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”

Laura Stevenson Is Candid And Confessional On Her Self-Titled Sixth Solo Album

Photo Credit: Bon Jane

Laura Stevenson’s new album hums with quiet rage, bristling with the nausea of too much feeling, hairs raised, hypersensitive skin, waiting for the touch that either caresses or wounds. There’s more than a subtle reference to jangly, ‘90s, indie solo acts like Liz Phair in the confessional, matter-of-fact attitude embodied by Stevenson’s catchy, candid melodies and lyrics. On ballad “Moving Cars,” there’s such a sadness and resignation as she sings, “No-one teaches you to breathe, slow and feeble like the people that we said we’d never be…”

Try not to hear this song in your head in the darkness right between wakefulness and lucid dreaming, slowly breathing, feebly feeling.

Stevenson cannot go into the specific details, but in 2018, she flew across the country to help a friend who needed it, and in the frenzy and chaos of the time, she was purely on autopilot. It wasn’t until she returned to her home in upstate New York that she could begin to probe the tender feelings she’d restrained.

“Something really horrible had happened to a person that I love, and I can’t go into it because it’s a delicate situation,” she recalls. “I moved to where all that happened so that I could help that person get through it… I was on tour and I had to fly across the country to go and help. I stayed longer than I thought, then I came home, fell apart and started writing.”

A year later, her fifth album The Big Freeze came out, and she embarked on a touring schedule that enabled her to again put her feelings and memories aside. In Ireland, at the end of the tour, she found she was expecting her first child with husband Mike Campbell, the bass player in her band.

“I did some writing and recording during my pregnancy,” she explains. “I had my daughter right before COVID, just as lockdown was starting in March… It was all a healing process, simultaneously healing and organizing all that had happened, because there was a lot of chaos. When I got home, I was sitting in my studio, looking at the trees and thinking about what had happened. I hadn’t processed anything.”

Her home, where she lives with Campbell, her dog and her 15 month-old daughter, is a sanctuary, two hours from Manhattan and far from the Long Island home where she was raised by her hippie father (a Grateful Dead fan) and her showtunes-loving mother. She is only now able to return to writing, after struggling to do anything apart from sleep for the last year.

“I do have a dedicated space, a studio that’s out behind my garage. That’s been okay during COVID, but the lack of ability to be using my time other than catching sleep has been a big roadblock this entire year, because my daughter had a lot of sleep issues,” Stevenson admits. “I was up four times a night, just not sleeping. It’s made this year so difficult for me, because writing is such a way to process what’s going on. All the COVID fear, new baby fear, all that stuff that’s all very raw and still I need to work out, out there in the studio… It’ll be nice to slow down and just work on songs. It makes me feel whole.”

In the post-COVID19 world, people freely admit to their trauma on social media and openly confess to days of staying in bed, or contemplating going on at all. This tectonic shift, invisible to the naked eye, but felt in all of us, is the perfect environment for Stevenson’s album to land. We are hurt, mostly all of us, to different degrees and in different ways, and if you are like me, there is a hesitancy to listen to anything really dark or painful and confronting, anything that requires the emotional stamina to take on other pain.

But to suggest that Stevenson’s album is all dark is untrue and simplistic. On “Continental Divide,” for example, there’s open car windows, the smell of distant burgers from a remote fuel stop diner, the worn vinyl seats sculpted exactly to your body after hours of road tripping and Tom Petty on cassette. There’s a safety in the combination of Americana, folk, country and blues elements that Stevenson sweeps up and joyfully delivers with her own stylish signature sound. Is she aware, at the time, of the artists influencing her songs?

“I’m usually just in it when I’m writing, then later on…” she trails off. “There’s a song on the record called ‘Wretch’ and later I thought ‘this is such an Elliott Smith song!’ I definitely hear it afterwards, but when I’m making it, I’m completely present with it. Elliott Smith is a huge, huge influence of mine for sure. He’s one of the best songwriters of all time.”

Her influences – consciously or not – are familial, too. Stevenson’s grandfather was a composer (“The Little Drummer Boy”) and her grandmother was a jazz singer. When Laura began writing songs and playing guitar post-college, her genetic inheritance for creating and collaboration was wholly natural. She was performing solo, having already penned a bunch of songs, when she joined Bomb the Music Industry! in 2005, and she continued to work on her own music while part of the collective – even recruiting some of the members for her own band.

In 2008, she began working on her debut studio album with a band including Peter Naddeo on guitar, Samantha Niss on drums, Michael Campbell (of punk band Latterman) on bass, and Alex Billig on trumpet and accordion. A Record resulted in 2010, which convinced Don Giovanni Records to sign the band. The year after, with band The Cans, she released Sit Resist, then Wheel in 2013 and Cocksure in 2015. Between each album, Stevenson toured the US and internationally. While her third album had picked up interest by media and she had a solid fan base, it wasn’t until her 2019 album The Big Freeze that she struck chart success (number 11 on Billboard Alternative New Artist Albums, number 41 Billboard Current Alternative Albums). 

Those albums established her as an adept lyricist, with a deft hand for pop-friendly rhythm and melody but a playful rebelliousness – even melancholia – that recalls the best of folk-pop-rock legend Mary Lou Lord with just a dash of Elliott Smith (or both, as in this fantastic duet). She weaves sixties girl group harmonies (“I definitely liked The Ronettes. That music, the wall of sound and beautiful voices, was super inspiring to me”), country-glam (a la Nancy Sinatra), pop-Americana (Sheryl Crow vibes) and the sort of confessional, fierce-but-fragile lyrical honesty that PJ Harvey lured her listeners with.

This album – produced by John Agnello – is a gift, in a sense, to both Stevenson and to listeners.

“Now listening to it, it’s healing,” Stevenson says. “A song like ‘State’ was such an embodiment of the anger and rage I felt. There’s a music video my friends made of them smashing things. It was really good for the people involved to see someone acting out all the rage – it was very cathartic for them.”

Follow Laura Stevenson on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

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

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

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

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


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)

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

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)

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

  • Mandy Brownholtz (Marketing Director)

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


  • Alexa Peters (Playing Seattle)

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

  • Sophia Vaccaro (Playing the Bay)

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

  • Cillea Houghton (Playing Nashville)

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

  • Luci Turner (Playing Atlanta)

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

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)

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

  • Amanda Silberling (Playing Philly)

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

  • Tarra Thiessen (Check the Spreadsheet)

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

  • Natalie Kirch (Pet Politics)

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


  • Liz Ohanesian

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

  • Lydia Sviatoslavsky

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

  • Tamara Mesko

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

  • Erin Rose O’Brien

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

  • Katie Wojciechowski

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

  • Micco Caporale

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

  • Jason Scott

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

  • Ysabella Monton

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

  • Holly Henschen

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

  • Erin Lyndal Martin

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

  • Rebecca Kunin

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

PLAYING BLOOMINGTON: Live Music Highlights from August

Rarely a night goes by in Bloomington without locals filling the basements of show-houses, bobbing their heads to punk, garage, and grunge riffs. Once a month, Rebecca recounts some of the live music highlights from the previous four weeks. Read and listen below for a bevy of Bloomington bands that should be on your radar.

(8/3) Rich Boy Junkie, Her Again, Paradise, Brian Berger @ the Bishop

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Rich Boy Junkie

It was an evening of farewells at the Bishop as locals Rich Boy Junkie and Her Again performed their final shows in Bloomington. I arrived at the Bishop in time for Her Again’s set, where a substantial audience showed up to catch the doo-wop infused surf punk sounds of Claudia Ferme (guitar), Jordan Gomes-Kuehner (drums), and Megan Searl (bass), who traded in their typically deadpan delivery for visible emotion as they graced the a Bloomington stage together for the last time. Rich Boy Junkie, the indie synthpop outfit featuring Collin Thomas, Brian Berger, Cole Stinson, Sam Winkhouse, and Nick Kinney, closed down the night. In between intimate lyrics sung with an earnest sincerity, frontman Collin Thomas took time to thank the band’s supporters and reflect on the special place that Bloomington will have in their memory.  

(8/5) Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Stevenson @ The Void

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Laura Stevenson (Photo credit: Jennie Williams)

*This review was written by Jennie Williams, a friend, colleague, musician, and fellow local music lover*   

The Void, Bloomington’s all-ages collectively operated venue, sold out its largest show yet on Saturday, August 5th. This highly anticipated event featured Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Stevenson, old friends and bandmates from Bomb the Music Industry! (BtMI!). They had been touring all summer together with their own self-titled projects. Pre-sale tickets to this show were not available, which meant that even though I thought I showed up on time, I was already late and at the end of the line.

The first band to perform was a local punk group called Whelmed (an appropriate name to kick off the eagerly awaited and nearly overwhelming event). The lead vocalist welcomed the audience and introduced The Void and its mission to the crowd, which consisted of people from in and out of town. I even overheard that someone drove for over an hour and a half to see the show.

Laura Stevenson performed next, opening with “Out With A Whimper” from her 2015 album Cocksure. Stevenson was friendly, funny, attentive to the crowd, and played electric guitar with an effortless talent as she sang out devotedly over the sound of the loud speakers. For her last three songs, Jeff Rosenstock joined Stevenson on stage and played a shredding electric lead. The band closed with “Jellyfish” – an instant crowd favorite.

While the Jeff Rosenstock fans pushed forward, readying themselves for the headliner, I went over and introduced myself to Stevenson at her merch table. I bought a t-shirt and we talked about an Elliot Smith cover song she played two Christmases ago and our mutual love for Dolly Parton. Rosenstock fired up the crowd that became a chorus of voices singing every word to his songs. Rosenstock praised the audience for being respectful to one another and thanked the Void for hosting this successful and memorable night.

(8/7) Iron Cages with Beverly Bouncehouse, Laffing Gas, and Twinso @ Jan’s Rooms

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The Jan’s Rooms crew stacked the lineup for the final show at one of Bloomington’s most popular house venues. Eager to catch the entire bill, I arrived in the basement in time for local punk band Laffing Gas’s opening set. Although I instantly regretted my oversight in not bringing earplugs along, the infectious energy that emanated from the frenzied instrumentals and fiery vocals made the minor physical discomfort worth it. The second act of the night was Twinso, an Evansville-based hardcore punk duo. Donning matching jumpsuits and orange hats, Twinso visually referenced a Devo aesthetic during their performance. The true surprise came when they began to play their instruments, juxtaposing a whimsical visual with heavy sounds: explosive bass lines and wildly accelerated drum fills.   

DC-based hardcore punk quartet Iron Cages came through for the penultimate act of the night. During yet another heavy and energetic set, vocalist Laura danced in the crowd while instrumentalists Brendan, Joey, and Nate thrashed around onstage. Lastly, local DJ Beverly Bouncehouse facilitated a charming end to the night, singing an eclectic and hilariously curated playlist of covers (“Short People” by Randy Newman and “Sweat” by the Inner Circle were definitely set highlights) on top of the songs’ original backtracks. It seemed fitting to end the house’s final show with a reminder that above all, Jan’s Rooms was a venue for old and new friends to connect to each other and have a good time.  

(8/10) Garrett Walters @ The Void 

A couple of months back I picked up Garrett Walters’ debut album, I Call My Younger Sister Twice A Day. For some reason I was intrigued by the album art so I decided to take a risk. While you can’t always judge a book by its cover, you might be able to judge an album by its cover art because I Call My Younger Sister Twice a Day played on repeat in my car for a good month or so. Walters’ live show was just as intimate as the recording itself; as the audience formed a semicircle surrounding the singer, who stepped down from the stage to get a little closer to us all, we were treated with a smattering of personal folk punk songs about the good, the bad, and the ugly of life and love Bloomington.  

(8/10) Amy O’s Elastic Release Party with Bugg and Jacky Boy @ The Bishop 

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Amy O

After moseying over to the Bishop from the Void (thankfully Bloomington is relatively small and easy to get around fast), I made it to Amy O’s Elastic release show just in time for the last few songs of Jacky Boy’s set. The room was already packed for the best turnout for a local show that I’ve been to all summer. After grabbing a drink and worming my way through the crowd, I climbed up onto a booth to catch the sludgy yet melodic basslines and nonchalantly slacker vocals of the local grunge outfit Bugg, who was the second supporting act of the night.   

The mood was high by the arrival of Amy O’s much-awaited set. She performed most of the songs off of Elastic, which was released earlier this month via local label Winspear. This was Amy O’s return home after a midwest and east coast tour and the tone felt celebratory. In between exchanges with the audience and smiles to fellow bandmembers Madeline Robinson (bass/vocals), Justin Vollmar (drums), Damion Schiralli (guitar), and Aaron Denton (keys/vocals), Amy O delivered a substantial set of tightly composed grungy basement pop.  

(8/15)  Charlottesville Benefit feat. Eric Ayotte, Charlie Jones, Byrne Bridges, Fresh Kill @ Boxcar Books  

Punks Give Back Bloomington hosted a last minute show at Boxcar Books, Bloomington’s local volunteer-run bookstore and activist center. The event, which featured Eric Ayotte and Charlie Jones, Byrne Bridges, and Fresh Kill, raised over $1000 to assist with medical expenses for the anti-fascist protesters who were attacked and injured by white supremacists in Charlottesville on August 12. While the atmosphere felt understandably somber, Boxcar’s comfortable and inclusive environment became a space for people to come together and begin to process their feelings.

Fresh Kill opened the night with an acoustic set once the audience settled down onto the floor. While I’ve seen these two perform quite a few times in the months since their debut, this more intimate and unplugged version of Fresh Kill provided the space for Jess (drums) and Emma (guitar) to showcase their poignant lyrics and tight vocal harmonies. The next act to perform was Byrne Bridges, a solo project that combines elements of glam and folk punk. Their set included collective moments of catharsis, including a song/social experiment where audience members were given the space to take the stage and offer things that they are sorry about while crowd sang along. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the final act, but reports back from people there confirm that Eric Ayotte and Charlie Jones are certainly worth keeping an eye out for more performances to come.   

(8/18) Ladycop and Tabah @ The Blockhouse  

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I walked into the basement of the Blockhouse just in time for the psychedelic dream pop stylings of LadyCop. LadyCop is an eight person project headed by Chelsea Sherman (vocals, keys, synth, percussion) and is comprised of Alex Arnold (guitar, bass, synth, percussion), Kenzie Main (vocals), Biz Strother (vocals), Jonathon Brunnes (bass), Josh Morrow (drums), Charles Roldan (drums) and Patrick Hitchings (violins). While not all eight member of the project were present at this live show, a fullness in sound was provided by the three-part vocal harmonies, one of the core identifying features of Ladycop’s sound.    

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Finishing the night was Tabah, a Minneapolis-based five piece comprised of Cecelia Erholtz (vocals/guitar), Charlie Bruber (bass), Murphy Janssen (drums), Jeff Ley (guitar), and Andrew Seitz (keys). While psychedelic undercurrents ran throughout the band’s set, Tabah draws from multiple sources. Utilizing elements of folk, country, soul, funk, and hard rock, their music is delightfully difficult to pinpoint in any one genre. One common strand that ran throughout their set, however, was each member’s proclivity towards their instruments. As these elements came together onstage, Erholtz’s soulful vocal timbre weaved into the sonic tapestry with apparent ease.  

(8/27) Big Huge, Casual Burn, The Bills, and Ghastly @ The Root Cellar

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Casual Burn

The Root Cellar opened up its doors on a Sunday night for a stacked lineup of local and touring punk music. Kicking off the night was the Bills, a brand new local group. A substantial crowd had accumulated to support this power punk trio, who played a short and sweet set of original tunes. New Orleans-based post punk four piece Casual Burn was the second act of the night. Hopping on the lineup last minute, the post-punk stylings of Monet Maloof (vocals), David Sabudowskly (guitar), Nathan Bluford (drums), and Carlos Knoop (bass) were a welcome surprise. The energy emanating from this group even prompted a small moshpit, a fairly uncommon occurance in Bloomington, where most punks prefer bobbing their head subtly to the beat over heaving their bodies in any which direction.  

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Touring band Big Huge performed next, delivering rock and roll vibes with a southwest aesthetic. Based out of New York, Big Huge is comprised of Sam Richer (guitar), Dan Reg (vocals) Hannah Nugent (bass), Dave Chase (drums), and Dan Gaetani (guitar). Local favorites Ghastly closed the night with jangley pop punk and emotional, fervently sung lyrics that are personally and politically motivated. Ghastly is A.T. (vocals, guitar), Martin (guitar), Eric (drums, back up vocals), and Kara (bass).


INTERVIEW: Laura Stevenson vs. our Cootie Catcher

Laura Stevenson Cootie Catcher

At the second night of a three-part Don Giovanni showcase last Friday, we caught up with three of the New Brunswick-based punk label’s brightest and best.  We also decided to pioneer a new interviewing technique based on a popular children’s fortune telling game, using a folded paper “cootie-catcher” (or “saltcellar” or “chatterbox” or “whirlybird” or whatever you may have called it).

Laura Stevenson Cootie Catcher

Laura Stevenson’s been a part of the Don Giovanni family for a few years now, having released a solo project under the name Laura Stevenson & the Cans on the label in 2010.  Stevenson released Wheel last year to much acclaim, keeping her live band but dropping ‘the Cans’ from the moniker for more clarity.  “Now it’s just my name, and it’s really really weird.  I don’t know how to introduce us” she says, laughing warmly.  She and her four bandmates recently moved into a house together formerly rented by The Felice Brothers, a folk rock band with whom they’ve frequently shared a bill.  Her history of making music stretches far back into her childhood (her grandfather was the composer who wrote “Little Drummer Boy” among other Christmas classics), with stints as a keyboardist in Bomb the Music Industry! and Radiator Hospital.

LAURA PICKS BANANA, 5, 2, 6 and gets the question: What’s the best song someone’s ever put on a mixtape for you?

LS: My friend Katie made me like the best mixtapes ever. She introduced me to a lot of bands. she introduced to the Mountain Goats, and she put that song “Going to Georgia” on it, which was really good.
AF: Were you going to Georgia at the time?
LS: Well, no. But I’m usually traveling so maybe she foresaw that happening.
AF: Do you have mixtape go-tos?
LS: I really like that song “Maria” by American Steel. I put that on mixtapes, that’s a good one.

LAURA PICKS TREE, 3, 8, 8 and gets the question: Name something that inspires you to create music.

LS: I guess just life, just things that I’m experiencing personally.  I have a lot of feelings, which can be hard for me.  I’ve never done hallucinogenic drugs because I’m terrified of what’s going to come up.  My friend  was like “You’ll think about every blade of grass,”  I’m like “I already think about every blade of fucking grass.”  I don’t want to think about everything.  Maybe it would actually be freeing, because I do worry about lots of things.  I feel like maybe all of that is fodder for a long career of songwriting. Or maybe my head will just explode.

LAURA PICKS SKULL, 2, 7, 5 and gets the question: I don’t if you read what people write about you, but you have a very unique voice.  What’s the most annoying phrase a music writer has ever used to describe your voice or your music? 

LS: I read everything.  I’m not at a place where I don’t desperately care what people are saying. Let’s se, uhm… “cute”.  That’s like across the board. It’s like oh, I’m like a baby. Or a small dog.  And not like a grown woman with like real-ass problems.

LAURA PICKS KEYBOARD, 4, 4, 9 and gets the question:  Tell me more about your childhood – growing up on sugar barges, having a grandfather who penned some very well-known songs…. I was just wondering if you hate Christmas music.

LS: I love Christmas music, for sure!  My parents got divorced when I was very little so it was like having two childhoods. At my dad’s house he was super into music, always playing guitar.  And he was in the shipping business so he would always take me on big rigs, on Domino ships. The sugar ships were the worst smelling things in the world. The thing is, the sugar gets spilled out of whatever the containers are, like on the deck. And the water comes up because it’s crossing the Atlantic. So briny salt water mixed with the sugar… it makes it smell like greek olives but like rotting Greek olives. But I really loved just being on those huge ships.  Things at my dad’s house were a little loose. He would take me to see Jerry Garcia bands and all those iterations of Grateful Dead and then we’d go to go see Phish, and that was a whole thing.
AF: And yet you’ve never done hallucinogens?
LS: I probably have, just like, accidentally, in the air somewhere. But I would hang out with people that were definitely on acid, they’d be spinning around and dancing, and I was a little girls so I was like “This is cool! These people are awesome! They’re treating me like I’m their equal!” And then at my mom’s house, she was like “Play piano!”  As a single mom she was working her ass off but she was constantly taking me to lessons because she saw that I had an ear for the music. And her parents are the musicians. So they were always coming over and my mom would say “Play them something!” And I was like “Noooooo, that’s fucking terrifying.” My grandfather plays Bach – closes his eyes and plays the most difficult thing in the world. And my grandmother was an incredible piano player, it was so crazy.  So I would never want to play for them. And then I started writing stuff, and my grandfather helped put things on staff paper for me and that was really exciting. There was always kind of a pressure, but I was the only grandkid on that side that got into music, so I felt like I had to represent. It was kinda scary.
AF: Did they ever get to hear your music? It’s pretty different from “Little Drummer Boy”.
LS: No, they’re long gone. “Little Drummer Boy” is a fucking weird song, it’s based on a Hungarian carol. So it has these hints of Eastern Europe and very interesting melodies. It’s one of the weirder Christmas songs.  And people hate it. But I like it cause it’s just like, oh yeah… it’s the song.  My grandfather was a famous choral arranger, that was his big thing, so all my chorus teachers growing up would study him when they were studying how to be chorus teachers. I don’t know what kind of classes you take in college for that… choral science?
AF: And they knew that you were related.
LS: Yeah, and they were so into it.  At least for the first week of school, and then they’d be like “This little girl is annoying, never mind.” I thought we were friends! But it worked for a little bit.  I was a star student.

LAURA PICKS TREE, 5, 7, 4 and gets the question: Do you think fans of Bomb the Music Industry! or Radiator Hospital were surprised by the direction you took with “Wheel”?  Just in that it steps away from lo-fi recording and has a more polished sound.

LS: As far as people that knew my writing and were fans already, I feel like they were like coming along on the ride with us. So I haven’t gotten and flak from fans of other bands I’ve been in.
AF: I wouldn’t expect flak, I think people were probably pleasantly surprised that you pulled it off while staying true to your prior work.
LS: They’re super open, and that’s really cool. Bomb definitely draws a crowd of people that are open.  Either they like it or they don’t, but they don’t say that they don’t like it if they don’t like it. They just quietly don’t like it. But they will request Bomb the Music Industry! songs at shows.  My accordion player reminded me of this today – the last time we were in Dallas we had all these nice posters and we thought, either we’ll give one to someone if they buy something, or they can get a poster if they give a dollar fifty or whatever they wanna give, so we had a sign that said FREE POSTER WITH TIP.  And this kid after the show goes “Here’s a tip: play more Bomb the Music Industry! covers” took a poster and walked away. So maybe there are some fans out there that might not be into it.
AF: I mean, is that hard for you to do both things? I’m sure your head is in different spaces approaching each project.
LS: Yeah, but this is where I do the writing. With anything else I’m just playing whatever somebody else writes. I’m enthusiastic about it, if I like the person’s writing. I’m not gonna play with a band that I don’t like. I’m not going to do guest vocals on a record that I don’t believe in.  I did something for our friends The Saddest Landscape, the polar opposite of our band.  They’re a screamo band from Boston, and they’re super super awesome, and people still thought it was weird.  But if I believe in something, it doesn’t feel weird to me at all.
AF: Music is music, it’s probably good to switch it up.
LS: Yeah, it definitely changes your brain.  I can be open to different ideas melodically.

That covered one of our other questions as well, so we skipped it.  Next, LAURA PICKS SKULL, 3, 5, 3 and gets the question: If you met someone who had never heard your album, how would you recommend they listen to it?

LS: The order?
AF: No, in what setting. I listened to it a lot while I was driving on a recent trip home. And it was perfect.
LS: I was gonna say driving, because even though car stereos might not be the best you’re still getting stereo. Our van is very wide, so the speakers are like very far apart. So you can really hear the ideas that the engineer had when they were mixing it.  So depending on how wide your dashboard is I think the car is a good spot.  There are some slower songs, so definitely not if you’re tired, but usually it gets picked up with an energetic one right after, just in case people are starting to get bored.

And the last question: What’s up with the dildo on your Instagram?

LS: I don’t know! It was so weird!
AF: Did anyone claim it?
LS: No, nobody told us. We were in kind of in an industrial area. We were out East, in Copiague, Suffolk county, Long Island, seeing a band called Iron Chic.  I’d never been to Copiague.  I drove my van to the show because we don’t have a car, just use the van when we drive around, and right underneath that back tire was a giant dildo. It was crazy. And the dildo was a deep black color, the color of the asphalt. But it was kind of raining, so there was a little glimmer of wetness. Otherwise I wouldn’t have seen it. I just saw moonlight shining off of it. And I was like, that can’t possibly be a dildo, that’s ridiculous. But it was a dildo. It was so crazy. I thought somebody was probably playing a trick on us, but after this all happened and I put it on the net, people were saying, “Yeah, people find dildos all the time.”  And apparently there’s this dildo-finder twitter and they retweeted me. They just retweet anybody that finds a dildo. There are so many people, they turn up everywhere, who knows why? I guess if you’re in a car and you’re going somewhere and you’re using it with someone, and you’re like “gotta destroy the evidence” and just toss it? I’m not sure.
AF: Dildos are expensive though.
LS: Yeah. They’re like $25, the cheapest ones. So yeah, I don’t know.
AF: A mystery for the ages.

Laura Stevenson Don Giovanni Showcase

As silly as that story might seem, Stevenson’s music is all about untangling life’s absurd mysteries.  Calling her “cute” is an absolute disservice; on stage she is nothing short of captivating.  She exudes the kind of confidence that must come from a lifetime of performing, the range of her voice not only robust but extremely emotive.  She never lets it get away from her, knowing when to belt out her unabashed lyrics and when to whisper more tender ones.  At the Don Giovanni showcase, she played plenty of material from Wheel but didn’t neglect the older songs in her catalogue like “Nervous Rex” and “Master of Art”, the latter of which she dedicated to her sister, who was in the crowd.  She shared funny anecdotes between songs, and though she introduced most of her tunes as “sad” there were plenty of smiling faces in the audience, often singing along.