Scranton punk rock heroes The Menzingers have historically worked the imagery of religion into their lyrics — the push/pull between what we’re taught growing up, how to be a quote-unquote good person, and how that plays out in the real world. Their latest single (which showed up today on Spotify) addresses that head-on.
“Bad Catholics” finds co-frontman Greg Barnett narrating the story of a young couple who with pious parentage who are, for their part, indifferent towards church. They skipped out of mass before communion to get lit, loiter at the local Turkey Hill and evade the cops. But we all grow up, and later in life, the one runs into the other at a neighborhood picnic with a new husband and a baby on the way. Continue reading →
This year, local singer and songwriter Adrianne Gold teamed up with a handful of fellow vets of the Philadelphia indie rock scene to found Daisy Glaze, a new band that transcends their collective pop/rock pasts. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they share their name with a Big Star song – this is some serious, cerebral psychedelia.
Alongside Gold, we have Buddy Mazzenga, Lynna Stancato, Scott Churchman and Sean Rosner in the Daisy Glaze ranks, with contributions from Carolyn Haynes of Ghost Gum and Aster More. Their debut EP Heavenly Bodies — which we’re excited to premiere for you below — is an immersive swirl of melodies and textures in the vein of Warpaint. Continue reading →
It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Phantogram in their own element. Sure, they kill wherever they take the stage. But if that stage is at a festival like Firefly or Roots Picnic, or an industry gathering like SXSW, there’s an element of the audience being there for the hang moreso than the bands. And there’s an element of the band subsequently reeling their performance in for maximum impact. At Monday night’s Fillmore Philadelphia show, there was none of that — Phantogram was as loud and epic and arty as they wanted to be. Continue reading →
Music writers love to romanticize DIY home studios — the hiss and static of the tape machine, the in-the-moment spirit of the performances, the images of bedroom walls lined with egg carton soundproofing and floors covered in piles of tangled cable.
The musicians themselves — they’re not always as sentimental about it. As Katie Bennett of Philadelphia’s Free Cake For Every Creature tweeted earlier this week, “[I’m] slowly realizing that, while my 100+ year-old apartment on a main street in a big city may be charming, it’s not the ideal place to record.” She continued: “listen for my neighbor’s trombone exercises and a minute-long trolly honk in every new song.”
While that definitely reads like Bennett’s West Philadelphia environs seeping into her recorded output, it also goes the other way around: the sound of Free Cake for Every Creature is the sound of Bennett and her musical collaborators reacting to their surroundings and turning their workarounds into strengths. Continue reading →
Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
Nick Cave just released one of the most powerful records of his career – Skeleton Tree, a stunning meditation on grief and mortality colored by the death of his son during the recording process. Now, Cave announced a 2016 tour with his longtime band The Bad Seeds on tour in support of the album (not to mention his vast back-catalog); he and his band come to Philadelphia to headline the Electric Factory on Monday, June 5th. Continue reading →
A fiddle player from Dultuh, MN that blends traditional folk-pop songwriting with ethereal, experimental soundscaping, Gaelynn Lea captured the nation’s attention earlier this year when she won NPR Music’s second Tiny Desk Contest. Prior to being highlighted in the series, Lea worked with Alan Sparhawk of slowcore / indierock favorites Low in a project called The Murder of Crows. Tonight, she comes to Philadelphia to play World Cafe Live, opening the show for singer-songwriter Jess Klein. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Below, watch her Tiny Desk submission and eventual Tiny Desk Concert. Continue reading →
Some of the final lyrics to ring out in The Fillmore last night during the Seattle roots rock band’s headlining show dated back to their 2011 debut: “My family lives in a different state / If you don’t know what to make of this / Then we will not relate.”
Founding member Josiah Johnson is originally the one who sang those words — he has since stepped back from the band to focus on his mental health, though that isn’t the only change facing The Head and The Heart as they tour in support of Signs of Light, their third and finest album to date.
The band — the family, if you will — does in fact live different states now, and as my interview with singer-guitarist Jonathan Russell detailed, Signs of Light is The Head and The Heart’s first record on a major label (Warner Brothers), and its first record working with a major producer (Jay Joyce). If last night’s Fillmore gig is anything to go by, the band is working with change admirably, adjusting and growing and thrilling a capacity crowd along the way. Continue reading →
Philly rapper S.udan caught our ear three summers ago when he’d just graduated high school and released his debut track, “Away,” under the name JustXSudan. It was a rumination on music as life and at the time we called it “a fully-formed slice of philosophical hiphop that has this 18-year-old spitter looking like he’s poised to do great things.”
We’re a few years down the line, and while S.udan is biding his time on releasing a full project, he has built on the promise of “Away” one track at a time, with each new song topping the last. This summer, he partied on the stage in front of a packed TLA as part of the Sylk130 reunion show — his first time performing in front of a serious crowd — and he just followed it up with his latest single, “Die Tonight.” Continue reading →
After a long run of supporting their breakout sophomore album Let’s Be Still, Americana rock luminaries The Head and The Heart needed a breather.
The bandmates had been on the road together practically nonstop for two years; beyond that, they’d been at the grindstone since emerging from the Seattle coffee house community in 2009 with their self-titled Sub Pop Records debut. Stepping back for a year was essential, and some of their experiences in that time off were liberating and joyous – frontman Jonathan Russell embarked on nonprofit work in Haiti, and found himself teaching music alongside Jackson Browne; pianist Kenny Hensley learned to fly planes, and vocalist Charity Rose Thielen wrote songs for Mavis Staples. Other experiences were more serious, and co-frontman Josiah Johnson took a hiatus from the band this spring, announcing that he was battling addiction and needed time to focus on recovery.
At the end of it all is a tremendous new record called Signs of Light. It’s The Head and The Heart’s major label debut, and even though a heavy-hitting producer helped bring it to life — Jay Joyce, whose resume includes Cage the Elephant, Amos Lee and Emmylou Harris — the music within sounds refreshingly true to the band’s life-affiriming spirit, just on a somewhat grander scale. From the out the gate anthems “City of Angels” and “All We Ever Knew,” to the nuanced and reflective “Library Magic” and the deeply personal “Signs of Light,” it’s a striking blend of pop accessibility and emotional connectivity. This Sunday, October 24th, The Head and the Heart’s tour in support of the album comes through Philadelphia at The Fillmore.
Earlier this year, I caught up with Russell via phone to unpack the new record, and our wide-ranging conversation touches on The Head and The Heart’s gradual growth into theater headliners, Russell’s empathetic songwriting tendencies, ideas of collaboration versus autonomy, the absence of their friend Josiah on this run, and how they aim to pay forward the opportunities they had in their career. Read the interview in full below; tickets are still available for Sunday night’s show at The Fillmore, and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.Continue reading →
At the 2015 edition of the Roots Picnic, Sarah Barthel of Phantogram told the crowd a story about her band’s first big single. She and longtime creative partner (and childhood friend) Josh Carter were both huge hip-hop fans growing up, and he initially devised the beat for “As Far As I Can See” not as a song of his own, but as a cut to shop around – he hoped it might get picked up by Jay Z, or somebody of that stature. It did not, but that worked out pretty well for Phantogram all the same.
Since the release of 2010’s Eyelid Moves, the New York band has evolved from a brooding duo with a knack for catchy, spectral soundscapes to a hard-hitting electronic rock juggernaut. This fall brings their latest record, Three, which finds Barthel and Carter diving head on into the dark overtones that have always permeated their work, motivated in part by the death of Barthel’s sister, Becky. In a recent interview with Complex Magazine, Barthel summed up a theme of the album as “owning the darkness” – accepting and embracing all elements of yourself, angels and devils alike.
The album features some of the band’s most atmospheric work to date, but also some of its poppiest, like the massive gothic single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.” And hip-hop is still a part of their lives, from Carter’s production work for Stones Throw artist Oh No and ATL hero Big Boi (the latter of whom collabed with the band last year on the Big Grams project) to getting namechecked and rapped over by artists from Vince Staples to Nas and Philly’s S.T.S.
With a headlining tour rolling into The Fillmore on Monday, I caught up with Carter over the phone to talk about the band’s origins, its growth in scope and its ability to fit in just about anywhere. Continue reading →