Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE. Due to live show cancellations we will be covering virtual live music events and festivals.
Shadow Monster is the solo project of Gillian Visco, a staple of the Brooklyn music scene since 2007, having played in bands including Photon Dynamo and the Shiny Pieces and The Glitch. Since 2012 Gillian has played solo under the Shadow Monster moniker, writing introspective tunes until she paired up with drummer John Swanson (also of Sic Tic and The Glitch) in 2017, evolving their sound to heavier, moody (yet minimal) grunge. Shadow Monster is an exercise in exploring your shadow side and exorcising inner demons through songwriting. Their debut record Punching Bag was released in October 2019 via Dadstache Records, they played a ton of shows in 2019, and had plans to tour to SXSW this year (which were unfortunately canceled due to Covid-19). You can still see Gillian of Shadow Monster from the comfort of your quarantine on Saturday, playing a solo set live streamed from The Footlight Instagram alongside sets by Nathan Xander, and Kiril of Bears. We chatted with Gillian about her quarantine routine, the effects of isolation on her creative process, and what to expect from her live stream performance.
AF: You’ve been in NYC since 2007, and I’m sure have seen it change a lot. Have the changes in NYC affected how you’ve written music and performed over the years?
SM: It’s true – New York is always morphing and venues that I thought would be here forever are already gone. I tend to be a nostalgia-hoarder, so the art of letting go has been the most valuable lesson I’ve learned while living and playing music here. When you strangle the past like it’s the best thing that’s ever going to happen to you, you leave no room for the unexpected. The years I played solo I wrote quiet fingerpicking songs, and now I thrash around onstage and scream. But the root of it remains the same. I think an artist’s entire career is like chasing after something you remember vaguely from a dream. Maybe we never get it perfect – but perhaps the value lies in the passion for going after it at all. New York has taught me that patient joy in reveling in the rollercoaster and allowing myself to evolve into the most authentic version of the artist I am at this moment in time.
AF: What was the process for writing and recording your debut album Punching Bag?
SM: The songs on Punching Bag were written over a two year period while I was dealing with a bad breakup. I lost myself in a cave of turmoil and felt completely disconnected to the world around me. John Swanson started playing drums with me in the summer of 2017. Playing shows and arranging these songs with John was the main thing that pulled me out of the dark place I was writing them from. In March of 2018 I lost my job and we decided to spend every day working on getting our best seven songs recorded. We recorded everything on our own in John’s room and once finished, we brought the tracks to Brian Speaker at Speakersonic where they were mixed and mastered.
AF: Do you have a quarantine routine? What albums, movies, and shows have you been getting into?
SM: The first thing I do every morning since I’ve been in quarantine is try to get out of bed. This usually takes around an hour… It’s a habit I’m going to break… next week. So after I climb that mountain, I start my day by having a coffee, watching some news, drinking lemon water and meditating. I meditate before bed too. I find it’s a really great way to bookend the day, especially during times of high stress and anxiety. I’m a Virgo so naturally I have an ongoing list of things I’d like to accomplish during this time at home. Something that has stuck is a quarantine art series I’ve been posting on Instagram featuring a character I call NoName. I normally never have much time to devote to visual art so I’m just diving in head first now. Drawing is great for anxiety.
Shows I’m watching: Tiger King, Sex Education, High Fidelity, Preacher, 30 Rock
Shows on my list: The Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter
AF: Has being in quarantine helped or hindered your creative process?
SM: Being in quarantine has been interesting to navigate creatively. There’s a whole aspect of my personality that loves being locked in my room, working for hours on a song, writing poetry, playing records, lighting candles, enjoying my space. But then there’s this other half of me that loves people and music and loud bars and dancing and staying out too late and escaping the confines of my mind. I’m figuring out how to adapt. We have essentially lost our social life so everything feels a bit off-balance to me. But feeling off is a great place to make art from. It’s the cabin in the woods trip I always talk about taking. And I don’t even need to pack.
AF: What’s your livestream set going to be like?
SM: I’m super excited to do a livestream show on Saturday through The Footlight’s Instagram page. I’ve done a couple of livestream sets over the past two weeks, (000ze.digital, Left Bank Magazine, Bands Do BK) but this one is going to be a longer set. I plan to give a couple brand new songs a shot that I’ve written during quarantine. I’ll play some songs from our album, and I’m working on a cover. I’m implementing a drinking game in the set too. Get your quarantine drink of choice ready and bring your pets.
AF: What is the first thing you’d like to do if and when everything goes back to normal?
SM: I WANNA GO TO A SHOW. So bad. So so bad.
RSVP HERE for Gillian of Shadow Monster, Nathan Xander, and Kiril of Bears livestream on The Footlight’s Instagram 8PM EST. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday tune into to their page for an hour long show. Donations accepted through the link in their bio to help support the artists and the staff of The Footlight.
Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE: LA Edition– your source for the best shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands. For the month of February we will be featuring LA shows!
Katy Davidson is the prolific singer-songwriter behind the indie pop band Dear Nora. The band was formed in Portland in 1999 by Davidson, bassist Ryan Wise and drummer and vocalist Marianna Ritchey. After releasing their first record We’ll Have a Time in 2001, Davidson moved to San Francisco and released two more LPs and three EPs with rotating musicians until deciding to retire the band name in 2008. They continued to write and record music under the names Key Losers and Loyd & Micheal, and also was a touring member of the bands Yacht and Gossip. Davidson picked up where they left off with Dear Nora in 2017 when Orindal Records reissued their second album Mountain Rock, and then released their fourth album Skulls Example in May of 2018. Dear Nora remained an underground favorite during their career and had a huge influence on younger musicians like Frankie Cosmos and Girlpool. Davidson now resides in the desert of Southern California, and you can catch Dear Nora’s next show on 2/18 with Nicholas Krgovich and Zach Burba (iji) at the Bootleg Theater. We chatted with Davidson about the upcoming reissue of their rarities collection, what food their music would be and their dream collaborators.
AF: You came out with your first album under the name Dear Nora after a 12 year break last year. How has your music changed and has your live show reflected these changes as well?
KD: To quickly clarify, I only really took a break from playing under the band name Dear Nora, and it was nice to put a bookend on the first version of the band at the time. But during those twelve years “off,” I was still relatively active, and I released a few records under different band names like Lloyd & Michael, and Key Losers.
To me there’s a clear thread between all the songs I’ve made during the last twenty years. My melodies are catchy, I have a strong pop sensibility, and I often sing from a zoomed out perspective. That is the same now as it has always been. I think the main way my music has changed is that my lyrics feel less like confessional journal entries and more like…poems? And we don’t just rock out with barre chords anymore. Regarding the current live show, I basically don’t know what to say. It is constantly evolving. I told my band last summer that I don’t even feel like we’re playing music. To me it’s much more about conveying a vibe and transmitting energy.
AF: If you could collaborate with any artist alive or dead who would it be?
KD: Hmmm, don’t kill me… maybe Kanye West? Definitely Ariana Grande. Or ROSALÍA, god willing.
AF: What are the differences between the music scenes in LA and Portland? What are your favorite bands and places to play in both places?
KD: I’m not saying this to be awkward or contrarian, but I don’t know much about the current music scenes in those cities, and I don’t really feel like a part of them, if a such thing exists. So I don’t know how to compare them. I live out in the desert East of LA now, so I’m honestly pretty out of the loop except for random house parties. That said, I have a deep appreciation for all the West Coast people we’ve gotten to know via touring all these years, e.g. LA Takedown, Hand Habits, Tara Jane O’Neil, Stephen Steinbrink, Jessica Dennison and Jones, Cynthia Nelson, Nicholas Krgovich, iji, Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, and so many more. Even though there are some quality rock clubs that are very good to us, I mostly like playing “alternative spaces.” The Amigo Room at the Ace in Palm Springs is fun. The Old Western Saloon in Point Reyes is fun. The Sou’wester on the Washington coast is fun. Che Cafe is pretty great. I like wooden rooms that are multipurpose.
AF: One of my favorite releases of yours is your collection of rarities (1997-2007). How did you choose the tracks on that compilation and are there any interesting stories behind any specific songs on that release?
KD: Thank you for the compliment. How much time do you have? Because I could write a book on the subject. In fact, I am writing a small book(let) on the subject because that compilation is getting reissued this year. The gist is that I wrote a ton of music in my 20s. I carefully curated which songs went on the proper Dear Nora albums, so after a while, I had amassed a lot of extra music that needed a home. I put it all together on this compilation. As a whole, it reflects the arc of a life of a 20-something person living in an urban milieu in the early twenty-first century, West Coast USA. For more details, I highly suggest getting the box set later this year if you can!
AF: If your live set was a type of cuisine or specific food, which would it be?
KD: California Cuisine.
AF: What are you plans for 2020 + beyond?
KD: Orindal Records is releasing a vinyl reissue of Three States: Rarities 1997-2007 in late May of this year. It’s gonna be really special. 3-LP box set with an 8-page booklet. I will play a handful of solo shows in support of that reissue sometime this summer. But after that I’ll be focusing on writing new music. I will probably put out another Dear Nora album someday, but I’m in no rush at all. It could be next year, and it could be ten years from now. I don’t know.
Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands. This week we’ve doubled up and listed the best shows from 12/20-New Years!
My favorite show of 2019 was Combo Chimbita at Ace of Cups in Columbus, Ohio, so I’m so happy to be ending this year’s RSVP HERE column with an interview with them! The NYC-via-Colombia tropico-psychedlia meets cumbia rock band has a live set that takes you to another dimension of afro-futurism punk. Combo Chimbita consists of vocalist Carolina Oliveros, Prince of Queens on analog synths, Niño Lento on guitar and Dilemastronauta on a drum set that includes unique percussion instruments and crazy looking cymbals. Frontwoman Carolina Oliveros’ voice is so powerful it will make you cry and the way she plays the guacharaca is so intense it’s almost scary – I seriously thought she might slice someone’s head off. On their latest release Ahomale, which is a Yoruba word that means “adorer of ancestors,” Oliveros set out with the intent to connect with ancestral cosmology, a spirit that becomes animated in their live show.We spoke with the band about their Sun Ra Arkestra, music in Colombia, and inspirations behind their live show…
AF: What were some of your favorite cities you visited and shows you played while on the road in 2019?
Dilmeastronauta: LA, San Juan, NY
Niño Lento: San Juan, PR/Chicago/LA
Prince of Queens: This year we went to so many places! Playing in San Juan in January was amazing, LA, Chicago and Austin is always great for me – so many friends and the crowds are always amazing. One of my favorite shows was in Berlin for Día de los Muertos with Turbo Sonidero; that was an incredible party.
Carolina Oliveros: Berlín, Barcelona e Italia, LA, Chicago
AF: What are your favorite records to listen to while on the road?
D: SunRa “Nuclear War is a Mother Fucker,” Concha Buika “Don’t Explain”
NL: Bocanada (Gustavo Cerati), Lejos de Mi Amor (Polibio Mayorga)
PoQ: When you spend so much time on the road you listen to too much music sometimes… I like silence honestly! But I think always at some point during tour we hit that moment where we listen to classic rock and español and we all sing soda stereo really loud with the windows down.
CO: Me gusta mucho escuchar mucho afrobeats. Me pone alegre y contenta.
AF: What are the differences in the way the direction of music is going in Colombia vs the US?
D: Both cities offer something unique. I feel like NY provides me with access to witness more of the Caribbean diaspora music while Colombia offers its own roots plus, rock, metal etc.
PoQ: I think music in the US might be driven more by the diaspora and the immigrant experience. A lot of amazing music coming out from Colombia feels more focused on re-imagining and inspired by tradition and roots music. I think they are both super relevant and in many ways crossover.
CO: Se que colombia musicalmente en este momento es un gran referente, siento que se está haciendo mucha música que está conectada a las raíces.
AF: What are your favorite percussion instruments to use during your set?
PoQ: I don’t play it but the Carolina’s guacharaca is special.
AF: What is the inspiration behind the synth sounds you use?
PoQ: I love techno and sound design in general. I always try to approach synth playing more as a sound design tool than a traditional keyboard per se. I love analog sound and just unexpected freak out moments of synth.
AF: What are some of the biggest inspirations and influences on your live show? What are you looking forward to most about your show with Sun Ra Arkestra?
D: I look forward to witnessing the legacy of Sun Ra among the members of his band, their ability to improvise and to be colorful.
PoQ: Too many inspirations! I’m inspired by artists than transcend time and generations. Sun Ra Arkestra, los Wemblers, tabou combo, BIG sound on stage and full on rhythm. I’m not really a religious person but music is spiritual and powerful sound and stage presence can take you places far and deep. That’s what I am into. Honestly just meeting them and hearing them play. So much to learn and experience.
CO: Me gusta muchos lxs artistas que son únicxs y espontánexs y que proponen algo diferente en vivo, que no tienen miedo a explorar y dar creatividad para sus shows. James brown, Janis Joplin, mayra Andrade, La Lupe , celia cruz , concha buika. Tocar con Sun Ra será una de las experiencias más impactantes de mi carrera. Agradecida con tu interés de tocar con el combo .. sera una noche memorable, para ser feliz y hacer vibrar al público. Si quieren candela, candela le vamo a dar !!
AF: What are your plans for 2020 and the next decade?
D: I wanna tour in Latin America, it has become a dream I would like to fulfill.
PoQ: Travel to South America, write some new music and keep exploring, searching and interpreting those energies that keeps us together making music.
CO: Seguir poniendo sabor en el fogón. Haciendo beats poderosos , mucha letra que conecte y retumbe , muchos lugares para conquistar y mucha Alegría y nuevos amigxs
Though some form of International Women’s Day has been around since 1909, the holiday celebrating women around the world has really gained traction over the last decade. This year’s theme was #BalanceForBetter, seeking to promote a more gender balanced world. Here’s how our favorite ladies in the music world celebrated.
Cardi B made a playlist on Apple Music for the occasion, featuring visionary women (including Grace Jones, Madonna, Tina Turner, and Solange).
Ariana Grande tweeted a short video by director Hanna Lux Davis, reminding everyone a few tweets later “it ain’t feminism if it ain’t intersectional.”
Rihanna looked powerful in a black blazer.
Miley Cyrus shouted out some of her favorite bad ass bitches:
… while Lady Gaga paid tribute to her mama.
Maggie Rogers and Mavis Staples both reminisced via this photo with Phoebe Bridgers and Brandi Carlile.
Dua Lipa had some tea for those who fall short of protecting human rights.
And Micropixie released a video for Como Mínimo (#YesIsTheMinimum), from her upcoming LP Dark Sight of the Moon, out April 9.
The Fallout of Leaving Neverland
The explosive HBO Documentary about Michael Jackson’s alleged child abuse, Leaving Neverland, aired last weekend, and unsurprisingly, folks are divided on its message. Though the allegations are nothing new (Jackson settled a child abuse case out of court in 1994, and was acquitted in a similar case with a different victim in 2005) the harrowing testimonies of two men who say they were abused by Jackson when they were 7 and 10 are hard to dismiss. Radio stations have pulled Jackson’s enduring pop hits, The Simpsons producers have pulled iconic episode “Stark Raving Dad” from the syndication due to Jackson’s guest voice over, and a Chicago run of biographical jukebox musical “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was cancelled, though its team said this occurred due to scheduling difficulties and that they’ve set their sights on Broadway in 2020. Jackson’s daughter, Paris, seemed unfazed in a series of tweets in which she told folks to “chillax” – implying that even if Jackson’s legacy took a huge hit, his $500 million estate would ultimately be unaffected by the doc (though they’d previously filed a lawsuit to block it from airing). Meanwhile, debate continues to rage regarding blame placed on the victims’ parents, the degree to which Joe Jackson’s horrific behavior absolves his son’s various issues (including the alleged child abuse) and, of course, the idea that Jackson himself is an innocent victim of a slanderous campaign. One thing is certain: Jackson’s story is ultimately one of the saddest in pop music history, taking into account his tarnished childhood, various tabloid scandals, untimely death due to physician-sanctioned drug abuse – and it’s only compounded by the suffering of his alleged victims.
That New New
Solange has blessed the world with the (semi) surprise release of When I Get Home, her follow-up to 2016’s show-stopping A Seat at the Table.
Cementing their legacy as Jersey’s favorite pop punks, The Bouncing Souls released the second single from their forthcoming 30th anniversary EP Crucial Moments, out March 15. Their massive tour kicks off the next day at Jersey City’s White Eagle Hall.
Vampire Weekend have shared two new tracks from their upcoming Father of the Bride LP, out in May
Mac DeMarco announced his next record Here Comes the Cowboy with a single called “Nobody,” giving Mitski fans a little déjà vu; both artists (and their shared PR team) say it’s just a coincidence.
Bedouine is back with a one-off single that reflects on the aftermath of her gorgeous 2017 self-titled debut.
SOAK has released another lovely singled from April 26 release Grim Town., announcing some US tour dates (including two at SXSW) to go with it.
Alan Vega’s final recordings have been released to benefit the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, which provides teaching materials to educators seeking to engage students by teaching pop music history. The Suicide co-founder passed away in 2016.
Everyone loves a corgi – and that includes illuminati hotties, who are very honest about the fact that sometimes doggos are are the only thing keeping us in a mediocre relationship. They’ll be in Austin next week for SXSW.
Stef Chura has announced her sophomore record Midnight with its lead single “Method Man.”
Blushh shared a one-off single to get folks pumped for their upcoming SXSW dates as well.
Toronto punks Greys have announced third LP Age Hasn’t Spoiled You, out May 10, sharing its first single “These Things Happen.”
Rick from Pile remains the biggest babe in all of DIY indie rock; this week the band released their latest single and announced forthcoming LP Green and Gray, out May 3.
In other DIY news, Patio ready themselves for the April 5 release of Essentials with their latest track, “New Reality.”
NOTS have seemingly recovered from their recent lineup changes and shared the first single from their upcoming LP 3, out May 10. Two of its members are also releasing an LP this year as Hash Redactor.
The National have announced a new collaborative project with director Mike Mills entitled I Am Easy To Find. It’s essentially an hour-long companion album to a 24-minute short film of the same name starring Alicia Vikander. The first track on the album, “You Had Your Soul With You,” has some guest stars as well – Sharon Van Etten, Kate Stables of This Is the Kit, The Brooklyn Youth Choir, and longtime David Bowie bandmate Gail Ann Dorsey lend vocals. The band have announced a bunch of tour dates with Courtney Barnett and Alvvays supporting.
Local Natives released two videos this week, one of which stars Kate Mara. Both will appear on the April 26 release of Violet Street, a follow-up to 2016’s Sunlit Youth; they’ve previously announced a slew of tour dates.
Sky Blue, a posthumous collection of unreleased material from celebrated singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, arrived March 7 to commemorate what would’ve been his 75th birthday.
Kishi Bashi returns with new LP Omoiyari on May 31, and has released the album’s first single, “Summer of ’42”.
Charly Bliss have shared a video for “Chatroom,” the second single from their upcoming record Young Enough, out May 10.
CupcakKe keeps it topical with a new single entitled “Bird Box,” referencing the recent Netflix horror movie and the Jussie Smollett controversy alike.
Having penned Grammy-nominated hits for Ariana Grande and Janelle Monae, Tayla Parx is poised to break out on her own with a highly anticipated solo debut on Atlantic Records, We Need to Talk, out April 5. Her latest video for “I Want You” follows earlier singles “Slow Dancing” and “Me vs. Us.”
Christian Fennesz, who records electronic music under his last name, returns to basics with a new 12-minute track called “In My Room,” from forthcoming 4-song LP Agora, out March 29.
Ahead of the April 12 release of No Geography, The Chemical Brothers share a video for “We’ve Got To Try.”
Festival faves Marshmello and CHVRCHES have collaborated on a sugary new single titled “Here With Me.”
Dido’s first record since 2013, Still on My Mind, is out today; her first tour in fifteen years hits the US in June.
The Prodigy singer Keith Flint was found dead of apparent suicide at the age of 49.
NYC concert-goers spontaneously burst into song on the ACE platform following a sold-out Robyn show at MSG.
Speaking of Robyn, she’s been announced as one of the headliners for Pitchfork Music Festival, which takes place in Chicago from July 19-21. HAIM and the Isley Brothers top Friday and Saturday’s bills respectively, with Stereolab, Mavis Staples, Belle & Sebastian, Earl Sweatshirt, Pusha T, Tirzah, Kurt Vile, Low, Julia Holter, Rico Nasty, Neneh Cherry, Snail Mail, Khruangbin, Soccer Mommy, Amber Mark, CHAI, and more set to play as well.
While we’re on the subject of festivals, Variety has leaked a potential lineup for Woodstock 50 and it’s not exactly overflowing with “heritage” acts; Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper, and Black Keys look like likely headliners.
Elton John tweeted an definite release date in October 2019 for his upcoming memoir.
Massive Attack have rescheduled some of the North American Mezzanine reunion tour dates due to illness.
You can buy the hospital gown that Kurt Cobain wore during a legendary 1992 Reading Festival Nirvana performance for a mere $50,000.
L7’s Donita Sparks emerged as a hero when, in true punk fashion, Marky Ramone and Johnny Rotten nearly came to blows at a panel discussion on upcoming John Varvatos and Iggy Pop-produced Epix docu-series Punk.
Morrissey is taking his upcoming covers record California Sun to Broadway.
Taylor Swift stalker Roger Alvarado was arrested for breaking into the pop star’s home again, fresh off of a stint in jail for the same charge (bringing his Swift-related arrest total to three).
Arcade Fire will reportedly cover “Baby Mine” in Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo remake, and it’s a real family affair.
Mark your sundials – Red Hot Chili Peppers will stream a live concert from the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt on March 15.
We have officially entered the holi-daze time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so let’s review all the beautiful-to-bizarre Christmas music released last week.
Spider-Man released a Christmas album. The Flaming Lips covered David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s Christmas Medley. Mac DeMarco collaborated with Kirin J. Callinan and covered Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song;” it appears on a benefit comp featuring Alex Cameron, Weyes Blood and more. Mariah Carey broke the all-time single-day streaming record on Christmas Eve with her 1994 Christmas original “All I Want For Christmas is You” (it was streamed almost 11 million times).
The New New
A few artists have released new music not focused on the holidays as well! Unknown Mortal Orchestra released a 19 minute instrumental track titled “SB-06.” Cardi B released a music video for her latest track “Money.” Ty Segall released his sixth full length of the year with a new band, The C.I.A., featuring his wife Denee Segall on lead vocals.
New York City will be renaming streets after Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan and Woodie Guthrie.
For some musicians, it’d be a bold enough move to wear their heart on their sleeve with lyrics like “Feeling so confused, don’t know what to do/ Afraid she doesn’t love you anymore” or admitting they’ll“Never believe in a heart like hers again.” On his latest album, Another One, Mac DeMarco goes one step further by giving listeners his home address and inviting them to share a cup of coffee in the track “My House By The Water.”
Though certainly bold and unique, it’s not a completely risky move for the Canadian singer/songwriter. There’s little-to-no controversy in his music; DeMarco won’t have to worry about any irate listeners showing up, demanding explanations or apologies because his music has corrupted today’s youth (he lives in the Far Rockaways of Brooklyn, quite a commute even for most New Yorkers). DeMarco’s music is the chillest of the chill: slide guitar lines lazily trail his vocals, whammy bars are invoked gently, and drums keep a crisp, tight beat. His half-asleep voice invokes an incredibly laid back, slightly-stoned version of Jeff Tweedy. It’s so relaxed, some songs bleed into each other, but this gives the album a consistent, thematic quality. And at only 23 minutes long, mixing up the energy with more upbeat songs like “I’ve Been Waiting For Her” is enough variation.
It’s rare that an album can be so engrossing, yet casual and conversational. Another One feels almost like a high-production jam going on in Mac’s backyard.One might be going on right now, in fact- it wouldn’t be too hard to find out, considering we have his address. Road trip, anyone?
Once during a sticky New York City summer weekend amongst a web of personal chaos, I called up a friend and sometimes lover from my couch and said: “Let’s go on an adventure.” An hour later we had taken his friend’s car and were driving lesisurely to Coney Island. The best word for a lover and friend I’ve come up with is “sex friend” – straight to the point – but “Homeshake” is far more fun.
Homeshake is the solo project of Montreal-based musician Peter Sagar (formerly guitarist for Mac Demarco). He left life on the road to create a calmer exhistence and get in touch with his own groove. This track, off his sophomore effort Mid-night Snack due out September 18th via Sinderlyn, feels like the calm undercurrent below anxieties, and reminds me of my own day at Coney Island: footage cutting from stoned serene stares to nearly puking your brains out. A dreamy effort reflective of Sagar’s switch from guitars to synthesizers, the duality of the song’s nature (it would be great for both solo meditation music and creating partner orgasms) is reflective of a project that demonstrates the beauty that occurs when you throw away what you should do and follow your instincts. Watch “Give it to me” below.
The femmes thought we’d leave you with something spectacular as you head out for your Memorial Day weekend. Y’all know who Mac DeMarco is already – now uncross your legs and twirl your way out of your office for a weekend of love making and growing out body hair to the tune of “The Way You’d Love Her.” It’s the type of free-spirited love song that reminds you the important things in life are puppy dog paws and not who texted who first. So discard your city worries with your cardboard coffee cup take a swig of this.
The whirlwind is over for another year. South by Southwest, Austin’s prolific music festival, drew to a close this past weekend after an onslaught of performances by close to a thousand acts from all over the globe. AudioFemme was on-hand to witness the spectacle and to attempt to cover as many of these performances as is humanly possible. For us, SXSW represents a chance to catch bands on the rise, to see what they bring to an audience in a live setting, and to chat with them as well as with others in the industry. For those who live, breathe, and love music, there’s nowhere else to be come mid-March.
But when Zachary Cole Smith, lead singer of Brooklyn band DIIV, drafted a disgruntled tumblr post early in the week about corporate greed running rampant at SXSW, I couldn’t simply dismiss it with a roll of the eyes. SXSW is a thing that exists largely due to corporate sponsorship, as is made evident by the towering Doritos advertisements, free booze, and brand names attached to most any showcase. These are all brands that are geared toward a young, music-loving demographic, from Doc Martens to Dolce Vita, from Spotify to Hipstamatic, from Taco Bell to Tito’s Vodka. There’s no better place to sell wares to a generation that can’t focus on anything for longer than five minutes than to drop a banner behind a stage where Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are jumping around. And there’s no better way to keep the ads coming, straight to the email inboxes of that hip demographic, than to make everyone RSVP to corporate-sponsored events.
So when Smith denounced SXSW as a “glorified corporate networking party” he wasn’t incorrect. Diiv has never been afraid of name-dropping, dating models, or posing for fashion photographers, and later admitted to having a blast at SXSW despite the cynical outburst. Though the post made some waves, there wasn’t a single person who disagreed wholly with the statements therein; if anything, a resounding “DUH” was heard throughout the festival. And we partied anyway.
Avoiding the corporate goons, as it turns out, isn’t all that hard. We recommend taking off the badge and trekking (or pedi-cabbing) over to Austin’s Eastside, where entrance to free shows – night and day – don’t require so much as proof of drinking age. There, the quality of local artisan food trucks is leagues above lukewarm free tacos, and girls sell vintage clothes to help save their dying pit bulls. It was home to some of the most inspiring performances I had the pleasure of seeing at SXSW this year, including a rambunctious 45-minute set from Thee Oh Sees, Impose Magazine’s expertly curated showcases, and several raucous Burger Records’ shindigs to name a few.
Burger Records represents a paradigm in stark contrast to Smith’s blithe assertion that “music comes last” at SXSW. Label founders Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard have spent the last six years putting out limited run cassettes and vinyl to an adoring audience, breaking artists like King Tuff and Ty Segall. If you want to know what’s next in terms of noise punk or kitschy garage or lo-fi pop, you could do much worse than to spend a few hours perusing Burger’s catalogue. At SXSW, Bohrman and Rickard made it extra easy, throwing two large showcases and several satellite parties (including one at Trailer Space Records that had to be shut down by the fire department), giving the sunburned masses at SXSW a rare opportunity to absorb as much Burger in one sitting as their damaged ear drums and short attention spans could allow. Frenzied sets by Audacity, Nobunny, Lovely Bad Things, Useless Eaters and Gap Dream – among many, many others – proved that there’s a lot of diversity and innovation within Burger’s staple sounds, and much to get excited about.
[jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2420″]Lovely Bad Things
If there’s anyone more genuinely stoked about repping their local scene than Californians it’s probably Canadians. I finally got to see Young Galaxy perform during Pop Montreal’s day party at The Liberty and my high expectations were met in every way. This is a band who make songs about loving music wholeheartedly; on the b-side for the lead single from Young Galaxy’s newest album, Ultramarine (out April 23rd on Paper Bag Records) lead vocalist Catherine McCandless sings “I wouldn’t mind dying at all / If it weren’t for the songs I’d miss”. Though they didn’t play it during the six song set at The Liberty, they closed out with newest single “New Summer”, an anthem to warm-weather flings and driving in cars with the “windows down and the stereo loud”. Most poignant of all was the band’s affirming rendition of “Pretty Boy” (also on the forthcoming record). Maybe it’s the fact that the band’s drummer is out as a lesbian, that I have friends struggling with gender identity, or the current political climate toward trans and gender queer folks, but it felt huge to hear McCandless singing “I felt your pain when you changed your name / We were each other’s only family” and then follow that up with “I know you feel isolated / and I hear what you won’t say / Who cares if they disbelieve us, don’t understand / You’re my pretty boy, always”. That’s some pretty heavy shit to mask with upbeat synths and pop rhythms, but that’s Young Galaxy’s bread and butter. Tackling those epic sorts of feelings and making people dance to it is what they do best. And after playing six shows in four days, those emotions still felt authentic.
Playing zillions of shows in one week has got to be taxing, which probably contributes to the jaded attitudes that some bands have in their approach to SXSW, but there are just as many artists who embrace it. Captured Tracks wunderkind Mac DeMarco (also from Canada, go figure) claims to have played seventeen shows over the course of the week and that probably wasn’t an exaggeration; his name popped up on more bills than any other. I caught his last set on Saturday night at The Parish, where he started the evening by watching labelmates Naomi Punk from the side of the stage. He mentioned several times that he was getting sick, but that didn’t stop him from delivering an energetic performance. While he wasn’t swinging from the rafters as he had literally done at some shows a few days prior and didn’t put up much of a fight when then sound guy told him he was out of time, he retained the air of bratty whimsy for which he’s known as he mashed up favorites “Freaking Out The Neighborhood” “My Kind Of Woman” and “Rock and Roll Night Club” with the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Rammstein’s “Du Hast” (no, really).
[jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2416″]Mac DeMarco “Du Hast/Freaking Out The Neighborhood”
Zac Pennington from Parenthetical Girls is yet another performer who proves that attitude and persona are everything. Before his band’s set, he got into a bitchy spat with Valhalla’s sound man. During the set, he paraded around an audience mostly filled with bros in attendance to see Maserati, draping himself over staircases and belting it out from the top of the circular bar like a cabaret version of Coyote Ugly. Similar bravado appeared elsewhere as well – Mykki Blanco’s ferocious party jams transformed the mermaid grotto behind Easy Tiger into vogue-fest, followed by Angel Haze’s provocative mile-a-minute raps. During “New York” Angel Haze descended from the stage, moving through an awed audience, and danced with yours truly while Edinburgh-based rappers Young Fathers looked on. Young Fathers brought slick production, badass style, and sick dance moves to their SXSW performances, and was the one act that hands-down truly blew me away this year when I saw them Tuesday night at The North Door (look for an interview on AudioFemme soon).
Not that there wasn’t plenty to be blown away by. Waiting in line to see Phosphorescent, Metz and Youth Lagoon at Red-Eyed Fly, I ran into Ahmed Gallab, better known these days as Sinkane. Ahmed and I go way back, having known each other from our years in Ohio where we met over a decade ago. I’ve seen every band he’s ever played in, from the Unwound-esque Sweetheart to Pompeii This Morning (in which he played bedroom-produced dream pop before that was even a thing) and then, after he was asked to stand in for Caribou’s drummer through two tours, in Of Montreal and Yeasayer. His Sinkane project is different in that it is wholly his endeavor, and his personal signature is always apparent. He uniquely marries funk and psychedelica and Afrobeat and through consistently stellar live performances is finally starting to get the attention he deserves – even, it seems, from R&B megastar Usher. Usher invited Ahmed on stage and performed Sinkane’s “Runnin'” to a packed Fader Fort, with Afghan Whigs as the backing band. Watching this from backstage was one of my favorite moments of SXSW, not just because Ahmed got to play with such heavyweights but because they were singing his song. And it could only have happened at SXSW, in part because of the corporate sponsorship Diiv railed against. The fact of the matter is that bigwigs bring in big acts, allowing smaller bands who are trying to make it big the opportunity to meet those that inspired them and, dare I say it, connect, network, and collaborate.
That goes, too, for folks like myself who might easily be lumped into the “industry vampire” designation Zachary Cole Smith’s tumblr post pointed out. Not only do I get to spend a week basking in the sun (or, you know, burning to a crisp) and drinking free bourbon that tastes like maple-syrup infused cake frosting, it’s an opportunity for me to meet other people who actually really do care about music, to trade notes, recommend bands, invade pedestrian bridges at 2am because Merchandise is playing a show on one. Sure, it’s disappointing when bands have technical difficulties due to the strain of quick set-ups or shortened sets thanks to lightning-fast turn over, but just as often it’s inspiring to see a band make it work despite those constraints. It’s also exhilarating to walk down a bustling street and actually hear music coming out of every bar, flowing together, washing over the crowd. With any huge event like this, there are bound to be positives and negatives. It would be nice if all this was just a random grouping of DIY efforts and corporations didn’t have any hand in it, but that’s not the case. Even so, it manages to fulfill many of my music-loving fantasies, and that’s what keeps me going back over and over again.
[jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2421″]SXSW Vine Compilation. In order of appearance: Avan Lava, Young Fathers, Nicholas Jaar, Radiation City, The Coathangers, Colleen Green, Psychic Twin, Parenthetical Girls, The Soft Moon, Marnie Stern, Palma Violets, Destruction Unit, a breif tour of 6th St., Bleeding Rainbow, Thee Oh Sees, Mykki Blanco, Angel Haze, Bridge Party feat. Merchandise/Parquet Courts, Metz, T.I. / Pharrell / B.O.B. etc., Sinkane / Usher / Afghan Whigs, Usher encore, Young Galaxy, Sam Flax, Lovely Bad Things, Audacity, Nobunny, Chris Cohen, Mac DeMarco, Conner Youngblood, Brooke Candy, and a night ride in a pedi-cab.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
It’s July, a month in which listing the best albums of the year so far has become nearly as ubiquitous in the blogosphere as making a list of the best albums of the year in December. Here at Audiofemme, we aren’t so much into ranking the releases of the last six months as we are simply highlighting the music that’s made us super excited to be doing what we’re doing. The following list is by no means comprehensive – we really need some more time with the new Spiritualized record to wrap our brains around it. We can barely keep up with the bi-monthly output of, say, Ty Segall or Family Perfume. We’re saving ourselves on that Sigur Ros album til we see them live in Prospect Park at the end of this month. Dirty Projectors’ Swing Lo Magellan deserves a whole essay rather than a brief blurb. And you’re probably already tired of hearing about how great Grimes is, so we took a mini-break from extolling her virtues. We have a feeling we’ll still be raving over the following selections in six months, so you’ve got plenty of time to run down to the record store and buy us some vinyl before the holidays hit.
Death Grips – The Money Store: Zach Hill’s newest side project melts faces in a way that last year’s Exmilitary only hinted was possible. Its innovative melding of experimental hip-hop rhythms and aggressive lyrical flow, paired with rapid-fire samples and grinding electronics manages to harness an intense energy while avoiding the pitfalls of akin genres which can be grating, uncreative, and way overhyped (coughcoughdubstepcough). It’s hard to get over an opening scorcher like “Get Got” (especially when producer Andy Morin turns up the echo on Stefan Burnett’s staccato “stopstopstopstopstopstopstop”) but the album is full of dark gems and deep jams. Fuzzy gongs resonate through “Double Helix”, detached blurbs of sampled pop keys bubble out over “Hustle Bones”, “Fuck That’s” bouncy bongos back Burnett’s riotous yells, gloried synth hooks adorn “Bitch Please”. The group will release a companion album, No Love, in the fall of this year, so it will be interesting to see how the two albums play off one another. Not to mention we’ve got our fingers crossed for an insane tour.
Purity Ring – Shrines: What began as a mysterious and infectious single from a band with the same name as a nearly forgotten emo-punk outfit has transcended its steady trickle of carefully guarded tracks into an auspicious debut that crackles and explodes. The band’s innovative live show is just one angle from which they’ve perfected their aesthetic, and every moment on Shrines feels like magic. Megan James and Corin Roddick deftly transform what are essentially pop songs into something closer to fairy tales, helped by James’ abstract poetics and Roddick’s well-timed production. Album standout “Fineshrines” is a perfect example of the way the two work together, and it still breaks my brain after about a thousand listens, somehow capturing exactly what I always want to feel in song form.
Friends – Manifest!: Anticipation for the debut from Brooklyn-based band Friends began building last year with the release of their single “I’m His Girl”, quite possibly the best argument for open relationships to garner any sort of popularity since TLC’s “Creep”. With that kind of momentum, there’s always a danger that a band might not live up to the hype. But Friends have offered a collection of songs that are not only ultra-catchy and party-ready but also delve into complex topics like female relationships and self-respect with surprising intelligence. Initial fears that lead singer Samantha Urbani’s vocals might at times become grating or that her hip-hop influenced style might lead to some embarrassing moments á la Blondie’s “Rapture” are quickly put to ease – the girl not only has style for miles but a strong set of pipes as well.
Mac DeMarco – Rock and Roll Night Club: In March Captured Tracks released Canadian creepster Mac DeMarco’s seedy, darkly-tinged debut in which he “recorded a whole bunch of songs on a 4-track, slowed them down, sang like Elvis, and slowed that down a little bit too”. The result is presented as an artifact from another universe where radio a.) still exists b.) dials from grimy “96.7 The Pipe” to groovy “106.2 The Breeze” and c.) plays nothing but blocks of Mac DeMarco tracks. The result makes me wish DeMarco would stalk me. I’d pretend I didn’t like it, but I’d start spending more time in dark alleys hoping I’d catch him in the act. Though DeMarco’s approach is sometimes comical and his live presence purposely pushes the awkward, the languid guitar riffs do feel like something of a lost transmission from an alternate reality where pop music has been distorted for the better. If Rock and Roll Night Club were a physical location, I’d invoke 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon by repeatedly saying “I want to go to there” until I was transported. Fortunately, the album does aurally what science has yet to accomplish.
Phédre – Phédre: For a band that pretty much came out of nowhere (actually, it was Toronto), Phédre has managed to blow us away. Their self-titled debut is loaded with infectious production but sealed with the gritty kiss of DIY ethos. The trio (formed by Airick Woodhead, April Aliermo, and Daniel Lee) has created a perfect balance of hyperactive hooks and slowed-down sludge, while distorted, bleary male and female vocals act as oozing cherry on the melted sundae of it all. There’s rapping, there’s punk rock, and there’s lots of sexual innuendos and nods to mythology. Listening to this record feels like taking part in an orgy without the messy and awkward reality of one. What should be a hot mess is actually mesmerizing, an effect enhanced by the feeling that the band never takes themselves too seriously due to a preference for nonsense and debauchery.
Peaking Lights – Lucifer: Having a five-month old son hasn’t slowed Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis down one bit. They’re still touring and have just released a new album that sees them further exploring the experimental electronic routes they’ve breached since forming their band. Lucifer is loop-laden, playful, and showcases Peaking Lights’ trademark fuzzy disco dub on most backing tracks, but there’s more sensitive material here as well. The couple’s tribute to their son, Miko, appears early in the album as a pretty little piano ditty. After dabbling in these lovely, lazy beginnings, the back half of the record lands the listener squarely in Peaking Lights’ wheelhouse, with Coyes’ oscillating samples and eclectic, watery beats pinning down Dunis’ smoky, echoic vocals. It’s the perfect follow-up to last year’s breakout 936 and an automatically wistful portrait of the band at this moment in their careers and personal lives.
Radiation City – Cool Nightmare: This little noise-pop gem was initially circulated via bandcamp by the Portland based quintet. It’s the follow-up to a critically acclaimed debut, and the band’s pride in the new work shows – they released gorgeous physical copies on their own label (Apes Tapes), with laser-cut sleeve sheathed milk-white vinyl and a gold cassette tape being among the purchasing options. But it’s the music therein that’s truly mesmerizing. Though guitarist Cameron Spies’ vocals make laconic appearances from time to time, it is the haunting, distant coos by Lizzy Ellison that stick indelibly in one’s grey matter; standout track “Eye of Yours” blends these two elements to perfection upon a palette of ominous piano plunking that blossoms into sunny trumpets and twangy guitar. That piano, by the way, was a decrepit artifact from drummer Randy Bemrose’s basement and became the inspiration for the whole album. Every sound it makes as at deteriorates is part of the auditory landscape on Cool Nightmare, the cover of which it graces. The band laid the ancient instrument to rest in the video for lead-off single “Find It Of Use”.
Frankie Rose – Interstellar: As a former member of several prolific noise pop acts (Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, and Crystal Stilts) one might expect Frankie Rose’s second solo album to be very much in that same sort of vein – jangly guitars, vocal bravado, and pounding drums. But Interstellar sees Rose scale these elements back just enough to set the work totally apart. Her energetic nods to new wave, the vaguely cosmic theme, and cohesive production are perfect foils for the strength of Rose’s songwriting, notable in that it showcases the first moments in which she’s allowed herself to explore a more vulnerable musical persona. But the songs here are anything but wallflower’s anthems; she challenges listeners in lead-off track “Know Me” to drop the pigeonholing game for a moment and examine the depth in what she’s presented. And really, there’s so many hazy, wonderful layers in these tracks that it would be a disservice to oneself not to obey her.
Chromatics – Kill For Love: Johnny Jewel and friends are back after a five-year hiatus during which director Nicolas Winding Refn showed the world their merits by featuring Jewel’s work in his critically acclaimed movie Drive. The band has eschewed the gloss of their 2007 dark disco classic Night Drive for material that is still tightly constructed and very assured but isn’t afraid of its imperfections. It begins with a cover of Neil Young’s “Into the Black” which sets the tone for some incredibly macabre moments made all the more heavy by Ruth Radelet’s haunting vocals. At an hour and a half (scaled down from an alleged thirty-six tracks that the band composed) Kill For Love is almost epic for an electronic album, and weaves a peculiar and solemn beauty through its seventeen tracks. Within this moody context, slightly more hopeful offerings like the title track or “At The Door” glisten and radiate. The record as a whole makes the more lazily produced bedroom pop of the moment seem like the equivalent of a blank stare.
Liars – WIXIW: Liars are well known for exploring spaces and ideas which other bands fear to broach, and in the past that experimentation has manifested itself in layers of thunderous drums, menacing riffs, and hair-raising incantations or equally chilling falsetto. Their sixth studio release, WIXIW (pronounced “Wish You”) is more measured and reserved. The layers are there but they’re more delicate and subtle, taking time to unfurl and mature. Pegged pretty accurately as the band’s foray into electronic music, WIXIW still concerns itself with motifs the band has explored for ten years now, but approaches them from a completely different angle. It’s refreshing not just within Liars’ oeuvre, but against most any album with similar sonic aim. WIXIW proves that electronic production shouldn’t be written off by fans of more traditional music making; in hands so well versed in heavier-hitting rock, the outcome transcends mere curiosity and becomes something astonishing unto itself.
Each week Audiofemme gives away a set of tickets to our featured shows in NYC! Scroll down to enter for the following shindigs.