Girls Rock Santa Barbara Interviews Bassist Nik West about her New LP Moody and Working with Prince

This year, Girls Rock Santa Barbara has developed The Summer of Love Internship, its first ever paid internship for teen girls and gender-expansive youth, which allows the organization to continue to provide a safe, collaborative environment in which to encourage lifelong skills like positive peer bonding and self-confident resilience. The internship, which lasts six weeks and pays each intern $500, offers six exciting and arts-focused disciplines: Record Label, Recording Artist, Social Media, Journalism, Photography, and Podcasting. Audiofemme is pleased to publish the following article, written by Andrea Li and Emma Hogarth, two interns from the Journalism program.

Most of the time, bass players are relegated to the sidelines, calmly keeping a rhythm while vocalists, guitarists – and even sometimes drummers – bask in the spotlight. Not so with Nik West, an iconic female bassist and vocalist who has made a name for herself through her exuberant stage presence and her incredible bass skills. In fact, she has even played bass for pop icon Prince, which just adds to her already lengthy resume. Just a few months ago, she released her sophomore album, Moody, which is full of groovy bass lines and funk influence. Some features on her album include bass legend Larry Graham and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana.

While the world is on pause due to quarantine, we had the chance to catch up with her and ask about her recent release, how her creative process differed from her previous album, and what influenced her spunky persona and funky music. We also had the chance to ask her about things going on in her personal life, like how she’s been dealing with quarantine, and how it felt to release an album that was so close to her heart.

GRSB: I loved your single “Bottom of the Bottle.” The track is so fun and you’re an impressive talent as a vocalist and incredible on the bass. What were your influences on this single?

NW: Thank you! That’s one of my favorites as well. I wrote that with a friend from the Netherlands. It was fun – basically, the song is about forgetting about your worries and just having fun and living in the moment instead of stressing about what you can’t change. The music video also shows the playfulness of this song. I was influenced by Katy Perry and her bright colors and characters for this song.

GRSB: Your latest album, Moody, focuses closely on your personality and your experiences in life. How would you describe the feeling of being vulnerable and exposing your inner thoughts through music?

NW: For me, it was hard. I am such a strong person who sees the best in literally everything and everyone, so when I started writing some of this music, I decided to really let go and let people see who I am inside. I’m strong, yet fragile at the same time. The “fragile” part is the part that has always been hidden, but I brought it to the front on “Tears” and I led with that.

GRSB: Did you learn anything while producing your first album, Just in the Nik of Time? If so, how did you apply that to the writing and production of Moody?

NW: Yes! I learned so much! To be brief, when I did my first album, I had never really recorded bass. I had never been a session player and I realized quickly that it is very different from playing live. You have to be alive yet robotic at the same time so that you really lock into the groove. When playing live, there is a little more room to just be free and not so stuck on perfection.

GRSB: How was your recording and writing process for Moody different from your previous releases?

NW: This time, I wanted to take the reins of the entire creative process. This is my second album so putting all of my ideas and thoughts into it was important. It took me over two years to record it since I was on tour so much. But I’m super proud of it.

GRSB: Throughout your album there are many songs with a heavy funk influence, so much so that you have even been referred to as the future of funk. What does that mean to you?

NW: Well, funk music came from the concept of making something out of nothing. When you take all of the major pieces away that you hear with pop music (vocals, piano, guitar, etc), you’re left with the bare bones: the bass and the beat. That’s what funk is built on. That’s why funk is so heavy with groove. The bass and drums drive the song and those are generally the instruments that make people dance on the dance floor, whether people know it or not. The bass line is in front and it carries the song and it’s what people feel most when they dance.

GRSB: Prince is quoted as saying, “She inspires me. Great visual, great stage presence” about you. Coming from a music icon, what does that mean to you? As a huge fan of Prince myself, I also would like to know how was your experience recording at the famed Paisley Park?

NW: That’s huge! Especially coming from one of the kings of stage presence and inspiration. There will never be another like him. I peed on myself when he first called me (just a little bit). He flew me out the next day to come and jam with him… but apparently, it was really an audition. I was SUPER nervous but he made me feel comfortable and even made me laugh so I got through it. He walked me to his office and told me that if I wanted the job, it was mine. Anyway, that’s the short version, but he was unlike any other person I’d ever met.

GRSB: How would your younger self feel about working with bass legend Larry Graham on the single “Thumpahlenah”? Did you ever expect to work with him on anything?

NW: My younger self wasn’t even into music much! I wanted to draw and paint. I was into fashion and math. Music never even crossed my mind. But I always knew that whatever I did, I’d rise to the top because I’ve always been a hard worker. I wanted to be the top in my class. So I knew I’d get a lot of opportunity by working hard, but Larry Graham and Prince? I never would have imagined that! That was something that you say out loud and then laugh about it because you know it’s so far fetched.

GRSB: What are some ways you’ve been coping with self-isolation during this worldwide pandemic?

NW: I’m so used to touring and never being home (which I love so much) that I never get to follow through with projects that I want to start. So I took the time during self isolation to follow through with some things. I just created an online bass course for beginners. I recorded about 100 video lessons for all of the people that have been asking me to teach them how to play. I’ve also gotten stronger physically. I’ve been working out consistently and I have definitely seen the results. I’ve spent more time with my family as well. So when it is time to go back on tour, I will be happy in knowing I’ve got my projects completed… finally!

GRSB: Many people mention your riveting stage presence – how would you compare your on-stage persona to your everyday self?

NW: My everyday self is crazy. I dream big, I smile big, I go hard, I’m full of energy, and I love fashion and being characters! When I had more time, I did a lot of TV commercials so jumping into character is something I’ve always loved. And being onstage is just definitely just an extension of my natural self.

GRSB: In many other interviews, you’ve mentioned that you’ve had self-doubt throughout your career. How did you overcome this doubt as you grew more popular?

NW: I don’t think the doubt ever leaves, at least for me, but, I just don’t focus on it so much. I still get nervous with certain people. Stanley Clarke wanted to interview me last month, I got nervous. Flea dm’d me and said he wanted to work with me, I got nervous. But I jump anyway. Anytime I’d ever been super nervous and jumped anyway, it’s been a life changer.

GRSB: Can you share your experience as a woman in the music industry? What challenges have you faced?

NW: Being a woman in the music industry has its perks. I have heard horror stories of women facing discrimination and sexism, but I’ve just flown past a lot of it because I have dealt with discrimination my whole life so it was almost as if nothing changed anyway. I walk into a room knowing that I’m the only one that can do what I do… and do it the way I do it. No one else can do me like I can do me. I think that kind of confidence is attractive to everyone. Know your worth and negotiate accordingly. Of course you’re gonna get those guys that just want to try to take advantage of women, but that’s in every industry and it was clear that I wasn’t playing those games. Either they wanted to work with me or not. If it was a no, I was fine with that too. When people sense that you’re fine with or without them, that’s when they want to give you everything.

GRSB: Who are your top three female musical inspirations, and what aspects of their music have influenced you?

NW: I love Rhonda Smith. She was the bass player for Prince for so long. I love how she plays and I love how she performed with Prince. She is so tiny, but she packs a mean groove. I also love Orianthi, she was one of my first friends when I moved to LA. I house sat for her while she was on tour and watched her dogs for months at a time. She is an amazing guitarist and has always been a cool friend. Cindy Blackman-Santana who played drums with Lenny Kravitz for so many years has also been such an inspiration. There’s a sax player named Grace Kelly that I’ve collaborated with that is so dope to me. She gets into character with bright clothes and hair like me, so she’s my Asian sister!

GRSB: What are some goals that you’re hoping to accomplish before the end of 2020, and how has quarantine affected these goals?

NW: Ha! My album was released. We planned a whole campaign and tour around it. I tour in Europe a lot and when you have a new release, it’s a game changer. So we had all of these plans and all of these shows surrounding the album and then I was going to take a break, record some bass lessons, and hang out some more with my family but all of the shows got moved to next summer, so next summer it is! Everything worked out okay.

Follow Nik West on Facebook for ongoing updates.

RSVP HERE: Hnry Flwr Livestreams via + MORE

Photo by Carla Maldonado @carlamaldonado x

Hnry Flwr is Brooklyn’s musical guru guiding us towards the mystery and beauty of the infinite void. Hnry Flwr is the musical project of David Van Witt, and he has quite the origin story – his first impression of this world was living in a cult in Iowa, which he fled with his artist mother who gave psychic readings as they meditated and traveled around the world. Van Witt left home when he was 16, and after observing the divine connection music initiates in people at a punk show, has “been writing songs and practicing a sort of secular spirituality, where music is the prayer, ever since.”

Hnry Flwr’s twangy sunshine goth gospel is usually brought to life with a seven-piece band that includes Abdon Valdez III, Ronnie Lanzilotta, Dallin Stevenson and Sarah Safaie, but since quarantine began, Van Witt (who is also a producer) has been creating his own backing tracks and even started a twitch channel. The next chance you have to feel all the love the void has to offer with Hnry Flwr is tonight (5/15) via at 8pm est! We chatted with Hnry Flwr about inducing trance states, minimalist drone raga, and the importance of laughing with salamanders.

AF: What were your last live shows before quarantine like? What do you think your live set will transform into when we’re able to play shows in person again?

HF: Our last show in NYC before the quarantine was incredible — a sold out show at The Sultan Room. I did a trust-fall into the audience and everyone caught me. Our live set is going to include way more hugging and trust-falling and I want to include a portion of the set for people to go into a deep trance. I want to explore the void with people. We will find a way to lose ourselves together, rather than find ourselves alone.

AF: If you had control of all the radios/TVs/cell phones all over the world for 30 seconds what would you say?

HF: I would generate a mass flash trance to see if we can’t be still and quiet and hear what the void has to say.

AF: What have you been reading and listening to while in quarantine?

HF: If it’s not obvious by now, I’ve been reading a book about inducing trance states. I’ve been listening to the birds when I can. I love when they come back north. Somehow I’m still surprised by it every year. But as far as music, almost exclusively Pure Moods Volume 1.

AF: What’s your live stream gear set up like? Do you have any fun props or lighting planned?

HF: I set up my monochromatic light sculpture. It emits one very dark shade of yellow, the one from sunset right before the reds and purples. What’s special about it is it omits all other colors. These things are possible if you explore The Void with an open mind.

I make new backing tracks every week so I can feel like I’m playing with a band. So many artists are doing “stripped-down” sets, which can be really special, but for me, I try to use it as an opportunity to have whatever perfect band I can imagine backing me up every week. It’s a great time to be exercising your imagination.

AF: If you found out you were immortal what other musical projects/careers/lifestyles would explore?

HF: I would have a really loud minimalist drone raga band, and then when all my family had passed on I’d live on a mountain near a stream and I wouldn’t do anything for as long as it takes to find a silent ancient wisdom. Then I would be a painter in honor of my mother.

AF: I love your music video for “Waiting Room!” It feels like our whole reality is stuck in a waiting room right now. What do you think lies on the other side for music, politics, spirituality and humanity as whole?

HF: Thank you. We have always been in the waiting room of the great beyond. I think the future is just as unsure as it was before the pandemic. It’s always unsure. We are just forced to face that uncertainty together now. There are a lot of people who need answers about the future to feel secure in the present. I’m not sure what the future holds. My mother was giving psychic readings for most of my childhood and even if they were accurate, I am not sure that it helped anyone. It certainly did not help her or our family. This is a good time to be present, to take care of yourself and your loved ones and try not to worry about the future. In your mind, find a stream and sit next to it. Listen to it. Laugh with the salamanders.

RSVP HERE for Hnry Flwr via 5/15 at 8pm est. $5-$50 sliding scale 

More great live streams this week…

5/15-5/16 Prince 1985 Purple Rain Tour via Youtube. RSVP HERE

5/16 Beach Slang via Stageit. 5pm est, RSVP HERE

5/16 Frankie Cosmos via 9pm est, $5-$50, RSVP HERE

5/16 Courtney Barnett, Georgia Man, June Jones + more via Instagram (Covid-19 mutual aid fundraiser). 5am est, RSVP HERE

5/17 Elliott Smith (Heaven Adores You film screening) via Twitter.  5pm est, RSVP HERE

5/18 Diet Cig via Echo Eco Wine Instagram 8pm est, RSVP HERE

5/19 Alanis Morissette (performing Jagged Little Pill) via Facebook. 8pm est, RSVP HERE 

5/21 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah via Twitch. 8pm est, RSVP HERE

How I Fell in Love With 7-inch Singles and Why They Still Matter

ONLY NOISE explores music fandom with poignant personal essays that examine the ways we’re shaped by our chosen soundtrack. This week, Beth Winegarner flips through an old collection and finds it relevant even today.

When I was a teenager, I had a ritual every Saturday afternoon. My mom and I would go to Coddingtown, the Santa Rosa shopping center immortalized on Primus’ Brown Album, and I would make a beeline for International Imports, which sold rock-band posters and T-shirts and had a small, well-curated rack of 7-inch vinyl singles.

I was methodical. I would flip through the singles alphabetically, fingertips brushing against the colorful paper sleeves, working my way from A-Ha to Dweezil Zappa. I wasn’t a completist; I didn’t need copies of every single, not even every single by my favorite musicians. With an allowance of five bucks a week, I couldn’t afford to be.

My love of music started when I was about 10, with albums like Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, Duran Duran’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger and Madonna’s self-titled debut. I spent my afternoons and weekends listening to them over and over, flipping the cassettes every 20 minutes in my cheap plastic boombox. When an album didn’t come with a lyric sheet, I would lie on the floor in my room with a notepad and pencil, the tape deck close by, stopping the tape after every line to write down the words, rewinding when I needed to hear it again to puzzle out what they were singing.

Music dropped me straight down into my feelings, which were swirling thanks to puberty. Music made me want to cry, laugh, move my body. It made me want to kiss the boy in my class that I’d had a crush on since fourth grade. I felt it in my heart, my belly, my arms and legs, my stomping feet. Nothing else came close to making me feel so good, or feel so much.

Sometimes I saved up my money to buy full albums on cassette, but there was always a risk that those albums were just a few hit songs and a lot of boring filler. Seven-inch singles were cheaper, and you were guaranteed at least one good song; often the B-side was great, but other times it was a dud. Partly because of the posters and t-shirts, International Imports was my favorite place to shop for singles, even though it didn’t always have the best selection. Some Saturdays the rack looked like it had been picked clean by collectors, down to its last Debbie Gibson or Phil Collins 45s.

Over time, I built a small collection of about 50 singles, several of which are now considered classics. Among them are Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” (backed with “I’d Die For You”), The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” (b/w “Breathe,” which I immediately loved more than its poppy, whirling A-side), INXS’s “Devil Inside” (b/w “On The Rocks,” an unreleased track) and Prince’s “When Doves Cry” (b/w “17 Days”).

Many others are one-hit wonders only a teenager in the mid-1980s could love. Does anyone else remember Icehouse’s “Electric Blue,” Noel’s “Like a Child,” Times Two’s “Strange But True,” The System’s “Don’t Disturb This Groove” or Pebbles’ “Girlfriend?” If you’re a true aficionado of ‘80s music, sure. I have them all on 7-inch vinyl, and I’m not sure I would still remember them if I didn’t.

Although we shopped regularly in Santa Rosa, a medium-sized Northern California city, I lived 12 miles away in Forestville, an unincorporated town that had a population of just a few thousand. We didn’t get access to cable television – and hence MTV – until 1987. Before then, I relied on popular radio stations and the DJs at our school dances to find out about new music, and as a result my tastes were strictly mainstream. The vast majority of the singles I bought were from stars popular with teens, including Tiffany, Duran Duran, Madonna and Wham! But several are a reminder of how R&B and rap mingled with pop at the top of the charts, then as now: Rockwell, Terence Trent D’Arby, New Edition, Billy Ocean, Salt N’ Pepa.

The Saturday-afternoon Coddingtown visits were only part of the ritual. Once we got home, I would immediately listen to any singles I’d picked up. We had a respectably nice Sony record player in our family room, although that meant either subjecting my parents and little brother to the latest hits, or sitting on the floor with headphones as the songs played in my ears, since the cord didn’t reach to the couch or my dad’s recliner. More commonly, I listened to them in my room with the doors closed. I had one of those portable turntables that folds up like a small plastic suitcase, the outside decorated to look like it was made of patchwork denim. The turntable’s small, single speaker made everything sound tinny and far away, but being able to enjoy my favorite songs on my own terms made up for a lot.

I dreamed of buying a jukebox – I could load all my 45s in it, and choose among them at the push of a button! The sound quality would be much better, and I could listen to a dozen songs in a row without having to get up and change the record every three to five minutes. I had no idea, at the time, how much a jukebox would cost. Finally I saw one listed in my dad’s Sharper Image catalogue, and my heart stopped when I saw the price: about $10,000. There was no way I would ever be able to afford that, and no way I could convince my parents to buy one for me.

My love of 45s came just as the format was on its way out. Seven-inch singles existed throughout the 20th century, and were hugely popular in the 1950s through the 1970s, when they made popular music easily portable for the first time. Sales were already on the wane by the 1980s, although it was still standard procedure for pop artists to release their latest hits on 45-rpm vinyl. Some record companies lured buyers by wrapping the singles in a large poster, folded to create a kind of envelope, although that left you without a sleeve if you wanted to put the poster up. My copy of Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” spends its days in a sleeve I made out of printer paper after I pinned the promotional poster to my wall. The poster is long gone, but the paper sleeve I made remains.

Seven-inch singles carried me through from the beginning of my passion for music until 1987, the year I turned 14. It was a year of big shifts, both for me and for the 7-inch single. That was the year American record companies largely abandoned vinyl singles in favor of the cassette single, the unfortunately nicknamed “cassingle.” It was also the year I gained access to MTV and the year I entered high school, leaving my pre-teen tastes behind me. Glam-metal and hard rock were on the rise, particularly bands such as Dokken, Poison, Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue and Whitesnake. My collection of 45s reflects this; some of my last purchases include “Wanted Dead Or Alive” and Def Leppard’s “Love Bites” (b/w a live version of “Billy’s Got a Gun”).

International Imports stopped selling 7-inch singles and I stopped buying them, although I kept visiting for things like posters and shirts, plus more “international” items like funky jewelry and nag champa incense. I turned away from pop and R&B and towards anything featuring electric guitars and scruffy-looking male howlers. And instead of buying cassingles – which needed flipping just as often as a 45 but lacked the elegant ritual of moving the needle, turning the vinyl over and setting the needle in the groove – I recorded videos from MTV’s Hard 60 and Headbanger’s Ball and watched them repeatedly until my tapes just about gave out.

I still have all my 45s, tucked alphabetically inside a specially designed box on a shelf with the rest of my vinyl records. I rarely listen to them anymore, but I can’t bear to sell them or give them away. A few musicians today release their singles on 7-inch records, mainly as collectors items, but it’s rarely musicians whose music I love. The most recent vinyl single in my hoard is “Backworlds” by Lusk, a psychedelic rock band co-founded by former Tool bassist Paul D’Amour; I received it as a promo when I wrote a feature about Lusk in 1997.

Record collecting is often thought of as a man’s activity, epitomized in Nick Horby’s High Fidelity (and the movie based on it). There’s an assumption that only men would be so obsessive, so knowledgeable, so nerdy – or that it’s a club to which women are not allowed to belong. As academic Emily Easton has pointed out, research on record collecting has pretty much excluded women, even though there are plenty of female vinyl nerds out there. “Records remain one of the most important forms of objectified cultural capital in many musical communities because they have been recognized as a symbol of musical expertise and investment,” Easton says. “Understanding how women have participated in these practices contributes to an emerging body of knowledge on the experience of the female music fans and connoisseurs.”

Flipping through the singles at International Imports, it never occurred to me that my passion for collecting 45s might make me part of an unusual or under-recognized family of music fans (I mean, when Rob Gordon says he’s rearranging his albums chronologically, I knew exactly what he meant). I only knew I was following my 10-, 12-, or 14-year-old heart, bringing home the songs I loved in a format that felt good in my hands and sounded good on the turntable. Knowing now that female vinyl collectors have been sidelined and ignored makes me want to clutch my records to my chest in defiance and never give them up. Maybe someday I’ll buy myself that jukebox after all. I’ll push the buttons, flip “Pump Up The Volume” by M/A/R/R/S or “Paranoimia” by Art of Noise (featuring Max Headroom) onto the player, and dance.

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”

NEWS ROUNDUP: No More Hate…Policy, YouTube Copyright & More

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Prince would’ve turned 60 on 6/7; his estate will release Piano and a Microphone 1983 in September.

No More Hate…Policy, New Releases & More

By Jasmine Williams

Spotify Says “JK!”

In a continuation of last week’s story, Spotify has completely walked back their recently introduced “hateful content and conduct” policy. The streaming giant announced their decision via a blog post stating that they “don’t aim to play judge and jury” and citing “vague” language that created “confusion and concern” as the reason for abandoning the policy. Critics of the policy accused the platform of censorship and racism; the first and only three artists singled out by the rule were R. Kelly, Tay-K, and XXXTentacion – black males, not yet convicted of their accused crimes.

Spotify’s decision to rescind their policy has also been met with criticism. While only a half measure – the “hate conduct” rule seemed like a step in the right direction for many involved in the #MeToo movement. While Spotify cites ethical reasons for cancelling its new rule, the action could also be seen as yet another example of the music industry pandering to money over the fight against misogyny and sexual harassment. Spofity’s decision to reverse the policy came only days after it was reported that Top Dawg Entertainment (Kendrick Lamar’s label) threatened to remove their artists’ music from the app, while Pitchfork’s Jillian Mapes points out that Sony (R. Kelly’s record label) is a Spotify shareholder.

YouTube Vs. Copyright Infringement

In a preliminary ruling with potentially big implications, the Vienna Commercial Court found that YouTube is at least partly liable for copyright infringement in videos uploaded by the streaming platform’s independent users. YouTube says that it does what it can to prevent copyright-infringing videos from remaining on the site, but that as a “neutral platform” it can’t completely control its users or the content they upload. The court disagrees, thanks to that innocuous little “Up Next” sidebar to the right of the main video that suggests additional content based on whatever the viewer happens to be watching, or has watched in the past. Because the courts see this as helping to determine what viewers watch, they say it nullifies YouTube’s neutrality.

What does all of this mean? It means YouTube could be forced to ramp up its monitoring efforts or face strict fines. Though the hearing in question revolved around Austrian TV channel Puls4, this could change what users see (and upload) on the streaming site the world over.

Meanwhile, the infamous “Dancing Baby” case has been settled after eleven years of back-and-forth between Universal Music and a mom who uploaded a video of her toddler getting his groove on while Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” played in their kitchen. With the kid in question about to enter middle school, the Vienna ruling might’ve put blame on the shoulders of YouTube itself.

Oldies but Goodies?

A recent survey in Britain came to the conclusion that most people stop listening to new music after the age of thirty. Music streaming service, Deezer, surveyed 1,000 people and found that more than sixty percent of them mainly listened to music they discovered before the big 3-0.

Break out of the mold and check out brand new music below!

That New New

Shannon and the Clams vocalist and namesake Shannon Shaw released her solo album, Shannon in Nashville, today. She’ll play some solo shows before reconnecting with her band for live shows this summer.

Yesterday Prince would have turned 60. Perhaps in memory of the occasion, his estate announced the upcoming release of Piano & A Microphone 1983, an album of stripped back, previously unheard music.

Lily Allen stays real on her brand new album, No Shame.

Smashing Pumpkins reunited for “Solara,” their first new single in more than fifteen years!

Death Grips shared the newest track from Year of the Snitch and confirmed the release date for the LP (6/22).

End Notes

  • Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s new album, Kids See Ghosts, released last night via another livestream via another app.
  • A 55-year old original John Coltrane recording has been unearthed and will see release by the end of the month.
  • Afropunk announced their full Brooklyn lineup, including “Special Guest TBA”  Kaytranada!
  • Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon launched a new platform and used it to release music from a new project.
  • M. Ward released surprise LP What A Wonderful Industry, putting to song 20-plus years of music industy beef.
  • Queen mother Dolly Parton announced an upcoming Netflix series based on her songs.


NEWS ROUNDUP: The Return of Kanye West & More

Kanye West, The Latest Releases & More

By Jasmine Williams

The Return of Mr. West

Kanye West has been largely silent since the end of 2016, when he was hospitalized for a mental health emergency following a series of outbursts and the early cancellation of a major tour. This week, Kanye West made his unofficial return to the cultural zeitgeist with a slew of tweets announcing two new albums. During an interview with his interior designer last Friday, West exhibited his latest reincarnation – Zen Kanye. He told Axel Vervoordt, “I don’t wish to be number one anymore – I wish to be water.”

That New New

Happy 420! There’s a lot of new music out for you to ponder while you celebrate the greenest of holidays today. Dream beautiful, sad dreams with cellist-singer-model Kelsey Lu’s latest release, “Shades Of Blue” and “Quiet, The Winter Harbor,” from Mazzy Star. Temper your weird munchies cravings with CupcakKe’s new song, “Spoiled Milk Titties.” Get excited by streaming Half Waif and Speedy Ortiz’ new albums one week ahead of their April 27th releases. Feel the nostalgic feels with the return of Lykke Li. The “Little Bit” singer released two new tracks this week. Get crazy with Britkids Let’s Eat Grandma – they announced their new album’s June 29th release date, a new tour, and shared a new song, “It’s Not Just Me.”

You may have slept on Father John Misty’s brief album leak two days ago but you can listen to two brand new FJM tracks now. His next LP drops June 1st. A few weeks ago, the Pitchfork music festival lineup was released and Lauryn Hill emerged as a headliner, with plans to play a reunion show of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. This week, the “That Thing” singer announced that she will embark on a full tour to support her singular 1998 album. Neko Case has also made plans to hit the road in support of her upcoming album, Hell-On, out June 1st. Tickets for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ North American tour are on sale now.

End notes:

  • Record Store Day is tomorrow, April 21st! Check out Brooklyn Vegan’s event guide for NYC happenings on Saturday.
  • Old school hip-hop is getting a lot of love. A week after Ghostface Killah played at a Bushwick-area White Castle, MTV announced the return of Yo! MTV Raps, and New York’s Summerstage lineup was released —it features a whole lot of artists from rap’s golden era.
  • Distraction tactics? Shortly after prosecutors announced that they would not push criminal charges in the case of Prince’s death, his estate release a long disappeared 1984 recording of Nothing Compares 2 U. Sinead O’ Connor cemented the song’s fame with her version in 1990.

  • Marking another hip-hop first, Kendrick Lamar received the Pulitzer Prize for music for his seminal album, DAMN.
  • Janelle Monae’s next album, Dirty Computer, is out next week. The “PYNK” singer recently sat down with The New York Times to talk about Prince, her sexuality, and her upcoming record. She released new single “I Like That” earlier this week.

  • Bernie Sanders continues the pop culture and politics love affair. On Wednesday, The Vermont Senator tweeted his support for Cardi B’s recent statements on social security.


VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Courtney Barnett “City Looks Pretty” & More

Courtney Barnett will release her sophomore record Tell Me How You Really Feel on May 18 via Mom + Pop, Marathon Artists and Barnett’s label, Milk! Records. For the release of her third single from the album, “City Looks Pretty,” Barnett created what feels like a ’90s throwback video collage.

As fans may have noticed from her last video for “Nameless, Faceless,” Barnett loves to incorporate the element of collage. In “City Looks Pretty” Barnett uses the tool again as she pushes together a variety of different kinds of footage, making a video painting of textures and emotions.

For those of you who can’t wait until May 18 to pick up the full record, “City Looks Pretty” will be available as a Record Store Day release on April 21. The 12” single also features another track from Barnett’s forthcoming album as a b-side, “Sunday Roast.”

Singer/songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou teams up with fellow Berlin street performer in this bluesy single “Devil’s Sweetheart.” It seems fitting that these two street artists would choose circus performers to visually represent music.

We all miss Prince, to be sure, but sometimes when one of your favorite artists passes on you are granted an all-access pass to their past. In this new video for Prince’s song “Nothing Compares 2 U” fans are given a chance to take in never before released footage from Prince’s rehearsals.

Yuno first received notoriety from years of releasing songs via bandcamp. Now signed to SubPop records, his single “No Going Back” was received with enthusiasm from the music community. He’s following it up with another song and video from his album, Moodie, which comes out June 15.

Hailing from Toronto, MorMor combines a variety of musical influences to bring his latest single to life. The psychedelic sounds of MorMor’s shoegazey, airy, dreamlike style slip fluidly into this colorful, abstract video.

NEWS ROUNDUP: The Grammys, New Study on Gender Disparity in Music & More

  • The Grammy Awards

    On Sunday night, the music industry’s most momentous ceremony returns to New York City after ten years in Los Angeles. The 60th Grammy Awards will be held at Madison Square Garden and this year the pressure is on for the Recording Academy to prove that they are still relevant within the cultural zeitgeist. In 2016, Taylor Swift’s 1989 was awarded album of the year over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. The win prompted many, including Frank Ocean, to accuse The Academy of shutting out minorities. In a move that Ocean called his “Colin Kaepernick moment” he declined to submit his seminal sophomore album, Blonde, for 2017 consideration. This action was echoed by Drake who did not enter his immensely popular Views into the competition. A year later, at the 2017 ceremony, a collective “WTF!?” was felt across the music industry yet again when Album of the Year was awarded to Adele’s 25 (herself in disbelief) over Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

    This year, everyone is wondering if the Recording Academy will finally give artists of color the credit they are due. Will trophy wins match the Billboard charts, which have have proven that we are living in the age of hip-hop and R&B? If the nominations are any indication, all signs point to yes. Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Bruno Mars are all up for album of the year (no rapper has ever won the honor). The last time that four non-white artists were included in this category was in 2005. However, we still have to ask, “Where the women at?” Lorde is the single female nominee in the group. In contrast, the 2018 Best New Artist selection bodes well for racial diversity and gender equality. SZA, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Alessia Cara, and Julia Michaels round out that category.

  • Gender Disparity In The Music Industry

    A new study by USC Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism has confirmed something we already knew: women are vastly underrepresented in the music industry. To make its conclusion, the study analyzed the gender make-up of songwriters, performers, and producers of top-charting songs on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for a five-year period. From 2012-2017, female songwriters counted for only 12.3 percent of those hits; 22.4 percent of the performers were women. The study found that different veins of gender inequality within the music industry are all linked. It’s a chain reaction – female artists tend to work with female songwriters more than male artists do. Less ladies on stage mean less ladies behind the lyrics. However, the biggest industry disparity is present in the recording studio. Only two-percent of producers credited for the Billboard hits were women. In other words, male producers outnumbered the ladies, forty-nine to one.

    The Annenberg school is hoping that by highlighting these numbers, the music industry will be called to action and put hiring practices in place that are more beneficial to women.

  • RIP Mark E. Smith (March 5, 1957 – January 24, 2018)

    On Wednesday, post-punk legend Mark E. Smith passed away at the age of sixty. As lead singer and founder of The Fall, the Manchester musician was a complicated figure whose immense talent and vitriolic disposition simultaneously captivated and repelled his greatest collaborators & fans. Smith formed the Fall in 1976 after seeing the Sex Pistols in concert. Before his death, he churned out thirty-two records with a rotating cast of band members. Despite a lack of commercial success, the Fall proved to be a defining influence for future generations of punks and indie-rockers. The Fall’s last release New Facts Emerge came out last year.

  • Other Highlights

    According to Prince’s estate adviser, Troy Carter, the world will one day hear new music from the late musician. However, there’s no telling when the unreleased material will be available to the public as it is tied up in legal battles between record labels, Prince’s legal heirs, and his estate. Sir Elton John has announced that he will retire from touring but you still have several years to catch him on the road. The seventy-year-old Rocket Man will bid his farewell by playing three-hundred shows over the next three years. Two pop heavy-hitters gave us videos this week: Lady Gaga released the clip for a piano-centric version of “Joanne” while Justin Timberlake prompted Bon Iver comparisons (and insults) with “Say Something.” JT’s vid is produced and directed by La Blogothèque, the French collective best known for their YouTube performance series, the Take Away shows. The #MeToo movement is quickly making waves in music industry. This week, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and rapper Nelly were accused of sexual assault. Simmons has vehemently denied the accusations; Nelly has yet to make a statement.

    The Misfits may be returning to NYC with their original lineup. On January 26, Live Nation tweeted “#ALLHELLSGONNABREAKLOOSE” accompanied by the iconic skull logo in the shape of New Jersey, the band’s home state. Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff paid tribute to the late Dolores O’Riordan by releasing covers of The Cranberries’ hits “No Need To Argue” and “Zombie.” Due to overwhelming demand, indie darlings Haim have added a second Radio City date to their Sister Sister Sister tour. They also released a new video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. This month has been great for new albums – Hollie Cook, No Age, and Ty Segall all released new material today. No Age will be playing in Brooklyn on May 2.

PLAYING DETROIT: Snoh Aalegra Captivates El Club

Masses of R&B junkies flocked to Detroit’s beloved El Club this weekend to see Toronto’s Daniel Caesar. However, if the crowd came for the heavenly vocals, hooky chorus lines and earnest lyricism that Caesar has come to be known for, they were pleasantly surprised by his opener, Snoh Aalegra – the Swedish R&B-soul singer who was discovered by none other than Prince four years ago when she first came to the States to pursue her music career. With Prince as a mentor, Aalegra began to create her unique sound, inspired by Swedish pop sensibility, American R&B legends and Persian poetry.

“I always knew that I had to come here because R&B and soul is rooted in the states and I had to come here and work with the people who do it the best so I can become the best I can be,” saya Aalegra. So, she moved to LA in 2014 and signed with Sony almost right away. It wasn’t long before Aalegra realized the label was pushing her in a direction she didn’t want to go. Luckily, as fate would have it, The Purple One came to the rescue.

“Literally the day after I signed, Prince called Sony and was like, ‘Can I get in touch with this artist?’’’ Snoh reminisces. “I couldn’t believe it because he’s one of the major idols in my life… he was one of the biggest voices telling me to get out of my deal.” Free from the confines of a major label, Aalegra was able to write her music the way she wanted to, infusing the elements that make her unique – her multicultural background and love for classic R&B.

“I speak three languages and each language – Swedish, Farsi, English – has so much beauty and depth to it,” Aalegra explains. “Farsi is very, very deep. There’s certain things you can’t even translate.” Despite her diverse background, Aalegra says she was surrounded by American R&B from an early age. “My mom didn’t play so much Persian music at home,” says Aalegra. “She played Shirley Bassey and a lot of Whitney Houston and soul music, so I discovered that kind of music at home. But then, I got really into Persian poetry and I think that has affected my writing a lot.”

When writing a song, Aalegra pulls on the influence of her idols – she cites Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Brandi and Lauryn Hill – along with the emotional depth of her native tongue. Her efforts have paid off -in October, she released her debut full-length, FEELS, the follow-up to her 2016 EP Don’t Explain.

These multicultural muses and the fact that she writes all of her own music are what set Aalegra apart from other R&B divas. Performing on El Club’s modestly sized stage with a four piece band, Aalegra shone in a stripped down set that would otherwise expose the less talented. More traditionalist songs like “Fool For You” and “Nothing Burns Like the Cold” nod to Aalegra’s admitted Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston obsessions, while “You Got Me” and “Time” serve as a tribute to 90’s R&B. Throughout the show, Aalegra’s sultry voice floated through the decades with ease, creating a timeless sound that won’t soon be forgotten.


Somewhere in a parallel universe lives a Karma Comedian, a Cheerio Girl, and a one-winged dove. Dirty deeds are done by Thunder Chiefs, and Tony Danza holds us closer…so close. This is the Land of Misheard Lyrics, and it is a silly, silly place. Yet it is a place we are all familiar with, having suffered varying degrees of humiliation during our visits there.

For this installment of Only Noise, I reached out to my friends and fellow music journalists to ask: what lyrics have you tragically misheard in the past? And oh, how the gems rolled in. Some misinterpretations were almost universal in their familiarity. Take one colleague’s aural rendering of a Manfred Mann mega hit: “The best one has to be ‘wrapped up like a douche,’” she said. “I thought those were the lyrics to ‘Blinded By The Light’ for half my life.” I’m still convinced that’s what he’s saying, personally. In fact, if you played that song through text dictation, I bet five dollars the “douche” version would end up on your phone.

Some misinterpretations directly correlated to the age of the listener. For instance, a friend of mine admitted: “I used to think, as a child, that Prince’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’ was ‘Apple Dapple Do.’” Another pal misheard ABBA during “Take a Chance on Me.” “I used to think, when I was a kid, that the lyric ‘Honey I’m still free’ was ‘Olly oxen free.’” And perhaps my favorite instance of pop-music-through-the-ears-of-a-child: Madonna’s chart topping smash hit about a balanced breakfast: “Cheerio Girl.” Madonna wasn’t wrong (she rarely is) when she sang, “We are living in a Cheerio world/and I am a Cheerio girl.”

Similar such nonsense insisted that Steve Miller was not in fact singing “Oh, Oh big ol’ jet airliner” in “Jet Airliner,” but rather, “Bingo Jed had a lina,” whatever the hell that means. Who is this “Bingo Jed” anyhow? Some kind of gambling tycoon at the local retirement home? And what in God’s name is a lina? Only parallel universe Steve Miller can tell us.

The Land of Misheard Lyrics can be goofy, for sure, but it is also a realm of longing, proven by groups such as TLC, who once pleaded, “Don’t go, Jason Waterfalls!” And we must never forget the picturesque isolation painted by Stevie Nicks when she sang, “Just like the one-winged dove/Sings a song/Sounds like she’s singing/Ooo, ooo, ooo.” Those “Ooos” were merely the painful cries of a newly one-winged bird. Now she’ll have to apply for bird disability, and I don’t even know if that’s a thing.

If sad and silly are high rollers in the Land of Misheard Lyrics, then absurdity is king. Remember when Mick Jagger swore he’d never be “Your pizza burnin’,” or when ‘90s dance sensation Eiffel 65 confessed: “I’m blue and I beat up a guy”? Me too. Or what about the time all those “Dirty Deeds” were done by “The Thunder Chief”? Or how ‘bout that darn Karma Comedian, who was perpetually coming and going, for six choruses and a bridge? Ugh. Comedians.

But that’s just the PG side of things. Some folks heard lyrics that Freud would have a grand old time picking apart. Take Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ love ballad, “Sweetheart Come,” which a fellow music writer heard as, “Sweet Hot Cum.” To be fair, I don’t blame her for thinking that. I mean, have you ever listened to the lyrics of “Stagger Lee”? Pervy-ness abounds in the Land of Misheard Lyrics, where Ziggy Stardust can be found “Making love to an eagle,” and Sir Mix-a-Lot likes “Big butts in the candlelight.” Not fluorescent. Not incandescent. Specifically, only in candlelight. To Sir Mix-a-Lot’s nonexistent point, candles are the sexiest light source.

My personal best example of misinterpreted lyrics occurred at age 10, upon the release of “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” by Destiny’s Child. “Ladies leave your man at home,” Beyoncé and the other three sang, “the club is full of ballers and their COCK is full grown.” Say huh? How did this get past the FCC? I wondered. Did my mom, from whose car and therefore radio we were listening to such filth hear what I heard? Furthermore, if the club was full of ballers, and “their” cock was full grown, did that mean that these ballers possessed one, collective cock? The peoples’ cock? I needed answers. All I knew was one thing: you can’t say “cock” on the radio! Or could you? Was this profanity Beyoncé’s fault? Or the DJ’s for not bleeping out the “cock” word? Or was it as the great Jimmy Buffett once sang: “Some people claim that there’s a walnut to blame”? We may never know.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Reactions to Charlottesville, Prince’s Pantone Purple & More


  • Music + Politics: Responses To Charlottesville  

    The horrible events of last weekend show that change is necessary in this country. Here’s some ways the music world reacted to Charlottesville:

    Spotify is cracking down on racist bands. Yeah, unfortunately, white supremacists make music too, and it makes its way to streaming services. Earlier this week, after Digital Music News published a list of 27 white supremacists bands an author found on Spotify, Spotify removed many and is investigating the rest. The company stated, “material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us.”

    Wilco released “All Lives, You Say?” It’s a typically laid back Jeff Tweedy tune, but politically charged. A tribute to Tweedy’s father, buying the song will benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Johnny Cash’s family makes a statement. After a picture of a “self proclaimed neo-nazi” wearing a t-shirt with the singer’s name began circulating, his daughter Roseanne reiterated her late father’s passion for equality; the singer released an album about the inequality Native Americans faced in the 60’s, a risky career move. 

  • Prince Gets His Own Shade Of Purple

    Purple, associated with individualism, ambiguity, and of course, royalty, was a fitting color for Prince to embrace. This week, the Pantone Color Institute gave the late artist his own shade, dubbed “Love Symbol #2.” The symbol refers to the character Prince renamed himself as in the 90’s. As far as shades of purple go, “Love Symbol #2” is deep, dark and mysterious; a good fit for The Purple One.

LIVE REVIEW: Nikka Costa @ The Teragram Ballroom

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Nikka Costa at The Teragram Ballroom
Photo via Entertainment Focus

In New York City, it’s common for Broadway stars to do small, intimate shows for upper crust elderly women from the Upper East Side. I once got discounted tickets to one of these events (Michael Feinstein‘s show at The Regency), and was surprised by hooting, hollering, and general frenzy of the small crowd, which I was reminded of by the similar atmosphere of Nikka Costa’s Teragram Ballroom show. I walked in expecting a boozy, laid-back night of strings and left wondering where the afterparty was.

Nikka Costa’s career is a true Hollywood story, from her start as a child star recording a single with Hawaiian singer Don Ho to getting a big break when her song “Like A Feather” was featured in a Tommy Hilfiger commercial. Nikka has come a long way since then, producing several albums and starting a family; she recently took a two-year hiatus to concentrate on raising her two children. Her new album Nikka & Strings, Underneath and In Between trades in her usual funk for more sensual, laid back faire.

The Teragram Ballroom is a sexy venue in itself. As you enter, you’re greeted with lush, textured wallpaper and dim lights. The string section was just setting up when we entered the performance space; the gentle tuning of the instruments melted into the beginning of “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Nikka’s voice entered dramatically from offstage in that distinctive, careening tenor that’s sure to excite a crowd; as she came onstage she transitioned the intro into hit single “Like A Feather.” It was instantaneously clear that this was a gathering of Costa fans.

“It’s all about the strings,” Nikka cooed as she gave us some background on the album. Nikka and the band just finished an unofficial residency at The Largo in West Hollywood. It was through those performances that the album started to take shape. Nikka bragged that the process was so smooth that the album was recorded in one day. Although the album is mostly comprised of covers like Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” and the classic standard “Stormy Weather,” there are a few new songs that made the cut. “Arms Around You” was written after a friend of Nikka’s passed; the performance was particularly moving, with Nikka telling the audience to “tell people you have now that you love them.”

Nikka is adept at working an audience, and clearly enjoyed the rowdy one she got. The show was sprinkled with winks. After an audience member asked what was in her drink, she answered “Ginger and honey and water. No chaser.” When Nikka entertained the idea of taking requests, the audience got loud and belligerent, causing her to giggle “I started a riot.” The music undulated between standards and Nikka’s more funk-driven offerings. After she performed “Everybody’s Got That Something” to much applause, she teased, “Don’t make me do another funk record now!” The band matched Costa’s energy note for note, the perfect accompaniment to her theatricality.

The night felt very New York. Whiskey was drunk. Couples fondled each other. Girlfriends bumped butts and shouted lyrics. An encore was demanded and we were pleased to hear Costa’s rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” We swayed happily, heads resting on the shoulders of our dates. The night was a success. As I ran toward my Lyft, a woman joked with me that they took down Costa’s name before she could get a shot of the marquee. Los Angeles moves fast, but with nights like this in the bag, Nikka Costa is bound to be performing on the regular for long time.

Nikka Costa’s new album Nikka & Strings, Underneath and In Between is out now. Get it HERE[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

NEWS ROUNDUP: Secret Project Robot, The Radiohead Ant & More

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The sculpture garden in Secret Project Robot’s former space on Melrose. The new location’s “smaller but more intimate” sculpture garden is under development with the help of Kathleen Dycaico and Monica Mirabile.

  • Bushwick’s Secret Project Robot Is Reopening

    The DIY venue will reopen on Broadway in Bushwick, near the Kosciuszko St J stop. Its eight partners have stated that the venue is “entirely self funded” by them, and will only hire artists, helping to “keep artists thriving in a New York City landscape that is less than financially friendly to the creative.” The reopening date is set for May 4th- details here!

  • The Latest Rockstar Species Is Named After Radiohead

    Revealed soon after the Pink Floyd-inspired shrimp, there’s a new species of ant named after Radiohead. Sericomyrmex radioheadi is a type of silky ant which have figured out how to grow their own food. These creatures live in the Amazon and farm fungus gardens for nourishment. Why Radiohead? Ana Ješovnik, one of the authors of a Zookeys study on the insects, stated they wanted to honor their music, and “acknowledge the conservation efforts of the band members, especially in raising climate-change awareness.” Read more here.

  • RIP Jonathan Demme

    Demme was a revered film director who directed, among other classics, the Talking Heads live concert doc Stop Making Sense. David Byrne posted an essay in tribute to the filmmaker on his website, noting that Demme helped him when he was developing True Stories and highlighting his good taste in and love for music: “Jonathan was also a huge music fan—that’s obvious in his films too…He’d find ways to slip a reggae artist’s song or a Haitian recording into a narrative film in ways that were often joyous and unexpected.” Read the whole thing here.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

NEWS ROUNDUP: Prince EP, Shea Stadium Updates & More

  • Shea Stadium Update: Venue Needs New Location

    The team behind the venue announced an unfortunate setback to their efforts to go legit: they can’t file their first round of paperwork because the landlords at 20 Meadow Street have refused to sign the documents. In lieu of a vibrant DIY space, they plan to turn the ground club of the building into a nightclub. You can read the whole announcement here. Aren’t landlords great?

    You can still donate Shea Stadium’s Kickstarter fund. If a new space can’t be found, the team has stated they will refund donators’ money.

  • A Year After Prince’s Death, New Music Causes Controversey

    An unreleased EP titled Deliverance was scheduled for Friday, but as of now it appears the Prince estate has blocked its release. A judge has issued a restraining order which prevents producer George Ian Boxill from releasing any new music, and requiring him to give the recordings to the late musician’s estate. According to Billboard, however, you can still buy the EP’s single, also called “Deliverance.” Read more about the issue here.

  • Eskimeaux Announce Name Change

    Gabrielle Smith, who performs under the moniker Eskimeaux, announced she would be changing her name after Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq pointed out its offensive implications. The new name will be Ó. Smith released a statement via Pitchfork that read, in part, “As an adopted person I’ve struggled with finding an identity… The only information I have about my birth parents is that my birth father is Tlingit and everywhere I looked for more information the word “eskimo” was commonplace. Talking to Tanya about this was what ultimately helped me make up my mind to change the band name. She and I have had really different struggles, but they don’t serve to diminish one another.” In case you’re wondering, the new name will be pronounced like the letter.

  • Littlefield Is Moving, But Just Around The Corner

    The Gowanus venue will be moving to a nearby space with an outdoor area and bar and restaurant called Parklife. It’s set to open in June, with a Kickstarter fund currently underway to help with expenses. When the space is completed, the staff promise we can “expect friendly staff, signature cocktails, and recycled materials that make up the physical space.”

  • Other Highlights

    RIP Bruce Langhorne, aka Mr. Tambourine Man & Allan Holdsworth, Tyler The Creator wrote the new Bill Nye theme song, Babymetal’s very specific music festival, introducing flute rap(?!), this guy ate a record because of Kendrick Lamar, Pearl Jam teams up with Ticketmaster, is the new Katy Perry for real, & Elliot Smith + brunch = ?

ONLY NOISE: Lost and Found

I take the same path to the same coffee shop every week. Down DeKalb Avenue, a right on Franklin Avenue, a left on Greene Avenue, and a final right on Bedford Avenue. My gait is calculated and mechanical. A determined trudge. There is nothing romantic about this habit, and while I’d like to applaud its efficiency, I haven’t actually done the math to prove that this course is the fastest. In truth, I take this route because it is the one I first took to the coffee shop. It is repeated out of reflex and muscle memory and stubbornness. It is firmly rooted in a strong longing for routine.

This path is so engrained that my body dictates every step while my mind is free to think – something I do best while in forward motion. Walking puts me in a trance – alert enough to dodge oncoming vehicles, but rapt in layers of thought. So rapt, that I nearly missed the fat Fela Kuti box set propped up against a wrought iron gate on Greene Ave one Spring day. I stopped abruptly three feet past where the box of vinyl rested, then ambled slowly backward looking left to right to see if anyone was watching me. This I am sure, did not look suspicious at all.

The box was over an inch in depth. It was black and white with a banner of teal across the front reading “FELA” in block letters. I couldn’t help but crouch down and open it immediately, praying that its owner wouldn’t come bolting down the stoop of his brownstone to reclaim it. Perhaps an angry lover had left it on the sidewalk along with other prized vinyl from his collection…like, that Fat Boys LP right next to it…and, that…Kajagoogoo maxi single…

Ok, these records were probably left out on purpose, but I still couldn’t believe it. Lifting the box’s slightly scratched lid I found an alarming amount of Fela Kuti records. I was expecting three, maybe four LPs, perhaps with some booklet taking up a majority of the box’s real estate. Instead I found a seven record pileup, each one opened yet minimally played and well cared for.

There was Zombie, Fela Ransome-Kuti and The Africa ’70 With Ginger Baker Live, Roforofo Fight, He Miss Road, Alagbon Close, Ikoyi Blindness, and Everything Scatter – a glorious heap of his recordings. I was in shock; seven intact, fabulous albums, the collective price of which would have been well over $100. It felt as though I’d stumbled upon a treasure trove, but I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever abandon it.

I grew paranoid again, remembering a time when my dad and I found a handsome sack of toys in the woods behind our house. At seven I was overjoyed at this discovery, but also puerile and hesitant, imagining the sad kid who’d lost their bag of wonders. My dad assured me that finders were keepers, and it was on our property anyway. To ease my concern he assured me that if the toys’ proprietor came looking for them, we could hand them over.

And that’s just what happened. The neighbor girl was ecstatic when reunited with her pink satchel of toys. I felt devastated but virtuous by returning it. To this day I cannot remember what was actually in the sack – just the absolute thrill of stumbling upon it in our mossy forest.

By the time I was halfway down the block my paranoia had dissipated, but I still clutched the Fela Kuti box tightly to my chest just in case. My sense of elation was difficult to unpack – I am by no means a believer of fate or the “universe” gifting me anything…but I surrender to the sensation of it from time to time. I have come across some of my favorite things this way – finding them while looking for nothing.

I first discovered Will Oldham because a neighbor left a stack of CDs in the hallway of my apartment building a few years back. It was in one of many fruitful “free piles,” a name my roommate and I thought we’d coined. The album was an oddball EP recorded with Rian Murphy called All Most Heaven. It had one of the worst album covers I’d ever seen, but something about it shouted “What the hell? Take me home!” It was eccentric, no doubt, but I loved it nonetheless. Its four twangy songs eventually graced a small road trip to upstate New York one summer (our car only had CD capabilities). Opening its jewel case now, the silver disk is nowhere to be found. It may still be in that car, but my only hope is that it has found a way into the music collection of anyone who would bother adopting a stray CD in 2017.

In our age of Spotify Discover Weekly and record subscription services and pre-programmed radios and playlists tailored to every hyper-specific situation we can dream up, coming to music organically and spontaneously is uncommon. It seems rare enough to exchange music between two people in the same room, let alone find one of your favorite records in the street. I wouldn’t suggest the scavenger lifestyle as anyone’s sole source of musical discovery, but I will say there is a taste of destiny in it. I don’t believe in destiny either, so anything that conjures a sense of it feels pretty damn nice, if not fleeting.

The other week I had finished my book and was looking for a new one to read. I had just spoken to a friend about how I’d oddly never read Hunter S. Thompson, which is strange as he fits the profile of my favorite writers (depressed, debauched, wry). Days later I walked through my basement, past a stack of books an old roommate had left three years ago when he moved out. I was drawn to a turquoise spine peeping out from under a couple of Bret Easton Ellis tomes. It was The Rum Diary, Thompson’s first novel. I am enjoying it tremendously, and can’t believe it has been waiting silently under my nose for three whole years.

Come to think of it, it was that same roommate who provided me with another bout of serendipitous discovery. When he moved, I upgraded to his bedroom after five years in the windowless cavern next door. His room had not one, but two windows, and he’d left his superior mattress and an enormous credenza that was far lovelier than anything I’d ever allow myself to buy.

I took my time moving in – I set up my haphazard bookshelf. I stuffed my 500 pairs of underwear into one of the credenza’s many drawers. I arranged my desk with reference books and a quantity of pens that would suggest I was deeply concerned about a imminent global pen shortage. After deciding that all of my portfolios from college would go in one of the credenza’s large cabinets, I opened the door and found around 80 forsaken vinyl records leaning against one another. I believe my mouth truly dropped open. This pile of albums ended up doubling the size of my collection, and included some true gems. There was Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love, Roxy Music’s Manifesto, Prince’s Controversy, Talking Heads’ 77, Joni Mitchell’s Ladies Of The Canyon, Blondie’s Parallel Lines, Lou Reed’s Transformer, and dozens more. It seemed like luck, or at least something like it, and I took it as a good omen – something I also do not believe in.

I hauled the LPs I didn’t love (Donovan, Heart) to the nearest record store and swapped them for a $25 dollar credit, which I used to pad my collection with bizarre French funk punk records, Peel Sessions, and anything I could find by Prefab Sprout. Puzzled by my fortune, I still couldn’t understand why someone would desert a collection that had clearly been accumulated over a few years…but I was more than happy to give it a new home.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Prince, The Grammys & More

  • Prince’s Music Is Now Streaming

    It’s something that was impossible just a week ago: As I write this, I’m listening to Around The World In A Day on Spotify. Prince’s music was formerly streaming only on Tidal, but his estate sued to release it on other streaming services starting last Sunday. On one hand, it’s nice to have easy access to such an iconic artist. But on the other, Prince was notorious for maintaining complete control over how his music was released and distributed as well as made, so it’s hard not to wonder what he’d think of all this.

ONLY NOISE: Marching Songs

women's march

It may be difficult to remember what politicized youth culture looks like. Some of us weren’t born in time to witness it at full wattage – in the student-helmed anti-war campaigns of the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement that marched for the cessation of our own domestic race war. The efforts of second-wave feminists to seal with mortar the gender gap that has plagued most of human history. The Reagan-era LGBT activists, who effectively fought the religious right’s claim that AIDS was solely God’s way of eliminating the gays. Or the more widespread fury Reagan’s cabinet stoked in the poor, the disenfranchised, and the mentally ill when they binned the Mental Health Systems Act just as they were settling into office.

All of these efforts found their way into youth culture, whether directly, or just as an undeniable force of the time. Film, fashion, literature and music reflected the political unrest of their respective era in one way or another. And because youth culture and pop culture are all but synonyms in this country, whatever the “kids” liked was as pervasive back then as it is now.

Despite their history, politics and pop culture have an unsteady relationship. When we look specifically at music and politics, there lies an on-again, off-again affair that is as fickle as a middle school romance. From a zoomed-out, perhaps overly simplified lens, the pattern of their union seems to ebb and flow, with en vogue factions of politically incensed music followed by complacency and nihilism.

The anti-Vietnam War activists were emboldened by the music of Bob Dylan, Edwin Starr, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, to name a few. Seeger and Baez’s politics in particular overlapped with their support for the Civil Rights Movement. While the latter effort inspired the likes of Nina Simone, Gil Scott Heron, and Marvin Gaye, among many. The Black Power Movement and Black Panther Party found an odd ally in the likes of Detroit radicals the MC5, and the proliferation of politico punk during Regan’s reign is undeniable.

Punk was one of the few musical styles that seemed to morph its focus within the same genre. The substance-fueled hedonism of the mid-to-late ‘70s (Richard Hell and the Voidoids, The Dead Boys, The Germs, etc.) eventually gave way to the more substantive and topical songs of bands like Reagan Youth, Dead Kennedys, Youth Brigade, and Crass.

Arguably, the latter camp’s music is less lauded on a critical level, but both have their place in political and sonic history. While first wave punk certainly had many things to rebel against (The Eagles), it was also sprouting out of a time in which youth culture wasn’t as politicized. The Ramones weren’t exactly partisan revolutionaries staging protests and forming their own Weather Underground. First wave punk was more cultural rebellion than it was political rebellion, despite what Malcolm McLaren would have liked you to believe about his Sex Pistols, or his New York Dolls, whom he steered into a phony, late career Communist phase. It was more shock marketing than an actual political statement.

Second wave punk, despite being less inclined to smuggle interesting pop melodies, jazz, and a love of Doo-wop into its songs, had a whole hell of a lot to rebel against. Of course, everybody still hated The Eagles, but the onslaught of Reagan’s conservative policies, the oversold, underperforming promise of a suburban utopia (let alone an urban one), and the apolitical punk movement just before, left more to be desired.

The very aimless debauchery of previous punks inspired D.C.’s Straight Edge Movement, helmed by Minor Threat, whereas bands across the country needed only speed as an impetus for changing the game. Once showing its component parts of rock n’ roll and other beloved genres, punk had grown a thicker skin and put on a war helmet. When hardcore emerged with bands like Black Flag and Bad Brains, it somehow morphed what punk meant for generations. It had literally been hardened, and shined like a weapon. No longer existing for the sake of its own exploratory purposes, but as a vessel for discourse and agitation.

And it wasn’t just the punks who were getting political. The Reagan administration saw criticism from musicians obscure and mainstream both. Let us not forget that despite Reagan’s misuse of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.,” as his re-election campaign score, the song is in fact a damning reprimand of Reagan’s mistreatment of American veterans and his economic policies. Even His Purple Majesty Prince used music to criticize Reagan in cuts like, “Ronnie Talk to Russia” and “Sign o’ the Times.”

Sadly, none of this has happened in my lifetime. Though it may not be entirely true, I feel as though I have lived in a time period without its own protest music. I was too young to understand the relevance of ‘90s rap, let alone remember it as it happened. Only now, with detached hindsight can I see that it too was protest music, no matter how much the media tried to demonize it. I remember a smattering of artists, mostly smallish in name, condemn the Bush administration in the early 2000s…but I also remember that when a mainstream band tried to be critical, they got panned.

I will never forget how unexpected country sweethearts the Dixie Chicks nearly lost their fan base when in 2003, singer Natalie Maines spoke out against Bush at the Sheperd’s Bush Empire Theater in London:

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

I didn’t start immediately loving every song the Dixie Chicks put out, but I was sure as hell proud that a mainstream country act would risk the bulk of their followers to speak their mind.

There has long been a lull in political music. The eight years of Obama’s presidency have left us complacent – and they shouldn’t have. There is always something to improve. Just as the second crop of punks made the genre their own; just as the second wave feminists worked to continue what the first wave had laid for them; just as the Black Lives Matter movement has taken the still blazing torch from the Civil Rights activists; it is the turn of the artists, the authors, and the songwriters, to match the task at hand with cultural inspiration. Fiona Apple knows this, as she’s already given us two anti-Trump tunes. There was of course her Christmas parody, “Trump’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire” released just around the holidays. But her new song, “Tiny Hands” is one to march to.

Staff Picks – Emily Daly: The Best & Worst Of 2016 (News Roundup)


I started writing the News Roundup series roughly a year ago, on January 8th. What I thought would be a light hearted “this is what happened this week!” very quickly turned into what seemed like an endless stream of negativity; the first article premiered the week of David Bowie’s 69th birthday, the second a few days after he died. Tallying all of the deaths, the venues that are closed or closing and all of the sexism in the music industry that was brought to light in 2016 has been a little disheartening. But, some good stuff happened too. Read on as we remember the highlights of this year that is thankfully ending soon.

  • A lot of iconic musicians died this year, starting with David Bowie, and continuing on: Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Pauline Oliveros, Alan Vega, Phife Dawg, George Martin, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, Frank Sinatra Jr., Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Vanity (aka Denise Katrina Matthews), Keith Emerson, Billy Paul, Jane Little (a double bassist who held the Guiness World Record for the longest serving symphony player), Guy Clark, Christina Grimmie, Ralph Stanley, Bernie Worrell, Scotty Moore, Toots Thielemans, Juan Gabriel, Leon Russell, Holly Dunn and Greg Lake.

  • But, a lot of iconic musicians also resurfaced with new music. This year Kim Gordon released some tracks, along with The Pixies, Le Tigre, Iggy Pop, Beyonce, The Strokes, Green Day, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Robert Pollard, and two members of the Dirty Projectors (Also, it’s worth mentioning Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize and Madonna was crowned Billboard’s Woman of the Year).

  • Everything is closed. It’s not surprising considering all it takes to run a music venue, but it seems like an unusual number shuttered this year. In the last 365 days we’ve lost Palisades, Aviv, Manhattan Inn, Grand Victory and beloved record store Other Music. Also, Rock Shop has ceased to have live music, opting for a foosball table (or something) instead, and Market Hotel was temporarily closed over a liquor license misunderstanding. Other venues, like Lower Manhattan’s Cake Shop and Elvis Guesthouse, have announced that December will be their final month of operation.

  • But venues continue to open: The Glove, The Footlight and Sunnyvale all opened in Brooklyn this year, and Brooklyn Bazaar returned with a new, better location. Plus, we have a new large scale venue, Brooklyn Steel, to look forward to in 2017.

  • The music industry is still sexist. There’s an argument to be made that you have to expose misogyny to overcome it. If you think of it that way, 2016 was a year of progress as Amber Coffman and others spoke up about publicist Heathcliff Berru’s sexual misconduct, writer Art Tavana received an avalanche of criticism for a crude article that reduced Sky Ferreira to her sex appeal, and music executive Julie Farman call out the Red Hot Chili Peppers out for being douchebags back in their heyday. I’m sure I’m missing a few things, but do we really want to revisit it all?

  • But we did make progress. In March, Guitar World officially announced they would cease their bikini gear guide, the cover of which typically featured a sweet guitar held by a scantily clad woman. The call to change this practice was started when a photo of Guitar World next to a She Shreds cover, which featured a fully clothed  Satomi Matsuzaki of Deerhoof, made its rounds on the internet. Guitar World publisher Bill Amstutz stated “we can do a better job, as all guitar media can do. It’s a bit of a boys’ club and we are taking steps this year to change that.” This may all also be the first year that a song that focuses on consent was celebrated by the media, with sad13’s “Get A Yes.”

  • Obviously, a lot of other, un-categorizable stuff happened too. I’m not sure where to start, or where to end, really. A conversation was started about the importance of DIY spaces, and the struggle to keep them, after the Oakland Ghost Ship tragedy. Bono was awarded Glamour’s Woman of the Year, proving that women can even be excluded from an award specifically for them (you know what would be groundbreaking? Giving Man of the Year to a woman. C’mon, 2017!) Led Zeppelin was finally declared innocent of ripping off “Stairway To Heaven.” An amazing Twitter account that reimagines Carrie Bradshaw as a touring indie musician was born. CMJ was going to happen, then it wasn’t, then it was maybe, but it didn’t. I think at one point a new spider species was named after Johnny Cash. I’m probably forgetting a lot of things, and I’m sorry. It’s been a long year.

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Highlights of Governor’s Ball 2016

gov ball logo

Mother Nature rained heavily down on this year’s Governor’s Ball, which took place on Randall’s Mud Pit Island.  It was a test, and us New Yorkers proved that we sure have some spunk, staying true to the festival’s slogan:  “You’re doing great!”

I earned personal emblems of a successful music festival: purple bruises made to look like sunsets on my skin, irreparably damaged white Air Force Ones, and an inevitable cold from being wet for the duration of Saturday.  The last one, I deserved. That morning, the weatherman and I were adamant that I wouldn’t need a jacket.

Then, there was Sunday’s disappointing full-day cancellation that left legions of fans angry because they traveled x amount of miles to see Kanye or Death Cab for Cutie. When I got the news, I remained motionless on the couch, silently crying the tears I’d have shed at Death Cab’s closing set.

And the biggest curse of a festival, as always, is not being able to be in two places at once.  I was sad to have missed Big Grams or another fun show from Matt and Kim because I parked myself at the main stage all of Friday. And even on Sunday while I was camping out for a last-minute Two Door Cinema Club ticket, I was also committed to missing two surely phenomenal performances by Courtney Barnett and Prophets of Rage, both just a walk away.

But I digress. Let’s end this one with some highs, shall we?

The Strokes covered “Clampdown” for the first time since 2004
To be fair, I could peg the whole set as my favorite part of the festival. When I was 11, I used to blast this Clash cover on my iPod, fantasizing that I might one day hear it live. That, and “Red Light,” which they performed for the first time since 2010. Everyone and their mothers know that The Strokes are my favorite band, but even I can objectively say that lately, they haven’t been at their best. However, on the heels of a new EP whose songs fit seamlessly into their set, New York’s finest garage rockers showed that they’ve been revived with a new positive energy.  The best feeling was watching the expressions as all five of them performed with unrivaled mastery, looking truly happy to be together.

Getting intimate with Two Door Cinema Club
Though it’s been a minute since their last album (almost four years, but who’s counting), 15-year-old me would’ve never forgiven present-day me for skipping Two Door Cinema Club’s make-up show at Music Hall of Williamsburg.  Adrenaline distracted me from the cold air and the rain drenching me through my flimsy windbreaker during the four hours I waited out (tip: phone a friend who’d be willing to bring you a lox bagel while you wait. You’ll need it). It proved to be worth it; there surely is no better venue to see a favorite band than one where from every angle, you feel like you’re in the front row.  Plus, even through moshing with grown men and crowd surfing during the encore, my glasses survived the night.

Beck being Beck
A live Beck experience was yet another realized fantasy from my fleeting youth, ignoring the fact that his breakout hit “Loser” is a couple of years older than me, and “Where It’s At” is less than a year younger; in any case, they all fit seamlessly into one animated set.  And during “Hell Yes” I couldn’t help but laugh, overhearing the guy next to me ask, “Is he rapping?” And it’s only been two years since “Blue Moon” reduced me to tears, and only a little more than a month since Prince’s tragic passing. Beck recalled accepting his Album of the Year award and a hug from The Artist himself, which he described as one of the “strangest, most amazing moments.” His cover of “Raspberry Beret” was easily the best of myriad Prince tributes this weekend.

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Beck at Governor’s Ball 2016. Photo by Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.

Este Haim getting wet with the crowd
Midway through Haim’s set, rain came down yet again. Gratefully, the Gov Ball NYC stage was on cement rather than grass, so mud was the least of our concerns, but that didn’t stop some people in the crowd from seeking shelter in lieu of enjoying the music. Este, the oldest of the Haim sisters, stepped out in between songs to pour a full bottle of water on herself in solidarity before continuing a stellar set that culminated in another fantastic tribute of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” and a wild drum finale.

Easy afternoon with Catfish & the Bottlemen
Being the perpetually late person that I am, I had to sprint not only across the bridge, but to the complete opposite end of the island to make sure I didn’t miss a minute of Catfish & the Bottlemen on the main stage.  They drew a much larger crowd, with more than enough energy to wildly dance along, than one would expect for a 3 pm set. Their set encapsulated exactly what it would’ve felt like to see Blur at a hole-in-the-wall venue in the early ’90s.

A rainy rave with Miike Snow
Just after receiving a notification from the official Gov Ball app that the worst was behind us, rain came down yet again for Miike Snow, weeding out the weak and prompting we, the thick-skinned, to go all out.  Everything I owned was drenched.  The cash in my wallet is still damp as we speak.  With feel-good music, a brilliant lights show before us, and nothing to lose, we embraced the feeling of wet skin on wet skin as limbs flailed in the muddy flood. Missed connection: the guy in the tropical print shirt who came back into the crowd with a slice of pizza and let everyone within three feet have a bite.

The best moves from Christine and the Queens
I caught Christine and the Queens completely by accident as I made my lap around the island on Friday and saw that someone happened to be getting set up on stage.  I’d never heard of her before, but “WOW” wouldn’t even begin to cover my reaction when Christine (real name Heloise Letissier) and her Queens (four male backup dancers) took the stage in trousers and tees, performing synchronized dance routines and tossing flowers into the crowd.  Now that’s what a festival performance should be.

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Christine and the Queens, via

Nostalgia with The Killers
Wrapped in a wet blanket as my only protection from the cold, I was about to head home midway through M83 as I could feel a sore throat coming on. But, as I made my way out, I could faintly hear The Killers from across the park, and I knew I had to catch a little bit, even if I wasn’t going to immerse myself in the crowd.  I was more than happy to dance in the middle of the field with several hundred strangers, singing along to “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” off of 2004’s Hot Fuss and admiring the fireworks behind the stage to round it all up.

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The Killers Gov Ball
Fireworks and “When You Were Young” by The Killers.  Photo by Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Radiohead, Prince Tributes, & Grimes


  • Radiohead is Back!

    After erasing their social media presence, the band returned with their new single, “Burn The Witch.” Um, it’s awesome. The accompanying video looks like a cutesy stop-motion animation, until things take a darker turn (as the song’s title suggests). The animator states that it was inspired by the European refugee crisis. Radiohead has also announced tour dates, including Madison Square Garden, Primavera Sound Festival, Secret Solstice Festival, Osheaga Music and Arts Festival and Lollapalooza. Read our review of “Burn The Witch,” and check out the video below.

  • A Brief Roundup of Prince Tributes

    It’s been two weeks since Prince died, and plenty of tributes have been performed. Here are some highlights:

      • The touching tribute: One of Prince’s best songs is “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which opens with the line “It’s been seven hours and 13 days since you took your love away.” In honor of Prince, US radio stations coordinated to play the song at 5:07pm, 13 days and seven hours after his death. Stations all over participated in the event, initially started by the Minnesota public radio station The Current. Prince originally wrote the song in 1985 for The Family, who was signed to his Paisley Park label; on May 4th, they released a re-recorded version in memory of Prince under the band name fDeluxe.

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        The ensemble tribute: both the cast of Hamilton and The Color Purple have paid their respects by covering “Purple Rain.”

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        The big name tribute: Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen both performed Prince covers after his death. The ex-Beatle performed “Let’s Go Crazy,” while The Boss played “Purple Rain.”

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      •  The bizarre tribute: Mac DeMarco released a video covering “It’s Gonna Be Lonely,” accompanied by some interesting characters.

    Grimes Makes A Spectacle On Late Night TV

    Grimes brought dancers, dizzying background graphics and musician Hana Pestle to The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. She performed “Flesh Without Blood” from her latest album Art Angels, and said in an Instagram post that it was her first time performing in a corset. Check it out: 


  • Bad News For Musicians

    If you’re not a rockstar, you probably don’t have to worry about this. For the rest of you, take note: a recent study revealed that musicians die 25 years younger than the rest of the population. Conducted by the Australian psychology professor Dianna Kenny, the study “examined the lives and deaths of 12,665 musicians and stars from all popular genres who died between 1950 and June 2014,” and found that musicians were more susceptible to suicide, homicide, and accidental deaths. You can read the report here.


NEWS ROUNDUP: Prince departs our world


I was on my way to work yesterday when a woman sitting across from me let out a bloodcurdling scream. Everyone’s attention turned to her, but she wasn’t in distress, just gaping at her phone. “I’m sorry,” she apologized to the packed subway car. “I just read that Prince is dead.” Strangers started murmuring to each other: was it true? Everyone got out their own phone, trying to verify it, but there isn’t any cell phone service once the J train leaves Essex Street. By the time I got above ground, it had been confirmed: Prince had been found dead in an elevator at his Minnesota recording studio. He was 57.

2016 has been a rough year for the world of music. We’ve lost a lot of people: Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Frank Sinatra Jr., Maurice White, Glenn Fey. And of course, it started in January with the death of David Bowie, an icon so unique, so beloved and larger-than-life that he seemed immune to such a human problem, like the rest of us. Prince fit this category, too: who would have expected this to happen, now? And as the artists we knows and love age, who will be next? 

We don’t need to explain Prince’s legacy here; if you’re the kind of person who cares about music, you already know. We also don’t need to speculate on the cause of his death, which has not yet been announced. His life was way more important. What we do need, and still have, is his music. Here’s one of our favorite Prince songs:

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Prince “Controversy”

Controversy Album Cover

Yesterday I spent a long time thinking about Prince. Someone on Facebook declared the lyrics to “Da Bourgeoisie,” a song released in 2013, “homophobic.” And Price has, in the past, made several statements, both in person and through his music, which were anti-queer and transmisogynistic. He still blows my mind with every new piece of music he creates, but since becoming a member of Jehova’s Witnesses in 2001, Prince has not only ditched his healthy respect for sexuality, he’s lost the thing that drew me to his music in the first place—his own, unashamed sexual ambiguity. It’s difficult to separate the person and the persona when opinions make their way into music. With that in mind, I’d like to take us back to the Prince of old, to my favorite Prince album, and some of the most brilliantly crafted, critical, rebellious, and inspiring work of the ’80s: Controversy.

The opening track is “Controversy,” arguably the most popular from the album, and perhaps deservedly. It’s a funky, thumping, personal anthem that questions everything about society and self. He directly brings up his ambiguous identity: “Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?” But he never actually tries to answer those questions. This seven minute-long song moves between catchy, rolling verses and textured sections meant to provoke “controversy.” Midway through the song, Prince, joined by other voices, recites the “Our Father” over the funky bass line. Then, a final section with some of the best lyrics of any rebel tune: “People call me rude / I wish we all were nude / I wish there was no black and white / I wish there were no rules.” This is a song about breaking the rules, not just for any cause, but for love. Prince, here, desires a world without boundaries on our physical, sexual, and social selves.

From there he moves into three of the most sensual songs he’s ever written. There’s the obvious, “Sexuality,” the fun and vulgar, “Jack U Off,” and the downright erotic, “Do Me, Baby.” “Sexuality” has a similar sound to “Controversy,” pounding and upbeat, and it also has a fairly direct message: “Sexuality is all you’ll ever need / Sexuality, let your body be free!” All the while he’s screeching, yelping, and beckoning the listener to him. Three quarters of the way through there’s the hypnotic mantra: “Reproduction of a new breed / leaders, stand up, organize!” It’s an electrical, in-your-skin kind of song. “Jack U Off” is the final song on the album and it has a crazy synth melody that paints visuals of a disco-lit ’80s-themed circus dance. This is a song about pleasing others. Where will Prince help you get off? In the back of a movie theater, in a restaurant, in a Cadillac. When will Prince help you get off? When you’re tired of masturbating, when you want to lose your virginity, when you’re menopausal.

And of course, there’s “Do Me, Baby,” the longest song on the album. It’s a slow, hypnotic melody in which Prince casts himself in the typically “feminine” role in a sex scene. He croons in a glazed, fragile falsetto, “Take me baby! / Kiss me all over / Play with my love” and his voice is beyond seduction. There’s no suggestion here: Prince doesn’t want to be teased, he demands to be “had.” But the actual erotica comes in at five minutes. A few funky notes pave the way for Prince to talk to his imagined lover. He sucks air in through his teeth and moans and groans, encouraging and guiding his partner. It’s dirty. It might be a little awkward if you play it in the car with your mom. But mostly it’s just entrancing.


Two tracks on “Controversy” are distinctly political or, at least, critical of the American government. “Ronnie Talk to Russia” is an overwhelming force of choral and synth melody and powerful guitar solo. It almost feels harsh, musically and lyrically. The electric guitar vibrates underneath all of the choral pomp. All the while, Prince implores Ronald Reagan to “talk to Russia before it’s too late / before they blow up the world.” At the end of the song, a jarring explosion is heard. Though this has a satirical tone, it’s cutting enough to hurt, rather than make you laugh. “Annie Christian,” though, is the song with the greatest connection to Prince’s new philosophies. It chronicles the actions of “Annie Christian,” a greedy, power-hungry, religious figure against the backdrop of a more minimalistic, experimental rhythm and tone. Prince’s voice, in particular, has an almost mechanical echo on this track. In the first verse, a glory-hound, Annie “bought a blue car” and “killed black children.” He tells her in the chorus that until she’s “crucified” for what she’s done, he’ll live his life in “taxi cabs.” The second verse focuses on the “bad girl” Annie who buys a gun and uses it to kill John Lennon. But it’s only when she tries to kill Ronald Reagan that everyone cries “gun control!” Prince highlights the actions of extremists—Christian, criminal, conservative—with Annie, the anti-Christ, standing in for the many crimes which have slipped under the radar. It was a great time when Prince was pointing out the misgivings and contradictions of American society and what they force people into.

This album, though only 8 songs long, exemplifies the kind of brilliance that can come out of a combination of risk-taking and strong ambition. These are incredibly dynamic, masterfully produced hits that curve around and between genre and theme. Personal ambiguity drips over every word. It’s fascinating. It belongs to a certain point in time, but it’s still very relevant, as a response to what is socially acceptable and as a look into the complexity of political and, particularly, sexual identity.