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Rolling Stone News
  • Once upon a time – when SXSW was a regional-upstart event and Austin, Texas, was smaller and weirder – this was the place and season for the unknown to be seen and signed. Vans pulled into town, and parking was still plentiful. Reputations were made in 35-minute sets, and major labels started doing the math. Albums and even careers, however fleet and frustrating, followed.

    This is how much SXSW has changed – and the record industry has receded from the fray. In the conference and festival's 30th year, nearly everyone showed up with something ready to sell – mostly on independent or home-made labels; off the bandstand if necessary. Almost every act I saw over my four nights there came with a new record already out or near delivery. This is not a new initiative – the old ways and money started drying up a decade ago. And it is not a problem. What follows is some of the best of what I experienced live, pressed to go – affirming that I was in the right space at the knock-out time.

    Lift to Experience, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads (Mute reissue)
    And the last shall be first: I closed my SXSW in the midnight hour of Saturday, March 20th, with this ascension-rock trio from Denton, Texas – reunited after a 15-year hiatus – thundering inside the reverb of Austin's Central Presbyterian Church. There was no more assured and sustained transcendence in town.

    "A little rusty but still fucking great": That is how singer-guitarist Josh T. Pearson drolly introduced the band three nights earlier at the Parish, a club where Pearson, bassist Josh Browning and drummer Andy Young often played in their original lunge to glory in the late Nineties. Released in Britain in 2001, Lift to Experience's only album – a two-record set of epic meditations on despair and redemption based on the contention that God's earthly seat was not in Jerusalem but central Texas – was never unleashed in America. It also suffered from a mix that Pearson dismissed in a recent interview as "safe and sound." Lift to Experience were, in their first lifetime, "a pretty punk gut-wrenching sonic assault," he claimed.

    That is the band that lit the Parish, then the church and can finally be heard on record as intended in a remastered reissue of The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. Browning and Young's brute force, cut into dramatic prog-rock subdivsion, is at once lusty and disciplined – a combination enforced with avenging pride at the SXSW shows. Pearson's chant-like singing is clear and, in "To Guard and to Guide You," overdubbed as if gathered in group prayer. But his guitar, strummed in rapid-wrist staccato and rippled with the hovering vibrato of a Leslie speaker, now sounds as alive and certain on record – a sustained baptism in treble – as it did rushing through the Central Presbyterian nave.

    "I'm not sure if we're ever going to get to do this again in our lifetime," Pearson noted during that show. That would be a sin. Lift to Experience still deliver a heaven that deserves more time on earth.

    BNQT, Volume 1 (Bella Union)
    Pronounced "banquet," this supertroupe of indie-rock singer-writer-players was a feast of spaced-country textures and shameless melodic throwback – to the late-Sixties Beach Boys and the bucolic early-Seventies Pink Floyd – in its SXSW appearance, a compact unveiling of this debut album that was BNQT's first live gig anywhere. The vocal and composing front line on Volume 1 comes from grade-A day jobs in the U.S. – Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, Grandaddy's Jason Lytle and Midlake's Eric Pulido – and abroad: Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos and Travis' Fran Healy, both from Glasgow, Scotland. But the cumulative effect, wrangled onto record by Pulido over three years, is a surprisingly natural, indivisible rapture of fuzz-riff buoyance ("Restart"), rural-saloon daydreaming ("Unlikely Force") and British-pop classicism. The keyboard walk into "Mind of a Man" and the song's midpoint vocal sunrise evoke the gleaming reach of the Zombies' Odessey and Oracle. And at SXSW, "L.A. on My Mind" was a chugging joy of arena-friendly R.E.M. ringed in Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonies.

    Cotton Mather, Wild Kingdom (Star Apple Kingdom)
    Singer-guitarist-songwriter Robert Harrison does not lack for chutzpah or concepts; he named this Austin power-pop institution after a 17th-century firebrand-preacher in Puritan New England, neatly summarizing its explosive union of literate confrontation and bracing Who-ish dynamics. After an extended break and two decades on from the group's 1997 classic Kontiki, Harrison has launched an extended odyssey – initiated last year with Death of the Cool – in which each song is based on one of the 64 hexagrams in the I Ching. "I don't know how to quit," Harrison admits – and boasts – in "The Cotton Mather Pledge," a punchy anthem that opens Wild Kingdom, the second installment, and came halfway through Cotton Mather's SXSW set. That show drew hard from the I Ching project. Everything arrived, as on Wild Kingdom, like hot, shiny Raspberries fortified with the elevated argument of Squeeze and Attractions-era Elvis Costello. For the philosophy inside the jangle, Harrison has a running log of progress and analysis at ichingsongs.com. For the roots behind the mission, note the lick that opens Wild Kingdom's "Girl With a Blue Guitar" – a treble chip off "Have You Seen Her Face" from the Byrds' Younger Than Yesterday.

    Low Cut Connie – "Dirty Pictures" (Part 1) (Contender)
    "Touch my body, touch my soul, revolution rock & roll," singer-pianist Adam Weiner sang at this Philadelphia band's SXSW getdown, like a preacher certain that he's firing the Lord's work across the room. Weiner may look and sound like a missionary from a distant age – sporting Marlon Brando's tenement-lothario T-shirt from A Streetcar Named Desire; hammering his ivories like Jerry Lee Lewis, bent over from a standing position on his piano seat. But Low Cut Connie, a roaring quintet that sounds as loud and full as the early E Street Band, are absolutely contemporary in their drive to old-school joy. "Revolution Rock n Roll" and "Dirty Water," both on this album, were highlights of the set. So was Weiner's showmanship in the cover of Prince's pneumatic march "Controversy," also on "Dirty Pictures." He spent the jamming section strutting through the crowd, passing out high-fives; stood on the bar in the back, conducting the Connies like a barroom Stokowski; then, after the big, final chord, jumped to the floor and marched out the door to the street. Low Cut Connie, like the Seventies Elvis, had left the building. For a good time, be there when they get back.

    Tuomo and Markus, Dead Circles (Grandpop, Finland)
    Full disclosure: The second half of this duo is a longtime friend of mine, singer-guitarist-songwriter Markus Nordenstreng of the Finnish alternative-country band the Latebirds. A side order of embarrassment: I didn't realize he was the Markus in this new project until about a half-hour before its 8 p.m. set on March 16th. The crosstown rush was worth it: He and singer-pianist Tuomo Prättälä lead a band – and have made a marvelous debut album – steeped in the pioneer stories of the Band, the painted-desert psychedelia of the American Beauty-era Grateful Dead and the modernist extensions of Wilco and the Tucson band Calexico. Members of the latter two actually contribute to Dead Circles. There was also a long, striking tangent in the SXSW set, coming out of Nordenstreng's ballad "Vanity Blinds," in which his band summoned the pastoral prog-rock improvising of the great Seventies Finnish band Wigwam. Look 'em up.

    Survive, RR7349 (Relapse)
    The setting was the absolute opposite of mystery: an SXSW daytime party, outdoors under an 80-degree springtime sun. But the music of this Austin all-synth quartet, founded in 2009, was spell enough: a compelling, freshly composed revival of the Seventies electronic impression and early sequencing hypnosis of Tangerine Dream, pre-robot Kraftwerk, the Greek space agent Vangelis and Italian horror-score specialists Goblin. Survive's live set was not EDM as we usually know it – reductive laptop programming, cheap tidal-beat effects. Band members Mark Donica, Michael Stein, Kyle Dixon and Adam Jones manned their vintage Korg and ARP Odyssey keyboards in real time, as interactive performance. You may have heard Dixon and Stein's analog sorcery on TV, in their original score for the Netflix series, Stranger Things. Even stranger: Survive already had a fat discography – more than half a dozen now-elusive releases, including limited-edition cassettes and the full-length Survive (Holodeck) – before issuing RR7349, their overground bow. Start there. Best of luck going backwards.

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  • After three decades of using the same computerized voice, Stephen Hawking searches for a fresh tone, auditioning a group of A-list actors in a hilarious clip created for Comic Relief's Red Nose Day.

    Seizing a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," actors like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Liam Neeson, Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Eddie Redmayne (who played the renowned physicist in 2014's The Theory of Everything) audition to become Hawking's new voice. They all fail for a variety of reasons, including massive egos, bumbling delivery and complete lack of scientific knowledge.

    "Stephen, it's me – surely it has to be me," Neeson says in his mock-audition tape. "Listen to my voice. It's deep; it's sexy; it's got a tinge of…physics." Miranda tried to tap into Hawking's artistic side, showcasing the same rapping skill that helped propel Hamilton to Broadway fame. "You're Stephen Hawking from Cambridge College/ But your voice is mad robotic if I'm being honest," he rhymed.

    Hawking ultimately side-stepped the auditions altogether, selecting one of cinema's most instantly recognizable voices: Michael Caine.

    The video promotes Comic Relief's Red Nose Day, an annual fundraising campaign celebrated March 24th in the U.K. and May 25th in the U.S. BBC One will air a special program featuring live comedy, sketches and music tonight at 7 p.m. U.K. time. 

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  • Michael Stipe revealed that he's currently at work on a "series of books" about his life, including his time with R.E.M. The photo book, which the singer is working on with frequent collaborator Jonathan Berger, is due out later this year.

    "It's the first in a series of books I'm releasing," Stipe told the Creative Independent. "This one focuses on my timeline, on the work I've done all along, all through the band and back to my early 20s. It's all photo-based, but some of it's just documentation of things I'm obsessed with and that I focus on to make new pieces from. There are also certain things I’ll take, recontextualize, and present as something completely different."

    Stipe and Berger previously teamed for a project called New Sights, New Noise, an art piece the duo presented while Stipe served as a guest artist at NYU's Steinhardt Department of Art and Art Professions in November 2014.

    Stipe added, "Jonathan and I are also working on a project for the High Line, which will involve composing some pieces of music to be played by this bell tower that will be constructed at the northern end. He and I have several projects going simultaneously."

    In 2016, Stipe revealed that he also hopes to return to the music world in some capacity after being inspired by the David Bowie tributes he participated in.

    "I'm not ready to go completely into pop stardom again, as a 56-year-old," Stipe told the New York Times before adding, "I want to work in music again." The singer also stated that he's currently producing the upcoming Fischerspooner album.

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  • Ice-T chronicles the horror of police brutality in the visceral video for "Black Hoodie," his new single with metal outfit Body Count. The clip opens with an innocent man shot dead in a parking lot as police sirens echo in the background.

    "All these people out here tripping off police brutality like this shit is something new," Ice-T says to open the track. "Give me a fucking break – I've been talking about this shit for over 20 years. And now you can kill a motherfucker just because of how he's dressed. Are you fucking serious?"

    Over his bandmates' sinister guitar riffs and frenetic drum flourishes, the rapper laments how common – and underreported – police shootings are in the U.S. 

    The rapper describes one such shooting in detail, conjuring a scenario where he and his friends are hanging out when cops confront them. On the chorus, Ice-T channels the perspective of the dead character, who was killed after running from the police: "I didn't have a gun, so why am I dead?/ You didn't have to shoot me, and that's a known fact/ And now I'm laying face down with bullets in my back."

    "Black Hoodie" is available as a free download with pre-order of Body Count's upcoming sixth LP, Bloodlust, out March 31st. 

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  • Rolling Stone Recommends

    Paul McCartney, Flowers in the Dirt (Special Edition)
    "We would write in the same method that me and John used to write," says McCartney, recalling his wildly productive late-Eighties collaborations with Elvis Costello. "I figured, in a way, he was being John. And for me, that was good and bad. He was a great person to write with, a great foil to bounce off, but here's me, trying to avoid doing something too Beatle-y!"

    Those sessions, at McCartney's rustic Hog Hill Mill Studio in East Sussex, England, were intended to yield songs for what became the ex-Beatle's 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt, an Eighties high point. Four tracks, including the playful duet "You Want Her Too," ended up on that LP, two on McCartney's next one (1993's Off the Ground), and the rest on Costello's albums – most notably the hit single "Veronica."

    But the box-set reissue of Flowers in the Dirt reveals, the collaborative recordings – rough acoustic versions (long circulated as coveted bootlegs) and, later, full-band Costello-McCartney versions – stand on their own as an extraordinary document of a partnership that was probably too perfect to last. "It moved me forward, and it moved him forward," says McCartney, who's equally proud of other Flowers tracks, like the uncharacteristic blues funk of the Trevor Horn–produced "Rough Ride." "That's the best you could hope for. I don't think either of us thought we were gonna become Lennon-McCartney Part Two."
    Read Our Feature: Inside Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello's Prolific Late-Eighties Team-Up
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    The Jesus and Mary Chain, Damage and Joy
    After 30 years in the darklands, the Jesus and Mary Chain remain a tribute to the power of goth guitar noise, surly frowns and the kind of grudges only a pair of Scottish brothers can hold. The notoriously hostile duo of Jim and William Reid put aside their differences – some of them, anyway – for their first album since 1998's Munki, picking up right where "I Hate Rock 'n' Roll" left off.
    Read Our Review: The Jesus and Mary Chain's Reunion Record Is Fabulously Morbid
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Pallbearer, Heartless
    Anthemic Little Rock doom metal quartet Pallbearer began writing Heartless – their third and most striking album – a full year before Americans headed to the polls in November 2016. Throughout the process, though, bassist Joseph Rowland admits to a sense of impending dread, the sense that something disastrous was near. He and vocalist Brett Campbell wrote songs that reflected the feeling that, as he puts it, "we could be headed for some troubled times." The seven-song Heartless feels more aggressive and immediate than Pallbearer's previous work. The band moves out of the shadows of mythology and toward an earth riddled with new problems, broken defenses and evaporating futures. The music follows, with hooks that seem sharper and choruses that demand more attention.
    Read Our Q&A: Pallbearer: Hear Anthemic 'Thorns,' First Doom-Prog Wallop From Third LP
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Craig Finn, We All Want the Same Things
    A change from the lean folk-rock of 2015's Faith in the Future, Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn spins tales of Midwestern ne'er-do-wells here against a lusher palette: ragged horns, synths, piano, even flute(!). The characters aren't far from those in his band's oeuvre, but he surveys their substance abuse, spiritual struggles, looming violence and generally dubious prospects with a heightened tenderness and more nuanced delivery. In terms of songwriting, he's become the indie-rock Springsteen we'd always suspected him to be, although now with a vibe more Nebraska than Born in the U.S.A. Will Hermes
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang, Build Music
    The latest from David Byrne and Yale Evelev's Luaka Bop label is swarming, beat-driven electroacoustic music echoing that of the late Nigerian synth-pop pioneer William Onyeabor – another of the label's revelations. Nabay is a Sierra Leonean immigrant known for updating bubu, a processional music defined by percussion and bamboo horns. He translates it via samples and electronics, with help from Syrian-American multi-instrumentalist Boshra AlSaadi and others. The result is hypnotic, often hectic, and wildly danceable – ancient trance music for a tightly-wound new world. Will Hermes
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Also of Note:

    James Blunt, The Afterlove
    The fifth album from the folk-pop softie features songs cowritten by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder and Ed Sheeran. Blunt will be opening Sheeran's North American tour, starting June 29th.
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Betty Who, The Valley
    The Australian-born, New York-based synth-pop musician recently had her third Dance Club Songs Number One with an update of Donna Lewis' "I Love You Always Forever." Her second album features it alongside rubbery singles like "Some Kinda Wonderful" and "Mama Say."
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Mount Eerie, A Crow Looked at Me
    First as the Microphones and later Mount Eerie, Phil Elverum's legacy of blustery, drone-folk epics are eclipsed by his latest, A Crow Looked at Me. After losing his wife, artist Geneviève Castrée, to cancer in 2016, he follows up with a log of the grim days that followed in the aftermath. Braced by little more than a delicate strum of guitar, Elverum candidly details the process of grieving his loved one's absence: from its most profound in "Swims" ("We're all so close to not existing at all/Except in the confusion of our survived-bys, grasping at the echoes") down to its most mundane in "Toothbrush/Trash" ("I finally took out the upstairs bathroom garbage that was sitting there/Forgotten since you were here"). "Look at me," laments Elverum, "Death is real." Suzy Exposito
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Trey Songz, Tremaine the Album
    The sex-crazed R&B star returns for album Number Seven.
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    On Fillmore, Happiness of Living
    Before they visited Brazil, On Fillmore – the eclectic, long-running duo of bassist Darin Gray and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche – were used to micromanaging their sound. But, as Kotche says, "when we got there, we saw all these people just playing and having fun, so Darin and I ditched the cerebral side and went more for the emotional side." Accordingly, their new album, Happiness of Living, recorded in 2013 in Rio, is their most vibrant, spontaneous to date, featuring collaborators like Atoms for Peace/Red Hot Chili Peppers percussionist Mauro Refosco and Brazilian-American singer-songwriter Gabriela Riley.
    Read Our Feature: On Fillmore: How Wilco-Related Duo Learned to Let Go in Brazil
    Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Wolf Eyes, Undertow
    With their latest release, the long-running Midwest noise troupe launched a new, Warp-assisted imprint, Lower Floor Music. With more than 20-plus years of slasher garble behind them, the trio have spent recent years exploring a dead, bleak, rhythmic desolation. Undertow plays like listlessly flicking rocks into a bog, a sludge-and-sax sound like Flipper trying to make an ambient record. Christopher R. Weingarten
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Souvenir
    Singer-songwriter Drew Holcomb was, like so many Americans, disgusted with the exhausting electoral process of 2016. The day following Election Day and Donald Trump's victory, the East Nashville-based performer wrote "Fight for Love" for Souvenir. "You gotta fight for love/Fight for what you're dreaming of," he insists, his signature folky Americana given a kick by distorted electric guitar, chiming 12-string leads and a fiery anger in his voice.

    "This is a love song and a protest song, a song of regret and confusion, of trying to save something that seems too far gone, but refusing to wave the flag of surrender," says Holcomb. "Whether it's romance or seeing your home and country become something you don't recognize. It's a song about not giving up."
    Read Our Story: Hear Touring Favorite Drew Holcomb's Fiery New Song
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Memoriam, For the Fallen
    For the Fallen is technically Memoriam's debut, but the English band's roots stretch all the way back to the late Eighties, when vocalist Karl Willetts and drummer Andrew Whale started playing together in Bolt Thrower. That band's 2016 breakup – following the death of Whale's replacement, Martin "Kiddie" Kearns, a year prior – capped a glorious three-decade run during which they skillfully bridged primitive grindcore and epic British heavy metal. Willetts and Whale reunite here to carry on that proud tradition, honoring Kearns' memory with help from bassist and fellow U.K. scene vet Frank Healy (also of Benediction and Sacrilege). The band's MVP, though, turns out to be its youngest member: guitarist Scott Fairfax, whose bulldozing yet potently melodic riffs lend real emotional heft to Willetts' gruff tales of battle. Extreme metal isn't known for its poignancy, but the elegiac tug of a track like near-nine-minute closer "Last Words" is impossible to miss. Hank Shteamer
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

    Night Ranger, Don't Let Up
    The hard rockers who scored six Top 40 hits in the Eighties return with their 12th full-length.
    Hear: Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal / Amazon Music Unlimited

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  • Devonté Hynes co-directed an experimental short film soundtracked by songs from his 2016 Blood Orange LP, Freetown Sound. The impressionistic clip features snippets of "With Him," "Best to You" and "Better Numb," three highlights from the acclaimed album, which Rolling Stone named the 28th-best of last year.

    Hynes and filmmaker Luke Gilford collaborated on the project, which cuts abruptly between a series of vignettes. Throughout, the singer plays cello and violin, runs shirtless in slow-motion through a neighborhood at dusk, dances artfully on an empty stage and stands near flashing police lights with a woman and baby. Singer-songwriter Empress Of lip-synchs her "Best to You" vocal during a segment scored by the electro-pop track. 

    In January, Hynes teamed with Starchild & the New Romantic's Bryndon Cook to form a new group, VeilHymn. Last month, the duo released a video for "Hymn," their atmospheric electro-soul slow-jam.

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  • Megadeth will join Scorpions on a North American fall tour launching September 14th in Reading, Pennsylvania and concluding October 15th in Tampa, Florida. The 16-date trek, dubbed the "Crazy World Tour," celebrates Scorpions' 1990 LP of the same name. Full ticket details will be made available via the band's official website.

    Megadeth, the long-reigning gods of thrash-metal, released their 15th LP, Dystopia, last year. The acclaimed record ranked sixth on Rolling Stone's 20 Best Metal Albums of 2016 list, and its title track earned the band their first Grammy win (for Best Metal Performance) following 11 prior nominations.

    Earlier in March, singer-guitarist Dave Mustaine hosted a crew of metal-heads at his California home for a "Megadeth Boot Camp," where fans took guitar, drum and bass lessons; tasted wine, soaked in an intimate acoustic concert and jammed with the band on their 1992 hit "Symphony of Destruction."

    Megadeth Scorpions Tour Dates

    September 14 - Reading, PA @ Santander Arena
    September 16 - New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
    September 19 - Laval, QC @ Place Bell
    September 22 - Toronto, ONT @ Budweiser Stage
    September 23 - Chicago, IL @ All State Arena
    September 26 - Denver, CO @ 1st Bank Center
    September 29 - Spokane, WA @ Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena
    September 30 - Seattle, WA @ Tacoma Dome
    October 3 - Reno, NV @ Grand Sierra Resort
    October 4 - Oakland, CA @ Oracle Arena
    October 7 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum
    October 8 - Phoenix, AZ @ Talking Stick Arena
    October 11 - San Antonio, TX @ Freeman Coliseum
    October 12 - Dallas, TX @ Pavilion at the Music Factory
    October 14 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ BB&T Center
    October 15 - Tampa, FL @ Amalie Arena

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  • On Thursday's Tonight Show, Migos joined Jimmy Fallon and the Roots for a hilarious live version of their hit single "Bad and Boujee," performed with office supplies.

    Dressed in collared shirts and ties like Dunder Mifflin employees, the 12-man supergroup created the ramshackle masterpiece using iPhone tones (Fallon), scissors and electric stapler (Questlove), thumbtack shaker (Black Thought), coffee pots (James Poser), keyboard washboard (Mark Kelley), tissue box guitar with rubber band strings (Captain Kirk), water cooler jug bongo (Frank Knuckles), paper ripping (Kamal Gray), water jugs (Tuba Gooding Jr.), paper clip shaker (Offset), scissor snips and coffee pouring (Quavo) and scotch tape (Takeoff).

    The Atlanta hip-hop trio also performed "T-Shirt," another single from their chart-topping second LP, Culture, on the traditional Tonight Show stage. The rappers crooned their staccato auto-tune hooks over the Roots' snaking trap beat.

    Migos recently spoke to Rolling Stone about the surprise breakthrough success of "Bad and Boujee," saying they earned the hit "the trap way, not the pop way."

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  • Les Amazones d'Afrique is a supergroup of 10 remarkable West African female performers, including international stars, local heroes and up-and-coming musicians. Consisting of Grammy-winning icon Angélique Kidjo, Mariam Doumbia (of Amadou & Mariam fame), Nneka, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné, the group rages against gender inequality in both song and deed. Profits from their darkly twinkling single, "I Play the Kora," benefited the Panzi Foundation, which provides medical services to survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, grimly known as "the rape capital of the world."

    Their debut album for Real World Records, République Amazone, is produced by Liam Farrell, who gave it the same processed guitars, industrial loops and overall Afrofuturist overdrive that he leant to Mbongwana Star's acclaimed debut last year. You can hear the entire LP below.

    Rolling Stone spoke with Kidjo and Nneka about this hard-funking, future-minded collaboration, as well as Kidjo's reimagining of Talking Heads' Remain in Light, which premieres at Carnegie Hall on May 5th. 

    What about Les Amazones d'Afrique inspired you to participate?
    Nneka: As someone involved in changing how Africa is portrayed in the Western world, I've sometimes felt alone. But meeting these women and seeing that they're on a similar path really encouraged me.

    Kidjo: The Amazon tradition comes from my country, Benin. African women have been silent for too long. Even though we have matriarchal societies in many places in West Africa, men still dominate everything. But the new generation of girls realizes they will never win this battle unless they stick up for themselves.

    Which songs do you perform on République Amazone?
    Nneka: I contributed "La Femme et Sa Valise." It's about baggage, letting go of limitations, living in the present moment and respecting yourself as a woman.

    Angélique Kidjo: My track is "Dombolo," which is the name of both a rhythm and a dance. It came from the Democratic Republic of Congo and went viral everywhere in Africa. I sing about the beauty and strength of women, and about how women together can help everybody see a different perspective on society. But I don't believe in any feminism without men being part of this discussion. If women thrive, men will too.

    How does the music itself reflect your messages?
    Kidjo: The thing that nailed it for me is the conversation with the talking drum. We've had talking drums forever, but Liam still managed to find modernity in a sound everybody knows. There's a new generation of producers and artists in Africa tweaking our rhythms and sound in a way that's never been done before.

    Les Amazones include several singers from the griot tradition. What role do they play in contemporary Africa?
    Nneka: Most of them are older griots from Mali. They've been making music forever and are their families' breadwinners. After performing, they return to their husbands, who wait for them at home. [Laughs] That's very rare in Africa, especially in Mali, where women are still very oppressed.

    Kidjo: Not only are griot women the main breadwinners, they are the ones who tell the stories. They can sing you to be the most horrible person on earth, in front of everybody. Or they can praise you, and you say to yourself, "I'd better be good because they won't be shy about ousting me."

    How is working with a mostly female band different than working with a group of men?
    For the first time on tour, I felt there was no competition and that everybody is unique and has her own voice. It was also very emotional.

    Angélique, you'll be performing a version of Talking Heads' Remain in Light in May. What did you feel the first time you heard that album?
    Kidjo: I saw immediately what Talking Heads and Brian Eno were trying to do: not African music itself, but fitting rock and roll into African loops and repetitive trance music. Rock and roll comes from Africa because the blues, which is rock's bedrock, come from Africa. Nigeria isn't far from Benin, so I grew up with Fela Kuti's afrobeat and King Sunny Adé's juju music. It blew my mind when I came to America and heard that resonating in rock.

    Who will you be working with?
    I met Jeff Bhasker, who co-produced Bruno Mars's "Uptown Funk," and when I told him about my idea, he said, "That's my favorite album!" So he's going to produce [the album]. At Carnegie Hall we'll have the Antibalas horns, keyboardist Jason Lindner, Nona Hendryx and some surprise guests, along with my core band. I'm bringing talking drums, calabashes and djembes to it. I'm bringing afrobeat to it. You can still hear Talking Heads' bass lines in there but like African folk songs. I'm doing call-and-response with them and taking it to where it's sitting in my soul. 

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  • The lyric video for Future Islands' new single, "Cave," features American sign language interpreter Jonathan Lamberton gesticulating singer Samuel Herring's anguished lyrics. 

    "Is this a desperate wish for dying/ Or a wish that dying cease?" sings Herring, studying his misery against William Cashion's propulsive bass guitar. 

    Lamberton's expressiveness grounds the cerebral pop song. In the lyric video, he's a fitting placeholder for Herring's trademark hyper-emotive dancing. Like Herring, Lambertson became known for his flair for the melodramatic. He typically stands alongside New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but in 2015, his amusing, mime-like signage during a televised storm briefing went viral and earned attention from Jon Stewart and the New York Times, among others. 

    The Baltimore synth pop trio will play main stage sets at Coachella, Panorama and Bonnaroo music festivals in addition to tour dates across Europe and the United States. Their fifth album, The Far Field, comes out April 7th. It was recorded with Grammy Award-winning producer John Congleton at Sunset Sound Studio in Los Angeles. 

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