Sound Choices: New projects break through the noise

Sound Choices: New projects break through the noise

A. D. Carson

i used to love to dream

(University of
Michigan Press)

A.D. Carson has made a career out of breaking boundaries. As a Ph.D. student at Clemson University, his dissertation was an album called Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics Of Rhymes & Revolutions. Across the project’s 34 tracks, he examined identity politics, and even challenged the university to look inward on “See the Stripes,” which points to John C. Calhoun, a slave-owning 19th-century statesman whose house is memorialized on campus. After garnering thousands of viewers and listeners on platforms like YouTube and SoundCloud, Carson was offered the position of assistant professor of hip-hop and the global South in the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia.

He continued his work with the “mixtap/e/ssays” series sleepwalking, turning the spotlight on his new home of Charlottesville by tackling themes like the proliferation of white supremacy in the wake of the Unite the Right rally that ravaged the community in 2017. i used to love to dream is the third installment of the series, and it marks another milestone for Carson: It’s the first peer-reviewed rap album ever published by an academic press. Tracing his roots back to his hometown of Decatur, Illinois, Carson harnesses feelings of leaving home and what constitutes the idea of success or “making it.” Elsewhere on the collection, he tackles systemic racism, police brutality, and the impact of discrimination by the criminal justice system. i used to love to dream is a multifaceted, cross-genre display of how art and activism go hand in hand—and is a must listen (released on August 6).

Kate Bollinger

A word becomes a sound

(Self-released)

After generating a lot of buzz with her 2019 EP I Don’t Wanna Lose, Charlottesville native Kate Bollinger returns with another batch of languid dream-pop compositions. A word becomes a sound finds the songwriter, who recently graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in cinematography, expanding her sonic palette. Across the EP’s five tracks, she incorporates electronic elements and a new level of production, all while maintaining the hazy lo-fi quality that has become her signature. Bollinger once again teamed up with classmate and frequent collaborator John Trainum to achieve this balance. The result is a lush, laid-back offering of R&B, jazz, and indie shoegaze. Bollinger and Trainum finished writing and production for newer tracks like “Queen to Nobody” during the pandemic. But the opener, “A Couple Things,” has been a staple of Bollinger’s live sets for years. “If I mess up a couple things or if I mess up a lot of things,” she muses on the song. “If I fuck up a couple things, well, what if I fuck up everything?” It’s Bollinger’s ability to channel sentiments that are simultaneously personal and universal that makes A word becomes a sound her strongest work to date (released on August 21).

Various Artists

A Little Bit at a
Time: Spacebomb
Family Rarities

(Spacebomb Records)

Richmond’s Spacebomb Records is more than just a record label; it’s a musical nexus. Operating in a newly renovated studio, Spacebomb also serves as a publishing, management, and production company. Spacebomb sought to showcase its many facets with a new compilation, A Little Bit at a Time: Spacebomb Family Rarities. Digging into the archives, the album highlights Richmond-based artists like Andy Jenkins, Sleepwalkers, and Spacebomb founder Matthew E. White, alongside artists like Pure Bathing Culture and Laura Veirs, who have worked with Spacebomb in various capacities. Featuring B-sides, previously unreleased tracks, and demos, A Little Bit at a Time is the perfect deep dive from one of the biggest drivers of Central Virginia’s creative community (released on July 3).

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