AF 2021 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums & Singles of The Year

If you went into 2021 with high expectations, you weren’t alone. Even if it was hard to feel optimistic this time last year, it certainly seemed as if things could get no worse. Live music did return, after all – though with the appearance of Delta, and now Omicron, the joyful noise comes with a caveat. After sixteen months of having to livestream shows (fun, but not the same) little could stop me from attending shows in person; wearing a mask as an extra precaution felt like no big deal, even if no one else was doing it. But luck (and vaccines) feel like the real reason I emerged unscathed from dozens of risky experiences, and with performances on the horizon canceled once again, maybe it’s wise to enter 2022 with slightly lower expectations.

There’s always recorded music, anyhow. Maybe the tumult of the year just has me personally feeling a bit unfocused, but it seems as though I barely scaled the mountain of this year’s musical offerings without getting a bit buried in the avalanche of releases – ones that had been pushed back, ones that were created in lockdown. I’ll be playing catch up well into the new year, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t gems I connected with almost immediately, and very deeply. And that’s what I’ve heard across the board, from those in the industry as well as casual music fans – is that our favorites this year stayed on heavy rotation, as we latched onto music that accurately reflected our moods, which evolved moment to moment and of course happened to be different for all of us at any given time. What does that mean for year-end lists? Audiofemme has always compiled an eclectic list, including favorites from each of our contributors without overall rank – consider any repeats to be the best of the best. But this year, the list seems even more diverse, meaning there’s a wealth of weird and wonderful music below to discover, dear reader. Thanks for sticking with us through another wild year.


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) PinkPantheress – to hell with it
      2) Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime
      3) Low – Hey What
      4) Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
      5) Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
      6) Dawn Richard – Second Line: An Electro Revival
      7) Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take
      8) aya – im hole
      9) Flock of Dimes – Head of Roses
      10) Tyler, the Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
    • Top 5 Singles:
      1) Japanese Breakfast – “Be Sweet”
      2) Loraine James (feat. Eden Samara) – “Running Like That”
      3) Hand Habits – “More Than Love”
      4) Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – “Like I Used To”
      5) Julien Baker – “Faith Healer (Half Waif Remix)”

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Low – Hey What
      2) Tirzah – Colourgrade
      3) Nana Yamato – Before Sunrise
      4) Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine of Hell
      5) Jane Weaver – Flock
      6) Tonstartssbandht – Petunia
      7) Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
      8) Squirrel Flower – Planet (i)
      9) Veik – Surrounding Structures
      10) Cassandra Jenkins – An Overview on Phenomenal Nature
    • Top 10 Singles:
      1) Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – “Like I Used To”
      2) Special Interest – “All Tomorrow’s Carry”
      3) Squid – “G.S.K.”
      4) Julien Baker – “Bloodshot”
      5) Mandy, Indiana – “Bottle Episode”
      6) Remember Sports – “Pinky Ring”
      7) Cedric Noel – “Comuu”
      8) Gustaf – “Mine”
      9) June Jones – “Therapy”
      10) MAN ON MAN – “Stohner”

  • Mandy Brownholtz (Marketing Director)
    • Top 5 Albums (in no particular order):
      Spellling – The Turning Wheel
      King Woman – Celestial Blues
      Macy Rodman – Unbelievable Animals
      Marissa Nadler – The Path of the Clouds
      Kinlaw – The Tipping Scale
    • Top 3 Singles (in no particular order):
      Often – “Deep Sleep”
      Mannequin Pussy – “Control”
      Spice – “A Better Treatment”


  • Alexa Peters (Playing Seattle)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Wye Oak – Cut All The Wires: 2009-2011
      2) Dori Freeman – Ten Thousand Roses
      3) Isaiah Rashad – The House Is Burning
      4) Fawn Wood – Kåkike
      5) Carmen Q. Rothwell – Don’t Get Comfy / Nowhere
    • Honorable Mention: Mike Gebhart – Co-Pilot 
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Doja Cat (feat. SZA) – “Kiss Me More”
      2) Mitski – “Working for the Knife”
      3) DoNormaal – “Baby May”

  • Cat Woods (Playing Melbourne)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Deap Vally – Marriage
      2) Mod Con – Modern Condition
      3) Laura Stevenson – Laura Stevenson
      4) Joan As Police Woman – The Solution is Restless
      5) Black Country, New Road – For the first time
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Black Country, New Road – “Sunglasses”
      2) Lana Del Rey – “Dealer”
      3) jennylee – “Tickles”

  • Liz Ohanesian (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Hackedepicciotto — The Silver Threshold
      2) Saint Etienne — I’ve Been Trying to Tell You
      3) L’impératrice — Take Tsubo
      4) Pearl and the Oysters— Flowerland
      5) Nuovo Testamento — New Earth
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Midnight Magic – “Beam Me Up” 
      2) Jessie Ware – “Please”
      3) Gabriels – “Love and Hate in a Different Time (Kerri Chandler Remix)”  

  • Gillian G. Gaar (Musique Boutique)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Dolphin Midwives — Body of Water
      2) Sarah McQuaid — The St. Buryan Sessions
      3) Low — Hey What 
      4) Witch Camp — I’ve Forgotten Now Who I Used to Be 
      5) Full Bush — Movie Night
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Maggie Herron — “Sweet Lullaby”
      2) Sleater-Kinney — “High in the Grass”
      3) ONETWOTHREE — “Give Paw” 

  • Jason Scott (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Jetty Bones – Push Back
      2) M.A.G.S. – Say Things That Matter
      3) Lyndsay Ellyn – Queen of Nothing
      4) Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
      5) Christian Lopez – The Other Side
    • Top 5 Singles:
      1) Hayes Carll – “Help Me Remember”
      2) Jake Wesley Rogers – “Middle of Love”
      3) Adele – “To Be Loved”
      4) Carly Pearce – “What He Didn’t Do”
      5) Kacey Musgraves – “what doesn’t kill me”

  • Michelle Rose (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Alex Orange Drink – Everything Is Broken, Maybe That’s O​.​K.
      2) Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
      3) Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
      4) Magdalena Bay – Mercurial World
      5) Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Blonder – “Ice Cream Girl” 
      2) Mitski – “The Only Heartbreaker”
      3) Kristiane – “Better On Your Own”  

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Polo G – Hall of Fame
      2) Benny the Butcher & Harry Fraud – The Plugs I Met 2
      3) Megan Thee Stallion – Something For Thee Hotties
      4) Pooh Shiesty – Shiesty Sessions
      5) blackbear – misery lake
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Benny the Butcher & Harry Fraud – “Thanksgiving”
      2) Lil Nas X (feat. Jack Harlow)  – “INDUSTRY BABY”
      3) 24kGoldn (feat. Future) – “Company”

  • Jamila Aboushaca (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Kacey Musgraves – star-crossed
      2) Snoh Aalegra – Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies 
      3) Lil Nas X – Montero
      4) Darkside – Spiral
      5) Blu DeTiger – How Did We Get Here EP
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Kaytranada (feat. H.E.R.) – “Intimidated”
      2) Kacey Musgraves – “simple times”
      3) Snoh Aalegra – “In Your Eyes”

  • Sophia Vaccaro (Playing the Bay)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Aly & AJ – A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun
      2) Julia Wolf – Girls in Purgatory (Full Moon Edition)
      3) Megan Thee Stallion – Something For Thee Hotties
      4) Lil Mariko – Lil Mariko
      5) Destroy Boys – Open Mouth, Open Heart
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) daine – “dainecore”
      2) Julia Wolf – “Villain”
      3) Doja Cat – “Need To Know”

  • Sam Weisenthal (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take
      2) Katy Kirby – Cool Dry Place
      3) Mega Bog – Life, and Another
      4) Ada Lea – one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden
      5) Olivia Kaplan – Tonight Turns to Nothing
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Charlotte Cornfield – “Drunk For You” 
      2) Dora Jar – “Multiply”
      3) Joe Taylor Sutkowski, Dirt Buyer – “What Luck, Goodbye”  

  • Sara Barron (Playing Detroit)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) PinkPantheress – to hell with it
      2) Summer Walker – Still Over It
      3) Erika de Casier – Sensational
      4) Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
      5) Adele – 30
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Lana Del Rey – “Dealer”
      2) Liv.e – “Bout It”
      3) SZA – “I Hate U”

  • Eleanor Forrest (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
      2) CL – ALPHA
      3) My Life As Ali Thomas – Peppermint Town
      4) Halsey – If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
      5) Remember Sports – Like a Stone
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) FKA twigs (feat. Central Cee) – “Measure of a Man”
      2) Sabriel – “Pulse”
      3) Lexie Liu – “有吗炒面 ALGTR”

RSVP HERE: Hayley and The Crushers livestream via T1 Fest + More!

If you can picture Joan Jett fronting The Ramones while drinking a cola-flavored Slurpee at a record shop you’ll have an idea what to expect from Hayley and The Crushers. The power-pop surf-punk trio hail from San Louis Obispo, California and are fronted by Haley “Crusher” Cain alongside her bassist/husband Dr. Cain “Crusher” Cain and drummer Dougie Tangent. Their music is the perfect soundtrack for the intro credits of an early ’00s teen movie that takes place in the ’50s. This year they released their third record Vintage Millennial and a 7″ single titled “Jacaranda.” In 2019 they played 100+ shows touring cross-country while living exclusively out of their van. They put on an energetic live show; and you can watch them live on Saturday October 24th via the T1 Fest- a benefit for JDRF, who fund research and advocate for people suffering from Type 1 Diabetes.

We chatted with Hayley “Crusher” Cain about the making of their most recent record, what their band’s tiki drink would be, and her podcast Sparkle and Destroy.

AF: How was the process of writing and recording your third record?

HCC: Making our new album Vintage Millennial was kind of a blur. We were touring and playing live a bunch in 2019, so the songs came pretty quickly and with a lot of urgency. Our home drummer here in San Luis Obispo, Benjamin Cabreana, is very high energy and eager to learn new songs, so we just kept feeding the beast till we had a whole set finished. I wrote “Gabbie is a Domme,” about an old friend who had become a dominatrix, in one sitting, without a ton of drama or overthinking. I remember being surprised by that, and knowing in my head that there would be glockenspiel. It was almost creepy how quickly some songs came to be, just me and the guitar. There’s something really freeing about knowing you have to get a record done quickly, between tour dates or a deadline you’ve set yourself. You just make decisions. Ideas that might have languished for years, rotting in my notebook (“I Don’t Wanna be like Johnny Ramone” and “Shoulda Been Shangela,” which was about a drag queen that the band loved on Ru Paul’s Drag Race) just kind of leapt off the page and into life. For that reason, I think this album is a real time capsule of our lives at the moment, right now. Then there are songs like “Kiss Me so I Can,” which my husband/bass player, Dr. Cain, and I wrote together. It was a little labored but in a good way. We were tasked with making a groovy sort of Crushers-style love song that still felt universal. We wrote it in real-time as we faced the reality of what constant van-living and ambition was doing to our relationship. I think anyone can relate to the idea of never feeling like you have enough time for your loved one (even if you live in a van/apartment/house with them), or feeling split between two lives and desires. Honestly, it felt quite exposing, but like a natural next step. “Poison Box” was also a collaboration between us – I was in Berlin for the holidays with my sister, and I was inspired by the GDR museum, which showed life in Germany before the Berlin Wall fell. My husband sent me a few guitar riffs over voice memo one night and I wrote the song at my sister’s Berlin apartment after a night of drinking. Everything felt urgent and crazy in 2019. We also tried to write a bit more for production than on Cool/Lame, which is basically a representation of what we do live. We tried to keep spots open for organ, additional drums, claps, and general weirdness, which I think add a lot to our sound, and we’d like to keep that going. Dr. Cain’s sly surf song “Forever Grom” is one of my favorite tunes on the album, even if it truly is a quick interlude and just a total wild card. Fun fact: all the waves and seagulls you hear on that track were created by either Dr. Cain’s amazing vocal abilities or a steel tube being rubbed against the nether regions of my Gretsch guitar. I feel really lucky we were able to do vinyl in 2020, despite all the issues happening in the record pressing world and the wider world in general. Travis Woods from Eccentric Pop Records believed in Vintage Millennial, even if it might be the weirdest album on his label to date. All you need is one person to believe in you and you just decide it’s a good idea. That’s a little known secret of the business!

AF: What are jacarandas, and what do they mean to you?

HCC: Wikipedia says: “Jacaranda mimosifolia is a sub-tropical tree native to south-central South America that has been widely planted elsewhere because of its attractive and long-lasting pale indigo flowers.” I can confirm this is true! In my town of San Luis Obispo, California, these purple trees start blooming in May and continue through the summer. In the summer, everything is brown (burnt by literal wildfires) or just dried by the sun, so these insane purple trees really stand out. I wrote the song as I was longing for the road. We spent 100 days on the road in 2019 with two Midwest Tours and a few West Coast tours and I started writing this song between dates, when we had come home briefly to tie up loose ends. Dr. Cain was selling his comic book shop of nine years and I had quit a column I had written for the local alt weekly for about five years. The color of the trees inspired me and I loved the idea of a song that’s a wake up call. Maybe I just hadn’t been home in a while, so the trees seemed even more technicolor than usual. I felt like they were a cosmic sign, that they were speaking to me and letting me know it was okay to get the hell out. Of course, now I am back at home and have had to completely eat every single word of that song. It’s been humbling. I am grateful to live where I do and to have my friends and family and dogs here.

AF: How has quarantine affected your creative process/routine?

HCC: I just feel like I am always working at 30%. The battery in my soul is low. I don’t have the boundless energy to write demos and I certainly don’t have that urgent feeling that comes with preparing for/booking the next tour. I feel sort of like I am swimming through peanut butter. I continue to write my song ideas down in my notebook, but they take longer to come together. Band practice has helped. Making demos has helped. But everything is slower, less fluid, clunky. That’s got to be part of the underlying and ongoing trauma of 2020. I am not into “victim mentality” at all, but we need to realize we are all in a slowly boiling pot and that is going to have real consequences on our mental health over time. Someone said this recently and it really stuck with me: “It’s like we’re all in a fire. And it’s slow burning. And it’s invisible.” This is stress, anxiety and depression compounded and stretched out like we’ve never seen before. All I know is I am writing down the freaky stuff that I have seen during COVID (a guy wearing a gas mask at the grocery store; a lonely hopscotch created in chalk by kids on my street surrounded by positive affirmations) and I know it will all go into a song, a book or something. Dr. Cain has been surfing a lot, Ben has been skating, and I have been doing yoga in my backyard. You have to find something that completely takes your mind off the election, the state of our country, COVID. You just have to.

AF: If Hayley and the Crushers were a tiki drink, what would it be?

HCC: A super sweet, surprisingly strong Madonna Rum Punch from Madonna Inn, the late ’50s pink palace of a hotel located down the street from my house! It has multiple rums, a maraschino cherry, an orange slice and a cute little skewer.

AF: If you were to do a Halloween-themed cover, what would it be? 

HCC: Our song “Neurotica” is about a teen witch, so that is as spooky as we have gotten! The only horror movie I can really watch without peeing my pants is Gremlins, and I’m pretty sure that’s actually a Christmas movie and a teen comedy and not at all supposed to be scary. But it is! It’s so scary. An instrumental surf punk version of the Gremlins theme song would actually be pretty frightening (on many levels). 

AF: Have you had any paranormal experiences?

HCC: As for paranormal experiences, I wish I could say I have had some. I always wanted to see an alien or communicate with a forlorn ghost in a Victorian nightgown. Maybe it’s because I grew up with atheists, but boring old science has literally ruined my sense of otherworldly fun. Kim Wilde, who we cover on Vintage Millennial with our song “Water on Glass” is always talking about aliens and stuff. Her latest album is called Here Come the Aliens. It’s funny when you Google someone you admire from the ’80s and you realize that they now go on talk shows recounting their paranormal experiences. I’m jealous, really. I can only hope to be that eccentric one day.

AF: Tell us a little about your podcast Sparkle and Destroy. Who would be your dream guest? 

HCC: It’s like an audio zine, and it’s not supposed to be fancy by any means. It’s half interview and half just me rambling about art and my life. I worked as a journalist for about 10 years and I loved the experience of being able to walk right up to someone you found interesting or cool. It’s powerful stuff, to be able to interview them and just pick their brains (as you know). I also had a real paper zine for a few years, which was super fun if not insanely time consuming. When I quit all that so I could focus more on music, I really craved being an interviewer again. I was meeting all these rad women on the road or elsewhere. A sound woman here, a guitarist there. So now I have my own excuse to walk up to some stranger and say, “Can I interview you?” Funny that people will usually say yes. I couldn’t believe that Alice Bag said yes. My dream guest, Josie Cotton, has already been on the show. Guess I should pack it up and go home!

AF: When it is safe to have shows and tours again, are there any structural changes you would like to see in how they are run and in the music scene as a whole? 

HCC: Considering we book all own tours, make all our own fliers, chase down all our own press, send out all our own advances, and promote all our own shows on our own dime—sure. I’d love to see a return of dedicated, professional venue bookers in the United States who are paid well enough to help with some of this crucial work. I find myself doing the job of the venue when it comes to promotion and even organizing what times the bands will play, because more often than not, you don’t even get an email confirming the gig. We create and print fliers and literally send the paper versions to venues, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but think about doing that for every show on tour. Then there is contacting local press/radio etc. We buy our own ads to promote the shows we play, even as we are spending a lot of money to travel across the country to be there. This work helps all the bands on the bill and the venue, not just us. Of course, some venues do have good promotion, but, in general, I think the money isn’t there anymore. These jobs are just going away or not paying well enough to attract the right people. I know they used to exist, because older music people tell me about those glory days when a venue would actually tell the local paper about a show. Of course, papers are going away too. Venues are closing down left and right during COVID so I feel bad saying anything critical. They will be so weak and needing of support when and if they reopen that all I can hope for is an open door and a few drink tickets.

AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?

HCC: We have a new album we are working on! Stay tuned. It should come out next year if all goes to plan. We are also doing a live stream on Saturday Oct. 24. T1 Fest supports funding and research for folks suffering from Type 1 Diabetes, which is a big issue for our former drummer, who had to quit the band due to medical reasons.

We have a new single coming out this winter that I think will surprise and delight y’all. The song is about one of my first punk loves, Black Flag. I used to sit in the barn and play Black Flag and Ramones songs over and over, trying to sing as snotty as possible. Now I am ancient, in my 30s, and still feel that sense of excitement about punk. It’s an homage of sorts! We’ve been filming a music video for the song and I have to say it’s pretty silly. It has been a morale boost for sure. There will be a new shirt and cassette associated with the new single, so watch for that. We are supposed to head to Europe in summer 2021, but we will see if that happens. Our band has already voted by mail and we encourage everyone to do so! We thank our Crushers worldwide for all the love and support during these “uncertain times.”

RSVP HERE for Hayley and The Crushers via T1 Fest 2020 with Dan Vapid of Dan Vapid & The Cheats and The Methadones, Jen Pop and Poli Van Dam of The Bombpops, The Radio Buzzkills, Death and Memphis, The Usuals, Capgun Heroes, and The Lettermans on Saturday 10/24 6pm ET.

More great livestreams this week…

10/23 PUP via NoonChorus. $13, 9pm ET RSVP HERE

10/23 Jason Isbell, The Killers, Stevie Nicks, Kurt Vile and more via SiriusXM (Tom Petty Birthday Bash). 4:30pm ET RSVP HERE

10/23 Teenage Halloween via The New Colossus Festival YouTube (live from Rockaway Beach). 9pm ET RSVP HERE

10/24 Chance The Rapper, Questlove, Shaquille O’Neal, LL COOL J and more via Facebook (Black Entrepreneurs Day). 7pm ET RSVP HERE

10/24 Billie Eilish via The Internet. 6pm ET RSVP HERE

10/25 Angel Olsen, Bright Eyes, Brittany Howard, Eyes Blood, Mac DeMarco & more via Lively (Village of Love for Planned Parenthood). 9pm ET RSVP HERE

10/26 Thick, Haybaby, Brain Don, Niteowl, Adrian Is Hungry via Venue Pilot (live from Our Wicked Lady). $5, 7pm ET RSVP HERE

10/27 Native Sun, Pure Adult via Venue Pilot (live from The Broadway). $5, 7pm ET RSVP HERE

RSVP HERE: Shelley Thomas Livestreams via YouTube + MORE

Shelley Thomas composes and produces lush orchestral arrangements that she has dubbed “world chamber pop.” She has figuratively and physically gone around the world with her compositions, traveling to 17 countries and studied with over 40 music teachers that have influenced her style that melds Balkan, Arabic, Hindustani, African, and classical music. She can sing in 15 different languages and plays the oud, which is like a short scale pear shaped lute that has been used in Middle Eastern, North African and Central Asia for thousands of years.

Shelley’s latest single release, “Mirror,” guides you through a sonic journey to the beautifully haunted side of yourself. Her vocal harmonization traps you in a trance that eventually leads towards acceptance and healing. If that isn’t enough to meditate on, her recent video for “Cancer Moon” captures her immense live band while boiling down all the intense emotions the moons of this past summer have ushered in. The next chance you’ll have to catch Shelley making her world music magic is September 25th at 1pm via YouTube. She also does a livestream from her Patreon on the last Friday of every month. We chatted with Shelley about the transformative power of music, what rituals inspire her and shaman drums.

AF: What got you into the oud, qanun and composing world orchestral music? 

ST: I grew up with a classical pianist mother, and took dance, piano, voice and guitar lessons as a youth. I studied World Music Performance at CalArts (BFA ’08), where I had a six-piece band called Blue Lady I wrote songs for. I got into Arabic music shortly thereafter via a vocal class. I fell in love with the style, and picked up the oud a few years later to accompany myself while singing Arabic music. Then another few years later, I felt inspired to start composing again after years of only singing traditional music – but with a bigger vision, for more instruments, including strings and qanun, because I love the delicate and emotive textures. After many years of absorbing and learning from masters, the music started pouring out of my mind. And that’s the album I’m working on now. I’ve always felt that music is the soundtrack to my life, and enjoyed profound journeys and transformations through listening. I hope to give listeners such an experience.

AF: Can you tell us some stories about some of the countries you’ve traveled to and music teachers you’ve worked with?

ST: Two of my incredible vocal teachers were Rima Kcheich and Ghada Shbeir, whom I studied with in Lebanon and also at Simon Shaheen’s Arabic Music Retreat in Massachusetts. Rima taught me to pay attention to the details and sing maqam, and Ghada taught me to improvise and add different vocal timbres to my toolbox. Simon himself teaches me passion, discipline, and affirms music as my greatest love. I spent about six months in Lebanon and loved the culture, nature, and its music especially. I also studied Manned drumming from Guinea with Jebebara ensemble there. 

My mentor at CalArts was Alfred Ladzekpo, a Ghanaian chief and master drummer. I was obsessed with Ewe drumming, and my friends and I spent all of our free time playing and learning those rhythmic compositions. He taught us to know when we’re “OFF!” While at CalArts, I also studied Bulgarian choral music with Kate Conklin, and Hindustani music with Swapan Chaudhuri and Aashish Khan. Aashishji said, “You can’t sing both rock and Raga.” 

I’ve traveled to Morocco several times, also toured with Vlada Tomova’s Bulgarian Voices Trio in Canada, Mexico, Cuba, and Russia. I’ve studied Fado singing in Lisbon, Portugal, and Bulgarian Folk Singing at Plovdiv Academy of Folk Music. I sang with Petrana Kucheva, a fantastic vocalist and mentor whom I met there, for a few years. I’ve toured with Black Sea Hotel in the states, Sweden and Denmark and performed at Emirates Palace in UAE with Mayssa Karaa. I’ve been to Turkey, where I witnessed Ottoman music in the otherworldly cave-chimneys of Cappadocia, and Oman, where I saw an exquisite concert of Amal Maher singing Oum Kalthoum at Muscat Opera House. I’ve studied oud with Charbel Rouhana, Wassim Odeh, George Ziadeh, and Bassam Saba, a dear mentor and Artistic Director of the NY Arabic Orchestra. Bassam has taught me style, taste, humbleness and soul. 

AF: What’s it like learning to perform a song in a language you aren’t fluent in? What language do you enjoy singing in the most?

ST: It’s a fun challenge. Language lights up my brain. Just as an opera singer learns to sing European art songs well, I study and dedicate to the linguistic nuances the same way. I’d say it’s 80% listening, and 20% translating that into your body. I watch old-timey videos of singers and study the shapes of their mouths. I had a fantastic Arabic diction teacher, Dr. Iman Roushdy-Hammady. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to Arabic and Bulgarian singing, but I am now enjoying the most singing my own songs in English. You have to learn to lighten up, let go of perfectionism, and not take yourself so seriously. It’s okay to make mistakes! At the end of the day it’s about following your heart to what’s interesting, and joyful expression through music and cross-cultural understanding.

AF: What types of symbolism and ritual inspire your music? 

ST: I love psychology and Jungian symbolism of the shadow and the divine child archetype, also expressed by Carolyn Myss. I love the artwork of Alex Grey, which portrays us as multidimensional beings, and I’ve performed in his sacred space at CoSM. I’m fascinated by many rituals around the world, from Amazonian ayahuasca healings and their beautiful icaros songs, to the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, to West African dance drumming, to Episcopal church services with epic organ arrangements, incense and flags, to sound baths and crystal energy healings. Drumming is very important to me and I maintain a strong rhythmic element to my music. Drums and shakers, in particular, have been used in healing rituals since ancient times. When I’m around drums, I can hear them speak, and feel them cleansing my body and shaking energy up inside. Also language, poetry, and the power of the spoken word, with sound and intention, is an important element of ritual. Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way is my anchor, and I write morning pages regularly. Essentially, I’m interested in the all ways humans have created meaning, healing and transformation, and connect to higher realms through music and sound.

AF: What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen this month?

ST: The most inspiring thing I’ve seen this month is the sun setting over the ocean, and the sea’s iridescent colors of dusk; the way they work together to create something more beautiful than they could be individually.  

AF: What would you want listeners to take away from your latest release?

ST: “Mirror” is specifically about shadow work and integration of all parts of yourself into one loving whole. The more we can accept and understand ourselves, the more we can begin to accept and understand others. Transformation begins from within, and it takes time, patience, and humility. The way forward to a better world, in my vision, is with greater compassion, sensitivity, and this knowledge of self, which can be catalyzed by music. So we can become less violent and reactionary, and more inspired, loving and proactive. We are creative beings, meant to create, meant to shine, and meant to enjoy life, not just to suffer. We can heal, we can let go of our old stories. We can become friends with ourselves and create a life we don’t need to escape from. It’s up to us to choose joy in each moment, to make the best of our current situation and find a positive way forward, and to choose to be willing to move towards this healing with honesty. When we make this choice individually and then come together, with all of our gifts and solutions and ideas, that is the power of community. Then, we can truly live and flourish in harmony, and fulfill our potential.

AF: What is your livestream set-up like?

ST: I use the streaming platform Stage Ten, link it to my Youtube Live, and press go. I have a BOSS RC-300 loop station that I improvise with and program vocals into with some beats. I have a Shure Beta-58 microphone, my oud with pickup mic attached, and various percussion like shaker, frame drums, and riq, which I layer with the looper. I have a Fishmann Loudbox Mini amp, so I plug 1/4’ cables from my loop station into that. I plug the mic and oud directly into the loop station.

AF: What are your plans for 2020 and beyond? 

ST: I am in pre-production for recording my first full album of original music with a ten-piece microtonal chamber ensemble! I’m finishing the scores, arrangements, and parts in Sibelius, and planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support this work. First I’ll record and make a music video for my next single, “Dreamtime.” Once the world opens up again, I’ll be touring a lot with this ensemble.

My ultimate goal is to open an artist retreat & performance center with music and photo/video production studios. This space will be available to artists from around the world from all socio-economic backgrounds to come and create the art that’s meant to be made through them, in a supportive, inspiring, and unpretentious atmosphere. 

RSVP HERE for Shelley Thomas livestream via YouTube at 1pm ET. To pre-order the upcoming album, email 

More great livestreams this week…

9/25 Langhorne Slim, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Mt. Joy & More via Philly Music Fest. 7pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/25 Modern English (Live from London) via AXS. $15, 8:30pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/25 Long Neck, Baby Grill, gobbinjr, Oceanator via Twitch (Around the Campfire). RSVP HERE

9/26 Angel Olsen, Beach House, Big Thief, Blood Orange, Charli XCX, Solange, Wilco & More via Hotel Figueroa (Pitchfork Drive-In). $39, 10pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/26 Oh Sees via Seated. $15, 8pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/26 Reggie Watts, John Teida, Girl God, Shannon Lay, Ramonda Hammer, & more via Echo Park Rising. 12pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/29 Pom Pom Squad, Charlotte Rose Benjamin via (Neon Gold Presents). 8pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/30 The Nude Party via Rough Trade UK Instagram. 1pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/30 Laraaji (Sun Piano) via NoonChorus (LPR Presents). $10, 9pm ET, RSVP HERE

RSVP HERE: Oceanator Record Release Stream via + MORE

Oceanator is the Brooklyn-based solo project of Elise Okusami, who writes honest grunge-pop tunes that range from solo acoustic folk to synth pop. Okusami’s current live band includes Andrew Whitehurst and Anthony Richards, but her newest record Things I Never Said (released today!), also features performances by Eva Lawitts on bass and Mike Okusami and Aaron Silberstein on drums. Lead singles “A Crack in the World,” “Heartbeat” and “I Would Find You” have earworm qualities that belie their sonic heft. Though grunge is often associated with angsty feelings, Things I Never Said is actually comforting, with snippets of positive lyrical affirmations like “I’ll keep trying to keep the skies blue anyway.” The record was recorded at Wonderpark Studios by Eva Lawitt and Chris Kasnow and by Okusami’s brother in his studio in Maryland, and was released by Okusami’s new label Plastic Miracles. You can celebrate Oceanator’s record release tonight 8/28 on BABY.TV at 8pm EST! We chatted with Elisa Okusami about her Dead Kennedys cover, creating her own label, and her recommendations for must-download material for next Bandcamp Friday (September 4th).

AF: The first time I saw Oceanator was at Shea Stadium in fall of 2016 and you were completely solo. How has the project and your songwriting style evolved over the years?

EO: I miss Shea! I was playing a lot of solo stuff in the beginning because I wanted to get out there and play those songs, and I didn’t have any people to play them with yet. I still love playing solo for sure, but it’s very exciting to be able to play these songs big and huge with a full band. Andrew Whitehurst and Anthony Richards have been my touring bandmates for the past year and they’re amazing. I was also playing shows with Eva Lawitts, Aaron Silberstein, Zoe Brecher and a few other folks, and knowing that I had people I could ask to play shows I think made me feel freer to write songs for a full band and write less acoustic stuff, maybe? Not sure, I guess. I’ve always written both and I’m excited to get to perform both ways these days!

AF: Do you have a quarantine routine? Has lockdown affected your creativity in any way?

EO: I’ve been making cold brew coffee every few days – that’s about as much of a routine as I’ve got right now. In the beginning I was doing better with it and also doing walks and stuff. I need to get back into it. As far as creativity, I’ve been having an extra hard time writing lyrics. I’ve been writing a bunch of music, but any time I try to think about lyrics at all it’s this big grey blur.

AF: What are you most proud of about your new record and what do you want listeners to take away from it?

EO: I hope people take away a feeling of enjoyment and also a feeling of hope. I think the record goes through a lot of dark and heavy stuff, but I think overall it’s an optimistic record. That’s also why I ended it with “Sunshine,” because after all the disasters, etc, it’s like “Okay, we’re gonna be okay.” I’m pretty proud of the record as a whole, to be honest. I like the way it flows and I think these are some of the best songs I’ve ever written.

AF: How was recording your cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Police Truck“?

EO: It was super fun! I did it at my brother’s studio and played all the instruments. I was having a super fun time just jamming on everything as we recorded. I was nervous about doing the vocals ‘cause Jello’s got that distinct voice, but I tried to just be me and I’m happy with how it turned out.

AF: What was the process like of creating your own label to release the album?

EO: Well, the label had been planned for a while, actually. I was always planning to launch it this year, and the original plan didn’t include me releasing any of my own music at all. Then I left the label I was on, so we were shopping the record around and with everything going on it was taking a while so we decided to self-release, and then I was like, well since I’m launching the label anyway might as well put it on that! It’s been a fun learning process. A lot of folks from other labels have reached out to offer to chat if I have questions, and that’s been super helpful. I’m really excited about the future of the label. We have four more releases coming in the fall and just put our first release of 2021 on the calendar.

AF: What is your favorite piece of Oceanator merch and how did you get the idea for it?

EO: I don’t know if I have a favorite right now! I’m very very stoked on the entire run of stuff I did around the record. I guess if I had to pick it would be the post cards or the temporary tattoos? The postcards were designed by Kameron White and the tattoos by Haley Butters and they’re both perfect. The post cards my friend Gretchen suggested doing. The temporary tattoos, I got the idea because I was thinking about what other fun ’90s stuff I could do since I was doing pogs. Temporary tattoos just popped into my head and I knew Haley had made flash sheets before so I asked them if they wanted to do the temp tattoo designs and they sent back this perfect thing with a tattoo for each song inspired by that song. It’s so cool.

AF: What bands/labels do you recommend to support on Bandcamp day next week?

EO: Solidarity Club, Grimalkin Records, Exploding in Sound, Quiet Year, Good Eye, Get Better, Disposable America to name a few labels. Cave People and Alright both also have records coming out this Friday so I would say pick those up. McKinley Dixon and Maneka are excellent. Artisan P has a new EP coming out on Sept 4th. I could go on and on but I’ll stop there.

AF: You’ve also drummed in various bands – are you still drumming in any projects or will you be in the future?

EO: I’m not actively right now because of the pandemic. Most of the drumming I was doing for folks was on tours, but yeah, I’ve been talking to some friends and I think if scheduling works out when touring starts again I’ll be playing some drums! I hope so. I miss the drums.

AF: What is your livestream setup like?

EO: Recently I have been doing the guitar through pedals just direct in to the mixer so I don’t bother the neighbors as much. At the beginning of quarantine I was mic’ing my amp but now that I’m doing more streams at later times and stuff, so I’ve been doing direct in and it has actually been sounding pretty great. Then I’ve got a mic for the vocals. Those both go into this little mixer, and I connect the mixer either to my interface and then into my computer or directly into my phone depending on what platform I’m streaming on.

AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?

EO: Mostly just seeing how things play out with pandemic and stuff. I don’t think shows will happen anytime soon which stinks. But I’m trying to stay busy. Got a bunch of things coming out on the label, so I’ll be working on that stuff. And I have a bunch of songs that I wanna work on for the next record, and also maybe an EP.

RSVP HERE for Oceanator’s Things I Never Said Release Party via BABY.TV, $5-50 8-9PM EST

More great livestreams this week…

8/28 Yaeji via Boiler Room Instagram. 7pm EST RSVP HERE

8/28 Angel Olsen via Noonchorus – Cosmic Stream 3. $15 adv/$17 dos, 9pm EST RSVP HERE

8/29 Ben Gibbard, Arlo Guthrie, Glenn Mercer (of The Feelies), and more via Coney Island Mermaid Parade Tail-a-thon. 8pm EST RSVP HERE

8/29 The O’My’s, Dehd, Frank Waln, Bomba con Buya, Andrew Sa via Square Roots Festival. 7pm EST RSVP HERE

8/29 Charlie Parker’s 100th Birthday Celebration: Sam Turvey, Jason Moran, Jaleel Shaw via SummerStage Everywhere. 10pm EST RSVP HERE

8/31 Goat Girl via Working Class Movement Library Facebook. 2pm EST RSVP HERE

9/2 The Plastic Show (Fantastic Plastics Talk Show) via Twitch. 9pm EST RSVP HERE

9/2 Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby via Red Rocks Unpaused. 10pm EST RSVP HERE

9/4 Policing on the Agenda: Understanding ‘defund the police’ and calling for police accountability in Black communities via Black Future Labs. 5pm EST RSVP HERE

RSVP HERE: SUO Bartends Listen Bar’s Virtual Happy Hour + MORE

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE. Due to live show cancellations we will be covering virtual live music events and festivals.

SUO is the solo project of artist and musician Saara Untracht-Oakner that came to fruition after 15 years of songwriting and a decade of touring. SUO’s retro-inspired debut Dancing Spots and Dungeons was released October 2019 via Stolen Body Records and was followed up with a European tour with dates supporting The Growlers in February. Soon after that tour ended Saara quarantined in Brooklyn with her roommate Lorelei Bandrovschi, the founder of the NYC booze-free bar Listen Bar. What makes Listen Bar special is that their bartenders are exclusively musicians that curate great playlists that are played during their shifts. On 4/11 you can tune in to see Saara and Lorelei demonstrate how to make Listen Bar’s signature cocktails during their virtual happy hour. It is now a FREE event thanks to support from Lyre’s Spirit Co., but when you RSVP you can make a donation for Listen Bar’s staff that has been effected by the covid-19 closures. We chatted with Saara about her favorite Listen Bar cocktails, what will be on her playlist, and her favorite European cities…

AF: What Listen Bar cocktails will you be making for the virtual happy hour? Which is your favorite?

SUO: This time around we’re going to be making “Smoked with Snoop,” “Because The Night,” and “Spritz Lyfe.” All are made with Lyre’s brand spirits. I haven’t actually tried any of these but I’m most excited to try “Because The Night” – it’s like a twist on a spiked coffee drink with coconut whipped cream. I’m lactose intolerant so any time I can indulge in dairy-free treats I’m excited.

AF: How did you get involved with Listen Bar? If you were bartending Listen Bar IRL, what songs would be on your playlist?

SUO: Lorelei is my roommate. She says I was the inspiration for having musicians as bartenders at Listen Bar. And this is IRL now and I will be playing my Playlist #3 this weekend. Weeks #1 and #2 include Jacques Dutronc, Doris Troy, ABBA, Los Saicos, and contemporaries like Faux Real, Brower, The Josephine Network, Habibi, Sunflower Bean and a little SUO ;)

AF: Other than making great nonalcoholic drinks, what does your daily quarantine life look like?

SUO: I do five minute planks and stretches at some point each day. When it’s sunny I spend the daytime in my yard reading and tending to the garden here and there. I go on at least two walks with my dog. I’m learning French on Duo Lingo. I try to do at least one creative thing a day, pick up my guitar, make a drawing or painting. And a shower. I make my room smell good with some Palo Santo and my room spray by Shocks Of Love. I spend a lot of time just laying and thinking. I’ve made a few dishes I’ve never cooked before.

AF: How was your recent European tour with the Growlers? What were your favorite shows and cities?

SUO: It was so amazing and it was already hard to come home after it. Seems like we were riding just in front of the Corona wave. Every show was so different that it’s hard to pick a favorite. We got the whole spectrum of crowds and venues from 1,000 capacity rooms to small cafes. But the crowds were always good and vibrant. I’m in love with Basque Country and southern France. Favorite shows include Paris, Lyon, Madrid, Valencia, Brussels.

AF: If you could be quarantined anywhere else in the world than where you are now, where would it be?

SUO: Somewhere tropical where I could surf everyday and eat fruit off a tree. I think that’s my wish quarantine or not.

AF: Do you have any other live streams planned for the future?

SUO: No plans. Every day is just day to day.

RSVP HERE for Listen’s Bars Virtual Happy Hour 4/11 at 2pm est featuring Saara from SUO and founder Loreli Bandrovschi.

More great live streams this week…

4/10 Frankie Cosmos via Instagram. 9pm est, RSVP HERE

4/10 Pheobe Bridgers via Instagram. 4pm est, RSVP HERE

4/10 Coachella: 20 years Nn The Desert via Youtube Premiere. 3pm est, RSVP HERE.

4/11. The Frights (playing self-titled) via Instagram. 7pm est, RSVP HERE

4/11 Angel Olsen via Veeps. 6pm est, RSVP HERE

4/11 Noisey Night In: Margo Price, Diet Cig, Black Lips and more via Youtube. 5pm est, RSVP HERE

4/12 Princess Nokia via Instagram. 9pm est, RSVP HERE

4/14 Elephant Stone via Sacred Sounds Sessions. 6pm est, RSVP HERE

4/14 Toth via Sultan Room Sessions Instagram. 8pm est RSVP HERE

AF 2019 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums & Singles of The Year

Lizzo press photo by Luke Gilford, courtesy of Atlantic Records.

Every year I keep a running list of new album releases. The idea is that I’ll have new stuff on my radar, along with a go-to playlist if I’m feeling adventurous (or bored) and want to hear something new. This year that list grew to nearly 9,000 songs, and I’m still adding stuff I missed from this year to it. When it came time to make my year-end list, I had some ideas about what would be on it, but I decided to do something more immersive than I’d done years prior (basically narrowing my list down to ten albums). This year, I decided to rank every record I listened to that came out in 2019, resulting in a list of more than 200 albums. That’s a lot, certainly. It’s my job, of course, to listen to music. But what was more mind-boggling was that, when I made a separate list of albums I hadn’t had a chance to listen to or simply didn’t stick in my mind, it was more than double that number. Y’all, a lot of music came out in 2019. And a lot of it was really, really good.

I think our list at Audiofemme is unique in that it gives each of our regular writers (and some of our contributors) complete ownership over their favorites, and that makes our list unusually eclectic. That’s especially true this year; last year’s lists featured a lot of love for Mitski and Janelle Monae, while this year’s lists were so disparate there’s very little crossover from list to list. So while it’s hard to choose one overarching narrative around who slayed hardest this year – Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen releasing the best albums of their careers, Big Thief releasing two amazing records, Jamila Woods and FKA Twigs going big on concept albums – I think we all know that person was Lizzo.


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
    2) Big Thief – Two Hands
    3) Boy Harsher – Careful
    4) FKA Twigs – Magdalene
    5) Cate le Bon – Reward

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)

    Top 10 Albums:
    2) Hand Habits – placeholder
    3) Crumb – Jinx
    4) Pottery – No. 1
    5) Orville Peck – Pony
    6) Cate le Bon – Reward
    7) Kim Gordon – No Home Record
    8) Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
    9) Black Belt Eagle Scout – At the Party With My Brown Friends
    10) Big Thief – Two Hands
    Top 10 Singles:
    1) Sharon Van Etten – “Jupiter 4”
    2) SOAK – “Valentine Shmalentine”
    3) Jonny Kosmo – “Strawberry Vision”
    4) Mineral – “Your Body Is the World”
    5) Drahla – “Stimulus for Living”
    6) Mattiel – “Keep the Change”
    7) Girlpool – “Minute in Your Mind”
    8) Charlotte Adigéry – “Paténipat”
    9) Weyes Blood – “Andromeda”
    10) Palehound – “Killer”

  • Mandy Brownholtz (Marketing Director)

    Top 5 Albums (in no particular order):
    Summer Walker – Over It
    Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
    Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
    Mannequin Pussy – Patience
    Raveena – Lucid
    Top 3 Singles:
    Summer Walker – “Anna Mae”
    Solange – “Binz”
    Jamila Woods – “ZORA”


  • Alexa Peters (Playing Seattle)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Guayaba – Fantasmagoria
    2) Ings – Lullaby Rock
    3) The Black Tones – Cobain & Cornbread
    4) Lemolo – Swansea
    5) Stephanie Anne Johnson – Take This Love
    Top 5 Singles:
    1) Lizzo – “Juice”
    2) Karma Rivera – “Do More Say Less”
    2) Heather Thomas Band – “When I Was Young”
    3) Stephanie Anne Johnson – “Never No More”
    4) Sarah Potenza – “I Work For Me”
    5) Ariana Grande – “Thank U, Next”

  • Sophia Vaccaro (Playing the Bay)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Charly Bliss – Young Enough
    2) PUP – Morbid Stuff
    3) Kim Petras – TURN OFF THE LIGHT
    4) Microwave – Death is a Warm Blanket
    5) Caroline Polachek – Pang
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Jess Day – “Rabbit Hole”
    2) Ashnikko – “Hi, It’s Me”
    3) Saweetie – “My Type”

  • Cillea Houghton (Playing Nashville)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Yola – Walk Through Fire
    2) Louis York – American Griots
    3) The Highwomen – The Highwomen
    4) Sara Potenza – Road to Rome
    5) Rising Appalachia – Leylines
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Kacey Musgraves – “Rainbow”
    2) Louis York – “Don’t You Forget”
    3) The Highwomen – “Crowded Table”

  • Luci Turner (Playing Atlanta)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
    2) Harry Styles – Fine Line
    3) Brittany Howard – Jaime
    4) MARINA – Love + Fear
    5) Death Mama – High Strangeness
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Sam Burchfield – “Blue Ridge June”
    2) Pip the Pansy – “Siren Song”
    3) 5 Seconds of Summer – “Teeth”

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy
    2) Wale – Wow… That’s Crazy
    3) Roddy Ricch – Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial
    4) DaBaby – KIRK
    5) NF – The Search
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) DaBaby – “Intro”
    2) Polo G – “Pop Out”
    3) Lil Baby – “Yes Indeed” (feat. Drake)

  • Amanda Silberling (Playing Philly)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Palehound – Black Friday
    2) Great Grandpa – Four of Arrows
    3) Charly Bliss – Young Enough
    4) T-Rextasy – Prehysteria
    5) Leggy – Let Me Know Your Moon
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Mannequin Pussy – “Drunk II”
    2) Charly Bliss – “Chatroom”
    3) (Sandy) Alex G – “Southern Sky”

  • Tarra Thiessen (Check the Spreadsheet)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
    2) FEELS – Post Earth
    3) Francie Moon – All the Same
    4) Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
    5) Crumb – Jinx
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Dehd – “Lucky”
    2) Bodega – “Shiny New Model”
    3) Y La Bamba – “Entre Los Dos”

  • Natalie Kirch (Pet Politics)

    Top 5 Albums (in Chronological Order):
    1) JANITOR — She Hates The Hits
    2) Haybaby — They Get There
    3) Holy Tunics — Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree
    4) Bethlehem Steel — Bethlehem Steel
    5) Francie Moon – All The Same
    6) SUO – Dancing Spots and Dungeons
    Top 5 Singles (in Chronological Order):
    1) Big Bliss – “Contact”
    2) Gesserit – “Silence”
    3) Vanessa Silberman – “I Got A Reason”
    4) New Myths – “Living Doll”
    5) Miss Eaves – “Swipe Left Up”


  • Liz Ohanesian

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy
    2) (tie) Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence // K Á R Y Y N – The Quanta Series
    3) !!! – Wallop
    4) Yacht – Chain Tripping
    5) Chromatics – Closer to Grey
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy”
    2) Roisin Murphy – “Narcissus”
    3) Boy Harsher – “Come Closer”

  • Lydia Sviatoslavsky

    Top 5 Albums:
    1)  Xiu Xiu – Girl With a Basket of Fruit
    2) slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
    3) Boy Harsher – Careful
    4) Thee Oh Sees – Face Stabber
    5) Sylvia Black – Twilight Animals
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Squarepusher – “Vortrack – Fracture Remix”
    2) Coyu & Moby – “I May Be Dead, But One Day The World Will Be Beautiful Again”
    3) Cocorosie – “Smash My Head”

  • Tamara Mesko

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Bad Books — III
    2) Pedro The Lion — Phoenix
    3) Laura Stevenson — The Big Freeze
    4) An Horse — Modern Air
    5) Black Belt Eagle Scout — At the Party With My Brown Friends
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Kevin Devine – “Only Yourself”
    2) Rain Phoenix feat. Michael Stipe – “Time is the Killer”
    3) Sigrid – “Strangers”

  • Erin Rose O’Brien

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Stef Chura — Midnight
    2) Angel Olsen — All Mirrors
    3) Lisa Prank — Perfect Love Song
    4) Carly Rae Jepsen — Dedicated
    5) Cheekface — Therapy Island
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Caroline Polachek — “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”
    2) Priests — “Jesus’ Son”
    3) Lana Del Ray — “The Greatest”

  • Katie Wojciechowski

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) The Highwomen — The Highwomen
    2) Better Oblivion Community Center — Better Oblivion Community Center
    3) Various Artists — Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’
    4) Vampire Weekend — Father of the Bride
    5) J.S. Ondara — Tales of America
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) MUNA — “Good News (Ya-Ya Song)”
    2) Lizzie No — “Narcissus”
    3) Noah Gundersen — “Lose You”

  • Micco Caporale

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Orville Peck — Pony
    2) Boy Harsher — Careful
    3) Lingua Ignota — Caligula
    4) Heterofobia — Queremos Ver El Mundo Arder
    5) Knife Wife — Family Party
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Dorian Electra – “Flamboyant”
    2) Orville Peck – “Dead of Night”
    3) Solange — “Binz”

  • Jason Scott

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Allison Moorer — Blood
    2) Gabriella Rose — Lost in Translation EP
    3) Emily Scott Robinson — Traveling Mercies
    4) Girl Wilde — Probably Crying EP
    5) BHuman — BMovie
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Dua Lipa – “Don’t Start Now”
    2) The Highwomen – “Redesigning Women”
    3) Katy Perry — “Never Really Over”

  • Ysabella Monton

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) King Princess – Cheap Queen
    2) Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
    3) Tyler, the Creator – IGOR
    4) Kim Petras – Clarity
    5) Charli XCX – Charli
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) King Princess – “Hit the Back”
    2) FKA Twigs – “holy terrain”
    3) Charli XCX – “Gone” feat. Christine and the Queens

  • Holly Henschen

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Marielle Allschwang & the Visitations – Precession of a Day: The World of Mary Nohl
    2) Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
    3) Sudan Archives – Athena
    4) Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
    5) Sigur Rós – Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) King Princess – “Hit the Back”
    2) Sleater-Kinney – “Hurry on Home”
    3) Lizzo – “Tempo”

  • Erin Lyndal Martin

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
    2) Mariee Sioux – Grief in Exile
    3) Carolina Eyck – Elegies for Theremin & Voice
    4) Julia Kent – Temporal
    5) Rhiannon Giddens – There is No Other (with Francesco Turrisi)

  • Rebecca Kunin

    Top 5 Albums (in no particular order):
    Mal Blum – Pity Boy
    Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
    Durand Jones and the Indications – American Love Call
    Tony Molina – Songs from San Mateo County
    Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
    Top 3 Singles:
    Brittany Howard – “Stay High”
    Angel Olsen – “New Love Cassette”
    Jacky Boy – “Get Along”

AF 2017 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums and Singles of the Year

While there’s been many a jaded thinkpiece about the import of music critics (usually begging the question What are they good for?) and the ubiquity of year-end lists can feel shallow at times, we can’t stress enough the importance of what it means to share music among friends. It’s a huge part of developing our tastes early in life – everyone has that one super cool bestie who introduced you to your favorite band in middle school – and as we get older, if music remains a source of passion in our lives, it becomes something we bond over as new relationships form.

Here at Audiofemme, we think of our readers as friends, so we made a list too. It’s not definitive, it’s not authoritative, and it’s (hopefully) not pretentious – just a round-up of the albums and singles that soundtracked the year for our regular writers (and, of course, your editors). We hope it will result in discovery as one year becomes the next; perhaps that album you missed back in February will get you through this winter, here and now. Music exists on a continuum, and even though the releases were highlighting now all came out within a particular calendar year, we don’t have to put them aside as we turn the page. Stay tuned for more features over the next week recapping 2017, and in the meantime, take a listen to some of our most beloved tunes.


  • Annie White (Executive Director)

    Top 10 Albums:
    1) Zola Jesus – Okovi
    2) the xx – I See You
    3) Jlin – Black Oragami
    4) King Krule – The OOZ
    5) Perfume Genius – No Shape
    6) Kelela – Take Me Apart
    7) Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights
    8) Slowdive – Slowdive
    9) SZA – Ctrl
    10) Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
    Top 5 Singles:
    1) Aimee Mann – “Goose Snow Cone”
    2) Rostam – “Don’t Let It Get To You”
    3) Lorde – “The Louvre”
    4) Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
    5) Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Deadly Valentine”

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)

    Top 10 Albums:
    1) Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me
    2) The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
    3) Slowdive – Slowdive
    4) Sophia Kennedy – Sophia Kennedy
    5) SZA – Ctrl
    6) Circuit des Yeux – Reaching for Indigo
    7) Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens
    8) Big Thief – Capacity
    9) Havah – Contravveleno
    10) sir Was – Digging a Tunnel
    Top 10 Singles:
    1) Land of Talk – “Inner Lover”
    2) Xiu Xiu – “Wondering”
    3) The National – “Nobody Else Will Be There”
    4) Jlin – “Holy Child”
    5) Marika Hackman – “Boyfriend”
    6) Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “An Intention”
    7) Wolf Parade – “Valley Boy”
    8) Syd – “Body”
    9) Perfume Genius – “Wreath”
    10) Pixx – “Toes”


  • Madison Bloom (Only Noise)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Happyness – Write In
    2) Timber Timbre – Sincerely, Future Pollution
    3) Aldous Harding – Party
    4) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
    5) Perfume Genius – No Shape
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Aldous Harding – “Imagining My Man”
    2) Blanck Mass – “Please”
    3) Benjamin Clementine – “Phantom of Aleppoville”

  • Ashley Prillaman

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Valerie June – The Order of Time
    2) Portugal The Man – Woodstock
    3) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
    4) Big Thief – Capacity
    5) SZA – Ctrl
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Valerie June – “Astral Plane”
    2) Amber Mark – “Lose My Cool”
    3) Big Thief – “Shark Smile”

  • Kaiya Gordon (Playing Columbus)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe
    2) SZA – Cntrl
    3) Paramore – After Laughter
    4) Aye Nako – Silver Haze
    5) Big Thief – Capacity
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
    2) St. Vincent – “New York”
    3) Japanese Breakfast – “Machinist”

  • Sara Barron (Playing Detroit)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Daniel Caesar – Freudian
    2) Jamila Woods – HEAVN
    3) Moses Sumney – Aromanticism
    4) Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett – Lotta Sea Lice
    5) Kevin Morby – City Music
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) St. Vincent – “New York”
    2) Snoh Aalegra – “Fool For You”
    3) Cigarettes After Sex – “Sweet”

  • Elizabeth Wakefield

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Bambara – Swarm
    2) Angel Olsen – Phases
    3) Bjork – Utopia
    4) Surfbort – Bort 2 Death
    5) Liars – TFCF
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Alexander F – “Swimmers”
    2) Weeping Icon – “Jail Bilz”
    3) Uni – “What’s the Problem?”

  • Tarra Thiessen (Check the Spreadsheet)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Francie Moon – So This is Life
    2) The Big Drops – Time, Color
    3) Angel Olsen – Phases
    4) Lola Pistola – Curfew 
    5) Thelma & The Sleaze – Somebody’s Doin Somethin
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Bizarre Sharks – “Tremendous”
    2) Ty Segall – “Black Magick”
    3) Fruit & Flowers – “Out of Touch”

  • Jamila Aboushaca

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) ODESZA — A Moment Apart
    2) Royal Blood — How Did We Get So Dark?
    3) Cut Copy — Haiku From Zero
    4) Khalid — American Teen
    5) Lana Del Rey — Lust For Life
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Rostam Batmanglij — “Gwan”
    2) Cut Copy — “Standing In The Middle Of The Field”
    3) alt-J — “In Cold Blood”

  • Natalie Kirch (Pet Politics)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Def Grrrls – GRLS
    2) PILL – Convenience
    3) Fruit & Flowers – Drug Tax
    4) THICK – It’s Always Something
    5) Fraidycat – Other Better Places
    Top 3 5 6 Singles:
    1) Holy Tunics – “Victoria”
    2) Alexander F – “Call Me Pretty”
    3) Grim Streaker – “Miami Girl”
    4) Lost Boy ? – “Mr. Dribble Drab”
    5) Haybaby – “Yours”
    HONORABLE MENTION: Bad GP – “The GP Stripes Theme Song”

  • Suzannah Weiss (High Notes)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Laura Marling – Semper Femina
    2) Galantis – The Aviary
    3) Robin Schulz – Uncovered
    4) Sleigh Bells – Kid Kruschev
    5) Björk – Utopia
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Marshmello ft. Khalid – “Silence”
    2) Martin Garrix ft. Troye Sivan – “There for You”
    3) Dua Lipa – “New Rules”

  • Mandy Brownholtz

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Alvvays – Antisocialites
    2) Waxahatchee – Out In The Storm
    3) Future Islands – The Far Field
    4) Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
    5) King Woman – Created In The Image Of Suffering
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Alvvays – “NotMy Baby”
    2) Yumi Zouma – “December”
    3) Charly Bliss – “Glitter”

NEWS ROUNDUP: Musical Candidates Win Big, TSwift’s Reputation & More

Metal Musician Danica Roem becomes first transgender legislator in Virginia

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Metal musician Danica Roem becomes first transgender legislator in Virginia

  • The Musicians Who Won This Week’s Election

    On Tuesday, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender woman elected to state legislature with her win in Virginia, replacing a 13-year incumbent Republican who held an anti-trans bathroom policy. While her platform was pretty great – she wants to achieve health care accessibility, fix traffic issues, and raising teacher salaries – she’s also a musician who sings in the trash metal band Cab Ride Home. In New York, Justin Brannan, the former guitar player for hardcore groups such as Most Precious Blood and Indecision, won a seat on the city council. His campaign focused on issues like public schools, eviction protection, and improving public transportation. 

  • Taylor Swift’s Lawyers Threaten Blogger 

    Taylor Swift’s long-awaited and much-discussed sixth album Reputation is out today, and as usual, the pop star is mired in controversy. Earlier this week, her overzealous lawyers threatened PopFront blogger Meghan Herning with a heavy-handed lawsuit for a two-month old post which mines Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” for alt-right Easter Eggs. It’s not the first time media insiders have drawn a parallel between Swift and white supremacists, some of whom uphold the singer as an Aryan idol; outright, Swift hasn’t done much more than participate in a little cultural appropriation, but she hasn’t gone on record to denounce white supremacy either, as Herning pointed out. Still, Herning’s piece was essentially an op-ed, hardly presented as fact, and may not even have had significant readership if not for the lawsuit threat, which claims the post is “provably false and defamatory.” It looks like a cheap scare tactic meant to ward off bad press for Taylor; the ACLU made a statement in support of Herning.

  • Other Highlights

    Madonna covers Elliot Smith, Tegan and Sara cover Hayley Williams of Paramore, Erykah Badu curates a Fela Kuti set, Jon Stewart flaunts his drumming skills with No Wine for Kittens to benefit Suicide Prevention, there’s a Jawbreaker auction for gun control, music streaming services get their own lobbying group, watch Angel Olsen perform “Sans” from forthcoming rarities release Phases, Rihanna will co-host the Met Ball this year, Ozzy is retiring, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood skewer Trump in a CMA Awards parody, Kimbra partners with Safe Horizon to raise domestic violence awareness, Priests’ Katie Greer on being heckled, Bikini Kill reunited last weekend, JAY-Z on Meek Mill’s sentencing, and a Stella Donnelly song that sums up recent events.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

NEWS ROUNDUP: RIP Fats Domino, Alice Glass Alleges Abuse & More

  • Fats Domino Dies At Age 89

    The singer and pianist from New Orleans penned a number of hits, like “I’m Walkin'” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” that defined 1950s rock ’n’ roll by blending occasionally the sounds of his hometown with R&B. His part in the genre was highly influential; Elvis referred to him as the real king of rock ’n’ roll, and he was one of the first to make it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. After news of his death on Wednesday, New Orleans honored him by throwing a street party. In Texas, artists such as Elvis Costello, Dr. John and Trombone Shorty covered his songs at the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame induction. Watch below:

  • Alice Glass Alleges Abuse Against Bandmate

    In a harrowing post on her website, Alice Glass revealed why she actually left Crystal Castles in  2014. She details a history of both emotional and physical abuse by bandmate Ethan Kath, starting when she was just 15, before the band became successful. Kath has denied the allegations, but the new iteration of Crystal Castles (which includes Edith Frances in place of Glass) was dropped from upcoming show and festival dates. An old article from 2008 appears to back up many details of her statement. Read the full thing here.

  • Other Highlights

    Julia Holter also speaks out about Matt Mondanile, Eminem donates lawsuit money to hurricane victims, Franz Ferdinand announce new song/album, listen to Gord Downie’s final albumSam Smith opens up about gender, watch new videos from Morrissey, Spoon, Angel Olsen and War On Drugs, Billy Corgan covers Miley Cyrus, an all-women music festival, let Beyonce tell your future with Beyonséance, and a Buffy The Vampire Slayer inspired video from Charly Bliss.

NEWS ROUNDUP: RIP Charles Bradley, #TakeAKnee & More

  • RIP Charles Bradley

    Though he was able to tour up until the very end, even after battling stomach cancer, renowned soul singer Charles Bradley passed away over the weekend. He was 68. Nicknamed “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” Bradley was inspired by James Brown from a young age but didn’t release his first album until six years ago. He made a living as a handyman and by impersonating his idol until being discovered by a Daptone Records founder. Watch him perform below.

  • Musicians Take A Knee To Protest Police Brutality

    After Trump insulted football players who chose to kneel during the national anthem as a protest against our country’s police brutality, encouraging NFL owners to fire them, many musicians expressed solidarity with the players. Stevie Wonder was one of the first, kneeling before his set at NYC’s Global Citizen Festival. Other artists who participated include Pharrell Williams, Eddie Vedder, John Legend, and more. Read more a complete account of the situation here

  • Other Highlights

    Watch new videos from Princess Nokia and William Patrick Corgan, Spotify knows your musical secrets, Justin Timberlake will get a second chance at a Superbowl performance, a holographic Frank Zappa is going on tour, Thurston Moore made a techno record, listen to new music from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Angel Olsen, collaborations from Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile, Michael Cera/Sharon Van Etten, and Radiohead/Hans Zimmer, a concert hall created by an algorithm, and it’s way too early for these artists to release Christmas music

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Highlights from FYF 2017

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Missy Elliott tweeted this selfie with Bkörk after their FYF headlining sets, calling the Icelandic singer “legendary.”

City festivals are always a little tougher on the spirit (and the feet) than their grassy, lets-camp-by-the-lake cousins. FYF may not have Coachella’s lush grass or Bonnaroo’s rowdy camping, but the lineup is always strong, and this year was no exception. Event organizers added a third day this year, a fact I was reminded of often (by people who do not consider three days a cake walk). There were a few disappointments (I could write a dissertation on the length of time Missy Elliot was actually on stage during her set), but the standouts for this fest were mainly classic acts, with a few surprises from up-and-coming stars.

Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals sweat out the small stuff. 

On the way out of the festival, before we hit a street that looked Lyft-capable, our group unanimously agreed that Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals killed it. Some might even say they were better than fireworks. The set was tight and intense, mirroring the ferocity of Paak’s drumming. Paak once described the dynamics of a great performance saying “people are going to a show and they want you to give them life, and in return they’re gonna have a moment.” They may not be a classic yet, but it was honor seeing them well on their way.

Björk danced with the birds.

The last time I saw Björk, she was performing during the heat of the day at Bonnaroo and I was not digging it; I left the show to find greener grasses. This year, however, my cynicism was short-lived. Backed by an orchestra and dressed in colorful layers of fabric that mimicked the feathers of a male bird, Björk impressed at every turn, her performance visceral and commanding.

A final bow from A Tribe Called Quest.

“This is our final performance here in L.A. as Tribe, obviously because Phife Dawg, our anchor, has been called to another mission,” Q-Tip announced Saturday to the crowd. The remaining members of Tribe (Q-Tip, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad) are in mourning, but their performance was not a dirge – it was a tribute. It was a greatest hits kind of night, with the band rocketing through “Can I Kick It?” “Buggin’ Out” and “Check the Rime” before ending on “We The People.”

Iggy Pop left his shirt at home. 

Iggy Pop doesn’t give a shit if you think he looks old. I heard quite a few rumblings about Iggy’s lack of shirt throughout the performance, but honestly, who cares? Iggy Pop obliterated his set. He cocked his hips, he licked his lips, he sidled up to the front of the stage and screamed into the roaring crowd. “Lust For Life” was an obvious highlight. I enjoyed seeing kids hopping up and down on their parents shoulders. A pregnant woman sipping an iced coffee weaved through the crowd, a sideways smile on her face as the music blared. Iggy paused for a moment, a rock legend showin’ his stuff.

Soul searching with Solange

Solange brought the pageantry, the style, and the soul to FYF. “I want y’all to sing it away,” she commanded the crowd, in that fluttery, soft voice of hers. Along with her 8-piece band and dancers, Solange dressed all in red. Choreographed micro-movements throughout the show acted as punctuation marks: a hand flick, a hurried body stopping suddenly, an arched head, gazing up at the sky. A Seat At The Table is an important album for Solange, it marks her maturity as an artist, as 2012’s True marked her maturity as a woman. By the end of the show, Solange brought a fleet of musicians onstage; the set glowed red as the final notes of “Losing You” played. A collective sigh of appreciation fell around me.

Nine Inch Nails confronts the world.

I’ve always been a little intimidated by Nine Inch Nails. When I saw they would be closing out FYF, I wasn’t sure what kind of feeling that would leave me with. After a weekend on the concrete, sipping beer, chilling out to Erykah Badu and Angel Olsen, would I want to check out feeling angry and morose? Trent Reznor said the band had been “hiding out and watching the world go crazy” since they last performed live three years ago. In a world gone mad, it did feel good hearing Trent Reznor scream. The crowd screamed back in unison and a feeling of unity washed over me. The performance was short, intense, ultimately cathartic for all involved.

Our Lyft driver played trance music on ride back to Venice. It was a nice, sleepy way to get home. My mind was full of dancing birds and the lyrics to “Get Ur Freak On.” Unlike Coachella or Bonnaroo, I didn’t leave feeling burnt out; I left FYF Fest feeling refreshed, feeling ready to fight another day.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

TRACK REVIEW: Angel Olsen “Fly on Your Wall”


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Angel Olsen photo by Amanda Marsalis

If you’re reading this right now, chances are you’re one of the millions who is displeased (to say the least) with the recent election of Donald Trump. And what can help us combat our anger, sadness, and overwhelming show of emotions more than musical support?

Dave Eggers-backed protest org 30 Songs, 30 Days and record label collective Secretly Group are working in accordance to present Our First 100 Days. Essentially it’s a subscription service benefitting organizations threatened by Trump’s agenda (donations go to protect reproductive health, the environment, undocumented immigrants, the LGBT community, and the working class). A mere $30 gets subscribers exclusive, unreleased, or rare tracks from artists, including Mitski, Toro y Moi, PWR BTTM, and more. By day 100 of Trump’s presidency, the playlist will have 100 songs meant to inspire change and offer that musical shoulder to cry on that we all desperately need right now.

The first of these is Angel Olsen’s single “Fly on Your Wall,” and it’s a great way to kick off the project. Although Trump’s whirlwind of damaging policy makes it seem as though we’ve been stuck in some bizarre time lapse for years already, we’re barely two weeks in; “Fly on Your Wall” provides a valuable sense of grounding back in reality with a strident, march-like tempo. The guitar and bass chords hit hard and heavy right in the core with every pluck. Grungy and melancholic at first, the song builds toward optimistic revery as Olsen croons, “It’s only real in my mind” as though issuing a protective mantra. I want to take it as a sign that things aren’t as bad as they seem and that maybe there’s hope somewhere, but that’s mostly because that’s what I need to believe right now. At the very least, it’s a vital reminder that despite Trump’s promises to defund arts and humanities programs, there are many performers willing to stand up to him with a triumphant songs of resistance.


NEWS ROUNDUP: 100 Days Worth Of Protest Music

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  • This Protest Album Features Carrie Brownstein, Stephen Malkmus

    Quasi’s Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes organized and contributed to the Battle Hymns compilation. Name your price for the download, which benefits Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Buy it here.

  • Our First 100 Days Kicks Off With Angel Olsen

    Our First 100 Days is a project designed to counteract a certain someone (hint: evil and orange) who is starting their first 100 days as well. For $30 or more, you’ll get all of the exclusive songs and, according to their website, your money will “go directly to organizations working on the front lines of climate, women’s rights, immigration and fairness.”  Listen to Olsen’s track, “A Fly On Your Wall,” below and get more information about the musicians and organizations involved here.

  • Stand Up For Love With Andrew Bird & Jeff Tweedy

Stand Up For Love is a three hour telethon is happening today, and aims to raise $500,000 to defend civil liberties. It started at 12:30pm, but I’m betting the page will host an archived version.  The website states that celebrities such Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jane Fonda, Robert Reich, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Tom Morello, Adrian Grenier, David Duchovny, Misha Collins, Michael Franti, Andrew Bird, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tim Robbins, and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco will be featured.

  • Covers For A Cause With Littler, Abi Reimold & More

    “Don’t Stop Now” is a collection of covers that benefits the ACLU. From the Bandcamp page: “This compilation is an expression of love, anger, hope and protest on inauguration day… Each dollar donated will help protect the people of the United States, especially those most vulnerable, from the reckless authority of a Trump presidency.” There’s 38 songs in total; stream below and buy it here.



NEWS ROUNDUP: Aviv, CMJ & Cherry Glazerr


  • Aviv To Close In October

    According to a Facebook post, the Greenpoint DIY venue will be closing when its lease expires at the end of October. The owners promised they would set up shop elsewhere at some point, but before it’s gone forever, check out some of their last upcoming shows: Parlor Walls (9/15), Pharmakon (9/17), Slingshot Dakota (10/10) and this weekend’s Summer’s End Music Festival, featuring Sonnymoon, Guerrilla Toss, Pill, Honduras, Surf Rock Is Dead, and more.

  • Watch Cherry Glazerr’s New Video

    “I’d Told You I’d Be With The Guys” is a track brimming with fierce intensity, that stresses the importance using female solidarity to escape everyday sexism. Singer/guitarist Clementine Creevy lounges in all white, as an endless parade of middle-aged men in red polos and khakis infiltrate the room the band plays in.

  • What’s Up With The CMJ Festival?

    After a series of articles that speculated CMJ wouldn’t happen this year due to lack of funds (to be fair, dates/lineups haven’t been announced yet), CEO Adam Klein sent Pitchfork a statement regarding its future. It read, in part, “We are all totally committed to protecting CMJ’s unique and ‘live’ heritage while adapting to the ever changing demands of artists, fans and the music industry….. A little patience and a whole lot less wild and unsubstantiated speculation is what we need right now.” So is it happening? Kinda maybe.

  • Watch Angel Olsen On ‘Colbert’

    I know, I know, there’s been a lot of Angel Olsen coverage lately. But, she’s amazing and her My Woman is finally out, today. Right now! You can also watch her perform “Shut Up Kiss Me” on The Late Show, below.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Sad13, Angel Olsen, & Sweet Synths


  • Sadie Dupuis’s Announces Solo Project, Sad13

    Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz has announced a solo album and single under the name Sad13. “Get A Yes” is a shimmery, pop departure from her band’s 90’s rock sound, full of synths and electronics. It explores the idea of consent. As Dupuis told NPR, “How many kids learn about sex from pop music? And how many fun-sounding pop musicians do a heinous job as sex-ed teachers?… [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”][like] ‘Blurred Lines,’ in which the narrator presumes to know what his partner wants?”

    Slugger comes out 11/11 via Carpark Records. Check out “Get A Yes” below.

  • Watch Angel Olsen’s “Sister” Video

    Continuing her steady stream of amazing new songs and videos from the upcoming My Woman, Angel Olsen released the single “Sister.” Not as wildly defiant as “Shut Up Kiss Me” and “Intern,” “Sister” paces along steadily and gracefully with images of Olsen walking through a Los Angeles desert landscape.  The video breaks the fourth wall at the end, with Olsen running over to a friend on the beach who asks, “Are you shooting a music video?”

  • Turn Your Laptop Into A Synth-Making Machine

    We just told you about cool music by other people, but maybe now you want to make your own? Here’s a unique, new way to do it. BlokDust is a website where you can program your own song, using a kind of visual synths system. You drag and drop and different effects and sounds onto your screen, and turn your laptop keyboard into, well, a real keyboard. The program, which “makes use of Tone.js as an audio frame,” was developed in the UK and is a collaborationn between Luke Twyman, Luke Phillips and Edward Silverton. Check it out here!


FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Basilica SoundScape 2016


Basilica Hudson is a “non-profit multidisciplinary arts center” in Hudson, NY that supports “the creation, production and presentation of arts and culture while fostering sustainable community.” They’re also throwing a killer music festival September 16-18, called Basilica SoundScape.

Wow, that sounds great! You’re probably thinking. But I have so many questions! Of course. Like, will there be after parties? Yes, at the nearby Half Moon barHow do I get to this Hudson Place? It’s two hours from NYC, by rail or car. Where will I stay? There’s camping nearby! And hotels. What else do they have besides music? Friday and Saturday pop-up shops, including one by Sacred Bones Records. How much does this cost? $75 covers a ticket for the weekend music festivities, $125 for the weekend + camping. Single day passes are also available. But let’s get to the most important question: Who’s playing at this thing?

Angel Olsen – Friday 

Angel Olsen’s new material from her upcoming My Woman is a bright and bold reinvention of this folk singer’s persona. “Shut Up Kiss Me” and “Intern” have shown a wilder and playfully sardonic side of Olsen, making her an act you won’t want to miss.

Bell Witch – Saturday

The Seattle duo is a gloomy, atmospheric doom band that brings a unique approach to metal. Using just drums, bass and, vocals, their sound is eerie and minimalistic. You might not get much head thrashing done during their set; if that’s your scene, just check out Cobalt on Friday.

Mary Lattimore- Friday

At The Dam, the harpist’s May 2016 album, creates its own little world with gentle, twinkling melodies that is delightfully easy to get lost in. If you camp at Basilica SoundScape, hopefully it will be much harder to lose your campsite.

Explosions In The Sky – Saturday

Bringing your dose of moody rock is Explosions In The Sky, scheduled to play on Saturday. Obviously, the nature friendly festival is the best place for them to play their latest album, The Wilderness. SoundScape’s organizers have described its lineup as “heavy,” and Explosions In The Sky is an ideal band to balance things out.

Deradoorian – Saturday

Angel Deradoorian is a former member of Dirty Projectors who has started a psychedelic solo project under her last name. A year ago, her Expanding Flower took us on quite a strange trip; read the review here.

NEWS ROUNDUP: St. Vincent, Led Zeppelin, & Angel Olsen


  • Watch St. Vincent Perform As A Toilet

    During a benefit concert on Tuesday, St. Vincent performed several songs dressed as a toilet. (There’s probably a great potential for puns here, but we’ll let you take care of that). The benefit was for the song of Annie Clark’s drummer, Jasper Johnson, who is recovering from a severe seizure. Father John Misty,  Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Elysian Fields, Joan As Police Woman, Nina Persson also performed. Check out footage of “Bring Me Your Loves” below:

  • ICYMI: Led Zeppelin Is Innocent

    Rock legends Led Zeppelin were dragged into a lawsuit claiming that “Stairway to Heaven”’s signature guitar riff was actually a ripoff of Spirit’s “Taurus,” an instrumental song from 1968. Though Led Zeppelin had performed with Spirit before, they denied their song, written in 1970, was based off of “Taurus.” Now, the lawyer on Spirit’s side, Francis Malofiy, is being suspended from practicing law for 3 months. Apparently, Malofiy violated a bunch of rules of conduct during a previous copyright infringement lawsuit, involving Usher’s “Bad Girls.” Read more here.

  • Watch Angel Olsen’s “Shut Up Kiss Me”

    Angel Olsen dons a sparkly, silver wig once again in the video she self-directed for “Shut Up Kiss Me.” She also gets pretty wild on a roller skating rink. Check out the video below, and pre-order her upcoming album MY WOMAN here.

  • Support Phil Elverum’s Crowdfunding Campaign

    Phil Elverum, of the Microphones and Mount Eerie is currently raising money for his wife Geneviève, who was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer soon after the couple had a daughter. Other musicians are currently helping the cause by auctioning merchandise; Neutral Milk Hotel is offering a signed box set, and Fugazi and Bikini Kill are auctioning several things. Check out the crowdfunding campaign and auction.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Brooklyn Events, Angel Olsen & Turntable Kitchen


  • Angel Olsen Releases “Intern”

    “I don’t care what the papers say/ It’s just another intern with a resume.” The new Angel Olsen track has a soaring, cinematic feel to it, as if was created for the emotional climax of a vintage movie. The accompanying video features Olsen donning a sparkly silver wig as she sings into a headset and is interviewed on a movie set. Check it out:

  • Brooklyn Events

    This weekend is all about Bushwick- here are some cool events for those of you in the area:

    Color Me Bushwick – This event combines style and sound, in the form of a three day, free music, art and hair festival at Pickthorn Studio salon. Performing artists include Sharkmuffin, Cosmonaut, Milan to Minsk, Gingerleys, The Teen Age and many, many more. More details here.

    Bushwick Collective Block Party – Another three day festival, this event will feature a live performance by Jadakiss, DJs, food trucks, live graffiti painting, and an art exhibition. Details here.

  • Turntable Kitchen Launches New Project

    Turntable Kitchen “is a site connecting food and music” that aims “to introduce food lovers to music and vice versa.” While I’m pretty sure most people have already discovered that both food and music are pretty awesome, their new project, Sounds Delicious, looks great. Artists like The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Mitski, Skylar Spence, Mutual Benefit, Quilt, Jonathan Rado, Yumi Zouma, GEMS, Salt Cathedral and others will pick an album, and then record a full length cover of it to put on vinyl; it’s currently in the Kickstarter phase.

  • End Your Week With A New Music Video

    “You And I” by Margaret Glaspy is a fun, rowdy track with a bright, playful video. Check it out!

NEWS ROUNDUP: New Singles, Bob Dylan, & Mitski


  • Quadruple Singles
    • There was a ton of great new music released this week. Here’s four of the best singles we heard:
  • The Strokes: “Threat of Joy” is the latest single from The Strokes’ upcoming EP Future Present Past.  They take an easy-going beat and infuse it with tense energy, the lyrics quietly seething. The EP will be released via Cult on 6/3; check out the single below.

  • HOLYCHILD: The shimmering “brat pop” duo are back with “Rotten Teeth,” which features Kate Nash. Their music sounds like it comes from whatever pop factory churns out radio friendly hits these days, but pulls at the stray threads of culture, exposing the darker side with lines like “I know I’ll never be the girl I want to be” and “Do we eat or just starve ourselves tonight?”

  • Cass McCombs & Angel Olsen: McCombs and Olsen teamed up on “Opposite House,” a faintly jazzy track that creates a mystical space for guitar riffs to flutter in and out of and gentle harmonies to float through. Look for its accompanying album, Mangy Love, on 8/26.

  • Dinosaur JR: On Tuesday, Dinosaur Jr. debuted “Tiny,” the single from Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, on Later… With Jools Holland. It’s classic alternative rock typical of the band.

  • Bob Dylan Celebrates 75th Birthday

    In honor of Dylan’s 75th birthday on Tuesday, Animal Collective released their own, remixed version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Other artists honored the folk legend by covering his songs, such as Kesha. She sang  “It Ain’t Me” at the Billboard Music Awards and “I Shall Be Released” at Dylan Fest in Nashville.

  • Watch Mitski’s New Video for “Happy”

    On Monday Mitski released her music video for “Happy.” It takes a lot of twists and turns: a romance blossoms, then turns to heartbreak, with a gory ending that’s unexpected and somewhat terrifying. The song itself is a contemplative look at love and loneliness, and as a bonus, has an awesome saxophone part.

LIVE REVIEW: Angel Olsen @ Summerstage

Angel Olsen

The crowd wears sunglasses until the day gives in to night. The VIP’s are elevated in the front under umbrellas sponsored by Hendricks gin, or in the very back penned off in a Aquacai holding area. Teenage volunteers run around, excited and sweaty in contrast to the stone-faced security guards (well, it is summer in New York- everybody’s a little sweaty). It’s a Wednesday night and this is Summerstage, the outdoor concert series in Central Park where fans can see their favorite bands, communing with nature on a floor of astroturf.

When you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with your fellow listeners, feeling the claustrophobic of the makeshift rock arena inside the huge, open space that is Central Park, trying not to spill your eight-dollar, twelve-ounce cup of craft beer, it’ll never be more clear that while you hate large crowds, you love live music more than almost anything. The music of Angel Olsen seems to come floating down from the trees behind her instead of the speakers mounted on the stage. She is equally impressive live as she is on record, though she lamented that she had “a summer cold for Summerstage.” Her voice is both delicate and powerful, wavering and twisting itself from note to note over the foundation of her band.

Though charismatic, she lets her music carry the performance – her songs are not conductive to onstage antics or theatrics. That’s for the best, because the next act was the complete opposite, Father John Misty. Frontman Josh Tillman crooned his heart out, and left no syllable unaccompanied by a gesture, shimmy, sashay of the hips or another abuse of the mic stand. Just when you think the crowd is too big, and you’re too far to get the full effect of his performance, you hear him sing “You’re the one I want to watch the ship go down with” and feel like he’s talking straight to you. You think that crowds aren’t so bad after all. And anyway, you’re in Central Park on a gorgeous night: if you can’t see the stage, you can just tilt your head back and stare at the fading sunset, letting the music wash over you.


ALBUM REVIEW: Angel Olsen “Burn Your Fire For No Witness”

Burn Your Fire Album

She’s the one with the haunting warble, sometimes menacing or self-deprecating, but always a bit fragile and always a bit bold. Angel Olsen is a singer-songwriter with a unique talent for forging emotional connections with her listeners—that is, the ability to make any member of her audience freeze, cry, or reach deep into some hollow part of themselves. For her newest album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, her unwavering self-possession is strong as ever, stretched across more present instrumentation and, of course, her gorgeous crooning.

The album is sensitive, soft, subtle, occasionally sweet, and all together that complexity makes it very human. Her uncertainty about what it means to be lonely, about what she truly feels, is what makes these songs so engaging. This ambiguity makes it easy for the listener to enter that space and recall their own inexplicable melancholy. Her voice is difficult to describe, a bit like folk singer Karen Dalton or Emmylou Harris; shaky, but clear.

Burn Your Fire For No Witness begins with “Unfuck the World.” For such a powerful title, this song is incredibly soft. There’s an immediate sense of interiority, a passiveness: “Here’s to thinking that this all meant so much more / I kept my mouth shut and opened up the door.” But her voice soars in the chorus with a lo-fi melancholy that is just heartbreaking: “I am the only one now / You may not be around,” she repeats and repeats like a mantra, a tiny peek into her aloneness. Normally, break-up songs can get a bit irritating, especially when they harp on a lover’s absence. This song is all personal reflection, rather than a reflection on the other person or even the relationship itself.

Angel Olsen

In “White Fire,” the track the album is named for, her vocals sound almost dead. The song itself is immediately sad, and there are waves of guitar strumming that paint a dark atmosphere. She tells us herself: “Everything is tragic / It all just falls apart.” From here, we move into an uncomfortably empty mind. Even when she’s singing about anger or bitterness, she’s nearly flat, but it conveys as much as if she’d been shaky or close to tears. In fact, it’s more effective than singing with movement, at least for this song, which describes Olsen’s feelings of disillusionment. You’re only “fierce and light and young,” she tells us, “When you don’t know that you’re wrong / or just how wrong you are.” This may be my favorite track.

Olsen plays up the guitar and drums in “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “High & Wild.” Both songs are forcefully catchy in an unexpected way. “Forgiven/Forgotten” has heavy drums and bass and the words drive you through with repetition. Her voice is bolder and far more scornful in “High & Wild” with its grungy riffs. It’s not as sad as most of the other songs, and there’s a powerful melody that recalls ’60s femme rock. It comes close to being somber, but then she sarcastically sings: “Well, this would all be so much easier / if I had nothing to say.”

“Hi-five” is another song that positions itself outside of the sorrowful, instead tip-toeing on the edge before diving into bitterness. The simple guitar chords and drums go well with the blues-y, old country lyrics: “I feel so lonesome I could cry.” Olsen’s definitely warbling here, reflecting the movement in the instrumentation. There’s such sudden raw emotion when she shouts “someone who believes” that the entire tone of the song turns around. “Are you lonely, too?” she asks. “So am I,” she says after calling for a hi-five. But then, in a completely delicious twist at the very end she reveals herself: “I’m stuck too / I’m stuck with you.”

The whole album is narrative and extremely emotional, with Olsen occasionally throwing in an endearing word like “darlin.'” There’s also a great deal of experimentation here—songs are different in tone, in rhythm, but they all run smoothly from one to the next. If you’re okay with your own feelings lurching out, and maybe shedding a tear or two that you didn’t know was lurking inside, then give this album a good, long listen.

Check out “White Fire” from Burn Your Fire For No Witness:

INTERVIEW: Marissa Nadler talks ‘July’

Marissa Nadler

Marissa Nadler is too shy to do karaoke.  Despite the loveliness of her timeless-sounding lilt, Nadler turned to Twitter for encouragement before “chickening out” on a rendition of Chris Isaac’s “Wicked Game”.

But that self-consciousness isn’t present on her sixth proper album and first release for Sacred Bones/Bella Union.  Entitled July, Nadler’s haunting vocals deliver brashly poetic lyrics, aggressively examining the personal change that comes about during the painful dissolution and subsequent rebuilding of relationships.

The startling work she’s produced in the past decade traces the events of her life through the lens of a storyteller, rich with recurring characters both real and imagined.  Her latest record examines self-destructive tendencies, complicated entanglements, vicious environments, and the hope that can exist within despair, each subject explored with a depth and tenderness that few singer-songwriters can match.  We talked with Nadler about how her career got started, the effect that self-releasing her last album had on her work and her psyche, and what her latest record means to longtime fans and new listeners alike.  July is out on February 4th, and you can stream the record over at NPR.

Marissa Nadler

AF: To start, I’d like to talk about your first records on Eclipse and working with Ed Hardy.

MN: Back about… it must have been 11 or 12 years ago, I recorded my first record when I was still in graduate school at RISD.  And I sent it to this guy Jeffrey Alexander who ran this label called Secret Eye in Providence.  He hooked me up with a couple contacts and I emailed Ed Hardy and Ed got back to me and he put the first record out.  He’s lovely to work with.  I actually had spent a summer living in Bullhead, AZ working for his label too.  So we’re pretty close.  I think he opened up a lot of doors for me in terms of the underground music scene.

AF: What made you decide to pursue music after so much training as a visual artist?  How did your time in art school inform what you do as a musician?

MN: Well I had been writing songs as a teenager.  And I had a little punk band in high school.  I had like a mini, a four-track recorder… probably there are some tapes somewhere in my parent’s house but… I just got more and more serious about my songwriting when I was at RISD. I don’t know if maybe it was a little bit of the disillusionment with the fine art world.  The more and more I got intimidated by being this hip fine artist, the more the honesty of music started to appeal to me and so my interests kinda switched and I think it was a way for me to deal with the stress of such a hardcore fine art academy.  So I started playing open mic nights and really digging around Providence.  I really consider Providence my first hometown.  It was where I played all my first shows.

I do think my fine arts training does have a lot to do with the way I write my songs, because the way I see the world is still as a very visual person.  I’m not an analytical thinker, I’m still a painter.  So when I write lyrics it’s a very painterly, expressive way of writing.

AF: You exercised a bit more of your left brain in self-releasing your self-titled record and The Sister EP.

MN: Yeah.  That shit really burnt me out.  I think a lot of people would be shocked to know that I’m an incredibly OCD person.  I’m very detail-oriented, but I was spending so much time in front of the computer reading my own reviews and dealing with the distributors and the post office stuff that I just got really depressed and I felt like I needed some advocates.  I stopped believing in my own music.  I just started to get really depressed, I think.  It was too much of that side of the brain and not enough of art-making.

AF: I can see how that would be a lot to deal with.  Do you still view those albums as successes from an art-making standpoint?  Or was it tarnished by the fact that you had all this other stuff to deal with on top of it?

MN: I definitely view the self-titled record as a success.  I’m really proud of that record, I’m proud of how far it reached, it being a self release.  The Sister I think of more as an EP that I, lacking a manager to tell me not to release it and lacking anybody to say you know, this isn’t ready, like… that’s what you run into when you’re self-releasing records.  Nobody told me, you know, “Hey Marissa, this doesn’t really feel like a record” and so that’s what I kind of benefit from now, having a label, having some people to bounce things off of.  But I’m very proud of the self-released record, I think it was a really good comeback for me after some hardships.  I definitely stand by that one. There’s a couple songs on The Sister I like but it wasn’t a “record” the way that July is a record.  Or the way that the self-titled is.

AF: A big part of your ability to self-release a record came from crowd-funding and via your tremendous fan base, which was built on the continuing narratives you tend you revisit across albums.  You’re one of the few artists who has created a ten-year, career spanning narrative and it feels really unique in an industry that’s more singles-focused.  Do you ever feel like you’re struggling against that sort of mentality that craves hits and rarely has the attention span to delve into a body of work?

MN: I think I have a dual interest when I write songs.  It may seem like they’re continued narratives because I’m writing about my own life.  Our own lives are a continued narrative.  But, especially with this new record, a big thing for me was asking “Are these songs catchy?”  I’m definitely interested as a songwriter in songs that can stand alone regardless of an album and regardless of the body of work.  I think about whether each song on the record is good enough to stand on its own while maintaining my own integrity as a songwriter.  So yeah, I think there’s a lot of things that go into play with what makes the cut.

AF: Well, with this latest record it does feel as though most of the character arcs have been put to bed.  It seems like you’re less interested in mythologizing your experiences.  You’re using first person more, or addressing singular individuals directly.

MN: Yeah, definitely when I was younger I was more afraid to write in the first person.  I didn’t want to be thought of as a confessional singer-songwriter, like coffee shop bullshit.  I mean, I’ll be self-deprecating and say I was a little pretentious on my first record, like covering Pablo Neruda and Edgar Allen Poe.  And then I started listening to more and more old-time country music and my tastes changed and I wasn’t afraid to confront what I really wanted to write songs about without the mythological shroud, if you will.

AF: It seems a lot like this record specifically is more about a journey.  There are literal moments on tracks like “Drive” or on “I’ve Got Your Name” when you sing about changing dresses in a gas station.  But there’s also explorations on personal, emotional journeys, as with “Anyone Else”, where you’re coming to terms with who does and doesn’t belong in your life.  How have your journeys shaped this record?

MN: There’s so much personal stuff on this record.  “Anyone Else” is definitely about someone that ‘done me wrong’; “Desire” is about infatuation… I mean, there’s a lot of real-life details in this.

AF: The lyrics are very rich, which goes back to what you were saying about painterly songwriting.  I wanted to talk about that line in “Firecrackers” in which you reference an attacker whom you’re confronting.  It feels like an important cornerstone; the title of the record comes from this song.

MN: That’s about me being, especially during that period of my life before I stopped drinking, incredibly self-destructive.  So that song kind of speaks to the self-destructiveness ruining my relationship. My boyfriend and I broke up on July 4th two years ago.  And we got back together about a year ago, so the record has a lot to do with that.  Side A has a lot to do with the ups and downs of that relationship. And Side B has a lot to do with people in between him and… him.

AF: It’s so funny that you’re releasing a record called July when it is literally 8 degrees outside.  Do you feel like there’s such a thing as a winter song or a summer song?  Was it more that the relationship was an impetus for making the record?

MN: Yeah, I definitely don’t think this a summer record at all.  If there’s any season I have a lot in common with it’s winter.  But the reason I called it July was very specific in that I recorded the record in July and everything about the songs had to do with a year’s journey from one July to the next.

AF: I wanted to talk a little about the video for the record’s first single, “Dead City Emily.” Can you tell me more about it?

MN: Well I try only to work with people that I think are really talented artists.  I first met Derrick Belcham because he used to shoot videos for this French site Blogothèque.  I met him through  my friend Cat Martino.  I really like his aesthetic.  He’s worked with Julianna Barwick, and White Hinterland and a lot of artists.  The dancer, her name is coincidentally Emily but that has nothing to do with the song. In fact, it’s totally fictional, a make-believe conversation with a friend that was kind of a narrative device I used to write the song.

AF: If it’s not about a specific person, was there a particular city you had in mind while writing it?

MN: My own.

AF: That being Boston?

MN: Yeah well, not even that.  The feeling I was trying to evoke was the feeling of coming to terms with the place that you live and just feeling depressed and finding no joy in anything.  And then the contrast is in the chorus where it’s “oh, I saw the light today, opened up the door…”  I struggle with mood swings and ups and downs and it’s kind of about realizations you have about relationships to your city.

AF: I definitely have that sort of reaction to NYC.  I actually don’t think I ever want to live in a place where I don’t have a kind of volatile relationship with living there.  I’ve never actually been to Boston, but it seems like there’s a lot of good music coming out of that scene.  Although most of what’s getting attention is DIY-scene punk stuff – Speedy Ortiz, Potty Mouth.  Because you’re making music that’s so different – more timeless, less tied to a scene – do you ever feel like an outsider or distanced from your community?

MN: Definitely.  To be honest, I love Boston, but I have what I call a hometown curse.  I had more trouble getting a gig here on my opening record release tour than anywhere else in the world.  I’m not talking just the U.S.  I don’t know what it is.  I think maybe it’s because I’m not a networker or a shmoozer.  I would love to be embraced more, I’m hoping it changes with this new record.  It’s kind of a tough town if you’re not like heavy heavy or super folky.  I’ve always been somewhere in between.

AF: Well I think the irony of that is that while your music is often referred to as “dream-folk” or that there’s this permeating winsome quality to what you do, lyrically you get pretty dark and are a lot more aggressive and emotionally confrontational, almost more like a punk band in attitude.  Do you ever feel pigeonholed by those descriptors?

MN: Yeah, I mean, I guess people are always gonna have some genre tag they want to stick on you but my hope is just that people listen beyond the genre trappings.  My labels both asked me what genre I wanted to be tagged for on iTunes and I was like “I don’t fucking know…. I guess like, alternative rock, just don’t put folk, whatever you do”.  And they were like “okay, okay, we got it”.

AF: How did your connections with Sacred Bones and Bella Union come about?  Sacred Bones kind of has a reputation for associating with edgy projects.

MN: Well with Sacred Bones, when I finally was like “I can’t do this anymore, this self-releasing, I’m going to give up making music” it kind of dawned on me that maybe I should just try signing to another label.  So I went back through my emails and Caleb had written me years ago and I was like “Ohhhh, that’s that awesome label with Jim Jarmusch on it” and so I wrote him back and he said “Yeah, let’s do it!”  With Bella Union, I saw on Twitter that Simon Raymonde had played me on his radio show,l so my manager put me in touch with him.  It was really cool how it happened this late in my career to get signed to two really great record labels.  I feel like I’ve definitely earned it.

AF: It’s definitely been a long time coming. Do you feel like in working with the label they had any influence over the material or did you approach with the record already laid out?

MN: They definitely did not influence the material.  I finished the record and then gave it to them and they hadn’t heard any of the demos or anything like that.  It was really important to me to have 100% creative control.

AF: Was there anything about working with them that allowed you to do things you hadn’t done on prior records?

MN: No, I think I’ve always just done whatever I wanted to do.  That’s maybe gotten me into some trouble in the past.

AF: The new album is gorgeous.  I love how roomy it feels, the atmosphere built by the string arrangements.  Do you get to have a hand in the production at all?

MN: Well, no.  The producer’s name is Randall Dunn.  He’s worked with bands like Earth and Sunn O))) and he helped with that stuff.  I had written all the songs and all the harmony vocals that I sing on the record but instrumentation was a joint venture between Randall’s ideas and me saying “yes, that sounds like a good idea”.

AF: Was it hard for you to let someone else in on that process?

MN: No, because I’ve always worked with a producer on my records.  I think that word is confusing to people.  In the pop idiom the producer is very different than in the indie rock idiom.

AF: You’ve had a hand in a bunch of really great collaborations, working with Angel Olsen, and Emily Jane White to name a few.  What’s different about working on those sorts of projects?

MN: Well, they’re really different.  With Emily it was really just background vocals.  It wasn’t as much of a collaboration as I was a guest player.  With Angel it was different, it was more of a collaboration.  We got in touch after meeting years ago, and I wrote her to congratulate her on Acrobat and she was like “Oh, we should do songs together, let’s do covers” and so we sent cover songs back and forth over the internet to record those harmony vocals.  It was really fun; I like doing stuff like that, although it’s very different than doing my own work.  It’s probably less of an emotional investment.

AF: Do you have any collaborations coming up?

MN: Not a lot right now.  I’m hoping somebody gets in touch and says “Hey, why don’t you score my film?”

AF: You want to do film scores?

MN: Yeah, that would be really fun.

AF: What kind of film would you want to score?

MN: Just some kind of sad drama.  I think that would make the most sense.

TRACK REVIEW: Angel Olsen “Hi-Five”


“I feel so lonesome I could cry,” Angel Olsen half warbles, half snarls on “Hi-Five.” The new single off her forthcoming album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, blasts by in just under three minutes . Olsen’s voice bristles with clarity, striking a shimmering balance between vulnerability, earnestness, and rock and roll swagger. Pegged as an early frontrunner for a 2014 favorite, Olsen released her debut, Halfway Home in 2012. The first album favored folky acoustic guitar stripped down to spotlight the singer’s voice—one worth spotlighting, with a barreling, Southen-tinged electricity to it that ultimately overpowered its acoustic backdrop.

Nothing could make Olsen’s voice sound bad, but “Hi-Five” is flattered by its harshly lo-fi backdrop. Swampy guitar lines seethe in reverb, prolonging their high notes in the same way that Olsen draws out the highlights of her vocal lines. One of the singer’s many talents has always been an elegant lyrical handling of angst; her songs deal with isolation, betrayal, and being unable to speak one’s mind. The vocal lines double back on themselves too quickly to be mistaken for self-pity, the dejection cracks a smile, and on “Hi-Five,” Olsen follows up the crooning “Are you lonely too? Are you lonely too?” with an unsentimental “High five, so am I.”

The new album is a more rugged approach to familiar material, but that doesn’t mean Burn Your Fire will lose the intimacy of Olsen’s previous work. Although the increase in guitar work can make it seem, on first listen, as if Olsen is abandoning the folky stylings we saw so much of in Halfway Home, it’s really just a punchier interpretation of the same gorgeous, forlorn soul music. Instead of a new direction, Olsen’s recent singles seem to better encapsulate the goals she’s always had.

Burn Your Fire for No Witness will be out February 18th on Jagjaguwar. You can listen to “Hi-Five” below via SoundCloud, and click here to watch the video “Forgiven/Forgotten,” the first single off the new album.

TRACK REVIEW: “Forgiven/Forgotten”

jag246.11183There has been much attention and discussion circulating around the name Angel Olsen, from her critically acclaimed album Half Way Home released just last year, to her now infamous, “blood-curddling” performance with Kentucky native singer-songwriter Will Oldham  (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) back in 2010.

 The Midwestern indie-folk singer and guitarist has drawn comparisons to contemporaries like Sharon Van Etten and the 50s era songstress Connie Converse, but Olsen has crafted (and perhaps even perfected) her own amalgamation of indie-folk influenced Americana. Half Way Home exhibited Olsen’s spellbinding vocal range as she serenaded us with everything from soft-spoken hums to blasts of soulful croons that join the likes of beloved country singers such as Patsy Cline.

“Forgiven/Forgotten” is the first single from her upcoming release on Jagjaguwar Records, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, produced by John Congleton (the unsung hero producer behind records by Modest Mouse, Okkervil River and William Elliott Whitmore). “Forgiven/Forgotten” displays Olsen’s impressive range once more, this time through the exhibition of  a number of haunting, distorted chants. She veers off from her trademark Folk-Americana genre, but fear not, as she also knows how to orchestrate an energized, pop-driven indie song that mirrors a cross between the Pixies and Funeral-era Arcade Fire.  Olsen masterfully crafts an innovative, alternative-influenced version of the undeniably catchy pop song, the kind you wish you’d stumble across more often.

Angel Olsen’s new album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness is due out 2/18/2014, and her tour kicks off next week. For now listen to “Forgiven/Forgotten” right here, via Soundcloud: