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Taking shape with Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas

Perfume Genius
Perfume Genius | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist

As Perfume Genius, Mike Hadreas creates worlds and narratives on his albums that are as decadent as they are delicate. These worlds often serve as a sonic sanctuary for queer music fans that now, more than ever, are as life-saving as they are life-affirming.

No Shape, released earlier this month, is his best and biggest salve for the agony and ecstasy of the queer experience yet. If no family was safe when he sashayed on 2014’s Too Bright, he’s built himself, and us, a hell of a lot more walking room this time, lyrically as well as musically. Before he sashays onto the stage at Union Transfer this Thursday (a show that will be livestreamed via Pitchfork), Mike took a generous time out to talk about the album, the circular energy that can build at a show (including one particularly memorable night in Philly), and the importance of queerness in music and art in the current dark times. Continue reading →

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John K. Samson remembers past and pets fondly at World Cafe Live

John K. Samson | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
John K. Samson | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

“We are a middle aged soft rock band from Canada.”

This is how John K. Samson christened himself and his Winter Wheat band on the downstairs stage at World Café Live this past Tuesday. It was a gently self-deprecating statement with that felt accurate in spite of itself. The band’s set was indeed filled with softness and warmth as it reminisced about recovery and relationships past, as well as Samson’s own musical legacy via several covers of his signature band The Weakerthans. Continue reading →

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In Conversation with Worriers’ Lauren Denitzio

Worriers | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Worriers | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Punk collective Worriers made quite the well-earned splash two years ago with their fiery, Laura Jane Grace-produced debut album Imaginary Life. Their fans will get to see a softer, subtler side of the group’s sound, however, when front person Lauren Denitzio and drummer Mikey Erg strip things down to open for the one and only John K. Samson at World Café Live next week. Leading up to it, I chatted with Lauren about where things stand with the Imaginary follow up, their recent move to Philly, and how to motivate in the new political landscape. Continue reading →

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Interview: Bleeding out with Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval | photo by Jenny Berger Myhre | courtesy of the artist
Jenny Hval | photo by Jenny Berger Myhre | courtesy of the artist

Jenny Hval is smart as hell. The kind of smart that makes you want to know everything she knows about art and life. Over her recent run of records, she’s explored issues of gender politics and sexuality in a manner that’s as playful as it is provocative. Her latest and maybe greatest effort, Blood Bitch, continues to investigate both through what is arguably one of their most primal and oddly taboo sources: menstrual blood. While some might be unfortunately quick to turn away from such subject matter, Hval expands on it to explore ideas of identity and eternity, all in the form of some of her more accessible yet challenging songs yet. See? Smart.

She’ll be showing off those smarts live at PhilaMOCA this week. I had the privilege of chatting her up beforehand, discussing her influences for the record, getting awesome film and book recommendations, and reflecting on how she brings her ideas to life on stage. Continue reading →

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In Conversation with Garbage’s Butch Vig

Garbage
Garbage | photo courtesy of the artist

Garbage have had a lot of ups and downs over their twenty-plus years together. Through it all, however, they’ve consistently managed to produce pristine, propulsive pop-rock hybrids that sounds as thrilling and just ahead of the curve now as they did on their self-titled introduction to the world back in 1995.

Their current album, Strange Little Birds, is already being heralded in many circles as their best album since then, and not without good reason. Over its eleven tracks, the band’s signature sound stretches and sprawls with a playfulness and precision they haven’t shown in over a decade. We’ll get to see how it stretches out live too when they play The Fillmore this Saturday night.

Alas, drummer and co-founder Butch Vig will not be in attendance. Grounded from flight on doctor’s orders after a bout of sinusitis, this freed him up for a chat about the new album, how the band fits into the musical landscape of today, and what’s kept them band together all of these years… Continue reading →

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Our Best American Girl: Grown Up Talk with Mitski

mitski
Mitski | photo courtesy of the artist

Mitski Miyawaki understands the sobering realities of growing up more than most people twice her senior. If 2014’s breakthrough album Bury Me at Makeout Creek detailed the bad decisions and existential hangovers that come with first flirtations with freedom, its follow up Puberty 2 dives into how that dread of consequence and uncertainty lingers long into adulthood and beyond, haunting you even in your happiest moments. Or as her press release puts it more bluntly, “Happiness fucks you.” She of course elaborated further on that thesis in our recent chat ahead of two sold out shows in Philly this week. We talked about the new album as well as how she likes to write, perform, and be talked about…

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A brief pause of life with Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum

Wild Nothing | Photo courtesy of the artist
Wild Nothing | Photo by Shawn Brackbill | courtesy of the artist

Jack Tatum thinks himself less as a real musician than a fan and student of music. As Wild Nothing, he communicates what he’s learned and loved about pop-rock greats like Fleetwood Mac and The Cure with crystalline clarity. Never has that love sounded more cinematic than on his latest record, Life of Pause. He’ll be presenting Pause live this Saturday at 714 as an all too fitting soundtrack for the Making Time Sweet Sixteen Party. Beforehand, I caught up with Tatum to chat about the album, how the sound of Philly influenced it along with many others, and what not to call his music.

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Get Ready to Get 2 On with Tinashe at the TLA

Tinashe
Tinashe | Photo by Smallz & Rasking | photo courtesy of the artist

For someone who has always had a soft spot for icy, idiosyncratic R&B and the women who perfected it (RIP Aaliyah), Tinashe has been a breath of, if not exactly fresh, then certainly refreshed air on modern radio. Though upstarts like Frank Ocean and Miguel took the lion’s share of credit for revitalizing the genre with their respective breakthroughs channel ORANGE and Kaleidoscope Dream, Tinashe was right there with them back in 2012, unleashing a steady flow of masterful mixtapes that culminated in her own breakthrough album Aquarius nearly three years later. As confident and coherent a debut as any I’ve heard in recent memory, it echoed classic albums by Janet Jackson and contemporary artists like Cassie in equal measure. Continue reading →

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Getting cocky with Laura Stevenson

Laura Stevenson | Photo by Christopher Hainey | courtesy of the artist
Laura Stevenson | Photo by Christopher Hainey | courtesy of the artist
Earlier this fall, Laura Stevenson released her fantastic, fourth solo album Cocksure through Don Giovanni Records. Punkier, perkier, and poppier than anything she’s ever done, it marks both a natural progression from and stark contrast to her previous efforts. In preparation for her upcoming stop at The Foundry at The Fillmore to debut the album live, I caught up with Stevenson to discuss the making of the record, how to stay sane on the road, and her memorable first experience playing in Philly… Continue reading →

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Why I’m gay for PWR BTTM (and you should be too)

PWR BTTM | via pwrbttm.bandcamp.com
Growing up gay in the Clinton years made it hard to do a lot of things. Among them was finding people who shared my insatiable thirst for and ever-evolving taste in music. Not many rural Maryland teens had space in their CD players for Ray of Light-era Madonna, vintage Depeche Mode, or even the deeper cuts of peak Garbage (whose frontwoman Shirley Manson remains an underrated queer icon and my personal savior). As I began to trickle out of the closet in college, I found the same challenge attacking from the other side. My first openly gay acquaintances had just as hard of a time wrapping their heads around the queer, feminist punk of early Sleater-Kinney, for instance. Few people seemed to occupy my then desolate middle ground, and even fewer artists on my radar at the time seemed to play in it.

Enter PWR BTTM about a decade and change after the fact. The duo of Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins are punks who proudly cite Kylie Minogue as an influence on their Facebook, the kind of band that not only speaks to me but for me. Unabashedly, unapologetically queer in style and storytelling, they combine the perk of Pansy Division with the poignancy of Perfume Genius on their debut long-player Ugly Cherries, out now on Father/Daughter records. Over surging pop-punk riffs, they swagger and sucker-punch with songs that nail the fun, fumbles, and fears of being young and other. Continue reading →