Album Roundup

Music by Craig Graziano
Issue 45 • November 2016

Featured in this roundup:
Tiff The Gift • It Gets Greater Later
Cat Be Damned • 2015
Cabin Creek • Station Wagon
Tristan Welch • Lights (A)
Shades of Opal • Fluorescence

Tiff The Gift
It Gets Greater Later

Newport News • October 10, 2016

Tiff The Gift’s third album continues to display her strengths as a versatile emcee of lyrical force. The Newport News native was born and raised in the midst of 80’s and early 90’s hip-hop and the influence shows. Backed by retro samples, she educates us on a variety of topics dear to her, offering a personal manifesto on gender, race, and identity that consistently sounds amazing. The record kicks off with the direct, unapologetic “Resolutions,” which features majestic vocalizations from Rodney “The Soul Singer” Stith. Later on “Somebody,” she declares, “They use sex as a weapon. I see my sex as a blessing. And I’m a hundred on the Richter in case you asking a question.

A graduate of ODU with multiple science degrees, Tiff drops five syllable words like “emasculating” amidst witty repartee. “Laid Back” in particular bounces and rolls as a splendid example of her “Virginia born, but … Georgia bred” demeanor. A instrumental shout out to DJ Sayeed is reminiscent of the RZA’s signature style, but the record boasts the talents of many producers as well as featured artists Awon and Dephlow. It Gets Greater Later is available on vinyl from Don’t Sleep Records.

Cat Be Damned

Richmond • October 9, 2016

Cat Be Damned’s collection of last year’s recorded work further establishes Erik Phillips as River City’s mope laureate. Melancholic and melodic, the album opens with five tracks that made up his prior release, All His Empty Show. “The friends I make myself, I don’t talk to them / I bought myself a phone so I can hang up on all of them again,” he detachedly whispers. Crossing dulcet lo-fi electronics, fuzzy guitars, and introspective lyrics, Phillips creates some of his best work to date. He develops these elements further through recordings from splits with Bulldog Eyes and Blood Orphans amongst other odds and ends. A great autumnal collection.

Cabin Creek
Station Wagon

Fredericksburg • October 1, 2016

Station Wagon is Cabin Creek’s third album and the Fredericksburg bluegrass quartet show no sign of slowing. The band’s precision whilst picking grants their songs the speed and vitality of a well-oiled machine. Nowhere is this clearer than on “What I’m Saying,” which charges along at a runaway steam engine’s pace. Throughout ten songs, Cabin Creek play off of each other and harmonise to create lovely, lived-in melodies. “Panic” offers a punctuated bookend structure, with a sparse yet powerful beginning and ending held centered when the harmonica and rambling rhythm take hold. Available on CD through the band’s website.

Tristan Welch
Lights (A)

Fairfax • October 15, 2016

Ambient minimalism in the vein of Philip Glass or Eno, Lights (A) is a three-movement piece that originated as part of an art installation. Looped and synthesized guitar notes see-saw back and forth with the slightest variations. Just as you begin to get comfortable, a droning distorted guitar crash lands onto this sonic playground. What starts as a chaotic element soon follows suit and builds its own rhythm, leading to the conclusion of each piece. All tracks are in the key of A and share a similar structure. Shorter and sweeter than Metal Machine Music. Available on cassette.

Shades of Opal

Charlottesville • August 4, 2016

Lush instrumentals and breezy lyrics of longing float across Shades of Opal’s Fluorescence. The three songs, written by Paige Naylor, share a gentle sense of sad whimsy. Becky Brown’s harp crosses paths with synthesizers and ultimately wins out as Naylor reminisces about “staring into those striking blue eyes.” The pulsing keys of “Come Out and Play” entrance the ear as Naylor demands not to be ignored. Produced by UMW professor Mark Snyder, Fluorescence offers an intricate blend of instrumentation mirroring the dreamily crafted power-pop of the trio’s other outfit, Nature Boy Explorer. Joanna Newsom fans take note.

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