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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 Savage vs. ICE

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

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

That New New

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

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

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

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

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

Death Hags shared “Electrochemical Communication.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Notes

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

ONLY NOISE: Fall Preview

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Benjamin Clementine’s I Tell A Fly arrives October 2.

Tomorrow marks the first day of autumn. You might not believe it given these muggy 80-degree days, but Fall is upon us nevertheless. Fall is the best for multiple reasons, including turtlenecks, Halloween, and mock-necks; but it is also a time when things die. Leaves. Bar backyards. Your summer tan. All gone. Looking back on this time last year, I was writing about the death (or at least prolonged hibernation) of CMJ. Now I could add the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and potentially The Deli Magazine to that obituary. Sure, the Voice is only going out of print, Rolling Stone is only up for sale, and The Deli Magazine is only half the size it used to be – maybe “death” is too harsh a word – but that’s what it feels like.

Today I happened upon one of those familiar red boxes and snatched up the last copy of The Village Voice I will ever hold. The cover was nearly text free, save for the paper’s logo and the words “Final Edition” in tiny print at the top. A black and white photo of Bob Dylan giving a salute filled the page. It is a somber image, and almost made my knees buckle on West Broadway. I could only think: “what next?”

And then, in rare moment of attempted optimism, I asked myself again: “yes, what next?” This time, instead of asking with dread, I asked it with the expectation of wonderful things. New York may be missing some iconic music venues, festivals, and print publications, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a wealth of great music coming our way regardless. So rather than mourn the lost, let’s look forward to the season’s best musical happenings, shall we? We shall. Here are the Fall 2017 record releases I am most looking forward to.

9/22/17

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Luciferian Towers

The difficult-to-define, experimental Canadians Godspeed You! Black Emperor will drop their sixth LP tomorrow – the much anticipated Luciferian Towers. Fortunately we don’t have to wait another second to check it out, as the group shared the album in full with NPR last week. In keeping with GY!BE fashion, this record is dense, sprawling, and frenetic. Now we can only hope the band will accompany its release with a US tour sometime soon!

9/29/17

Protomartyr, Relatives In Descent

Next week, Detroit post-punks Protomartyr will release Relatives In Descent – their debut LP for Domino Records. After seeing Protomartyr play a dynamite set at Basilica Soundscape last weekend, I’m especially thrilled for this new album, which according to the band’s Greg Ahee, was inspired by Mica Levi and the Raincoats’ Odyshape. Relatives In Descent was co-produced and recorded with Sonny DiPerri, who has worked with the likes of Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective. What’s not to love?

10/2/17

Benjamin Clementine, I Tell A Fly

Mercury Prize winner Benjamin Clementine is one of the more fascinating characters in contemporary music. While his debut album 2015’s At Least For Now was a sweeping affair between neo-classical and Nina Simone, I Tell A Fly promises theatrics and a bit of the political. The record’s leading single, “Phantom Of Aleppoville” is an album all its own, volleying from marching snares to parlor piano and soul harmonies. It’s a tour de force, and I imagine the whole LP will be nothing short of the same. Don’t miss Clementine when he plays Carnegie Hall on October 5th.

 10/6/17:

Kelela, Take Me Apart

Two very different records drop on October sixth, one being the long-awaited full-length debut from R&B artist Kelela. Take Me Apart (Warp Records) is the follow-up to Kelela’s 2014 EP Hallucinogen and her 2013 mixtape Cut 4 Me. According to the artist, the album is a blend of personal themes, politics, and genre. “Despite it being a personal record,” Kelela stated in a press release, “the politics of my identity informs how it sounds and how I choose to articulate my vulnerability and strength. I am a black woman, a second-generation Ethiopian-American, who grew up in the ‘burbs listening to R&B, Jazz and Björk. All of it comes out in one way or another.” Catch Kelela November 12th and 13th at Bowery Ballroom.

Marilyn Manson, Heaven Upside Down

On the other end of things, Antichrist Superstar Marilyn Manson is back with his first new track in two years. The garage-pop cut “KILL4ME” is Manson’s leading single off his forthcoming record Heaven Upside Down, and it’s far more catchy than disturbing. Perhaps all of Manson’s interactions with Justin Bieber have affected his sound? Manson will perform at the Hammerstein Ballroom on September 30th and The Paramount on October 3rd.

 10/13/17:

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice

 Mid-October treats include the debut duet Lotta Sea Lice from Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, who make such a natural pair it’s amazing they didn’t cut a record together years ago. The record’s first single “Over Everything” is an expert blend of deadpan romanticism and tangy guitar riffs – elements both artists know their way around quite well. Kurt and Courtney (no, not that Kurt and Courtney!) will play The Beacon Theater on November 1st.

King Krule The Ooz

Archy Marshall is set to release his sophomore LP as King Krule. The Ooz is already garnering a lot of excitement from the music community, and if the entire record is half as good as its first single “Dum Surfer,” all the hype will be justified. For those of you who’ve yet to see King Krule live, he’ll be headlining Greenpoint’s Warsaw on October 24th and 25th. Get there early and eat some pierogies while you’re at it! 

10/20:

Destroyer, Ken

The first two singles from Destroyer’s forthcoming LP Ken sound completely different from one another. But then again, that’s the Destroyer sound: constantly morphing. Check out the frenetic and haunting “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood,” and keep an eye open for Destroyer’s 2018 US tour.

John Carpenter, Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998

Right in time for Halloween, Sacred Bones Records will release John Carpenter’s Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998. This collection of Carpenter’s film scores (that’s right, he directed the flicks and composed the music to cult classics like Escape From New York and Halloween) will be limited to 500 hand-numbered vinyl LPs, pressed on “Anti-God Green” wax, of course. Get your copy quick, and don’t miss Carpenter’s Terminal 5 set on November 16th.

If that list of killer music-to-come doesn’t dissolve your Autumn blues, then I don’t know what will. Perhaps this list of incredible Fall concerts, happening right here in NYC:

9/22:

 The Spits @Brooklyn Night Bazaar

Pill @Secret Project Robot

9/23:

Xiu Xiu @Union Pool

9/28:

Wild Yaks @The Safari Room at El Cortez

9/29:

Songhoy Blues @Bowery Ballroom

10/7:

Alex Cameron @Rough Trade

10/14:

Sean Nicholas Savage @Baby’s All Right

10/16:

Billy Bragg @City Winery

10/20:

Big Freedia @Brooklyn Bowl

10/21:

Sheer Mag @Villain

10/31:

Diamanda Galas @Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph

11/1:

Ezra Furman @Baby’s All Right

11/2:

The Raincoats @The Kitchen

12/9:

Vagabon @Bowery Ballroom

12/10:

Perfume Genius @Bowery Ballroom

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LIVE REVIEW: 4Knots Festival Highlights

4Knots-Music-Festival-2015-Event-Review-PPcorn

While last year’s 4Knots was downtown and gratis, the updated version boasts an impressive list of food vendors, top notch sound quality, and a killer lineup. And though you have to shell out a lot more than nothing this time ‘round, rest assured that all proceeds go to benefit Hudson River Park itself.

Highlights:

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Heaters:

As you can see from our interview with the Grand Rapids trio, these boys are straightforward and approachable as human beings as well as musicians. They play psych rock straight up. Their set was incredibly tight and focused. It’s always interesting for a band’s sound to be so raucous and raw and their composure so stoic and professional. Guitarist/vocalist Andrew Tamlyn, drummer Joshua Korf, and bassist/vocalist Nolan Kreb all look like they could be in three different bands, but they sure as hell sound like one. Despite a little pestilence from a “Free Bird!” shouting audience member, the crowd loved them, and so did I.

 

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Meatbodies:

In my opinion the most surprising act of the evening, Los Angeles-based Meatbodies kicked ass. It’s a pedestrian description, but an accurate one. They’re a shambolic bunch whose stage banter is far from sophisticated and all the better for it. “We’re sorry we’re sick. We ate too much cheese last night. We’re sick on cheeeeeeeeeese!!!!!” they shout out phlegmy throats. Lead man Chad Ubovich is freakishly talented, and when you consider his resume it makes sense; he was long the lead guitarist for Mikal Cronin and currently plays bass in Fuzz. Each Meat Body has palpable chops, but Ubovich is a real showman and potentially a savant; his solos are wild and wailing, seeming at once impossible and effortless. As his guitar squeals his eyes roll back in his head and his mouth twitches in unembarrassed focus. The lot of them come off like your shithead little brother – that all your friends would rather hang out with.

 

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Happyness:

You may have noticed by now that we’re a bit hung up on Happyness, and that won’t be changing anytime soon. They play a familiar set-at least to someone who’s seen them three times in the past couple of months-but it never grows stale. The thing that continues to surprise and delight me about these boys is that despite their all-too-clever lyrics and flippant interview responses, they perform with an intense and joyous sincerity. Drummer Ash Cooper, though only in his early twenties, comes off like a seasoned jazz session man, mouthing each brush on the high hat, squinting and smiling in a surely unconscious way. Benji Compston and Jonny Allan do all the talking to the crowd, but as a trio they seem to be speaking to each other with a ease and professionalism that typically marks bands who’ve been together much longer than they.

 

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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks:

I’ve been looking for Stephen Malkmus all night. Was he in the crow’s nest? Aboard the artists’ lounge? Catching some shade under that enormous prop Deep Eddy Vodka bottle tethered to the bow of the boat? He’d managed to escape my searching eyes until the moment he stepped out from behind the stage (I’m convinced I was the first person to see him). “Hello photographer people” he mutters and leans over the photo pit a bit self-consciously. The Jicks are on the edge of their first song when a resounding ferry horn honks. “Even ships fart,” Malkmus quips, proving he’s still the easily humored dude he’s always been. The band played the bulk of 2014’s Wig Out at Jagbags but no Pavement managed to creep into their set. (I can dream, can’t I?) A particular show high-point peaked during “Freeze The Saints” when Malkmus sauntered over to guitarist/keyboardist Mike Clark to join him on the keys. They plunked away side by side until Malkmus turned to Clark, stating dryly: “You’re stepping on me, bro.”

 

super-furry-animals

Super Furry Animals:

It’s only fitting that the Super Furries would headline, seeing as they’ve been on hiatus for half a decade. I know that the stage set up won’t be demure (knowing them, and how long it takes for them to come onstage) but I have read the yeti costumes are destroyed, and will therefore not make an appearance this tour. They too find amusement in the ferry horns, pausing after the first and maniacally shouting back at it. SFA fans are not fainthearted, and there is a flock of them. They play all the favorites, mine being “Juxtaposed With You” simply for how much it stands away from their catalog. Their set is long and solid, but of course they deliver a generous encore. And despite all the talk, they play it in yeti suits after all.

LIVE REVIEW: Low Fat Getting High @ Cake Shop

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Grow your hair. Throw a beer. Break a bridge, chuck a cymbal. Hold your Jazzmaster with its busted bridge up to the foam ceiling insulation to get more feedback. Play through stacks jacked up so loud you drown the house PA. I don’t know if Brooklyn’s Low Fat Getting High read a book on how to be the most rock n’ roll, but they sure as hell could write one.

 

Low Fat has been making strides in the underground rock circuit as of late, receiving praise from the likes of Brooklyn Vegan and the Village Voice, the latter calling them NYC’s Best Rock Band. Now while that’s a hefty medal from a source past its prime, Low Fat certainly do kick ass. The proof was at the Cake Shop last Thursday, where the trio shared a record release party alongside label mates The Black Black. Both groups have fresh vinyl out on NY’s own Money Fire Records, Low Fat’s being a self-titled 12 song ear-ripper that could sit on a shelf next to 90’s Queens of the Stone Age; no shortage of muddy bass and aggro drums here.

 

The Money Fire boys split the bill with Dead Stars and recent Seattle transplants Iska Dhaaf who opened the evening. Iska Dhaaf, whose name roughly translates to “to let it go” in Somali, is made up of Ben Verdoes, formerly of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band and Nathan Quiroga of the much-maligned Seattle “rap” outfit Mad Rad. To let it go, indeed. To the credit of the band’s reincarnation, Iska Dhaaf put on an entertaining show that revealed their diversity and technical ability as musicians and songwriters.

 

Verdoes sang harmony, played drums with his right hand and diddled a miniature keyboard with his left. Meanwhile Quiroga sang lead and riffed on his battered 335, duck-walking and playing footsie with an 8-pedal effects shelf. If multi-tasking is a necessity of the era, these boys will survive just fine.

 

Next up was The Black Black, whose latest record Boogie Nights brings to mind bands like Minutemen and Mclusky. Lead singer/guitarist Jonathan Daily’s vocals could hardly be heard over the band’s pushy breed of post-noise rock, but his attitude rang loud and clear. A bastion of blasé, he sneered while mouthing sarcastic lyrics such as “what the world needs now is one more band.”

 

But while Daily had a self-deprecation dilemma on his hands, the rhythm section seemed to be having a blast. The bassist, who looks and sounds like he stepped out of the 1980’s New York hardcore scene served up tendon-trembling riffs with no hesitation. Smiling wildly behind the drum kit was Tomo Ikuta, whose grinning enthusiasm is something rarely seen in a rock band. An exceptionally skilled drummer, he filled out the band’s set with as many solos he could squeeze in.

 

Co-headliners Dead Stars steered the evening in a more melodic direction, though I found their sound to be less exciting than that of the previous groups. They’re a talented group of musicians, but exude a commoditized presentation of grunge and shoegaze, complete with ripped jeans, laissez faire hair and flannel button-ups. Jeff Moore’s vocals are a bit on the whiny side, and the music isn’t groundbreaking enough to spark much conversation.

 

Low Fat Getting High, on the other hand didn’t seem to be wearing anybody else’s outfit. They’re true entertainers, packing more into the first five minutes than most bands do in 45. By their second song a cymbal had flown off of the drum kit and lead singer/guitarist Michael Sincavage had broken the bridge of his guitar. No matter though, it only seemed to add to their air of “who cares?”

 

The band played a full-throttle set that was nothing if not entertaining (and of course badass). Artie Tan hammered out fast-paced sludgy bass lines, bouncing around the stage with a recklessness that defies his waifish build. Sincavage didn’t disappoint with face-melting solos, taking his performance into the crowd from time to time.

 

For all of Low Fat’s serious rock ‘n’ roll, they had an admirable sense of humor about themselves while they played, cracking jokes and smiling through their curtains of hair. It didn’t hurt that it was their record release party, and that the crowd was full of friends and Money Fire brethren. At the end of their set, the audience shouted for more songs, to which Sincavage quipped:

 

“We’re too young for encores.”

 

Can’t blame them for that.

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