OPENING LINES: Snap Q&A w/ The Yetis

the yetis

For this column, we preview the opening acts of live shows we’ll be covering, to give exposure to the up-and-comers we’re most excited for. Our preferred form is to do off-the-cuff “snap Q&As” with them, to get their thoughts on anything from the mundane to the absurd. For this installment, we spoke with Nick Gillespie, from PA-based indie rock band, The Yetis, who will be performing before a sold out crowd tonight at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, opening for The Drums. Catch what they had to say about Bigfoot’s gender and playing live with a shirtless elderly man from Florida.

Audiofemme: Are there any Yetis from history for whom you have a particular affinity/really identify with? And I know this might be a contentious question, but do you believe that Bigfoot is male or female?

 The Yetis: I guess we like the Himalayan explorers in history like Sir Edmund Hillary or the guy who lost all his toes and fingers only to conclude that the yeti is just a bear. Bigfoot is probably a guy but he definitely has a Bigfoot girlfriend.
AF: I saw that you’re from Allentown Pennsylvania, which is actually the 3rd largest city in PA. What is the music scene there like? Do people ask you a lot if you’re from Amish country because they don’t know any better?
TY: There’s not really a music scene. In high school there was nothing to do but drive around and play garage rock so that helped us focus on being creative. Allentown isn’t that close to Amish country, we don’t get asked that a lot, but the Amish are interesting to say the least.
AF: What sets you guys apart from the abundance of surf pop bands that are cropping up these days (we could answer this one for you but we wanna hear your thoughts!!)
TY: We don’t really consider ourselves surf pop that much, just rock and roll. We like surf music a lot so we use elements from that in our music. Our surf songs started out more as jokes or something that was exotic to us.
AF: What’s your most memorable live performance?
TY: The two times we’ve played at Baby’s All Right opening for cool bands (Hinds and Hidden Charms) were amazing so we think tonight with The Drums will top that. But we play a lot of bars and one time a guy gave us $90 to play one blues song with some old fat guy from Florida who took off his shirt and sang. We went crazy.
AF: If you could bring back one person from history to attend your show tonight at Baby’s, who would it be?
TY: We would bring back King Tut.
******Check out their irresistible rock jams TONIGHT at Baby’s All Right, opening for The Drums.

CMJ 2015: Top 10 Parties Not To Miss


Unless you’ve been living under a rock or completely off the grid since fall started, you know that CMJ, possibly the best festival for discovering new music, is taking over NYC next week. There’s no way to see everything, but here’s some CMJ parties you definitely cannot miss (including ours):

10/13 – 7:30 pm – Good Room – Garage Land CMJ Showcase

The Garage Land CMJ showcase features some of the best acts to perform at the Good Room this year, including Watermelon Sugar, Gods, Casey Hopkins Duo, Acid Dad, Navy Gangs, Worthless, Savants, Surfbort and Tall Juan (bands listed in order of appearance, from first to last).  For a preview, check out Acid Dad: 

10/14 – 7 pm – Baby’s All Right – Brooklyn Vegan + Collect Records Showcase

Baby’s All Right is turning two soon, but before they reach toddler status, they’re throwing some awesome CMJ parties. One of those is hosted by the Brooklyn Vegan and Collect Records, with artists such as No Devotion, Wax Idols, Creepoid, and Foxes In Fiction.

10/14 – 7:30 pm –  Santos Party House – NME+PopGun+House Arrest Present CMJ Party

Two floors of acts, including Perfect Pussy*, Protomartyr*, Yung*, Seratones*, Hooten Tennis Club*, Dilly Dally^, Downtown Boys^, Shopping^, NICO YARYAN^, Car Seat Headset^, Yak^. RSVP on Facebook here.

(* upstairs, ^ downstairs)


10/15 – 8 pm – Palisades – KXLU FM + Burger Records CMJ Showcase

The cool California record label Burger Records is hosting the showcase with Michael Rault, Cool Ghouls, Dirty Ghosts, Slim Twig, Modern Vices, Howardian and UNSTOPPABLE DEATH MACHINES. RSVP here, and check out a psychedelic track from Cool Ghouls below.

10/15 – 7 pm – Cake Shop – Thursday Night Showcase

Featuring Robbing Millions, S, Tricot,  Shopping, Diet Cig, , Sweet Spirit and Weaves at Cake Shop in the Lower East Side. Listen to all the bands quickly in the event’s creepy promo video:

10/16 – 1 pm – Palisades – Exploding In Sound Records Official CMJ Showcase

One of the best, most interesting record labels around, Exploding In Sound is throwing their CMJ showcase  at Palisades. Go and see Palehound, Big Ups, The Spirit of the Beehive, Greys, Palm, Stove, Washer, Kal Marks, Dirty Dishes, Swings, Flagland, Leapling and LVL UP. 

10/16 – 7 pm – Pianos – The Deli Magazine/Pianos CMJ Showcase

The Deli Magazine and Pianos have teamed up to bring you Vunderbar, The Fluids, Controller, Stolen Jars, Diet Cig, Eternal Summers, Beverly, Weaves, mild high club, ohnomoon, Paperwhite*, Yes Alexader*, MY BODY*, Solvey*, and The Golden Pony* (* means free/upstairs, the rest of the bands are in the main room for $10).

10/17 – 6:30 pm – Cameo Gallery – Audiofemme + Atypical Beasts Agency Showcase

We can guarantee this party will be amazing, because it’s being thrown by us! Come to the Cameo Gallery (which is unfortunately closing soon) to see some great acts like TOW3RS, Von Sell, The Prettiots, Lena Fayre, Beverly, and Monika. RSVP here, and get your tickets here!

10/17 – 12 pm – The Shop – Stereocure + Drunken Piano Showcase

Featuring Flamingosis, Moon Bounce, SUI ZHEN, A Sol Mechanic, Novelty Daughter, My Body, Bollywood Life, Crystal Ghost and more TBA. RSVP here!

10/18 – 3 pm – Palisades – Father/Daughter + Miscreant Records CMJ Showcase

Come to one of the last of the week’s events to hear Hiccup, Nicholas Nicholas, Bad Cello, i tried to run away when i was 6, Downies, Romp, Comfy, Vagabon, Fern Mayo, Bethlehem Steel, Diet Cig, SPORTS and PWR BTTM.


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Cover art by Danielle Guelbart

This summer, New York’s own BRAEVES released a new single called “Silver Streets” as a follow up to 2014’s Drifting by Design EP.

The band bid their farewell to New York last weekend at The Studio at Webster Hall, rounding out a busy year of stellar shows at other venues in the city, including Baby’s All Right, where I first got to meet the guys, Glasslands, and (Le) Poisson Rouge.  All of their hard work has led to a major next step, as they’ll be moving to Los Angeles later this month to work on their first full-length record.

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braeves recording session
Derek Tramont, Thomas Mcphillips, Austin Mendenhall, and Ryan Levy at a recording session. Photo by Tim Toda.

At Webster, Snowmine’s Austin Mendenhall stepped in for former member Nick LaFalce, who performs lead guitar on the track.

The song shines, quite literally, with metallic imagery such as, “Silver streets, golden bodies” and “copper in our bones.”  Coupled with sleek, otherworldy guitar and bass work, that blend seamlessly, “Silver Streets” is a perfectly warm track for speeding down a country road this fall.  With lyrics like, “Take me back to days when I was fearless in your arms/I’ll follow your way home, I’ll follow your way home,” Levy’s dulcet vocals will make you nostalgic for a time that you weren’t even there for.

See the full lyrics on their Bandcamp page, and be on the lookout for a video coming soon. Listen to the track below:

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Allie X - BB Gun Press
Allie X – BB Gun Press

Little is known about the enigmatic pop singer Allie X.

When she comes on the stage at Baby’s All Right, I find it hard to believe that, even after speaking with her one-on-one only days ago,  she’s standing before me in the flesh, donning an ecru tulle number, mod sunglasses, and a mile-long curtain of straight brown hair falling down her back.

Before adopting the stage name Allie X, she was Allie Hughes, a classically trained musician from Toronto — but that’s all you’ll get to know about her.  “Respectfully, Ysabella, I don’t talk about my past in interviews,” she says, and I’m not offended; by driving the attention away from her past life, she allows the focus to remain on who she is now, and what that means for her music.

She opens her show with “Hello,” waving at the crowd almost robotically.  It’s mesmerizing to watch her contort her arms into a pretzel or kneel on a bench to play her instrument, the “X-a-chord,” which resembles an organ.

The way that Allie X interacts with her crowd is unlike many pop singers, who might try to hold back-and-forth conversations with the audience or lead into songs with anecdotes.  Instead, her phenomenal vocals are what make the show memorable, and she says little other than the occasional “thank you,” mimicking the way she likes to carry herself as an artist.

“I think I can still have life as an artist and create work that has an intimate relationship with the world, where they feel like they’re being let into something without actually revealing details of my private life,” she says.  “In this day and age, it’s difficult when half of the success of an artist has to do with social media, which has to do with the details of one’s personal life, so it’s something I’m figuring out.”

And it seems that she’s figuring that balance out much quicker than she gives herself credit for.

The driving force of her fan following is the power of “X,” which she describes as “the unknown variable…a blank slate to start from.  Believing in X is believing in the possibility of anything.”

“I have a small, but very devoted following of X’s and a big part of the project is exploring ‘X’ together,” says Allie.  “I’m always trying to think of new ways we can do that.  One of them is part of my Tumblr, it’s a gallery for various ‘X art’ that they’ve made, and we update it usually every couple of days.  So if you make anything and you hashtag it ‘Feeling X,’ it’s going to be up in the gallery.”

And among her go-to poses during the show are the crossing of her arms to form an X, or holding up her crossed fingers.  She even spins around onstage, much like the reblog-ready spinning gifs she has on Tumblr.  She gives fans these recognizable things to latch onto, and while adopting X into one’s life has a different meaning for each individual, it brings her and the fans together.

These symbols of Allie X are only part of the cohesive image she’s cultivated.  It’s a distinct visual style that makes her instantly recognizable, and she credits the aesthetic to adopting X into her life.  That’s a part of what ‘X’ might mean for her, but that’s not what “X” is meant to be for everyone.  As she describes it to me, “If you were to become ‘Ysabella X,’ you don’t have to share the aesthetic that I show.  You don’t even necessarily have to have aesthetic — that’s not really what it’s about.”

And while I might not be sure of my ‘X’ or my aesthetic, Allie X exudes a strong sense of self-awareness and artistic identity.  On delving into other aspects of the art world, she says, “I would love to make a musical.  I would love to make a film, animate a film.  Books, all of that.  But that all needs to stem from me being a successful music artist so that’s what I’m focusing on right now.”

It’s fun to watch her pull at her roots and prance in a cutesy and child-like manner while she sings, “Steal my blood and steal my heart/Whatever it takes to get you off/I’m your bitch, you’re my bitch/Boom boom.”  The stage was a bit small for her presence, and it would be lovely to see what she would do with an even bigger one.  Naked bodies — “a huge pile of naked bodies to travel with me around the world” — if she had it her way.

Presently, she has only performed about ten shows as Allie X, so there is certainly room for her shows and her catalog of songs to grow.

She has co-written a song with YouTube celebrity Troye Sivan, whom she describes as “a truly lovely human being.”  Generally, she likes working with people who “bring a different skill set to the table.”  For example, people who are “good at working quickly or with technicalities of engineering.”  And she describes herself as a “slow” and “abstract” lyricist, preferring to work with “more straight-ahead, quick lyricists,” and “people who have some interesting analog sounds.”

One thing that surely will not change is her flawless delivery, with some of her vocal curls actually inducing chills.  And hopefully she stays a bit cryptic and elusive, too.  She only took her sunglasses off for the song “Good,” but even then, asked for the lights to be turned down.

She works her way through CollXtion I from top to bottom, and when she closes with “Sanctuary,” she holds out her mic and the crowd sings all the words without missing a beat, as if we all know her and have been a part of this “X” project for our whole lives.  And when she prances off stage, shades back on, you’re left with even more questions about her than you had at the start.

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LIVE REVIEW: Wolkoff @ Baby’s All Right


While most of New York fled the city for Labor Day 2015, Wolkoff, aka Joanie Wolkoff formerly of Her Habits, performed at the venue famous for those lights, Baby’s All Right. She covered the entirety of her EP “Talismans” and finished with a few new tunes. She started the show covered in a cape – removed to reveal a shiny jaw-dropping black mini-dress, a look completed with her signature white Reeboks and tube socks. She was joined by two talented and flexible modern dancers, complementing Wolkoff’s moody pop with sweat on muscles and even a samarai sword. Her EP  “Talismans,” which you can stream here, shows Wolkoff’s lyrical emotional depth and alt-pop writing chops, but seeing her live truly takes the experience to the next level. Sure, she’s blonde and pretty – but far from appearing traditional or boring.  Joanie Wolkoff is just one of those goddesses who is on to something and found a way to exist in this world that is wholly unique to herself, yet captivating to all. Those attributes shine through in her stage presence, performance, aesthetic and of course, music, to create quite the enchanting package.

If you missed this show, come see Wolkoff at Atypical Beasts and AudoFemme’s CMJ takeover show Friday, October 16th at The Delancey. Until then, watch Wolkoff’s video for “Too Quiet” below:

PHOTO REVIEW: Summer Moon @ Baby’s All Right

NYC-based supergroup Summer Moon (The Stroke’s Nikolai Fraiture, Au Revoir Simone’s Erika Spring, The Like’s Tennessee Thomas and guitarist Lewis Lazar) played a sold-out show at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right.  We caught the gig and snagged some shots of their set.

Prior to the Brooklyn date, the band opened for Father John Misty at SummerStage in Central Park. Since forming in early 2015, they’ve only released two singles since forming in early 2014: “With You Tonight” and  “Happenin,” both bouncy and upbeat with tinges of new wave. Rumor is they’ll be recording a full-length album soon, so keep your ears open…

Catch “Happenin” here:


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AUDIOFEMME PRESENTS: End of Summer Fling @ Baby’s All Right, 8/18

AudioFemme Presents

AudioFemme is having a party. Naturally, there will be a bounty of great music. Tuesday, August 18th at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right we’ll be dancing with some fabulous bands. To get you as excited as we are, here’s a preview of our favorite things about our delightfully odd musical guests. We feel no shame in bragging that we love all our events, but this lineup is particularly special. Tickets are $8 advance / $10 at door – snag them ahead of time here.

Abdu Ali

Abdu Ali

The well-dressed Baltimore rapper has the music blogosphere spinning after already securing icon status in his hometown. We love his “post-apocalyptic” sound that blends classic hip-hop beats as well as punk and industrial sounds you didn’t know existed. Keep close to this one, kids.



Brooklyn’s own ZGRT is already freaking people out. Their first single, “HARD POWER” is produced by Zachery Allan Starkey and DFA Records’ synth legend Gavin Russom, keeping LCD Soundsystem alive through his electric touch on the Brooklyn current. ZGRT creates techno, house, and post-punk beats that will make your booty shake and lyrics that will make your head spin.

Stash Marina

Stash Marina

The avant-garde rapper from Masssachusets leaves you dazed with her heavy beats like thunder clouds ready to pour down poetic lyrics. “These fuck boys tryna get me but I can’t be fucking up,” she drawls on “Super Fragile,” which you can just play over and over until you’re hypnotized. Fuck fuck boys.

Leverage Models

Leverage Models

As complex as the stars above our heads and equally as beautiful, the New Yorkers (Jordanville) create intricate dance music about some very serious topics, ranging from rebelling against political authority to self-harm. Truly, something for everyone.

Enjoy a teaser video below from Leverage Models, filmed and co-directed by D. James Goodwin.

LIVE REVIEW: Yvette/Eaters @ Baby’s All Right

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Bob Jones and Jonathan Schenke of Eaters.
Bob Jones and Jonathan Schenke of Eaters

It takes a lot of nerve to wear your white hair long like that: straight, thin, and skimming the neck of your skinny white tie, worn over a tight black t-shirt, matchstick jeans, and elf-point boots. But how else would you dress for your 20th wedding anniversary? You have to applaud a middle-aged couple that celebrates such an occasion by going to an industrial noise gig in Brooklyn. And on a Thursday no less!

Headlining the evening’s two-band bill is Brooklyn duo Eaters, but if I’m being honest I really came to see Brooklyn duo Yvette. Yvette used to be made up of Noah Karos-Fein and Rick Daniel, who released their debut LP Process in October of 2013. The record is a carefully constructed post punk assault-yet it somehow retains a melodic sensibility along with its steel aggression. The record came at a time when cold and militant industrial music was a breath of fresh air amongst the slew of jangly local bands. Anger was back in. Finally.

Listening to Process is a damn fine experience, but it doesn’t really set you up for what Yvette brings to the stage. No longer the original line up, Yvette is still fronted by Karos-Fein on vocals, guitar, and effects, but Dale Elsinger now backs up Noah on the drums. I never saw Yvette while Rick Daniel was still a member, so I can’t speak for his abilities as a live performer. But what I can say is that Elsinger is a welcome replacement. Quite easily one of the most fascinating drummers I’ve seen live-and I don’t get too excited about drummers all that often-it’s almost impossible to look away while he’s playing.

Perhaps it’s merely the democratic stage set-up the band always employs (Noah at the center and Dale to his left) that creates the allure. Maybe if drummers weren’t always banished to the back of the stage we’d find them mesmerizing more often, but something tells me it’s more that just his coordinates that make Elsinger such an intriguing performer. He gives it his all. Watching him smash his kit is exhausting, so I can’t imagine how winded he must feel, but the fact that he’s dripping in sweat by minute two gives me a good idea. Elsinger’s parts are forceful but not fussy, and so directly to-the-point that I’m tempted to call him a purist. He does he always drum barefoot after all.

Yvette’s sets are never long, but always tidy and packed full of energy. There’s no banter, no fluff, just some very talented, straightforward musicians presenting their thesis and then leaving quietly – though what they play is the antithesis of polite and quiet. It’s loud and full of guts and grit.

Eaters is made up of multi-instrumentalist Bob Jones and recording engineer Jonathan Schenke. Their sound is rooted in the dark rubble of post punk debris, so they are a fitting band to share a bill with Yvette. Though while Yvette’s tracks stay consistently hostile, Eaters sometimes float to the softer side of the ‘80s, sounding more Brian Eno than Suicide.

There is certainly a fuller crowd for Eaters, and their presence is more elaborate; the lights turned down almost all the way to emphasize a sphere of light rotating on a hydraulic circular track. It’s a curious and useless prop, but is a fun badge of nerdiness nonetheless.

Eaters finished off sans encore, making way for the late show to follow at Baby’s. Listening to both Eaters and Yvette you’d suspect a late into the early morning set, but I was home and in bed by midnight, which is good, because some people had anniversaries to celebrate.


VIDEO REVIEW: Sheer Mag “Fan The Flames”

Sheer Mag

I was introduced to the catchy brilliance that is Sheer Mag by a friend via an iMessage group chat about a month ago. “Anyone going to Sheer Mag on Saturday? They’re my new fav band and all I know abut them is that put out one perfect EP last year.” So I listened, and drank boxed wine in a sweaty DIY punk basement, and then finally understood. Philly-based Sheer Mag is essentially the most fun and danceable modern day rock and roll I have heard in a very long time. A week ago they released a music video for “Fan The Flames,” another catchy tune off their new EP which is simply titled II. It is clips of a live show similar to the one that I witnessed just a month ago here in Seattle. For all you NYC folk, Sheer Mag will be at Baby’s All Right on May 9th. 

ARTIST INTERVIEW + LIVE REVIEW: Happyness @ Baby’s All Right

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photo by Madison Bloom
photo by Madison Bloom

How did I get here? I’m sitting on a trash bin in the backstage bathroom of Baby’s All Right. Across me, or rather, encircling me, are the three young gentlemen who make up Happyness, arguably one of England’s best new bands. They’ve just released their debut LP Weird Little Birthday, played South by Southwest, and are shaking the last leg of their first American tour. What better way to commemorate it than with a powwow in the john?

To my right, vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist Benji Compston is perched on the toilet. Bassist/vocalist Jonny Allan is cross-legged on the floor in front of me, and drummer Ash Cooper is leaning on the sink. It feels more like I’m cutting gym to smoke cigs with my middle school buddies than it does a professional interview, but I’m instantly at ease. It’s nice meeting other people who feel as at home on a bathroom floor as I do.

I could never have guessed that this was where we’d chat. The evening started as many do, neurotically watching the clock until the exact minute the interview was actually scheduled. Of course, this is never when they occur. Sat at the bar, I witnessed a man fully costumed as a taco run past me into the green room. No explanations, just some very fast food. I finally saw Benji and abruptly sprung at him from my stool, explaining the meet-up we had scheduled.

“Oh, ok, cool-do you mind if I go for a cigarette first? Do you want to come? Do you want one?”


Outside I met Jonny, Ash, and their tour manager, Mark. They told me of the deli sandwiches they’d eaten, and that they were due to order more. I urged them to order a chopped cheese. They didn’t. We entertained the idea of doing the interview in their van, but the boys warned me it was far too messy and musty. (If they only knew…)

To the tiny lavatory then.



Jonny Allan: We could do it [/fusion_builder_column][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”][the interview] in the mirror!

Madison Bloom for Audiofemme: Yeah, take a long look at yourself while you answer these very basic questions. No one’s sitting on the toilet, which is a little disappointing

JA: Sit on the toilet, Benji.

Benji Compston: What?

JA: Sit on the toilet.

(Compston slowly settles sideways on the lidless throne.)

JA: That was so dainty! Look at you!

MB: I like what you did there. You’re doing sidesaddle on the toilet.

BC: This is how I always sit. Is this not how you’re meant to?

JA: No, that’s exactly how you’re meant to.

MB: So, this is you’re first U.S. tour…how’s it been?! Do you have any crazy stories of anything that happened?

BC: We got in a hot tub when it was raining and people outside the hotel window stared at us and laughed at us because traditionally people don’t go in hot tubs in quite cold weather in Dallas in March.

Ash Cooper: There’s more hot tubs in America so we were just excited to get in.

BC: Yeah just the idea of having a hotel with a hot tub was like, “Oh my god, we’ve arrived.”

MB: Not a lot of hot tubs in England?

JA: No.

MB: Why?

AC: Less pools.

JA: I don’t know, it’s kind of an item of luxury I guess, and I had not seen a hot tub in a while, so, being in a hotel with a hot tub was the BEST thing ever, and so we all went out there, smoked cigarettes and were pale, and people looked at us, it was kinda fun.

MB: So the craziest thing you guys did was get in a hot tub?

JA: Oh yeah then we met a Neo-Nazi Texan man who forced us to hold his loaded gun at ourselves, but….

MB: That’s somehow not surprising to me, like yeah, that’s America. And Texas. What’s been the funnest city to play? Or just to be in? You seemed to have a lot of fun in Portland; you went to Voodoo Doughnut!

JA: Oh they came to us. They delivered a box.

BC: Cleveland. We had a very fun time in Cleveland.

MB: What happened in Cleveland?

BC: (expectant pause) We…played a fun show….

JA: Hung out at America’s Best Value Inn.

MB: Wow, you guys are CRAZY! Hot tubs and…

JA: We fuckin’, we were like running around the hotel and someone set off an alarm…

AC: Yeah we were playing Sardines.

JA: Do you know the game Sardines?

MB: No.

JA: Sardines is basically hide and seek but instead of everyone hiding, one person hides and you go and you try and find them, and if you find them you just hide with them…

AC: Until there’s one guy left wandering around…

JA: …going like: “Has everyone else just left me?”

BC: We hid in a water closet thing.

JA: We hid in a laundry closet thing. A water closet’s a toilet.

BC: Oh is it? Sorry, I thought that was a waste closet.

MB: That’s also fitting.

BC: We stayed in a Motel 6 in Salt Lake City, and, I watched Ash-I thought Ash was getting violently assaulted and I watched out the hotel window and was just kinda like: “Ah, ok, let’s just see what happens next and then deal with it afterwards.”

AC: Story of my life really. Leave Ash outside and see what happens.

BC: Well I thought out of all of us you’d probably deal with it best. I thought you’d probably come back from it kind of.

AC: This isn’t the first time this has happened to me.

BC: Because if I was assaulted in a Motel in Salt Lake City I think I’d just, you know, I think I’d just give up.

MB: What was actually happening? You weren’t being assaulted…

JA: The Mormons were taking over.

Compston and Allan get down.  Photo by Austin Sandhaus
Compston and Allan get down. Photo by Austin SandhausMB: You guys played in Seattle, I was actually in Seattle when you guys played but I couldn’t make it.

MB: You guys played in Seattle, I was actually in Seattle when you guys played but I couldn’t make it.

JA: Ooh, that was a fun show.

AC: Actually I think Seattle was my favorite city.

MB: Really?! I’m from Washington so, a bit of pride there. I was emailing with Cheryl Waters from KEXP and she wanted me to tell you guys hi because she had a really good time.

All: Awwww!

JA: Yeah, we really liked Cheryl! She was really cool.

AC: We got a lovely photo with her.

BC: Yeah she’s awesome, that session was really fun.

MB: Well I’m glad you guys liked Seattle, just had to kind of rep it and tell you guys hi for Cheryl. You guys did SXSW too, how was that

BC: It was all quite intense.

JA: It was kind of hectic.

All: We didn’t have much time to do anything.

AC: It’s so hectic that you don’t see Austin. It wasn’t until the day after, when we did like a hangover show, that we actually realized that there was a city behind South By.

MB: Yeah I’ve heard a lot of mixed things from musicians, but it’s like a thing that’s really honorable to do.

JA: Yeah it’s nice to be asked to do it.

AC: It’s nice to have the wristband.

MB: Yeah? You gonna frame it? You’ve kept them?

BC: The CMJ one we could wear as like a lanyard, but the South By one was constantly on our wrists and we started to kind of look like fourteen year old festival goers because we just had wrist bands going all up our arms.

JA: Do you know what it does to a person having a shower with the same thing on your wrist every morning? It’s very stressful.

MB: It’s gets very smelly too.

JA: Well, I made a point of shifting…

MB: So it didn’t get the gross watch smell.

JA: Yeah, I didn’t have the kind of, arm decay, because, ‘aint nobody got time for that.

MB: I read an interview that said that while you guys were writing and recording your first EP and album you were working during the day. What were your day jobs?

BC: Um, I worked at a restaurant in South London, which I quite promptly got fired from.

JA: You painted canvases white!

BC: Oh, I was an artist’s assistant in London, and then after that I worked in a restaurant as a waiter and I was probably the worst waiter they’ve ever had.

JA: He got fired because he didn’t know what was in the risotto bowls.

BC: I’d just make stuff up, people would be like, “oh, what’s this?” and I’d kind of go (glances sideways, mumbling) “oh, ch-ch-ri-chorizo, with a bit of…rice and cheese and cream and paprika…..” and then I kind of would say things like: “oh, they put paprika in everything here.” Which they did.

(All laugh)

JA: Make that the tagline!

BC: There were some complaints about me…and I’d forget things and a woman once asked for cheese on the side because she was lactose intolerant-

AC: Why would she still get cheese on the side?

BC: And then I grated loads of Parmesan on top of it-

JA: At the table!

BC: Yeah, I put it down and was like (makes grating motion) and she was like: “What the fuck are you doing?” and I was like: “Parmesan! On your risotto!”

JA: I just worked at a pub. I basically served these guys. I would just kind of like hang out there all day and nobody else would come in and they’d come in and be like: “Can I have one of the soups?” and I’d be like: “Yeah.” I got to wear a nice shirt though.

MB: Oh!

JA: It was short-sleeved, and it was kind of maroon-y

AC: I visited you and you looked very fetching in that shirt.

JA: I did. Yeah, I did, I looked nice. I looked like a nice boy.

MB: Ash, what about you?

AC: Um, I draw baths for children.


MB: I don’t believe you.

JA: No, he does, it’s true.

MB: I’m sorry, you what?

AC: I draw baths for children.

BC: Please explain a little bit.

MB: Yeah, can you, um, that sounds, just, creepy.

AC: I’m a glorified manny.

JA: What’s worse is there like, 14.

AC: These kids can’t fend for themselves.

MB: But that’s all you did? You didn’t like, feed them, or take them to the park? You just bathed-well, you didn’t bathe them…

AC: No, I took them to the park

BC: You took them to the fish restaurant and made a fuss.

AC: I took them to the fish restaurant, well, that wasn’t me that made the fuss – I took them on a run in the park, I took them to the drum shop because we had a free day, I took them to the, eh, oh, what’s that bike race called that goes through Paris?

All: The Tour de France?

AC: I took them to the Tour de France because it came through London and we had a day out, it was great. But yeah, glorified manny. Put glorified manny.

MB: Ok, so, glorified manny, bartender, and shitty waiter. No offense.

BC: Oh, no, it’s fine.

MB: So I’ve read that there’s kind of a movie concept thread running through the new album, but what was the inspiration for the lyrical scalping of Win Butler?

BC: I was walking with Jonny like years ago and I just kind of said the lyric to Jonny and was like…that’s a thing.

JA: We used to talk about Win Butler’s hair. We used to be very, uh, we used to dress kind of, wonderfully in a just appalling way.

MB: Like in suits?

JA: No, we were part of the whole London teenage thing where everyone would wear very tight jeans and really fluorescent shoes.

MB: I don’t know that movement.

JA: Oh, it was a real thing. It was the underage scene in London and we used to really like Win Butler’s hair.

MB: So you don’t actually dislike Win Butler, in fact, you loved him.

JA: Yeah, we loved him.

BC: I just thought one day it would be quite funny, because Win Butler at that point had a hair cut, and it was the haircut and it was part of his thing, and I thought it would be quite funny to cut off part of his head, and wear it.


Cooper between beats.  Photo by Austin Sandhaus
Cooper between beats. Photo by Austin Sandhaus

MB: So in interviews you guys are often pretty self-deprecating of your own music-I’m guessing that’s mostly an act? Or do guys actually kind of feel like: “How the fuck did we get to this place? How are we successful?”

JA: Are we successful? That’s news to us!

All Laugh

AC: We’re doing an interview in a toilet.

BC: So you’re asking, are we actually surprised? Yeah, I think we probably are.

MB: Ok, because I figured, oh, they’re self-deprecating, they’re just British, whatever.

AC: Yeah, it’s partially the British thing I guess…

BC: But lastly, when you leave, we’ll all stand in this mirror and go: “We’re very famous. We’re very famous.”

AC: There’s a story in there somewhere.

MB: So, I’m not going to ask you guys about the “Y” in the spelling of your name because I know you guys get asked that all the time-

JA: The Beatles is the answer to that question.

MB: No! That’s not the question! It’s an announcement actually, because I know you guys mentioned that there’s a band in Finland (Happiness), the hardcore band that is spelled normally, but-

AC: Are you going to start the lawsuit? Is that what you’re announcing?

MB: I will, but I need to start two lawsuits because there’s another band in Rhode Island that’s called Happiness, normal spelling, and it’s three guys from Deer Tick…

JA: Fuck. Them. When did they start that?

MB: I don’t know, but they’re just in Rhode Island, so if you guys wanna just take a car like, a bit north, you can kill them while you’re here.

AC: But wait, now we can start the lawsuit!

JA: It would be very hypocritical of us to start the lawsuit.

BC: That’s very interesting you told us that.

MB: I just felt like I needed to tell you; I didn’t want to start any drama but-

JA: The drama is RIFE.

BC: I think we may have started before them.

JA: I really hope. Cuz like, if you just google the word ‘Happyness’ band

MB: Well, which spelling?

JA: Oh, that’s a good point… Well, they must have found the Finnish heavy metal band…so they’re fucking assholes.

BC: I’m going to pretend this conversation never happened.

MB: I’m still going to put it in…

BC: You’re like God.

MB: Are you from London proper, or are you just based there?

All: No, we’re from London.

MB: Well, you never know, you could be from…

BC: Greater…

JA: Croydon…

MB: Devon…

JA: My Mum and Dad live in Devon!

MB: I hear it’s very nice.

JA: It is nice!

MB: Do you find that that’s a big part of your identity? Like I feel like there are bands that really identify as an American band or “We are a British band. That is intrinsic to our identity.” Or do you just happen to be from there.

JA: We just kind of happen to be from there. The amount of people who when we started were like: “Oh! The scene in London is so great right now!” We were kinda like “uhhhhhhhhh…..”

BC: There were a few people who were really trying to make the South London thing happen, and were like “South London band Happyness, from South London!” It was like…ok.

MB: I’ll just put “general English band.”

JA: (chuckles) Yeah, “Non-descript English…”

BC: “Non-descript, trans-Atlantic band.”

MB: I had a question about your song-I listen to BBC6 like, everyday when I’m at work, and Marc Riley’s my favorite, but I never hear him play “Marc Riley in a Karesansui” and I’m always really pissed off! Like, “why won’t you play this?!”

BC: He never has! Can we speak to him about this because-

MB: I want it to be his new intro song!!!

BC: I think he might have not found it very funny….

MB: But he takes the piss out of himself all the time!

BC: The session we did with him was actually really fun, and we actually did really well.

MB: He just seems like such a sweet dude…

BC: No he was really sweet, he bought us some beers and chocolate, which was really nice.

JA: I think it was too long for the radio, but they asked us to make a jingle, and we did it, and that’s why we did it, and then they never put it on the show, so we were just like…

MB: Wait, so you actually made it for them?!

JA: Yeah! And then they never put it on the show.

MB: I’m gonna have a word; I mean, not like we know each other, but maybe….

JA: Email him! Say: “Marc, big fan. Where’s that song?”

MB: Ok. I’ll do it. I’m glad you guys were worried about that, because I was. If you guys had some kind of freak accident and could not play music, what would be your fallback plan, aside from waiting tables?

BC: I’d probably quite like to run a small delicatessen somewhere?

AC: City farm.

JA: Like a petting zoo.

MB: We need those.

BC: Actually, my deli could be part of the city farm.

MB: You could slaughter the animals and use them as the deli meat!

JA: That’s the only reason we’d be growing them in the first place.

BC: Ooh yeah, and we could name it, we could say (puts out hand as if to serve a sandwich) “this is Persephone the pig…”

JA: Angelo, the camel.

BC: Peter, the boa constrictor.

JA: Hey, I’ve got a penny from the floor of the toilet!

MB: Oh! That’s good luck.

JA: Yeah that’s good, urine-y luck.

MB: Do find there’s a big difference between the audiences you play to at home and here?

JA: People make more fun of our accents, which we like, in a kind of masochistic way.

A fully-focused Allan.  Photo by Austin Sandhaus.
A fully-focused Allan. Photo by Austin Sandhaus.

MB: You’ve been on tour for weeks and weeks now; what have you guys been eating mostly?

JA: Bad stuff. Sonic.

BC: Can you tell???

MB: No, no, I just like asking this question because you’re on tour and basically on wheels for a month.

BC: Here’s (NYC) been the best food we’ve had on tour.

BC: Yeah, the food here’s been unbelievably good. Really good.

JA: I had pork belly eggs benedict.

BC: We’d mainly been eating, like, really processed fast food.

JA: We went to a Sheets.

MB: A what?

JA: A Sheets. It’s like a gas station where you order on the-Mark knows about Sheets, he showed us.

MB: Sheets? I don’t know about Sheets.

Mark Miller (Tour Manager): It’s the coolest truck stop. They have a bunch of different food and you order on a screen and then they hand it to you, rather than like, going into a truck stop and eating like, a hot dog on a roller. You can get wraps.

JA: I have a confession to make about Sheets, now remembering: very impersonal.

MB: So that’s a full statement?

JA: Yeah, that’s right.

MB: What are you guys most excited to do while you’re in New York?!

BC: I’ve got a friend, several friends, who live in Central Park Zoo, and, we’re going to go see them.

MB: They live in the zoo?

BC: They live there. They’re sea lions.

MB: Right.

JA: We’re going to go see them; we didn’t see them last time.

BC: We didn’t see them last time, we didn’t have time, but we know them quite well.

MB: I’ve actually never been there, I’ve lived here seven years and I’ve never been there.

BC: You should come!

JA: Do you want to come? Monday.

BC: Peter, Andrew, Angela and Nigel. My friends from Central Park Zoo.

JA: They smell worse than our van.



For all their jest and cheeky remarks, these three get very serious on stage. Of course there’s a level of welcome banter and rambunctiousness, but their focus is admirable. The brief set at Baby’s was fun and full of messing around. Allan and Compston smooched each other’s cheeks en route to switch instruments, and finished off their final song with a good tumble on the ground, tangled with their guitar cables and dodging the inevitably sloshed beer.

I can’t say I’ve ever met a pack of musicians as kind or as clever as this lot-they’re as laid back as they are hilarious. As long as you don’t ask them why they spell their name with a “Y,” you should miss the snarl. Seriously. It’s like asking a crust punk if he knows he’s got holes in his jeans.

I hope to hear news of many more albums and American tours to come. And I hope that one day I can talk Happyness into ordering a chopped cheese.


LIVE REVIEW: Body Language @ Baby’s All Right


Hump day isn’t usually this sexy, but it’s fashion week. I’m not even fully through the door of Baby’s All Right and I’ve already spotted a woman with a balloon animal headband and another in a tomato cape and Zorro hat (no sign of Waldo yet-oh, there he is). And to think I almost didn’t wear these sparkle pants.

All this seems appropriate considering the members of Brooklyn electro-pop outfit Body Language are no strangers to the fashion industry. In 2013 they played a show hosted by makers of brightly colored, suspiciously low-priced socks Joe Fresh. The foursome are themselves a put-together bunch, but in a way that suits their music as opposed to distracting from it. There are so many bands tangled in designer imagery these days, it’s nice to see a group of talented musicians who have their priorities straight.

Before Body Language could get everyone frenzied, we needed to warm up our muscles. Fortunately the night’s opener was Figgy, a.k.a Mike Ferringo, the Massachusetts-born NYC based DJ/producer who’s been making the house rounds lately. Despite the clout, he seemed to be a pretty normal guy who got as much dance out of his set as any good DJ would desire from his audience.

Love or hate the genre, house remixes are still relevant, perhaps more than ever before considering our cultural urge to hunt-hoard-curate, and Ferringo’s background in Jazz is a testament to the rising craft of the remix and the resilient presence of R&B music.

In a recent interview with LA Canvas, he made a simple but pertinent remark when asked to explain R&B’s recent “comeback” and why people love the genre so much:

“The honesty of the vocals, and I don’t necessarily mean lyrics. Soul music will be around forever, it’s not a trend.”

Figgy played for about an hour – or pushed, or programmed for about an hour. I don’t really know the right verb for what DJs do these days, but whatever he did  it was great, and the crowd seemed to agree with a nod of their hips.

I wish I could relay the litany of samples I recognized instantly by ear, but while I enjoyed every moment of his set, I could only pick out “Heart of Glass” and “No Diggity.” The rest was a well-spun web of disco claps and house keys that made it impossible to stand inert. Hats off to you Mr. Figgy.

I was well warmed at this point, but unable to break out of stationary head bobbing. This being the second installment of “going to a show with the cold/flu” I was afraid to dance…could dancing give me pneumonia? Typhus? Scarlett Fever? And then a more jarring question arose: When did I turn into an elder from Footloose?

The great thing about dance music is that you don’t have to think about these things once you hear it. It’s airborne, relentless and contagious…at least it was for the frontal half of the audience. Five minutes into Body Language’s set there was crowd surfing, a shoe to a man’s head, and the all-around pelvic gyrating our grandparent’s feared. Body Language had a few technical errors in the beginning of their set, namely producer/everything-player Grant Wheeler’s Bass acting up, and producer/vocalist/everything-player Matt Young’s levels needing to be more upward pointing.

I don’t mean to get hyperbolic (it just happens) but this is a group of incredibly talented musicians, and that’s not an overstatement. They’ve managed to combine the unpretentious fun of dance music with attentive producing, landing a sound almost as exciting to listen to on headphones as it is to see live. Not a small feat.

Lead vocalist Angelica Bess is in a word: charismatic. She sings with as much ease as she does professionalism. The rest of the band was equally humble, focused and impressively proficient musically. As it turns out, this is no act. After a brief Q+A with the group, AudioFemme discovered that the members of Body Language are not only feel-good beat geniuses-they’re also super nice and down to earth. Kudos times two.



TRACK OF THE WEEK: Lower Dens “To Die in L.A.”

Lower Dens

I live in Brooklyn. Despite years in the entertainment industry, I don’t know L.A. So if I were to die there, I imagine it would be in the air above in a plane crash or by having given into all my vices and overdosed in a mansion dressed still wearing my black leather pants. Either option sends me out at the rock star age of 27. That’s just where my morbid mind goes.

Lower Dens are an “entropics” band from Baltimore. “To Die in L.A.” is hot off their forthcoming third album Escape from Evil, to be released on March 31 via Ribbon Music. A preview of what to expect from the whole damn thing, “To Die in L.A.” is dark; it’s whimsical. The voice of Jana Hunter reverberates loud and bold over an experimental track that standing alone could work as the theme for an indie horror flick. “I wish I could count on you…” echos Hunter’s vocals in the opening line.

Lower Dens will play a release show at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn on Tuesday, March 31. Buy tickets here.

Listen to “To Die in L.A.” below.

LIVE REVIEW: A Sunny Day in Glasgow @ Baby’s All Right

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A Sunny Day in Glasgow @ Baby's All Right. Photo by Karen Gardiner
A Sunny Day in Glasgow @ Baby’s All Right. Photo by Karen Gardiner

The way in which A Sunny Day in Glasgow recorded their latest album, Sea When Absent, made seeing them perform a live show all the more intriguing. The band’s current incarnation — held together by just one original member, Ben Daniels — consists of six members scattered across the globe, forcing them to record the album via email without, at any point in the process, being in the same room together. While this method worked out to glorious effect on the record — it’s a densely textured record bursting with clattering percussion and joyful melodies — I was skeptical of how it might play out live.

A little after 11 p.m. on Saturday night, the band opened their sold-out set at Baby’s All Right, bursting in with the biggest number from the album, “In Love With Useless.” Vocalist Jen Goma (who moonlights in People Get Ready and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart) bounced up and down, seemingly drawing all her energy to guide the song through its twists and turns, on a path leading to a clarifying harmony with the more restrained vocals of Annie Frederickson. Though the band is a sixpiece, it was the two women at the front who commanded much of the attention. Goma, the only one unfettered by an instrument, made for a very physical presence, and seemed to be using her entire body to conjure the big notes. Frederickson, for her part, would widen her eyes in anticipation of the soaring harmonies they reached for, the two women sharing a grin when they made it.

The band zipped through an hour-long set that was largely made up of tracks from the new album. Live, the multiple layers of the songs, perhaps inevitably, didn’t mesh quite as thoroughly as on record: the timing felt off on a few occasions, and the the two singers’ harmonies didn’t always gel perfectly. Still, the band remained confident throughout, their energy and enthusiasm never flagging, and shaking off minor mishaps such as a broken guitar strap and averting a set list mixup. True to their name, their performance was of almost child-like joy — emphasized by their use of a kazoo, maracas, a tambourine, and hand claps — and delightful exuberance. You get the feeling this band’s music could paint even the darkest and grimmest of Glasgow days in bright technicolor.



Dub Thompson

Dub Thompson

There’s a moment in record-store-nerd-meets-girl classic High Fidelity when John Cusack’s character, Rob Gordon, catches a couple of skatepunks stealing records from his shop. The punks give back the shoplifted goods when their decks are held ransom, and Cusack’s character looks at their haul in disbelief. “Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, breakbeats, Serge Gainsborg… What, are you guys slam dancing to Joni Mitchell now?”

The pink-haired punk retorts, “Man, you’re so bigoted. You look at us and think you know what we listen to.” When they part with the last of the stolen merchandise, it’s a wrinkled copy of a guide to home recording; it foreshadows the end of the film in which Rob ends up producing their band’s debut single as The Kinky Wizards, titled “I Sold My Mom’s Wheelchair” (the actual track used in the movie is “The Inside Game” by Royal Trux).

This scene came rushing back to me when I first heard “No Time” by Dub Thompson. The quirky, static-laden piano ditty that introduces the track soon morphs into dubby beats and slinky organs, the sparse vocals layered with gritty reverb. It sounds like a sample of some weird reggae-punk record unearthed from a dusty crate, but in reality it’s the brainchild of two California teenagers named Matt Pulos and Evan Laffer. “We actually met in middle school,” explained Laffer in a phone interview with AudioFemme. “It wasn’t until high school that we started making music together. And then it wasn’t until after we made the record and found out that there was some interest in it that we both kind of signed on to the idea of really working on it in more ways.”

Laffer describes himself as the “non-musician” of the group, saying that “Matt is much more trained in certain respects. He knows how to play guitar much better than I do, and keys, and just has sort of a history of being in bands. But I was always really interested in music and would try to make little songs and stuff… [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”][which] made it possible for some more oddball ideas to take shape. We each surprised each other with things that neither of us could or would think of, and then built on that.” They met with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado in Bloomington to pull together ideas and material for 9 Songs, the duo’s debut on Dead Oceans.

“We went into the studio with Rado just with a collection of songs and that was it. It was not immediately obvious to us that it was going to be put together as a record exactly, let alone sold as a record. The songs were written in this crazy span from like three and a half years ago right up to a week before we recorded – it was just kind of an outburst of energy. A lot of the stuff just happened from Matt and I kind of fooling around, writing stuff by ourselves, writing stuff with each other in mind, in a sense. But by the end, especially with Rado’s production style, the whole thing kind of developed this unifying aesthetic.”

What resulted is a cheeky little romp through eight tracks (despite the album’s title) that borrow from all manner of prolific noise rock acts with an explosive energy. The snarky worldview the record presents belies the incredibly intelligent choices Laffer and Pulos make in terms of rhythms, change-ups, textural elements, and moods; it’s not only hard to place the record squarely into any one genre, it proves difficult at times to nail down even a single track. But that’s not a bad thing, just indicative of their exuberance, and maybe of some mild ADHD. Laffer explains, “There were things we did when we finally recorded it where like, five minutes before we did the take we would just decide… let’s have this one have a so-and-so feel, like, theme this song a certain way that we haven’t thought of before. It ended up being sort of like a tour of different styles or something throughout. We just threw out all these songs that we had written in hopes that some of them stuck together. Eight of them did, eventually.”

Listening to 9 Songs truly does feel like a tour through any vinyl junkie’s shelves. There’s a well-curated eccentricity there that tempers whatever irreverence crops up from time to time. There are, of course, many critics ready to dismiss that sort of impudence. “A lot of critics have been like, ‘Well, I hate to just burst their bubble cause they’re just kids, they’re nineteen… let ‘em have their fun,’” Laffer says, adopting the snobby tone of the band’s detractors. “We are a bit more serious about it than just that, but the humor is part of it and it wouldn’t be the same, it wouldn’t have as much character if the humor didn’t balance our some of the more moody elements or whatever… even if it might come across as kind of sophomoric, or even childish, as some people put it.”

Though he’s gained quite a few accolades in recent years, similar things were initially said about Ariel Pink, whose early home recordings were met with more than a touch of scorn and disbelief. Through all of the crass charm of those first releases, there were ideas brewing and very wise aesthetic choices being made. Even without that kind of context, it seems dismissive to write off Dub Thompson as nineteen-year-olds who are “screwing around,” but that’s more of a discredit to incredulous reviewers than it is to the band. “Perhaps,” Laffer agrees, “But… I would also add that to their credit, we are literally nineteen. We’re at an energetic time in our creative process right now. So when things fly out that might be perceived as off-color or even stupid, that’s just kind of how it’s rolling right now. And why dampen the energy of it, you know? We wouldn’t want to like, put a gag on it just for the sake of making something more sophisticated.”

Dub Thompson Baby's All Right
Dub Thompson on stage at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn.

With the addition of Madeline McCormick on bass and Andrew Nathan Berg on synths, Pulos and Laffer have expanded their touring lineup to a quartet and are finishing up the last dates of an outing with Montreal’s Ought, a band equally enigmatic and bombastic, though with a slightly different approach. “It’s the first real tour we’ve done aside from just a few weekend gigs,” Laffer says. “We did a few in New York about two months ago. But this is essentially a month of no-breaks touring and shows.” They’re excited, he says, not only to visit cities where there’s substantial interest in what Dub Thompson is doing, but also relieved not to have to drive so far between stops. When they pulled through New York late last week, the Ought-curious crowd at Baby’s All Right thinned way down before Dub Thompson launched into a caustic set that made 9 Songs somehow even more vivid, so it was kind of a shame that not many stuck around. Pulos’ confrontational yelp was blunted only by reverb; Laffer attacked his kit with similar ferocity. There wasn’t a ton of banter, but then, most of the duo’s lyrics come off somewhat conversational, if inflected with shards of detached ambivalence.

The affect on 9 Songs – a sort of production quality that’s the antithesis of sounding produced – thankfully did not unravel on stage. If at times the songs seem a sort of cut-and-pasted melange of styles, the live set exhibited a carefully orchestrated flow. But delivered with haphazard, youthful gusto, it came off as just-unpolished-enough, and the set wasn’t limited to the tracks we’ve already heard from the band. In fact, there’s another record already in the works. “It’s got a little bit more of a hip-hop intent,” admits Laffer, “but it’s not necessarily hip-hop.” With such a cornucopia of styles at work on 9 Songs, the next album could be a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure of sorts. “Overall,” says Laffer, “I think I’ve noticed a lot of younger kids – kids who are still in high school – really dig it. Some of our relatives, our dads, they’ll usually just be like ‘Oh, the production is kind of noisy’ or something but still support it. Mostly, the thing we’ve gotten is ‘Oh, I can’t wait, I have no idea what they’ll do next.’”[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]



Sylvan Esso’s self-titled debut is a beautiful study in synergy. Combining the timeless, self-possessed sound of Amelia Meath’s velveteen vocals with cleverly nuanced, exultant electronic production from Nick Sanborn, the project has captivated an ever-growing fan base that includes the industry’s heaviest hitters (they’ve supported the likes of Justin Vernon and Merrill Garbus on national tours) all on the strength of just three Soundcloud offerings. The tracks on Sylvan Esso (streaming now on NPR) are as deceptively simple as those that precede its May 13th release on Partisan Records; all that’s at work here are Sanborn’s synths and beats and Meath’s melodic acrobatics, but the dynamics between these two elements elevate the abilities of the other at every turn.

If the formula seems done to death, it must be said that these two work so exquisitely together it feels entirely fresh. They both come from folksier backgrounds; Sanborn played with Megafaun while Meath was a founding member of Mountain Man. Much as she did during her time with that band, Meath elevates everyday experiences, thus revealing the poignance that can exist within the mundane. The narrative in “Uncatena,” for instance, centers on washing dishes and writing letters. Sanborn’s handling of Meath’s swooning, antiqued melodies comes off as preternatural; whether he lets them rest unadorned over subtle textures or manipulates her lines entirely to serve as a beat or movement in and of itself, it’s always expertly executed, respectful, and perfectly at home in its broader context.

Last January, we caught up with the pair as they kicked off a headlining tour at Baby’s All Right. Their easy give-and-take was apparent even in the way they riffed effortlessly on Star Trek, the inherent un-sexiness of playing baritone sax, or an upcoming tour stop in California in which each admitted they were looking forward to being served “overpriced juice” from a “surfer dude-babe” (Meath) or “vegan girl with an undercut” (Sanborn). “We can’t describe how grateful we feel to be headlining shows at all at this point. I mean we have like three songs on the internet. We’re just so grateful to people for being attentive,” gushes Sanborn.

There was plenty reason to take note of the band’s early online presence. “Hey Mami” introduced the group with a forward-thinking look at the realities of street harassment, though couched as it was in cheery playground handclaps it was just as easy to dance to as it was to provoke conversation about the dually damaging and uplifting nature of unwarranted comments from bystanders. “Cat-calling… happens, and it upsets me. You don’t know what to do,” Meath admits. “Sometimes, it happens and you’re like, ‘Fuck you, I feel really threatened and unsafe,’ and then someone will do it and you’re like, ‘Awww yeah! I’m gonna go home and think about you later.’ Or it’s an old guy who’s like ‘Bless you,’ and you’re like ‘YES!’”

The song was released on 12” as a means of placing the band’s music in a specific frame of reference from the get-go. Sanborn says, “We really wanted to contextualize it right away. We had this idea to do just an old school format – a 45RPM single with the full acapella instrumental. I’m a DJ, and all the old 12 inches I would buy [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”][were like that]. It invites remixes, it puts it in a context that we always wanted it to be in since we started working together.” Though it appeared as a b-side to “Hey Mami,” “Play It Right” was actually their first collaboration. “I did a remix for a song she wrote for Mountain Man and that became ‘Play It Right’ and we just kept sending each other stuff that we thought the other one would be into,” Sanborn explains. Meath adds, “We both have very, very distinct sounds which are actually kind of disparate. People keep calling us fucking ‘electro-folk.’”

Call it whatever you want, but it works so well it’s hard to imagine either of them involved in projects more well-suited to their strengths (not to mention playing up each other’s). “Each of us tends to have instincts to do what we’re gonna do, which is why we have individual voices. But we try to serve the song first,” says Sanborn. His DJ intuition serves Sylvan Esso especially well on pumping club anthem “H.S.T.K.” Meath’s vocals are spry and jazzy at the song’s outset, bouncing over springy beats before growing sultry and daring on the line Don’t you wanna get some? Sanborn loops that line and builds the mood into a frenzy in which tiny, thoughtful flourishes pop like flashbulbs. Tracks like this are especially vibrant when performed live, perfectly suited for the sensual, hip-hop inspired gyrations Meath executes with a dancer’s grace.

Sylvan Esso have kept up a pace that could be hard for other bands to maintain. “It’s just two of us. It’s not like we have some machine that’s just gonna keep going for us,” Sanborn says. “We can predict what will be fun for us and what will be not fun for us. Already we’ve said no to things that we thought were a bad idea.” Meath cites the importance of naps, perspective and nutrition when it comes to stamina and maintaining a good attitude, stating, “The minute I start getting to be a Grumpus Maximus, [I know] something’s going on. What’s going on? Maybe you just need to eat a bagel.” “Could I Be,” a standout track on the LP, perfectly elucidates the exhilaration and exhaustion of that hustle. And it’s incredibly effective as a motivational tool; the chugging synths and persistent beats mirror the locomotion of the “train” that Meath refers to even as Sanborn distorts her voice into a mechanical whistle. Like “The Little Engine That Could” the moral of the story is that any goal is well within reach given solid hard work.

But it’s a respect for what the other brings to the table that makes this collaboration a resounding success. “We’re a partnership, just a man and a woman in a band on completely even footing, and that’s how we treat everything,” Sanborn says. “Really early on we established this relationship of being hyper honest when we didn’t like something. One of the best aspects of this band has been being able to argue pretty vehemently and not have emotions be involved.” Meath adds, “I’ll have this hook, I’ll sing it to him, and he’ll be like ‘Okay, cool. I have this beat.'” Then, Sanborn continues, “We just keep working on it til it’s something that we both like.”

It’s an exchange best illustrated by the metaphors within “Coffee,” a breakout track for the band that, at its most simple, is about dancing with a partner. Though it had been released only days prior, the audience at the Baby’s show knew every single word from opening lines True, it’s a dance, we know the moves / The bow, the dip, the woo, to the infectious Get up / Get down of the chorus, and Meath’s imploring Do you love me? sung so confidently you get the sense she knows the answer is always going to be ‘yes.’ She wrote a treatment for the joyous video that would accompany the track. “I sat down and studied music videos for like a week,” she says, detailing a syllabus that included TLC’s “No Scrubs,” Jon Hopkins’ “Open Eye Signal,” and Sean Paul’s “Get Busy.” It splices slow-mo scenes from various dance parties – subuirban gymnasium hoe-downs, 50’s sock-hops, jaded hipster house parties, and finally, a futuristic flash mob styled by Sylvan Esso’s friends at Dear Hearts, a boutique in their hometown of Durham, North Carolina. Sanborn says the video reflects “our whole aesthetic, referencing pop but pulling the things out of it that we love.”

Pop sensibility drives every track on the record. It comes from the rustic traditions that inform Meath’s style of singing as much as how her vocal gets filtered through Sanborn’s modern approach. “With electronic music you kind of have to reinvent the wheel a little bit,” he says. “Every facet of it: hardware, software… every part of musicianship and instrumentation is changing constantly. It’s really immediate and not entirely predictable. Electronic music is moving out of rigidity.” Whether highlighting the sinister courtship rituals of the modern male on “Wolf” or listless teenage shenanigans on “Dreamy Bruises,” Meath’s imaginative lyrics and their easygoing delivery haunt those purlieus with a finesse and elegance that magnifies the contributions of both performers. “It’s mostly just being really good partners in crime,” Meath says. They’re hardly committing felonies, though; as a record, Sylvan Esso feels more like a gift.

Sylvan Esso play NYC in May 8th at The Westway, and as supporting act for tUnE-yArDs at Webster Hall June 22nd and 23rd.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Sore Eros and Pure X at Baby’s All Right

Sore Eros play Baby's All Right


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Sore Eros play Baby's All Right
Sore Eros at Baby’s All Right

About halfway through their set, someone in the crowd watching Sore Eros open for Pure X shouted, “Somebody call Pitchfork!” The comment didn’t have the mean-spirited air of outright heckling; it almost seemed as if it was meant as a compliment. The Northampton-based band could use the press; they’ve been releasing records since 2009 with almost no traction despite high-profile collaborators like Ariel Pink and Panda Bear. With a penchant for wordplay that goes beyond the palindrome of the band’s moniker and seeps into clever record titles like debut Second Chants and 2011’s Know Touching, it’s clear that Robert Robinson’s recording project started in pretty cerebral and intimate places. Enlisting friend Adam Langelloti early on established Sore Eros as a collaborative duo, and Andy Tomasello joined as drummer. But lately, perhaps out of the same restlessness that characterized Robinson’s earliest releases on his label Light Dead Sea, it seems like Sore Eros is searching for something bigger than the scratchy samples and whispered vocals that previously populated their work. The lineup now includes Jeff Morkeski and Matt Jugenheimer, and as a five-piece they haven’t sacrificed any of the original intimacy or cleverness, just expanded on their sound.

That’s likely thanks in part to old friends like Kurt Vile and Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs. Both artists have had recent breakouts after paying long dues and ultimately releasing the most intricate records of their careers. November saw the release of Jamaica Plain, a three-song EP that revisits material Robinson recorded with Vile while the two were living in Boston a decade ago. And Granduciel will produce Sore Eros’ as-yet-untitled third studio album, which the band has been recording off-and-on in Philly for the better part of a year. Granduciel’s association with the project might be the extra push the band need for larger media outlets to finally take heed; at this point, at least the crowd at Baby’s All Right was convinced that the project is more than worth the attention. Sore Eros were unafraid to jam, letting chill guitar riffs unfurl in much the same way that Vile’s solos ramble on last year’s acclaimed Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze. Robinson is often self-deprecating in a humble-brag sort of way; it’s equal parts endearing and tiresome. But the building blocks are clearly in place for Sore Eros to have the kind of breakout that their friends have enjoyed, whether that means wooing Pitchfork or not.

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Pure X play Baby's All Right
Pure X at Baby’s

If Sore Eros needed another case-in-point of a band with a similar trajectory, they could easily look to Pure X for inspiration. Headlining the show, the Austin band is at a similar crossroads, just a bit further along. They’ve often drawn comparisons to Real Estate for their similarly mellow vibes and lazy, meandering guitar riffs. Their show at Baby’s, in fact, was a one-off smack dab in the middle of an extensive tour with Real Estate that’s only cemented the close associations. But while Real Estate remain the darlings of just about everyone in music journalism, praise for Pure X tends to be as casual and understated as the moods the band parlays on their most recent LP, Angel. Pure X seem to embody the sort of lackadaisical approach to life Richard Linklatter illuminated in Slacker; maybe it’s not a coincidence that the lifestyle-defining flick is set in and around the band’s hometown. But that’s not to say they should be written off. The listlessness of Angel belies the emotive power of the record, an effect felt ten-fold when the songs are performed live. Jesse Jenkins’ syrupy vocals suck you under some serious reverb, and floating in that haze it’s not unusual to find luminously rendered details throughout the atmospheric swirl – a shoegazey riff here, glinting synths there. It should be all Pure X need to set themselves apart, but their particularly blissed 70’s aesthetic, however brilliant, might be completely unappreciated by those looking for the next Real Estate.

If there’s any overarching mission statement from either act, it’s probably not more than a droll “Who cares?” Sore Eros and Pure X have been doing their thing without an apparent need for recognition from anyone. That fact alone gives both bands’ material a sense of authenticity that’s hard to come by in the Internet age, but getting overly excited about it all would be sort of antithetical.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Bella Union Label Showcase w/ Marissa Nadler, Mt. Royal, Ballet School & Pins

Pins Live Bella Union

Still a bit SXSW-weary, I ventured out to Baby’s All Right for Bella Union’s stacked showcase this past Wednesday, a chilly Brooklyn rain washing some of the Austin dust from my boots.  At first glance, the artists on the bill seemed pretty disparate, but then again, that’s really the beauty of Bella Union’s curatorial scope.  Though not sonically cohesive, something gelled as I watched sets from Pins, Ballet School, Mt. Royal, and headliner Marissa Nadler, and remembered how Bella Union was born – as a way for Cocteau Twins to release their own material.   When the enigmatic Scottish group disbanded, Simon Raymonde kept the label afloat, signing Dirty Three and other genre-defying bands of high artistic caliber.  And given that history, it’s no wonder that Raymonde is so acutely tuned to picking out female vocalists with innovative approaches, much like his former bandmate, the incomparable Liz Fraser.  Wednesday night’s line-up shone a spotlight on some newer additions to Bella Union’s stellar roster who follow Fraser’s tradition of fearlessly pushing female vocals to new, experimental heights.

Pins Live Bella Union

Manchester-based quartet Pins started the whole thing off.  They showed no fatigue despite the fact that it was the group’s third show in a string of NYC appearances, also coming on the heels of SXSW, where I caught them at Music For Listeners’ day party.  These ladies play searing garage rock with dire lyrics, but their penchant for the dramatic narratives belies a decidedly fuzzy approach.  They are a bit reminiscent of early Dum Dum Girls and in fact are scheduled to play shows with Crocodiles upon their return to the UK, so Dee Dee should probably watch her throne.  Frontwoman Faith Holgate sings in a troubled, deep-throated wail, occasionally interjected with spritely yelps.  Lois MacDonald’s back-up howls and distorted guitars lend elements of shoegaze to the froth, while plodding bass from Anna Donagan and Sophie Galpin’s crashing drums allow post-punk to creep in.  Though Bella Union released their debut record Girls Like Us late last year, the gals also run an impeccably curated cassette label of their own called Haus of Pins, no doubt part of the reason Raymonde was so impressed by the British babes.

Ballet School Live Bella Union

It was the first NYC show for Berlin-based Ballet School, who played next.  Of the four acts playing that night, Ballet School bore the closest resemblance to Cocteau Twins, but have updated that sound just enough to elevate it far above retread.  The trio look more metal than they sound, leaning toward shoegaze-tinged new wave pop more than anything else.  Irish chanteuse Rosie Blair has an almost operatic range, her voice trilling gorgeously over extended notes, taking on some of the abstract qualities for which Fraser was renowned.  The vibrations settle easily against the electronic loops and guitar manipulations that Michel Collet provides, his silky black mane falling over his face while Louis McGuire lays down R&B-inspired beats, often opting for a drum machine over pieces of his kit.  Blair’s stage persona is that of tortured wraith or sea-nymph, her pale skin framed by long, white-blonde hair, both set against dark garb which flared dramatically as the singer contorted her otherworldly frame.  Audiences at SXSW were awed by Ballet School’s performances; suffice to say this emerging band could be the next huge thing for Bella Union, who’ve already put out one EP (entitled Boys Again) for the newcomers.

Mt. Royal Live Bella Union

Mt. Royal was, for me, the true standout of the evening.  They’d already made the trek from Baltimore to Brooklyn for a few scattered shows, but this was my first opportunity to catch one of the band’s gigs.  Lead singer Katrina Ford is best known for her work in Celebration, and as with friends Future Islands and Wye Oak, has always had a reputation for putting on a phenomenal live performance.  Not only did Mt. Royal meet all those expectations, it destroyed them; Ford is an engaging performer who gave a powerhouse vocal performance, ululating between sensuous low registers and lilting peaks.  Her movements gave the impression of wrenching that sound from a deep emotional core, and her bandmates built anthemic paeans around it.  Their ferocious energy spread like wildfire around the room, with most of the crowd shimmying as enthusiastically as Ford herself.  The band hopes to put out a full-length in the fall to follow up their excellent six-song self-titled EP.

Marissa Nadler live Bella Union

It was a bit of a shame though, for Marissa Nadler, who had no choice but to take it down several notches in the now very noisy bar.  To her credit, she took it in stride and sounded perfectly ethereal despite having a bit of a sore throat.  Her elegant, moving record July is the fifth studio album the singer has released but a debut on Bella Union, who handles it in the UK while Sacred Bones oversees its US promotion.  Nadler mainly stuck to material from her latest, backed by cellist Janel Leppin, who added  some beautiful atmospherics with reverbed strings.  The less-than-attentive folks in the audience missed out on Nadler’s inspiring versatility – her resolute delivery of the very personal narratives that comprise July was both unflinching and delicately nuanced, indicative of the relentless touring she’s done over the last ten years of her career.  To those that were listening raptly, she had a special treat: closing the set with “Fifty Five Falls” from her first record, Ballads of Living and Dying.  It showed how far she’s come as a songwriter and performer, that there’s far more to her than the wispy caricature so often drawn due to her folksy roots.  As dreamy as her music can sound, it’s never timid, particularly on this last LP.  And it’s that quality that allows her to make a home on a label alongside bands like Pins and Ballet School and Mt. Royal, even if on paper it seems like a bit of a puzzle.

The common thread of the evening, then, was certainly commanding performances from charismatic women.  As Bella Union expands into the States, we can count on them to reliably unearth the most compelling voices in the industry, without rigid preoccupations as to what genre fits or doesn’t fit.  It’s endlessly encouraging to see a label truly invested in such an admirable endeavor.

APPROVAL MATRIX: 2/9/14 thru 2/15/14

PolyFauna Radiohead App

Here’s our take on the best and worst in music this week.



[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″][box type=”shadow”]RingoPaulZZZ Fifty years of this whole “without The Beatles, music would have long ago ceased to exist” mentality is getting stale.  CBS’s trite attempt to foster Beatles-Mania 2.0 proved once again that the folks behind the Grammys don’t even bother to listen outside the box.[/box][/fusion_builder_column] [fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″_last][box type=”shadow”]

PolyFauna Radiohead App

Radiohead have released an enthralling, otherworldly new app, PolyFauna. In it, “your screenis the window into an evolving world” based on the sound and imagery of “Bloom” from 2011’s King of Limbs.[/box][/one_half_last]

DESPICABLE <<—————————————————————————– >>BRILLIANT

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Drake threw a hissy fit when Rolling Stone bumped his cover story to run a TRIBUTE to the RECENTLY DECEASED Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  He has since apologized, realizing that sadness over the tragic death of a talented actor is maybe just a little bit more justified than being butt hurt over the music mag’s slight.[/box][/fusion_builder_column_inner] [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″_last][box type=”shadow”]


 We’re beginning to think “shows at Rough Trade” were an elaborate hoax designed by the owners of Baby’s All Right. Cheers to Oh My Rockness for keeping everything straight for us.[/box][/one_half_last]




YEAR END LIST: Top 7 To Anticipate

 Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

I’ll be honest: 2013 wasn’t the best year for me. I had my moments (like joining AudioFemme, for one), but overall this past year had a few more downs than ups in my experience. So I’m ready for 2014 and determined to make it a good one no matter what—although, by the looks of it, I’m not going to have to try too hard. Between the exciting festival rumors and anticipated album releases, 2014 is already shaping up to be a pretty amazing year (at least musically speaking). Here are some of the reasons I’m counting down the days until that New Year:

Outkast’s reunion at Coachella


Rumors of Big Boi and Andre 3000 ending their hiatus began in November and got everyone (including myself, obviously) up in a tizzy. It’s been a decade since the hip hop juggernauts performed on a stage together (and twenty years since the release of their debut full-length, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik) and their reunion at the April 2014 festival (confirmed most recently by Outkast collaborator Sleepy Brown) will be a welcome jolt for the hip-hop genre overall.

Album releases from longtime favorites and newcomers

February ’14 is going to be a particularly big month for music. Highly anticipated new releases from Beck, St. Vincent, and Neneh Cherry (her first solo effort in 16 years—check out our review of her album’s title track here) are all coming out in February, and that’s just the beginning of a long list of albums to look forward to. Keep an eye out for new work from NPR and Spotify’s “artists to watch” Banks and Sam Smith (among others) as well.

Gary Richards Planning All-Female Event

Music executive and founder/CEO of HARD events Gary Richards revealed in a recent interview with Wildspice Magazine that he’s got some thoughts about putting on a festival with an exclusively female lineup (think modern-day Lilith Fair, or so we hope). Richards described his idea, saying “I have a concept for a show that’s all girl performers… It’s not a 70,000 person event. But I do see more females coming up and… I’m definitely gonna do it 2014.” Here’s to hoping this amazing opportunity for female artists/musicians/DJs actually pans out.

New venues 


With brand new places opening up around Brooklyn, 2014 is sure be replete with amazing indie shows all around the borough. We’re especially excited about Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg, Radio in Bushwick, and Friends and Lovers in Crown Heights—all three of these amazing new spaces have already put on some great shows with some of BK’s favorite local bands. We’ll take this as a sign of more venues and concerts to come in the next twelve months.

The festivals

2014 is looking like it’ll host an unforgettable festival season, with the released lineup for SXSW alone offering enough to get your blood pumping. The Austin, TX festival’s confirmed acts include Kevin Drew, Tinariwen, the So So Glos, Sage Francis, Black Lips, Diarrhea Planet, Blouse, Avi Buffalo, Phantogram, and hundreds more (with even more to be added as the festival draws near). Rumors circulating the blogosphere are also hinting at a pretty exciting Glastonbury (Pixies and Arcade Fire) and indicating that acts like HAIM, Neutral Milk Hotel, Justin Timberlake, and Prince are all going to be hitting up some of our favorite fests in 2014.

Hamilton Leithauser’s solo album in spring

Among all the confirmed album releases for next year, this is perhaps the most intriguing. The Walkmen’s distinguished lead vocalist Hamilton Leithauser has announced that he’s embarking on a solo venture with the help of friends Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend), Richard Swift (the Shins), fellow Walkmen member Paul Maroon, and Morgen Henderson (Fleet Foxes). With such a solid backing band, we can only assume this album is going to be a standout for 2014.


With new releases come national tours, and 2014 will see a whole slew of unmissable shows from bands like the Broken Bells and War on Drugs. War on Drugs is making a particularly exciting return, not only with the March ’14 release of their third album Lost in the Dream (a follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2011 sophomore release) but also with their Springtime North American tour. Several other bands are sure to release tour dates as the year goes on, so keep a careful watch!