In an essay for Vulture, Anika Pyle, front woman of the Brooklyn band Chumped, called 2014 “the year that women tore down the punk-boy clubhouse and erected a big middle finger in its place.” She’s not wrong. 2014 felt like a banner year for women in punk, a genre that has always prided itself on progressive politics and open-mindedness but has often felt closed off to female musicians. Prominent exceptions to the rule like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney bear a strange burden; they’re the token names trotted out when a music critic has to make sense of a female-led punk band — whether they sound anything like those bands or not. So what’s exciting about the current crop of female-driven punk bands is not just their abundance but the sheer sonic diversity. From the primal fury of White Lung to the singsongy sass of Slutever to the artful experimentations of Perfect Pussy, these artists prove that there is no singular “female punk” sound — there are many. Below, I’ve gathered some of the year’s best.
Mark down 2014 as the year that women tore down the punk-boy clubhouse and erected a big middle finger in its place. Scrutinize year-end lists and you’ll find an unprecedented number of lady-fronted punk and indie bands. I’m honored to be in the company of bands like Ex Hex and Perfect Pussy on Vulture's list of the best albums of 2014. Beyond that, look around at other lists and you'll also see names like Cayetana, Speedy Ortiz, and especially, White Lung, whose third LP Deep Fantasy took 2014 by storm and demonstrated the power and diversity of contemporary punk music. Also, this year we saw the return of iconic bands like the Muffs and Sleater-Kinney, who released music in 2014 for the first time in years. And there is Against Me!, who put out one of the most important records of the century, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Against Me! was a male-fronted band that I fell in love with as a kid; now they're a world-storming, woman-fronted punk band of epic proportions. This alone could make 2014 the most important year for punk.
Singer Joe Cocker has died at the age of 70, the Yorkshire Post reports. The Sheffield-born singer died at his home in Colorado, where he had been quietly battling lung cancer for years. In the U.S., Cocker was most famous for his cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends," as well as the shambling dance steps that inspired a Saturday Night Live parody from John Belushi. Cocker also had top-ten hits with "The Letter," "You Are So Beautiful," and "Up Where We Belong," a duet from the film An Officer and a Gentleman that won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
It's like sitting on the porch, drinking a Bud with 50,000 of your closest friends. Oh, and Garth Brooks. The Justin Timberlake show in Nashville on Friday felt like all of these things when Garth showed up in all his normcore splendor to sing "Friends in Low Places," and naturally, the entire arena sang along. Have you ever seen Timberlake so gleeful?
Someone get these two a Friends Forever necklace! Former cast member Kristen Wiig popped up on this week's Saturday Night Live, and everyone was pretty thrilled — especially One Direction's Harry Styles. The two were caught on candid Instagram dancing to selections from Dirty Dancing. No word if the signature lift was attempted. (Or maybe it was just Wiig dancing with herself? We'll really never know.)
So this Iggy Azalea–Azealia Banks beef is spinning out of control. Hackers posting under the Twitter handle @TheAnonMessage jumped into the fray Friday night, threatening to release still images from an alleged sex tape of Iggy Azalea unless she publicly apologizes to Azealia Banks and the protesters of the #blacklivesmatter movement. The account posted a string of tweets last night saying they would bring Iggy Azalea down further than Bill Cosby, calling her a " trashy bitch" and promising "a life of suffering" unless she complies with their demands.
Madonna pulled a half-Beyoncé Friday, releasing six songs from her upcoming Rebel Heart. We say half because it doesn't seem intentional: Following the leak of her album last week, she decided to release half a dozen songs on iTunes. "I was hoping to release my new single 'Living For Love' on Valentine's Day," she said on her website. "I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift." The tracks released include "Bitch, I'm Madonna" with Nicki Minaj, and the lead single "Living for Love," which you can listen to below.
This week, we finally get to see the Jay Z/Will Smith–produced reboot of Annie that we did not ask for but will take anyway, because of our plucky, can-do spirit. (But, you know, we will take it cautiously. Cameron Diaz? No “We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover”? Will Stacks? It’s a tense time to be a fan of Annie.) So how’s about you and your loyal dog hop in my DeLorean GIF for a trip back to the week of May 19, 1982, when the original Aileen Quinn/Albert Finney film adaptation had its U.S. premiere? (The movie went into wide-release the following month.) Was the Billboard Top 40 as bewildering then as it is now? Maaaayyyybeeeee …
“Everyone around him knows about D-time,” GQ’s Amy Wallace wrote in a 2012 profile of D’Angelo, “a pace so slow that it could test even the most patient saint.” Fans knew about it, too: For nearly 15 years, they’ve been waiting for the second coming of D’Angelo, in the form of a promised follow-up to his 2000 neo-soul masterpiece, Voodoo. Recently, though, D’Angelo’s notorious internal clock kicked, quite unexpectedly, into fast motion. Inspired by protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, D’Angelo and his label RCA reportedly rushed the release of his third album, Black Messiah (which they claim was slated for “early next year” — a refrain D’Angelo fans are used to by now). This kind of immediate action and blind trust in artistry is all but unheard of in today’s risk-averse major-label game; reportedly, some RCA employees did not even hear the album until Sunday night, when it was released on iTunes. We all knew that if D’Angelo’s comeback was ever going to happen, it would be boldly on his own terms — but it’s safe to say we didn’t expect them to be this bold.
Heavenly Miguel, thank you for sending these three new songs to SoundCloud in the wee hours of Friday morning. Thank you for the "Yoncé"-style beat on "NWA." Thank you for the grinding guitar riff on "Hollywood Dreams." And thank you for the silky-smooth harmonies on "Coffee." We place our trust in you to be our holiday savior. Guide us through the dark times of family dinners, and give us courage during our desperate New Year's Eve make-out attempts. Amen.
Never leave money on the table, they say. In this case, it's the chart-topping song from The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence's moving rendition of a Lumineers/Suzanne Collins collaboration, "The Hanging Tree." The original is slow and actually quite moving! The remix is ... something else altogether. And there's a good chance you'll be hearing it on the radio. (Or below.)
Last night Kendrick Lamar was the last musical guest ever on The Colbert Report, and boy, did he have a great time. Not only did he totally kill it, performing a never-before-heard song, he had a true blast being interviewed by Stephen Colbert, often cracking up super-hard. Hope these videos momentarily distract you from the fact that the show ends tomorrow night.
Warm Your Grouchy Heart With This Supercut of Darlene Love Singing ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ for David LettermanBy Nate Jones
Just like your real dad, David Letterman gets the same Christmas gift almost every year: a visit from Darlene Love, who makes an annual tradition of stopping by Letterman's shows to perform his favorite holiday song, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Now, to celebrate Love's 22nd and final visit on Friday, the Late Show YouTube account has made this mash-up of all the times Love's sung the song for Dave over the years. As a special treat, this will be the year her baby finally comes home.
Every week, members of the Vulture staff will highlight their favorite new songs. They might be loud, quiet, long, short, dance-y, rawkin', hip, square, rap, punk, jazz, some sort of jazz-punk-rap fusion — whatever works for the given person in that given week. Read our picks below and please tell us yours in the comments. (Also, read music critic Lindsay Zoladz's The Pinkprint.)
So much depended upon The Pinkprint. Too much, probably. Some of this has to do with the stark confidence of its title, or the increasingly grand statements Nicki Minaj has been making about her fabled, much-delayed third album for the better part of the last two years. “I do think it’s going to create new rules,” she’s said. Also: “[Jay Z] did such a great job of creating this Blueprint for male rappers … I felt like with what I’m doing, I want female rappers to pattern themselves with what I’ve done one day.” Bold claims, sure, but the unfair truth is that Minaj would have been stuck with this heavy crown whether she liked it or not. Since blasting up from the underground and into mainstream consciousness in 2010 (the year of her world-stopping guest verse on Kanye West’s “Monster,” as well as her debut album Pink Friday), Minaj’s reign as her generation’s greatest female rapper has been completely, and perhaps depressingly, uncontested.
In his rollicking, insightful new book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, author Peter Bebergal delves deep into the weird connections between popular music and the occult, and how the former has so often utilized the mystique of the latter. In this excerpt, Bebergal looks at the rumors that have long circulated about Jay Z's involvement with the mysterious Illuminati cabal, and what those rumors signify about how we think of the rap superstar.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just announced its class of 2015 inductees: Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan (and his former band, Double Trouble), Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Bill Withers, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Green Day (which is deserving but still surprising to see). (Nine Inch Nails, N.W.A., the Smiths, Kraftwerk, and Chic were among those nominated who didn't get enough votes to earn induction.) Ringo Starr will receive the "Award for Musical Excellence," making him the last and final Beatle to enter the Hall of Fame as a solo artist — after the band was inducted as a group in 1988. Perhaps the best response to the news comes from Withers, who has been mostly missing from the industry since the mid-'80s: "I just never felt that anyone owed me this. It's something that's nice that happened. I guess I'll have to go buy a suit."
The eternally delayed comeback album has become a running joke in the music business, instantly evoked by the words Chinese Democracy (finally released to a tepid response 15 years after Guns N' Roses's previous album) and Detox (it's been 15 years and counting since 2001, and now Dr. Dre maybe isn't calling it Detox anymore). But there are actually quite a few artists who manage to return after a really long break with an excellent album. It's been a banner year for the comeback album: Electronic-music pioneer Aphex Twin released the widely acclaimed Syro, his first in 13 years. And now R&B hero D'Angelo has dropped his Christmas surprise, Black Messiah. In their honor, here are the 12 best studio albums by artists who were away for at least a decade. (A criterion that rules out favorites like Patti Smith's Gone Again, Dr. Dre's 2001, and Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel ...)