Richmond • February 2, 2018
On One, Erik Phillips ditches his Cat Be Damned moniker, but he still continues to explore the muted but staggering emotional spectrum between early Neil Young and Elliott Smith, with the latter’s influence gaining greater hold with each subsequent release. “Coming” for example, offers Smith’s trademark whispery, yet cutting vocal delivery: “Will you kill when there’s nothing to kill? You know every decision is fine. When you see that there’s nothing to be and you use dirty spit for the shine.” Strings and piano assist in the fragile judgements and his frets scratch copiously with each chord change.
Sonically, the record is a natural progression for Phillips. He continues experimenting with dreamlike analog tones warbling to the frenetic point of asymmetry, such as on the opening to the gorgeous “I-95,” where you can see a flip-down television playing children’s Bible shows. An acknowledgement of Christianity appears again when a voice breaks through the dreamlike tones to demand, “Are you a child of God!?” No overt statement is made regarding these allusions. They seem to be there just as anyone would randomly encounter them while going about their day. Available through Joy Void Recordings on limited edition vinyl as well as cassette.
Harrisonburg • February 9, 2018
Dead Bedrooms embraces the uncomfortable. Awkward exchanges and impulsive freakouts are what fuels Claire Merian’s pensive declarations. Take “I Believe You (If You Believe Me),” which comes across as an impassioned plea on a cold dark night, beginning with sparse instrumentation and the words, “Grab your coat and leave. You shouldn’t have come.” Closing track “Mazzy Baby” is a tribute to a dog that sheds so much it’s practically replicating itself every few weeks. It is hard not to also draw connections to Mazzy Star and their hit “Fade into You” when listening to these tracks. Available on cassette.
Fairfax • February 10, 2018
Carried Away serves up relaxed introspection with lyrics that teeter on the edge of bittersweet, but are sung with such a feel-good demeanor that one might not even notice. Abby Rasheed’s voice is expressively sunny and stresses unexpected syllables in a punctuated manner that recalls Joanna Newsom. Acoustic guitar contributes to a beachy vibe, whereas “Lunar Letdown” features a sultry saxophone courtesy of John Longbottom. The album is produced by Mason Noise and the School of Music at George Mason University and mixed and mastered by Cinema Hearts’ Erich Weinroth. Hearts frontwoman Caroline Weinroth and Rasheed are also selling uniquely crafted compact discs.
The Tragedy of the Calvin Klein Don
Petersburg • March 15, 2018
Chuck Nasty is a larger than life personality. Full of ambition, poignance, and wisecracks, his latest release is a sprawling epic in the vein of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Here, our titular protagonist attempts to distract himself from the depression and hardship of modern life after winning the lottery by throwing himself a non-stop party, kicking off with “Beer Loaded Bodegas.” As the title suggests, the Don does not succeed. The result is an exploration of the artist’s psyche that mixes braggadocio with soul samples. Nasty’s charisma and sense of humor aid him in completing such a lyrically dense, theatrical narrative.
Charlottesville • March 1, 2018
Flowery folk with lush harmonies and instrumentation, Larkspur summons dreamlike conjurings courtesy of members Annabeth McNamara, Renee Byrd, and Laurel Humiston. Their spritely plucks and swooping cello strings are entrancing complements to the floral and naturalistic imagery within the lyrics. These stories are set in lavender adorned gardens and moonlit canyons alike. “Singasong’s” playful vocalizations replicate the echoing effect of a call travelling down a deep stone well. The group manages to find the common ground between Joni Mitchell’s femme-folk foundation and the more ethereal nature of Kate Bush. Available on limited edition compact disc.