Dawn Richard Talks Pop Autonomy, Staying Vigilant in Trump’s America

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“I think hate is very present,” singer-songwriter says. “But it should encourage us to be louder about who we are”

Electro-soul pioneer Dawn Richard lives her life like the mythical protagonist of her own comic-book saga. She dresses the part, too: the singer-songwriter arrives to her Rolling Stone interview decked out in white, her eyelids gently dusted with glitter and iridescent purple shadow. She visited the RS offices just before the November release of her most dauntless LP, Redemption, the final installment of her epic trilogy dealing with stardom and its many, many pitfalls. It’s not just any record release, she says – the album will be distributed via sterling-silver USB drive. (“You can wear it like a necklace,” she stresses.) Scanning the RS cover wall, Richard stops at an image from August 1997 – in which the Prodigy’s Keith Flint sports fuchsia hair, parted in the center and shellacked onto opposite sides of his head. “That’s my shit right there,” she laughs. “I wanted to be that guy when I was a kid. Pink hair, wild as hell.”

Richard’s inspirations range from Aphex Twin to Sun Ra, and the breadth of her taste nourishes her sky-high imagination. Yet as tempting as it is to place her origins somewhere in outer space, Richard was born into an accomplished New Orleans family: Her mother founded her own dance studio at 21, and her father, Frank Richard, fronted the disco-funk ensemble Chocolate Milk, which doubled as Allen Toussaint’s backing band. In this career-spanning interview, she traces her ascent from her days as a dancer in the NBA to her breakout role in Sean Combs’ MTV series Making the Band 3 – and her further collaborations with the mogul and his Bad Boy label – and reflects on her present status as a staunchly independent pop trailblazer.

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Inside Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions’ Mysterious Chemistry

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Mazzy Star singer, My Bloody Valentine’s Colm Ó Cíosóig discuss recording in cannon towers and the deep bond that led to their new third LP

Nearly 20 years ago, two left-of-center musicians struck up conversation in a dark London nightclub. Hope Sandoval, enigmatic frontwoman of California dream-pop outfit Mazzy Star, would find a lifelong collaborator in the equally mysterious Colm Ó’Cíosóig, drummer in Irish shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine. They first approached each other as fans before they turned into friends, and their bond would evolve into a trans-Atlantic project called the Warm Inventions. “We became like family,” Ó’Cíosóig says.

Their collaboration has survived not only 15 years, but roughly 5,000 miles of distance. Sandoval’s mornings are often Ó’Cíosóig’s nights; it’s time for breakfast when Rolling Stone phones Sandoval, who lives in Berkeley, California, but it’s dinner for Ó’Cíosóig, who’s on the line from Dublin. She tells me Ó’Cíosóig owns a “beautiful houseboat, with a wood-burning fireplace” on a canal in Dublin; he responds with something that sounds like “Mmmph.” Even though they’re half a world apart, the pair seem to communicate intuitively – not just in words, but in lengthy pauses, whistles and politely muffled laughter. Perhaps the secret behind the Warm Inventions’ trancelike catalog is that the pair have made peace with silence.

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Inside Joe Jonas’ Low-Key Luxury Chic

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DNCE leader shows off vintage Godzilla T-shirt, Cuban-cigar collection and other prized items from personal style stash

“As a band, we’ve always been attracted to fashion and our own versions of that,” he says, “My bass player [Cole Whittle] would, like, find a vest from a guy who’s doing scaffolding work in the Lower East Side. Whatever lets you be yourself.” For Jonas, that means having a house stocked with childhood memorabilia, as well as fine art and a wardrobe that mixes leather and letterman jackets in vibrant, dime-store comic-book colors.

American Football: Inside Emo Godfathers’ Unlikely Return

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How Illinois college friends’ Nineties “art project” became the anchor of a thriving nationwide scene

More than three decades since its birth, the broad-spanning, ill-defined and oft-derided underground-rock movement known as “emo” shows no signs of slowing. The monthly DJ party known as Emo Night, founded in 2011, has popped off in multiple cities across the U.S., starting in Brooklyn and expanding all the way to Los Angeles. Picture hundreds of beer-sloshing twenty- and thirtysomethings screaming their heads off as DJs spin the most tearjerking tracks from their teen years. Of these songs, one never fails to provoke a particular kind of response from fans, a bizarre mixture of pain, rage and ecstasy, encapsulated in a single collective groan: American Football’s epic 1999 kiss-off “Never Meant.”

Established roughly around 1997, American Football was a short-lived collaboration among three friends at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign – Mike Kinsella, Steve Holmes and Steve Lamos – and it was never meant to survive past their graduation. Often described by its members as an “art project,” the band would convene for after-school jams that resulted in labyrinthine two-guitar interplay, set to jazzy time signatures (and the occasional burst of trumpet, which Lamos first picked up in his dad’s polka band). Their catalog consisted of just 12 songs, and their live performances were mostly limited to campus events and their friends’ basements. Yet since the 1999 release of their eponymous LP, and their breakup immediately afterward, American Football have amassed an international cult following and spawned dozens of imitators – the latest being the Wuhan, China–based four-piece Chinese Football.

It’s a Wednesday afternoon when I call Mike Kinsella, the band’s guitarist and lead singer. After the dissolution of American Football, Kinsella moved to Chicago, got a job at a daycare center and performed primarily solo under the alias Owen since 2001. But today, he’s working a day shift as stay-at-home dad to his two kids. (“Sorry,” he says. “I’m at the zoo. The seals are barking.”) Also on the phone is his bandmate and childhood friend, guitarist Holmes, another Chicago resident, who works full-time in tech at a payroll company. Drummer and horn player Lamos is now a writing professor in Boulder, Colorado. Kinsella’s cousin Nate has joined them on bass. As of October, the band had just released their first album in 17 years – like its predecessor, officially self-titled – but according to the members, they would never have conceived of the idea had it not been for the enthusiasm of their fans.

“We knew the band had some kind of following,” says Kinsella, “because we’d keep getting royalty checks from Polyvinyl every year. I just assumed it was Owen fans that were buying the LP. … Every now and then, somebody at an Owen show would ask for ‘Never Meant.’ I didn’t realize my old band had taken on a life of its own.”

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Review: Helado Negro’s ‘Private Energy’ Is a South Beach ‘Pet Sounds’

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Our take on breakthrough album from suave electro-crooner

Somewhere in the tropical cluster of South Florida, tucked away in a lush suburb, miles west of the sea, electro-pop artist Roberto Lange was born. Under the moniker Helado Negro (Spanish for “black ice cream”) the Ecuadorian-American singer-producer teases out glitchy, bilingual dreamscapes in his fifth LP, released on Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty Records. Here, Lange tames the electro-cumbia acrobatics of his 2014 release Double Youth, and untethers more smooth-sailing techno balladry – Pet Sounds transported to Miami of the future, straight from the heart and self-aware all at once.

Inspired by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov, the single “Runaround” is a sweet, carnivalesque portrait of two robots, desperate to experience warm-blooded connection, simulating the experience aboard a rickety ride into the Tunnel of Love. (“No love can cut our knife in two,” he sings tenderly, melding crossed wires into something more like a hug.) Lange emerges fully human in the balmy firmament of “Young Latin and Proud” and “It’s My Brown Skin”: written in 2014, in the wake of Black Lives Matter demonstrations near Lange’s residence in Brooklyn, both songs are gentle calls for strength and cultural confidence in the face of intensifying racial tensions. Private Energy refers to a reserve of compassion that Lange draws from to make his art – when focused outward, his personal stash of good will becomes a salve for the social ills of our time. Brimming with a subtle magic and wonder, Private Energy goes down best with coconut, mint and the apple of your eye.

Angel Olsen on Finding Inner ‘Boss Lady,’ Audacious New LP

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DIY-informed folk singer talks “skater girl” past, embracing pop sparkle on ‘My Woman’

On a recent Saturday night at New York City’s Webster Hall, Angel Olsen takes the stage. The 29-year-old singer-guitarist emerges in a green shift dress, her backing band in matching slate-gray suits and bolo ties, as if they’d time-warped back to the Ed Sullivan Theater 50 years ago. “Man, you are one sexy audience,” she tells the packed crowd. “Use protection tonight.” She also teases her openers, Alex Cameron and Roy Molloy, for bringing her flowers. (“I’ll kick your ass,” she says dryly.) Besides her gutter-mouthed, rock & roll–Lesley Gore routine, her set is full of sharp contrasts – from winding psych-rock furor to country balladry to the synthy lilt of recent single “Intern.” Olsen holds the audience on edge as she delicately presses the organ keys and sings, “Doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done/Still gotta wake up and be someone.”

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Review: Against Me!’s ‘Shape Shift’ Searches for Post-Transition Love

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Our take on the Florida punks’ seventh album

On Against Me!’s explosive punk-rock treatise, 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues, frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, who came out as trans in 2012, sang a battle cry for the freedom to live her truth. But the Florida punks’ most recent LP begs a thornier question: How do you find love inside that freedom? This wouldn’t really be an AM! record without an opening track like “ProVision L-3,” a blistering repudiation of U.S. surveillance culture. But offering what she calls “the trans perspective on sex, love and heartbreak,” Grace usually tilts from protest into the personal, swashbuckling her way in and out of some torrid love affairs, a tad wiser and grittier with every track. The band hits peak playful in “Crash,” a space-age love song with a power-pop boost; then slinks into an underworld of self-loathing through crushing, noir-ish ragers like “Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be” and “Norse Truth.” Bolstered by whip-smart lyricism and indelible riffs, Grace bares her sensual, sentimental side – but not without a few swift kicks in the eye.