazine they’re featured in will be out in early November), but there’s one detail I didn’t get to include in the magazine piece — the band’s love for holidays.

If you dig back into their Bandcamp history, you’ll find original Christmas music released in time for last year’s holiday season, and during our conversation, they mentioned that original Halloween tunes were in the works. As you can see above (and hear below), those have arrived, and they’re dynamite. The Prince-y “Frankenstein” and the Nightmare-Before-Christmas-y “All Hallows’ Eve” succeed for many of the same reasons that Greenwood Shade works so well — the songwriting, the facility with genre, the sense of humor, the execution… it all adds up to a complete listening experience, both fun and profoundly impressive. I can think of no better way to say goodbye to October and hello to Baby YHT’s first Halloween.

Listen to both tracks below and buy ‘em over at Bandcamp. (And click here to get your tickets for their November 8th show at the Broadberry!)

[Editor's note: They're also playing at the Savory Grain's Gatsby-themed Halloween party tonight! Thanks for the heads up, Tejas!]

Sleepwalkers — “Frankenstein” [Bandcamp]

Sleepwalkers — “All Hallows’ Eve” [Bandcamp]

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Moses Sumney

Moses Sumney

Days like yesterday are why I love reading and writing about music. All of this happened within the span of a few hours:

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White Laces

White Laces

This feels like a moment — the kind worth acknowledging and consciously savoring as it goes by.

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Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus

Wanna develop an obsession with death? Create a life.

At some point after my daughter was born — I think a few weeks after — it sunk in that I’d just created something that it’s my duty to ensure outlives me. From a zoomed-out, biological perspective, it’s like “Duh, that’s the point of genes and stuff” but on a personal level, it was a weighty epiphany. I’m not an architect who designs buildings, so I can’t point to some big thing in the physical world that will still be there when I’m gone. You could say (and many have said) that writing is an attempt to create something that endures after death, but if someone were to pull the plug on WordPress/Tumblr’s servers, 98% of everything I’ve written in my life would vanish in an ebbing tide of electricity.

Baby YHT, though — she needs to keep going. Not because I think my genes are superior and the world desperately needs them (my wife’s genes, maybe), but because Mrs. YHT and I brought our daughter into this world, and it’s our job to make sure she lives a long, happy and fulfilling life. When Baby YHT cries, it’s hard not to think “Damn. I did this to you” regardless of what’s upsetting her. It’s a little like that moment in teen movies (I can’t think of an example right now, but I’m sure I’ve seen it) when characters at a sleepover take painstaking steps to summon a ghost, and when the ghost appears, they get this scared and guilty look on their faces that says “Ok, what now?”

My dad didn’t like to talk about death. Even near the end, he had a hard time talking about dying and the necessary arrangements, and he and I never had a final heart-to-heart. That’s partly because I didn’t spend enough time at home when he was sick, and partly because the cancer in his brain affected his ability to speak, but I know from conversations with my mom that he had little interest in talking about what was happening. I can’t blame him — I wasn’t in his shoes and it’s impossible to know how you’ll react to death until you’re staring it in the face — but I’d really like to be different.

Maybe it’s morbid, but I think about death all the time. I live with it. I think about how I can be healthier, so I can see my daughter grow up to be older than I was when my dad died. I think about the family members and friends I love and how much time I’ll have with them. I don’t want death to be the elephant in the room — I want to shrink it by feeding it the attention and respect it deserves so that, eventually, it’ll be just as small and cosmically insignificant as I am. Or, better yet, something I can welcome when the universe decides the time is right.

I think that’s why I’m so excited about this Flying Lotus album.

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William Bell

William Bell

You look tense. How’s your week been? Cray? I feel ya. I think we all just need to relax a little bit.

I’ll tell you how I’m planning to relax tonight… William Bell. The Richmond Folk Festival. Just look at the album cover above — that dude is clearly qualified to help you find a more leisurely mindset.

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brb

Boulder

Thing one: I just landed in Denver, en route to Boulder for a friend’s wedding.
Thing two: Big Head Todd and the Monsters, I just learned, formed at CU-Boulder.
Thing three: Big Head Todd and the Monsters, I just learned, recorded an entire album of Robert Johnson covers with the help of B.B. King and Charlie Musselwhite, among others.

So there you have it.

Big Head Todd and the Monsters (featuring Charlie Musselwhite) — “Come On In My Kitchen” (Robert Johnson cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

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Brooklyn Rider

Brooklyn Rider

The first time I listened to The Brooklyn Rider Almanac, I had no idea what was going on.

OK, that’s not entirely accurate. I knew who Brooklyn Rider was, and knew I liked the quartet’s last few releases, especially Seven Steps. And I knew the title of the album was “The Brooklyn Rider Almanac,” but that’s it. When I loaded the album on my iPod and went for a long run, I was stepping into a world free of context.

This doesn’t happen often. I usually end up reading about albums before I listen to them. If unfettered listening is like walking through fresh snow that just finished falling in your yard, the fact that I love reading about music almost as much as I love listening to it means that there’s usually a crowd of opinionated people eager to make snow angels before I do. It’s rare that I can dive in first.

It’s especially rewarding to be the trailblazer when instrumental music is involved. Lyrics and voices allow context to flood in — which language is being used, the emotions the singer conveys, the stories that are being told. But with a string quartet, you really do get to invent things as you listen, things like the composer’s nationality, their inspiration and goals for the piece. Even the form is up for grabs, if you didn’t check to see how many mp3s there were and which ones were grouped together.

I loved my freewheeling stroll through The Brooklyn Rider Almanac. Given the diversity in both style — everything from long, sentimental notes to choppy math-mindedness — and technique — clapping and even some vocals — it really felt like anything could happen. And it was all filtered through the quartet’s signature approach to production, which is both big and crisp, with enough reverb to make passages more momentous but enough energy to make the whole exercise feel immediate and personal. The album had already earned two thumbs up by the time I made it back to my house and learned how ironic that stroll had been.

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