Local artists kept new music coming at a head-spinning pace this year.
Luckily for those of us who like flipping through new arrival bins at Deep Groove, Plan 9 and Small Friend Records & Books, there were enough new vinyl releases to keep turntables spinning as well.
Here’s a can’t-miss sampling of dozen local albums that made it onto the bygone-turned-bustling 12-inch format this year.
Kate Bollinger: “Look at It in the Light”
Three Kate Bollinger EPs in a row, each packaging together five or six songs that merge tasteful complexity with an enveloping dreaminess. And each released on snazzy colored vinyl, though “Look at It in the Light” is Bollinger’s first for the Ghostly International label — a reflection of the ascendent career trajectory her consistency has afforded. At the same time, “Look at It in the Light” pushes back against continuity, with sudden left turns, like the change of pace two thirds of the way through “Who Am I But Someone,” reflecting an underlying restlessness.
Where to find it: https://ghostly.com/products/look-at-it-in-the-light
Butcher Brown: “Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey”
Versatility is like a supercar: Why have it if you’re not revving it up and seeing what it can do? Fortunately, Butcher Brown has an adventurous streak that results in projects like “Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey,” which combines the lyrical acumen of trumpeter and saxophonist Marcus “Tennishu” Tenney with arrangements penned by bassist Andrew “R4ND4ZZO” Randazzo and performed by the R4ND4ZZO BIGB4ND. It’s a daring and distinctive album with what has to be the most enjoyably ominous opening of any 2022 album to come out of Richmond. From the start of “Triple Trey (Intro / How Much A Dollar Cost),” it’s clear that with Butcher Brown, anything is possible.
Where to find it: https://butcherbrown.com/store/
Deau Eyes: “Legacies”
When the phonograph format was young, albums were true to their name: books of discs you’d flip through like photo albums. Deau Eyes’ LP “Legacies” really does feel like leafing through moments frozen in time — portraits taken as singer-songwriter Ali Thibodeau was turning the page from the pause induced by the pandemic to a period in which she could invest in the future again. Particularly striking is the panoramic pop of “Moscow in the Spring,” in which Thibodeau sings about staying grounded despite an invitation to escape halfway around the world: “No I won’t drop my life to get on the first flight.”
Where to find it: https://deaueyes.bandcamp.com/album/legacies
Erin & the Wildfire: “Touchy Feely”
It’s a holiday miracle! Vinyl copies of Erin & the Wildfire’s sophomore LP touched down with just a few weeks left in 2022. The pressing plants must have been saving the best for last, because “Touchy Feely”' features the Richmond-based indie-pop group’s most focused recordings to date, bringing the mastery they’ve long shown as a live act into the studio setting. They set their sonic time machines back to the 1980s, following Toto and Steve Winwood as stylistic guideposts and soliciting Matthew E. White’s advice as producer on how to apply the glossy sheen they had in mind. “Ray of Sunshine” and “Shape” are proof they hit their mark, and evidence that the group’s namesake is a generational vocal talent.
Where to find it: https://www.erinandthewildfire.com/merch
Justin Golden: “Hard Times and a Woman”
Debut LPs always make a statement, but Justin Golden was wise enough to know that he didn’t have to make that statement alone. For “Hard Times and a Woman,” Golden enlisted the help of longtime collaborator and skilled producer Chip Hale, who also plays bass in Golden’s backing band, the Come Up. They worked together to bring out the best in the fingerpicking blues style Golden is known for while also expanding the palette from Golden’s earlier single and EP releases. With Hale at the production helm, and key contributions from fellow Come Up member Tyler Meacham, Golden made a record that plays more like a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy contender than a debut.
Where to find it: https://justingolden.bandcamp.com/album/hard-times-and-a-woman
Russell Lacy: “Russell Lacy”
Vinyl isn’t just a great way to experience the LP Russell Lacy released earlier this year; it’s been the only way. Lacy decided to forego the usual streaming release options in favor of a vinyl-first approach, and he reported via Instagram in November that more than half of the initial run had been sold. With that in mind, now is the perfect moment to snag a copy of this gem, which places yearning, acoustic guitar-driven Americana next to fully fledged rockers, and Jekyll-and-Hyde mood exploration next to road-trip-ready tunes. In sequence, these eleven songs demonstrate a broad skill set — abilities long known to Lacy’s many local collaborators and visitors to the Virginia Moonwalker studio he operates.
Where to find it: https://www.thevirginiamoonwalker.com/record-store
Read more about it: That One Song: “Candelabra Eyes” by Russell Lacy
Lean Year: “Sides”
One of the joys of turntable listening is focus — making the decision to spin an album and creating space in your day to see it through to the end, with a quick flip in the middle, of course. The album Lean Year released in September, “Sides,” rewards close listening to an exceptional degree. Rick Alverson and Emilie Rex have a gift for framing their hushed indie folk in a way that leaves generous sonic spaces. Made at a time when absence surrounded the duo, including the loss of both of Alverson’s parents, “Sides” transforms emptiness into an invitation for listeners to project their own feelings onto spare arrangements that fold in everything from saxophone and clarinet to Wurlitzer and Mellotron.
Where to find it: https://westernvinyl.com/shop/wv217
Tyler Meacham: “Into the Fray”
Tyler Meacham released a number of the songs on “Into the Fray” as singles over the course of 2021 — each an example of the complete toolkit she brings to the table as an indie-pop singer-songwriter. Her thoughtful phrasing, memorable hooks, and knack for moment-making are all world-class, and getting to hear those singles one after another, as well as new songs alongside them, is like sitting in on a masterclass in songcraft. Not to mention that her vocals bring her words to life with skilled nuance, from the self-empowerment of “Better Than I Used to Be” to the painfully resonant uncertainty of “Unknowing.”
Where to find it: https://www.tylermeacham.com/product-page/into-the-fray-lp-pre-order
Read more about it: "Music from the Middle: Tyler Meacham sets uncertainty to pop music."
No BS! Brass Band: “Undying”
Another joy of vinyl is the liner notes, and there’s an important addition to the “Undying” credits compared to previous No BS! Brass Band releases: vocalist Sam Reed. Reed’s contributions have elevated what was already a premier live experience, and the same can be said of her studio work. “Undying” may be the most expressive No BS! album to date, in part because of Reed, but also because the arrangements in songs like “Applause” and “Money Is a Sign of Poverty” have dexterity and dynamism to spare. It certainly doesn’t hurt when your drummer (Lance Koehler) owns a studio (Minimum Wage Recording) and has a knack for capturing and mixing your music with impeccable clarity.
Where to find it: https://merch.ambientinks.com/collections/nobsbrass
- Scott Elmquist
- Piranha Rama members John Sizemore and Chrissie Lozano.
Piranha Rama: “Omniscient Cloud Cover”
Omniscient Cloud cover is technically an EP, according to the Broker’s Tip Records website. But spinning it is as complete a creative journey as you’ll find, winding through multiple psych-tinged genres and vivid experiences en route to the perfect mental escape from whatever life is throwing at you. Key to that journey is momentum; when Piranha Rama guitarist and co-founder John Sizemore was first building the songs out, he imagined them as having a walking pace, and there’s a sense of directionality to songs like “Gold in the Sand” and “A Door” that picks you up and brings you along for the ride.
Revelators Sound System: “Revelators”
M.C. Taylor (aka Hiss Golden Messenger) is not a Richmonder, but the other half of Revelators Sound System, bassist Cameron Ralston, certainly is, and the “Revelators” sessions pulled from the deep end of the city’s talent pool. Drums or percussion from Pinson Chanselle, Brian Jones and Reggie Pace. Keys from Daniel Clarke and Devonne Harris. J.C. Kuhl’s sax and bass clarinet. The project started as early-pandemic meditation for Taylor, but Ralston ran with the impressionistic loops Taylor started, turning each piece into a versatile tool for emotional communication. Whether you’re spinning the impassioned opening and closing tracks or the contemplative ones between, this ranging instrumental music is meant to be felt as much as heard.
Where to find it: https://plan9music.com/Artist/13971636
Curt Sydnor: “Heaven Is Begun”
There’s stylistic variety, there’s fusion, and then there’s visionary creation that paves the way for new musical language. With “Heaven Is Begun.” Curt Sydnor has pushed gospel, classical, popular song and jazz into an original space where influences converse without boundary and poetry floats effortlessly. Of course, what seems effortless rarely is. Sydnor’s fluency is the product of studies at Vanderbilt University, Indiana University and the Russian Academy of Music in Moscow. And his collaborators are boundary-breakers in their own rights, particularly vocalist Laura Ann Singh, drummer Scott Clark and bassist Adam Hopkins. A vinyl copy can feel like a missive from 100 years ago. Or maybe it’s 100 years from now. Either way, “Heaven Is Begun” makes good on the lyrics Singh and Sydnor deliver during “Not Even Past”: “All that’s been forgotten / Is all there is to know.”
Where to find it: https://sydnor.bandcamp.com/album/heaven-is-begun
- Timothy Bailey and the Humans live in Richmond.
The vinyl supply chain is a hot mess, and some outstanding 2022 albums didn’t make it off the stampers in time to be included on this list. Here are a few with pressings that are currently making their way into the world, or that will be available in 2023.
Timothy Bailey & the Humans: “Timothy Bailey & the Humans”
[go to their bandcamp for more]
[go here to hear more info] [could link album name to https://lnk.to/dazy-outofbody]
Fly Anakin: “Frank”
[go here for more info]