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Two to Tango: Grandchildren and Balún

Grandchildren and Balún
Grandchildren (l) and Balún (r) | photos courtesy of the artists

When Grandchildren and Balún appear together, on August 23 at PhilaMOCA, the skronky, harmonious Philadelphia ensemble and the rhythmic Puerto Rico dream pop team bring with them arts, smarts and indigenous sounds on its newest albums: Grandchildren with OK, I’m Waiting, and Balún, with Prisma Tropical. We caught up with them right before they hit Philly. Continue reading →

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Espers Everywhere Now: Beloved Philly psych-folks reflect on life ahead of their hometown reunion

Espers
Espers | photo by Alissa Anderson | courtesy of the artist

Family. Work. Relationships. Relocation. Life.

These are things that closed a chapter on Philadelphia’s Espers in 2010, not long after the release of its final album, III, in 2009. “It might have been 2010, maybe sooner, like toward the release of the album, I’m not certain,” said Meg Baird, the one-time singing Epser(s) of how the band dissolved.

And that is it: Espers gently faded out just as they faded in, on a billowing, beautiful, undoubtedly dark and cumulous cloud of psilocybin-laced folk touched by occasional thunderbolts of electricity. Now, with the looming possibility of reissues of its brief catalog — four woodsy, gauzy, tactile albums and EPs — co-Epsers Baird, Greg Weeks, Brooke Sietinsons, Helena Espvall and Otto Hauser return to their rural, ancient-to-the-future roots tied (and unmoored from) folk’s traditions.

Maybe it’s just for one night (August 24 at Union Transfer), but the pairing with the like-minded Andy Cabic and his band Vetiver is perfect. Cabic’s handcrafted, shapeshifting, urbane folk was introduced to the world in 2004, the same year as Espers initial album, and the two in the birth of the modern folk movement, unified by the (then) further adventures of newbies Devendra Banhart, Ólöf Arnalds, Animal Collective and Faun Fables, as well as the return of alternative folk elders such as Clive Palmer, Bert Jansch and Vashti Bunyan.

Calling from San Francisco, where she’s lived for six years, it is odd speaking with Baird about Espers presently, as we have discussed her solo work (albums such as 2011’s Seasons on Earth and 2015’s Don’t Weigh Down the Light) without ever discussing Espers’ slip into darkness.

“It’s strange talking about Espers now, but not in a negative way,” said Baird, days before leaving for Philadelphia and rehearsals with her old band. “More of it is surprising that we’re here. It has been good, nice, that we’re revisiting the old material, and I’m glad we are able to play music together again.” Continue reading →

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Trash Knife collects all their songs to date on new tape So Far…

Trash Knife | via facebook.com/trashknife

Local punk outfit Trash Knife released their latest tape this week, the aptly titled So Far… The tape is a collection of the band’s work to-date. Out of the three releases on their own bandcamp page, the only track not to appear on previously released projects is tape-closer “She Shreds,” a fast banger admiring women who shred (and shares its name with a popular guitar magazine), vocalist Lauren belting, “she’s a shredder, real trend setter, you can’t catch her.” Continue reading →

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Shannen Moser explores her country roots on the rustic new single “Haircut Song”

 

Shannen Moser
Shannen Moser | photo by Emily Dubin | courtesy of the artist

Berks Co. native Shannen Moser released the second single to her sophomore album. The track, “Haircut Song” follows up the previously released “Arizona (I Wanna Be Your Man),” a continues to draw on her folk and country influences.

“Haircut Song” paints a painstakingly beautiful narrative split into two parts, “before i cut your hair, and when I gave you haircuts,” from the song’s opening lines. Distant, trodding drums anchor the song through its two minutes and change, while twangy guitars accompany Moser in her register. The space between is filled with atmospheric, emotional keys, care of guest Cameron Konner on the track. The vignette painted on this single, along with the previously released “Arizona,” highlights Moser’s penchant for narrative-style songwriting and builds anticipation for the upcoming album even further. Continue reading →

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Watch Ivy Sole and Anyee Wright ride around in “Backwoods” music video

Ivy Sole | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN | brightloud.com

Part time crooner, part time rapper Ivy Sole is back with new music today, the latest track from her just-announced debut studio album. “Backwoods” follows up the previously released “Rollercoaster” from June, both tracks set to appear on her debut album OVERGROWN, out September 18th on Les Fleurs Records. On the track, Ivy Sole teams up with local artist Anyee Wright who delivers a fire guest verse, both artists rapping over the smooth beat care of producers CRO and Corey Smith-West. Continue reading →

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Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner publishes New Yorker essay “Crying in H Mart”

Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist

If you’re familiar with Michelle Zauner’s work as Japanese Breakfast, you may know how deeply the death of her mother has affected and inspired her songwriting. She wrote the songs on Psychopomp, her first album as Japanese Breakfast, in the wake of her mother’s passing a few years ago; her mom is featured on the album artwork as well.

But in addition to songwriting, the Philadelphia-based musician has written about her relationship with her mother in prose, too — in this 2016 piece for Glamour magazine, but most recently in her first essay for the New Yorker, which is equal parts tribute to her mother and tribute to H Mart, an Asian supermarket chain. As she explains, the two are more interwoven than one might think — a trip to H Mart isn’t like a trip your typical grocery store, but a fully immersive cultural experience that sounds about as close as you can get to the real thing without leaving the US. Continue reading →

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Belly of the Beats: Why Nothing’s Domenic Palermo is turning his sights to prison reform

Nothing
Nothing | photo by Ryan Lowry | courtesy of the artist

Domenic Palermo has been thinking a lot about his old neighborhood lately.

He thinks about the people he spent his childhood with; he thinks about how much things have changed and how much they have not. It makes sense, since the places we grow up shape us in innumerable ways. They’re our first impression of the world; they’re the center of our young universe. Our neighborhoods help us decide where we want to travel with our lives, whether we want to get as far away as possible or if we’d rather just stay in place. And the ramifications of those choices somehow touch the lives of people we knew; our family, our community. Even though he’s up in Brooklyn these days, the frontman of Nothing is constantly thinking about his childhood in the Frankford and Kensington sections of Philadelphia…and the things he can do to make it a better place in 2018.

This Friday, Nothing releases its third LP, Dance on the Blacktop, via Relapse Records; it’s an explosive and highly personal record, touching on themes of mortality, addiction and family, and after a long build-up of writing and working in the studio with producer John Agnello, the band will spend Saturday unwinding with family and friends in the Port Richmond section of Philly — just a short jump down the river wards from his old home.

The Nothing Record Release Block Party is just what its name suggests: a gimmick-free gathering with a DJ, games, food and fun; no Nothing live set, just a day-long hang. “We didn’t want it to be like a Diplo block party, we wanted it to be very neighborhood-friendly,” Palermo says when I caught up with him via phone last week. “We really just wanted to have a few hours where we can just see people enjoying themselves. I imagine that most of the people that show up to this block party aren’t even going to know why it’s really there, which is kind of the point. It’s purely just a Philadelphia celebratory kind of thing.”

For Palermo and his bandmates, its a way to kick back before getting into the grueling stress of another album cycle. But even in choosing the spot, he had a lot to think about. Continue reading →

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Listen to Camp Candle talk about their songwriting process and the changing Philly landscape on the 25 O’Clock podcast

Camp Candle | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | courtesy of the artist
Camp Candle | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia’s Camp Candle appear on the latest episode of The 25 O’Clock podcast. The electronic duo of Mark “Nu Ra” Cave and Briana “Hetepsa” Mills sat down with podcast host Dan Drago for the 106th episode of the podcast. The duo discussed their beginnings, going through the collaborative songwriting process as a duo, and the changing landscape of different Philly neighborhoods. Continue reading →

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The Vernes return with new single “Maybe I’ll Feel Better When I’m Dead”

The Vernes
The Vernes | photo by Crosby Clouse | courtesy of the artist

Philly via San Francisco rockers The Vernes released new music this past weekend, the title track to upcoming LP Maybe I’ll Feel Better When I’m Dead. The track is a jam and a sign of good things to come from the Philly rockers, who release the full album on September 28th.

While The Vernes previously released their self-titled debut in 2017, the upcoming Maybe I’ll Feel Better When I’m Dead marks the band’s debut studio album. Instead of releasing home recordings like on that first record, the band enlisted Joe Michelini (American Trappist, River City Extension) for recording and producing the upcoming album. Continue reading →

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Watch The Districts’ full set from Best Kept Secret festival

The Districts | Photo by Pooneh Ghana | courtesy of the artist

Hometown rockers The Districts found themselves in Europe earlier this summer, traveling from England to Denmark in June, with stops in Germany, Belgium, Norway, and the Netherlands along the way. It was on June 8th in the Netherlands The Districts performed at Best Kept Secret festival. Thanks to the festival, their full set is now up on YouTube to stream.

During their set, the band played five songs off their 2017 LP, Popular Manipulations, which recently celebrated its first birthday on August 11th. According to an Instagram post from the band, the boys are back in the studio gearing up for their fourth LP. While their Best Kept Secret set didn’t contain any new songs, be on the lookout for new material teased out by the band in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future. The band closed out their set with a career-spanning best-of run, from 2012’s “Funeral Beds” into 2018’s “Nighttime Girls,” and finally ripping through set-closing staple “Young Blood,” in all of its glorious 10 minutes. Continue reading →