Music Features

Half Waif, Ben Gibbard, and 5 Other Live Streams to Tune Into Now

Get your best headphones, crack open a cold one, and enjoy these livestream shows, straight from one artist's living room to yours.

Now that we're all stuck at home, musicians are turning to livestreams in order to share their art with the world. Here are some incredible livestreams to check out this week and next:

Friday, 3/27: Half Waif, the dreamy electro-pop outlet of Pinegrove's Nandi Rose Plunkett, is performing her ethereal new album "The Caretaker" this Friday at 7:30 PM. Tune in here. Plunkett also recently wrote a column for NPR about how she's staying sane during quarantine—which involves spending a lot of time on her couch.

Half Waif: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert www.youtube.com


4PM Daily: Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie has been doing daily livestreams, and he just released a song called "Life in Quarantine."

Benjamin Gibbard - Life in Quarantine (Official Audio) www.youtube.com


Saturday, 3/28: Bands including indie outlet WD-HAN will be gathering for a festival called Doomed Fest on Saturday, March 28th and Sunday, March 29th, starting at noon EST daily. Tickets are $10 and all proceeds go towards supporting performers.

Doomed Fest


Sunday 3/29: Elton John is bringing Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey, and Alicia Keys (all in the safety of their own homes) together for the iHeart Living Room Concert for America, airing 9PM Sunday.

Billie Eilish - The End of the World - Radio 1 Piano Sessions www.youtube.com


Sunday 3/29: Jay-Z's streaming platform Tidal will be bringing a coterie of illustrious artists together this weekend for free livestreams, including Beyonce and Rihanna for their Sunday R&B sessions.

Rihanna - Diamonds (Acoustic Live) www.youtube.com


Wednesday 4/1 (and every Wednesday and Friday): Indie band San Fermin is doing IGTV livestreams every Wednesday and Friday at 3PM EST. They also just released the second installment of their dual album, The Cormorant, along with a new video for "Freedom (Yeah Yeah Yeah)." Tune in to the livestreams here.

San Fermin - Freedom (Yeah Yeah!) (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Thursday, 4/2: The musician Mike Broussard is doing livestreams every Thursday at 1PM EST. Experience his rollicking, expansive ballads by tuning in here.

Marc Broussard-Solo Acoustic (Round 2) www.youtube.com


April 4th: Actor and musician Michelle Creber will be performing a livestream concert on April 4th. She also just released a new music video for "Storm" and dropped a moving, cinematic new single called "False Empire."

STORM (music video) - Michelle Creber www.youtube.com


Have a livestream you want featured? Email [email protected]

Opinion

Misogyny Disguised as Misery: We Need to Talk About Hobo Johnson

It's time we acknowledge the emo rapper's repeatedly sexist subject matter.

Note: This article mentions non-violent sexual assault that some readers may find disturbing. The alleged victim later recanted her statement on January 29, explaining that the incident was a misunderstanding between her and her friend, who shared the original Tweet referenced below.

In 2018, a YouTube clip of a Californian quasi-rapper by the stage name of Hobo Johnson went viral.

The video, an entry for NPR's Tiny Desk Contest, depicted a dorky, socially anxious 20-something and his band, dubbed the Lovemakers, performing a song called "Peach Scone" in a backyard. The lovelorn tune fuses minimalistic folk-rock with Johnson's slam-poetry style delivery which, more often than not, sounds like he's on the verge of tears. "She is like the nicest person I've ever met in my whole life / And I'm sure you know it 'cause you sleep next to her every night," goes one of the song's most bitter couplets.

www.youtube.com

Nearly two years and 17 million views later, Johnson is now arguably one of the most polarizing acts in the "emo rap" universe—if not the most outwardly hated. Though many media outlets praised Johnson for his vulnerability and outspokenness on mental health issues, an equally prominent portion of listeners swiftly labeled him an incel (short for involuntary celibate, a descriptor for men who blame their inactive sex life mostly on women alone rather than their own personality flaws). "My ex knows why my last one's my last one / Hey, guess why? It's all my stupid f--king actions," Johnson croons on "February 15th." "I'm gonna be alone forever."

This week, Hobo Johnson's name trended on Twitter because of a (now retracted) accusation. "Hobo Johnson has genital herpes," a now-private user alleged in a tweet. "This is nothing to be ashamed of, except he took off the condom while having sex with my friend, without her knowing, after one of his meet and greets. That's assault and he knowingly gave her herpes." But later the woman in question tweeted:

Though there are currently no laws in the U.S. that prohibit secretly removing a condom during sex—or "stealthing," as it's so cutely been nicknamed—the act is widely considered a form of non-violent sexual assault. Though the statement has since been backtracked and we'll never know for sure what happened, it's worth pointing out that in the original tweet's responses, Johnson received backlash that cited his previous behaviors and the subject matter in his songs. This incident underscores a trend of misogyny that exists in many men under the guise of radical male sensitivity.

In a track from his 2017 album The Rise of Hobo Johnson, Johnson pleads: "Mario's never getting some, and Link's never getting some / So why would princesses love me?" Somehow, he manages to incriminate himself and imply that video game damsels owe sex to their saviors in one fell swoop. "You know, it's something that I'd do / Like not text back for a day or two," he digresses on "Mover Awayer," a song about the anger he feels over the girl he likes moving away. "She deserves someone better, but / Every single guy she's ever loved to me sounds really f--king dumb." One of the worst offenders is "Sex in the City," a song featuring a chorus that earnestly speculates "sex in the city probably feels really really nice."

In other moments, it's evident that Johnson means well; he pretty explicitly denounces police brutality in "Demarcus Cousins & Ashley," and repeated references to his parents' severed marriage are likely to console listeners who are children of divorce. But if those same young children think Hobo Johnson exemplifies healthy relationships and sincere expressions of love beyond childish desires to "get some," then we're in a world of trouble. No matter how he treats women in real life, his artist persona and the attitudes he expresses in his music pose real dangers with potentially nauseating consequences.

MUSIC

At the Tiny Desk, Megan Thee Stallion Proves Hot Girl Summer Is a State of Mind

Megan Thee Stallion debuted a new song and performed with a live band for the first time on NPR's Tiny Desk.

Just like depression isn't always a seasonal thing, hot girl summer can last the whole year if you let it.

earmilk.com

Even though it's been snowing on the East Coast, Megan Thee Stallion made it clear that hot girl summer is a state of mind when she lit up the Tiny Desk Concert in Washington D.C. this week as part of their extended live-stream series.

Stallion has had an incredible year, and it looks like she's only going to keep ascending. A year ago, she was taking classes at Texas Southern University and performing at local shows. Then her song "Hot Girl Summer" sparked an entire meme-based online movement, inspiring people everywhere to cast off their reservations and embrace love for themselves (and, of course, for others).

She started off her Tiny Desk performance by breaking the ice, saying, "I'm gonna get real comfortable with y'all, so I'm need y'all to get real comfortable with me." From there, she performed with a live band for the first time—Brooklyn's Phony Ppl, a multi-genre group that added new sonic scope to her songs. Her setlist included "Hot Girl Summer," of course, as well as "Cash S***" and a new song called "F**** Around." The latter track seems to be about the thrill of infidelity, though Stallion clarified, "We don't condone cheating… Sorry to my future boo."

Regardless of the song's implications, Stallion made it clear that just because it's winter, that's no excuse to hibernate or shut down. If anything, it's time to bring the energy of hot girl summer—whatever that means to you—into the holiday season and beyond.

Watch Megan Thee Stallion Perform at NPR's Tiny Desk Fest pitchfork.com

MUSIC

Vagabon's New Album Channels Frank Ocean, Astrology, and Modern Feminism

"Vagabon" is a testament to fear and her ability to forge a path through that fear by having faith in oneself and one's community.

Can you remember the first time you understood that there was something powerful about music, something that could affect you far more deeply than patchworks of sound and rhythm should be able to?

Laetitia Tamko, who goes by the stage name Vagabon, recalls this very moment.

She was three, she told NPR, living in the Cameroonian city of Yaoundé, attending a gathering called a reunion. Standing in the middle of a circle of twenty-five women, the normally shy little girl was moved to enter the circle and began dancing.

On her sophomore album, Vagabon, Tamko conjures the kind of communal, ritualistic flow state that one imagines inspired her to join that dance so long ago. Vagabon is both tightly wound and expansive, concise and yet full of vast and rich internal spirit. In that, it resembles the collage-like yet cohesive songcraft of Frank Ocean, who was an early influence for Vagabon, though the album resists comparison, instead existing in a space of its own.

Vagabon - Water Me Down (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Lyrically, it blends millennial themes—a love of astrology, glitchy indie inflections—with much older influences that range from house to hip hop, African music to synth-heavy dream pop. On the first track, "Full Moon in Gemini," which was apparently actually written during a full moon in Gemini, Tamko sings with a rare kind of gentleness, placing her tender vocals over glistening strings. "Past the mad river / and the mountains / I wrote this about." Refusing to stay within any boundaries of genre or sonic expectation, Tamko orchestrates an expressive beat and bassline beneath the strings, giving the song a wry, subversive edge. It almost sounds like she's grinning, though sometimes a smile also means bearing teeth.

A similar progression happens on the quietly stunning "In A Bind," which begins with a folky finger-picking pattern that grows more processed and reverb-heavy as the song goes on. The song sounds like the last night before the inevitable end of a summer love affair; it would work perfectly in one of those montage movie scenes that follows a protagonist post-fling, leaving some idyllic countryside for city streets and watching the leaves skitter over the pavement as fall settles in.

Tamko produced the album herself, and you can hear the deliberateness with which each effect and instrumental part was added. Throughout the process of making the album, Tamko was very open about her insecurities about the music, frequently taking to Twitter to confess her fears that all the fans she gained from her first album wouldn't follow her as she explored new styles. Considering the amount of insecurity that plagues most artists even when they gain extensive recognition, it was surprisingly refreshing to follow Tamko on her confessional journey.

As expected, her fears were unfounded, as the album is delicate, experimental, fresh, and full of life. But if you're listening for it, you can almost hear the fingerprints of her self-critical thought loops playing out in the music. It's not hard to imagine the late nights she must have spent trying to perfect each sound, while simultaneously trying to release that desire for perfection.

If music is a map of the psyche, Vagabon's sophomore album is a lovely terrain to walk, if a solitary one. "I tend to be in isolation in general — I'm a homebody, I'm a nester — and because it's a part of who I am, my character, my personality, it's bound to trickle into the actual contents of the music," she said. Still, that's not to say that she's disengaged from the world around her. The album constantly mixes compassion and fierceness, braiding self-love with love for others. "All the women I know are tired," she sings on "Every Woman." "But we're not afraid of the war we brought on." It's a rallying cry that forgoes contrived feminist tropes and instead brims with truth.

Vagabon - Every Woman (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Sometimes she returns to more traditional indie roots, like on "Wits About You," but she uses them to express a message of solidarity that's somewhat rare in the Frankie Cosmos sphere of indie music in which she made her name. "I was invited to the party / they won't let my people in," she sings through a fog of grainy processors. "Well then nevermind, nevermind / we don't want to go to your function." From there, the song opens up; the mist falls away and clear waves of sound flow through, its bell-like clear tones and beat flowering like night-blooming jasmine.

Like much of her music, the album is warm and inviting, if protective of its tenderness. Tamko has spoken about wanting Vagabon to be a community, a place where people can come together in service of their own growth. Still, she seems aware that she was never meant to be part of the crowd—she is still that same little girl that leapt into the center of the circle of women. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that this album is me doing whatever the f*** I want, because I can do whatever I want, you know?" she said at the end of the NPR interview.

As a frontwoman and producer who maintains complete control of her own musical output, her own independence and autonomy may be her most generous gift of all. Vagabon sounds like the beginning of a journey through genres and into a growing sense of personal power. While perhaps not a conclusive journey in and of itself, Vagabon is a window into one of the most open hearts in music today.

MUSIC

Dear NPR Tiny Desk, Stop Having Repeat Performers

With all the love and respect in the world, NPR Tiny Desk, maybe consider using your massive platform to continue to uplift new artists as you have in the past, rather than inviting repeat performers.

I love the NPR Tiny Desk, and I love almost all the performers who have ever been featured on it.

I love the series' inclusivity and taste, and I appreciate the way the Tiny Desk Contest picks artists who deserve the major platform that the prize affords.

Naia Izumi: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert www.youtube.com

However, there's one thing that's been bothering me about the Tiny Desk. The show typically doesn't have repeat performers, but in the past few years, several bands have been invited on to perform more than once. Yesterday, Sharon Van Etten came on to perform three new songs, though she first performed in 2010. Wilco was invited to return in 2016. Julien Baker performed two shows, one in 2016 and then one in 2018, and then came back to perform with boygenius in 2019, alongside Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers—both of whom had also performed before.

boygenius: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert www.youtube.com

Even though I am a devoted fan of most these artists and think that boygenius is the future of rock music, the fact that these artists were invited to perform twice rubs me the wrong way, which makes me wonder how people who are not fans of these artists feel. All these repeats seem to contradict the intent of the show, which has always seemed to be about getting past layers of artifice and tapping into the true emotions at the core of a wide variety of music.

This annoyance isn't really directed at the Tiny Desk or the repeat performers, of course. One series certainly can't be held responsible for the corruption at the heart of the corporatized music industry or for breaking out of the media's elitist echo chambers.

Maybe the annoyance is rooted in the fact that so many artists dedicate their lives to music and yet never get the chance to be featured on a platform like the Tiny Desk. I have so many friends who have submitted wonderful videos to the Tiny Desk competition, and I've watched hundreds more submissions by artists who truly deserve recognition from NPR and other music outlets, yet receive little to none, especially if they don't have the cash or luck granted to others.

Maybe I'm annoyed because, in general, music is such an extraordinarily random crapshoot of a profession, and the truth is that most talented and hardworking musicians I know are sleeping on benches in the parks of New York.

As a music and culture writer, I'm also aware that I've absolutely fallen prey to the temptation to write repeatedly about artists and celebrities I know and love instead of prioritizing new and diverse voices. In that sense, I do understand Bob Boilen's desire to have his old favorites back in his office.

Maybe, Bob, both you and I can try to work on this. We can listen to Go Home by Julien Baker in private as many times as we want, while knowing that as music writers and content curators, we have the power to choose what stories and voices to elevate, and we have to constantly interrogate those choices and subconscious biases that may inform them. On the other hand, tokenization is never the answer, and nothing replaces having more diverse voices in positions of power in the first place.

MUSIC

Molina Releases Dark New Single “Parásito”

The new release features a engrossing fusion of New Wave and indie synth-pop.

Alex Carlyle

Molina's new release "Parásito" is a haunting track, bringing '80s energy to a darkly modern synth-pop sound.

The single—the newest off her upcoming EPm Vanilla Shell, out in November—is familiar territory for the Danish-Chilean artist's small discography—Molina's singles to date make the most of this formula, the tightly-wound New Wave-ness wrapped around Molina's shadowy charisma. It's a compelling combination, as her lyrics about desire and heartbreak are enlivened with a lushly-constructed production. Especially here on "Parásito," Molina sounds a bit like Nico poured through the sieve of 2010s electropop: a dark and engrossing performance set comfortably in a synth soundscape.

But "Parásito" is Molina's first song sung in Spanish, a deliberate choice that changes the tone of the song: "The drama in the language makes it easier and more natural for me to be extrovert[ed] and emotional," Molina herself says. Compared to her other singles, which are a little more fragmented and abstract in their storytelling, the lyricism of "Parásito" is more straightforward, more present in its longing. The creepy bassline, the ambient clouds of sound, Molina's echoing voice: They all make Molina's want sound even more foreboding, as she turns her lover into the only thing that can sate her hunger. The song's still suffused with desire, but there's a sense of tragedy.

Molina's made herself a main character in this small drama, and her willingness to construct that drama for the listener spells an exciting future for the up-and-coming singer.