Let’s settle this once and for all, guys: Yoko Ono didn’t break up the Beatles. Even she wasn’t coasting on the coattails of John Lennon’s success, she was creating radical art before she ever met him. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, some news: The Yoko Ono Reissue Project will be releasing the musical projects she created from 1968 to 1985. Want to understand how big of an influence she was on some of your favorite musicians? Read what they have to say about Yoko Ono, via Pitchfork.
A Tribe Called Quest Release New Album, Video
We Got It From Here is the group’s first album in 18 years and features appearances by Jack White, Anderson Paak, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John. Continuing a tragic theme of 2016, the record was finished soon after founding member Phife Dawg’s death earlier in the year. The rapper comes to life in ATCQ’s new video for “We The People” as an animation; check it out below.
New Collaboration by Parquet Courts/WALL/Merchandise
Members of Parquet Courts (Austin Brown), WALL(Sam York) and Merchandise(Carson Cox) have teamed up on a gloomy disco track called “Fire Dance.” Squeaky synths and sparkling, haunting melodies decorate the track, which Carson describes as “an ode to downtown New York” and speaks of “lost memories.” Listen below:
Read This, Too: The Oral History of the Space Jam Song
If you’re between the ages of 23 and 30, chances are you loooooved the movie Space Jam when you were in elementary school. It had everything: Basketball! Looney Toons! Michael Jordan acting in front of a green screen! I know I did (kids are weird), and it was mostly because of the soundtrack: “I Believe I Can Fly” Seal’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” and of course, the Space Jam Theme song. Even now, it will randomly get stuck in my head for no reason at all. Read the history of the song here, via Spin.
First up is “Your Best American Girl” by Brooklyn’s Mitski. The song is from Puberty 2, which will be released via Dead Oceans in June. It’s a sorrowful track about living up to expectations, full of soaring highs and the squeal of feedback amongst quieter moments.
Monday was Leap Day, which is special day for Leaplings, the kids who were born on February 29th and finally get to celebrate their real birthday. Dan Arnes, the frontman of Leapling, is one of these people, and to take the “holiday” an extra step further, announced the band’s upcoming album Suspended Animation and debuted “Alabaster Snow.” Check it out below:
Parquet Courts are releasing their upcoming album Human Performance on April 8th. On Wednesday, they performed another new song, the cowboy-tinged punk “Berlin Got Blurry,” on Conan. Check out the official video below, which features the band exploring a foreign land.
Yeasayer are also releasing a new album (Amen & Goodbye, due out on April 1st) and shared a new track this week, “Silly Me.” I miss the “kind of folky in an apocalyptic”sound of their first album, but this song has a pretty good groove.
The Cost of SXSW
Many bands view Austin’s SXSW festival as essential for gaining any notoriety in the music industry, but schlepping bandmates and gear to Texas can also be stressful and expensive. Is it worth it? You may have read some thinkpieces that may you want to hide your wallet, but you should read Ed Rodriguez’s take on the matter on The Talkhouse. Rodriguez, who plays in Deerhoof, argues that there’s a cheaper way to do the showcase, or any tour. Read his article here.
Kendrick Lamar Drops New Album
After what appeared to be a Spotify mishap that gave away the track list, Untitled Unmastered was released as a follow-up of sorts to To Pimp A Butterfly. Buy it here.
The Brooklyn-via-Texas punks performed “Dust” and “Outside” on WFUV, and also announced an upcoming album titled Human Performance. “Dust” has a loping, cowboy Western feel, spacing tendrils of guitar riffs between suffocating lyrics: “It comes through the window, it comes through the floor/ It comes through the roof, and it comes through the door/ Dust is everywhere/ Sweep.” As you can see in the creepy video – which features dust personified- dust is a metaphor for the distractions of modern life. In a way, the song is a more subtle version of the band’s “Content Nausea.”
Bernie Sanders Gets Musical Endorsements
I’m not saying that anyone should base their vote on what celebrities think of the presidential candidates. But if they did, I think we know who would win; members of Vampire Weekend and Dirty Projectorsjoined Bernie Sanders onstage to sing “This Land Is Your Land” during a Iowa City rally for the candidate on January 30th. If you live in Brooklyn, you may have also noticed a bunch of shows dedicated to raising money for Sanders. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has earned only the endorsement of Kid Rock, and the wrath of Adele and Steven Tyler for using their songs without permission.
Listen to Animal Collective’s “Lying in the Grass”
On the cartoonish, slightly schizophrenic track, voices bounce around, occasionally running into a glitch or a saxophone lick as the song builds. Listening to “Lying in the Grass” is like following instructions to make an origami box, only to realize you’ve somehow made a crane. Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but it’s kind of pretty, which sums up the track. Check it out below:
Johnny Cash Lives On, In Arachnid Form
Fourteen new species of tarantulas have been recently discovered in the United States, and one of those, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, has earned the namesake of the country singer Johnny Cash. Why? It lives near Folsom Prison, and is jet-black, the color that Cash was known for wearing almost exclusively. It’s almost too perfect.
RIP Maurice White
Maurice White founded the incomparable Earth, Wind & Fire. He passed away yesterday from Parkinson’s at age 74, six years after he was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. His band was one of the most renowned, universally liked musical groups- for a thorough obituary, see The New York Times.
Philly Musicians Bill to be Withdrawn
Remember that bill we mentioned last week, the one that would require all performers coming to Philadelphia to register with the police? Maybe you even signed the petition to stop it. Well, a spokesperson for Mark Squilla, the councilman who proposed the bill, has said that he intends to withdraw it. That definitely falls under the category of “good news.”
Minutes before the band gets on stage, I watch the crowd come together. For some reason at Knitting Factory, it’s always a mix of people you wouldn’t imagine listening to the artists playing that night, trickling in from the bar or stumbling upon a cheap show with nothing else to do.
Brooklyn’s own Honduras took the stage, only a couple of months off the release of their first full-length, Rituals.
They’re a punk band who sound something like the Sex Pistols with a dash of Blur (I keep feeling surprised Honduras aren’t from London), or perhaps their contemporaries, Parquet Courts, with that similar lo-fi feel.
The sound translates uniquely to the stage. There’s nothing too flashy about the performance, making you appreciate how clean Tyson Moore’s guitar work is juxtaposed with Josh Wehle’s gritty drums and Pat Philips’s muffled vocals.
It’s easy to pick up on the band’s subtle nuances. Paul Lizarraga likes to play his bass with the strap down low. Moore makes the most of his curly mop of hair, playing his Flying V with a ton of energy. And lead singer and rhythm guitarist Philips is the lovechild of Bradford Cox and Alex Turner. Tumbling on stage, his guitar strap falling off, there was something carnal about the way he clearly didn’t give a fuck.
The boys will be playing Knitting Factory again on December 14th, and Mercury Lounge on January 9th. Check out the music video for their first single “Paralyzed” here:
There were a lot of great songs released in 2014, and many came from bands who are from New York City (or, like many of us here, just currently call it home). Here are some of the year’s best tracks from the city that never sleeps.
Ava Luna: “Plain Speech” from Electric Balloon (Western Vinyl, March)
Ava Luna is an eclectic quintet based in Brooklyn. Practically three tracks in one, this hipster love song involving fixies is an example of how the band can switch seamlessly from funky, offbeat rhythms to heartfelt, soulful anthems. Expect a new album from them soon.
Celestial Shore: “Gloria” from Enter Ghost (Hometapes, November)
This Brooklyn-based band released their second, more polished album in November. On Enter Ghost’s second track, they transition easily from complicated drum beats and snarling guitars to soft melodies. “Gloria” builds up and pulls back constantly, never quite resting on any one type of sound.
Hospitality: “I Miss Your Bones” from Trouble (Merge Records, January)
The trio’s second album toes the lines of psychedelic/garage rock and guitar pop with songs about the subtleties of relationships and everyday insecurities. “I Miss Your Bones” is one of the album’s most energetic tracks, with shifting rhythms, perfectly synced guitars, and spot-on lyrics sung with Amber Papini’s charismatic lilt.
LVL UP: “DBTS” from Hoodwink’d (Double Double Whammy/Exploding in Sound, September)
LVL UP’s hometown is Purchase in Upstate New York, but they’ve recently joined the roster of emerging Brooklyn bands. They’re masters at crafting quick songs, sung with a tired drawl and lively metaphors reminiscent of David Berman. Hoodwink’d is a short, bittersweet showcase of mid-twenties angst.
Mitski: “Townie” from Bury Me At Makeout Creek (Double Double Whammy, November)
How do you describe Mitski? You could say she’s like Brooklyn’s edgier version of Angel Olsen, with more grit and fuzzier guitars. That’s not all, though. With lyrics like “I want a love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony” and “I’m holding my breath like a baseball bat,” you can’t help wanting to know exactly what’s going on in her head.
Parquet Courts: “Ducking and Dodging” from Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture?/Mom & Pop, June)
These punks originally from Texas play an intense form of something falling between blues, punk and rock. They recently turned Webster Hall into a mess of mosh pits and attempted stage-diving, which reached its best point (or worst, if you were the incredibly unamused bouncer) with “Ducking and Dodging.” The lyrics are more spit than sung, punctuated by sharp guitar chords and a constant, pounding bass.
Parkay Quarts: “Pretty Machines” from Content Nausea (November 2014, What’s Your Rupture?)
Andrew Savage and Austin Brown made this list twice, with another recently released album under a slightly different name. “Pretty Machines” has a catchy, bright guitar hook, Savage’s deadpan vocals, and a surprisingly uplifting horn section. Every verse in the song is a quotable gem, with lyrics such as “ Whiskey sips upon me as my secrets escaped/ In the skyline of hell there are no fire escapes.”
Sharon Van Etten: “Taking Chances” from Are We There (May, Jagjaguwar)
Known for being kind of a downer, Are We There is probably not an album you want to listen to when you’re in a good mood. “Taking Chances” was the album’s first single and one of its best tracks. Van Etten’s sleepy voice, gloomy guitar and electric piano make this a good song for days when you’re not quite ready to force a smile.
The fourth annual 4Knots Music Festival is slated to wash ashore at South Street Seaport this Saturday, July 12th, and we couldn’t be more excited. The festival, curated by The Village Voice, gets better each year, with Dinosaur Jr., Mac DeMarco, Re-TROS, Dead Stars,Those Darlins, Speedy Ortiz, Radkey, Viet Cong, Nude Beach, and Juan Wauters slated to grace the 2014 celebration – and it’s all FREE. There’s also an after party at Webster Hall following the day-long extravaganza, and you can get $5 off tickets with the code VOICE by clicking here.
Though 4Knots might seem relatively new, VV cut its festival booking chops on the now-legendary Siren Music Festival, held every summer at Coney Island from 2001-2010. As our anticipation grows for 4Knots 2014, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the best performers to grace 4Knots and Siren stages.
2001 – Peaches
We’re sure Rainer Maria, Guided By Voices and Superchunk were all lovely, but come on… at the time, the gender-bending, sex-positive performance artist was riding on high on the release of The Teaches of Peaches, her debut album that featured hits like “Fuck the Pain Away” and “Set it Off.” The quirk and kitsch of Coney Island was a perfect backdrop for Peaches, who looked every bit the part of sideshow provocateur in her bright red lingerie.
2002 – Sleater-Kinney
2002 was kind of THE banner year for Siren Fest, helped in part by the fact that there was a dance-punk renaissance happening in NYC. We can just picture Karen O smooching Angus Andrew at the top of the Wonder Wheel (they were deep in lurrrrv when their bands – Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars, respectively – played the fest), and I’m sure like-minded rockers Les Savy Fav, Mooney Suzuki, The Donnas, and Rye Coalition tore shit up, while The Shins mellowed crowds out with “New Slang” years before it rocked Zach Braff’s world. But Sleater-Kinney is the best band EVER, and their live performances were unparalleled. Even some dude who writes about music a lot agrees.
2003 – !!!
No, I’m not so excited about the history of 4Knots/Siren Fest that I’ve resorted to superfluous punctuation – !!! (usually pronounced Chk Chk Chk but otherwise represented by any three repetitive monosyllables other than Yeah Yeah Yeah since that was taken) gave every ounce of energy they had into converting a boring old rock show into a full tilt dance party. The band had a rotating, often huge lineup of talented musicians, fronted by lead singer Nic Offer, whose spastic showmanship mimed the outsized gestures of arena rock performers like Mick Jagger, but in a weirder, disco-punk context. !!! were known to encourage audience participation, adoration, and most of all satisfaction – you could rest assured they’d at least give you your money’s worth. But Siren Fest, just like 4Knots, has always been free.
2004 – …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
TV on the Radio were still a baby band, Mission of Burma were already and aging punk dad band, Har Mar Superstar probably grossed everyone out (that was his thing), and Death Cab for Cutie probably made everyone too sad. Blonde Redhead is an amazing band that almost no one appreciated or remembers. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead smashed their gear and dove into the audience.
2005 – Dungen
While Q And Not U kept dance-punk alive, and Spoon continued the mellow indie dude vibes set forth by Death Cab the year before, Swedish psych rockers Dungen, who had apparently just visited Other Music, like, that day, must have thrown the audience for a real loop. Ta Det Lungt had just begun to help them establish an international reputation, and even though none of their songs were sung in English, there’s no doubt the weed cloud hanging over the Cyclone after their set helped with the language barrier.
I bet Celebration was so, so fucking badass that year because Katrina Ford is a goddess and I’m excited for their upcoming album and I’m excited for their show at Baby’s All Right on July 25th but Jake Shears literally stripped down to a Speedo.
2007 – M.I.A.
Just look at how sweet M.I.A. was before all the Vanity Fair hoopla, before the SuperBowl middle finger, before H/Bollywood got its hands on “Paper Planes,” before the trainwreck that was /\/\/\Y/\… M.I.A’s music has evolved a lot over the years, but she’s always been one of the “Bad Girls,” with enough swagger to last for decades. Though we couldn’t have known it then, her Siren appearance was a rare treat, free of backlash and media sniping and all about the jams. The Black Lips put on a great live show, and are also no stranger to controversy, having recently talked shit on Drake and Lorde, that one time Jared Swilley and Nathan from Wavves got into some fisticuffs in a Brooklyn bar… and oh yeah maybe they’re racist? 2007 Siren, you were a real breeding ground for dissension.
2008 – Times New Viking
While Broken Social Scene is great at cramming a ton of talented musicians on stage, I have to hand it to my Columbus, Ohio hometown heroes Times New Viking for blasting such a huge crowd with their lo-fi gems. I have super fond memories of seeing them play dive bars and basements and living rooms, but their gloriously dingy pop songs harbor all the rickety charm of Astroland, where any ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl in 2007 might have been your last ride on anything, ever.
2009 – Monotonix
When Monotonix crowd surf, they don’t just flop along in a sea of sunburned arms like most bands. First of all, these dudes get pretty much naked except for underpants, socks, and copious amounts of body hair. Second of all, they spend the majority of their set in the audience, as opposed to the casual one-and-done method of even the punkest punks. Third of all, they take their instruments into the crowd with them. These nutso Israelis played over 1000 shows in five years, 400 of them happening between 2006 & 2007, so fourth of all, setting themselves on fire and shit was routine for them.
2010 – Screaming Females
The thing about festivals is that sometimes they’re less than ideal scenarios for the bands that play them. It’s hot, it’s bright, and the sound engineering can be really questionable. After insisting on using his own drums rather than the rented kit Siren provided, Jarrett led Screaming Females on a rambling pre-set jam session to ease any jitters. They also turned their monitors off, because according to this adorable blog post he thought it “better to have no mix than a crazy one.” Anyone who’s heard Marissa Paternoster playing guitar knows she shreds; I can’t imagine headliners Matt & Kim (the only band to play Siren twice!) played a better set than Screaming Females in their 2 o’clock slot.
2011 – Titus Andronicus
Though it made everyone a bit sad when Village Voice moved their annual shindig from an awesome beachfront amusement park with tons of history to, well… a mall with an Uno’s Pizzeria, they at least had the respect for tradition to rename the fest 4knots (the speed at which the East River flows) and booked another expertly curated lineup, which included headliners Titus Andronicus. Their appearance came just after gaining tons of recognition for their intelligently rendered album The Monitor, loosely based on Civil War-inspired themes, not to mention their aggressive live shows. The lineup has since changed but our favorite incarnation of the band featured Amy Klein on violin and guitar. Ahhh, memories.
2012 – The Drums
We’ve always appreciated the swagger of Jonny Pierce, and his band’s beachy vibes practically scream outdoor dance party, so The Drums were a perfect fit with 4knots. 2011’s Portamento saw the group shift from surfy to synthy (the title is a tribute to the analogue settings Pierce and bandmate Jacob Graham bonded over as kids), so we couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming release of their latest album, slated for sometime this year.
2013 – Parquet Courts
There’s a reason these Brooklyn punks quickly gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the best live bands to see, and their ultra-sweaty performance at last year’s sweltering 4Knots is a perfect example. The two things I remember most about last year’s 4Knots were The Men covering Iggy Pop with a rousing horn section, and Andrew Savage extending “Stoned & Starving” with a ten-minute long rant about social media and commodified music that felt both prescient and tongue-in-cheek. You really never know what to expect from a Parquet Courts set except that it will be rowdy. Similarly, we never know what to expect from a Village Voice music fest – so make sure you’re at South Street Seaport on Saturday for this year’s 4Knots!
Following their highly acclaimed 2012 album Light Up Gold, Brooklyn-based punks Parquet Courts delve into something more disembodied and fragmented in Sunbathing Animal, out June 3 via What’s Your Rupture? and Mom + Pop Music. Their sound is essentially the same – still plenty of the lively guitars and driving drums that drew the mass of listeners that religiously follow them now – but there’s something more exact about it, more complete. The 13-track endeavor was inspired by the band’s time on the road and that feeling of displacement and transit is reflected in the lyrics and sound.
The opening track, “Bodies,” is a great introduction to the album as it plays on themes of separation and introspection. As lead vocalist Andrew Savage sings of “bodies made of slugs and guts,” the accompanying guitar follows in spirals and the repetition of phrases and rhythms creates a nearly out-of-body experience where the mental becomes separated from the physical. This effect is repeated in “What Color Is Blood” and “Instant Disassembly” where a dissociation of body and spirit makes the listening experience that more meaningful.
Sunbathing Animal is an album that can be listened to – and should be listened to – from first track to last in order to get its full impact. Shorter, one-minute tracks like “Vienna II” and “Up All Night” act as transitional interludes that really capture the wandering sense of being on tour with the band, feeling their moments of freedom and captivity, and the not-much-longer “Always Back In Town” hinges on ebullient transience. That central theme is visited and revisited in different ways, and at every pace: “Dear Ramona” unwinds slowly for moments of contemplative limbo, “She’s Rollin” stretches into a dissonant harmonica jam by its end, “Raw Milk” captures stumbling, early morning disorientation, and the sneering “Ducking & Dodging” as well as the intense energy and searing drive of the title track are tailored for rowdy live iterations, built to anchor yet many more tour dates in DIY spaces and moldy basements of house shows. As a whole, the album is a strong sophomore follow-up to their early success, their sound more precise and their exploration of different themes relevant especially in times like these, when it often seems as if everything is always in transition.
Watch an animal sunbathing in the video below (+ tour dates):
June 2, 2014 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s w/ Radioactivity
June 3, 2014 Dallas, TX – Club Dada w/ Swearin’, Radioactivity
June 4, 2014 Memphis, TN – The Hi-Tone w/ Protomartyr, True Sons of Thunder
June 6, 2014 Columbus, OH – Double Happiness
June 7, 2014 Detroit, MI – PJ’s Lager House w/ Tyvek, Protomartyr
June 8, 2014 Toronto, ON – Horsehoe Tavern w/ Tyvek, Protomartyr
June 9, 2014 Montreal, QC – Il Motore w/ Tyvek, Protomartyr
June 10, 2014 Boston, MA – TT the Bears w/ Protomartyr
June 11, 2014 Brooklyn, NY – Sugarhill Supper Club w/ Protomartyr, Future Punx, Xerox
August 2, 2014 Chicago, IL – Lollapalooza
August 3, 2014 Happy Valley, OR – Pickathon
Parquet Courts, besides being the only (I think) garage-punk quartet to ever show Ridgewood, Queens the limelight it deserves in “Stoned and Starving,” are both from and intensely representative of Brooklyn’s DIY culture. They keep it simple and keep it snotty, braiding basement-classic two-chord guitar parts with noisy hooks and lyrics that seethe with existential ennui but rarely use big words.
The group came crashing into mainstream view with Light Up Gold at the end of 2012, and then proceeded to have a busier year than their dope-smoking, couch-crashing, afternoon-rising music might have made you think was possible: they toured extensively in 2013 and released their Tally All The Things That You Broke EP less than a year after the full-length dropped. On June 3rd, Brooklyn’s hardest-working slackers are back with a brand new record titled Sunbathing Animal. Early in March, Parquet Courts came out with the title track off the new album–but only on sheet music. The dynamics prescribed for the song? “ffff,” aka “loud as hell.” Indeed.
“Sunbathing Animal” is now out as a single for those who can’t read sheet music, and you can buy the 7” on Record Store Day. The track doesn’t deviate from the slightly atonal simplicity that characterized the group’s first record; however, the sustained fever pitch of vocal energy that lasts the entirety of the near-four minute song marks new, exciting ground for Parquet Courts. The repetitive, rigid drum beat is almost maniacally fast, with twirling guitar solos to match. More passionate than it is disillusioned, “Sunbathing Animal” tightens the kind of instrumental sprawl that, on the first record, would have indicated boredom, and brings all that bright distortion and dissonance into what sounds like a Parquet Courts version of a highly danceable single.
The sheet music for this track suggests a tempo of “penitenziario,” which translates to “prison.” Is “Sunbathing Animal” a punishing song, or is it penitent? Check it out below and see what you think:
Another year of South by Southwest has come and gone. It was a landmark year for us at AudioFemme, as we hosted our first ever SXSW showcases. It was certainly a learning experience, to say the least. Just as we have in years past, we met a wide array of musicians, promoters, industry folks, and music fans from around the world, an experience as enriching as ever. But networking and seeing as many bands as one can in five days aren’t the only things that go into the SXSW experience. At its heart is one weird little city redefining the festival experience. Here’s a rundown of our best moments from Austin, TX.
Most Memorable Performances:
The sun doesn’t shine in the UK the way it does in Austin, and the visible sunburn on these three lads made me feel an empathetic sting. I caught the post-punk trio at El Sapo, a newly-opened hamburguesa joint on Manor Road, hosting showcases curated by Austin local radio station Music For Listeners. The showcase included performances from Dublin-based noise pop quartet September Girls, Manchester rockers Pins, and Mississippi psych-pop outfit Dead Gaze, all of whom were arresting. But there was something especially captivating about the sparks flying during Traams’ frenzied performance, with frontman Stu channeling Alec Ounsworth’s frantic wail. The boys worked up a real sweat blasting everyone with pummeling pop.
The Baltimore synth punk outfit has long had a reputation as a hardworking and talented live band who’ve released some great albums over the last seven years. Singles is out March 25th on 4AD and the band took to SXSW for their first time ever to showcase the material, resulting in heaps of long-deserved attention. I caught their triumphant final performance of eight at Impose’s free Longbranch Inn party, and the vibes were stellar. Lead singer Samuel T. Herring was absolutely brimming with joy, repeatedly stating how good the energy in the room felt, promising to belt it out until his vocal chords gave up. The crowd loved him back, bouncing up and down to some stellar new songs, pumping fists, crowd surfing, and begging for another jam before the bar closed for the night. Future Islands obliged with a hushed version of “Little Dreamer” from 2008’s Wave Like Home.
When we previewed “Wire Frame Mattress” we knew that the UK band were not be missed, and the boys did not disappoint. Blending surf, sludge, and rockabilly elements with a healthy dose of reverb, The Wytches embodied worst-case-scenario teenage angst like we haven’t seen since watching The Craft at sleepovers.
Jon Dwyer reunited his early aughts garage rock group and it felt so good. Eschewing stages as often as possible, Dwyer & Co. preferred to set up shop in the Austin dust and totally wreck it. I saw them once at the Castle Face Records showcase (that’s Dwyer’s label, which is set to re-release Coachwhips debut Hands on the Controls this month) and again on Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, after which Dwyer set off fireworks during Tony Molina’s set. Dwyer sings into a mic that looks more like a wad of tape, resulting in a scratchy, unintelligible, yet somehow glorious garble, the short songs every bit as good as those from Thee Oh Sees catalogue but faster, looser, and somehow more primal.
Another Baltimore act that’s been around for years, steadily releasing unnoticed but beautiful records, Wye Oak’s folk-inflected synth pop impressed many a South by audience. Andy Stack did double duty on drums and keys, using one hand to play each simultaneously. Just think about that for a minute. Try to mime those motions. It’s a good deal harder than rubbing your belly while patting your head, but Stack never missed a beat. Add to that Jenn Wasner’s honeyed voice, and space rock guitar riffs, and you’ve got a template for the galactic anthems of Shriek, the duo’s fourth studio album. It comes out April 29th on Merge.
Our inaugural SXSW showcase was a success! There’s no way we could thank everyone involved, but extra special thanks go out to eight bands who came from all over the world to play breathtaking sets for us and for our fans:
Worst Venue to Throw a Showcase: Upstairs on Trinity
It’s not actual a venue, it’s a wine bar. After reading the fine print on a very misleading contract, we learned that we’d have to rent an entire soundsystem to even have a show. We had to hire our own sound guy too. Even after pulling off both these feats (no easy task considering our out-of-town status), we weren’t allowed to set up until after 7pm, pushing our showcase back an hour. There weren’t even extension cords at the “venue” so I had to haul ass down 6th to a CVS to purchase whatever they had in stock. When psych rockers Electric Eye finally took the stage, their unravelling guitars definitely eased my frayed nerves.
Followed by Cheerleader’s uplifting pop punk, I was starting to feel a little better – until technical difficulties resurfaced. Live, learn and shrug it all off with some whiskey, that’s what I always say.
By the time we worked out our sound issues and Samsaya hit the area where a stage might have been in an actual club, I was admittedly wasted, but not enough that I failed to notice how inventive her acoustic set was, featuring musicians from all over the world, and how everyone in attendance – including the bartenders – responded to it. Leverage Models followed her lead, encouraging some seriously rowdy dancing with their artful antics, only helped by the (still) flowing libations. I didn’t get any decent pictures of the dance party because of the shitty lighting but also because, you know… libations. It all ended with me crying alongside I35, unable to get a cab, unidentified cables draped around my neck like someone’s pet python, ’til a random Austinite took pity on us and gave us a lift back to The Enterprise where I passed out in bed still wearing a leather jacket. We go to pick up our equipment the next day and the venue attempted to overcharge us for an event they had no business booking in the first place and hijacked our rented equipment as collateral while we disputed the bill. The process of getting it back took up a significant chunk of the rest of the week. All in all, it presents a gross example of the worst of SXSW profiteering. But wonderful performances from the bands who played the showcase are what saved the day, so big thanks to them!
Best Random Austin Moment: Salute!
Embattled with the venue from Hell, I was feeling a bit depressed – in part because the show hadn’t gone as planned, we’d inconvenienced Austin friends kind enough to give us rides while juggling insane work schedules, but also because I was missing out on a lot of bands I wanted to check out while going through the whole retracted process. I smoked some weed a bartender had given me the night before, ate a veggie burrito from Chillitos, and stumbled into The Vortex, a theater/bar in a barn hosting a party that featured Italian bands and a Patrizi’s food truck. I sat in the sun and took in the sounds of Omosumo, an electronic outfit that could be the lovechild of Led Zeppelin & Daft Punk sent away to boarding school in Palermo.
Runner Up: When Red 7 played The Hold Steady on the soundsystem right before The Hold Steady played
Queerest Showcase: Y’all or Nothing, Presented by Mouthfeel & Young Creature
Listed as a showcase for “not-so-straight shooters” the bill at Cheer-Up Charlies on Saturday night was stacked beginning-to-end with impressive performers, thoughtfully culled from queer scenes in Austin and beyond. There was a palpable feeling of community and camaraderie in the air and the evening was all about fun. Gretchen Phillips’ Disco Plague opened the night on the outdoor stage, situated in a white-stone grotto that forms the venue’s patio. Her improv dance-punk got the entire crowd going. Meanwhile, performance art duo Hyenaz brought glammed up electro to the inside stage, and it only got crazier from there. Austinites Mom Jeans‘ quirky pop punk had me beaming; they dedicated songs to John Waters, weed, and Satan. Leda introduced her band Crooked Bangs with the declaration “I’m a woman, and I don’t know what that means” before proceeding to mesmerize everyone watching with bass playing so nimble I still can’t get over it. BLXPLTN’s industrial punk-meets-hip-hop vibe is every bit as brutal as Death Grips, their lead single “Stop & Frisk” lambasting the racist practice. Big Dipper rapped. Ex Hex rocked. We deeply regret missing performances by TacocaT and Christeene and Sharon Needles due to some ongoing drama that needed taking care of. But we wish we could’ve stayed forever.
Not because I’m a stalker, just because they got to play early slots on some really rad bills. They were on point every time. Hopefully this means a lot more attention for the Philly-based trio in the upcoming year.
Best SXSW Tradition: Bridge Parties!
Night one I saw Perfect Pussy throw a bass into the Colorado while Meredith Graves wore a sparkly ball gown, followed by bang-up performances by Nothing and Ex-Cult.
Night two was the aforementioned fireworks display courtesy of John Dwyer while Tony Molina played. The cops don’t seem to care and I want to be friends with everyone on that bridge forever.
Best Venue for Charging Phones: Cheer Up Charlie’s
Newly inhabiting the former Club DeVille compound as Wonderland has taken over its old East Side location, this is a haven for anyone with a near-dead battery, though Hotel Vegas was a close second. Both had multiple outlets that were conveniently accessible (rather than behind a bar that forced you to bug your bartender every time you wanted to Instagram something), often times in full view of a stage where bands were playing so you didn’t have to miss the fun.
Worst Venue for Charging Phones: Red 7
Home of Brooklyn Vegan’s day parties, not only was capacity over-policed after Tyler, the Creator incited a riot at Scoot Inn, but Red 7 has a peculiar sparseness that makes finding outlets nearly impossible. And you couldn’t just hand your phone over to the bartender without paying a $5 charging fee. A particularly hostile sign on the sound booth discouraged the uncharged masses from inquiring therein. Now, I know you don’t have to be able to snap a selfie at a show to have a good time. I was content to simply watch these lovely performances with documenting them. But ranting and raving about newly discovered bands enriches that fun and hopefully generates some buzz for the artist, which is kind of the whole point of SXSW. And communicating with friends still waiting in lines outside is pretty paramount, so cell phones at shows count as a necessary evil and everyone kind of has to get used to it.
Best-Kept Secret: Chain-Drive
This little-gay-bar-that-could is hunkered on a quiet street off the main drag of Rainey District. Met Christeene and Gretchen Phillips and Big Dipper on Tuesday, but the venue hosted out-of-control, unique line-ups every night.
Most Inflated Price: $6.99 Non-Bank ATM fee at 7th & Red River.
As in, $2 more than non-badgeholder admission to a show steps away at Beerland, where I caught Connections before heading to Hotel Vegas for Forest Swords.
Number of Chase ATMS in the immediate downtown area: 2
That were able to dispense cash: 0
Best Food: Gonzo
Every year I have to stop by Gonzo’s food truck at the East Side Fillin’ Station for a “Pig Roast” – sweet pulled pork topped with provolone, tangy carrot slaw, and spicy brown mustard on Texas toast. As I ate my annual sammie I literally found myself thinking about how ingenious Texans were for inventing really thick white bread grilled with butter on it. Austin’s first-ever In-N-Out location was a close second, because a Double Double Animal Style really is a life-changer.
Best Metal Band We Stayed With But Didn’t See Live: Christian Mistress of Portland
They were all very nice but their hair made us jealous.
Best Movie We Saw While Charging Phones/Re-Charging Selves At Jackalope: Daughters of Darkness
Best Austinites: It’s a tie!
Jenn from Guitar Center rented us four monitors, two speakers with stands, six fifty foot cables, a sixteen channel mixer, two DI boxes, and two mics with stands within a days notice, and didn’t change us extra when a snafu with the shittiest venue in Austin forced us to keep it longer than we’d planned. In general she was super understanding, knowledgable, professional, and friendly.
Chris English of Haunted ATX gave us a lift whenever we needed it in a hearse tricked out into a six-seat limo. We flagged him down out of a cab line a mile long trying to get from the downtown Hilton to the South Lama for Ground Control’s famed Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge punk party. The TV in the back was playing Dune. The next night, after another bridge party was announced, we texted him for another ride and he showed within fifteen minutes, giving us the same deal. Then he came in with an assist in The Great Equipment Rescue of SX2014 when none of our friends were able to help us schlep our equipment from venue to where we were staying, and he gave us a mini-tour of an Austin cemetery because that’s what he normally uses the limo for – haunted tours of Austin.
Best Non-Austinite: Giselle from Vancouver
…who came to our Tuesday showcase. Bowled over by our line-up, she proclaimed it was one of the best at SXSW and couldn’t understand why anyone would “wait so long to see Jay-Z ” when they could have been partying with us. Giselle is a little older, probably in her 40’s or maybe early 50’s. Having recently entered my thirties, I’ve often wondered if I was too old to be so invested in such a youth-centric industry. Giselle gives zero fucks about that. She isn’t even in the industry; she told me she “just likes to go to shows”. She makes trips to Austin each year (as well as to New York for CMJ), travels for other events and festivals and attends shows at home, where she uses her iPhone to snap pics of up-and-coming bands she started finding “when the internet came around and made it easier to discover bands”. It might be that Giselle is actually myself from the future, sent to the showcase to give me the hope and reassurance I need to keep going. If that’s so, I’m here to tell you that based on her outfit, normcore will be bigger than ever in fifteen years.
Best Almost-Brushes With Celebrity:
I was invited to go to Willie Nelson’s ranch and was hoping to hang with the country legend, but thanks to the showcase debacle didn’t make the limo. Annie almost interviewed Debbie Harry of Blondie but the Queen of New Wave rescheduled and switched to over-the phone.
Number of Wrist-bands Accrued: Only one.
A friend said to me, “That’s kinda sad and kinda really amazing.” But between putting on our own showcases and going to everyone else’s, I didn’t have time to wait around in lines for wristbands, then wait for lines to get into a venue, then wait for lines to get to the patio of the venue where bands were actually performing. And in what little time I did have, I chose to attend smaller events that lacked the corporate sponsorship necessitating said lines and said wristbands. So someone else was the one to Instagram Lady Gaga getting puked on; meanwhile I got to see shows unobstructed by big-box advertising that felt way, way more personal and memorable. For instance: I closed out SXSW at The Owl, a DIY space on the East Side with Eagulls, Tyvek, and Parquet Courts headlining.
Number of Messages on Thursday morning asking if I was safe:
Lots & lots; truly felt loved. Our hearts go out to those that didn’t get a message back.
An Alphabetical List of Bands I Saw:
Amanda X, BLXPLTN, Big Dipper, Big Ups, Bo Ningen, The Casket Girls, Cheerleader, Coachwhips, Connections, Crooked Bangs, Dead Gaze, Eagulls, Electric Eye, Empires, Ex-Cult, Ex Hex, Far-Out Fangtooth, Fenster, Forest Swords, Future Islands, Gretchen’s Disco Plague, Guerilla Toss, Habibi, HighasaKite, The Hold Steady, Hundred Waters, Hyenaz, Jess Williamson, Juan Wauters, Kishi Bashi, Leverage Models, Mom Jeans, Nothing, Parquet Courts, Perfect Pussy, Pins, Potty Mouth, Residuels, Samsaya, September Girls, SOLDOUT, STRNGR, Tony Molina, Traams, Tyvek, Vadaat Charigim, Warm Soda, Weeknight, Wild Moccasins, Wildcat Apollo, Wye Oak, The Wytches, Young Magic[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
From elaborate roll-outs to surprise releases, 2013 was a banner year for comebacks, break-outs, break-ups, and overnight sensations. The fact that the most oblique content could cause rampant controversy to reverberate through the blogosphere turned every song into a story and made every story seem epic. At the heart of it all are the sounds that defined this particular calendar year, from electronic pop to punk rock to hip-hop to hardcore and everything in between.
It’s been a little over a year since Brooklyn’s very own Parquet Courts gave us their debut LP Light Up Gold, a release that has garnered a considerable amount of attention and approval from DIY enthusiasts and mainstream music publications alike. Since then, the band has built up quite an impressive resume consisting of a couple of mini-tours throughout Europe, much-talked about gigs at SXSW, Austin City Limits Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival, and even a stint opening up for alt-rock legends the Pixies at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom earlier this fall.
After much anticipation, the band finally released their follow-up EP Tally All The Things That You Broke on local indie label What’s Your Rupture? just earlier this week. The opening song, “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now,” kicks off with a punch of their signature stoner, indie-punk sound that quickly progresses into an addictive chorus “Toothache’s better than heartache, baby/I’ve figured that much out/And I thought I knew a thing or two about the blues/but you’ve got me wonderin’ now”, all accompanied by the shrill sounds of a recorder mimicking Andrew Savage’s vocals in the background.
“Descend (The Way)” continues with the same agile, garage punk stamina. In “The More It Works”, Savage entrances listeners with the ongoing, fervent proclamation “The more you use it, the more it works,” amongst the backdrop of obtrusive guitar feedback and piercing, frenzied riffs. Parquet Courts takes a break from their spazz-punk vigor for a moment and transitions into a 70’s post-punk, Richard Hell & Television-esque strut in “Fall On Yr Face” with a series of vocal snippets contorted by a number of effects. The biggest departure from the band’s ongoing garagey, post-punk sound throughout all of Tally All The Things That You Broke however, is in the final song “He’s Seeing Paths”. The band plays around with a simple (but nonetheless very catchy) hip-hop loop similar to what one would find on an earlier Beastie Boys record.
Although Parquet Courts wanders off from the stoner-punk sound on 2012’s highly-acclaimed Light Up Gold, Tally All The Things That You Broke gives us a glimpse into the band’s musical versatility and the desire to step away from the indie/post-punk/garage genre they’ve been pigeon-holed into.