Richmond • September 9, 2016
On their second album The Game, The Congress have migrated across the country from Denver, Colorado back to their hometown of Richmond. In this time, they have also developed their songwriting, incorporating an ever greater variety of genres and styles, including soul, R&B, and psychedelia. The songs are classic Americana at their very core, reminiscent of The Band or Workingman’s Dead. Each composition starts with that familiar framework, but The Congress builds upon and transforms each one into a more complex piece, often with multiple movements within the same song.
On “New Amsterdam,” smooth country hymnals quickly erupt into one great big alt-jam party. Soaring guitar solos intertwine with intimate piano balladry before bringing it all back to an electrifying gospel-intoned climax. The penultimate track “September” begins as a tight pop number before a sweeping orchestral film score blows in like an autumn wind. Though the record’s production is lush and sounds meticulously executed, The Game still manages to capture the freewheeling and energetic sense of the band’s live performances. Available on CD and vinyl from American Paradox Records.
Harrisonburg • August 3, 2016
Tightly wound power-pop hooks blend with soulful tales of existential anguish on Azores’s Copper Beach, making for a wonderfully fun bummer. Catchy melodies and pulsating rhythms pull your ear ever closer so guitarist/lyricist Vince Paixão can beautifully sing you his sorrows. The album strengthens and gains momentum as it builds with the standout ragers “Strawberry Cowtails” and “Communion” offering a slight glimmer of hope. “Palate Cleanse,” an acoustic guitar instrumental closing track, washes away the emotional pain as well as the full 90s alternative production. Available on vinyl from Funny/Not Funny Records.
Norfolk • September 8, 2016
Audrey Syleste’s empowering Solace originated as a school project and is a splendid example of art as therapy. The former Wesleyan student sings of personal trials and tribulations, affirming her sense of identity to smooth piano-backed R&B. “If you don’t like it, I hope you at least feel me,” she states at the beginning. The music is melancholy, but Syleste’s voice is a strong and positive force even as she sings of heartbreak and moving through pain. A breezy collaboration with rapper Phe closes the EP out. Here’s to hoping that Syleste will further develop her gifts into a full length project soon.
BBQ and Biscuits
Charlottesville • September 28, 2016
LaQuinn begins his new mixtape BBQ and Biscuits by boldly rhyming “guacamole” with “stromboli” and he never looks back. This confident release is graced with humor, pathos, and verbal dexterity. His flow is chameleonic and the delivery changes often, switching quickly between one-or-two syllable verses (like OG Maco’s “U Guessed It”) and intricate spurts of dense lyricism. LaQuinn wants to show us every trick he’s got up his sleeve. The production quality is immaculate, backed with soul and jazz. On “One Take,” he pulls back this curtain of perfection, noting the slightest stutter on a single word (don’t sweat it, buddy).
Virginia Beach • August 31, 2016
Lucid Euclid by Λεον is an ambient dreamscape influenced by Italo Disco, a genre which has thrived for decades in Europe long after its American brethren disappeared. The release’s sonic layers are abundant, creating a gorgeous fog. Adrift in static waves, you ache for any sound of human involvement. When it comes, the distorted vocals make pop lyrics sound like monks chanting. “Be My Jupiter You Tender Square,” a rare track without an emoji in its title, clocks in at a heavenly sixteen minutes of electronic groove like the soundtrack of some long lost RPG circa 1991.