MUSIQUE BOUTIQUE: Natalia King, Bitch, and Songs of Yoko Ono

Welcome to Audiofemme’s record review column, Musique Boutique, written by music journo vet Gillian G. Gaar. The last Monday of each month, Musique Boutique offers a cross-section of noteworthy reissues and new releases guaranteed to perk up your ears.

“Well, they call me a hard-headed woman/I tell ‘em ‘I work at it every day’” is the proud, take-no-prisoners opening line from the title track of Natalia King’s latest album, Woman Mind of My Own (DixieFrog Records). It’s an album reverberating with the unvarnished power of the blues — despite most of it being recorded in Paris, where the Brooklyn-born King is now based.

At its heart, the blues is an expression of profound human emotions, and King’s album resonates with deep feeling. “AKA Chosen” is a stirring song of self-empowerment. “Once was part/but now I’m whole,” King sings, as the simple guitar opening gives way to a stomping beat and lively backing chorus. “Forget Yourself” seduces with an insinuating tenor sax solo. “So Far Away” is a compelling portrait of estrangement in a relationship. “Play On” cleverly uses gambling metaphors in its dissection of the game of love, as a moaning slide guitar hints of the danger that may lie ahead. Along with her own songs, there’s also an interesting selection of covers; a reflective rendition of John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses,” and a wonderfully intimate version of George Michael’s “One More Try.”

State of the world got you down? A little Bitchcraft (Kill Rock Stars) will lift those spirits. “You’re the man, you’re the man, you’re the man,” Bitch sings in the song of that name, ending the litany with the telling reminder, “Well, I’m the woman.” Yes, she certainly is. The artist, formerly one half of queercore duo Bitch and Animal, has created an album that delights and dazzles, from the bright pop of “You’re the Man” (with its rallying cry “In the underground, the most amazing sound/We sing through everything that tries to cut us down”) to the stark, brittle sounds that percolate in “Easy Target,” to the soothing harmonies of “Polar Bear,” which imagines the natural beauty of a world without humanity.

She’s as much a visual artist as a musician. Check out the eye-popping video for “Hello Meadow!” – the explosive color and rapid-fire editing match its pointed lyrics attacking the corporate greed that’s destroying the natural beauty of our delicate planet. The more somber “Nothing in My Pockets” dissects the nature of heartbreak with the liberal use of black light and streaks of day-glo paint. Aurally and visually, Bitchcraft casts an enticing spell.

This month marked Yoko Ono’s 89th birthday, on February 18, and in celebration of that event comes a new tribute to her work, Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono (Canvasback Music/Atlantic Records/Chimera Music). The various artists compilation was conceived and curated by Ben Gibbard, lead singer/guitarist of Death Cab for Cutie, in hopes of generating new appreciation for her work.

Ono was originally a visual artist, and, more enigmatically a “conceptual artist,” as demonstrated by such “instructional poems” as this — “Painting To Be Constructed In Your Head: Observe three paintings carefully. Mix them well in your head” (from her book Grapefruit). Not coming from a traditional rock or conventional pop music background gives Ono’s music its unique quality; she’s made up her own rules about how she wants to make music. Hence the nursery rhyme in the middle of “Dogtown,” a song that benefits greatly from Sudan Archives’ cool delivery.

There’s also an undercurrent of sadness in much of her work. It’s understandable in a track like the haunting ballad “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do” (a beautiful performance by Japanese Breakfast), which was written in the wake of the murder of her husband, John Lennon. But it’s also there in “Run, Run, Run,” which predated that tragic event, in which a “run to the light” becomes a “run for your life;” Amber Coffman’s rendition has a decided Americana vibe. Other contributors include U.S. Girls, Thao Nguyen, Sharon Van Etten, and The Flaming Lips, making for an imaginative collection honoring an equally creative artist.  

NEWS ROUNDUP: Tragedy In Manchester, Biggie Mural Saved & More

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photo by Raymond Boyd

  • Ariana Grande Cancels Tour After Manchester Attack
    On Monday, Ariana Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena in England ended with explosions, later revealed to be the result of a terrorist attack that killed 22 people. What makes the crime particularly heinous, besides the fact that no one should ever feel in danger just because they want to see live music, is that a majority of the audience was young girls. Grande has since returned home to Florida and canceled her tour, though she’s pledged to return to Manchester to hold a benefit concert for the victims. Read more about the situation here.
  • Nandi Rose Plunkett Responds To Sexist Comments
    How tiring must it be to just be known as “The Girl In The Band?” Nandi Rose Plunkett, the musician behind Half Waif and member of Pinegrove, posted a statement about dealing with fans’ remarks that praise her appearance yet downplay her musical role. “These sentiments are the literal heart of what makes women afraid to shine, what discourages us from even trying,” she wrote. Read the whole thing here.

  • Bed Stuy Will Get To Keep Biggie Smalls Mural
    A three-story homage to the late, great Notorious B.I.G. recently came under threat of removal when the building’s landlord proposed adding windows to the facade featuring the “King of NY” mural. However, after a petition and local outcry, Samuel Berkowitz said he would keep the mural (though he initially proposed that the artists who painted it pay a $1,250 month fee to keep it). When artists Naoufal Alaoui and Scott Zimmerman explained the rapper’s importance to the borough, Berkowitz simply changed his mind. Isn’t it refreshing to read a story that doesn’t end with artists getting screwed over by landlords?
  • Other Highlights
    A modern take on “Feelin Groovy,” a new album by Amber Coffman, a “lost” Neil Young album is coming, Nicki Minaj also funded a village, Pitchfork announces Beats > Bullets project, Deerhoof announce new albums, are the Migos homophobic? & man, the Twin Peaks soundtrack is awesome.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

NEWS ROUNDUP: Kendrick Lamar, Brexit’s Musical Consequences & More

  • Kendrick Lamar Releases “Humble”

    “Wicked or weakness, you gotta see this.” Last night, the rapper released “Humble,” a visually stunning video that features Lamar dressed as a pope and recreating the last supper, among other things. The songs itself is full of low-key bravado, instructing other unnamed artists to “be humble.” Watch below:

  • How Will Brexit Affect The UK Music Scene?

    The answer is, badly. If Britain leaves the EU, it could be harder for musicians to tour across Europe due to visa issues and stricter border control, and it could lead to “currency fluctuation and/or devaluation alongside other commercial restrictions [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][that] will impact first and foremost on new bands taking trying to break into Europe.” The situation slightly mirrors the recent struggles of international artists who were turned back as they tried to attend SXSW. Read more about the Brexit situation here.

  • Union Hall Cancels Shows Due To Fire

    The cause has yet to be disclosed, but a fire that broke out last Friday has forced the Park Slope venue to cancel all April shows. Luckily, there were no injuries. A statement by the venue says they hope to reopen as quickly as possible, but they’re still assessing the damage.

  • Bob Dylan’s Triplicate Comes Out Today

    Yes, it’s another album of covers: 30 of them, to be exact. Dylan did an interview with Bill Flanagan last week, and revealed some details and intent behind it, such as that the album was recorded live, with no overdubs, and “these songs are meant for the man on the street, the common man, the everyday person.” Dylan adds, “Maybe that is a Bob Dylan fan, maybe not, I don’t know.” Listen to Triplicate’s “My One And Only Love” below.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ALBUM REVIEW: Dirty Projectors “Dirty Projectors”

Dirty Projectors has been a wildly fun, dynamic machine for over a decade now. The band has defied and played with genre, collaborated with Bjork and David Byrne, and maintained a hard-to-define and unique sound. Their musical nuance is brilliant to some and annoying to others – as my mom once said of the melody in “Gun Has No Trigger,” from 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan: “It sounds like he’s hitting all of the black keys on a piano.” But the complexity of their compositions is obvious to anyone who listens. Their new album Dirty Projectors has been five years in the making and marks the breakup of long-time musical partners David Longstreth and Amber Coffman.

There’s been a lot hype about this record due to Coffman’s departure, even though Longstreth has been the credited mind behind Dirty Projectors since the band’s creation. He’s written and produced nearly every song on every album. Before 2009 breakout album Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors was David Longstreth. He wrote everything and had orchestras play his pieces or invited in guest artists on a track or two. As a long time listener, I was optimistic about this return to “solo” form. But its execution was, frankly, disappointing. The entirety of Dirty Projectors, as a friend put it, is like hearing one side of a dramatic break up between two people you don’t know. Even in the context of an experimental art pop record, it’s difficult to keep a subject like that interesting over the course of nine tracks.

On the album’s opening number “Keep Your Name,” the very first line Longstreth sings is “I don’t know why you abandoned me,” immediately setting up a biased condemnation of Coffman, both romantically and professionally. As if to make up for her vocal absence, Longstreth plays with his vocals throughout the song, lowering his voice to a deep and slow drone and even rapping at one point – both new for Dirty Projectors, although not exactly impressive (especially the rapping). The pleasing blend of pop and electronic elements almost outweigh the cringe-worthy lyrics and overdone hooks, and then comes the worst line of all: “What I want from art is truth, what you want is fame.” Not only does this moment seem petty, it also feels pretentious and unnecessary. In attempting to paint Coffman in a negative light, Longstreth only manages to come off as a controlling maniac; it’s hard to fault someone for pursuing a solo career, especially with Longstreth taking full credit for Dirty Projectors’ songs, so Longstreth resorts to attacking Coffman on a personal level.

The second track, “Death Spiral,” ditches the enhanced vocals and dives straight into a more pop-forward sound, but lines like “just so rock and roll suicidal” make it a tough sell. Even stand-out tracks like “Up On Hudson” and “Cool Your Heart” persist with awkward, tragically romantic undertones. While I’m glad Longstreth is finally showing some vulnerability, that doesn’t necessarily translate into interest in his seemingly malicious preoccupation with Coffman. Dirty Projectors, at their best, are known for their obscure and ambiguous lyrics – something I’ve always appreciated. But this album reads more like the gossip column of People magazine, and no matter how juicy and delicious the drama, it feels out of step with those former lyrical qualities.

That’s not to say that their music hasn’t been honest or deeply personal in its own way, but Dirty Projectors have always managed to stay away from simple, straightforward truths. So it’s surprising that David Longstreth would allow this breakup to effect his music so intensely; he’s essentially dedicated an entire record – one that should signify a comeback for the band – to his hurt feelings. Not only is it predictable, it feels like such a waste.

Though the music on this album is sometimes a breath of fresh air, dynamic and engaging, Longstreth’s pathetic lyrics are impossible to ignore. His petty, self-centered narrative is completely irritating. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but I don’t care enough about Longstreth and Coffman breaking up to listen to an entire album about it. Perhaps Longstreth should have given himself time to move on from it before committing these feelings to tape.

Staff Picks – Emily Daly: The Best & Worst Of 2016 (News Roundup)


I started writing the News Roundup series roughly a year ago, on January 8th. What I thought would be a light hearted “this is what happened this week!” very quickly turned into what seemed like an endless stream of negativity; the first article premiered the week of David Bowie’s 69th birthday, the second a few days after he died. Tallying all of the deaths, the venues that are closed or closing and all of the sexism in the music industry that was brought to light in 2016 has been a little disheartening. But, some good stuff happened too. Read on as we remember the highlights of this year that is thankfully ending soon.

  • A lot of iconic musicians died this year, starting with David Bowie, and continuing on: Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Pauline Oliveros, Alan Vega, Phife Dawg, George Martin, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, Frank Sinatra Jr., Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Vanity (aka Denise Katrina Matthews), Keith Emerson, Billy Paul, Jane Little (a double bassist who held the Guiness World Record for the longest serving symphony player), Guy Clark, Christina Grimmie, Ralph Stanley, Bernie Worrell, Scotty Moore, Toots Thielemans, Juan Gabriel, Leon Russell, Holly Dunn and Greg Lake.

  • But, a lot of iconic musicians also resurfaced with new music. This year Kim Gordon released some tracks, along with The Pixies, Le Tigre, Iggy Pop, Beyonce, The Strokes, Green Day, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Robert Pollard, and two members of the Dirty Projectors (Also, it’s worth mentioning Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize and Madonna was crowned Billboard’s Woman of the Year).

  • Everything is closed. It’s not surprising considering all it takes to run a music venue, but it seems like an unusual number shuttered this year. In the last 365 days we’ve lost Palisades, Aviv, Manhattan Inn, Grand Victory and beloved record store Other Music. Also, Rock Shop has ceased to have live music, opting for a foosball table (or something) instead, and Market Hotel was temporarily closed over a liquor license misunderstanding. Other venues, like Lower Manhattan’s Cake Shop and Elvis Guesthouse, have announced that December will be their final month of operation.

  • But venues continue to open: The Glove, The Footlight and Sunnyvale all opened in Brooklyn this year, and Brooklyn Bazaar returned with a new, better location. Plus, we have a new large scale venue, Brooklyn Steel, to look forward to in 2017.

  • The music industry is still sexist. There’s an argument to be made that you have to expose misogyny to overcome it. If you think of it that way, 2016 was a year of progress as Amber Coffman and others spoke up about publicist Heathcliff Berru’s sexual misconduct, writer Art Tavana received an avalanche of criticism for a crude article that reduced Sky Ferreira to her sex appeal, and music executive Julie Farman call out the Red Hot Chili Peppers out for being douchebags back in their heyday. I’m sure I’m missing a few things, but do we really want to revisit it all?

  • But we did make progress. In March, Guitar World officially announced they would cease their bikini gear guide, the cover of which typically featured a sweet guitar held by a scantily clad woman. The call to change this practice was started when a photo of Guitar World next to a She Shreds cover, which featured a fully clothed  Satomi Matsuzaki of Deerhoof, made its rounds on the internet. Guitar World publisher Bill Amstutz stated “we can do a better job, as all guitar media can do. It’s a bit of a boys’ club and we are taking steps this year to change that.” This may all also be the first year that a song that focuses on consent was celebrated by the media, with sad13’s “Get A Yes.”

  • Obviously, a lot of other, un-categorizable stuff happened too. I’m not sure where to start, or where to end, really. A conversation was started about the importance of DIY spaces, and the struggle to keep them, after the Oakland Ghost Ship tragedy. Bono was awarded Glamour’s Woman of the Year, proving that women can even be excluded from an award specifically for them (you know what would be groundbreaking? Giving Man of the Year to a woman. C’mon, 2017!) Led Zeppelin was finally declared innocent of ripping off “Stairway To Heaven.” An amazing Twitter account that reimagines Carrie Bradshaw as a touring indie musician was born. CMJ was going to happen, then it wasn’t, then it was maybe, but it didn’t. I think at one point a new spider species was named after Johnny Cash. I’m probably forgetting a lot of things, and I’m sorry. It’s been a long year.

NEWS ROUNDUP: The White Stripes, Amber Coffman & More


  • Amber Coffman Releases Solo Song, Video

    “This is a mantra, a pep talk, a love song to yourself,” the former Dirty Projectors member said about her new song, “All To Myself.” “A small reminder not to spend too much time fretting and just to get out there, live your life and do what makes you happy.” The dreamy song opens with a buzzing hook, the video showing her walking along a beach shore and buried in the sand. Current Dirty Projectors’ member David Longstreth has also recently released new music; Longstreth’s stretched the band’s sound to a deeper, darker place, while Coffman’s veers in a more positive, pop direction. Watch “All To Myself” below:

  • The White Stripes Reunite Against Donald Trump

    The Trump campaign used “Seven Nation Army” in a campaign video, and The White Stripes responded with a Facebook post saying, “[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][We] are disgusted by this association, and by the illegal use of [our] song.” They made their stance on Trump even clearer on Thursday night by making “Icky Trump” t-shirts on the Third Man Records website. It’s a play on the Stripes’ 2007 album Icky Thump, and contain lyrics to the song on the back: “White Americans, what? Nothing else to do?/ Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too.”

  • Listen To The Tut’s Ode To A Terrible Manager

    “1982” tells the tale of an unfortunate situation the West London punks found them in: After taking a DIY approach to their musical affairs, they signed with a manager who did nothing for them, blaming them for his incompetence. They eventually found out his last contract with a client had ended in 1982, making him severely out of touch with today’s musical scene (and reality, we assume)?  But as the fiercely fun video shows, they’ve managed to rise above- without a manager. Watch below:

  • Watch The Making Of A Seat At The Table

    A Seat at the Table, Beginning Stages contains footage of the early stages of Solange’s latest album, giving insight into the “jam sessions, exploring of sounds and ideas, and experimentation” that created A Seat At The Table. It’s an interesting look at an artist’s process, and you can check it out below. And if you haven’t yet, go listen to the album itself.