NEWS ROUNDUP: International Women’s Day, Leaving Neverland, and MORE

Maggie Rogers, Mavis Staples, Phoebe Bridgers and Brandi Carlile meet at Newport Music Fest. Photo by Danny Clinch. The artists shared this photo along with messages of empowerment for International Women’s Day via Twitter.

It’s International Women’s Day!

Though some form of International Women’s Day has been around since 1909, the holiday celebrating women around the world has really gained traction over the last decade. This year’s theme was #BalanceForBetter, seeking to promote a more gender balanced world. Here’s how our favorite ladies in the music world celebrated.

  • Cardi B made a playlist on Apple Music for the occasion, featuring visionary women (including Grace Jones, Madonna, Tina Turner, and Solange).
  • Sharon Van Etten and Courtney Barnett both appeared as a guest curators for Amazon’s music streaming platform.
  • Ariana Grande tweeted a short video by director Hanna Lux Davis, reminding everyone a few tweets later “it ain’t feminism if it ain’t intersectional.”

  • Rihanna looked powerful in a black blazer.

  • Miley Cyrus shouted out some of her favorite bad ass bitches:

  • … while Lady Gaga paid tribute to her mama.

  • Maggie Rogers and Mavis Staples both reminisced via this photo with Phoebe Bridgers and Brandi Carlile.

  • Dua Lipa had some tea for those who fall short of protecting human rights.

  • And Micropixie released a video for Como Mínimo (#YesIsTheMinimum), from her upcoming LP Dark Sight of the Moon, out April 9.

The Fallout of Leaving Neverland

The explosive HBO Documentary about Michael Jackson’s alleged child abuse, Leaving Neverland, aired last weekend, and unsurprisingly, folks are divided on its message. Though the allegations are nothing new (Jackson settled a child abuse case out of court in 1994, and was acquitted in a similar case with a different victim in 2005) the harrowing testimonies of two men who say they were abused by Jackson when they were 7 and 10 are hard to dismiss. Radio stations have pulled Jackson’s enduring pop hits,  The Simpsons producers have pulled iconic episode “Stark Raving Dad” from the syndication due to Jackson’s guest voice over, and a Chicago run of biographical jukebox musical “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was cancelled, though its team said this occurred due to scheduling difficulties and that they’ve set their sights on Broadway in 2020. Jackson’s daughter, Paris, seemed unfazed in a series of tweets in which she told folks to “chillax” – implying that even if Jackson’s legacy took a huge hit, his $500 million estate would ultimately be unaffected by the doc (though they’d previously filed a lawsuit to block it from airing). Meanwhile, debate continues to rage regarding blame placed on the victims’ parents, the degree to which Joe Jackson’s horrific behavior absolves his son’s various issues (including the alleged child abuse) and, of course, the idea that Jackson himself is an innocent victim of a slanderous campaign. One thing is certain: Jackson’s story is ultimately one of the saddest in pop music history, taking into account his tarnished childhood, various tabloid scandals, untimely death due to physician-sanctioned drug abuse – and it’s only compounded by the suffering of his alleged victims.

That New New

Solange has blessed the world with the (semi) surprise release of When I Get Home, her follow-up to 2016’s show-stopping A Seat at the Table.

Cementing their legacy as Jersey’s favorite pop punks, The Bouncing Souls released the second single from their forthcoming 30th anniversary EP Crucial Moments, out March 15. Their massive tour kicks off the next day at Jersey City’s White Eagle Hall.

Vampire Weekend have shared two new tracks from their upcoming Father of the Bride LP, out in May

Mac DeMarco announced his next record Here Comes the Cowboy with a single called “Nobody,” giving Mitski fans a little déjà vu; both artists (and their shared PR team) say it’s just a coincidence.

Bedouine is back with a one-off single that reflects on the aftermath of her gorgeous 2017 self-titled debut.

SOAK has released another lovely singled from April 26 release Grim Town., announcing some US tour dates (including two at SXSW) to go with it.

Alan Vega’s final recordings have been released to benefit the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, which provides teaching materials to educators seeking to engage students by teaching pop music history. The Suicide co-founder passed away in 2016.

Everyone loves a corgi – and that includes illuminati hotties, who are very honest about the fact that sometimes doggos are are the only thing keeping us in a mediocre relationship. They’ll be in Austin next week for SXSW.

Stef Chura has announced her sophomore record Midnight with its lead single “Method Man.”

Blushh shared a one-off single to get folks pumped for their upcoming SXSW dates as well.

Toronto punks Greys have announced third LP Age Hasn’t Spoiled You, out May 10, sharing its first single “These Things Happen.”

Rick from Pile remains the biggest babe in all of DIY indie rock; this week the band released their latest single and announced forthcoming LP Green and Gray, out May 3.

In other DIY news, Patio ready themselves for the April 5 release of Essentials with their latest track, “New Reality.”

NOTS have seemingly recovered from their recent lineup changes and shared the first single from their upcoming LP 3, out May 10. Two of its members are also releasing an LP this year as Hash Redactor.

The National have announced a new collaborative project with director Mike Mills entitled I Am Easy To Find. It’s essentially an hour-long companion album to a 24-minute short film of the same name starring Alicia Vikander. The first track on the album, “You Had Your Soul With You,” has some guest stars as well – Sharon Van Etten, Kate Stables of This Is the Kit, The Brooklyn Youth Choir, and longtime David Bowie bandmate Gail Ann Dorsey lend vocals. The band have announced a bunch of tour dates with Courtney Barnett and Alvvays supporting.

Local Natives released two videos this week, one of which stars Kate Mara. Both will appear on the April 26 release of Violet Street, a follow-up to 2016’s Sunlit Youth; they’ve previously announced a slew of tour dates.

Sky Blue, a posthumous collection of unreleased material from celebrated singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, arrived March 7 to commemorate what would’ve been his 75th birthday.

Kishi Bashi returns with new LP Omoiyari on May 31, and has released the album’s first single, “Summer of ’42”.

Charly Bliss have shared a video for “Chatroom,” the second single from their upcoming record Young Enough, out May 10.

CupcakKe keeps it topical with a new single entitled “Bird Box,” referencing the recent Netflix horror movie and the Jussie Smollett controversy alike.

Having penned Grammy-nominated hits for Ariana Grande and Janelle Monae, Tayla Parx is poised to break out on her own with a highly anticipated solo debut on Atlantic Records, We Need to Talk, out April 5. Her latest video for “I Want You” follows earlier singles “Slow Dancing” and “Me vs. Us.”

Christian Fennesz, who records electronic music under his last name, returns to basics with a new 12-minute track called “In My Room,” from forthcoming 4-song LP Agora, out March 29.

Ahead of the April 12 release of No Geography, The Chemical Brothers share a video for “We’ve Got To Try.”

Festival faves Marshmello and CHVRCHES have collaborated on a sugary new single titled “Here With Me.”

Dido’s first record since 2013, Still on My Mind, is out today; her first tour in fifteen years hits the US in June.

End Notes

  • The Prodigy singer Keith Flint was found dead of apparent suicide at the age of 49.
  • I would unironically love to attend one of these West Coast Man Man shows featuring “Friday” singer Rebecca Black.
  • Gayle King interviewed R. Kelly for CBS regarding the sexual abuse allegations against him, prompting an explosive on-camera outburst from the singer that has been widely discussed. We’re so tired.
  • Swedish black metal band Watain have been banned from performing in Singapore due to their “history of denigrating religions and promoting violence.”
  • NYC concert-goers spontaneously burst into song on the ACE platform following a sold-out Robyn show at MSG.
  • Speaking of Robyn, she’s been announced as one of the headliners for Pitchfork Music Festival, which takes place in Chicago from July 19-21. HAIM and the Isley Brothers top Friday and Saturday’s bills respectively, with Stereolab, Mavis Staples, Belle & Sebastian, Earl Sweatshirt, Pusha T, Tirzah, Kurt Vile, Low, Julia Holter, Rico Nasty, Neneh Cherry, Snail Mail, Khruangbin, Soccer Mommy, Amber Mark, CHAI, and more set to play as well.
  • While we’re on the subject of festivals, Variety has leaked a potential lineup for Woodstock 50 and it’s not exactly overflowing with “heritage” acts; Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper, and Black Keys look like likely headliners.
  • Elton John tweeted an definite release date in October 2019 for his upcoming memoir.
  • Massive Attack have rescheduled some of the North American Mezzanine reunion tour dates due to illness.
  • You can buy the hospital gown that Kurt Cobain wore during a legendary 1992 Reading Festival Nirvana performance for a mere $50,000.
  • L7’s Donita Sparks emerged as a hero when, in true punk fashion, Marky Ramone and Johnny Rotten nearly came to blows at a panel discussion on upcoming John Varvatos and Iggy Pop-produced Epix docu-series Punk.
  • Morrissey is taking his upcoming covers record California Sun to Broadway.
  • Taylor Swift stalker Roger Alvarado was arrested for breaking into the pop star’s home again, fresh off of a stint in jail for the same charge (bringing his Swift-related arrest total to three).
  • Arcade Fire will reportedly cover “Baby Mine” in Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo remake, and it’s a real family affair.
  • Mark your sundials – Red Hot Chili Peppers will stream a live concert from the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt on March 15.

NEWS ROUNDUP: NAF, Alan Vega & Unreleased Bowie


  • Watch NAF on Colbert

    The new project, which features Jenny Lewis, Tennessee Thomas and Erika Forster stands for Nice As Fuck. The trio made their network television debut on Tuesday by performing the sparse but hopeful “Door” and the anti-firearm song “Guns.” Check it out:

  • RIP Alan Vega

    Alan Vega, the singer of the New York band Suicide, passed away on Saturday at the age of 78. NPR has called him “one of the founding fathers of punk” and his death has prompted covers from Pearl Jam and MGMT, and statements from Henry Rollins and Bruce Springsteen. Read AudioFemme’s Only Noise column dedicated to the singer, and learn more about his life here.


  • Unheard David Bowie Album Coming Out

    Get ready for some new David Bowie… eventually. A release date hasn’t been announced, but a new box set will include The Gouster, an unreleased Bowie album that was the prototype for Young Americans. The set, Who Can I Be Now, will also cover his releases from 1974-1976.

ONLY NOISE: Memento Mori-Alan Vega

alan vega

“I think all art comes out of conflict.” It was the American novelist Joyce Carol Oates who spoke these words, but it was Alan Vega who lived them.

Vega, who fronted the indescribable proto-punk duo Suicide from 1970 to Saturday, has unfortunately passed away over the weekend at 78. His death lengthens a devastating list of artists we’ve lost this year. Henry Rollins broke the news with a statement from Vega’s family.

I woke Sunday morning to word of his death, and instantly that phrase sprang to mind: “all art comes out of conflict.” Art is not only born of chaos, it is chaos. Art is conflict. And what artist exemplified this truth more than Alan Vega? His 46-year partnership with Martin Rev as Suicide (they never called it quits) produced a body of work that is sublimely discordant-like an Edgerton snapshot of fruit being eviscerated by a bullet. An explosion made delicate by means of destruction.

Vega’s music is a monument to the avant garde, the dark, and the soulful. And it is, for me, the embodiment of everything I look for in art. Something dangerous, yet repulsively gorgeous. Something that makes you fear for your own sanity. Suicide’s eponymous debut from 1977 is as awash with this kind of dissonance as it is sounds of the future. Its severity is matched only by its simplicity-Vega’s croons and shrieks loping over Rev’s unrelenting synths and drum machine. That record predicted post punk before punk had learned how to spell its own name. You can hear its influence in Throbbing Gristle’s work, and Sonic Youth’s and even Bruce Springsteen’s; the latter admittedly an enormous Suicide fan. The Boss has not only attributed “State Trooper” off of 1982’s Nebraska to Suicide’s influence-he also covered the duo’s song “Dream Baby Dream” throughout his career.

Springsteen recently paid homage to Vega with a eulogy he published on his website:

“Over here on E Street, we are saddened to hear of the passing of Alan Vega, one of the great revolutionary voices in rock and roll. The bravery and passion he showed throughout his career was deeply influential to me. I was lucky enough to get to know Alan slightly and he was always a generous and sweet spirit. The blunt force power of his greatest music both with Suicide and on his solo records can still shock and inspire today. There was simply no one else remotely like him.”

It might seem a stretch that one of America’s most successful musicians would have such obscure tastes, but if you listen to Suicide tracks like “Ghost Rider” and “Frankie Teardrop,” the influence might not be so shocking. Springsteen is known for his pointblank narratives of working class drudgery. That same desolation can be found in “Frankie Teardrop,” a disturbing tale of a disgruntled factory worker who massacres his family in a fit of insanity.

Suicide is an album that still sounds treacherous today. This cannot be said of much from its era. It is a difficult thing to admit, as it was an exceptional period in American music. However, I am aware of its historical relevance-that perhaps a Television gig in 2016 might not be as reckless as it was in ’77. Suicide on the other hand, has remained a lung-splintering scream frozen in time. A photograph taken with a rapatronic shutter. But don’t take my word for it. Go ahead. Cut the jams at your next party and put on “Frankie Teardrop” instead. See what happens.

It is important for music, or at least some music to incite panic. In their earlier years Vega and Rev did just that, and drank up the repercussions firsthand. Their shows bear the deviant legacy of hell raisers like Iggy Pop and GG Allin. In 2008, Vega recounted an especially perilous gig to The Guardian:

“That would be the show in Glasgow in 1978 when someone threw an axe at my head. We were supporting the Clash and I guess we were too punk even for the punk crowd. They hated us. I taunted them with, ‘You fuckers have to live through us to get to the main band.’ That’s when the axe came towards my head, missing me by a whisker. It was surreal, man. I felt like I was in a 3-D John Wayne movie. But that was nothing unusual. Every Suicide show felt like world war three in those days. Every night I thought I was going to get killed. The longer it went on, the more I’d be thinking, ‘Odds are it’s going to be tonight.'”

I sometimes feel that Suicide were the Dylan-going-electric of punk rock. And while I suspect that thought would cause Vega to roll in his grave, it’s a comparison I find comfort in. When the world cried “Judas!” at Dylan’s new noise, it wasn’t the sound they were screaming at-it was the icon he burned and the bird that rose from it. Punk was so busy edifying its defiant image that it was out-defied by Vega and Rev…the ultimate prank. It’s pretty funny, if you think about it.

But despite all the mayhem in Suicide’s history, all the near-death evenings and endless assaults, Vega remained a sincere artist, a loving family man, and a hilarious interviewee. In the same interview from ’08 he recalled the shift between being public enemy #1 and becoming an “entertainer”:

“People were looking to be entertained, but I hated the idea of going to a concert in search of fun. Our attitude was, ‘Fuck you buddy, you’re getting the street right back in your face. And some.’

The axe in Glasgow was just one of many weapons hurled at us. When we played in Metz, someone scored a direct hit on me with a monkey wrench. I’ve still got the scar on my head. Supporting Elvis Costello in Brussels, we provoked a full-scale riot and the venue was stormed by police letting off tear-gas canisters. Then something very strange happened. We headlined our own tour of Britain and ended up in Edinburgh. Two songs in and there was no riot, which was very, very unusual. Then we started to see people move around. I turned to Marty and said, ‘Here we go – watch out for flying objects.’ To my amazement, people started dancing. I turned back to Marty and said, ‘We’re finished, our career is over.’

We’ve turned into fucking entertainers. It was never meant to turn out that way. But what can you do? People are completely unshockable now. Even if you brought a fresh corpse out on stage and started eating it with a fork, no one would bat an eyelid. Still, one of the things about playing live these days is that at least we know we’re not going to die on stage. That’s kinda nice, man.”

Vega’s wry sense of humor always peeked through his work, even when veiled with the most hideous snarl. It surprisingly wasn’t always doom and gloom with Suicide; their fragility surfaced on cuts like “Girl,” “Dream Baby Dream,” and “Child, It’s a New World.” The former being my personal favorite-and not a bad tune for a romp might I add. In spite of the band’s propensity for violence and distortion, they were also vulnerable…far more than they’d have liked you to believe. This diversity was apparent to those who took time to listen between the crashing beer bottles. For them, Suicide were a beacon of possibility; a manifesto for undefined sound.

Alan Vega may have not wanted to be an entertainer; that’s just what happened over time. More accurately, Vega was an artist. A real conflicted motherfucker.

R.I.P Alan. Thank you for the noise.