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Passing by with Christinna O

Christinna O | photo by Shabnam Ferdows | courtesy of the artist

 

Two years ago, Miami native Christinna O made her way to Philadelphia, not only to attend Temple University, but make a name for herself in the music scene. The alternative R&B singer was already a skilled wordsmith, and it probably helped when she joined Temple’s poetry team Babel and competed in the NAACP’s National Poetry Slam. But more recently, it seems that Christinna O seems ready to get people clapping for her singing instead of just snapping their fingers for her poetic lines.

The end of last year, she released the first single for upcoming EP Girl In Passing, “Shelter”, and has recently released the second single “Lay It Down.” While Christinna O prepares for the arrival of her second EP, we were able to sit down with her to talk about her early beginnings and what her listeners can expect from Girl In Passing. Continue reading →

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Listen to Sterling Duns and R.B. Ricks from Hardwork Movement on the 25 O’Clock podcast

Sterling Duns (left) and R.B. Ricks of Hardwork Movement | photos by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

For the latest episode of Philly music podcast 25 O’Clock, MCs Sterling Duns and R.B. Ricks of Hardwork Movement met up with host Dan Drago in his South Philadelphia studio for a wide-ranging conversation that got to the heart of who these two artists are as people, but also explored the philosophical underpinnings of their collective.  Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Helado Negro

Helado Negro | Photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade is an artist who is no stranger to our performance space. Roberto Carlos Lange has been releasing music as Helado Negro for just over a decade and, in that time, has become a reliable source for intimate, expressive music. Combining sweeping electronics with rhythms gleaned from Floridian hip-hop and his own Ecuadorian heritage, Helado Negro’s latest album is This is How You Smile. The new songs expand on the socially- and culturally-minded lyrics of his last album, 2016’s Private Energy. For that album, Helado Negro performed a memorable World Cafe session accompanied by a string quartet (including IRHP session veteran Renata Zeiguer on violin) and a pair of tinsel-clad dancers. While on tour with Beirut earlier this year, Lange returned to our studio with two of the versatile musicians who appear on his new album: Angela Morris and Nathaniel Morgan. Both provide synth and saxophone parts on the record, and they reprise their instrument-hopping roles here. Continue reading →

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Watch Strand Of Oaks perform “Ruby” with Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, and members of My Morning Jacket

Strand Of Oaks performs on Thr Late Show with Stephen Colbert | Still from YouTube video

Last month, Strand Of Oaks’ Timothy Showalter took to Twitter shortly after releasing the official music video for “Ruby” saying “this is by far one of the happiest songs I’ve ever written”. And by the grin on his face during much of last nights performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, it was clear to see the joyous memories come to life.

I’m sure it didn’t hurt having an all-star Americana-Folk group of friends behind him, including Jason Isbell (who is featured on the album), Amanda Shires, and Bo Koster and Tom Blankenship of My Morning Jacket who played a role in the creation of Strand Of Oaks’ forthcoming record Eraserland Continue reading →

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Birdie Busch composes music for artwork at the PMA in a Women’s History Month performance

Birdie Busch | photo by Nikolai Fox | courtesy of the artist

March is Women’s History Month and what better way to celebrate exceptional women in art and music than Philly’s own Birdie Busch performing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? As a part of the PMA’s Friday Night series, Birdie has written eight original songs inspired by women’s art and seven others for her own project centered around goddess archetypes. The performance will take place in the PMA’s Great Stair Hall and Birdie will be accompanied by four other musicians: Todd Erk on upright bass, Carl Cheeseman on guitar and banjo, Gretchen Lohse on violin and vocals, Thomas Hughes on keys. Projections of art works from the museum collection will accompany the musical performance as well as original visual art by Busch of goddess archetypes.  As a whole, it will celebrate art makers across the centuries and demonstrate what we can learn from our history of remembered — and forgotten — women’s art.

Busch is a staple of the Philadelphia community with a resume as impressive as her open heart and vibrant artistic spirit. She is a musician, writer, photographer, and visual artist whose work embraces the multitudes of our world. She follows her own guiding light when it comes to creating work, and this collaboration with the PMA is no exception. In speaking with The Key, Busch shared that she had already begun a project of songs and paintings that explored goddess archetypes when she was contacted by the PMA. Working with Cat Ricketts, the Coordinator of Evening Programs at the PMA, Busch developed a “super project” that combined her work with goddess archetypes and the PMA’s collection of women’s art.

“It’s been very cool to have those running in tandem,” Busch says, “Originally I thought they would be split, one set of this and one set of that. But now, by studying so much of the background of these women whose pieces I picked from the PMA collection and the female Greek archetypes, it all seems fluid. There’s so many things I wouldn’t have thought of without the combination.” Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Potty Mouth

Potty Mouth | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

Joining us for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a band whose new album is a long-awaited (and much welcome) return. Formed in Northampton, Massachusetts nearly a decade ago, Potty Mouth stormed onto the scene with their debut album, Hell Bent, in 2013. While touring that record, they visited our studios for what is still regarded as one of the loudest World Cafe sessions ever recorded. Six years on, Potty Mouth have just released the full-length followup to Hell Bent, SNAFU. Borrowing a military parlance for its not entirely tongue-in-cheek title, SNAFU represents the determination of Potty Mouth’s members to persist in the face of personal and professional challenges. Guitarist Abby Weems, bassist Ally Einbender, drummer Victoria Mandanas and touring guitarist Kate Meizner returned to our studio on the eve of SNAFU‘s release to charge through a set of new songs. And this time they might have been even louder. Continue reading →

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Anti-Nostalgia: Philly punk vets Dead Milkmen keep looking forward through an array of side projects

The Dead Milkmen | painting by Syd Torchio | via facebook.com/thedeadmilkmen

When The Dead Milkmen reunited for good more than a decade ago, they could have chosen the option so many bands go with and become sort of a nostalgia act. Nobody would have faulted them for it. Those old songs, the ones people really go wild for, they’re inarguably perfect. So bloviate all day about the nature of nostalgia and authenticity, but it pays the bills.

But this is the Milkmen we’re talking about here! They weren’t some one-hit-wonders trying to recapture past glories. They never had the glory! Sure “Punk Rock Girl” landed then on MTV but watch those videos of them on “Downtown Julie Brown” and you’ll see a bunch of mischievous dorks who know that their dance cards might get punched soon and are going to make the most out of this moment. Which is to say: while they had a few years of pretty constant touring, they eventually came back to their day jobs.

This is a band that has always been moving forward, always trying to find new ways to express themselves. This was especially true when they first started and it was 1982 and only one of the members, drummer Dean Clean, had played in bands before. But it’s still true almost forty years later when you hear songs like “The Brutalist Beat” off of the most recent release, 2017’s Welcome to the End of the World, that owe just as much to new wave and industrial as they do punk rock. Continue reading →

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Chasing Daylight: The road to the final album from late West Philly guitar genius Yuzo Iwata

Yuzo Iwata | photo by Elana Iwata | courtesy of the artist

“Goodnight, Daylight Moon” is the final track on Yuzo Iwata’s final album Daylight Moon, released just months before the Philadelphia guitarist succumbed to kidney cancer last June. It is a beautiful, almost haunting song, with Iwata’s guitar soaring over the sparse arrangements.

It’s not a fitting end, since no end is truly fitting, especially when someone dies at just 59, leaving behind a wife, two kids, and a true community of friends. But if there has to be an end, it’s a perfect one, even if it does leave you wanting more.

Iwata never came to prominence in the way we typically talk about these things. In fact, up until this album, very few people knew him as a musician. Instead he was just Yuzo, a really nice and kind of quiet guy who was born in Japan and worked for decades at Essene, the natural market off of South Street. Sure, he was in the absolutely legendary Japanese psych rock band Maher Shalal Hash Baz back in the 80s, and sure he put out a stunningly brilliant solo album in 1999 called Drowning In The Sky, but it’s not like he went around telling people about it. There was a short tour of Scotland with Maher in the late 90s, but outside of that, barely any other shows until the last couple years.

His reemergence into music came on like a thunderclap. A lot of people were simply stunned, both by Iwata’s songs and the fact that he had been so inactive for so long. It was like he was coming out of nowhere, despite the fact that he had been playing music for decades.The shows he was able to play were packed and the first pressing of the album, released on local label Siltbreeze, sold out in a couple weeks, though Jordan Burgis — who recorded and helped produce Daylight Moon — said that it will be repressed later this year. The cancer came on during the mid-point of the recording process, which started in 2014. By the time the album was finally out he was very sick. The last show he played was at the Philadelphia Record Exchange in March of 2018. Continue reading →

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Guitarist-composer Matt Davis is at home with Big Family

Matt Davis’ Aerial Photograph | photo courtesy of the artist

Limiting smoldering guitarist and kinetic composer Matt Davis and his floating membership ensemble, Aerial Photograph, to “jazz,” is like trying to make ice on a roller coaster: its fluidity cannot be contained due to its insistent motion, both literal and figurative. “I call it ‘jazz-adjacent,’ for better or worse,” said Davis, who came up through “the tradition,” and mostly continues to follow that lineage. Thinking of his newest album, Big Family, and its bent lines of improvisation, this is hardly you standard sense of swing, bop, or balladry. “The name ‘jazz’ is a drag, if only for the reason that it just doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s more of a tradition and lineage than a style. How else can Robert Glasper and Eddie Lang be in the same aisle?”

At turns elegant, eloquent, immersive and deeply involving (to say nothing of Gil Evans-esque in sound and theory), the one-time Philadelphia musician/teacher and his ever-changing crew have long filled his albums and live shows with gentle stories of familys at rest and in transition — his own, those of immigrant communities, or members of the military, as with his newest song, “Air Mail” — and of the more provocative elements of how these knit-together households act toward each other and the world around them.

There’s a reason that Davis has called his new album Big Family, a record he’ll debut at a live release party/event at The Rotunda on March 1. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Lucy Stone

Lucy Stone | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Posing for some portraits at XPN studios, Lucy Stone calls attention to her sunshine-yellow jacket, and volunteers that her mother said it wasn’t her color and warned her against it, before the singer affixes her own punchline to the narrative, unironically: “That’s why I wore it.”

Having played with local indie rock faves DRGN KING and Sad13 before then striking out on her own for awhile, the Philly native has planned some stage time in the coming months with new crew Vexxed, supporting tracks they recently laid down at a Drexel studio with compositions she’d written when she was 16.

And she can rock her yellow jacket if she wants to, along with a uniquely frank wit and deadpan humor, demonstrated by her response to a mention of her stern portrait visage.

“Good,” she confirms. “I want people to be afraid.”  Continue reading →