American Trappist walks the line, drunkenly, in the “Holy Moses” video

American Trappist | still from video

Joe Michelini of American Trappist is a generally positive person, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t dealt with his share of darkness. His last album, Tentanda Via, was born out of a struggle with existential dread, rejection of the religion he’d been raised in, but also a fear of a world sans faith.  His latest song, the distressed rocker “Holy Moses,” came from a different kind of low where Michelini needed to work out the idea of forgiveness. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Empath

We weren’t even ten minutes into setting up for Empath‘s Key Studio Session this week and conversation had already shifted from record pressings and tour schedules to laser light shows and the prospect of finding one that works at a basement gig scale.

Which, for four people dubbed “2018’s trippiest punk band” by Rolling Stone, it’s not entirely surprising. On the one hand, the booming low end blasts from Randall Coon’s Moog bass synthesizer throw us back to the cutting indie-dance of The Faint, or earlier to the sheen 90s noise-popsters Stereolab, earlier still to 70s experimentalists Suicide, while singer-guitarist Catherine Elicson spends the outro of “Soft Shape” coaxing caustic squeals out of her instrument, feverishly picking way up the fretboard in a frenzy reminiscent of Sonic Youth and Versus. Empath is punk at heart, and when it wants to hit, it hits hard and unrelenting, choosing the path of vivid and visceral expression over a more approachable conventionality.

But listen to their performance of “Hanging Out of Cars,” another song from their new Active Listening: Night on Earth, and a spark of serenity enters the picture. The introductory minute and a half of warbling guitar, racing rhythms and lyrics about travel, freedom, and desire give way to an ambient expanse. For the next four minutes, we’re adrift in upper-register keyboard pulsations from Emily Shanahan, soft and subtle free-time beats by drummer Garrett Koloski, bubbling loops from Koon, waves of sound from Elicson, with an underbelly of windchimes, bird sounds, and a voice murmuring indistinctly. It’s peaceful without being overly pretty, a potent improvisation in the spirit of Pink Floyd at Pompeii, and an immersive experience for performers as much as the spectators. Watching from the mixing console, the phrase Active Listening clicked in a big way. I also realized that, yeah, they weren’t at all joking about those laser lights. Continue reading →


Cayetana will play its final shows this August in Boston, New York, and Philly

Cayetana | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

Things have been extremely quiet in the world of Philadelphia power trio Cayetana since they wrapped a European tour with The Menzingers over a year ago. Singer-guitarist Augusta Koch founded Gladie, bassist Allegra Anka went back to school, drummer Kelly Olsen co-launched Zimmerman’s Deli with Dan Zimmerman of Restorations. And today, the band re-emerged to share with fans that it would be officially closing the book on this part of their lives. Continue reading →


Let the music move you in Hozier’s “Sweet Music” video

Hozier | still from video

Irish singer-songwriter Hozier knows a thing or two about connecting music with deep sentiment, and in his new music video, he adds an element of motion to all that emotion.

The snappy “Sweet Music” boasts a slight electronic groove and a massively catchy melody, and as the song plays out, we find Hozier performing it in a warehouse space, surrounded in various corners by musically-inclined people dancing to the rhythm: a cellist and a jazz trio, a tap dancer and a couple pulling interpretive moves in their apartment. Continue reading →


Stinking Lizaveta, Pissed Jeans, Alright Junior, Lisa Christ Superstar and more to play The Troc’s last local show

Stinking Lizaveta | photo by John Vettese for WXPN // Pissed Jeans | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN // Alright Junior | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN // Lisa Christ Superstar | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

When word got out that iconic Philadelphia venue The Trocadero was closing its doors for good this spring, owner Joanna Pang promised “We’re going to go out with a bang, in grand Troc style,” with a series of final concerts.

One of those is a an all-local showcase, curated by Lisa Flynn, who was a promoter at the venue in the late 90s and early thousands, and packed the Balcony bar and big room alike with Philly rock favorites like her power trio Lisa Christ Superstar. That band is back together for the May 19 main stage show, along with aughties psych mindbenders Three-4-Tens, and alternative-era faves Dandelion, who released two LPs during the major label boom of the 90s. Continue reading →


Aretha Franklin was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize

Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace | still from film

When the Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday, the legendary gospel / R&B / rock / soul force of nature Aretha Franklin received a posthumous Special Citation award.

Franklin passed away on August 16 of last year following a fight with pancreatic cancer. Prior to that, she spent more than a half century working in music: singing in the gospel circuit during her teenage years, becoming a pop star in the 60s, and continuing recording and performing for the rest of her life, from a late 90s collab with Lauryn Hill to her final U.S. tour in 2017. Continue reading →


#XPN5050: 2005

For fifty weeks this year, we’re celebrating the music of a specific year every Saturday on WXPN. We’ll be choosing the years randomly; for this week’s #XPN5050, Helen Leicht is putting the musical spotlight on the year 2005.

Fourteen years ago, LCD Soundsystem made their debut and brought indie-dance mania into the mainstream spotlight; hard-working artists Grace Potter, My Morning Jacket, and Kathleen Edwards got their due with stellar albums, Bright Eyes released two stylistically diverse records in one shot, Fiona Apple returned with her long-awaited Extraordinary Machine, and Beck brought the party once-again with the Dust Brothers-helmed Guero.

The pop charts lit up with releases from James Blunt, Jack Johnson, Coldplay, and Gorillaz, and legacy rockers Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt released compelling work.   Continue reading →


So Totally moves from fuzzy pop to overdriven rock on “Pluto”

So Totally | photo by Jeff David Beardsmith | via

Philly indie four-piece So Totally has been a fixture on the DIY scene for the past couple years, and next month will release its full-length debut, in the shape of…

The nine-track record, out May 3rd, was produced by the band, with Chance Halter of Harmony Woods and Hank Byerly of Americanadian contributing some rhythm section engineering work, and Shannen Moser collaborator Eric Muth mastering the project.   Continue reading →


Listen to Native Harrow’s Happier Now, The Tisburys’ Wax Nostalgic, Dave Hause’s Kick, and other Philly albums out today

Native Harrow (left), The Tisburys (center), and Dave Hause (right) | photos courtesy of the artists

There’s always amazing music coming out of Philadelphia. But when the stars align and numerous albums we’re excited about are released in a single day, well, we tell you about it

Local rock and roll fans have a lot to be excited about today, from the high profile of Dave Hause all the way to upstart scale of Manauynk faves The Tisburys. (But knowing Hause’s affinity for the Ridge Avenue river wards, how sick would a double bill of those two be? Sure, he’s got a gig tonight in Chicago. That’s not till late. Hop on over for an afternoon doubleheader at Main Street Music, Dave!) Then again, you’ll also find mind-bendy psych, dreamscapey folk, and upbeat indie punk in the mix today from the Philly music community. Read and listen on.

Continue reading →