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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Forth Wanderers

Forth Wanderers | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is an up-and-coming New Jersey band that proves the power of friendship. Forth Wanderers formed in 2013, when singer Ava Trilling and guitarist/songwriter Ben Guterl were in high school. What began as a casual songwriting partnership quickly blossomed into a full-fledged band, rounded out by guitarist Duke Greene, bassist Noah Schifrin, and drummer Zach Lorelli. The group’s newly released self-titled album is their second overall and first for Sub Pop. The morning after their show at the First Unitarian Church, Forth Wanderers dropped by to perform some of the new songs live.

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I’m An Artist, Too! Perry Shall guest DJs the Indie Rock Hit Parade

Perry Shall, self-portrait courtesy of the artist

We don’t get too many guest DJs on the Indie Rock Hit Parade. In fact, that role is almost exclusively held by recurring guest Jon Wurster. Still, I like to hand the reins over to a fellow music lover’s capable hands every now and again, and there are few people as capable as taking over the show as Perry Shall.

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Taking a (Lake Street) Dive

Lake Street Dive
Lake Street Dive | photo by Shervin Lainez

Often tagged as “retro” with a multi-genre emphasis on its folksy soul (or soulful folksiness) to go with its Lambert, Hendricks & Ross-on-Benzedrine-esque harmonies, Boston’s Lake Street Dive has been moving at a rapid fire pace since its independently-released debut with 2006’s In This Episode. Twelve years and several albums later, the quartet has honed its skills into something looser and airier, yet currently focused on a modern R&B tone on its brand new release, Free Yourself Up.

Perhaps we can blame a more-than-usual wealth of compositions and co-compositions from Bridget Kearney (fresh off her debut solo album, 2017’s Won’t Let You Down), or touring keyboardist Akie Bermiss stepping up to the plate as a formidable studio presence, or the band’s taking control of its own production with help from friend and engineer Dan Knobler. Drummer Mike Calabrese and Kearney clue us in before returning to Philly for May 12’s sold-out show at The Fillmore. (UPDATE: Lake Street Dive just announced a free concert at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg on Tuesday, June 19th; to attend, RSVP here.) Continue reading →

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Courtney Barnett releases instructional video for new single, “Sunday Roast”

Courtney Barnett | still from video

Courtney Barnett’s latest video opens like many YouTube tutorial videos may open. “Hey guys, its me, Courtney Barnett. Today I’m going to show you how to play ‘Sunday Roast,’” Barnett says, greeting the viewers on the other side of the screen. The instructional video doubles as Barnett’s latest single release off her upcoming album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, out May 18.

The video features Barnett sitting on a futon strumming along to the track, flanked by two figures cropped out of the frame. Close-up shots of Barnett playing the guitar float across the screen throughout the 4-minute video, instructing viewers on how to play along at home.  Continue reading →

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s Fran Keaney talks collaborative songwriting, knowing your place in the universe, and Melbourne’s best new music

Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever | photo by Warwick Baker | courtesy of the artist

There’s an undeniable momentum to Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, a kind of stampede of movement. Though their songs each have their own distinct feel, they retain a thundering energy, coming at you like a gust of cool wind or a lurching wave. The beauty of it isn’t in a single guitar solo, a specific bassline, or the consistently thumping beat of the drums; it isn’t the clever turn of phrase or the catchy hook. The real mastery is in the full, the whole thing hurtling forward, picking up speed and catching more and more as it rolls down hill.

This holds true for the band itself, a five-piece that started as a three-piece, slowly building and growing without a single ego to get in the way. They share songwriting duties and credits and have, up to this point, released two EPs of jangly, late summer-afternoon guitar rock. Singer-guitarist Fran Keaney, one of the founding members of the band, was kind enough to talk with me about, among other things, the band’s growth, harnessing that specific moment in time, Dumb and Dumber, and their highly-anticipated new record Hope Downs. Continue reading →

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Dawes returns with two new songs, “Living In The Future” and “Crack The Case”

Dawes
Dawes | photo by Magdalena Wosinska | courtesy of the artist

Next month, Los Angeles rockers Dawes will return with their sixth album, Passwords, and today the XPN favorites raised the curtain on two teasers of the record that with a remarkable dynamic range.

First, there’s “Living In The Future,” a track that XPN program director Bruce Warren has been playing daily at maximum volume from his office ever since an early stream of it arrived at the station a few weeks ago. It’s Dawes at their biggest and boldest, yearning and desperate, screaming into the void about the despair of modernity — it opens on a note of quiet tension, and builds to an explosive refrain that hits borderline Imagine Dragons territory. It’s going to sound massive in the arenas that Dawes are playing this summer opening for Jeff Lynne’s ELO. Continue reading →

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Running Up that (Marian) Hill: Philly’s Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol make the “unusual” their usual

Marian Hill
Marian Hill | photo by Shervin Lainez | courtesy of the artist

In the swinging Frank Sinatra hit “Something’s Gotta Give,” Old Blue Eyes sings of “an irresistible force” meeting “an immovable object” in a show of the shield and spear paradox.  This too could describe the hook up of moodily minimalistic producer Jeremy Lloyd and woozily angelic vocalist Samantha Gongol, the songwriting duo of childhood friends who met at Haverford High School, and named their bluesy electronic duo after two characters from “The Music Man” (Marian Paroo and Harold Hill).

On the heels of releasing its newest album, Unusual, a year after its debut, Act One, it is important to note that a massive aspect of their success and brand-notoriety comes from the fact that most of us know Marian Hill and its early single “Down” as the soundtrack to the black-and-white television ad for the then-new Apple iPhone + AirPod.

Tease the duo about how their spare, soulful sound has outlasted the AirPod in fame and usefulness, and both come to the aid of the thin Apple product. “I still have and use mine,” said Gongol, focused on how such corporate salesmanship helped push her duo from bedroom recording ensemble who used to play open mic gigs at World Café Live (“we owe a lot to those Monday nights and WXPN’s support,” she said) to studio mavens on big label tour showcases. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Nap Eyes

Nap Eyes | Photo by Eric Schuman for WXPN

Joining us for this latest Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a band with some of the most sneaky-catchy songs you’re likely to hear all year. Nap Eyes formed in 2011 out of the solo project of singer/guitarist Nigel Chapman. Joined by bassist Josh Salter and drummer Seamus Dalton, the group is rounded out by lead guitarist Brad Loughead. Earlier this year, Nap Eyes released their third proper album, I’m Bad Now. The album has a breezy, laid-back quality that evokes keystone records by Silver Jews or early Wilco. The band visited us before their show at Johnny Brenda’s to perform some of the new songs in our studio.

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Todd Rundgren’s Shifting Utopias

Todd Rundgren's Utopia Group | photo by Danny O'connor | courtesy of the artist
Todd Rundgren’s Utopia Group | photo by Danny O’connor | courtesy of the artist

The last time audiences caught a Todd Rundgren (and there are many to choose from), they were treated to a sound more in league with his sumptuous, blue-eyed soul past (such as 1972’s epic Something/Anything), teamed with the often caustic lyricism of, say, 2004’s Liars, the result of which was 2017’s White Knight, and its singularly humorous Trump-bashing “Tin Foil Hat.”

Now, in 2018, Rundgren is returning to an occasionally more peaceful (or existentially humanist) set of lyrics and a Technicolor progressive rock-ist sound with his ensemble Utopia, a box set of collected works and a tour that brings him home to Upper Darby and the Tower Theater on May 5.

“When I first formed Utopia in the 70s, a lot of it had to do with the fact that as a songwriter working primarily at that time on the piano, that I had put aside the guitar,” said the man whose 60s instrumental roots were in the bluesy Woody’s Truck Stop and the psychedelic The Nazz. “I started getting the feeling after Something/Anything, that I was losing my chops. I hadn’t created the opportunity as a songwriter or producer for the sort-of guitar playing I wanted to do.” Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Shannen Moser and Julia Peters

Shannen Moser and Julia Peters | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

A little over a year ago, Philly folk singer Shannen Moser released a debut studio full-length, Oh My Heart, on Philly-based indie record label Lame-O.

Moser is open about how emotional attachment  affected everything from the approach to recording it to stagecraft. While her first tour in support of the material last summer was with a full band, her set at last fall’s Philly Music Fest — where we conducted this interview — was stripped down to herself and cellist Julia Peters, who’s worked closely with Moser since Peters moved to the area a few years ago. Continue reading →