This week is big for Brooklyn announcements! Silent Barn announced their final lineup of shows. The bittersweet list starts with Partner, Katie Ellen, and Early Risers tonite. Vagabon, L’Rain, and Zenizen play Saturday. Northside has released their first round of artists for the 10th anniversary edition of the local festival. Liz Phair, Deerhoof, and La Luz will all play this June.
A couple of months later, The National are putting on a weekend showcase. Future Islands, Cat Power, Phoebe Bridgers, Cigarettes After Sex, and more will perform in Queens for the band’s There’s No Leaving New York festival on September 29th and 30th.
Coachella vs. Soul’D Out
In case you forgot – Coachella starts this weekend. One festival is daring to go up against the mega-fest. Portland’s Soul’D Out Music Festival is suing Coachella organizer, Golden Voice, for creating an unfair monopoly due to their artist restrictions. The flower-crowned festival’s radius clauses mean that Coachella-billed musicians cannot play other events within a certain distance. Artists like SZA and Daniel Caesar were forced to decline performance at Soul’D Out due to the rule.
That New New
Badass-babes unite! are Janelle Monáe & Grimes are back with another collaboration – “PYNK” is a color-worshipping, bubble-gum pop ode to sexuality and body empowerment. Check it out in our Video of The Week column.
How we’ve missed Florence and the Machine! Yesterday, powerhouse Florence Welch gave us the gift of new music with her band’s first release since 2016. “Sky Full of Song” showcases everything fans have come to expect from the singer, and we couldn’t ask for anything better.
The ladies of rap are in command this month! Last week, Cardi B dropped Invasion of Privacy and this week hip-hop co-queen Nicki Minaj dropped not one but three new tracks, causing the Twitter-sphere to declare April 12th “Nicki Day.” Her reign continues today with her feature in Young Thug’s clip, “Anybody.”
New York favorites Gang Gang Dance released “Lotus,” the debut single off of their upcoming album. The release date for Kazuashita has just been announced as June 22nd.
Indie band Cherry Glazerr hit us with a new one this week! Watch and listen to “Juicy Socks” now and catch the band on tour with this month and in June.
Late rock-soul legend Sister Rosetta Tharpe is finally getting inducted into Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
This week, Mariah Carey fans learned about her struggle living with bipolar disorder. Her full interview with PEOPLE is up today.
Kali Uchis’ much awaitedLP Isolation debuted last week and yesterday, Pitchfork released an interview featuring the “After The Storm” singer’s song-by-song explanation of the album. Uchis stopped by NPR’sWorld Cafefor a guest DJ session featuring her current influences.
In an effort to clear up the murky relationship between tech streaming companies and artists, a new bill is on the table that will establish a public database of music compositions, their songwriters, and who owns the rights to them.
It’s been three years since Detroit’s sonically poignant pioneers of quietly turbulent indie rock, Zoos of Berlin, last full-length release. Earlier this month, Collin Dupuis, Will Yates, Matthew Howard, Daniel I. Clark and Trevor Naud returned with an open door and a detour. An oceanic space dive, bridging the waters and atmospheric distances between way up and deep down, Instant Evening is a mystifying abstraction and a perilously purifying journey that renounces gravity in the same breath from which it praises it. The band is asking us to pretend that this is their first record which would displace 2013’s pleasantly unstable Lucifer in the Rain and their airily sedated debut record Taxis from 2009. But maybe they’re right to ask this of us. After all, what Zoos of Berlin has masterfully achieved with Instant Evening is the aural embodiment of time lapsed and time stopped and in several cases time reversed. A transcendental escapist mirror of the self and the whole, Zoos latest, first record is a new language in a native voice.
Their emblematic cadence is more well-rounded here, more complete as assisted by their collective patient tonality and fluid melodic velocity. There are comparable moments to the likes of Belle and Sebastian, LCD Soundsystem and most notably the late David Bowie’s final opus Black Star, but the comparisons aren’t a distraction as they usually tend to be. In fact, what makes Instant Evening an instant “yes” is its commitment to not only sound but to its deeply personal and uniquely porous temperament and languish whimsy. The opening track “Rush at the Bend” is an upbeat whirling dervish that uncorks the intent of the record, a gentle tug and ripping of the seams. The delicate balancing of layers within layers never feels thick or overthought. Case and point, “Spring from the Cell” an echoey and deliberate lamination of vocal harmonies, twinkling prom-night synths and dreamy acoustics. As the album progresses, the sensationalized belief that night is approaching grows apparent. “A Clock Would Never Tell” is a parade processional love song that begs to come in from the dark and the cold and leads shortly into “Always Fine with Orphan” a glittering and robust longing-for-summer anthem that manages to braid melancholy with pleasant memories of making love under the sun. We are left with the orbit-less “North Star on the Hill” which poetically stands alone on the record. Like hands missing each other in the night, gracing only fingertips before the invisible tethers pull and draw them apart, the albums closer is unassuming in its heartbreak. A swallowing of stars and a ghost caress, Instant Evening ends with an ellipsis.
When Brian Eno first got the idea to make Ambient 1/Music For Airports, he was indeed within such a place: the Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany, to be exact. His goal was to make music to “accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular” according to the record’s liner notes. This music would be “as ignorable as it is interesting,” ultimately neutralizing the chaotic and tense microcosm that is an airline terminal, or as I like to call it, hell on earth.
The record itself is many things: soothing, transcendent, gorgeous, subtle…adjectives which today, almost 40 years after the release of Music For Airports, are light-years from capturing the foul, soul-sucking, hyper-capitalistic essence of even the “nicest” plane parking lots.
Eno, completely aware of the hectic, complex world of the airport, wanted to make music that addressed the specific needs of such a space, and he didn’t mince words when explaining those needs. In an interview from a few decades ago, he describes his inspiration in greater depth.
“It came from a specific experience. I was in a beautiful airport…Cologne Airport, which is a very beautiful building. Early one Sunday morning, the light was beautiful; everything was beautiful, except they were playing awful music. And I thought, ‘there’s something completely wrong that people don’t think about the music that goes into situations like this.’ You know, they spend hundreds of millions of pounds on the architecture, on everything, except the music. The music comes down to someone bringing in a tape of their favorite songs this week and sticking them in and the whole airport is filled with this sound. So, I thought it’d be interesting to actually start writing music for public spaces like that.”
While I personally feel that Eno achieved the perfect score to flight on Music For Airports, I can’t say that such an approach has been applied to actual airports. While we may no longer endure the cheesy corporate muzak or “elevator music” of the 80s and 90s (now reserved exclusively for healthcare company hold music), the sonic output of terminals remains troubling in a whole new way. Take for instance my experience at Chicago O’Hare International Airport a few weeks ago, whereupon sitting on the toilet in the Gate B bathroom I heard not Enya or Brian Eno, but “Stars of Track and Field” by Belle and Sebastian.
This set off another memory. I was on a Delta flight to Brazil, and, being bored with the pre-takeoff formalities, decided to scroll through the in-flight music they offered. To my surprise, they not only had The Queen is Dead by The Smiths, but also Post Pop Depression, Iggy Pop’s latest record, as well as other albums by what marketing experts would deem “indies.”
Though I shouldn’t have been, I must admit I was surprised. Air travel is the last bastion (aside from perhaps hotel services and high-end dining) of the old-fashioned, uniformed business structure; the security, composure of the flight attendants, the caste system set in place by the boarding/seating matrix…the whole ambiance makes it a bit strange that they would supply passengers with Iggy Pop singing about Gardenia’s “hourglass ass.” Even though I found it both convenient and pleasurable that such tunes were available, I was also disturbed by it. Isn’t it slightly insulting to stick me in seat 23 B back by the shitter, make me pay for stale pretzels, and then pretend that you, Delta Airlines, knows about Iggy Pop?
But contrary to Eno’s airport in the ‘70s, it must be said that airlines today overthink about what is playing aboard. It isn’t breaking news that airports, which are basically glorified, overpriced shopping malls, picked up on the same marketing strategies that make us feel cool when we buy a certain brand of soap over another. The reason Delta Airlines has the new Iggy Pop record is the same reason American Airlines replaced schmaltzy muzak with “indie rock” to score-boarding and landing periods.
It’s the exact principle laid out inCommodify Your Dissent, a collection of essays from The Baffler addressing how the initial emblems of counterculture rebellion (i.e. rock music, leather jackets, tofu) have now become the tools of advertisers, CEOs, and the like. In a brilliant essay by Dave Mulcahey entitled “Leadership and You,” the author quotes Andrew Susman’s book Advertising Age:
“The inter-relationship of advertising and programming increase because customer tastes and preferences are known in advance. Programming and advertising become interchangeable, as consumers are living inside a perpetual marketing event.”
Perhaps Mr. Eno could resurface to make us a new beautiful record entitled: Music For Living Inside A Perpetual Marketing Event. If he’s too busy, here are a couple suggestions. When you consider what might be appropriate music for airports or airplanes, you must consider a few factors.
Traversing the cattle parade of the airport, from checking in, to schlepping through TSA, to finally sitting in your tiny, miserable seat: all of it is an absolute nightmare. No one has described this form of middle-class torture better than professional rant machine Henry Rollins. In “Airport Hell,” a cut off his 1998 “spoken word” record Think Tank, Rollins goes into gruesomely accurate detail about the avoidable blunders people make while traveling.
“I think it’s the mentality of lines,” barks Rollins. “Standing in lines, peoples’ IQs plummet…No one can figure out how to sit down in 13A. They walk in the aisle, they’re holding their little boarding stub like it’s delicate information and they look hopelessly lost. They look at it, and look up. Look at it, and look up.”
This is of the milder portions of the diatribe, but I’d say it’s worth the 15 minutes of listening to “Airport Hell” in full. While it may only infuriate you further, it will at least bolster your sense of humor and self-importance as you sprint through JFK with one shoe on and the other in your hand, dodging small children and tourists with their cargo ships of luggage on lopsided carts.
2. Increased fear of dying.
I have been flying since before I can remember, and from age 0 to 24, have had no such fear of it. I was so unafraid, that other passengers’ fear was comical to me. At 14 I was at peace with my own mortality and powerlessness. If the plane would tremble, I would liken it to a roller coaster. If it would drop slightly, I would rest assured that my death would matter not in the grand scheme of things, and even if it did, I still couldn’t stop it. Ahhh, the sweet smell of young, nihilistic liberation!
Enter my 25th year, during which I, through no rational explanation, cultivated an intense, out-of-the-blue, bowel-shuddering fear of flying. I know not its point of origin nor its psychological ramifications. I only know it exists. I know this by the sweat on my palms when the plane takes off, by my nervous glances when flight attendants start to hand out anything for free, especially booze. It is a condition I have tried to treat with music (and wine), though my approach has been flawed. I initially thought that dosing myself with “up” songs (and wine) would do the trick. My column from a couple of weeks ago, “Shiny Happy Pop Songs Holding Hands” was written at Chicago O’Hare as an attempt (along with wine) to battle my own aviophobia. It did not work. Perhaps the jubilant tone was my misstep. As I look back to the vintage interview with Eno, I absorb his unique angle on the mood of ideal airport music:
“I was thinking about flying at the time because I thought that everything that was connected with flying was kind of a lie. When you went into an airport or an airplane they always played this very happy music, which sort of is saying, ‘you’re not going to die! There’s not going to be an accident! Don’t worry!’ and I thought that was really the wrong way ‘round. I thought that it would be much better to have music that said, ‘well, if you die, it doesn’t really matter.’ So I wanted to create a different feeling, that you were sort of suspended in the universe and your life or death wasn’t so important.”
Losing Altitude: Songs to Die To. Considering we can’t have free booze or even decent food (let alone free decent food) perhaps the good people of these airlines would allow some sort of in-flight access to any and all of the music you damn pleased. In the case of a loss of cabin pressure: Nils Frahm. Unexpected rough air: Kate Bush. Bird-in-propeller: Richard Hell. At the very least, airports could give spinning Music For Airports a go, because I’d sure as shit rather face my imminent mortality to that than the goddamn Lumineers. After all, Brian Eno made it just for us.
Someone I used to date always said that I only hated everything that existed. I fucking hated that guy, but he may have been on to something. I’ve long been called many things; a contrarian, a hater, overly opinionated, and my personal favorite, too intense. But while those assessments can ring true, they don’t take into account my aptitude for eating crow, a skill best exemplified in my musical flip-flopping over the years. Lengthy is the list of bands I used to “hate” and now adore. Changing your mind is a simultaneously painful and elating metamorphosis to endure. Especially when it requires letting go of a pre-teen ethos deeply rooted in punk rock; a genre that is constantly evaluating it’s own badassness. My leading question as a 14-year-old closet pop-addict being: does liking ABBA make me less punk rock?
Before my musical diet broadened exponentially, before I caught myself enjoying a Taylor Swift song here and there, or found out that I did in fact like hip hop, The Cardigans, and Kate Bush, I pretty much only listened to punk. I wanted music with anger issues. I was allergic to melody…or so I thought. There was a specific regimen of sloppy, fast, and distorted a song had to abide by to catch my attention. It was a closed mindedness I’m shocked anyone was able to put up with. My mom would softly chide me as I furiously jabbed the radio tuner in search of something to appease my limited tastes, “variety is the spice of life, you know.”
And she was right! But I couldn’t even see the variety so intrinsic to punk rock at first: jazz, ska, rockabilly, country…they all found homes in the tedious sub-genres of punk at some stage or another. But at the time it had a narrow definition, and more importantly, existed in a vacuum. Whenever my dad would try to relate to me by voicing observations such as: “hey, this is really just sped-up pop music!” I would defend its “hardcore” integrity with a spiny vengeance.
Pop was also burdened with a slim definition. Pop meant flaccid and saccharine. Pop was the noise that bubblegum made. Pop was the opposite of punk, unless it was pop punk, a genre I absolutely indulged in but would go to painstaking lengths to rename as “skater punk” or “neo-punk” because semantics and titles meant that much to me. I wonder why.
There were countless bands that I tossed aside in my one-woman-war against melody. The Smiths were top of the heap. Did I really hate The Smiths because I’d patiently, painfully sat through full albums and just couldn’t stand the irresistible brightness of Johnny Marr’s guitar, or Morrissey’s delicious voice? Or did I stop my investigation short of listening, scoff at the flowers in Moz’s pocket, and turn away the moment I realized that everyone else loved them? As we know, pop is short for popular, and with discriminating ears I’d decided that “popular” was synonymous with “crap.”
It took me a long time to realize that hating something because of its popularity is just as lame as liking it for that reason. Concept, I’ve learned, can be the enemy. Those little placards next to the paintings at museums can never communicate what it is that the canvas does to you. It may seem funny that a music critic is telling you to not listen to the ideas surrounding music, but before a critic I’m a listener, and one thing I know is that diving in on your own, swimming around, feeling the temperature and the texture of a song…that’s all that really matters. Gleaning significance from a concept-a synopsis really, no longer interests me…I want the meat of the thing. And it was with this abandonment that I was finally able to enjoy a whole slew of music I would have shrugged off in my younger years.
If concept is the enemy, contextis a friend. After all, it was context that first tricked me into liking The Smiths. I was on an ugly grey balcony in Seattle, the balcony belonging to a friend’s hip older brother. It was the summer before I moved to New York and I found myself dating hip big brother’s college friend, a coy Brit who played with his bangs too much.
The brother, being a musician, had a hoard of instruments strewn about his apartment, along with plenty of friends who could play them. What college apartment would be complete without the requisite acoustic guitar, after all?
Though I grew up in the midst of musicians and have been witness to my fair share of casual-setting sing-alongs, I’ve never taken a shine to them. Too intimate. Too showy. Mostly too intimate. This occasion was no different.
Some guy with a fashion mullet and a purple zip up hoodie started strumming away on a six-string, and though I already wanted to run far away, I remained board-stiff in my deck chair. The song was requested by the Englishman, who shortly began to sing:
“stop me, uh-uh-oh stop me, stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before…”
My ears perked up-I hadn’t heard this one before. I loved it. I wanted to know who wrote it so I could hear the original version as soon as humanly possible and wash the sonic imprint of this “stripped-down” cover from my skull.
“Whose song is that?!” I demanded.
The two men looked at each other with mild disgust that I didn’t already know.
“The Smiths,” replied a thin British accent.
It was the beginning of an ongoing love affair that peaked mid-college, at which point I effectively ruined The Smiths for my first New York boyfriend after playing their catalog too much. I probably have friends who think I still hate The Smiths. Don’t tell them.
My newfound love of the Salford four might suggest a wellspring of new interests on less aggressive terrain…say Belle and Sebastian, for instance. Not so. I found Stuart Murdoch’s voice too whispering, the music too soft, too…wussy. For years I scoffed at the mention of them, never realizing that Murdoch’s lyrics were just as divisive as Morrissey’s, Elvis Costello’s, and Paddy McAloon’s.
But the battle against Belle and Sebastian would be lost to one song: “The Blues Are Still Blue” off of 2006’s The Life Pursuit. I was studying in Milan and sharing a mini apartment with a friend from school. The two of us were practically married, sharing a bedroom, class schedule, and groceries. We would cook for each other and spend hours at our tiny kitchen table smoking poorly rolled cigarettes and finishing off bottles of three euros red. Wine-stained and enthused, we would exit our circular debates about religion and politics, opting instead to play music we suspected the other hadn’t heard. This was much easier for her, as she was Brazilian, and could pretty much stump me with anything other than Sergio Mendes or Os Mutantes.
And yet her greatest victory in this game was Belle and Sebastian, which took her months to secure. “No. I don’t like Belle and Sebastian. I can’t stand Stuart Murdoch’s voice.” I insisted. “Ah, but you have to hear this song” she would counter. It hit me like a kiss. There was no denying it was a fantastic song; dripping in hooks, with a chorus you couldn’t stand not to sing. I admitted after a few listens that it was pretty catchy, but just because I liked one song didn’t mean I liked the band as a whole.
Within weeks I was secretly listening to other songs off The Life Pursuit, then the entire album, and eventually, older Belle and Sebastian records. Right before we graduated I conceded to my persuader. “You did it,” I reluctantly grunted. “You made me like Belle and Sebastian. Are you happy now?” She smiled with purple lips. I still can’t get her into Nick Cave. She doesn’t like music that is too angry.
Each week Audiofemme gives away a set of tickets to our featured shows in NYC! Scroll down to enter for the following shindigs.