O’BRIEN | Loving Rock N’ Roll As a Woman


At some point in my early teens, I started listening to rock music. Classic, punk, alt, grunge — I would stay up late into the night listening to and reading about my favorite ‘70s-90s era band at the time. In high school, I eventually came to the realization that pretty much all of the artists on my silver iPod nano were male. At first, this did not necessarily strike me as strange, or as a problem — I just accepted that the good rock music was made by men; that the deep scruffiness of a man’s voice was a necessary part of the rock equation. But I eventually became much more interested in introducing gender equality to my playlists.

TEST SPIN: Foxing — Dealer


Foxing’s Dealer is a thoroughly toothless record, a set of non-obtrusive songs that resists close attention. Since it aims for  —  and mostly hits  —  a tone of subdued prettiness, the record is never unpleasant to listen to, but it fails to engage the listener. Moreover, both the sensitive, self-consciously emotional lyrics and the vocal performance by lead singer Conor Murphy are vaguely irritating. This is an uninspired listen, but it does have its moments of melody: Dealer, therefore, is a record ideally suited as background music, a record that suffers with increased scrutiny. The band themselves are a five-piece from St.

Spinning Singles: Chance the Rapper, Beach House

“Angels” — Chance the Rapper

Rappers are infamous for leaving home when they make it big: to live somewhere prettier, more glamorous and more insulated. Chance the Rapper does not seem tempted by that prospect; in fact, he is gleeful in his determination to stay home (in his local Chicago) and help his community. At the beginning of his new single “Angels,” he brags, “I got my city doing front-flips, when every father, mayor, rapper jump ship… Clean up the streets so my daughter can have somewhere to play.”

At a time when rap is dominated by different shades of negativity, from Drake’s depressed narcissism to Future’s void-staring nihilism, Chance is refreshingly positive. “Angels” is yet another Chance song that is joyful and optimistic without being sappy or corny, featuring some of Chance’s most exuberant rhyming since 2013’s Acid Rap supported by a slang-laden hook from fellow Chicagoan artist, Saba. “Angels” makes good use of Donnie Trumpet, the trumpet player in Chance’s touring band and collaborator, The Social Experiment.

Aztec Two-Step Returns to Ithaca


The Dock is a clean and cozy venue. The stage is lit by blue and purple lights and one side of the room is filled with intimate circular tables that go right up to the stage. At the other side of the room is the bar, but most people are usually far more interested in the other side of the room. When Aztec Two-Step came onto the stage, nearly all of the seats throughout the room were filled and cheers erupted. The group smiled and waved, their edges colored by the stage lights.

TEST SPIN: Kurt Vile — b’lieve i’m goin down


Kurt Vile is an acoustic guitar-wielding loner on his new album b’lieve i’m goin down; a subdued, confessional and ultimately enjoyable listen. His music cultivates a relaxed and reflective vibe: the stuff of long car trips and late-night conversations; the slow pulse of Vile’s sound evoking the view through a rearview mirror. It sounds like it was recorded in his bedroom

The lyrics read like journal entries. This should be regarded as a strength. b’lieve i’m goin down is about solitude, alienation and introspection: Vile sets the tone on the tightly written opener, “Pretty Pimpin,”  when he sings, “I woke up this morning / Didn’t recognize the man in the mirror.” On “I’m An Outlaw,” he aligns himself thematically with country legends like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, singing “I’m an outlaw on the brink of self-implosion” over a banjo groove.

GUEST ROOM| “It’s Not My Fault All the Good Musicians I Know Are Dudes”


The door swings and shuts with mute thumps, behind the hum of voices. People collect in groups, waiting, hands marked in Sharpie with Venus symbols. Old friends gather; strangers bump into each other in the intimate basement. Meanwhile, the bands’ soundchecks echo off the flaking paint and brick walls. Microphones vibrate, there’s tinkering with wires and volume knobs and finally a soft, murmuring is heard from the stage, “thank you to Fanclub Collective who brought us out tonight…” The crowd shifts with anticipation for an event which — although most people might not realize it — is quite radical: a concert with a totally female-fronted line-up.

TEST SPIN: Alabama Shakes—Sound & Color

We learned that Alabama Shakes knew how to play Memphis soul and southern blues rock — and play it well — on their 2012 debut, Boys & Girls. We learned frontwoman Brittany Howard had a tour-de-force, hurricane of a voice and we learned that these kids from Nowhere, Alabama had a gritty, aw-shucks charisma and an old-soul-meets-modern-rock sound that earned them gushing accolades and a Grammy in the same year. It was unclear, however, whether the fledgling group would find a coherence beyond the gorgeous shock value of Howard’s shrieks and croons and the novelty of a niche throwback sound in this musical climate. Their latest release, Sound & Color, seems to settle this question; Alabama Shakes are more than niche; they are more than a novelty. The album shimmies between decades and genres, sampling from soul, groove-rock, gospel, blues, punk, electric rock, bluegrass and folk; embracing motifs and honoring the traditions that so evidently inform their sound from each genre, but executing their own creative, and exciting forms of them.

JONES | Everything Except Country

I remember this being a very fashionable response to “What kind of music do you like?” back in junior high California. Country wasn’t a cool thing to like: too safe and too corny, too all-American for an age when kids are excited by anything that claims to challenge authority, like the aggressive punk and rap to which my friends and I gravitated. “Everything except country,” besides being a non-answer, really only addresses the genre of music that is currently played on “country” radio. These songs are far in sound, style, and substance from the music that formed in the American South as an amalgam of blues and folk. There is really nothing on country radio today that is simply country.

Test Spin: Wilco

Wilco’s seventh studio LP, Wilco (The Album), channeling its eponymous title, spins as a consolidation of singer / songwriter Jeff Tweedy’s oeuvre. Congealing alt-country, quasi-experimental and neo-folk, the album genre-blazes across the band’s decade and a half creative trajectory.

Give Me That Sweet, That Funky Stuff

All I wanted Saturday night was to get funked, and The Rozatones made sure that I did. With an energetic set that ranged from brass-balled bravado to Latin-laced electricity, their show at Castaways demonstrated once more why The Rozatones sit at the top of Ithaca’s funk-rock feeding chain, and just what it takes to get a mass of college-age bodies moving.
The night began with a set from Nat Osborn and The Free Radicals, a large and conspicuously all-male band that plays with reggae riffs and the odd hard rock motif. There were occasional highlights hidden among the Dispatch-derived vocal harmonies and off-beat guitar chords, but for the most part their sound featured nothing new for the roots-heavy Ithaca music scene.