Two to Tango: The Midnight Hour’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge

The Midnight Hour
The Midnight Hour | photo courtesy of the artist

While T2T is normally reserved for a full-bill’s worth of entertainment, the joining of together legendary rapper/instrumentalist Ali Shaheed Muhammad (best known for his role in A Tribe Called Qwest) and equally audacious producer/player Adrian Younge (collaborator to Kendrick Lamar, Ghostface Killah and Philly’s own William Hart) for The Midnight Hour is worth breaking precedence.

The jazzy, soulful, and freeform orchestration, rhythms, and lyricism of the pair’s recorded output (their eponymous 2018 album, a soundtrack for Netflix’s Luke Cage) certainly does. I caught up with the dynamic duo — together, in separate cribs in Los Angeles — right before they camped out at Johnny Brenda’s for a mid-week jam, November 28. Continue reading →


Draco Rosa’s Latin Lesson: Rock en espanol innovator (and Ricky Martin collaborator) returns with Monte Sagrado

Draco Rosa | photo courtesy of the artist

The only thing that matches the pleasure of speaking with Draco Rosa is listening to him, and his various shades of haunting sound across a three decade spectrum. If you don’t know him from his goth-tinged rock en espanol albums such as 1996’s Vagabundo, 2004’s Mad Love, 2013’s Vidam — or his new, epically psychedelic and metallic Monte Sagrado that brings the American-born, Puerto Rican artist to The Foundry November 28 — you know him from the 1990’s alterna-funk outfit, Maggie’s Dream.

If these passionately aching, and smartly conceptual albums have shamefully alluded you, there are smashes (“Living La Vida Loca,” “Maria,” “She Bangs”), that Rosa has co-written and/or produced for his pal, Ricky Martin, with whom he shared a tenure in the multi-platinum, Latino boy band, Menudo. Along with all that, Rosa is a coffee entrepreneur and farm owner, an activist, a cancer survivor and a cookbook author.

Phoning from Las Vegas rehearsals for last week’s live Latin Grammy Awards, Rosa sounded hale and hearty for a guy who had his second bone marrow transplant and beat cancer’s ass — for the second time in his life — earlier this year. Continue reading →


Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Mirah

Mirah | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is an artist with a celebrated and ever-evolving approach to songwriting. Though she was born here in Philadelphia, Mirah Zeitlyn is most closely connected to the music scenes of Olympia, Washington (and, more specifically, the venerated K Records label) and New York City. Over the course of the last decade, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Mirah perform her one-of-a-kind compositions in a variety of configurations. There was the live presentation of her insect-focused song cycle Share This Place, a collaboration with the Spectratone International string section, that featured stop motion creepy-crawlies projected above the stage. In 2011, Mirah teamed up with Thao Nguyen of the Get Down Stay Down for a co-headlining album (and memorable World Cafe session). This time around, Mirah brought two of the versatile musicians that appear on her new album, Understanding, bassist Maia Macdonald and drummer Andrew Maguire, to perform a set of new songs in our studio.

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Ivy Sole tells a queer love story in “How High”

Ivy Sole | still from video

Philly-made rapper Ivy Sole has released a video for “How High,” off her debut album Overgrown. Directed by Sole in collaboration with Ethan Boye-Do, the video was shot in Venice Beach and shows Sole wandering the shore in the early morning, hand-in-hand with actress Andria Langston. The song captures that stomach-flipping rush of being in the proximity of someone you love. Continue reading →


Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Mass Gothic

Mass Gothic | Photo by Katie Tapman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade session is a group that truly is a family affair. Led by the husband-and-wife duo of guitarist Noel Heroux and bassist Jessica Zambri, Mass Gothic released their second full-length album for Sub Pop, I’ve Tortured You Long Enough, earlier this year. Its title a winking nod to the often tumultuous nature of married life, the album weaves heartfelt ballads with experimental rockers in a thrilling and eclectic (and brightly colored) package. Just like on the record, Noel and Jessica are joined in this performance by keyboardist Cristi Jo Zambri (a performer in her own right and, as you might have deduced, Jessica’s sister) and drummer Joseph Stickney, who is Christi Jo’s partner. The fluid interplay between each member of Mass Gothic suggests a band that has ironed out all the kinks, but that doesn’t tell this album’s whole story. Listen to the live performances and hear the album unfold:

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Consider the Angles: Abi Reimold on combining passions for introspective music and outrospective photography

Abi Reimold
Abi Reimold | photo by Emily Kuhar | courtesy of the artist

While Abi Reimold’s song are intensely personal, their love of photography is based around capturing others. On their album covers, they combine the two passions. The photograph on their most recent LP, 2016’s Wriggling, centers around a bowl of worms on a clean white table, the creatures writhing and wrapping around each other.

“I just liked the idiom: ‘opening a can of worms.’ I felt like that would tie the songs together very well,” Reimold said while munching on a salad bowl, seated across from me at a table on Walnut Street. “[It’s about] getting through things, and even though you can be in a situation or a mindset, and feel those feelings, that doesn’t mean that’ll be something permanent.”

Reimold recounted taking the shot that would become the cover of Wriggling. Filmmaker J. Miller was documenting the process, the room was set up. They just needed one thing: the worms. For that, Reimold went to their gardener friend, Katy.

“She was like, ‘Actually, I have a bunch of worms in my bathtub!’ It was really serendipitous.” Continue reading →


Rock and Roll Weirdness: An Indie Rock Hit Parade Chat with Jon Wurster

Jon Wurster | photo by Eric Schuman for WXPN

Anytime you get the chance to chat with Jon Wurster, do it. As the drummer for Superchunk, the Mountain Goats, Bob Mould and more, he’s got more than his fair share of stories as a touring musician. Add onto that his comedy writing chops, which can be heard regularly on The Best Show with Tom Scharpling, and his voracious appetite for music memoirs and biographies, and Wurster has become a kind of authority on the strangest corners of the music world. Take, for example, the Fun Topics™ that Jon and I discussed on his last visit. That kind of esoterica shows up daily on Jon’s social media profiles, particularly his Instagram account. It’s from that platform that the subject of this conversation originates: Rock and Roll Weirdness. Whether it’s an artist wearing their own band’s t-shirt onstage, Lemmy without facial hair, ‘How on Earth’ backstage meetings or something even stranger, Jon is the person who’s making these weird moments in rock history known to us all. Have a listen to our conversation and check out a few notable instances of Rock and Roll Weirdness below:

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Speedy Ortiz 2018

Speedy Ortiz | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session is a band that visited us back in 2015 when their last album was released. In the years since Foil Deer, Speedy Ortiz and its leader, singer/guitarist Sadie Dupuis, have kept rather busy. In addition to releasing a solo album as SAD13, Sadie relocated to Philadelphia and revamped her main band with a few new friends. Joining Sadie in the studio for this session are founding drummer Mike Falcone, guitarist/keyboardist Andy Molholt (also of Philly’s Laser Background), and bassist Audrey Zee Whitesides (whose credits include stints with Mal Blum and Lucky Cat). Speedy Ortiz dropped by our studios before they opened a sold-out show with Liz Phair at Union Transfer to perform songs from their newly released third album, Twerp Verse.

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Listen to Hour’s autumnal Anemone Red LP in full

Hour | photo by Julia Leiby | courtesy of the artist

Instrumental six-piece Hour has been teasing singles from their sophomore album, Anemone Red, and although the album is officially out November 2nd via Lily Tapes and Discs, you can stream it now on Various Small Flames. The subdued strings arrangement evokes a sense of missing, brushing the blank silhouette where someone should be. The record works best when played all at once, without pause, preferably while staring wistfully across an autumnal scene. Continue reading →


Cass McCombs predicts apocalypse in new single

Cass McCombs | photo by Silva Grav | courtesy of the artist

Cass McCombs has announced a new album, Tip of the Sphere, out February 8th. “Sleeping Volcanoes” is the first single off McCombs’ ninth album, a murky folk-rock tune powered by bluesy roadhouse guitar and Lou Reed-inspired vocals. The lyrics are tinged with nihilism, the repeated phrase, “Help me, Armageddon,” suggesting apocalypse–which, if you’ve been paying attention to the news at all in the last few years, doesn’t feel that far off. Continue reading →