Neneh Cherry’s Raw Like Sushi Gets 30th Anniversary Re-Release

We were existing on the cusp of the 1990s. The ’80s as people remember it now, an era marked by new wave, John Hughes’ teen flicks and Ronald Reagan, was essentially over by 1989. Yet we were still a ways off from the sounds, sights and politics that would come to define the ’90s.

During that in-between time, music was all over the place in the best possible way. Hip-hop was at its peak of sample-heavy creativity: De La Soul debuted with 3 Feet High and Rising in March of that year; that summer, the Beastie Boys dropped Paul’s Boutique. The Cure and Depeche Mode were cementing their status as icons of the alternative, the former with the album Disintegration and the latter with the hit single “Personal Jesus.” Meanwhile, underground dance music from Chicago house to Detroit techno to U.K. acid had infiltrated its way into pop music, whether or not the average listener realized it.

That space between the ’80s and ’90s is a sorely underrated era for music. It wasn’t as easy to define and market as the early ’80s or the post-Nirvana ’90s. And, to be fair, there were loads of releases that any of us could argue were terrible (of course, that’s the case for any given era, not to mention completely subjective). But it’s also a time of albums like The Stone Roses self-titled debut and Janet Jackson’s landmark Rhythm Nation 1814, both of which went on to influence generations of subsequent artists.

I thought about this while listening Neneh Cherry’s album, Raw Like Sushi, a 30th anniversary edition of which was released digitally in January and out on vinyl on February 14. The full-length appeared midway through 1989 and went on to have chart success in multiple countries, cracking the top 40 of the U.S. album charts in September of that year. Meanwhile, lead single “Buffalo Stance” would become the album’s calling card, peaking at number 3 on Billboard’s Top 100 in June of ’89. It was a mainstream hit of its time that would settle into a sort of cult popularity over the decades that followed. It was a commercial album steeped in underground culture – mainly hip-hop and house, but also punk by way of its attitude and Cherry’s musical history – that would quietly influence the club sound of the coming decade and beyond. In fact, just last month, Robyn referred to Cherry as her “hero” in an Instagram post.

Technically, Raw Like Sushi was Cherry’s debut album, but the Swedish singer had been active for years prior to its release. She played in a string of post-punk bands, including The Slits and Rip, Rig + Panic, and had collaborated with The The. She also appeared on a 1987 b-side from the duo Morgan McVey (featuring Cherry’s future husband and frequent collaborator Cameron McVey) called “Looking Good Diving with the Wild Bunch.” That song would eventually morph into “Buffalo Stance.”

In a 2015 mini-documentary, Cherry refers to “Buffalo Stance” as a “tribute to the Buffalo crew,” group of creative Londoners led by the stylist Ray Petri that would influence British fashion of that decade and beyond. Cherry herself was part of that circle and it was through Petri, who died in ’89, that she would connect with art director and stylist Judy Blame, who became the singer’s close collaborator. Cherry’s look during the Raw Like Sushi period – big earrings, lace-trimmed bike shorts and bomber jackets – linked together the ’80s and the ’90s.

Similarly, the sound of the album links together the decade that was ending with the one that was about to start. Tim Simenon, otherwise known as Bomb the Bass, co-produced “Buffalo Stance” at a time where he was emerging as a dance music heavy-hitter. The album’s players included Nellee Hooper, who was coming into his own as a producer with his work for Soul II Soul; he would go on to produce for Björk and Madonna. “Manchild,” another single from the album features Robert “3D” Del Naja of Massive Attack as a co-writer. In fact, the connection between Massive Attack and Neneh Cherry is quite close. She was an early champion of the group and, as member Daddy G recalls in an interview with The Guardian, they recorded parts of their debut album, Blue Lines, at her home.

Listening to the 30th anniversary edition of Raw Like Sushi, which includes oodles of remixes, the depth and breadth of this album’s dance music legacy are more obvious. Arthur Baker, whose previous work on tracks like Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock” and New Order’s “Confusion” made him an icon of cool ’80s, provided both a house and “nearly neu beat” remix of “Buffalo Stance.” Kevin Saunderson, a pioneer of the Detroit sound then well known for his project Inner City, gave the single a “techno stance.” Meanwhile, Massive Attack, still a couple years away from their debut album, remixed “Manchild.”

Cherry would go on to have a fruitful career; four solo records followed Raw Like Sushi, the most recent being Broken Politics from 2018. She has also collaborated with a number of other artists, including Peter Gabriel, Gorillaz and Loco Dice. But her first solo effort remains a particularly strong legacy. It’s an album so dialed into the moment in which is was made that it essentially predicts the future.

ALBUM REVIEW: Mabel Falls Flat With High Expectations

Like many, I sat down to listen to emerging UK pop artist Mabel’s debut full-length High Expectations with just that, high expectations. The songstress comes from remarkable music industry stock, the daughter of Swedish singer-songwriter and rapper Neneh Cherry and British songwriter and producer Cameron McVey, known for his work with prolific artists like Massive Attack and Portishead. Her personal stock has been steadily rising as well: she toured as the opener for Harry Styles and has had a handful of Platinum selling singles since releasing her first on Soundcloud in 2015. So it’s gotta be good, right? Unfortunately, no.

Perhaps the best thing that could be said of this release is the production itself: the tracks sparkle as pinnacle examples of what pop music should sound like. And yet, that’s part of the problem. This record sounds like Mabel makes music she thinks she’s supposed to make, instead of espousing any original sound or artistry. Under the guise of these polished pop products are stale lyrics and derivative slang. “FML” feels like a bargain-brand Kali Uchis, cringing with forced turns of phrase like “Got me wishing I was taking off clothes with you / two weeks and I felt so close to you.” She rests heavily on the laurels of millennial / Gen-Z slang: take track “Mad Love” for example, which tries to earn points by repeating the phrase “All night, give me mad love” over a stock pop backing, resulting in a track that sounds like one you’d only hear in an Uber. Similarly there’s “OK (Anxiety Anthem),” hopelessly topical in subject matter, the modern youthful predilection for anxiety and depression in the face of the world’s woes and our lack of intimate connectivity. She sings “It’s okay to not be okay” over and over in a way that’s desperate for viral shares but lacks any true substance.

The dim highlight of the selection of songs is “Trouble,” if only because it felt fresh to use a matronly phrase like “Looking for trouble” in the context of a hip pop song. The entire album’s lack of originality is enough to instill a sense of anxiety; has the heightened visibility offered to otherwise lackluster talent through Instagram and similar outlets destined us for an epidemic of cloned creatives? The same way Urban Outfitters gives every teen and twenty-something the means to dress like Billie Eillish, High Expectations makes me fear we’re fated to a musical selection limited to a bunch of knock-off Ariana Grandes.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Pazz & Jop Lives, 21 Savage vs. ICE, and MORE

Kacey Musgraves topped the 2019 Pazz & Jop Albums List with Golden Hour.

Pazz & Jop LIVES – Even if the Village Voice Doesn’t

When I received my Pazz & Jop Ballot in December, I couldn’t have been more shocked.  I’d assumed that when the Village Voice shuttered in August, the music critics’ poll would go along with it. As an NYC resident and regular Voice contributor I was sad to see the paper go, but the loss of the poll was like salt in a wound; there was something so methodical, so definitive, so objective, about tallying hundreds of critics’ top ten albums to determine the year’s best in a way that wasn’t influenced by the branding of any particular publication. And while the top of the list was interesting, the real value I got from the poll came from scouring the ballots of critics with similar taste to mine, mining for overlooked gems.

The Voice had published only one piece since its death, though an archive remained online. No one seemed to know who would helm the poll itself – some critics even thought the email ballots that had been sent were a  a ghostly, automated mistake, though some of the copy had been changed. The defunct alt-weekly began running Robert Christgau’s old year-end analyses, stretching back to 1971, when the poll began. And then, this week, a flurry of essays from Christgau, Jessica Hopper, Sasha Geffen, Tirhakah Love, and a roundtable of former editors, not to mention the poll itself, appeared.

There are five women at the top of the album list – for the first time in the poll’s history. Kacey Musgraves got the top honors, with her breathlessly praised Golden Hour, followed by Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer. Next comes Cardi B, Mitski tied for third, and Robyn’s Honey rounds things out. Noname and Lucy Dacus appear in the top ten as well. And though Childish Gambino’s “This is America” was deservedly voted best single of the year, the rest of the year’s top songs feature Cardi, Janelle, Ariana, Robyn, Mitski and Kacey as well.

While it’s hard to say if there will be a Pazz & Jop next year, this year feels at least a little triumphant, and not just for the women who dominated year end lists. It’s a reminder that music journalism, while on shaky ground, has the potential to grow, change, and most of all, to keep existing, so long as there is a community of critics willing to sound off. Ann Powers says it best: “With Pazz & Jop I bring a different mind-set to it. I am thinking about the larger community of music writers. And I care about the larger community of music writers a lot. I want us to have a home to be together, and that’s what Pazz & Jop gives us. And so, the fact that this poll still lives, it makes me feel like I still have a bigger home.”

21 Savage vs. ICE

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained 21 Savage on Sunday, claiming that the Atlanta-based rapper was born in the UK, is in the US on an expired visa, and that felonies stemming from a 2014 arrest could lead to his immediate deportation. 21 Savage, whose real name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, confirmed that he was indeed born in London, but that he was already in the process of renewing his visa after becoming aware of his “illegal” status in 2017. A representative for 21 Savage pointed out that while the rapper had indeed been arrested on felony drug charges, he was not convicted and has a clean record, and should be allowed to remain in the US until matters of his citizenship are settled, given his fourteen-year residency and the three children he has fathered in this country.

Immigration is obviously a hot-button issue in this political climate, and some have pointed out that 21 Savage has been critical of the government’s separation of families at the US-Mexico border. Though he came to prominence rapping about life in the streets – including gang violence, drug dealing, murder, and guns – he’s given a lot back to the Atlanta community as of late, and his latest album, I Am > I Was has been a huge success. Despite lots of support from fans and the hip-hop community at large, 21 Savage has a long legal battle ahead of him – we can only imagine what is like for those facing the same battle, but without resources.

That New New

Just in time for Black History Month, Chicago neo-soul singer Jamila Woods announces her next album, Legacy! Legacy! whose thirteen tracks each honor a different person of color; the latest single from the LP is dedicated to writer Zora Neale-Hurston.

Patio shout out fellow NYC DIY band Washer in their latest single, “Boy Scout,” from their forthcoming debut LP, Essentials, out April 5.

Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast directed the latest video from Charly Bliss. “Capacity” will appear on the band’s sophomore LP Young Enough, out May 10 via Barsuk.

Foxygen’s new album Seeing Other People will arrive April 26 via Jagjaguwar and have shared its lead single.

Neneh Cherry shared a video for “Natural Skin Deep,” from her phenomenal 2018 comeback album Broken Politics.

Death Hags shared “Electrochemical Communication.”

Andrew Bird is equal parts Frank and Richie Tenenbaum in the new video for “Sisyphus,” from his cheekily-titled My Finest Work Yet LP, which comes out March 22 via Loma Vista Recordings.

The Japanese House will release their debut LP Good At Falling on March 1 after releasing a string of buzzy singles.

Thelma shared a delightfully weird video for “Stranger Love” as well as a new single, “Sway,” both from her sophomore record The Only Thing, out February 22.

Madrid duo Yawners have confirmed their first live appearances in the US will take place at this year’s SXSW; to celebrate they’ve released a video for “Please, Please, Please,” the lead single from their debut LP Just Calm Down, out March 22.

SOAK (Derry, Ireland based singer-songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson) releases sophomore LP Grim Town on April 26 and has shared its very timely first single “Valentine Shmalentine” with a cute visual.

Khalid dropped this Disclosure-produced banger from his latest album, which will be out in April.

iamiamwhoami vocalist ionnalee announced her sophomore solo album REMEMBER THE FUTURE (out May 31) and subsequent tour with lead single “Open Sea.”

Bibio shared this smooth-as-fuck track from an as-yet-unannounced follow-up to 2017 LP Phantom Brickworks.

Ariana Grande just dropped thank u, next, only six months shy of last year’s Sweetener LP.

End Notes

  • The 61st annual Grammy Awards will air on CBS this Sunday, featuring performances by Janelle Monáe, Cardi B, Camila Cabello, Brandi Carlisle, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, Kacey Musgraves, Dua Lipa with St. Vincent, and, in what is sure to be a train wreck of mediocrity, Post Malone with Red Hot Chili Peppers. But Ariana Grande has dropped out after the show’s producers refused to let her perform recent single “7 Rings.”
  • The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan has been reunited with his Gish-era Stratocaster after it was stolen nearly thirty years ago.
  • Recently released from a year-long prison stint, DMX has announced an anniversary tour to commemorate his 20-year-old debut, It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot.
  • Early-aughts dance punks The Rapture will reunite for a Brooklyn show and festival appearance (at Long Beach’s Just Like Heaven).
  • Big Boi, whose very brief appearance was literally the only highlight of Super Bowl LIII, has also announced a tour with Goodie Mob and other members of Atlanta’s legendary Dungeon Family crew (but hopefully not Cee-Lo Green?).
  • Merge Records turns 30 this year, and the iconic indie imprint will celebrate in July with the MRG30 Music Festival in Carrboro and Durham, NC. The lineup will of course feature Superchunk and other label stalwarts like the Mountain Goats, Wye Oak, Fucked Up, Destroyer, and more. Tickets went on sale today.
  • Kim Gordon is getting her first-ever solo art show at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum; featuring figure drawings, sculpture, paintings and sound installation; the show, titled Lo-Fi Glamour, goes up mid-May through September 1st.
  • Jonah Hill and Vampire Weekend took over the UWS Zabars to shoot a music video.
  • Dinosaur Jr. mysteriously appeared on the Japanese Billboard Hot 100 with “Over Your Shoulder.” The track appeared on 1994 LP Without a Sound, but unlike that album’s inescapable alt-rock jam “Feel The Pain,” was never released as a single.
  • 52-year-old Gorilla Biscuits guitarist Alex Brown passed away from a brain aneurysm last Friday.

AF 2018 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums and Singles of the Year

Here we are again! As the new year approaches, it’s time to look back and take stock of the albums and singles that defined this moment in music history. 2018 was an eclectic year, to say the least, and there are a lot of new names on the list: Tirzah, Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy, Noname, King Princess, and Kali Uchis all had phenomenal debuts this year, not to mention the inimitable Cardi B, who made good on the promise of last year’s smash hit “Bodak Yellow” with Invasion of Privacy in April. There were established artists who still managed to surprise us, whether in the form of unearthed Prince demos, The Arctic Monkeys’ loungey sci-fi concept album, Tim Hecker introducing us to ancient Japanese court music, Dev Hynes making his most personal Blood Orange record yet, or Lil Wayne finally dropping Tha Carter V. And then there are those artists who fall somewhere in between, their ascendant careers a thrill to watch as 2018 saw them finally hit their stride. US Girls. Yves Tumor. serpentwithfeet. And perhaps most spectacularly, Mitski and Janelle Monáe.

As each of our writers (and editors, too) created their own mini-lists, those were two names that kept cropping up, and there’s no doubt you’ve seen them on just about every year-end list on the interwebs. If there’s any chance you haven’t heard Be The Cowboy or Dirty Computer, by all means, fire up that Spotify Premium post haste. But the recommendations here are as diverse as our writers themselves, so we hope you’ll take time to explore some of the lesser-known, hardly hyped artists we’ve highlighted, too – and keep your eyes peeled for more year-end coverage as we cruise in to 2019.


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)

    Top 10 Albums:
    1) boygenuis – boygenius
    2) Soccer Mommy – Clean
    3) Nenah Cherry – Broken Politics
    4) Mitski – Be the Cowboy
    5) serpentwithfeet – soil
    6) CupcakKE – Ephorize
    7) Blood Orange – Negro Swan
    8) Autechre – NTS Sessions 1-4
    9) Snail Mail – Lush
    10) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
    Top 5 Singles:
    1) Let’s Eat Grandma – “Hot Pink”
    2) Jon Hopkins – “Emerald Rush”
    3) The Internet – “Look What You Started”
    4) Cardi B, Bad Bunny, J Balvin – “I Like It”
    5) boygenius – “Bite The Hand”

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)

    Top 10 Albums:
    1) Low – Double Negative
    2) US Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
    3) Madeline Kenney – Perfect Shapes 
    4) Yves Tumor – Safe In The Hands of Love
    5) DJ Koze – Knock Knock
    6) Caroline Rose – Loner
    7) Tim Hecker – Konoyo
    8) Virginia Wing – Ecstatic Arrow
    9) Frigs – Basic Behaviour
    10) bedbug – i’ll count to heaven in years without seasons
    Top 10 Singles:
    1) Janelle Monáe – “Make Me Feel”
    2) Loma – “Black Willow”
    3) The Breeders – “All Nerve”
    4) SOPHIE – “Is It Cold In The Water?”
    5) Jonathan Wilson – “Loving You”
    6) Empath – “The Eye”
    7) Sibile Attar – “Paloma”
    8) Jono Ma & Dreems – “Can’t Stop My Dreaming (Of You)”
    9) Shopping – “Discover”
    10) Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – “Dunce”

  • Mandy Brownholtz (Social Media)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Miserable – Lover Boy/Dog Days
    2) Snail Mail – Lush
    3) Mitski – Be The Cowboy
    4) Teyana Taylor – K.T.S.E.
    5) Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Nothing – “Blue Line Baby”
    2) Hinds – “The Club”
    3) Mitski – “Nobody”

  • Lauren Zambri (Events)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Amen Dunes – Freedom
    2) US Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
    3) Beach House – 7
    4) Iceage – Beyondless
    5) Tirzah – Devotion
    Top 5 Singles:
    1) Jenny Hval – “Spells”
    2) US Girls – “Velvet 4 Sale”
    3) Yves Tumor – “Licking An Orchid”
    4) Amen Dunes – “Believe”
    5) Low – “Always Trying to Work it Out”


  • Ashley Prillaman (Premieres, AudioMama)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Alice Ivy – I’m Dreaming
    2) Sudan Archives – Sink
    3) Marlon Williams – Make Way For Love
    4) Earth Girl Helen Brown – Venus
    5) Rüfüs Du Sol – Solace
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Rhye – “Taste”
    2) Alice Ivy – “Chasing Stars”
    3) Sudan Archives – “Nont For Sale”

  • Tarra Thiessen (Check the Spreadsheet)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) DRINKS – Hippo Lite
    2) Shannon & the Clams – Onion
    3) Lost Boy ? – Paranoid Fiction
    4) Prince – Piano & a Microphone 1983 
    5) Sloppy Jane – Willow
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Public Practice – “Fate/Glory”
    2) The Nude Party – “Chevrolet Van”
    3) Big Bliss – “Surface”

  • Natalie Kirch (Pet Politics)

    Top 10 Releases Out of the Brooklyn DIY Scene (in Chronological Order):
    1) THICK — Would You Rather? (Self-Released)
    2) BODEGA — Endless Scroll (What’s Your Rupture?)
    3) Baked — II (Exploding In Sound)
    4) Pecas — After Dark (Broken Circles)
    5) Big Bliss – At Middle Distance (Exit Stencil Recordings)
    6) Kevin Hairs — Freak In The Streets (GP Stripes)
    7) PILL – Soft Hell (Mexican Summer)
    8) Stove – ‘s Favorite Friend (Exploding In Sound)
    9) Lost Boy ? – Paranoid Fiction (Little Dickman Records/ Rich Moms)
    10) Janet LaBelle – I Only See You (Loantaka Records)

  • Sara Barron (Playing Detroit)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Kali Uchis – Isolation
    2) Blood Orange – Negro Swan
    3) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
    4) Mitski – Be the Cowboy
    5) Noname – Room 25
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Ama Lou – “Tried Up”
    2) Britney Stoney – “OD”
    3) Janelle Monáe – “PYNK”

  • Luci Turner (Playing Atlanta)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) The Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
    2) The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
    3) Charles Bradley – Black Velvet
    4) Brandi Carlile – By The Way, I Forgive You
    5) Jack White – Boarding House Reach
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) The Raconteurs – “Now That You’re Gone”
    2) Mac Miller – “2009”
    3) Dead Naked Hippies – “Rare”

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
    2) Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V
    3) J. Cole – KOD
    4) Preme – Light of Day
    5) Jazz Cartier – Fleurever
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Lil Wayne feat. Reginae Carter – “Famous”
    2) Cardi B – “Thru Your Phone”
    3) J. Cole – “Brackets”

  • Desdemona Dallas

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Noname – Room 25
    2) Flatbush Zombies – Vacation In Hell
    3) Mountain Man – Magic Ship
    4) Lucy Dacus – Historian
    5) Nao – Saturn
    Top 3 Singles:
    1)  Janelle Monáe – “Make Me Feel”
    2) Twin Shadow – “Saturdays”
    3) Sudan Archives – “Nont For Sale”

  • Erin Rose O’Brien

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Mitski — Be The Cowboy
    2) Antarctigo Vespucci — Love in the Time of E-mail
    3) Car Seat Headrest — Twin Fantasy
    4) Soccer Mommy — Clean
    5) Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Bad Moves — “Cool Generator”
    2) The Beths — “Future Me Hates Me”
    3) Miya Folick — “Stop Talking”

  • Ysabella Monton

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Mitski – Be The Cowboy
    2) Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
    3) Brockhampton – Iridescence
    4) Soccer Mommy – Clean
    5) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) King Princess – “1950”
    2) Childish Gambino – “This is America”
    3) Pusha T – “If You Know You Know”


Carmen Villain

Carmen Villain’s voice projects the vibes of a psychedelic witch, singing in a spooky fog-covered lagoon, especially in her new track, “Quietly.” Its counter track, “Let it Go”, sounds like its mostly-instrumental sequel. This half Norwegian/half Mexican babe is about to embark on an UK tour with Neneh Cherry, and there is no doubt that she will be wooing audiences with her hypnotizing dream-like performance. I had the chance to ask Carmen a few questions about her growth as an artist, style inspirations, and cover song choices. Take a gander.

AudioFemme: How has your sound changed and grown since the release of Sleeper?

Carmen Villain: It’s still evolving all the time, but there’s definitely some elements that have been left behind, but I have also taken some of them further. I think there’s a bit more light in my music now. Really trying to let most of it pass the song test: whether they can be stripped back to their core and still work. Also been working with different recording techniques and been re-amping a lot, sampling, and also adding some new instruments, like the piano.
AF: What things inspired you while recording the “Quietly / Let it Go” 7”?
CV: Just life and my surroundings. I had just moved back to Oslo from London when I wrote these, so they are definitely influenced by these changes. “Quietly” came about by just messing about with different tunings and just playing for hours in my apartment during winter. “Let Go” was the result of a walk by the seaside (I had missed this a lot in London!) in which I recorded all these seagulls and my dog going bananas. I later took these recordings and played around with drones and different frequencies, and the melodies came from there.AF: A while back you covered Kurt Vile’s “Childish Prodigy.” Are there any other artists you have been covering lately or would like to?

CV: (We covered “He’s Allright”!:) ) I haven’t covered anyone for a while, but at rehearsals we sometimes finish off with TLC’s “Creep” just to blow off some steam!

AF: Based on videos, it seems like in the past you have had other musicians playing with you on stage, and more recently you have been performing alone. Are you going to be solo for your upcoming dates with Neneh Cherry?

CV: Yeah we used to be a four piece a while back to be able to play the way the songs were arranged on Sleeper, but the new stuff is a lot more flexible, so can be performed in different ways. Sometimes solo, sometimes three of us, and right now on this tour there’s two of us, myself and Mona.

AF: Tell us about who you chose to be accompanying you on stage on this upcoming tour.

CV: I’m really lucky to have Mona come along with me on this one, she plays additional guitar, keys and sings. Mona is also part of a duo of her own called Mona & Maria, they make beautiful folky pop. Maria used to play with me, but she’s on maternity leave right now.

AF: Your style rules. Who are some musicians that inspire what you wear while performing?

CV: Why thanks! Hmm can’t say there’s anyone well known in particular, maybe mostly my friends. I guess I just wear what feels comfortable at the time.

AF: If you could go back in time to be an artist during any era of music, which would it be?

CV: I’m good where I am!

AF: What’s on your everyday playlist as of 2015?

CV: Dean Blunt, Jessica Pratt, Grouper, Connan Mockasin, Todd Rundgren, Crosby Stills Nash, Ras G, Kurt Vile, Alice Coltrane, Harold Budd…

AF: Any talks of a tour or any shows in the US in the near future?

CV: US tour is right at the top of my wish list, so going to be working hard to make that happen!

LIVE REVIEW: Pitchfork Music Festival 2014

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All photos by Ellie White Photography

Pitchfork Fest 2014 came and went in a flash. Literally. Peruse our photo editorial from the weekend, courtesy of  our photo editor, Ellie White, who snagged highlights from all of our favorite shows over the three day extravaganza situated in Chicago’s beautiful Union Park. Our personal faves from the spectacularly-curated lineup this year included sets from the ever-brooding black-metal gents of Deafheaven; glam goddesses in black, the Dum Dum Girls; headliners Beck (whose set topped the best of the fest list for me, hands down without question), Neutral Milk Hotel and Kendrick Lamar (though Danny Brown–who won best hair of all time with his forest green ombre–and Earl Sweatshirt battled it out for best rap performance in our opinion); a stunning, once in a generation set from shoegaze pioneers  Slowdive (Rachel Goswell’s dress looked like sexy, glimmering armor); a wildly exuberant performance from Tune-yards –whose addition of African Dance inspired backup choreography had everyone in a frenzy; Boundary-pushing electronic music from The Haxan Cloak and Factory Floor (um, can we please hear it for that badass drummer??); Intelligent ambient down-tempo from heartthrob Jon Hopkins and a performance from the Range that could put anyone else’s obsession with and knowledge of rap jams to shame. Oh and I think everyone is officially  in love with FKA Twigs and Neneh Cherry.

Honorable mentions include Majical Cloudz, whose keyboard broke after the second song. As a result, lead singer Devon Walsh performed an array of  songs sung acapella (at one point standing up on a chair to belt out Magic, leaving the entire audience in tears), stand up comedy and audience-participation fueled beat boxing. At the end of the set, keyboardist Matthew Otto, so adobrably contrite and just adorable in general, had us all count down from 10, and then proceeded to smash the defunct synth to smithereens for all the world to see. A lifelong dream of his come true, he proclaimed.

All in all it was an amazing, sunny weekend full of cantankerous, gorgeous, feisty, live performances from some of the very best and brightest talent that exists in music today. We can’t wait  to see what the fine folks over at Pitchfork have in store for next year. In the meantime, read on and enjoy.


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ALBUM REVIEW: Neneh Cherry “Blank Project”

Blank Project Album Cover

Neneh Cherry is back with Blank Project, a collaboration with experimental electronic group RocketNumberNine and her first solo album in 16 years. Built on Cherry’s erudite life experience, this album weaves its way in and out of complex emotion with soul and aplomb. It’s everything you could want from a partnership between the weight of Cherry’s alt hip hop and Rocket’s minimal expressions. The songs range from sensual to spiritual to menacing, maintaining simple lyrics that deal with a more general language (“hate,””love,” movement, despair), while using sound in very unexpected ways, and making sure the listener is always invited into the space that is explored.

“Across the Water,” the first track on the album, may also be the best. It’s certainly the most striking emotionally – a song about fear and anger, a mother’s protest. A slow, hypnotizing beat follows Cherry’s soft, whispery Sprechgesang. The minimal quality to the music is so strong that Cherry’s words paint incredibly vivid pictures. “Dripping water,” she shows us, “Dripping down.” The rhythm is intoxicating and makes me want to sway and sing along. But there’s an attendant darkness that quickly worms its way in. Cherry begins to sing: “My hands across the water / My two feet in the sea / My fear is for my daughter / But will wash over me.” The lines rhyme and move together like a poetic chant or folk song. It stays minimalist through and through, without the rhythm intruding on the terrible, beautiful space that Cherry creates with her words. Her voice carries a menacing undertone during the more spoken-word verses. But there’s a great deal of fragility when she sings the chorus. I can’t imagine a more haunting song to open up this personal journey.

Cherry talks a lot about weakness in these tracks. “Blank Project”, the title track, is about a man she loves so much she “hates it.” It’s a concise song, hurriedly sung, with a beat that changes rhythm as often as her voice. She sings about being made to feel small, but opting to reject it. “I hate you.” She tells him, simply. But also, “I love you / I love it all.” Though these concepts are general, the complexity isn’t too difficult to grasp as a listener, especially placed alongside the music. All kinds of sounds are used through this track: dinging bells, vocalizers that drop Cherry’s voice super low, and a weird synthy, drone-like layer that makes the middle of the song uncomfortable. This is not about self-pity or even grief. There’s no sense that the woman behind the voice is not in control of her physical or mental self, even though she expresses weakness. The entire time she’s telling “[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][her] man” that he’d “better change.”


“Everything” is also about weakness, but inverted from the way she speaks about it prior. In this more electronic, stripped-down track, Cherry explores the ups and downs of defensiveness. It opens with muffled, soft vocals before the beat kicks in. When her voice enters the fray, it tells us: “I can’t hear you / What I can’t hear can’t upset me.” However, this defense mechanism obviously isn’t working. We can still hear the muffled voice. Cherry herself also seems to be struggling with her own voice, reaching for high notes, stretching it to its maximum. The listener follows as she finds it tougher and tougher to defend herself. By the end of the song some of the most strange vocal stylings on the album emerge. Cherry moves between a shaky, animalistic laugh and hoarse shouting. The rhythm continues to roll, but there’s something desperate and heart-wrenching in the narrative.

In tracks like “Naked”, more industrial motifs are explored. Cherry manages to create mechanical sounds without forfeiting any of the track’s emotional grip: if anything, she and Rocket somehow make transform the industrial into inviting and warm. Immediately Cherry asks that someone strip her naked and put her outside. Then, she urges us to “run a little faster.” Her vocals are absolutely gorgeous–soaring and capturing the listener in an almost mystical melody. I think it’s a brilliant idea to mix melodic tropes we associate with the spiritual with a very sensual song. There’s also an intriguing double tone that jerked me out of my comfort zone during the verses, juxtaposed to the soothing chorus.

A bit of happiness is occasionally touched upon during Cherry’s journey. “Weightless” begins like the prelude to a house jam, though it quickly diverts into a grungy, meticulous rhythm. Cherry uses crooning vocals from the start with notes that reach fairly high. When the chorus kicked in I suddenly realized this, in fact, is a dancing song. Though Cherry “can’t find [her] right moves” she keeps on dancing and she’s “weightless.” There’s a soulfulness to it, channeled through the vocals. By the end of the song there’s a great sense of catharsis. “Weightless!” Cherry sings with joy – “Come on! Weightless!”

This album is worth listening to for the varied soundscapes, alone. But the narrative is also deeply moving, the rhythms unexpected, and Cherry’s voice unique and electric. The story of a powerful, but sensitive woman is unraveled. We’re invited into all of Cherry’s complexities and it’s an uncomfortable, but gorgeous space

Blank Project comes on on February 25th. In the meantime, watch Neneh Cherry sing “Blank Project” at Studio 360:

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Neneh Cherry & Robyn “Out Of The Black”

Neneh Cherry

Swedish singer-songwriter, rapper, and all around renouncer of musical restrictions Neneh Cherry has returned with her first solo album in 18 years, Blank Project, due to be released on February. She is joined by fellow Swede and pop star Robyn on the song “Out Of The Black”- a beautifully produced, minimal piece that combines their voices into a declaration of self.

“Out Of The Black” begins with a breakbeat, recalling Cherry’s many dalliances with trip hop. Minimal synth and bass pick up, altogether forming simple, easy instrumentation. The music glides over you, pulls you along, but not forcefully. We hear Cherry’s strong, personal, and critical vocals first: “Just trying to mind my business // I see the wolf packs congregating on the corners”. It’s easy to recognize her acuity and wisdom in these lines. She doesn’t want to involve herself in what she observes, but by observing she’s forced to, anyway. Robyn comes in with the chorus and the song changes. There’s something dissonant about their voices together. It doesn’t sound right at first. But by the end of it you realize it’s actually completely brilliant.

Cherry and Robyn have different vocal stylings, not necessarily regarding disparate ranges, but certainly in terms of tone. Robyn is a pop singer: bold, sweet, feminine. Cherry is subversive, even in her singing, and more breathy than Robyn, even fragile-sounding. Robyn’s voice complements the electronic elements with its clarity and her enunciation. Cherry takes it out of the electronic and into the personal. I’m vaguely reminded of Dirty Projectors’ harping. If this song was all Robyn it would be unusually calm for her. If this song did not feature Robyn it would be an unusually mellow Neneh Cherry song. But the two of them together hold it in a space that’s entirely new.


“Behind our backs”, “Face the pack”, they sing.  The bass follows these lines of thought with an evident, electronic pulse, but not one that is overwhelming or obnoxious. Though music is well composed, it seems almost secondary to the vocals. Robyn and Cherry are making statement of self: affirmations, declarations as successful, experienced women. “I’m Robyn on the microphone into the speaker”, she sings and it’s catchy and it’s true. She is Robyn with a capital R. She and Cherry come together with confidence as the song goes on. While the chorus begins: “Out of the black/ Out of the blue / I just want you / To want it to”, by the end of the song it has changed to: ‘“There are the facts / This is the news: / We just want you / To want it, too”. A melancholy conclusion, perhaps, but a sweet comedown nonetheless.

Pick up Neneh Cherry’s new album on February 25th and if you’re in Europe look out for her tour:


TRACK REVIEW: Neneh Cherry “Everything”


The hype for Neneh Cherry’s upcoming solo album—her first in 18 years—has been building for quite some time now. As we near Blank Project’s release date (Feb. 25th in the U.S.!), we’re getting another preview of the album by way of its closing song, “Everything.” The over seven-minute-long track is the slightly more subdued sister to the previously heard title track of the album, “Blank Project,” with both songs sharing Cherry’s primal energy and minimalist, slightly menacing production by Kieran Hebden (better known as Four Tet).


“Everything”’s lyrics feature lines like “Got my fingers in my ears I can’t hear you / What I don’t hear, can’t upset me,” a visual that corresponds with Blank Project‘s cover photo. At other points it sounds like Cherry is sort of speak-singing off the cuff, with lines like “Shallow water midget mountain high/ Beep me up trust me I’ll hold you down.” The repeating refrain “Everything is everything, good things come to those who wait” is often wrung into different melodies or cadences by Cherry’s rhythmic, poetic singing.

Four Tet outfits the song with a deeply reverberating, viscous bassline that contrasts Cherry’s bright yet raspy vocals. If Cherry’s lyrics and vocals are the song’s soul, Four Tet’s production is its pulsating, almost mechanical heartbeat. As the song comes to its end, Cherry breaks out in a staccato yell that soon turns into passionate, visceral “yeah yeah”s and “hey hey”s, with some laughter thrown in for good measure. Her vocals are cut out for the last minute or so of the song, at which point it loses it’s ominous edge and becomes an understated, twinkling hum before fading away.

Listen to “Everything” below:

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TRACK REVIEW: Neneh Cherry’s “Blank Project”

nenehcherryLPMusical virtuoso Neneh Cherry recently announced that she’s returning with her first solo album in 16 years, Blank Project, due out Feb. 25 on Norwegian label Smalltown Supersound. The highly anticipated album is a collaboration with RocketNumberNine, produced by Four Tet and featuring an appearance by Robyn. For a taste of the upcoming release, Neneh has shared the title track, “Blank Project.”

The track sounds antsy and angry, with Neneh’s soulful voice saying “Too many times, you come crawling, say sorry too late.” Instrumentally, it’s pretty sparse—a lot of throbbing percussion and bass, along with a few little embellishments here and there in the form of bell chimes or a tambourine—so her lyrics really shine. They come off as a sort of spoken word poem, with lines like “I feel so small / I hate you I hate you, I love you I love you, I love it all.” The ten-track record is said to have been born out of a recent personal tragedy in Neneh’s life, and subsequently recorded and mixed over a short five-day period.

After a long career experimenting with elements of hip-hop, post-punk, and jazz (among other genres), this minimalist aesthetic presents a new side of Neneh. Listen to the new track below via Soundcloud:

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