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XPN Fest Recap: Hiss Golden Messenger’s southern folk takes root on the Marina Stage

Hiss Golden Messenger | photo by Natalie Piserchio | nataliepiserchio.com

Nursing a fresh sunburn and dodging the inflated beach ball being tossed around the crowd, I wove my way toward the Marina Stage. MC Taylor and the accompanying four-piece band of Hiss Golden Messenger dared the audience to match the energy of last night’s set in Newport, where the band was joined by singer Mavis Staples. “I could’ve died after that particular performance…It’s the third day of this festival, nothing matters anymore. This time tomorrow I’ll be in a hammock with my kids,” Taylor said.

What the blues-rock band lacked in dance moves (especially considering that they directly followed that wild Tank and the Bangas set), they made up for in power, giving a vivacious performance that left them toweling the sweat from their faces. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Harmony Woods starts off Sunday with a sulblime set of sensitive rock

Harmony Woods | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

If Sofia Verbilla was nervous stepping outside of the zone of dimly lit basements to play a massive festival, it didn’t show. Harmony Woods was effortlessly able to recreate the intimate vibe of jamming at a house show. Pink-haired and cat-eyed, Verbilla expressed gratitude and humility to be playing on the River Stage. “My dad used to take me to this festival as a kid, so playing it is so unreal.” Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Bermuda Triangle packs in drifting harmonies and tender songs to beat the rain

Bermuda Triangle | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Early Friday evening concert goers lounged on picnic blankets before the Marina Stage, despite bruise-colored clouds threatening rain. The Nashville power trio Bermuda Triangle were undeterred by the whipping winds and distant thunder. They opened with “Tear Us Apart,” Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes plucking at an upright bass. On “Suzanne,” Howard’s voice took the forefront, dipping and rising with impressive range, drifting harmonies adding breathtaking tenderness. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Brooklynites The National Reserve channel the spirit of southern rock and roll

The National Reserve | photo by Natalie Piserchio | nataliepiserchio.com

The National Reserve don’t sound like they’re from Brooklyn. The five-piece rock outfit took to the River stage donned in grass-stained denim and faded plaid. The hazy Philadelphia skyline rose up behind them, a breeze off the water providing relief from the pressing summer heat and their southern tinged, roots rock.

They opened with the upbeat, stomp-dancing “Don’t Be Unkind,” conjuring images of tipped cowboy hats and Texan ranches. The songs off their latest album, Motel La Grange, were heavily piano-driven, with blusey, electric keyboard solos that grew increasingly chaotic. They slowed it down for the ballad “Roll On Babe,” bearded vocalist Sean Walsh wielding a gorgeous fire-engine-red hollow body guitar. Continue reading →

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Blood Orange explores community and empowerment in two new music videos

Blood Orange
Blood Orange | photo courtesy of the artist

Blood Orange, aka Devonté Hynes, has dropped back-to-back songs off his fourth studio album Negro Swan, out August 24. “Charcoal Baby” was co-written with Proches’ Aaron Maine and comes with a music video directed by Crack Stevens. The video is centered around the theme of community, the introductory monologue talks about having that sense of family where “you don’t have to shrink yourself or pretend or perform.” In a compilation of clips, Stevens explores images of families, both biological and found, painting radiant scenes of celebration and togetherness. Continue reading →

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Meet Honey Swell: The cross-country indie pop collaboration of Iowa’s Olivia Heath and Philly’s Rachel Wild

Honey Swell | photo by Ashley Gellman | via The Grey Estates

Honey Swell is the project of Iowa-based songwriter Olivia Heath and Pennsylvania-based Rachel Wild (of Beach Bod), who collaborate by trading recordings over the Internet. Their first EP, released with Tower To The Sea Records, is a crushing embrace from a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. You want to soak in it, arms encircled for just another minute longer. Continue reading →

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Spirit of the Beehive straddles dreams and reality on “Can I Receive The Contact” from new LP Hypnic Jerks

Spirit of the Beehive
Spirit of the Beehive | photo by Emily Burtner | courtesy of the artist

Spirit of the Beehive is releasing their third full-length album, Hypnic Jerks in September 2018 via Tiny Engines. The title refers to the involuntary twitch you might sometimes experience while beginning to fall asleep, a jerked knee or flung arm wrenching you back into reluctant wakefulness. Continue reading →

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Empath embraces experimental chance on their new 7″ Environments

Empath | via empath.bandcamp.com

DIY-scene queer punk faves Empath recently released a two-track single Environments on local label Get Better Records, with a music video to go with the opening song. “Polyfoam” finds the band dancing in a basement, awash in saturated, saccharine and surreal hues of pink, orange and yellow.

The new 7″ is inspired by the field recordings of American photographer Irv Teibel created in the 1960’s and 70’s, as the songs “dissolve into experimental sound.” The tracks are a far cry from Empath’s last album, Liberating Guilt And Fear, released via Get Better Records, a distorted paroxysm of noise pop. They’ve traded furious kitchen-pot-banging for something gentler and meditative. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Fucked Up return to Philly at the First Unitarian Church

Fucked Up | photo by John Londono | courtesy of the artist

Toronto hardcore punk band Fucked Up announced a new album, Dose Your Dreams, out October 5 via Merge Records / Arts & Crafts. The first single dropped, “Raise Your Voice Joyce,” with Damian Abraham’s grating vocals backed by a sunny chorus, a joyful contrast. In the music video, directed by Daniel Murphy, a typewriter stamps lyrics on a page in agressive caps-lock. Continue reading →