Massive 50th Anniversary Reissue of Plastic Ono Band Sessions Positions Yoko Ono as Musical Maverick

Yoko Ono portrait by Iain Macmillan at the St. Regis Hotel, New York, September 1971. © Yoko Ono Lennon

On October 10, 1970, John Lennon was busy working on his first solo album at EMI Recording Studios (not yet rechristened “Abbey Road,” after the Beatles’ album of the same name). The sessions had been going on for two weeks. But on this day, his wife, Yoko Ono, was finally going to get the opportunity to make her own kind of music.

Having just finished mixing his song “I Found Out,” Lennon, on guitar, started jamming with bassist Klaus Voorman and fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr on drums. After vamping through some Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins numbers, the power trio began to stretch out. And as Lennon’s playing became increasingly wild, slashing at his instrument as he spiraled down the scale, he shouted out for Ono to join him, and she did.

Ono’s vocalizations were a desperate, keening sound, matching the twisted noise from Lennon’s guitar, her persistent cry of the single word “Why?” becoming the aural equivalent of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. Lennon was enthralled. “She makes music like you’ve never heard on earth,” he enthused to Rolling Stone later that year. “And when the musicians play with her, they’re inspired out of their skulls.”

At the time, the general public didn’t agree. When John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band were jointly released in December 1970, Lennon’s album was heralded as a brave, uncompromising work. Ono’s was overlooked, or derided; she recalls being sent photos of her records stuffed in a garbage can. “So many people didn’t understand her,” says Simon Hilton, production manager of the new JL/POB reissue – out today, in honor of the double album’s 50th anniversary – which also includes Ono’s sessions on the “Ultimate Collection” version of the set. Hilton believes she experienced backlash not only because she was a woman, but because of her otherness: “She sounded a bit funny, and she liked screaming.” But over the years, that assessment has changed. YO/POB has come to be recognized as a pioneering album, one that laid the groundwork for independent music and alternative rock to come.

The original album is bold and bracing; there simply wasn’t another record like it. “Why” launches the album with a furious assault that grabs you from the second it erupts and doesn’t let go. In contrast, “Why Not” is a leisurely stroll, the musicians providing a steady backbeat to Ono’s ululations until the final minute, when it gradually speeds up, then burns out, drowned out by the sound of a subway rushing by. The title of “Greenfield Morning I Pushed an Empty Baby Carriage All Over the City” echoes the cryptic “instructional poems” in Ono’s book Grapefruit, and the song itself is equally ominous, opening with an industrial droning, Yoko’s vocal cutting throughout the piece like a mournful siren.

“AOS” is drawn from a 1968 rehearsal with Ornette Coleman. It is a stark, spare track (aside from a sudden torrent of sound in the middle), Ono holding her own in the company of Coleman on trumpet, Charlie Haden and David Izenzon on bass, and Ed Blackwell on drums. “Touch Me” is all sharp edges and jarring rhythms, interrupted by what sounds like a tree cracking in two, then morphing into something slower and more distorted. “Paper Shoes” has an agitated, percussive beat percolating underneath Ono’s almost breezy, wordless vocal, swooping in and out.

Ono herself had little familiarity with rock music or its culture when she began working with John Lennon. Born in Tokyo in 1933, and growing up in both Japan and the US, she was a classically-trained pianist, who dreamed of becoming a composer. Her father discouraged her ambition, sending her to take voice lessons instead, explaining, “Women may not be good creators of music, but they’re good at interpreting music.” Ono eventually rebelled against such strictures to chart her own course. In 1956, she dropped out of Sarah Lawrence College and married composer Toshi Ichiyanagi. The two moved to a loft on Chambers Street, in Manhattan’s Lower West Side, and quickly fell in with the city’s experimental arts community. The loft became a site for “happenings” – mixed media events that featured spoken word, music, and experimental performance.

Ono performed at these and other events, often playing with ways to create sound; a 1961 concert she staged at Carnegie Recital Hall (adjacent to the larger Carnegie Hall) featured a piece in which dancers moved objects around the stage while wired with contact mics. She also experimented with how to use her own voice. “In 1962, I went into shouting, but not the kind of shouting that you know of me doing it over rock music,” she told me in an interview. “It was very similar to [her 1981 solo single] ‘Walking on Thin Ice.’”

In 1966, she went to London to participate in a symposium entitled “Destruction of Art,” with her second husband, Tony Cox. She met Lennon when he came to one of her solo exhibitions. Two years later, when they became a couple, they began making experimental recordings together. Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions, and Wedding Album mixed organic and electronic sounds, vocal manipulations, and improvisations; on “No Bed For Beatle John,” for example, Ono “sings” a newspaper article to an improvised melody.

John & Yoko photographed by Richard DiLello at home at Tittenhurst Park, Ascot, 1970. © Yoko Ono Lennon

Working with rock instrumentation necessitated a more aggressive vocal style. “I was from the avant-garde, so I was still a little bit structured at first,” Ono says. “But when I went to rock and we did all that stuff, the Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band kind of thing, I was loosened up by then from doing a few shouting pieces in London. And then I just felt great! The only thing was, because they were playing electric guitar and all that, to go over that and do your voice experiments was very difficult. So that was when all that came out like ‘Aaah!’ Those things started to happen because they forced me into it. Pushed me into it!”

Today, music aficionados could recognize Ono’s music as the bridge between the Velvet Underground and Patti Smith, with a vocal style later heard in the work by performers like the B-52’s or Diamanda Galas. But in 1970, devoid of that framing, listeners were perplexed, if not outright hostile. Klaus Voorman was startled when he first heard Ono singing, as he backed John and Yoko at a “Rock and Roll Revival” festival in Toronto in 1969. “She started screaming and doing this thing,” he recalls. “And people all stood there. And I looked at Eric [Clapton, also in the band], and we looked at our feet. We were really shocked, just as much as the audience.”

But by the time YO/POB was recorded, he’d gained an appreciation for her unorthodox style. “That record is incredible,” he says. “I love in particular ‘Why Not,’ where she sings really quiet, and John is playing on the guitar; she’s doing all the squeaky noises, and he’s doing the slide guitar and it’s really floating, really simple stuff. She turned him on to all this and he says that too, that he would’ve never thought of doing these things this way. It’s definitely Yoko’s influence.”

Photo Credit: Richard DiLello © Yoko Ono Lennon

What’s especially exciting about the tracks in the new box set, is not only their length (about three times that of the original album), but also that the music is presented in its original raw state, before any editing or added effects. “Yoko did a hell of a lot of editing to it after the recording,” says Simon Hilton. “It is absolutely incredible. It’s making all of these decisions that you wouldn’t normally take, but she’s taken them with great bravery… they’re groundbreaking, in terms of not editing on the beat, but still editing somewhere that makes it work incredibly well.” Tracks were slowed down or sped up, enhanced with sound effects and delays, looping and sampling. “It was a very exciting record to do, because you never knew what was happening,” said the album’s engineer, John Leckie.

On “Why,” we can hear that the musicians were playing for nearly ten minutes before Ono chose to join them. “Why Not,” which runs over twenty minutes, has a bluesier cast to it. Shorn of its sound effects and manipulations, “Greenfield Morning” is more laid-back, but still just as haunting. Hearing just the bare tracks gives you a sense of being right there in the room with the musicians, caught up in the moment of creation. Voorman further explains their approach in the liner notes: “It’s not like really recording a song, it was recording a feeling. Ringo and my thing was, ‘We are the rhythm band, we’re just gonna put down the basis — some chair she can sit on and build a song around, build her music around.’” Three previously unreleased tracks flesh out the story; “Life” in particular percolates with a nervy energy, the musicians laying out a taut foundation for Ono’s ethereal cries to float upon.

It was the release of Rising in 1995 that helped lead to a reassessment of Ono’s earlier work. Old prejudices and misjudgments had faded away, and now younger musicians were eager to experience her music. L7 dropped a sample of Ono’s warbling into their track “Wargasm.” The Rising tour saw alternative rockers like the Melvins and Soundgarden joining Ono on stage. Remixes of her music by the likes of Cibo Matto and Tricky made her a regular presence at the top of Billboard’s dance chart. “When Yoko did her singing in Toronto [in 1969], the audience didn’t have any context to what she was doing,” says Voorman. “They didn’t know what it was supposed to be. So they were really shocked, I would say. Now, she has got an audience, and the people know what they come to see, and they know what she is presenting.” At present, the new mixes of YO/POB are only available on the Blu-rays in the “Ultimate Collection” box set, due to licensing issues; Hilton hopes to someday be able to release more material. But the original album, reissued twice since 1970, is readily available, and is well worth investigating as a barrier-breaking musical statement. For her part, Ono views her musical legacy with equanimity. “I feel that I always have my own voice and it’s different from others,” she says, “and if somebody wants to hear it, they will.”

PREMIERE: Lisa Ramey Preaches Unity With a Cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together”

The trajectory of NYC-based vocalist Lisa Ramey’s career reflects an exceptional adaptability and versatility – she started off doing musical theater in St. Louis, moved over to Broadway, then began recording her own music shortly before Cirque du Soleil recruited her to tour as a singer in their show Koozå. The next chapter of her career saw her competing on The Voice twice; during her first attempt, she didn’t make it into the main competition, but she then returned and became part of John Legend’s team, which she considers the launching pad of her solo career.

“It was weird; one day, your biggest audience is a couple hundred people, then the next day, there’s 10 million people watching you singing a song,” she remembers. “You can be a great singer, a great performer, but if there’s no one watching you, how are you going to get paid? The whole point is to climb the door to success — I found the door, but I definitely couldn’t get through it, and being on The Voice got me the key.”

Her experience on the show also led her to break from her past work in the R&B genre and focus more on exploring rock and soul. “As a Black female in the music industry, I don’t want to say you get pushed, but it’s just kind of known you’re an R&B singer, so you feel like you need to be,” she explains. “But when I was working with John Legend, they’re creating an artist for TV, and I was realizing I was more of a performer that wants to get out there and rock and go crazy.”

Her rock influences are evident on her latest release, a cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Her voice adds soul and sensuality to the classic hit, while the drums and electric guitars give it a heavier vibe. In the video, Ramey sings in a leather jacket and boots, pole-dances, and lounges on her bed, pouring over angel cards.

The inspiration for the video, like many works of art as of late, was the coronavirus quarantine. Specifically, it was meant to depict “someone going crazy when they’re going through quarantine,” she says. “When I’m wearing white, it’s like I’m losing my mind, and when I’m wearing black, it’s like this sexy subversion. Then, it just turned into this hot video. I’m a strong sexy black female and I ain’t got anything to hide.”

In its conception, the goal of the cover itself was simple: “to take an amazing, incredible, beautiful song and make it our own,” says Ramey, explaining that she aimed to create a “psychedelic sound with a darker edge.” However, in light of the George Floyd killing and recent protests against police brutality toward Black Americans, it evolved to promote the act of coming together to create social change.

“There’s a lot of hopeful things happening,” she says. “[We’re] defunding police. We’re starting to make decisions as communities instead of giving it all to corrupt police, and those are amazing things. I believe things can be different, but it can’t happen unless we all come together and stop making excuses of BS. And so I’m screaming at everybody out of frustration, and to see everybody rising up and marching against it is amazing. I had no idea that I had so many allies supporting me.”

In light of these events, Ramey encourages people to support Black artists by purchasing their work; for Ramey, that includes her latest album, Surrender, which shows off her unique style blending rock, soul, and R&B. “A lot of people like to reach out and ask me what they can do to help and apologize, and that’s amazing,” she says. “But it’s unbelievable how they bypass me. ‘How can I help the Black community?’ Well, here I am, Black, and I released an album, and you can help me and download that.”

She also hopes people heed the message of “Come Together” and combat hate by banding together with love. “The fight’s not over,” she says. “I’m amongst it and I’m with it and I’m here for it and I’m screaming at everyone. And I’m using the Beatles to help me out.”

Follow Lisa Ramey on Facebook for ongoing updates.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Kesha Vs. Dr. Luke, New Music, and MORE

New Motions Filed in Kesha / Dr. Luke Legal Battle

Kesha’s ongoing legal battle with Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald rages on, with a few new developments this week. Though a New York judge sided with Dr. Luke and Sony music following Kesha’s 2014 allegations that the producer had drugged and assaulted her, Dr. Luke is now suing for defamation, and other pop stars have been pulled into the back-and-forth.

Both Lady Gaga and Kesha made statements implying that Dr. Luke had also assaulted Katy Perry, though both Dr. Luke and Perry denied any assault had taken place back in August. This week, Kesha’s lawyers pointed out that this doesn’t mean an assault did not take place, in a response to Gottwald’s summary-judgement motion.

Lady Gaga’s 2017 deposition was also unsealed, and Gaga made some pretty powerful statements in support of Kesha, saying that as a survivor of sexual assault herself, she recognized Kesha’s “depression and fear” as evidence that something terrible had happened between the two. As Luke’s lawyers questioned her testimony, Gaga said they should be ashamed of themselves and that they were all a party to Kesha’s ongoing victimization; and her words are heartening for all survivors of sexual assault: “Well, you know, when men assault women, they don’t invite people over to watch. And when this happens in this industry, it is kept extremely secret, and it is compounded by contracts and manipulative power scenarios that actually include this very situation that we are all in right now…. How about all of the women that are accused of being liars and how she was slut shamed in front of the world, how about that?”

Of course, many have pointed out that while Gaga seems to support assault victims, her willingness to work with accused pedophile R. Kelly sings a different tune. Though Gaga has since apologized for the unfortunately-titled duet “Do What U Want (With My Body)” and removed the 2013 single from streaming platforms, critics say she still has to answer for her collaborations with Chris Brown and photographer Terry Richardson – both of whom have been accused of sexual assault.

Bottom line – though much of the entertainment world is having its Time’s Up moment, the music industry still has a lot of reckoning to do when it comes to the #MeToo movement.

That New New

Rico Nasty burst onto the scene in 2018 with her mixtape Nasty, and so far, 2019 looks promising as well; the rapper’s latest collab with Kenny Beats follows the equally infectious “Guap (LaLaLa).”

Brooklyn post-punks Weeknight have expanded their lineup from a duo to a quartet, opened a bar in Bushwick, and today released their sophomore album Dead Beat Creep.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard took a short break last year after releasing five (!) albums in 2017, but they’re back with a kitschy new video for “Cyboogie.” They haven’t released further details, but it’s likely there’s a new record (maybe even multiple records?) on the horizon from the Australian psych-rockers.

Yves Tumor released a powerful video tackling police brutality for “Noid,” one of our favorite singles from last year’s excellent Safe In The Hands of Love.

Stella Donnelly shared a video for “Lunch,” from her forthcoming Secretly Canadian debut Beware of the Dogs, which arrives March 8th.

Emily Reo will release Only You Can See It, her follow-up to 2013’s Olive Juice, on April 12 via Carpark Records, and has shared the first single, “Strawberry.”

Animal Collective’s Avey Tare (a.k.a. Dave Portner) announced his latest solo album Cows On Hourglass Pond with a new video.

Empress Of has teamed up with Perfume Genius to record a new version of “When I’m With Him.” The track originally appeared on last year’s album Us.

On the heels of last year’s studio album Marauder, Interpol have released a stand-alone single, “Fine Mess,” to drum up more buzz for the world tour.

Dua Lipa released an epic video for “Swan Song,” from the soundtrack to “Swan Song,” from new movie Alita: Battle Angel, which arrives in theaters on Valentine’s Day.

The Chemical Brothers will release their ninth studio album No Geography on April 12, their first LP in three years. They’ve previously shared singles “Free Yourself” and “MAH.”

The Mountain Goats will release their 578142268539th record via Merge on April 26th. It’s called In League With Dragons and is vaguely themed around a wizard doing normal things like attending a Waylon Jennings show and trying out for a baseball team.

Canadian punks PUP share their vision of a dystopian future in a clip for “KIDS,” from their forthcoming album Morbid Stuff, out February 5.

End Notes

  • Ariana Grande got a shitty, culturally appropriative tattoo and surprise! the Chinese characters don’t mean what she thought they meant. Kingsford Charcoal responded with the best troll ever. The singer released a new remix of “7 Rings” featuring 2 Chainz this week.
  • Tekashi 6ix9ine (rapper Daniel Hernandez) pleaded guilty to nine counts including firearms violations and racketeering stemming from his November arrest. His charges could have resulted in a mandatory minimum of 47 years, but his cooperation with authorities to identify members of his alleged gang may yield a lighter sentence. Tekashi was on probation for a 2015 incident in which he appeared in a sex tape involving a minor.
  • There’s an ABC drama in the works that’s based on John Mayer’s song “Heart of Life,” from his 2006 LP Continuum.
  • Cardi B and Offset are back together… for now. The couple welcomed their daughter, Kulture Kiari, in July, but split soon after due to Offset’s reported infidelity. Cardi recently starred in a Pepsi commercial set to air during this Sunday’s Super Bowl, despite having declined to perform in its halftime show out of solidarity with kneeling players.
  • Portishead’s Beth Gibbons and the National Radio Symphony Orchestra will release a live album titled Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs) on March 29 via Domino; check out the trailer and interactive website detailing the performance.
  • NPR is streaming Jessica Pratt’s new album Quiet Signs ahead of its February 8 release date.
  • LOTR director Peter Jackson is said to be making a documentary about the Beatles’ Let It Be.

ONLY NOISE: On Loving the Beatles As a Black Woman

ONLY NOISE explores music fandom with poignant personal essays that examine the ways we’re shaped by our chosen soundtrack. This week, Stephanie Phillips finds a way to relate to the Beatles – even though, as a black woman, their version of Britishness didn’t reflect her own experience.

Whether it was the power chord-driven emotional roar of Olympia’s Sleater-Kinney or the proto-riot grrrl wail of X-Ray Spex, as a young black girl who who spent all of her free time devouring new music, these musicians made my little teen self and all of my complex emotions feel seen. Yet, growing up in England in the ‘90s, there was one inescapable group that epitomized the way the country liked to see itself: The Beatles. As four white men who first made their name first reinterpreting the work of black artists, The Beatles were as British as the Empire itself – a glorious example of the British bulldog spirit and post-war triumph. In a country that, at the best of times, treats people like me with complete disregard (and at the worst has seen grown men making monkey noises at my ten-year-old self), how could I possibly feel connected to the four men they’d chosen as their ambassadors of Britishness? I wrote them off for as long as I could, deeming their work too misogynist, too irrelevant, or too old. So I was as stunned as anyone when The Beatles became one of my biggest influences as a musician and lover of music history.

The Beatles were so ubiquitous I can’t recall where I was when I first heard their music. Maybe I had to sing it as part of the alternative, contemporary songs portion of service at my church. It could have been background noise whirring from another TV special as I obliviously played with my brother as a kid. There’s always a chance the Fab Four blared out over tinny speakers at the local supermarket as I perused the perishables aisle with my mum. You were never introduced to The Beatles, they were just there, woven into the fabric of everyday life, an immovable presence in the British musical canon, one which no one would openly question.

Almost because of their popularity, they are also one of world’s most misunderstood bands. The source of the misinformation is usually middle-aged, know-it-all male fans – the kind who only drink real ale and, after a few pints, speak too loudly on the opinion that modern music is rubbish. These tiresome messengers of the drab bring the Four down to their level of mediocrity with their lacklustre covers of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and their insistence “Hey Jude” is the best Beatles song. It’s not, by a long stretch. This left me with the impression that the Beatles’ music only sounded sickly, sweet, and terribly dated.

The sad dad army wreaked havoc on the Beatles’ legacy and that’s even before you get into the steaming layers of toxic masculinity surrounding the band. Each member has had to answer to how they treated the women in their lives and we all know the stories of violence and macho aggression that are associated with John Lennon. How could I love a band who perhaps didn’t love women like me? I didn’t know how to get over these barriers. I decided I couldn’t and gave up, following my path into the exhilarating world of riot grrrl.

The author as a teen.

My early twenties were spent lying in my room listening to Giant Drag, Le Tigre and The Long Blondes, expanding my tastes by finding bands that were connected to them and repeating that same process. Looking back it was inevitable my aimless mission to devour all the music would eventually lead me to The Beatles; much like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, it was obvious that many bands would be inspired by or connected to the Beatles’ in some way, especially with the music industry continually pushing them to the forefront. Given my disdain for the Beatles’ association with British culture, it seems apt it that American bands eventually drew me into the Beatles’ genius. The Pixies, Breeders, and Throwing Muses all covered songs from the White Album; some were b-sides lovingly recreated, others were carefully reinterpreted takes on the original.

The Pixies’ cover of “Wild Honey Pie,” for instance, took what was a short, frenzied, carnival-esque snippet of a song and transformed it into an art rock scream fest. The Pixies used the repetitive nature of the song to further amp up the passion at the beating heart of the track. It was a brilliant homage to the kooky original, which was one of a collection of songs that illustrated the Fab Four’s love of all things odd.

The Breeders recorded a slower, moodier take on “Happiness is a Warm Gun” on their debut album Pod, while Throwing Muses released on haunting version of “Cry Baby Cry” on their 1991 single “Not Too Soon.” All in all the mysterious lyrics, complex time signatures and raw attitude spoke to me. I needed to know more, so I sought out the album.

The pressure to automatically revere a band instantly sucks all of the joy out of the listening process, like force-feeding yourself chocolate cake – it’s good, but you’d prefer a smaller slice on your own time. Taking The White Album in note by note, the world of The Beatles started to reveal itself to me. Far from being the unlistenable nonsense I always associated with them, the album was challenging, deep and experimental without showing off. I finally understood the melancholy outlook of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and its untamed classic rock guitar noodling. There were manically upbeat songs like “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey,” sparse proto-goth tunes like “Dear Prudence,” and garage blues punk on “Helter Skelter.” I listened to the album over and over again, taking in the incredible number of influences and genres that made this epic project. The album wasn’t coherent – the songs rarely followed any pop structure, and had unpredictable twists and turns. I was fixated with these sounds and finding out how they came to be. With each listen I heard so many of the bands I already loved in this one album. Turns out, I had been listening to the Beatles far longer than I’d realised, and I had to admit I’d been was wrong about them. They were a missing part of my music history puzzle.

If I was wrong about this album, I had to reason I might have been wrong about the rest of their music, so I kept listening and searching. There was a lot of ground to cover – decades worth of recordings, documentaries, films, rereleases and a lifetime’s worth of coverage. I devoured it all and came out the other end a Beatles devotee.

I had to admit that their cheeky, laddish attitude was addictive to watch, and a lot of the praise they were given is arguably true. I found as much beauty in their early recordings as I did their backstory. The reason their work resonates with so many is because their songs were simple and about universal themes of love and lust. The desperate appeal to an inattentive lover on “Please, Please Me” is sadly relatable. When I heard the crack in John’s voice on middle eighth of “This Boy” it hit me as hard as as any of the most eloquent poetry on heartbreak and loss. When The Beatles got it right they managed to create a world where anyone, no matter their background, could live vicariously through them. That’s when it clicked. The real winning element of the Beatles goes beyond their songs and exists in their story as a group.

And yet, I know so many black people who struggle to connect with the band, that feel disconnected from the white culture the band represent, and are far too aware that the Beatles built their reputation by imitating African American soul and R&B. I felt the same and it is true. The Beatles connection to whiteness and England is rarely discussed. It was a huge barrier that made liking the band seem insurmountable. The gatekeepers of rock and roll had told me that this was the greatest band in modern history, erasing the contributions of the genre’s black pioneers, and that was extremely off-putting. But the more I listened, I heard the influence of black musicians, like Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Motown acts like The Marvelettes. The Beatles could interpret any music style to their own benefit, and were emotive and adaptable songwriters, but unlike Led Zeppelin or Eric Clapton, they did not try and pass off black innovation as their own. The Beatles covered their favourite songs, put their own spin on them so as not to rip them off completely, and pointed fans in the direction of artists they were inspired by. Their effort to do so still resonates today, considering many white musicians fail to meet these basic requirements.

As a black female creative who often struggles to buck up my confidence and go out into the world, listening to The Beatles gives me the strength to imagine what I could be. It reminds me what I could create if capitalism, white supremacy and misogyny weren’t rooting for me to fail. Because despite the numerous books and documentaries declaring so, John, George, Paul and Ringo were not geniuses. Their ten year soap opera of a story gave me permission to dream of what could happen if I had everything – the money to buy whatever I wanted, the time to write, the confidence provided by millions of adoring fans. Perhaps when teenage girls screamed themselves into delirious frenzy at the sight of the boys, they weren’t just caught up in teenage lust, but were hungry to be any part of something as alive and powerful as rock and roll.

In a world where black bodies are policed at every available moment and black joy is looked on with suspicion there is rarely an opportunity for black people to dream freely. It’s why I always tell my friends about the power of The Beatles, though my sales pitch often falls on deaf ears. Who would believe black people could find respite in the words of four white guys from Liverpool? Though it’s likely that was not their intention, their enduring music gives me space to fully realise myself. I can sit back and take in the best of Revolver or Rubber Soul while imagining who and what I could be as a musician, a music fan and a black woman.

HIGH NOTES: 7 Songs That Were Inspired by Acid Trips

For decades, musicians have been known to experiment with LSD to stimulate their creative process. Because of the drug’s effects on the serotonergic system, people tripping on it not only experience warped sounds and images that might inspire music and lyrics but also become more open to experimenting with different styles. The result of these effects was no less than a musical revolution in the ’60s and ’70s and innovations in music that have continued up to the present day.

Many of the songs you’ve listened to have probably been inspired by acid trips, whether you realize it or not. Here are some songs that probably wouldn’t have existed as we know them without the help of lysergic acid diethylamide.

“Acid Rain” by Chance the Rapper

Hip hop may not be the genre you typically associate with LSD, but Chance the Rapper told MTV in 2013 that the drug inspired his album Acid Rap. This is perhaps most obvious on the track “Acid Rain,” where he raps, “Kicked off my shoes, tripped acid in the rain.” The song, like several on the album, is a tribute to his late friend Rodney Kyles Jr.: “My big homie died young; just turned older than him / I seen it happen, I seen it happen, I see it always / He still be screaming, I see his demons in empty hallways / I trip to make the fall shorter.” Presumably, his use of the word “trip” indicates that his psychedelic experiences helped him through the loss of his friend.

“Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” by The Flaming Lips

Though The Flaming Lips haven’t come out and said that this nonsensical story of a karate black belt’s battle with humanity-destroying robots was inspired by LSD, there are a few clues, the first being the weirdness of the whole story. The second clue is the album cover, which features the number 25 on a wall behind the robot, as James Stafford at Diffuser has observed. We also know that lead singer Wayne Coyne is a fan of LSD; he once said that the psychedelic “SuperFreak” video with Miley Cyrus was “originally intended to be for a song that has a reference to the drug LSD.”

“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane

This list would not be complete without “White Rabbit,” possibly the trippiest song known to humankind. “It became the signature for the people who were doing the things it had reference to,” the band’s bassist Jack Casady told Louder Sound. The song is based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, which in turn is based on — you guessed it — acid. “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small… logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead,” Grace Slick sang, evoking the visual distortions of psychedelic trips.

“I Am the Walrus” by The Beatles

The only song to rival “White Rabbit” as the world’s most obviously LSD-inspired song is “I Am the Walrus.” “I am he as you are he as you are me,” the opening line philosophizes before segueing into descriptions of “egg men,” “yellow matter custard dripping from a dog’s eye,” and a “pornographic priestess.” In case that doesn’t convince you that the song was written on acid, here’s a quote from John Lennon: “The first line was written on one acid trip one weekend, the second line on another acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko.” (I would’ve included “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” but Lennon has said this name actually came from the title of a drawing by his son. Still, it’s very possible that it was written on acid, too.)

“Lysergic Bliss” by of Montreal

With their wacky lyrics and colorful, over-the-top shows, of Montreal has a reputation for embracing the weird. This song leaves no mystery regarding its meaning, with a title referencing LSD’s full laboratory name, lysergic acid diethylamide. The song, however, appears to be not just about LSD but also about falling in love (perhaps falling in love on LSD?), with lyrics like “If we were a pair of jigsaw puzzle pieces / We would connect so perfectly.” But other lines like “Wearing an olive drab but feeling somehow inside opalescent” sound more like they’re about the drug itself.

“Acid Tongue” by Jenny Lewis

“Acid Tongue,” the eponymous song off Jenny Lewis’s first self-titled album, references Lewis’s first acid trip as a young teen in the line, “I’ve been down to Dixie And dropped acid on my tongue / Tripped upon the land ’til enough was enough.” She described the trip to Rolling Stone: “It culminated in a scene not unlike something from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas—the scene where Hunter S. Thompson has to lock the lawyer in the bathroom. I sort of assumed the Hunter S. Thompson character and my friend – she had taken far too much – decided to pull a butcher knife out of the kitchen drawer and chase me around the house. … At the end of that experience, my mom was out of town on a trip of her own and she returned to find me about 5 lbs lighter and I had—I was so desperate to get back to normal I decided to drink an entire gallon of orange juice. I saw that it was in the fridge and decided that this would sort of flush the LSD out of my system, but I didn’t realize that it did exactly the opposite.”

“Black Peter” by The Grateful Dead

Robert Hunter, a songwriter who frequently worked with The Grateful Dead, consumed apple juice containing about a gram of crystal LSD worth around $50,000 in 1969, after which he experienced firsthand the deaths of JFK, Lincoln, and other assassinated public figures. This scary and expensive trip paid off, though, because it inspired him to write “Black Peter,” which recounts this experience of dying in lyrics like “All of my friends come to see me last night / I was laying in my bed and dying / Annie Beauneu from Saint Angel / Say ‘the weather down here so fine.'”

NEWS ROUNDUP: New Releases, Quincy Jones, Festival Updates & More

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra

  • New Tours & Upcoming Releases

    Members of long missed DC band Fugazi are coming out with an album in this spring. A self-titled debut fromThe Messthetics, featuring Brendan Canty and Joe Lally, is out March 23 via Dischord. Johnny Cash’s family will release a music version of his poetry collection, Forever Words. Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, T. Bone Burnett, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello, Chris Cornell, and Jewel are among the artists involved in the April 6th release. American Guilt, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s new record will also come out that day. The band have announced a tour in support of the follow-up to their 2015 record, Multi-Love; they’ll play Brooklyn Steel on April 25th & 26th. Nils Frahm has announced a tour in support of recent album, All Melody. The ambient musician makes a stop at the Knockdown Center in March. On April 3rd and 4th, rapper Talib Kweli shows his hometown some love, bringing his full band to Brooklyn Bowl. SIR, Fischerspooner’s first album in 10 years, is out on February 16th. They play three dates in California in March. Depeche Mode continue their road run. The legends have announced another round of US dates for their Global Spirit tour. They will play Barclays center on June 6th.

  • Quincy Jones Trashes Michael Jackson, The Beatles, U2 in Latest Interview

    In a recent interview with Vulture, iconic record and film producer Quincy Jones implied (among making claims that he dated Ivanka Trump and knows who killed Kennedy) that The Beatles barely knew how to play their instruments, Michael Jackson stole material for some of his best-loved songs, and that U2 is no longer making good music (despite having very warm words for his friend Bono). Surprisingly, these are not the only shots he fired – he also criticized T-Pain’s work on a 2010 collaboration they did, recalls Cyndi Lauper nearly ruining “We Are The World,” and grumbled about the state of pop music today, saying, “It’s just loops, beats, rhymes and hooks… There ain’t no fucking songs.” Jones is nearing his 85th birthday in March but isn’t slowing down, with a ton of projects in the works, including a Netflix documentary and a CBS special hosted by Oprah.

  • Festival Updates

    Bonnaroo announced its day-by-day roster this week. The fest is still light on women, but compared to much of their competition, the organizers have done a slightly better job at including female headliners, although we’re not clapping yet. Sheryl Crow, Sylvan Esso, Paramore, Dua Lipa, and Alison Wonderland will be there this year. The Friday lineup includes festival EDM mainstay Bassnectar, as well as Khalid and Muse. Saturday gives us Eminem, Bon Iver, Kaskade, Anderson Paak, and Nile Rodgers. Sunday’s finale will showcase The Killers, Future, Broken Social Scene, and Alt-J. The 2018 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is June 7 to 10th in Manchester, Tennessee. SXSW has announced even more additions for this year’s fest. Princess Nokia, Tennis, Bugzy Malone, and many more will play from March 9 to 18 in Austin, Texas.

  • Other Highlights

    It’s the end of an era! Best Buy, once a major player in national music sales and your favorite high school shoplifting spot, has announced that it will stop selling CDs in stores on July 1st. Meanwhile, Target is attempting to switch its music sales business model to a consignment-based system. The soundtrack for indie coming-of-age movie Call Me By Your Name is having an unexpected sales streak in vinyl. The record is a mix of classical music, Euro pop, and Sufjan Stevens’ originals. The American troubadour penned three songs for the album, including the single “Mystery of Love,” which is up for Best Original Song at this year’s Oscars. Lana Del Rey got emotional on stage at her show in Atlanta following an attempted kidnapping thwarted by Orlando police. Finally, an awards show where Frank Ocean may finally get his due! He’s among the nominees for Music Artist of the Year at the 2018 British LGBT Awards. Speaking of the English, the BBC have released a list of the “12 essential records that capture the spirit of New York City.” Their picks include Wu-Tang and The Strokes. St. Vincent visited Spotify to record two new tracks, a stripped down version of her original song “Los Ageless” and a cover of Rihanna and SZA track, “Consideration.” Black Panther: The Album comes out today as well as new music from Palm, 2 Chainz, Franz Ferdinand, MGMT, Dashboard Confessional, Citrus, and Frankie Cosmos.


HIGH NOTES: How LSD Changed Music as We Know It

In 1965, at 2 Strathearn Place in London, John and Cynthia Lennon, George Harrison, and Pattie Boyd sat at their dentist John Riley’s dinner table sipping coffee. A few minutes prior, Riley’s girlfriend Cindy Bury had placed sugar cubes laced with LSD in their cups.

Back then, the drug was just beginning to leave labs and doctors’ offices. Riley didn’t even know what it was. “It was just, ‘It’s all the thing,’ with the middle-class London swingers,” John Lennon told Rolling Stone. “He was saying, ‘I advise you not to leave,’ and we thought he was trying to keep us for an orgy in his house and we didn’t want to know.”

Despite Riley’s request, the group headed out to the Pickwick Club. “We’d just sat down and ordered our drinks when suddenly I feel the most incredible feeling come over me,” George Harrison recalled. “One thing led to another, then suddenly it felt as if a bomb had made a direct hit on the nightclub and the roof had been blown off: ‘What’s going on here?’ I pulled my senses together and I realised that the club had actually closed.”

After that, they headed to another club called Ad Lib, where they screamed after mistaking the elevator light for a fire. “We were cackling in the street, and then people were shouting, ‘Let’s break a window.’ We were just insane. We were just out of our heads,” Lennon remembered.

That night would change music history forever. Arguably, it’s why “Tomorrow Never Knows” sounds so different from “A Hard Day’s Night” — and why many songs started sounding different in the 60s, Chris Rice, founder of the Psychedelic Society of New England and author of On Culture: Small minds, big business, and the psychedelic solution, tells me.

Acid “expands one’s mind to things that they could not imagine being possible before its use,” Rice explains. “Sonically, this results in increased experimentation of sound. This lead to things like lead guitar recorded backwards by numerous artists, The Grateful Dead recording air in different locations (dry air, humid air, etc.) because they thought it would add depth and texture to their music, and The Beach Boys recruiting The Beatles’ Paul McCartney to chew celery in the track ‘Vegetables’ to add percussive sound to that track. Clearly, these examples are a far cry from the simple ‘guitar bass drums vocals’ setup that was comfortable and familiar in earlier rock and roll.”

While The Beatles were tripping in London, The Grateful Dead was performing in Northern California’s “Acid Tests,” festivals that combined dance, art, and (of course) drugs, Philip Auslander, a Professor at the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Institute of Technology, tells me. Their sound engineer was chemist Augustus Owsley Stanley III, also known as Bear, who manufactured LSD and sold it to John Lennon, Pete Townsend, and other musicians. The Grateful Dead’s music was partially funded by the sale of this “Monterey Purple” and “White Lightning” acid. 

The Dead and likeminded bands and artists like The Beach Boys, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd became known for their improvisational approach and “trippy” sound, which Sheila Whiteley defines in The Space Between the Notes as including “manipulation of timbres (blurred, bright, overlapping), upward movement (and its comparison with psychedelic flight), harmonies (lurching, oscillating), rhythms (regular, irregular), relationships (foreground, background), and collages.”

The distortion and Wah-Wah effects used by these bands mimicked the way acid distorts sound, Ido Hartogsohn, a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow with Harvard’s Program on Science, Technology & Society, tells me. Layered studio arrangements like those in The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper and The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds similarly brought out the sound’s details and arrangements the way LSD might.

Against the backdrop of these cutting-edge instrumentals and production techniques, a new style of lyric writing emerged. Phrases ceased rhyming, and images ceased making sense. The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus,” for example, is rife with LSD imagery, from “sitting on a cornflake” to the “elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna.”

Even the band names became nonsensical, Richard Goldstein, who was a rock critic for The Village Voice in the 60s and used to drop acid with The Beach Boys, points out. Instead of carrying clear, simple meanings like The Penguins, The Crickets, The Animals, or even The Beatles, names like Jefferson Airplane, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, and 13th Floor Elevator appeared to be selected purely for their aesthetic properties.

“It’s a very aesthetic drug,” Goldstein explains. Rather than perceiving sounds and images through the lens of a culturally prescribed meaning, people on acid interface more directly with sensory stimuli. This can lead to more universal, culture-transcending experiences with music. “We’re all connected through the subconscious, so when we listen to music on acid, it makes us have more of a tribal feeling,” says Goldstein. “It’s less intellectual more emotional and visceral.”

This shift from the intellectual to the visceral, from order to chaos, from logic to aesthetics, left an indelible mark on music, spawning other genres like pop psych, acid punk, and psychedelic trance and influencing folk, soul, and jazz, says Auslander. You can even hear their influence in modern rock bands like Tame Impala and Of Montreal, Hartogsohn points out. But psychedelic rock’s impact reaches beyond music to culture at large and even politics. It was a contributor, for example, to the counterculture and antiwar movements.

“LSD alters a user’s perception of what is important in life. As a result, the act of war seems entirely ludicrous,” says Rice. “Much of the elements of our culture constructed by our predecessors seem curious if not downright silly when viewed from the outside, as acid is prone to make people do. As a result, people’s worldviews shifted dramatically in the direction of peace and of love and of harmony, which seems, under the influence, to be the true meaning of incarnation in this realm.”

That’s the sentiment behind songs like “Love Is All You Need” and “Give Peace a Chance,” which John Lennon wrote after he became a regular (sometime daily) acid user. “[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”][We now] assume by default that popular music artists are socially aware and politically committed, a pure legacy of the psychedelic era,” says Auslander.

So, not only can we credit much of the past 50 years of music history to acid; we can also credit it for the spirit of the era this music helped usher in. The effects of LSD are environment-specific, Goldstein explains, but what it pretty reliably does is open people’s minds. Whatever happens to be around us as our minds open up may then get incorporated into our music and our worldview (which could also explain why there are so many stories about people who think they’re orange juice on LSD). And during the hippie era, which was already taking root by the time LSD entered the mainstream, people were tripping amid a call for peace and movement toward globalization.

Though LSD’s history is still palpable in today’s music, Goldstein laments that it isn’t more present. People today are “more interested in the solo cup than they were in the tab,” leaving music devoid of spirituality, he says. Kansas’s “Dust in the Wind” embodies the values Goldstein is nostalgic for with the line, “don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.” He looks back fondly on the “naïveté” that brought people to festivals with karma meters and mood rings. Acid “makes it easier to have that kind of reasoning,” he recalls. “Or lack of reasoning. But life is more than reason.” [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ONLY NOISE: Beautiful Losers

Repeat after me: Loser. Double loser. Whatever. Moron. If you were a certain age in the late 1990s, this insult – when paired with the correct hand motions – was the ultimate dis to peers, siblings, and losers of every stripe. The term “loser” in the nineties and early ‘00s was plastered all over the place, from Beck’s breakout hit, to anti-drug PSAs, and that movie starring Jason Biggs’ trapper hat. The identity of the “loser” in music, however, is a far more complex thing than a girl with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an “L” on her forehead,” as Smash Mouth sang.

The loser is not simply a spinoff of Jay and Silent Bob, or Bill and Ted, or Beavis and Butthead (as you can see, losers often come in pairs). It seems that the loser of song tradition is more akin to a hero than a villain. A flawed bearer of mediocrity and wearer of slouchy clothes, the loser archetype is as quintessential to rock ‘n’ roll as the rambler and the romantic. Some losers are self-proclaimed, like Derrick Harriott as he sang his reggae hit “The Loser,” and Merle Haggard, who released the gorgeous but self-effacing song “I’m a Good Loser” on his 1971 record, Hag. “Yeah I’m a good loser/Born to be that way/This dog, he never had his day,” croons Haggard, no doubt lamenting a long-gone woman.

Though country stars were often self-critical in Haggard’s era, hearing him sing the words, “I’m a good loser” is still jarring to this day. Who could ever think of Merle Haggard, one of the coolest men in the history of country music, as a loser? Only he had the power to slander his name, illuminating the fact that loss plagues all of us – even rich and famous country singers.

In many ways, Haggard was a loser. He certainly didn’t have a winning relationship with cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol, the combination of which contributed to his many years of poor heath, and eventual death in 2016. The Hag was also known to lose in love, and to the law. He was married five times and served two and a half years at San Quentin prison in 1958 for burglary and attempted escape from county jail. Add all that up, and you might not call Merle Haggard a winner – but he sure lost with the best of ‘em.

The desperate nature of a country music persona made the genre natural loser territory. From Hank Williams singing “You Win Again” to Linda Ronstadt’s “Sometimes You Just Can’t Win,” to the real-life rise and fall of Townes Van Zandt – the songs wouldn’t have been as good if everybody was winning all the time. But music’s hopeless manifesto didn’t reside only in blues and country – pop is full of losers, too. Of course there’s “Three Time Loser” by ultimate sexyman Rod Stewart, “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus, “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA, and countless others. Even The Beatles, the untouchable Fab Four, had a song about being a loser: “I’m A Loser” from 1964’s Beatles For Sale. “I’m a loser/And I lost someone who’s near to me,” sings John Lennon. It’s hard to imagine John, Paul, George or even Ringo identifying as losers while watching them perform this cut to a crowd of shrieking women, but then again, as the song warns, “I’m a Loser/And I’m not what I appear to be.”

Still, The Beatles don’t quite fit the loser archetype. I mean, look at those suits and those haircuts. Even when they got mustachioed and Sgt. Peppered it was hard to see them as anything but rock n’ roll all-stars. Folks like Roy Orbison, on the other hand, had a tougher time making it as a cool kid. “Roy was the coolest, uncool loser you’d ever seen,” Bruce Springsteen said of Orbison in a 2012 keynote address at SXSW. I doubt Orbison would deny such a claim had he been alive to hear it. The dark genius behind masterpieces like “Only The Lonely” and “Crying” knew much of loss and sorrow.

Orbison, aka, “The Big O” went through numerous catastrophes in his lifetime – in fact, there is even a section of his Wikipedia page entitled, “Career decline and tragedies” – and it’s lengthy. Orbison suffered heartbreak, infidelity on the part of his first wife Claudette (yes, that “Claudette”), and a lifetime of mourning. In June of 1966, Orbison and Claudette were riding motorcycles through Gallatin, Tennessee when Claudette struck the door of a pickup truck that had pulled out in front of her. She died instantly. Only two years later while touring England, Orbison received a call relaying that his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee had burned down, leaving his two eldest sons dead. If to be a loser you must suffer great loss, then perhaps Orbison was the biggest loser in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Where Haggard and Oribson’s losses were the stuff of tragic poems, the loser that rolled up in the ‘90s was cut from a different cloth. Take Beck’s “Loser” for instance – the lo-fi hit that put him on the map in 1994. Far more blasé than self-loathing, Beck traipsed through that music video like a shabby bon vivant rather than a hopeless burnout. He owned his loser-dom in secondhand duds and ill-fitting hats. Beck was the loser we’d never seen in music before: mildly defiant, nihilistic, and chic in his refusal to look to the future. Suddenly, the loser wasn’t tragic – it was cool.

But where have all the losers gone? We’ve seen plenty of pop stars in the past decade donning thick-rimmed glasses and identifying as “geek” (which, by the way, is not the same thing as a loser), but where are the deadbeat, worn-down, desperate stars of today? And please do not mention Ed Sheeran – he has a full torso of professional tattoos, and is therefore stripped of any potential loser accolades. Everyone keeps shouting that “the ‘90s are back!” but I don’t see rock ‘n’ roll losers anywhere. Who are kids supposed to look up to these days anyway, Adam Levine? That guy has far too many abs to be a loser. Mainstream music seems to be populated solely by shiny, auto-tuned sex symbols (and Ed Sheeran), and it’s just not enough. We need our poor, our weary, our roughened-up chumps, too. We need our losers. We are lost without them.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Changes at MTV, Rodents + Rush & More

  • MTV Ends Its “Era” Of Longform Journalism 

    The site has laid off a sizable portion of their editorial staff in a (possibly misguided?) effort to give millennials what they really want, a.k.a. “short-form video content.” An in-depth article by Spin breaks down this shift, and reveals MTV News’ troubling loyalty to artists over its writers. Inside sources state that lukewarm reviews of Chance the Rapper and Kings Of Leon were removed from the cite after complaints from the artists’ management. Read the whole thing here

  • Meet The Capybara Babies Named After Rush

    Naming animals after rockstars is the best trend to come out of 2017. The latest species to get the eponymous treatment is the freakishly adorable capybara, the world’s largest rodent from South America. The triplets of two well-known capybaras named Bonnie and Clyde, who gained fame after running away from their Toronto zoo for 36 days, were recently named after Rush’s Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart. Look below for what you really came here for: videos of the huge rodents doing cute stuff. 

  • Listen To She Keeps Bees’ Healthcare Protest 

    It’s a somber but fiery track, delivered by She Keeps Bees at a very appropriate time as Republican leaders decide to hold off on voting on the health care bill until after the July 4th holiday. Rather than go the subtle route, “Our Bodies” ends with a very literal, unmistakable message: “Our bodies are our own… don’t control me, we demand autonomy.” Listen below.


NEWS ROUNDUP: George Martin, Tiny Desk, & Iggy Pop


  • George Martin Dies

    Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: George Martin, famed Beatles producer, has died at age 90. Martin spent seven years working with the Fab Four, helping them arrange and shape their sound. His closeness with the band earned him the nickname “the fifth Beatle,” though he also worked with other artists such as Peter Sellers, Shirley Bassey, America, Cheap Trick, Jeff Beck and Celine Dion. Many of the Beatles songs wouldn’t be the same without him- For example, check out “Tomorrow Never Knows,” a track on which Martin humored the band’s request for backward tape loops:

  • Watch Mothers “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t” Video

    Feeling sad yet? Just wait until you learn the story behind the Mothers track “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t.” Singer  Kristine Leschper wrote the song about her missing cat. Footage of her cat is briefly featured in the video, and she describes it as “the only remaining video I have of my best friend, who was so often the only thing keeping me rooted in reality, feeding me optimism, helping me survive.” If you’ve ever had a lost cat, you’ll understand.

  • NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest Winner Announced

    This year’s winner of the Tiny Desk Contest is Gaelynn Lea, from Duluth, Minnesota. Lea sings and plays the fiddle, though her brittle bone disease requires her to play a very small violin which she holds upright, like a double bass. Her song, “Someday We’ll Linger In The Sun,” has a haunting, heartbreaking melody that remains in your head long after the song ends, yet still manages to convey a sense of hope. Check out her winning performance:

  • Stream Post Pop Depression, The New Iggy Pop + Josh Homme Collaboration

    Iggy Pop has described the album as a sort of sequel to Lust For Life, on which he collaborated with David Bowie. He recorded Post Pop Depression the Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, in some secluded desert location, as is Homme’s style (that information alone means it’s going to be pretty awesome).  You can stream the nine tracks on NPR, here


ALBUM REVIEW: Destroyer “Poison Season”


“You could follow a rose wherever it grows/You could fall in love in Times Square,” Dan Bejar, aka Destroyer sings on the track “Times Square.” His latest album, Poison Season, constantly references itself, both musically and lyrically, but matter where one track takes you, another always leads you back to perhaps the most well-known area of New York City, Times Square; The record has three songs that include it in their title. Most New Yorkers may associate the area with crowded trains and annoying tourists more than love, but Bejar somehow makes it seem romantic and sentimental.

Called “Rock’s Exiled King” by The Fader, this is the tenth studio album by Bejar, who also plays in The New Pornographers, but strays far from the indie rock genre in his solo project.  Though Poison Season may seem like a harsh name for an album, it’s not reflected in the music. Songs are filled with sweeping (but never too sappy) strings and loose jazz saxophone. The whole album has a late-night/early dawn feel to it, recalling the 4AM epiphanies you get when you’re still clinging to your last bit of consciousness. This is especially true on the track “Dream Lover,” where he borrows the line “Here comes the sun.” But this isn’t the hopeful, cheery sun from the Beatles’ song- this sun is an interruption, signaling the end the night with a does of reality: “Oh shit, here comes the sun/Lovers on the run,” Bejar laments after an evening where “Haunted starlight gets in your eyes.” Euphoric, chaotic saxophone and a driving beat make it one of the album’s best tracks.

On “Bangkok,” the saxophones are joined by piano, giving the song the feeling of an after-hours jazz lounge. And on “Hell,” the bouncy beat begs you to snap along even as Bejar insists “It’s hell down here, it’s hell”(He also slips in a somewhat political line with “Every murderer voted out of office is sold down the river,” though he follows it up with something purely romantic).

Bejar’s voice has a whispery, spoken-word feel to it, and even during quieter moments, it’s easy to want to give his words your full attention. There are some serious moments on the album, but Bejar’s sense of humor manages to shine through. He uses the line “Bring out your dead,” which could possibly (I’d like to think this, anyway) be a nod to the Monty Python comedy The Holy Grail. And while the music video for “Girl In A Sling” is a beautiful, simple film where Bejar develops old photo negatives in what appears to be a childhood house, the video for “Times Square” is a light-hearted stop motion animation. Mossy creatures get high off of pipes and joints, a tree stump hunts for mushrooms, and a cartoon brain crawls along the forest floor.

This is definitely not the Times Square that exists at West 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, but it’s the Times Square that should.

Poison Season is out on August 28 via Merge Records. Check out the track “Dream Lover” below.


APPROVAL MATRIX: 2/9/14 thru 2/15/14

PolyFauna Radiohead App

Here’s our take on the best and worst in music this week.



[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″][box type=”shadow”]RingoPaulZZZ Fifty years of this whole “without The Beatles, music would have long ago ceased to exist” mentality is getting stale.  CBS’s trite attempt to foster Beatles-Mania 2.0 proved once again that the folks behind the Grammys don’t even bother to listen outside the box.[/box][/fusion_builder_column] [fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″_last][box type=”shadow”]

PolyFauna Radiohead App

Radiohead have released an enthralling, otherworldly new app, PolyFauna. In it, “your screenis the window into an evolving world” based on the sound and imagery of “Bloom” from 2011’s King of Limbs.[/box][/one_half_last]

DESPICABLE <<—————————————————————————– >>BRILLIANT

[fusion_builder_row_inner][fusion_builder_column_inner type=”1_2″][/fusion_builder_column][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”][box type=”shadow”]pshrollingstone

Drake threw a hissy fit when Rolling Stone bumped his cover story to run a TRIBUTE to the RECENTLY DECEASED Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  He has since apologized, realizing that sadness over the tragic death of a talented actor is maybe just a little bit more justified than being butt hurt over the music mag’s slight.[/box][/fusion_builder_column_inner] [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″_last][box type=”shadow”]


 We’re beginning to think “shows at Rough Trade” were an elaborate hoax designed by the owners of Baby’s All Right. Cheers to Oh My Rockness for keeping everything straight for us.[/box][/one_half_last]