NEWS ROUNDUP: Webster Hall Reopening, R. Kelly Arrested, and MORE

Webster Hall is Reopening!

It’s always sad when an iconic New York venue closes, but Webster Hall’s story has a happy update. The 130-year-old venue was shuttered in August 2017 for renovations when longtime owners the Ballingers sold it to AEG. That means Bowery Presents will be handling bookings, and the show schedule looks pretty sick, starting with a christening from punk poet laureate Patti Smith on May 1. Broken Social Scene, MGMT, Sharon Van Etten, Big Thief and Built to Spill are some of the acts slated to play over the next six months or so, and that’s just the initial announcement. The New York Times got a sneak peek into the renovations, and it seems like the $10 million plus project focused mostly on accessibility, with a revamped entryway and the addition of an elevator, as well as updates to the bathroom and soundsystem. Much of the characteristic fixtures in the ballroom were left unscathed, though we’re guessing the floor will no longer feel like it’s about to cave in when the mosh pit gets too rowdy. The Marlin Room will become a lounge, and there’s no word yet on what’s going on with the basement stage. The venue will still have a capacity of about 1,400 – making it an essential part of downtown nightlife once again.

R. Kelly Arrested, Bond Set at $1M

Following increased scrutiny after Lifetime doc Surviving R. Kelly aired earlier this year, the R&B star was arrested in Chicago on Friday and charged with ten counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four separate victims, three of whom were minors when the abuse occurred. One of the most disturbing pieces of information to emerge in Saturday’s bond hearing was that Kelly met one of these victims at his 2008 trial for child pornography, of which he was acquitted; like the trial a decade ago, some of these charges stem from the discovery of a sex tape in which Kelly appears to perform sex acts with an underage girl. His bond was set at $1 million, and that may be the tip of the iceberg – Kelly is also under investigation by multiple federal agencies for sex trafficking, and it looks likely that there are more victims who have yet to come forward. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of their nightmare.

That New New

Audiofemme favorites Sharkmuffin shared rollicking new single “Serpentina,” the first single from their Gamma Gardening EP, out April 5 via Exploding In Sound. We couldn’t be more excited – love you, Tarra & Nat!!!!

While this video for Kate Bush’s cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” isn’t exactly new, it hadn’t been released since its recording in 1991. The video comes with the announcement of a four-disc rarities and b-sides compilation called The Other Sides, which will be available March 22. In other Elton John news, his biopic, starring Taron Egerton, comes out May 22.

Tierra Whack is back with single “Only Child,” her first release since blowing up with Whack World.

Helado Negro is currently on tour with Beirut as he prepares for the March 8 release of This is How You Smile; he shared a video for single “Running” this week.

Ella Vos shared an intimate self-directed video for “Empty Hands,” which follows her through the last day of two years of treatment for lymphoma. The single appears on her latest EP, Watch & Wait.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will release Gnomes & Badgers, their first album in five years, on March 8. The TG Herrington-directed clip opens a poignant dialogue about the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Marissa Nadler released two new songs – including a duet with John Cale – via new imprint KRO Records, who will release the single on heart-shaped vinyl this spring.

CHROMATICS are back with “Time Rider” and a slew of tour dates, but no official release date for an album, which they’ve been teasing for some time now.

Priests released a lyric video for “Good Time Charlie” from their upcoming album The Seduction of Kansas, out April 5 via Sister Polygon.

Empath have announced their debut LP Active Listening: Night on Earth (out April 2 via Get Better Records), and shared its first single, “Soft Shape.”

Alex Lahey will finally release a follow-up to 2017’s excellent I Love You Like a Brother. It’s called The Best of Luck Club and is slated for release via Dead Oceans on May 17; “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” is the first single.

TEEN are streaming Good Fruit ahead of its March 1 release over at NPR, and have shared a video for “Pretend.”

With her band Wax Idols on an indefinite hiatus, Hether Fortune has shifted to solo work with the release of single “Sister.”

Shady Bug shared “Whining” from their sophomore album Lemon Lime, out March 8.

Los Angeles noiseniks HEALTH have released their fourth collaborative single since September, this time featuring JPEGMAFIA.

We’re obsessed with “TGM” from 18-year-old newcomer Ebhoni, who reps her Toronto home and West Indian roots all at once.

Palehound kicked off their tour with Cherry Glazerr by releasing a new single called “Killer.”

Indie poppers Pure Bathing Culture  shared a lyric video for “Devotion,” the first single from their forthcoming LP Night Pass, out April 26.

If you’ve ever wondered what Mountain Man’s Molly Sarlé sounds like on her own, take a listen to her debut single, produced by Sam Evian. She’ll play some shows with Mountain Man cohort Amelia Meath when she joins Sylvan Esso for a few shows in their recently-announced WITH tour.

Nilüfer Yanya’s debut album Miss Universe drops March 22. Her latest single “Tears” follows alt-pop bops “In Your Head” and “Heavyweight Champion of the Year.”

Former Shudder to Think frontman Craig Wedren has had an illustrious career scoring film and television, so it’s no wonder the clip for his vibey rework of “2Priests” (from last year’s Adult Desire Expanded) is so gorgeous.

We have a feeling Aldous Harding’s low-key pilgrim dance from “The Barrel” video might catch on well before Designer arrives via 4AD April 26.

Legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr shared a video for latest single “Armatopia” to promote his upcoming North American tour in support of 2018’s Call The Comet.

End Notes

  • Breakdancing could become an Olympic event by 2024.
  • Moogfest has announced the “first wave” of its 2019 lineup, featuring Kimbra, Martin Gore, Matthew Dear, Lucrecia Dalt, GAS, Ela Minus and more.
  • Wilco have also announced the lineup for their bi-annual Solid Sound Festival, taking place June 28-30 in Massachusetts. There will be several sets from Jeff Tweedy solo and with the band, as well as appearances by Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Tortoise, Jonathan Richman and more.
  • Detroit musicians will be the first recipients of Tidal’s new $1 million endowment program.
  • The 1975 took home British Album of The Year at the BRIT Awards for A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, and called out music industry misogyny in their acceptance speech for Best British Band.
  • Stereolab have added a ton of reunion tour dates to their Primavera Sound and Desert Daze appearances, and announced reissues for seven of their records. The band has been on hiatus for a decade.
  • Tom Krell of How To Dress Well launched his label Helpful Music with an EP from Calgary’s Overland.
  • W Hotels have also recently launched a label, releasing two songs with Perfume Genius to benefit Immigration Equality. Watch a mini-doc about the collaboration here.
  • Lydia Loveless took to Instagram to detail sexual harassment she has suffered since signing to her label Bloodshot Records; her abuser doesn’t work at the label, but attended all social events having to do with it as the partner of one of the label’s founders, who has since left the imprint.
  • Someone decapitated Puff Daddy’s wax figure at Madame Tussauds in Times Square.
  • Michael Jackson’s estate is seeking to block the production of HBO’s Leaving Neverland with a $100 million lawsuit; the two-part doc follows the story of two men who say their were abused by the King of Pop as children and is set to air March 3rd & 4th. Watch the trailer here.
  • Stereogum published this handy rundown on the drama that’s dogged Royal Trux’s reunion tour, as well as the release of White Stuff, still scheduled to come out March 1.
  • My favorite Eric Andre gag is getting his own TV special. Thanks Adult Swim!

Staff Picks – Madison Bloom: Under-heard/Under-sung Releases of 2016

The year-end list is a tricky politic.  You want to be fair, objective, and omnivorous.  You want to be unexpected, but not too unexpected.  Every December, Grammy nominations and Best Albums lists are released within weeks of each other, and while I’m no conspiracy theorist, I can’t help but suspect that the former informs the latter (along with sales figures, hype, etc.).  Just reading through the big names in music journalism, there is a pattern that would be silly to ignore.

This year, Lemonade, The Life of Pablo, 22, A Million, A Seat at the Table, Blonde, Anti, Coloring Book, Puberty 2, Blackstar and A Moon Shaped Pool have dominated the top slots.  I take no issue with this, as these are all great records worthy of praise.  But it does make me suspicious…while I do not conspire, I frequently suspect.  The big music pubs bear their differences, and vary in their positioning of said records.  But isn’t a different configuration of the same set of data kind of like…switching up the seating chart at a dinner party?

(I won’t pretend to understand the process editors and staff writers undergo when making their year end lists.  I’m sure it is far more complicated and arduous than I am alluding to.)

I am actually grateful for the big guns writing about the same records, because it means I don’t have to.  It’s done!  What I’d rather do is share with you some music that flew under the radar this year, despite its wonderful wingspan.  And with that, I give you the Under-heard/Under-sung Releases of 2016.       


Timber Remixed-Michael Gordon, Mantra Percussion, Various Artists


When I reviewed this album in November I likened it to a vibratory massage – something you felt as much as heard.  For that fact alone this record is worthy of a listen…I’ve never heard anything like it.  What Michael Gordon began in 2009 with six 2x4s has been re-sculpted by Mantra Percussion and some of the most interesting contemporary musicians and producers out there.

Tim Hecker, Fennesz, Hauschka, and Oneohtrix Point Never are just a few names that can be found on this record, but despite the strong point of view each guest producer brings to the table, none of them overpower the original, resonant beauty of percussive wood.   

Open To Chance-Itasca


Is there a sweeter songbird than Itasca’s Kaya Cohen?  Not that I’ve heard in a while.  But Cohen is no mere voice – she is also the core songwriter of the band, and that delicately plucked guitar gracing the LP is hers as well.  Open to Chance is an album in full – one that maintains a gorgeous sonic texture throughout.  Here you’ll find country drums, twanging guitars, and the shining cry of the pedal steel.  Favorite tracks include “Buddy,” “G.B.” and “Daylight Under My Wing,” the latter of which calls to mind the airy arrangements on Bill Callahan’s Dream River (think: flute).

Open to Chance is a seemingly fitting title for this record, as it is open to interpretation as well.  At times hopeful and others forlorn, the record floats in a lovely shade of grey. 

2013-Meilyr Jones


2013 could be hastily summed up as a baroque pop love letter to Rome.  But it is so much more than that.  In 2013 Meilyr Jones left his moderately successful band Race Horses, went through a painful breakup, and in an attempt to revitalize himself, moved to Rome for several weeks.  He didn’t really have a plan, which often leads to the kind of open-mindedness necessary for creative catharsis to blossom.  And oh, it did.

Though released three years after Jones’ excursion, the majority of the songs on 2013 were written in the ancient city, later recorded in the U.K. with a ragtag team of Jones’ musician friends.  Given its dense and lovely instrumentation, one could easily think that this was an expensive record…but Jones is a resourceful man.  Five of the twelve songs were recorded live in a single day with his last minute, 30-piece orchestra.  And the songs aren’t only lush in arrangement – Jones covers lyrical ground that spans love lost, refugees, and the fallacy-ridden art world.  A beauty.   

Mirage Dreams-Breanna Barbara


Oh, what a belter this woman is!  If you were to guess what Mirage Dreams sounded like by its wistful cover, you’d be real surprised when you pressed play.  Breanna Barbara has a voice that reaches the breathy low of Hope Sandoval, and the shaky soprano of country sirens.

Barbara’s music is whiskey soaked, revved up, lit-cigarette blues.  There is no shortage of pain on this record, especially on tracks like “Sailin’ Sailin’,” which seems to address the loss of a parent.  It’s heavy stuff from that soft, wheat-framed face on the cover.  That’s a contrast I welcome wholeheartedly.

The Gamble –Nonkeen


Remember that line in Zoolander when Jerry Stiller’s character says that Mugatu “is so hot he can take a crap, wrap it in tin foil, put a couple fishhooks on it, and sell it to Queen Elizabeth as earrings”?  It’s a crass example, but that’s pretty much how I feel about Nils Frahm – though he’d never have to stoop so low to stoke intrigue.  But seeing as I will devour anything with the Nils Frahm stamp on it, I leapt at the chance to listen to The Gamble by Nonkeen, of which Frahm is 1/3. 

The other 2/3 are made up by Frahm’s childhood friends Frederic Gmeiner and Sebastian Singwald, who have been making music together on and off for decades.  That level of intimacy is palpable on The Gamble; you can certainly hear the Frahm touch, but the composition as a whole is collaborative and progressive.  There’s guitair, piano, synthesizer, tape loops and a whole host of sounds I love but sruggle to identify.  A gorgeous soundscape in which to lose yourself.

Suicide Songs –MONEY


MONEY’s second LP entirely defied the sophomore slump, instead soaring upward to dizzying heights.  These Manchester-based lads, lead by singer/songwriter Jamie Lee, might be melodramatics, but in a world where things like “chill wave” exist, I’m sometimes in the mood for a grand overture.

And Suicide Songs is ripe with them.  Piano, strings, synths, guitar, drums, gospel choir…it is a BIG record, and I ain’t mad about it.  The dense arrangements could be too much at times, but they are undercut but Lee’s rakish, imperfect vocal performance, which often sounds like a drunken man on the brink of tears.  Perfect.     

Flames & Figures –The Seshen


Don’t worry; I’m not going to just give you sad bastard music.  It’s time for a little homegrown soul, at least, homegrown in the Bay Area that is.  The Seshen is the musical marriage between singer/lyricist Lalin St. Juste and producer/bassist Akiyoshi Ehara.  St. Juste, Ehara, and five other band mates churn out the synth-pop, R&B soul jamz I’ve grown to love this year.

Flames & Figures is a syrupy, textural pop gem that doesn’t skimp on well-placed drum machines and synths – but nothing tasteless or in your face here.  Favorite tracks include “Spectacle,” “Periphery,” and the funky “Distant Heart.”  Pour it on.   

Along a Vanishing Plane –Christopher Tignor


Christopher Tignor, the acclaimed violinist and composer behind Along a Vanishing Plane, achieves his unique sound through varying techniques with tuning forks and electronic manipulation.  His music is spacious, emotive and contemplative.  So when I learned he is also a software engineer, I was a bit surprised.

Then again, maybe it makes all the more sense.  There is something so deliberate and organized about Tignor’s music, despite its space.  “Artifacts of Longing Pt. 1” reminds me of a pared down Dirty Three number – awash in refined synths, that is.  Closing track “The Will and the Waiting” is closer to Tangerine Dream with glittering, atmospheric synth effects and the *ping!* of Tignor’s beloved tuning fork.  A striking record that would be best played when you have time to really sit and listen.

Changes –Charles Bradley


Charles Bradley is a man that, like his late label mate Sharon Jones, has challenged industry ageism, starting his career at an age well past most.  Unfortunately, Bradley also bears a more frightening similarity to Jones: in October of this frustrating (dumpster fire?) year, he was diagnosed with cancer.  But that hasn’t stopped him from sharing his phenomenal, soul revival record Changes, which seems to embody all of the wisdom Bradley has amassed in his years outside of the spotlight.

The title track is tragic, even more so as it was released seven months prior to Bradley’s diagnosis.  “I’m goin’ through changes/It hurts so bad,” he wails.  It upsets the ear and the heart to hear, as the dramatic irony of the painful change to come is too intense.  A beautiful, soul-bearing effort from a man I hope will stick around a while. 

Love Yes –TEEN


How could we resist a little local love for the ladies of TEEN?  If any of you have seen this adept foursome live (perhaps at an Audiofemme event), you will know what fabulous musicians they are.  But their prowess doesn’t end with musicianship; they are also exceptional performers and complex songwriters who understand as much about writing hooks as they do constructing dense music.

Love Yes did get some thumbs up this year from the likes of Nylon and Pitchfork (to name a few), but I would go so far as to say it is one of the under-noticed records of 2016, and it is definitely deserving of more praise.  This electro-pop opus nods at the ‘80s but doesn’t drown in references.  A favorite track is “Animal” for its grimy, Tubeway Army-esque synth riff that will surely stay stuck in your head until 2017.  


Eskota – Catch Prichard


Watching the slow yet steady rise of Catch Prichard’s Sawyer Gebauer (FKA
Brittsommar) has been both gratifying and frustrating.  Having championed his music for the past two and a half years, it was rewarding to see his first EP as Catch Prichard accrue praise from publications other than ours alone.  NoiseyImpose, and American Songwriter were just a few who took note of his unique sound.  But despite Gebauer’s upward mobility this annum, the Wisconsin-born troubadour remains largely unknown.  And that’s a darn shame, because I’ve yet to find a soul unstirred upon hearing “Eskota,” the sorrow-washed meditation on love, loneliness and the impermanence of home.

  While Gebauer had largely looked to European influences in the past, he found his country-lovin’, Americana roots in “Eskota,” which was recorded in an abandoned general store in a west Texas ghost town.  Pedal steel, brushed snare, and late Springsteen era synths dance under Gebauer’s lead weight baritone throughout.  An under-sung stunner for sure. 

Tunnel Vision On Your Part – Happyness


It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of London trio Happyness.  So when they popped out a new EP this year, I was flat out thrilled.  I was slightly bummed it wasn’t an LP (which they are working on currently, by the way), but Tunnel Vision On Your Part doesn’t disappoint, despite its length.  Clocking in at a curt twenty minutes, Tunnel Vision reminds me that an EP can be a beautiful lesson in brevity.  Much like a short story or novella, ya gotta pack a lot more into 5 songs.  There’s no space, no meandering instrumental track, no filler.

If I had to be just as brief describing Happyness, I would say they are three things above all.  Subtle, understated, and catchy-as-all-hell.  I guess it’s no surprise that a band so understated would go under-noticed throughout the year, but it pains me, because sometimes the most interesting people at the party are the shy ones, hardly saying a word.  The most interesting person is rarely the loud guy dancing shirtless – but he seems to get all the attention anyway.    

Earrings Off! – Adult Jazz


Earrings Off! is rife with difficult moments that fill me with unease.  Therefore: I love it!  And it seems as though I’m on the right track with that reaction.  As Adult Jazz’s vocalist Harry Burgess said to The Guardian in 2014, “When you come up with a part that’s pretty, you need some obstruction…technology is good for shifting things to a more awkward place.”

I find great comfort in that awkward place, so thank you Adult Jazz.  I have no idea where to shelve this little oddity, but that’s partially what I like about it.  This twisted cacophony from the Leeds foursome contains multitudes, and can be described with just as much. A pop assault.  Combat funk.  A no wave, free jazz, synth-psych freak out that marries Arthur Russel, tUnE-yArDs, Dirty Projectors, and Animal Collective, but puts them all on speed.  It’s a wild ride, and I suggest you hop on. 

Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You – Dickicker


Don’t be fooled by the silly name (and album cover) – the nascent New York foursome may not have access to a gilded studio, but they certainly have the songs.  One might not expect a band called Dickicker to be capable of sophisticated lyrics, and yet the writing partnership between lead vocalist Jim Freeman and guitarist Gray Hurlburt is an alchemic one.  Often simple in their banal frustration, poetic truths drift in unexpectedly.  In the EP’s opening cut “Alibi,” Freeman strains his hoarse voice while ruminating on past ambitions shattered:

“Going to the place we know/To dig up everything we sowed/Turn the soil over, let the water boil over/And burn the precious things we’ve grown.” Freeman has a phlegmatic scream that amplifies the palpable devastation in tracks like “Old Soul” and “Black Wine.”  I’d hate to know how many cigarettes he’s smoked to acquire such a voice.  But I want one just listening to him.

Big Fugitive Life – Ezra Furman

Big Fugitive Life - EP 1

So far I have loved everything Ezra Furman has recorded.  No amendment to that love given his latest EP Big Fugitive Life.  This energetic collection of rock n’ roll tunes is a sweet seventeen minutes, packing in as much saxophone as possible.  Furman’s voice is lovably shabby as usual, and at times (see: track five, “Splash of Light”) it seems that the band opted for a less-produced effect intentionally.

But Big Fugitive’s ragged nature doesn’t demean the richness of its songs.  And that is a truth applicable to all music; that no matter the quality of the recording, you can’t rob a well-written song of its greatness.

INTERVIEW: Teeny Lieberson of TEEN

Teen Teeny Lieberson

Teen Teeny Lieberson

AudioFemme caught up with Teeny Lieberson to chat about TEEN’s new album The Way and the Color, what the possibility of motherhood means to musicians, and advice for ladies aspiring to become musicians.

AudioFemme: I heard that you’re touring with Phantogram, which is awesome.

Teeny Lieberson: Yeah. We’re really excited about it.

AF: Are you going to be with them for the entire tour?

 TL: For the US leg. I think they go to Europe after that. We’re not going with them.

AF: Can you talk a little bit about how you got started with this record?

TL: I actually started it as a solo recording project. It kind of just grew from there. I was recording a little album on a four track recorder and then it just felt like the songs were strong so we decided to make a record. I asked my sisters to come play because they were free. Then, it just kept developing from there. Jane was an original member and she kept playing bass for about two years. She recorded the Carolina EP with us. She left the band this year and now we have a new bassist.

AF: What is like playing in a band with your family? Any sibling rivalry? Family drama?

TL: Not a ton. It’s good in the sense that taste-wise and choice-wise we are often on the same page and it’s pretty unspoken which makes writing easy. That’s why we’re able to do things quickly. Bickering happens. But it resolves itself pretty quickly.

AF: What was it like growing up with so many musicians in your family? Did you play together when you were young? Are either of your parents musical?

TL: Both of our parents are musicians. My father was a composer, my mother plays rock and folk music and toured. We had it around us all the time. We didn’t play our instruments very much. Catherine just started playing the drums. It hasn’t been long at all, so it’s pretty impressive. It shows the genes are there. But you know, we sang a lot. We sang constantly around the piano. It was a part of us being kids. But then as we got older we started to ignore each other [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][laughs].

AF: Your album has very heavy r&b influences, but there’s also electronic music. Can you talk a little about that process? Mixing the electronic stuff into the live instrumentation?

TL: A lot of that stuff happens post. We usually start with the bare bones of the band when we’re tracking the songs. Our producer likes us to get as much live material as possible. We record drums, bass, guitar, and keys and that forms the basic layer track. From there we go in and add whatever we want to and the producer chops things up or adds in synth or takes the drums out or adds reverb or a sound to the snare at a certain point. A lot of that is in the production. He was chopping things up as I was playing them sometimes.

AF: What are some of your earlier musical influences? What did you grow up listening to?

TL: There are so many influences. I’m definitely attracted to powerful singers, no matter what genre. When I was younger I really idolized Ella Fitzgerald and how imaginative her vocabulary was. Hearing her scat is just totally insane. I would listen to Courtney Love. Of course, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Al Green, D’Angelo, Mary J Blige, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu. I tried to sound like them when I was a teenager. I loved that R&B singers use their voice to tell a story while also doing all of these other things and creating so much color throughout. That’s definitely what we were going for with this record.

AF: You’ve probably listened to this album a thousand times. Has your feeling of it changed now that you’ve listened so much and played it live?

TL: Yeah. It goes both ways. It kind of loses a bit of its story, of its personal touch. You have to find a new story with it when performing. So much of my writing has an indirect correlation to an experience so when the moment has passed it changes how you feel about a song. When you’re performing it, it becomes its own separate thing from the recording. That’s really fun. You can explore in a totally different way. We like emulating what we did, but we also really enjoy trying things really differently live. I know not everyone likes that, but I really do. It makes something more exciting for us and in the long run for the audience to hear.

AF: Do you have a favorite song off of the album?

TL: It changes. I definitely love “Sticky,” that’s one of my favorites. It’s one of the more personal songs. Well, that song is just about motherhood and exploring that – what comes with it, what comes with the possibility of it. The inner workings of someone’s mind; deciding whether or not to have a child. Every woman goes through that at some point. I would imagine most women go through it because it’s biological. It’s something I didn’t want to be afraid to explore. I was wondering why more people aren’t talking about it. There are so many female musicians and not many of them talk about motherhood or even just the question of it. I think it’s changing now, too, with being a modern woman and the idea of not having children. As a musician, I’m on the road all of the time I just wanted to embrace that. It seems a little taboo, which I think is ridiculous.

AF: Do you feel like you’ll eventually have kids?

TL: I don’t know. I’m getting older so it’s something I’m thinking about actively. It’s become a topic of conversation more now that I’m getting older. But my career has also become a bigger part of life. I don’t think they can’t go hand-in hand, but what I do unfortunately, requires a lot of travel. I don’t have an answer yet.

AF: “Sticky” has a really strong gospel element to it. That makes it stand out to us. Did that happen organically in the song-writing process?

TL: I actually demoed that song separate from the rest of this record. I had worked on it with this other project that I was doing with another producer we work with. I started it based on – not trying to compare it at all, but the inspiration for the song – Max Roach and Abby Lincoln. They did this record called We Insist, a totally amazing civil rights record. There’s this one song called “Driving Man” with a section in a different time signature. I actually wrote the song starting with that signature in 5. “Driving Man” has that thump and the strong vocal. It sounds spiritual, not sure if it actually is. It was a direct inspiration, for sure. I liked the idea of it being bare in the front section and building up into the chorus. It happened naturally, while also having the spirit of that song. Gospel music is also just the most powerful music in my opinion. So anytime I can channel that feeling…

AF: Now that you’ve finished this album and you’re touring, do you see the band staying together and making more albums? What’re your thoughts for the future?

TL: I think all of us are pretty into it. We’re going to keep making records for as long as its possible. Both of my sisters make music on the side. I’m going to make a solo record when there’s time. But for us as a band, we’re definitely going to keep going. We’re only just getting good now, so it can only get better. We’re starting to touch on things that make sense musically with each other. That feels good.

AF: Do you have any dream collaborations? Some that are in reach for you?

TL: D’Angelo. I’m so obsessed with him. There aren’t too many people I’m obsessed with. But he doesn’t make music anymore. Love Little Dragon. That would be really cool. I love the way she sings, love the way they approach music. I love St. Vincent, also. She’s amazing.

AF: How is it touring? Exhausting? Exhilarating? Any touring stops you love?

TL: I am somebody who I think does very well with touring. I really enjoy the freshness of a new city every day. It’s really exciting. I love how many new people you meet, relationships you make on the road. I love how spontaneous all of it feels. Festivals are definitely the highlight of touring. Especially in Europe because you meet so many musicians and it’s always the most fun. Good weather makes touring so much better.

We went to Europe last year and we actually did really well. We were surprised by how well we were doing. Audiences were great. But it was gray for thirty days straight. And cold. We were thinking, why are we tired, why are we bummed out? Also trying to stay healthy and sleep a lot. Sleeping and eating become number one. Of course they’re number one in everyday life. But on tour you’re always panicked about sleep and food. But something about your life becoming that basic can be really relaxing for people like me. All I have to worry about is when I’m gonna eat or sleep. For others, because you don’t have control over those things, it can be really uncomfortable.

I love touring. I live with my boyfriend, so being away from him is the worst part. But that’s it!

AF: Does he ever join you on tour?

TL: He did this last time which was really nice. He surprised me on the road. I think our next tour is only six weeks long. So, hopefully he’ll visit me on this next tour.

I think Phantogram and TEEN is going to be a great match on this new tour, too. Hopefully the audience will embrace us.

AF: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for a younger girl or woman aspiring to be a professional musician?

TL: I’d say: practice as much as you possibly can, do not be intimidated by anyone (male or female), and the most important thing is to keep going at all times, even if you get a bad review or someone writes a horrible comment. I know people say this all the time, but it really is true: perseverance is number one. Perseverance separates the people who can from those who can’t. It’s really hard. I mean you’re doing what you love. But there’s so much competition in music. It’s difficult but it’s worth it.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ALBUM REVIEW: TEEN “The Way and Color”


R&B informed pop trio TEEN are capable of complex, psychedelic hooks. Their minimalist beats and thoughtful melody and harmony layering, inspired by artists like Erykah Badu and D’Angelo, create a hypnotic dialogue between the instruments and between the music and the audience. These three sisters, vocalist Teeny Lieberson, keyboardist Lizzie Lieberson, and drummer Katherine Lieberson, are joined by bassist Boshra AlSaadi on their second album The Way and Color. The new record is full of uplifting melodic structure, interesting vocal harmonizing, and discussions of power dynamics.

The opening track “Rose 4 U” is  poppy and upbeat with the slightest hint of strangeness underlying it. From the start, there’s a sense of delving in–yet to what, we are unsure. With entrancing, repetitive verse lines pinned by addictive rhythmic dynamics, the listener is pulled in. Throughout, the girls break into strong harmonization with R&B vocals that meet ambient echoes, lending the track emotional weight. The harmonizing stops towards the end of the song with Teeny singing one melody and the background singers  moving against her. There’s a typical kind of suspenseful build up as it comes to a close. Teeny’s voice isn’t mind-blowing on this track, but that actually works in TEEN’s favor here, making what could be an overly complicated song easier to approach.

“Not For Long,” The Way and Color’s single, has an intense concentration on voice for the first minute or so. Then the beat kicks in creating a strange mix of hoarse fragility in the vocals and a rolling, minimal mantra. “You should watch your step,” the listener is warned. Perhaps these are not ladies you want to mess with. The background vocals add weight to the melody in a way that is not necessarily hooky, but still has a powerful effect. TEEN has been compared to Dirty Projectors on more than one occasion–a similarity evident here in that all of the different musical parts are equally important, no vocals or instrumentals are given precedence over others. At the end  brass come in (a common thread with throughout the album) as if an epic film is about to start. The echoey chorus still overlays the track, taking he listener to a more dreamy place at three and a half minutes. The final section is lo-fi, closer to chill-wave than anything else on the album and adds a sobering effect after all of the ups and downs.


My favorite track is probably “Sticky” which draws heaviest from R&B of all the songs on the album, and reminds me of Neo-Soul trio Moonchild. This is a super catchy song, but once again casual in its execution. The slow beat and mellow tones are easy to navigate, though not always simple. A gospel-like section emerges at a minute and a half, complete with ambiance and clapping. This could be why it stands out so clearly from the rest: the choir vocals are electrifying and reassuring at the same time, riding the line between gospel and psychedelic.  Overall every part sounds incredible, showcasing the production quality on the track as a whole, and allowing us to get lost in it thanks to the exceptional mixing.

The most heavily electronic elements I heard from this album were at the beginning of “Breathe Low and Deep”. It starts with an other-worldly melody that brings us onto the bands emotional level. Teeny strains her voice, lending it softness albeit it a grating quality at the same time. When brass comes in around two and a half minutes, the mood dropped in a way. It felt out of place, rather than perhaps like a change of pace that it was intended to. But then a truly wonderful shift happens. “Breathe loudly,” Teeny encourages us in her varied vocal tones: and I’m not going to lie, it is pretty inspirational. The guitar and horns at four minutes are full of doom, like the peak of tragedy or violence in a film, completely unexpected and invigorating. It took the focus of the track very suddenly to one’s own breathing, imbuing it with anxiety and making its mantra to “breathe loudly”, a display of inner stress rather than quietude.

Throughout, there’s a lot that can send the listener’s head spinning. All of the quick changes, sectional disparities and booming can be overwhelming. This is the kind of album you have to be awake and prepared to listen to. Even though the songs have great hooks and engage with the listener, there’s no time to take a break. It immerses the listener entirely. At times, they come very close to what verges on the familiar, but by keeping the R&B thread strong with vocalization and intonation, TEEN continues to stand out. The horns they use compliment the melody, and the production ensures that Teeny’s clear, hoarse vocals sound beautiful and unconcerned all at once. This album is truly rich and exciting.

Listen to “Not For Long” below: