Cardi B made Grammy history on Sunday night with a huge win in the Best Rap Album category for Invasion of Privacy (she had five nominations total). She’s the first solo female rapper to take home the award – the only other woman to have received a Grammy for Best Rap Album is Lauryn Hill, when her group The Fugees nabbed the 1997 honors with their iconic album The Score. Cardi appeared on the red carpet dressed in vintage Thierry Mugler and husband Offset on her arm, signifying the end of a tense hiatus for the couple following rumors of Offset’s infidelity. Cardi also made fast friends with Lady Gaga, who offered support in the face of a backlash D, she also spent time on the red carpet chatting with Lady Gaga, who was quick to support the rapper in the face of backlash from haters following the award ceremony. Cardi took a brief break from Instagram but, never one to rest on her laurels, capped off the week by releasing “Please Me,” a duet with Bruno Mars.
Donald Glover also had a big night, though he didn’t attend the awards ceremony; Childish Gambino’s “This is America” won both Song of the Year (distinctly given to songwriters) and Record of the Year (which goes to the performers, producers, and engineers). It was the first rap single to do so.
Other big winners included Brandi Carlile, who won three of the six awards she was nominated for (Best Americana Album for By the Way, I Forgive You LP and two awards for its single “The Joke”); Kacey Musgraves, who won overall Album of the Year for Golden Hour as well as three additional awards in Counrty categories; Lady Gaga, who won an award for “Shallow” as well as “Joanne” despite it being released two whole years ago; Ariana Grande who nabbed the Best Pop Vocal Album; St. Vincent who won Best Rock Song for “Masseduction;” Greta Van Fleet who won for Best Rock Album; and Best New Artist Dua Lipa.
We’re Not Surprised Ryan Adams is a Creep
“If people knew they would say I was like R Kelley lol.” This is a pretty damning text coming from a 40-year old man who’s soliciting nudes from a teenager, and they came from none other than Ryan Adams, according to an investigative article by the New York Times. The report details the online relationship between Adams and a woman they call Ava, who was just fourteen when the two began to exchange messages that eventually culminated in phone sex less than two years later. The piece has prompted an FBI investigation into the singer-songwriter, though the alleged victim never disclosed her actual age during their relationship and never met in person.
Whether his actions are criminal or not is somewhat beside the point, though, as the rest of the piece establishes a pattern wherein Adams promised young female musicians – including Phoebe Bridgers, Courtney Jaye, and his ex-wife Mandy Moore – a boost in their careers via collaboration, mentorship, production, tour spots, releasing music via his label Pax-Am (an offshoot of Capitol), et al, but then attempted to shift the relationship to something sexual, even exposing himself to women who came to his studio to develop their projects. In instances where consensual relationships resulted from his advances, they often became obsessive and abusive, and he allegedly held collaborative work hostage as a means of keeping contact open. After remaining vague in a profile in Glamour earlier this year that prompted him to refer to her as a “soggy piece of cardboard,” former teen-pop-star turned actress Mandy Moore went into much greater detail about the control Adams wielded over her career and their relationship, admitting that he was psychologically abusive.
It’s no secret that Adams has penned vindictive tunes about his exes; one of his most beloved songs, “Come Pick Me Up,” from his 2000 solo debut Heartbreaker, is said to be inspired by the end of his relationship with music publicist Amy Lombardi (another track on the record is titled with her first name alone). And though his back to front cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 was critically praised, it certainly raised eyebrows for some. Since the NYT article was published, Liz Phair, Karen Elson, and others have hinted that professional endeavors with Adams went awry due to similar behavior, which through the years has often been seen as erratic, owing to drug abuse an mental health issues. But in an industry that (as manyhavepointedout) still needs to have its #MeToo reckoning thanks to the seemingly inextricable tangle of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, Ryan Adams’ creepitude is a whole new layer of yikes.
That New New
This delightfully bizarre video for “Under The Sun” has got us so pumped for Spellling’s new record Mazy Fly, which drops February 22 via Sacred Bones.
Pecas are all about the smooth grooves on their latest single “T-Shirt.”
Watch an adorable turtle monch some kale in the new Mal Blum video ahead of their tour in support of Lucy Dacus.
This Robyn video is equal parts promotion for her 2018 album Honey and her new clothing line.
Bebe Rexha shared a video for “Last Hurrah” as a teaser for her yet-unannounced sophomore record.
Lizzo shared a video for the epic title track from her forthcoming album, out April 19.
Lydia Ainsworth returns with “Can You Find Her Place,” from the upcoming LP Phantom Forest, out May 10.
Tim Hecker is releasing more music from his Tokyo sessions with Japanese gagaku musicians, which resulted in 2018’s gorgeous Konoyo. The companion album, titled Anoyo, will be out May 10 via Kranky; Hecker will do a series of sold-out performances with the Konoyo ensemble at National Sawdust next week.
Julia Holter shared a video for “Les Jeux to You,” which appears on last year’s Aviary LP.
Hand Habits’ sophomore album placeholder comes out March 1 via Saddle Creek; the video for latest single “what lovers do” follows clips for “can’t calm down” and the LP’s title track.
Flock of Dimes and Madeline Kenney are releasing a split 7″ after working together on the latter’s 2018 LP Perfect Shapes; Jenn Wasner’s other musical project, Wye Oak, just released a track called “Evergreen” for Adult Swim’s singles series.
Potty Mouth are back with SNAFU, out March 1, and have a new video for “Starry Eyes” to get us psyched.
A shooting at Westlake Recording Studio in Hollywood on Tuesday jeopardized the recording sessions of Usher and Rich the Kid; members of the latter’s entourage were pistol whipped in the apparent robbery, but no one was shot.
Katy Perry has pulled a controversial pair of shoes from her website and other retailers after facing backlash from critics who say the design is a little too reminiscent of blackface.
Capcom has uploaded the soundtracks to some of their classic video games, like Mega Man and Street Fighter, to Spotify.
Louisville, KY’s Forecastle Fest announced their lineup for this year, which includes The Killers, The Avett Brothers, Anderson .Paak, Maggie Rogers, Chvrches, and more, and will take place July 12-14.
Ozzy Osbourne is reportedly doing much better after being hospitalized for complications of the flu.
Democratic nominee contender Kamala Harris failed at an attempt to seem cool when she claimed to have listened to Snoop Dog and Tupac while smoking reefer in college… before either had released music.
Record Store Day has named Pearl Jam its official ambassadors for RSD2019. The esteemed position has previously been held by the likes of Metallica, Foo Fighters, St. Vincent, Run the Jewels, Jack White, Iggy Pop, and Chuck D.
Pazz & Jop LIVES – Even if the Village Voice Doesn’t
When I received my Pazz & Jop Ballot in December, I couldn’t have been more shocked. I’d assumed that when the Village Voice shuttered in August, the music critics’ poll would go along with it. As an NYC resident and regular Voice contributor I was sad to see the paper go, but the loss of the poll was like salt in a wound; there was something so methodical, so definitive, so objective, about tallying hundreds of critics’ top ten albums to determine the year’s best in a way that wasn’t influenced by the branding of any particular publication. And while the top of the list was interesting, the real value I got from the poll came from scouring the ballots of critics with similar taste to mine, mining for overlooked gems.
The Voice had published only one piece since its death, though an archive remained online. No one seemed to know who would helm the poll itself – some critics even thought the email ballots that had been sent were a a ghostly, automated mistake, though some of the copy had been changed. The defunct alt-weekly began running Robert Christgau’s old year-end analyses, stretching back to 1971, when the poll began. And then, this week, a flurry of essays from Christgau, Jessica Hopper, Sasha Geffen, Tirhakah Love, and a roundtable of former editors, not to mention the poll itself, appeared.
There are five women at the top of the album list – for the first time in the poll’s history. Kacey Musgraves got the top honors, with her breathlessly praised Golden Hour, followed by Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer. Next comes Cardi B, Mitski tied for third, and Robyn’s Honey rounds things out. Noname and Lucy Dacus appear in the top ten as well. And though Childish Gambino’s “This is America” was deservedly voted best single of the year, the rest of the year’s top songs feature Cardi, Janelle, Ariana, Robyn, Mitski and Kacey as well.
While it’s hard to say if there will be a Pazz & Jop next year, this year feels at least a little triumphant, and not just for the women who dominated year end lists. It’s a reminder that music journalism, while on shaky ground, has the potential to grow, change, and most of all, to keep existing, so long as there is a community of critics willing to sound off. Ann Powers says it best: “With Pazz & Jop I bring a different mind-set to it. I am thinking about the larger community of music writers. And I care about the larger community of music writers a lot. I want us to have a home to be together, and that’s what Pazz & Jop gives us. And so, the fact that this poll still lives, it makes me feel like I still have a bigger home.”
21 Savage vs. ICE
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained 21 Savage on Sunday, claiming that the Atlanta-based rapper was born in the UK, is in the US on an expired visa, and that felonies stemming from a 2014 arrest could lead to his immediate deportation. 21 Savage, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, confirmed that he was indeed born in London, but that he was already in the process of renewing his visa after becoming aware of his “illegal” status in 2017. A representative for 21 Savage pointed out that while the rapper had indeed been arrested on felony drug charges, he was not convicted and has a clean record, and should be allowed to remain in the US until matters of his citizenship are settled, given his fourteen-year residency and the three children he has fathered in this country.
Immigration is obviously a hot-button issue in this political climate, and some have pointed out that 21 Savage has been critical of the government’s separation of families at the US-Mexico border. Though he came to prominence rapping about life in the streets – including gang violence, drug dealing, murder, and guns – he’s given a lot back to the Atlanta community as of late, and his latest album, I Am > I Was has been a huge success. Despite lots of support from fans and the hip-hop community at large, 21 Savage has a long legal battle ahead of him – we can only imagine what is like for those facing the same battle, but without resources.
That New New
Just in time for Black History Month, Chicago neo-soul singer Jamila Woods announces her next album, Legacy! Legacy! whose thirteen tracks each honor a different person of color; the latest single from the LP is dedicated to writer Zora Neale-Hurston.
Patio shout out fellow NYC DIY band Washer in their latest single, “Boy Scout,” from their forthcoming debut LP, Essentials, out April 5.
Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast directed the latest video from Charly Bliss. “Capacity” will appear on the band’s sophomore LP Young Enough, out May 10 via Barsuk.
Foxygen’s new album Seeing Other People will arrive April 26 via Jagjaguwar and have shared its lead single.
Neneh Cherry shared a video for “Natural Skin Deep,” from her phenomenal 2018 comeback album Broken Politics.
Death Hags shared “Electrochemical Communication.”
Andrew Bird is equal parts Frank and Richie Tenenbaum in the new video for “Sisyphus,” from his cheekily-titled My Finest Work Yet LP, which comes out March 22 via Loma Vista Recordings.
The Japanese House will release their debut LP Good At Falling on March 1 after releasing a string of buzzy singles.
Thelma shared a delightfully weird video for “Stranger Love” as well as a new single, “Sway,” both from her sophomore record The Only Thing, out February 22.
Madrid duo Yawners have confirmed their first live appearances in the US will take place at this year’s SXSW; to celebrate they’ve released a video for “Please, Please, Please,” the lead single from their debut LP Just Calm Down, out March 22.
SOAK (Derry, Ireland based singer-songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson) releases sophomore LP Grim Town on April 26 and has shared its very timely first single “Valentine Shmalentine” with a cute visual.
Khalid dropped this Disclosure-produced banger from his latest album, which will be out in April.
iamiamwhoami vocalist ionnalee announced her sophomore solo album REMEMBER THE FUTURE (out May 31) and subsequent tour with lead single “Open Sea.”
Bibio shared this smooth-as-fuck track from an as-yet-unannounced follow-up to 2017 LP Phantom Brickworks.
Ariana Grande just dropped thank u, next, only six months shy of last year’s Sweetener LP.
The 61st annual Grammy Awards will air on CBS this Sunday, featuring performances by Janelle Monáe, Cardi B, Camila Cabello, Brandi Carlisle, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, Kacey Musgraves, Dua Lipa with St. Vincent, and, in what is sure to be a train wreck of mediocrity, Post Malone with Red Hot Chili Peppers. But Ariana Grande has dropped out after the show’s producers refused to let her perform recent single “7 Rings.”
The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan has been reunited with his Gish-era Stratocaster after it was stolen nearly thirty years ago.
Recently released from a year-long prison stint, DMX has announced an anniversary tour to commemorate his 20-year-old debut, It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot.
Early-aughts dance punks The Rapture will reunite for a Brooklyn show and festival appearance (at Long Beach’s Just Like Heaven).
Big Boi, whose very brief appearance was literally the only highlight of Super Bowl LIII, has also announced a tour with Goodie Mob and other members of Atlanta’s legendary Dungeon Family crew (but hopefully not Cee-Lo Green?).
Merge Records turns 30 this year, and the iconic indie imprint will celebrate in July with the MRG30 Music Festival in Carrboro and Durham, NC. The lineup will of course feature Superchunk and other label stalwarts like the Mountain Goats, Wye Oak, Fucked Up, Destroyer, and more. Tickets went on sale today.
Kim Gordon is getting her first-ever solo art show at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum; featuring figure drawings, sculpture, paintings and sound installation; the show, titled Lo-Fi Glamour, goes up mid-May through September 1st.
Dinosaur Jr. mysteriously appeared on the Japanese Billboard Hot 100 with “Over Your Shoulder.” The track appeared on 1994 LP Without a Sound, but unlike that album’s inescapable alt-rock jam “Feel The Pain,” was never released as a single.
52-year-old Gorilla Biscuits guitarist Alex Brown passed away from a brain aneurysm last Friday.
At Audiofemme, we don’t exactly try to break music news; we’re more about pontificating on the news after it has broken. In honor of that, here’s our first monthly recap! It’s true that we’re a week into March, but this is a look back at some things that happened in February – and without mincing words, exactly what we think about it all. This installment features MIA, Whitney Houston, why the Grammys are irrelevant, and the best show we’ll (possibly) ever see.
AF: Afterflipping the bird during a Superbowl halftime show performance, thename Maya Arulpragasam was on everyone’s lips once again (or anyway,her initial-based moniker, MIA was). But MIA didn’t need to extendher middle finger to get our attention, since she already had it withthe video for “Bad Girls” released just a few days prior. Thesong is from the Vicki Leekx mixtape, self-released at thebeginning of 2011. Not only is the single far better than prettymuch anything from 2010’s mostly excruciating /\/\/\Y/\, butthe video adds a new level of intensity to an already fierce jam.
MIAreunited with director Romain Garvas, who also had a hand thecontroversial video/short film for “Born Free”. Looking back on“Born Free” it’s hard to say if our distaste stemmed from lukewarmfeelings for the track, or if we just thought the video was dumb. AudioFemme has always appreciated the political content in MIA’s work. Itnever feels like a gimmick, mostly because it extends throughevery expression of her being, from her music to her fashion sense toher live shows and album artwork, not to mention her background andthe causes she supports. “Born Free” was sort of an exception tothat. While we suppose that someone should call attention to thehorrors of genocide, must it be done by depicting a bunch of gingerrefugees shuttled to their torture on a crowded deathbus? Are whitekids really so blissfully unaware of racial and cultural profilingthat they need MIA to clobber them over the head with gory imagery offreckled, pale bodies exploding over land mines? Sadly, the answeris yes, but it felt a bit heavy-handed and obvious.
Thevideo for “Bad Girls” is essentially doing the same thing but ina much more successful manner. It takes a very real topic –oppression of women in the Middle East – and turns their liberationinto a orgiastic free-for-all. While it was filmed in Morocco, thedesert scenes and clay buildings remain just ambiguous enough toencompass areas of the world where MIA would have been arrested forsuch openness. Musically speaking, “Born Free” had a much moreaggressive sound than “Bad Girls” and in turn, the video was hardto watch. “Bad Girls” delivers its heat as a club-readyscorcher, and so there is a party-at-the-end-of-the-world sort oflanguage to the video. At first glance the future appears strangelydystopian, aimless. Then those first beats drop, MIA gyrates ontothe scene wearing iridescent lame, and snarls “Live fast/Dieyoung/Bad girls do it well” and the realization hits: we areactually seeing a utopia where Middle Eastern women are allowed todrive stunt cars, dance provocatively and wear whatever the fuckcrazy clothes they feel like wearing.
Allaspects of MIA’s signature in-your-face attitude are in full effecthere – her pouty expressions, provocative gestures, and creativewardrobe. Her bravado is most apparent when she nonchalantly filesher nails atop a stunt car driving on two wheels, but every second isinfused with the palpable excitement of the most explosive actionsequence in any summer blockbuster. At the exact moment MIA asks“Who’s gonna stop me if I’m coming through?” she’s backed bymotorcade of glow-in-the-dark cars and a horde of flamboyantlyshrouded back-up dancers on the march, a procession placing her inthe position of liberator and leader.
Inno time, the video had amassed 25,000 comments so MIA proceeded torespond to those comments in a follow-up video. Unfortunately, thequestions were no more insightful than YouTube comments ever seem tobe. We learned that see-through cars are expensive to ship, thathopefully MIA’s new album will see release during a season wherepeople will be wearing fewer clothes, and MIA promised to go out fordrinks with some lucky Brooklynite next time she’s in New York. Dudebetter watch out, I heard that babe likes truffle fries.
Lindsey: Speakingof living fast and dying (relatively) young, the world lost one ofits most beloved and talented performers on the 11th with the passing of Whitney Houston.
Iwas at work when news of Whitney’s death was tweeted to my roommate,who was at the time sitting at a corner booth enjoying our deliciouspork tostadas and coconut margaritas, and I’ll probably alwaysremember that setting. Just like I’ll always remember being on theJFK AirTrain when some dude with phone in hand announced to theentire car “HEY EVERYBODY, MICHAEL JACKSON JUST DIED!
A strangething happens when incredibly well-known pop singers die. On the onehand, there’s an element of shock, and then there’s the mentalpreparation one must begin in anticipation of hearing that artist’ssongs in every public place for the next three months, the fanscoming out of the woodwork to testify their love and heartbreak, thetackiness of televised funerals. But in those initial moments, myfirst thought was to tune Spotify to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody(Who Loves Me)” and pump up the volume, which is just what I did. In the next few hours we played most of Whitney’s back-catalogue,wondering how such a talented, wholesome lady could be so completelyderailed by a total asshole and his suitcase full of blow.
Aftersuch a time, I began to tire of the schmaltzy sentiment runningthrough most of Whitney’s oeuvre, but I did tear up to “I WillAlways Love You.” My parents listened exclusively to country musicwhile I was growing up, and when The Bodyguard came out I wasin fourth grade and already well familiar with Dolly Parton’soriginal recording. I remember being furious that Whitney had takenall the credit for it – I even had unschooled friends who insistedit was Whitney-penned material. I might have won the bet, but Istill looked like a bumpkin.
Onthe night of her death I found myself at a dance party and when theDJ played “I Wanna Dance” everyone lost their shit. It was acheap move (albeit one I’d pulled just hours earlier) but that’s thecharm of Whitney – even when you know the purpose of the music is to appeal to yoursappy, overemotional core, it still gets to you, and for that reasonalone the imprint she’s left on American culture will endure.
Lindsey: Following news of Whitney’s death, the 54thGrammy Awards aired on CBS. Admittedly, the Grammys do not interest me in the least, for all the reasons you’ve probably heard before…that they represent the lowest common denominator of fandom… thatthey celebrate mediocrity in pop music while ignoring more innovativeworks easily found just beyond the mainstream… that they haplesslycompare apples to oranges in categories that barely apply to theartists nominated… that they are incredibly boring. What I usuallysay instead of all that is “It’s just not my thing” and it isn’t –which doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else, even if thosepreceding sentences make me sound like an incorrigible snob.
Infact, the Grammys often serve to shame me for just how littleattention I pay to Top Forty recordings. Someone I was talking to ina bar that Sunday made mention of Kanye West’s “All The Lights”and I had to admit I’d never heard it, not even once. Part of it ismy general annoyance with Kanye West’s personality and poorlyric-writing, though I think he’s a stellar producer, but I wasstill a tad embarrassed.
Sowith my tail between my legs, I watched maybe two minutes of NickiMinaj’s “Roman Holiday” performance, but all I could say was“UGH, why is everyone obsessed with this trainwreck? I feel likeI’m having a nightmare except I’m awake. I’m going to go read in myroom.”
Andmy takeaway was this: at least now the Grammys are recognizingelectronic forms of music, even if it is shitty dubstep. And givingawards to chubby girls based on actual talent rather than looks. Andgiving Dave Grohl a platform to become an internet meme, just likehe’s always wanted. And finally, we’ve all been introduced to thegenius of Justin Vernon, whom the Grammys discovered.
AF: On the 13th Tibet House hosted its annual benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, curated by Philip Glass. By far, this concert was the best thing we’ve attended all month, and (given the majority of shows we catch that take place in venues that frequently smell of vomit) probably the most highbrow outing we’ll go on for a long, long time. The original bill listed Glass, video artist and digital pioneer Laurie Anderson, and minimalist prodigy James Blake, with other performers to be announced. In the following days, Lou Reed was added to the bill. Even then, we knew we were in for a once-in-a-lifetime live music experience.To get a sense of how UN-willing we were to miss it, picture this: Annie hobbling around with a freshly broken toe (her big toe, no less) having not slept in over 24 hours (and yes, the two are interrelated), completely wacked out on painkillers. Plus, our seats were located in the second balcony. Still, hell would have indeed had to have been frozen over for us not to attend this spectacle.
We made our way to the mezzanine and settled into our fancy velvet theater chairs just as the lights dimmed. We began to flip through the program wide-eyed with our hearts racing. Page after page of revealed some of our favorite musicians to be unexpected additions to the benefit, including Antony (sans Johnsons), Stephin Merritt, Das Racist, Rahzel, and Patti Smith’s Band.
While such an talented line-up might sound intimidating or pretentious, the evening was anything but, its short sets peppered with a lively sense of humor. While there were a few contemplative moments – the evening began with throat-singing Tibetan monks in radiant yellow robes, and about halfway through the set Tibetan singer Dechen Shak-Dagsay asked the audience to meditate on freedom for Tibet – by and large the night felt like a celebration, and it was never a somber one.
Laurie Anderson set the mood for the evening, performing right after the monks. Over ethereal synths, she recounted a story about a two-week “silent” canoe trip she took down a tributary of the Colorado River, during which she quickly discovered it was not the “meditation retreat” she had signed up for, but rather an opportunity for narcissists to gather and validate one another’s “life stories”. She garnered more than a few laughs over tales of running into a group for incest survivors who turned the now collective campfire into a platform for oversharing, passing a wooden spoon to take turns speaking into “as if it were a microphone”.
She picked up a violin and was joined on stage by Antony, wearing what can best be described as a muumuu. His otherworldly voice echoed against the ornate vaulted ceilings. The amazing acoustics of Carnegie made this feel both intimate and immense at the same time. While the songs had us in tears by the end, shocked that something so beautiful could come out of the mouth of a human, the droll lyrics of Anderson’s “The Dream Before” were delivered with Antony’s trademark whimsy and sass.
Stephin Merritt longed to have an orchestra behind him while singing “This Little Ukelele” and pretended to be surprised by the string quartet that actually occupied that space. They joined him in a soaring rendition of “The Book of Love”. But the most uproarious portion of the evening were Das Racist’s dual appearances. Heems and Kool A.D. had all the earmarks of dressing it up for Carnegie Hall in their dashing suits, but their lively performance of “Michael Jackson” saw them flirting with the aforementioned string quartet, somersaulting at the stage’s edge, and parading around with the American flag that had been innocently fluttering to stage left. Dap wore a traditional Indian dress that somehow made his pelvic thrusting more pronounced and therefore more comical. While the audience was actually comprised of many young folks who likely knew what to expect from the tongue-in-cheek rappers, one has to wonder what older fans of Glass’s minimal works had to say about their outrageous contribution to the evening.
All of the hilarity was anchored by stellar performances from stalwart musicians. Lenny Kaye lead Patti Smith’s band in a tribute to seminal garage rock comp Nuggets. Rahzel, formerly of The Roots, incorporated robotic dancing and beat-boxing skills into his memorable offering. And Glass’s own arrangement of “Pendulum for Violin & Piano” with violin virtuoso Tim Fain was astounding. Even from from the distant balcony in which we sat, you could see his fingers flying, leaving the audience stunned by his show or skill.
Lou Reed finished out the night (we imagine he probably demanded that he get to go last) seeming beleaguered (as always) and taking himself way too seriously (as always), performing a song bemoaning the fact that he’s exceptionally old and looks like it. It wasn’t all that funny. But despite the few awkward moments it was difficult not to feel as though we were truly seeing something special when he was joined onstage by the other performers for closing number “I’m Beginning to See the Light”. Philip Glass had turned 75 a few weeks prior, so the house was invited to sing “Happy Birthday” to the genius who had put it all together, a small token of appreciation for all the beauty and delight we’d just witnessed.
Even with all the tremendous talent present that night, it was James Blake that had us swooning, holding a collective breath for fear that if our muscles so much as twitched the whole thing might possibly vanish into thin air like a mirage. A drummer and guitarist provided sparse backup while the gangly Blake crammed himself behind a keyboard tiny by comparison to his long frame. He played both parts of “Lidnesfarne” before moving into “The Wilhelm Scream” which built to a gorgeous wave of heartbreaking distortion that all but blotted out James’s wistful moaning of the lines “I don’t know about my dreams / I don’t know about my dreaming anymore / All I know is that I’m falling, falling, falling…” In trying to explain his allure we had to settle on his unfathomable level of maturity for such a young musician as well as his outright innovation; almost no one is doing or can do what it is he does, and the sentiment behind it resonates deeply, on an almost subconscious level. To hear him live was absolutely mesmerizing; his playing electrified the space between himself and the audience. He bashfully offers his being and invites the listener to merge with it, and in so doing we were transformed, our hearts heavier but our heads lighter. You can check out a clip Annie recorded below; we apologize for its brevity, but the Tibet House Benefit was simply too amazing to experience on a viewfinder. It was practically too big to wrap our minds around the fact that we were even present for such a wondrous event, laughing one second and crying the next. Here’s to many more years of Philip Glass curating delightful showcases like this one.
Looking forward to March, AudioFemmewill be at SXSW! It’s Annie’s second year in attendance andLindsey’s first, so we like to argue about who is more excited. The next few weeks are going to be a flurry ofRSVPing and making long itinerariesthat we probably won’t stick to. Check our Twitter feed or like us on Facebook as we’ll be updating there when we’re particularlyexcited about some showcase or other. And if you’ll be in Austin, feel free to track us down and say hello!