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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Checking in With Melbourne’s Jezabel-Turned-Solo Rocker Hayley Mary

Photo Credit: Jesse Lizotte

While the world awaited Lana Del Rey’s Chemtrails Over The Country Club, diminutive Australian singer Hayley Mary tantalised us with a cover version of its title track for Australian radio station Triple J’s Like A Version series. In a metallic gold dress-coat by local designer Alice McCall, fishnets, and knee-high black heeled boots, Hayley Mary is every inch the rock star. Her smoky diva voice recalls one of Australia’s most well-known rock frontwomen, Chrissy Amphlett.

“Covers are hard, it has to suit your voice,” says Mary. “Musically, I’m a Lana del Rey fan; I think she’s a great songwriter and artist. But I don’t follow a lot of contemporary music. My favourite band is still ABBA. I wanted to do something contemporary and what that song had, like a lot of Lana’s songs, was enough depth of lyrics to appeal to me. It was a week or two old when we did it, so it was new. Plus, I’m a huge David Lynch fan and I get that vibe from it. It’s timeless, that’s what I like her about her.”

Hayley Mary fronted Sydney-based indie rockers The Jezabels from 2007 to 2017; in their decade as a band, they released three EPs (The Man Is Dead, She’s So Hard, and Dark Storm) followed by studio albums Prisoner in 2011, The Brink in 2014, and Synthia in 2016. Though they’ve been silent since, Mary hinted to NME Australia last year that there’s always potential to revisit the project, saying, “We never really stopped, we just don’t really have anything happening at the moment.”

Considering the band’s reputation as “volatile, provocative and intelligent” (Jenny Valentish for Sydney Morning Herald), their namesake – the infamous biblical Jezebel, who appears in the New Testament Book of Revelation and is described as “an unrepentant prophetess,” “the bad girl of the Bible,” and “the wickedest of women” – makes sense.

But was Jezebel truly a murdering prostitute hellbent on chaos? Not according to Hayley Mary, who explained to AllMusic in 2012 that in fact, she was misunderstood, an example of how women are misrepresented and maligned. “My dad was raised Catholic but he has pagan leanings, a cynicism for the establishment. [He] wanted to call me Jezebel when I was born, but my mum thought it was a bit extreme, so they ended up naming their cat Jezebel,” she explains. Studying “various ‘isms’ – feminism, Marxism, all that stuff” at the University of Sydney, she began to realize “there was a lot of revisionist history of misunderstood people from the past. Jezebel was a whorish figure in the way I’d been brought up, but when you actually read the Bible, she was a Queen who tried to escape. So, when did she become a whore? She became vilified, and it happens a lot throughout history.”

Also at uni, Hayley Mary met Heather Shannon, Sam Lockwood, and Nik Kaloper, with whom she would form her band. “Heather and I started Jezabels as a two-piece, and my cat was dead by that time – we thought Jezebel was a cool name,” explains Mary. “When the guys joined and we started making more rock music, they weren’t sure about The Jezabels, but I convinced them that it was a reclaiming of this misunderstood Biblical figure and they got on board with that.”

Photo Credit: Jesse Lizotte

Mary’s ongoing struggle with depression and Shannon’s ovarian cancer diagnosis forced questions of existence and purpose upon The Jezabels. Those same questions still challenge Mary, now in her mid-30s. She recalls trips taken across Death Valley (which inspired “Pleasure Drive” from The Brink LP), and living and working in London for a year. A nomad at heart, she is in her element when not anchored to one place, though she doesn’t “need to be overseas all the time,” she says. “I like living in different places for six months or so, finding a new world. I’m half-Scottish so I’m drawn to the UK. I found myself coming back and forth, spending a year in Sydney or Melbourne then returning to the UK again.” So, how did she cope with lockdowns 1.0 and 2.0 in her hometown of Melbourne?

“I ended up in Sydney for six months of the lockdown,” says Mary. “I did the first lockdown here, then went up to Sydney to mix some recordings and got stuck there when the second lockdown happened. It was productive in a way that I couldn’t have been in Melbourne. I was lucky to have the stint in Sydney.” She’s played a few acoustic shows regionally in NSW and Victoria, and has enough songs to form a new record, but is hesitant to “drop an album prematurely in a COVID-19 landscape,” she says. “I think I’ll put it out in a different sort of way.”

Mary’s solo career has seen her pick up a guitar and embrace being an independent solo artist, releasing her debut EP The Piss, The Perfume in January 2020. “I’m still in my love affair with rock, because as old as guitar music is, it’s so exciting to me to pick up a guitar. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel with this music, but it’s based on the old tradition of songwriting. I care a lot about the lyrics and the feeling,” she says. “There’s influences like Americana, but there’s also some punk in there and ’80s diva pop. There’s a fusion of genres and eras, I guess, like on my first EP.”

Mary explains that while she’s not pioneering anything as far as guitar playing and songwriting, it feels like she’s pioneering in her personal life, alongside Johnny Took of DMA’S. The relationship began when she was trying to find her footing as a solo artist, wondering “Who am I without Jezabels?” Mary says the loss of identity after thirteen years in a band is “still difficult,” and her management encouraged collaborations to help her through it. “Johnny was instrumental in helping me find my strength as a songwriter, and we’ve co-written a bunch of songs together,” she says. “He co-wrote my last single, ‘Would You Throw A Diamond?’ He’s been involved in producing and demo-ing. He’s my key collaborator. When someone can bring the best out of you, that feels like a good sign.”

Hayley Mary’s ideal 2021 involves the announcement of more shows, more videos and the prospect of an international tour by the end of the year. Until then, she’ll be writing, and she’s also studying audio engineering and music production at Melbourne Polytechnic. “I’m empowering myself,” says Mary. “I don’t want to be at the mercy of people so much. I want to take more control, be able to tell producers ‘I like it to be this way, for this reason.’”

Follow Hayley Mary on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Bikini Kill Reunion, Toto Forever, and MORE

photo by Tammy Rae Carland

Bikini Kill Sells Out Reunion Shows in Minutes

Girls to the front! Earlier this week, Bikini Kill’s original members – Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, and Kathi Wilcox – announced three reunion shows: 4/25 at the Hollywood Palladium; 5/31 at Brooklyn Steel; and 6/1 at Terminal 5. The band has been officially broken up since 1997 (they played “For Tammy Rae” at a book release party for Jenn Pelly’s 33 1/3 Raincoats tribute in 2017) though Wilcox and Hanna still play together as 2/4ths of The Julie Ruin. Bikini Kill have been steadily releasing vinyl reissues of their back catalog via their own eponymous imprint, as well as archiving materials – zines, flyers, demos, artwork, merch, personal photos – from the dawn of riot grrl, a movement they basically invented. But the “tour” announcement was definitely a pleasant surprise.

The punk band drew criticism, however, because tickets were only available through AES’s ticketing platform AXS, which of course left some fans out in the cold, even as scalpers began posting tickets via secondary markets in excess of $900 (face value was just under $50 with service fees). The band immediately announced a second L.A. show for April 26th; it sold out just as quickly. It’s certainly possible that more shows could be announced (particularly in New York, Hanna’s homebase) but it’s always a bummer to have to hit refresh dozens of times to no avail. At least there are plenty of YouTube clips from Bikini Kill’s heyday.

Toto Forever

When Toto penned their only number one hit, “Africa,” released in 1981, they probably didn’t think about the tune’s longevity. Sure, it’s catchy, but no one could’ve predicted its late-exploding popularity as the lyrics made their way into countless memes and TV shows like Stranger Things and South Park boosted recognition. Now, thanks to Namibian-German artist Max Siedentopf, “Africa” is never going to go away – because he’s erected an installation in the Namib desert, in which six solar-powered speakers play an MP3 of the song on a constant loop.

Siedentopf told NPR that the installation was “supposed to be a bit like a treasure that only the most loyal of Toto fans can find.” Indeed, it could be anywhere along the West Coast of Namibia, as the desert stretches some 1200 miles along the coast. Being a desert, the area is “nearly rainless,” and its name is derived from the Nama language, implying “an area where there is nothing.” And while it isn’t one of the two specific African landmarks mentioned in the song (Kilimanjaro/the Serengeti), maybe the installation will finally put Namibia on the map for Toto devotees.

That New New

Panda Bear teamed up with Dean Blunt to create the video for “Token,” from PB’s upcoming LP Buoys (out February 8 via Domino).

James Blake dropped a new album with very little fanfare; stream Assume Form below.

Weyes Blood hasn’t officially given any details on her forthcoming record, but she’s shared its first single, “Andromeda,” which was produced by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado.

HEALTH is slated to release VOL. 4: SLAVES OF FEAR via Loma Vista Recordings on February 8 and have shared its blistering second single.


Dawn Richard (aka D∆WN) shared “sauce” from her forthcoming LP new breed, which is currently streaming over at NPR ahead of its January 25th release.

Experimental found-sounds duo Matmos celebrate the upcoming release of Plastic Anniversary (and 25 years as a band) with first single “Silicone Gel Implant;” they debuted some of their latest compositions at a Yo La Tengo Hannukah show this past December.

Swedish punks Makthaverskan are putting out a new 7″ and have shared its A-side, “Demands.”

SPELLLING shared “Under the Sun,” from forthcoming Sacred Bones LP Mazy Fly (out February 22).

Following a few sold-out reunion shows, San Jose art rockers Duster are back in the studio and have released their first single since 2000 album Contemporary Movement.

Xiu Xiu shared a disturbing video sequel to the equally disturbing “Scisssssssors;” both singles appear on Girl With Basket of Fruit, out February 8th.

Cardi B teams up with City Girls in a video for “Twerk,” which seeks to reclaim the booty-shaking dance move for black women everywhere.

Along with additional details about their upcoming collaborative album Lux Prima, Karen O and Danger Mouse shared the LP’s next single, “Woman.”

Lastly, we can’t get enough of this Leggy track from their upcoming LP and are super pumped about their January 23rd show at Baby’s All Right with Daddy Issues and Desert Sharks.

End Notes

  • Lana Del Rey, Jared Leto, and Courtney Love starred in a Gucci commercial released this week, soundtracked by Link Wray.
  • Cardi B posted an expletive-laden political rant via Instagram on Wednesday, criticizing the government shutdown. It’s already been remixed by the Autotune the News dudes. Belcalis Almanzar 4 Prez in 2o20!
  • Panorama Music Festival is going on hiatus as parent company AEG looks to secure a new location.
  • Sony has finally dropped R. Kelly in light of the disturbing allegations of his behavior toward women. Scrutiny has intensified for the artist since Lifetime aired their much-discussed Surviving R. Kelly documentary earlier this month.
  • Matt Daniels has updated his chart mapping the largest vocabulary in hip-hop, with Aesop Rock topping the list. You can toggle it so that it shows only members of Wu-Tang Clan, who clocks in at #5 (the GZA’s solo work is ranked one spot above, at #4).
  • Speaking of the Wu, there’s a documentary coming to Showtime in the spring that features the iconic NYC rap crew.
  • Bandcamp is opening a brick-and-mortar outpost in Oakland in February.
  • Gladys Knight has agreed to perform the National Anthem at Super Bowl LIII on February 3rd. The soul singer made some controversial statements about Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback whose police brutality kneeling protests left him a free agent. The halftime show will be headlined by Maroon 5, with special guests Big Boi and Travis Scott.

NEWS ROUNDUP: RIP Aretha Franklin, Azealia Banks’ Elon Musk Sleepover & More

Aretha Franklin 1942-2018

Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul, voice of the civil rights movement and feminist icon has died at the age of 76 of pancreatic cancer according to her family. Franklin not only defined her times with her powerful voice, but transcended them to become a key figure for social justice. With more than one hundred singles on the Billboard chart over the course of her career, she become the most charted female in history. She also had a large collection of purses that made many public appearances, with Franklin even taking them on stage on with her. 

What happened to Azealia Banks last weekend?

According to now deleted Instagram stories, Banks spent the weekend waiting for Grimes at Elon Musk’s LA home, describing the scene as a real live version of Get Out. Banks and Grimes were supposed to collaborate on a single for Banks’ forthcoming album, but when Grimes never showed, Banks went on a Musk-bashing tirade, claiming he tweets while on acid, that he is only dating Grimes because he needed a date to the Met Gala, and that she overheard Musk on the phone scrambling to find investors for his projects. Elon Musk responded by saying he has never met Azealia Banks and that her story is “complete nonsense.”

The New New

Nicki Minaj dropped her fourth album Queen this week and although she is not the main artist listed on 6ix9ine’s “Fefe,” she added the song as track 20, most likely to boost album sales. Cat Power has a new song called “Woman” featuring Lana Del Rey. Paul McCartney released a “raunchy” new song called “Fuh You.”

End Notes


NEWS ROUNDUP: Festival Announcements, Copyright Cases & More


  • Radiohead vs Lana Del Rey

    On January 7th, Lana Del Rey confirmed news reports that hinted at a copyright lawsuit with Radiohead. The band is reportedly suing her over the similarities between their 1992 breakout hit, “Creep,” and her 2017 track, “Get Free.” Del Rey tweeted:

    It’s true about the lawsuit. Although I know my song wasn’t inspired by Creep, Radiohead feel it was and want 100% of the publishing – I offered up to 40 over the last few months but they will only accept 100. Their lawyers have been relentless, so we will deal with it in court.”

    The situation is considered by many to be the result of the “Blurred Lines Effect” – the 2015 court ruling that awarded $7.4 million in damages to Marvin Gaye’s estate for similarities between Pharrell, T.I., and Robin Thicke’s massive 2013 hit and Gay’s 1977 classic, “Got To Give It Up.” However Radiohead’s publishing company have disputed Del Rey’s claims. Warner/Chappell issued a statement acknowledging that they have been in copyright negotiations with the Lust For Life musician’s label but deny filing a formal lawsuit or demanding 100% of Del Rey’s “Get Free” publishing rights.

    Interestingly enough, “Creep” was once at the center of a similar copyright dispute. After the early-nineties release of Radiohead’s single, Brit-pop band The Hollies successfully sued Thom Yorke’s group over similarities between “Creep” and their 1974 hit, “The Air that I Breathe,” which was written by Mike Hazlewood and Albert Hammond (yep, the father of Strokes member Albert Hammond Jr.). “Creep” now lists Hazlewood and Hammond as writers alongside Radiohead. If a court determines that Del Rey’s song does borrow from “Creep,” Radiohead, Hazlewood, and Hammond could all be credited as co-writers of “Get Free.” Compare the three tracks side by side below.

  • 2018 Festival Announcements

    This week, major spring and early summer festival announcements are helping us defrost from record-breaking cold! On January 10th, South by Southwest released their third round of showcase announcements. Superorganism, Goatgirl, A Place to Bury Strangers, Sunflower Bean, and many more will join the 500+ lineup and perform from March 12 – March 18 this year. Bonnaroo announced that Muse, The Killers, and Eminem will headline the normally rootsy jam-band oriented fest, surprising some. Then on Thursday, Delaware music festival Firefly announced they’d also be hosting Eminem and The Killers as headliners, as well as Kendrick Lamar and Arctic Monkeys, in June. Audiofemme favorite, SZA, will also perform; she is one out of only nineteen women included in Firefly’s ninety-five act lineup. Many have lamented the homogeneity of this year’s festivals, particularly the lack of female musicians. Pop singer and festival circuit staple Halsey tweeted, “Damn guys come onnnnnn. Where the women at….It’s 2018, do better!!!”

  • Other Highlights

    The Breeders have announced their first album in ten years, All Nerve, out March 2nd on 4AD, and have shared the title track. The Dandy Warhols are playing two shows in NYC at the end of February. Karen O and Michael Kiwanuka recorded a song for a short Kenzo film (hear it at the 4.45 mark in the video below). Kali Uchis’ brand new song, “After The Storm,” features Tyler, The Creator and Parliament-Funkadelic legend, Bootsy Collins. Sunflower Bean debuted single “Crisis Fest” off of their upcoming sophomore album, Twentytwo In Blue. The album is slated for March 23rd release and is co-produced by members of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Friends. Taylor Swift’s new video for “End Game” came out yesterday and also stars Ed Sheehan and Future, the lone musicians featured in Swift’s latest album, Reputation. Fifth Harmony ex-member Camila Cabello’s self-titled album was released today and has already risen to the top spot on the charts in more than ninety countries. Wednesday marked the two year anniversary of David Bowie’s death – we still can’t believe he’s gone! #BowieForever


NEWS ROUNDUP: RIP Grant Hart, Jessi Zazu & More

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RIP Jessi Zazu

  • RIP Grant Hart, Jessi Zazu and Josh Schwartz

    Grant Hart died on Wednesday, September 13 from cancer. He was the drummer and vocalist of Minnesota rockers Hüsker Dü. After Hart met Bob Mould in a record store, the two quickly became friends and songwriting partners. Their music influenced groups such as Nirvana, the Pixies, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Read a full obituary here.

  • Jessi Zazu, who sang for the Nashville band Those Darlins, died on Tuesday after battling cervical cancer. She was 28. To raise awareness and encourage openness, she made her diagnosis and fight public, including the act of shaving her head during chemo. Read a full obituary, including a tribute by Ann K Powers, here

  • Josh Schwartz played guitar for late 90’s bands Further and Beechwood Sparks. He died on Tuesday at age 45 after years of living with ALS. A statement from his friend and bandmate Brent Rademaker describes the musician as “one of those rare people that really brought out the best in others…. He really was magic.”

NEWS ROUNDUP: Beyonce, Lana Del Rey, & Daytrotter Festival


  • Father John Misty Stars in Lana Del Rey’s “FREAK”

    In the 11-minute long video, the two go on a hike before dropping acid. The last few minutes are slow motion footage of people frolicking in a swimming pool, set to a gentle piano ballad. According to Father John Misty, the video was inspired by a time he took acid at a Taylor Swift concert. Uh, sure it is. Read our review here.

  • Inaugural Daytrotter Downs Fesitval Starts Next Week

    What is Daytrotter? They bring in fairly well-known artists for recording sessions featuring alternative or reworked versions of their songs, and sometimes brand-new material. And from February 18 to February 20, they’ll be hosting a music festival in Davenport, IA featuring artists such as Lizzo, Mothers, and Curtis Harding. Check out a Daytrotter session from the Alabama Shakes below:

  • Beyonce Drops New Video, Internet Explodes

    There’s not much left to say about Beyonce’s “Formation;” she released the song and video the night before the Superbowl, but didn’t stop there. After her halftime performance, she announced a 2016 tour and a new, upcoming album. Trying to buy some cheap tickets? Good luck.

  • Happy Valentine’s Day From Paul McCartney & … Skype?

    Nothing says “Rock & Roll” or “I Love You” quite like corporate sponsorship. Skype is introducing some new love-themed Mojis, and the company put Paul McCartney to work recording their sound effects. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for some desperate artist to do a MailChimp collaboration.

  • OK Go Release Video For “Upside Down & Inside Out”

    “Gravity’s just a habit that you’re really sure you can’t break:” OK Go is known for their off-the-wall music videos, and “Upside Down & Inside Out,” which was released yesterday, is no exception. It features the band literally bouncing off the walls in zero gravity along with some dancing flight attendants. While the song was included on the 2014 album Hungry Ghosts, it’s safe to assume to the delay was necessary to rehearse in that crazy setup.


VIDEO REVIEW: Lana Del Rey “Freak”


The flower princess of pop nihilism, Lana Del Rey, returned this week with another installment of her haunting visual diaries with the video for “Freak” from 2015’s Honeymoon, featuring none other than the sensual prince of sardonicism Father John Misty. Lana leads us on a disturbingly enchanting 11-minute trip through her dizzying rose tinted world where the word “baby” is seductive currency.

Allegedly inspired by Josh Tillman’s (Father John Misty) own acid trip at a Taylor Swift concert, “Freak” reads as a modern day Charles Manson/Jim Jones-esque hallucinational tale complete with Kool-Aid and airy angel followers donning sandy blonde hair and wispy white clothes. The video opens with Tillman manically waving a large walking stick into the air at a California sky as Lady Lana leads him to a sandy overlook. It would be safe to assume that Tillman is the cult leader, with his Manson beard, but it is revealed to us that it is actually Lana who calls the shots as she places a square of acid on his tongue. It is from this point that we find ourselves with Lana, alone, in what is presumably her cabin lair paired with juxtaposing flashes of her and Tillman tripping through the hills. Eventually, we are shown the ethereal gaggle of disciples draped over a tranced out Tillman. Lana, all the while, is sloppily drinking her own ritualistic Kool-Aid concoction of beguilement.

“Freak” trails off into silence as Tillman dips Lana in a twisted waltz engulfed by white light and smoke fading into heavenly ether. Enter Debussy’s 1905 “Clair de Lune” as the cast is entangled with each other underwater in a baptismal dance that challenges death and rebirth, with a paramount acuteness to the push and pull relationship between the possessed and the possessor.

Could this video be artistic coding for Lana’s recently troubled encounters with fandom? Possibly. But more than likely “Freak” is a call to, well, freaks, and when our velveteen temptress coos: “Baby, if you wanna leave/come to California/be a freak like me, too,” I can’t help but think this video is simply meant as a captivating heretic anthem for the dazed and suffused.

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BEST OF 2014 ALBUMS: Kelly’s Picks

lana-del-rey-14032160071. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
I’ve been on the Lana Del Rey bandwagon ever since I heard “Dark Paradise” (we’re all just pretending that her second album, Paradise, never happened, right?). Lana delivers all of the slow-burn goodness found in Born to Die and that fans expect from a follow up. She kicks things up a notch with tracks like “Money Power Glory” “Florida Kilos” and “Fucked My Way Up To the Top” but keeps her dreamy California cool reputation with songs like “West Coast,” “Cruel World” and “Shades of Cool.” It’s the perfect combination of what we loved about Lana, but matured and honed to perfection.



2. Tennis – Ritual in Repeat
In 2013, Tennis released an EP called Small Sounds, which was so good that I couldn’t wait until they released the next full album. In September, they finally obliged, and it was worth the wait. In the last few years, the band has taken themselves from a fun, 80’s girl vibe heard in Cape Dory and honed Alaina Moore’s voice to make an even bigger impression, first on Young and Old and now in Ritual in Repeat. They’ve only gotten better over time, and Ritual in Repeat is the most enjoyable album yet. The catchy and upbeat “Never Work for Free” and “Viv Without the N” pair perfectly with the hopeful “Bad Girls” and “Solar on the Rise” to form a complete, solid album.


3. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
Bombay Bicycle Club has always been a fun rock band, but So Long, See You Tomorrow cemented them as seriously fun (and seriously good) alternative rockers. The standout track is “Home By Now,” which pairs Lucy Rose and lead singer Jack Steadman for a R&B duet, closely followed by “It’s Alright Now,” “Carry Me” “Whenever, Wherever,” and “Luna.” It’s difficult to even pick out a non-catchy track among the listing—a well-rounded, enjoyable collection.


4. Mothxr – Various singles
OK, so this isn’t actually an album. But in interviews, the band has said they don’t plan on releasing an album, but rather release singles whenever they feel like it and I’m obsessed with the four they’ve given us this year so they belong on this list. I fell in love with them during a CMJ 2014 performance and can’t stop talking about them now. Frontman Penn Badgley (yes from Gossip Girl) leads a funky, jazzy, sexy soulful band. During their live shows, Penn grooves along to the music, and it’s hard not to do the same when listening.




5. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
An embarrassing confession: I first heard of Lykke Li from the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack. But thank goodness I did because even though that franchise was a disaster, I was introduced to such a great musician. It had been nearly four years since Lykke gave us Wounded Rhymes, and she didn’t disappoint with a follow up in I Never Learn. The album is definitely an extension of her signature haunting croon, and even feels a bit darker and more melancholy than her previous work. Even though it was released in May, I recently discovered it’s a great album to listen to on dreary winter commutes into the city.


6. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
Are there more depressing song titles than “Your Love is Killing Me,” “I Love You But I’m Lost” or “Nothing Will Change”? I doubt it. But Sharon Van Etten makes the depression feel so good—probably because most of us can relate in some way to the mournfulness she projects. And her voice itself doesn’t hurt. A full, sometimes breathy voice gets into our heads and refuses to leave. Luckily, we don’t want it to.


7. Banoffee – EP
While not a full-length album, the EP itself has me excited enough for whenever they’ll make their debut. I sadly missed their CMJ performances in October, but I’ll catch them another year because I’m sure Aussie Martha Brown is going to be killing it for a while. The synthetic beats on the tracks combine with R&B melodies and her dreamy vocals to create a fun, funky jam.


8. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
I first saw Sylvan Esso when they opened for Volcano Choir in 2013. While they performed, I realized that they sounded good, but I was a bit thrown off that a group so focused on synth loops would be paired with Volcano Choir. Given more time to reflect, it makes sense to me now. Their debut album has been topping the charts for best of 2014 lists, and it’s clear to see why. Those synth loops are catchy, as are Amelia Meath’s sweet vocals.


9. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
It’s not surprising the St. Vincent turned out a stellar album this year—Annie Clark has been making them for a while now. I admit to being a little wary of “Birth in Reverse” when it first premiered, but I’ve since come around, and enjoy it just as much as the rest of the album. It’s guitar heavy and sounds like futuristic robots should be performing it. I mean that in the best way.


10. The Antlers – Familiars
The Antlers came back this year bringing their signature moaning vocals and smooth, swelling beats. The Antlers has always been one of my favorite artists to belt out while driving at night, and I’ll probably test that out with this album next time I get the chance. Peter Silberman’s voice is a kind of lonely moaning that is best projected when you’re by yourself.