I am tired of moving. I am in my 4th house in the third "new" town since graduating from my doctoral program in May of 2013. This move puts me a little closer to the old homeplace in Pennsylvania though, which, on one hand, is kinda cool...but also not quite what I had planned.
I didn't want to leave Richmond. But a job opportunity presented itself in Frederick, Maryland, and the money was right. So here I be. Only an hour from Baltimore and the District, so I got that going for me. And it is a quaint little city...though it still needs a personality of its own. The city is thankfully liberal/progressive, but that purples a bit when you get out into the county. I dunno... considering a run for one of the open Frederick County School Board seats. What do you think?
Looking at the dearth of shows I attended in 2017 compared to years' past, I can't help but blame the pretty wretched car accident I was involved in back in March of 2017. I was at a stoplight and a fella in a minivan rear-ended me without braking. Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured (the minivan was carrying an entire family - two adults, three children, and the dog), except my trusty 2013 Toyota Prius; the first *new* car I ever bought. I put over 100,000 miles on that car - mostly road-tripping to shows. Anyway, I did discover the wonders of chiropractic medicine. So there's that.
But hey, I wound up buying another "winter grey" 2013 Toyota Prius. And I still got my travels in. Trips to North Carolina, Arkansas, Nashville, Tennessee, DC and Baltimore - and a fantastic couple days in New York City (working at a community college where you get off a little over two weeks at the end of December is pretty badass)!
So new job, new town, new nephew (I became a 1st time uncle on July 29h!), new lady-friend, new year. Let's keep it going! Here's to ya, 2018!!!
::2017 Songs of Note Playlist::
While you're reading below, please feel free to launch the following Spotify playlist with my "2017 Songs of Note" on it. The songs are sequenced in reverse-order so that if you time it right, you can listen to a song from each artist as you work your way through the list! Enjoy!
::The Seventeen Elevens::
Sad Palomino ::SAD PALOMINO:: Fayetteville, Arkansas "scene" torch-bearers, if you will, released their debut self-titled EP, produced by Will Eubanks at East Hall Recording. For three dudes in their early-mid twenties, they put out one hell of a grunge record from 1991.
Favorite Song ::Feed No Friction::
Craig Finn ::WE ALL WANT THE SAME THINGS:: The Hold Steady frontman returns with his 3rd, and most even solo effort to date. All of the stellar storytelling found on Hold Steady records lives on here, but with older, wiser, and more tired characters.
Favorite Song ::Preludes::
Micah Schnabel ::YOUR NEW NORMAN ROCKWELL:: In a similar vein to Craig Finn above, Micah Schnabel released another solo record as a side boo to his main squeeze: Two Cow Garage. Lately, Micah has also been taking a page from the Finn playbook and "speak-singing" his songs. And rightfully so, as Micah has always been a poet...and these songs feel more like him setting his poetry to music. It works well here.
Favorite Song ::Cincinnati, Ohio::
Positive No ::PARTNERS IN THE WILD:: Hopefully it's not out of line to say that Positive No is to Richmond, Virginia as Superchunk is to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Songwriting duo Kenny Close and Tracy Wilson have been crafting their brand of indie pop together since 2011. This follow up to 2015's GLOSSA is chock-full of great indie rock with off-kilter guitar lines and socially conscious lyrics. Tracy's vocal melodies and Kenny's guitar melodies float over a solid rhythm foundation throughout the record.
Favorite Song ::Kind Reminder::
Waxahatchee ::OUT IN THE STORM:: The latest release from the talented Crutchfield sisters opens with a bang! In fact, someone needs to take "Never Been Wrong"and turn it into a ringtone for me, because I want that opening guitar blast to be my morning alarm clock (yeah, I know it can be done, but I am too Gen. X to figure it out myself). Katie Crutchfield may be center stage at a Waxahatchee show, but don't sleep on sister Allison's pop sensibilities. This guitar on this record is lush from top to bottom, as are the sisters' vocal harmonies.
Favorite Song ::Never Been Wrong::
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit ::THE NASHVILLE SOUND:: The third release since Jason Isbell's noted sobriety offers more songs about complicated characters, typically in Southern settings, encountering or overcoming some burden. The slick production mirrors the album's title. The songs would also befit a 'Songwriting 101' course at Americana University. There does seem to be less of a connection between Isbell and his characters/narrators on THE NASHVILLE SOUND as compared with SOUTHEASTERN and SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE, but even that criticism isn't enough to suggest that Isbell isn't still riding a high wave of inspired output.
Favorite Song ::Tupelo:: (Note: anyone who has ever lived in the swampy South can *damn* well relate to the line "get about a week of spring, and the summer is blistering." I miss Little Rock, but I sure don't miss 95 degree heat in 85% humidity during late April).
John Moreland ::BIG BAD LUV:: John Moreland adds to his canon with BIG BAD LUV. In the press surrounding the release of this record, questions about Moreland's somber songs and demeanor were staved off, with the Oklahoma singer-songwriter noting this batch of songs had a recurring them of love, something he has been riding since getting married between the release of HIGH ON TULSA HEAT and BIG BAD LUV. In addition to the emotive songwriting fans have come to expect from Moreland (yeah, it's still here), the songs are accented with the guitar playing of fellow Oklahoman John Calvin Abney. Don't gloss over the cover photo, which was taken by White Water Tavern owner Matt White. It's a statement of it's own, as are the songs included here.
Favorite Song ::Slow Down Easy::
Lee Ann Womack ::THE LONELY, THE LONESOME, AND THE GONE:: Some country artists have tried, with success, to eschew the denouement of their careers once the Top 40 Country world moves on. Lee Ann Womack has done just that, by releasing records that harken back to the strong, female country crooners from the 60's and 70's. These songs do not tread any new ground. Heartbreak is a common thread throughout the record, but damn if Womack's delivery doesn't sound fresh and hip on these tracks. Even the company she keeps being signed to ATO records trends toward the hipper side of the aisle (label-mates include The Old 97s, My Morning Jacket, and the Alabama Shakes). This is a great, breezy country record for people who are afraid of country music. If you've been digging Margot Price, you'll likely find a similar spirit with Womack's latest.
Favorite Song ::Bottom of the Barrel::
Porter and the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes ::DON'T GO BABY, IT'S GONNA GET WEIRD WITHOUT YOU:: In October of 2016, I recall seeing my Facebook feed peppered with posts from friends in Eastern North Carolina, who lived along the I-95 corridor, commenting on a horrendous accident in the Northbound lanes. That accident would claim the life of Chris Porter and his Bluebonnet Rattlesnake bandmate Mitchell Vandenburg (while also hospitalizing bandmate Adam Nurre). The news crippled my musical circle. Porter was a giant (yes, he was tall, but he was truly a "giant" of a soul). We became Facebook friends after I was fortunate enough to play a house show in Fayetteville, Arkansas opening for Porter and John Moreland. Porter was attentive, and actually talked to me after the show about specific lines in my songs. He was all about the music. He made me feel like I was part of it all, despite only being a hobbyist at best. Thanks to Cornelius Chapel records, DON'T GO BABY, IT'S GONNA GET WEIRD WITHOUT YOU was released on vinyl late this year. It has an all-star cast including John Calvin Abney slaying on lead guitar, former Drive-By Trucker Shonna Tucker on bass, and centro-matic, South San Gabriel, and all around Texas renaissance man Will Johnson on drums - oh, and he produced the record too. This is a fine example of what the "alt-country" side of Americana *should* sound like.
Favorite Song ::Your Hometown::
Ryan Adams ::PRISONER:: Ryan Adams should get divorced about a year before making each subsequent record. He's always written his finest songs when heartbroken. Thank you, Mandy Moore, as PRISONER is some of Ryan's finest recent work. Also - if you loved PRISONER but still nay-say ROCK N ROLL, you need to get right.
Favorite Song ::Doomsday::
The War on Drugs ::A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING:: Fans of Ryan Adams' PRISONER with it's heavy reverb- and chorus-laden guitars will find similar solace in A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING. One major difference, is that Adam Granduciel seems less focused on writing a three-minute pop song, and more interested in painting sonic landscapes via the instrumentation layered throughout the record. This record will no doubt be on countless year-end lists, so there is little need to elaborate here. But if you ever want to get lost in yourself for an hour and six minutes, just toss A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING on your record player and enjoy the ride.
Favorite Song ::Pain:: (Note: This is among my Top 5 songs of 2017. It's perfect).
Son Volt ::NOTES OF BLUE:: To tease NOTES OF BLUE, Son Volt released "Back Against The Wall" in advance. It was a glorious teaser. Classic Son Volt tones and tempo, the song sounds like it could be an outtake from 1998's WIDE SWING TREMOLO. It also features a blistering guitar solo played by frontman Jay Farrar himself - a call back to his days with Uncle Tupelo (for example, listen to the similarities in style and grit in the solo for "Back Against the Wall" and Uncle Tupelo's "Chickamauga"). But "Back..." wouldn't really set the pace for NOTES OF BLUE. Instead, Farrar drew influence, as he has before, from the Mississippi Delta. Songs in open tunings learned from studying bygone blues musicians are selected from Farrar's toolbox to craft these songs, which may be his best since the early days of the band.
Favorite Song ::Back Against the Wall::
Jay Som ::EVERYBODY WORKS:: When EVERYBODY WORKS was released, there was a post made in a group text to me saying "Caleb might make it 30 seconds into this record before tossing it." That statement would be right if it wasn't completely wrong. Give me infectious pop melodies or give me death! And Jay Som's Melina Dueterte is full of the former! Upon hearing "The Bus Song" (another Top 5 song of the 2017), it was all over. Interesting fact: Duterte played nearly every note on this record - pretty prodigious for a 22-year old - and also intriguing considering the sometimes "80's" feel to the songs/tones (listen to the guitar solo on "One More Time, Please" for an example).
Favorite Song: "The Bus Song"
Roger Waters ::IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT?:: Twenty-Five years is a long time between records. But that is how long it has been since former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters released his last studio album (1992's AMUSED TO DEATH). Where Father John Misty is likely to show up on year-end lists for his scathing indictment of society in 2017, Waters' latest probably deserves to be cast in the same shadow. However, the themes on IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT? are not new territory for Waters - but the catalyst is. Multiple songs take direct shots at Donald Trump, the "deplorables" who helped get him elected, and the societal fallout that ensues from having such a figure in the White House. Where more and more artists are finding the stones to call out the dangers of electing a leader such as Trump, few are as on-the-nose as Waters is here. And even fewer can get away with a lyric like "If I had been God, with my staff and my rod, if I had been given the nod, I believe I could have done a better job." Fans of the musical themes found on the Floyd's WISH YOU WERE HERE, ANIMALS, THE FINAL CUT, and even Waters' other solo records will be pleased here.
Favorite Song ::Smell the Roses::
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings ::SOUL OF A WOMAN:: The second posthumous release in this list, and it is also a doozy. In addition to the high-energy soul we've come to expect from the Dap Kings, there is a fair amount of gospel sounds on this record, a call back to Jones' days singing in church (before her time with the Dap Kings). For those who watched the Miss Sharon Jones documentary, and knew of her struggles with low energy from chemotherapy while battling cancer, her performance on SOUL OF A WOMAN doesn't suggest the presence of those effects. This is a stellar collection of barn-burning, ass-shaking soul with highlights of soaring gospel, fitting for the nature of the release.
Favorite Song ::Matter of Time::
Susto ::& I'M FINE TODAY:: Imagine if Wilco had not taken such a turn into more experimental phrasings of rock and folk music after the release of YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT. Had they stayed on a simpler path, 2017 Wilco may have sounded much like 2017 Susto. (In fact, here is me trying to illustrate the similarities in two tunes by each band). Though Susto probably fits most squarely into the "alt-country" genre, some tracks stray a bit, making this release appealing to folks who like a variety of sounds. Also, beware if you're not into controversial lyrics, which songwriter Justin Osborne definitely dials up on my favorite track from this record.
Favorite Song ::Gay in the South::
Kate Rhudy ::ROCK N ROLL AIN'T FOR ME:: For those tired of Americana music from the male perspective, give Kate Rhudy's debut a shot. These songs paint images of the barrooms and venues where patrons drink and consort, and sometimes bat-eyes at one another - but through the eyes of the female musician. In some cases, things don't work out, as in "I Don't Like You or Your Band" or "Boy from Charlevoix." Based in Raleigh, and having spent a considerable amount of time there, the characters in Rhudy's songs are not unfamiliar to these ears. The instrumentation is largely acoustic, and draws from the bluegrass and stringband traditions. Twinges of gospel can also be found (Peace Like a River, Valentine - which includes the stellar line "someone once broke my heart by handing me a toothbrush"). For a debut, there is much promise here.
Favorite Song ::Kissing My Friends::
::Top Ten Records of 2017::
10. The Too's ::OUTER SOUNDS:: Fayetteville Arkansas, by way of Joplin Missouri, the Too's have cemented their place in the muted Americana scene of the Ozarks. OUTER SOUNDS is their first full-length. The band hit a snag in the recording of this record when local producer-hero Lou Whitney passed away in the middle of recording. After tapping Kansas City producer Lennon Bone to grab the helm, OUTER SOUNDS found its release. For fans of Susto, the Too's are highly recommended. Melodic Southern Americana with hints of Midwestern breeziness make this a very pleasant listen. On their latest, songwriting duties are split between Isaac Duncan and Elijah Chambers, with Chambers' songs unmistakably nodding to Tom Petty and Duncan to Jeff Lynne. Musically, there is a lot of texture on this record thanks to Chambers' dual attack from both guitar and Fender Rhodes piano/keys. If Fayetteville, Arkansas can keep churning out talent like this, the scene will stay viable. For more on The Too's, read this call-and-response review between me and former Fayetteville Free Weekly editor Nick Brothers.
STANDOUT TRACK ::Certain Kind::
9. Julien Baker ::TURN OUT THE LIGHTS:: Earlier this year, at a Julien Baker show at Nightclub 9:30 in Washington DC, I watched my friend Alisha, who is one of the toughest, most steeled women I know, completely crumble into a pile or weeping dust two songs into Baker's set. On the heels of the critically acclaimed, and arguably perfect SPRAINED ANKLE, Baker continues to write songs with narrators who are often broken...but most importantly, conveying that it is OK to be broken. That being broken is manageable. That finding support and healthy outlets are important. If just reading the words isn't enough, Baker's bombastic vocals should get your attention. When Julien hits high notes, it's almost as if her whole head becomes her mouth and the room is filled with her voice. Find any YouTube video where she performs the title track, or the final line of "Sour Breath" for an example. The delivery of these songs continues to feature electric guitars drenched in various delay, reverb, and chorus/phaser effects. There are fewer straight acoustic numbers on this release as compared to SPRAINED ANKLE. Instead, Baker switches things up by accompanying herself on piano, which still fits the somber nature of her songs.
STANDOUT TRACK ::Happy to Be Here::
8. Phoebe Bridgers ::STRANGER IN THE ALPS:: Phoebe Bridgers may get tired of the comparisons to Julien Baker (see above), but if I were Phoebe Bridgers, I would consider myself in good company. Both artists have similarities: they're young, strong female songwriters in the spring of their careers; they spend time on the darker side of the aisle which seems to be where much of their songwriting inspiration is derived. And they even toured together in 2016. But sonically, Bridgers offers a different palate, with tasteful use of a baritone guitar, with a lower register that perfectly compliments the tone of many of the songs on this record. Another differentiation is that Bridgers' songs sometimes receive full-band treatment, like Top 5 song of 2017 finalist "Motion Sickness." In fact, Julien Baker comparisons aside, this track lends itself more to a Ryan Adams influence than anything else (Adams produced Bridgers' stellar debut 7" KILLERS and released it on his own PAX-AM Records in 2015). This is a strong debut from a promising artist.
STANDOUT TRACK ::Motion Sickness::
7. Benchmarks ::OUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION:: Just as there is always money in the banana stand, there is always room for solid pop-punk in year-end bests list. Nashville's Benchmarks supply that fix here. Singer/songwriter Todd Farrell found his way into many hearts as the lead guitarist for Columbus, Ohio outfit Two Cow Garage. But make no mistake, Benchmarks is definitely Todd's own stamp in the rock n roll ether. If you like crunchy guitars, pop-punk hooks, and sweet harmonies, OUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION should find its way into your queue. Farrell doesn't simply wear his influences on his sleeve, here...he is cut their t-shirt into a back patch fastened to his denim jacket. If The Hold Steady ever put out a pop-punk record, it might sound a lot like Benchmarks.
STANDOUT TRACK ::Girls and Boys::
6. Drew Beskin ::CHA-CHING MACHINE:: When it comes to prolific songwriters, the names Ryan Adams, Will Johnson, and Daniel Romano get tossed around my musical circles...but with his fourth project in, what, three years ? (The District Attorneys, PURSES, and Party Dolls), this eponymous project doesn't stray from the formula that made those other bands great. Jangly pop guitar is augmented by bass, drums and keys - and the cherry on top of course is Beskin's clear vocal. CHA-CHING MACHINE contains my favorite musical moment of 2017 - and it's pretty subtle. On the standout track "I Don't Know What to Do," just beyond the build-up ("make sure you know who you're taking orders from..."), at 2:55, the bass guitar slides into an A note high on the neck as Beskin launches into the chorus vocal. The bass rides that note until 3:02 when for three beats, it slides down to the A note an octave below where it was riding - before rolling back up to a high E. Y'all!! Those the lower-octave A notes are the bees knees. Something so simple. And it is the ONLY time in the song that this happens. Simple things like this is why I continue to give my ear to Beskin's output, and I almost always find something I love.
STANDOUT TRACK ::I Don't Know What to Do::
5. Jon Latham ::LIFERS:: At the 2016 White Water Tavern Holiday Hangout, Aaron Lee Tasjan played an acoustic set at the Lost Forty Brewery. He had a fellow Nashville musician/guitarist in tow to accompany him during his set. Midway through, he introduced this sideman as Jon Latham and invited him to play a song. Latham commenced to blowing away the crowd with "Waitressing Sucks" from his 2015 record REAL BAD NEWS. Ok, so if the crowd wasn't blown away, these ears definitely were - and it meant that Latham's 2017 release LIFERS was highly anticipated. To say that Latham is influenced by Tom Petty is a gross understatement. In fact, he was one of several Nashville singer/songwriters who organized a number of tributes in the wake of Tom Petty's death earlier this year. Latham is another new artist who did his alt-country homework. And he did his rock n roll homework, too, with callbacks to 80s artists on songs like "Yearbook Signatures" and "Kimberly Met Billy" - which tells the tale of two parents who met at the 1987 Eddie Money summer tour, found themselves in the back of a "beat-up chevy" and "eight months and three weeks later" the child who is being told the story was born. At 8 songs and 40 minutes, LIFERS has little fluff. Have a listen to the opening track (see below) and see how long it takes for you to walk around singing "first to volunteer to be the last in line..." the rest of the day.
STANDOUT TRACK ::Last In Line::
4. Bash and Pop ::ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN:: Any fan of the Replacements who has not yet picked up a copy of this record is missing out on possibly the best post-Replacements release from any member of the storied Minneapolis band (sorry, Paul, but it's probably true). A friend once described ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN as "Rock TM." Yeah, well, if that is a bad thing, then it is unfortunate that you don't like rock n roll. Tommy Stinson's consistent snarl on this record makes me feel like I am doing something wrong - something that might get me arrested - or better yet, drunk - while listening to it. And it always feels good! Released on January 20th (my dad's birthday!), this record has remained a force throughout all of 2017. It was the soundtrack to my spring. "On the Rocks" - a bona-fide two-windows-down jam - was easy to blast in the car, singing those high harmonies along with Stinson ("hiii-ee-yiii-ee-yiii-ee-yide!!!"). Or belting out the high harmony of the title track ("anything could haaaaaaaaaap-unn!!"). Then, just before the breakdown in the song (What's up, Dave?) there's that guttural "Wooooowwwooohhhh!!" akin to the opening howl in the Replacements' "Bastards of Young." You definitely need to be screaming along with the testy "Unfuck You." Here's to morning singing along to this record with the windows down come spring 2018!!
STANDOUT TRACK ::Breathing Room::
3. Father John Misty ::PURE COMEDY:: 2017 started under a cloud with the impending inauguration of Republican President Donald Trump - who was elected to the American Presidency despite 54% of voters choosing someone else at the polls. Throughout 2016, with the deaths of many beloved actors and musicians, and the culmination of Trump's election, cynicism in America was pretty off the charts. Josh Tillman effortlessly harnesses this cynicism and delivers his commentary on 2016-17 America through his Father John Misty character. I wrote a piece earlier this year noting how Father John Misty was the embodiment of Generation X ethos (perhaps pathos?) navigating a millennial world, so I won't rehash that here. I will note that I keep coming back to the theme that undergirds PURE COMEDY throughout: That the Earth is a wonderful, beautiful, magnificent place - and humankind, in all our selfish, pompous, haughty, top-of-the-foodchain ways, continuously, and obliviously destroy "this bright blue marble" such that it is now "orbited by trash." Humankind are sloven, selfish, mind-numbed parasites, siphoning every bit of life and beauty from the planet that carries us through the cosmos. I *NEED* this album in my life because each time I listen to it, I want to be a better human being. We all would do well to follow suit. Pair PURE COMEDY with Roger Waters' IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT (see above) for a deep dive into 2017 despair.
STANDOUT TRACK ::Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution::
2. Zephaniah OHora ::THIS HIGHWAY:: Neo-traditional country has been making waves since the Sturgill Simpsons, Margot Prices, and Chris Stapletons hit the scene - and these artists' brand of country is usually preceded by the term "outlaw." Don't get it twisted, Zephaniah OHora's debut THIS HIGHWAY is definitely country...but to precede his style of country with anything other than "classic" would be doing it an injustice. This record hit my radar late in 2018 thanks to a Facebook post from my friend Nate Kennedy in Little Rock who posted the link to THIS HIGHWAY on Spotify. After one listen, it was clear that this record was something special. In explaining THIS HIGHWAY, I keep coming back to what my friend Will Eubanks says about the record: "It's perfect from a production standpoint. There isn't one ounce of wasted space here. And not one wasted note. Everything is perfectly placed." Recall, Eubanks is a producer himself at East Hall Recording in Fayetteville, Arkansas. So I tend to listen when he gives production notes. In simpler terms, Zephaniah OHora sounds like a mix between Merle Haggard and Glen Campbell. In fact, when he is not playing his own material with his band The 18 Wheelers, he moonlights with a residency at Brooklyn New York's Skinny Dennis Honky Tonk with his Merle Haggard cover band The Last Roundup Boys.
Oh, yeah. Zephaniah and his classic country/Merle Haggard sounding self is based in Brooklyn, NY!!! Wot? Apparently there is a small, but shit-hot honky tonk country scene there. Indeed, famed Brooklyn guitar slinger Jim Campilongo had a hand in helping THIS HIGHWAY come to fruition...and he also plays lead guitar on the record. Campilongo's unique playing style definitely adds a noticeable layer to the music. Aspects of his guitar playing sound like a semi-truck barreling past you on the highway blowing its horn, or laying on the "Jake" brake as it rolls by. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Jim Campilongo's main influence on guitar was Trucks. Given the socially conscious lyrics of the records situated at the #3 and #1 spots on this list, it may seem interesting that, lyrically, Zephaniah OHora is composing simple, sweet country love songs. And not necessarily romantic love - there are even songs about "mama" included here (i.e., "Songs My Mama Sang"). OHora composed 10 of the 11 tracks on the record, with the 11th song, a duet with Dori Freeman, covering the Sinatra duet (which he recorded with Nancy) "Somethin' Stupid." Don't sleep on the gospel-tinged "For a Moment or Two" which closes the record. OHora, who grew up in the church (not unlike traditional southern country artists), does not seem out of place at all singing such a number. So if you're looking for solid classic country gold as interpreted by a thirty-something Brooklynite, THIS HIGHWAY is definitely the road you wanna travel.
STANDOUT TRACK ::Take Your Love Out of Town::
1. Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires ::YOUTH DETENTION:: Jesus Christ, this record should be taught in schools. When Donald Trump was elected, the music and arts atmosphere my life has continued to orbit seemed to call out in unison: "make your voice heard through your art!" If you've been a fan of Lee Bains at all, you know that he's been on that page for some time now, but YOUTH DETENTION ups the ante. Bains is able to take his experience growing up as a white, middle class kid from South Birmingham - an area of town known for it's diversity of race, religion, etc, and bring it to scale in 2017 America. That said, Bains has talked about how he hopes to shed the "white Alabamian" stereotype portrayed throughout history...and in modern times. The songs on YOUTH DETENTION position the narrator(s) (likely teenage versions of Lee himself) amongst his black and Muslim friends, viewing the injustices experienced by his non-white, non-Christian friends through his own lens of white privilege. But rather than shrug it off, the narrator(s) question it. These narrators also have strong, socially conscious adults in their lives who have instilled an ethos of "you ain't no better than no one else" in their offspring. YOUTH DETENTION is a snapshot of 2017 America; the racism, sexism, bigotry, anger, frustration, privilege, fight, questioning, eye to the past, eye to the future - all through the lens of a middle-class white kid from South Birmingham. And that middle-class white kid is equally angry and frustrated. He identifies more with his friends who *don't* look like him. Who are being treated unfairly; oppressed. And he is doing his best to speak out! Lastly, YOUTH DETENTION being my favorite album of 2017 also includes, in my humble opinion, the song of the year: "Whitewash,"as it embodies the thinking that many liberal-minded individuals are wrestling with currently - the idea that we aren't trying to hold on to our white supremacy. We don't desire to be the superior race. We don't want to erase the contributions of other races and cultures because we are scared that the white race will no longer be at the "top." Yeah. YOUTH DETENTION has been a mantra since its release back in the summer. I mean, shit, 6 of the 17 track titles end with an exclamation point! The tone of the music, the immediacy of the performances, and the lo-fi, DIY production fits the lyrical - and current societal sentiment. That said, I *highly* recommend grabbing the lyric book to the record (which is fashioned to look like a zine!) or visit the Glory Fires website to follow along while streaming. Lee can cram 13 words into a stanza where most folk can only fit 4, so reading along with the lyrics definitely helps get the message of the record across. If music really can change the world, I want the result to mirror how I feel when I listen to YOUTH DETENTION
2017 SONG OF THE YEAR ::Whitewash::
::Shows Attended in 2017::
1/7/2017 - I Am Maddox, Dragmatic, The Unlucky 7's @ The Deep South Bar, Raleigh, NC
1/18/2017 - Big Thief @ Strange Matter, Richmond, VA
1/21/2017 - Horsehead @ Hardywood Brewery, Richmond, VA
2/1/2017 - Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires @ DC9 Nightclub, Washington DC
3/1/2017 - Japandroids w/ Craig Finn @ The Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, NC
3/5/2017 - Ryan Adams w/ Phoebe Bridgers @ The National, Richmond, VA
3/31/2017 - Horsehead, Landon Elliott and the Goods, Paulo Franco @ The Camel, Richmond, VA
4/7/2017 - Old Heavy Hands/Benchmarks/Almost People/ Dragmatic @ Slims, Raleigh, NC**
4/13/2017 - Caleb Caudle House Show, Richmond, VA
4/15/2017 - I Am Maddox / Unlucky Sevens / Dragmatic / Rocket 77 @ The Deep South Bar, Raleigh, NC**
4/16/2017 - Surfer Blood, Lazyeyes, The Trillions @ Strange Matter, Richmond, VA
5/1/2017 - Austin Lucas House Show, Richmond, VA
5/8/2017 - BJ Barham @ The Camel, Richmond, VA
5/14/2017 - Pinegrove w/ Russel the Leaf @ Motorco, Durham, NC
5/17/2017 - Cloud Nothings w/ Eric Slick @ Strange Matter, Richmond, VA
5/20/2017 - Bash & Pop @ The Camel, Richmond, VA
6/29/2017 - Diarrhea Planet w/ Cowabunga Pizza Time @ The Ottobar, Baltimore, MD
7/30/2017 - Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires w/ the Sniffs and Priors @ DC9 Nightclub, Washington DC
8/18/2017 - Lee Fields & the Expressions @ The Rock n Roll Hotel, Washington DC
8/25/2017 - Durand Jones & The Indications @ DC9 Nightclub, Washington DC
9/9/2017 - Lee Fields & The Expressions @ Rosslyn Jazz Fest, Rosslyn, VA
9/14/2017 - Dragmatic w/ Chistianne & the Strays, The Eric Scholz Band @ The Pour House Music Hall, Raleigh, NC
10/7/2017 - Glossary w/ Jon Latham @ the Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN
10/17/2017 - Julien Baker w/ Half Waif & Petal @ Nightclub 9:30, Washington DC
10/23/2017 - The War on Drugs w/ The Building @ The Anthem, Washington, DC
11/3/2017 - Bon Iver @ Sprint Pavillion, Charlottesville, VA
11/11/2017 - Tegan & Sara @ The Anthem, Washington DC
11/17/2017 - Puddles Pity Party @ The Lincoln Theater, Washington DC
12/1/2017 - The White Water Tavern Holiday Hangout @ The White Water Tavern, Little Rock, Arkansas, Night 1: Iron Tongue, Micah Schabel, Kevin Kerby + Battery, Austin Lucas, Adam Faucett & the Tall Grass, John Paul Keith & the One-Four-Fives, Motel Mirrors, Glossary
12/2/2017 - The White Water Tavern Holiday Hangout Day Party @ Lost Forty Brewing, Little Rock, Arkansas: Brad Williams, Bonnie Montgomery, Tim Easton, Joey Kneiser and Kelly Smith
12/2/2017 - The White Water Tavern Holiday Hangout @ The White Water Tavern, Little Rock, Arkansas, Night 2: Isaac Hoskins, Andrew Bryant, Kim Nall & the Fringe, Tim Easton, The Legendary Shack Shakers, Slobberbone, Two Cow Garage
12/3/2017 - The White Water Tavern Holiday Hangout @ The White Water Tavern, Little Rock, Arkansas, Night 3 (Acoustic): Larry Fulford (comedy), Dazz & Brie, Isaac Alexander, Shane Sweeney, Kevin + Gus Kerby, John Calvin Abney, Colonel J.D. Wilkes, Brent Best
12/8/2017 - The Too's w/ Lost John and Basement Brew @ The Smoke and Barrel Tavern, Fayetteville, AR*
12/19/2017 - Zephaniah OHora and the Last Roundup Boys @ Skinny Dennis, Brooklyn, NY
12/28/2017 - Hedwig and the Angry Inch @ The Ottobar, Baltimore, MD
** Indicates a show where I played bass with Dragmatic
* Indicates a show where I played guitar with Basement Brew