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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Nothing To It” by The New Basement Tapes

The New Basement Tapes | Photo courtesy of the artist
The New Basement Tapes | Photo courtesy of the artist

Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes, is a new collaborative album project from Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) and producer T Bone Burnett. The album, which will be released on November 11th, celebrates the discovery of never before heard handwritten Bob Dylan lyrics from his 1967 “Basement Tapes” writing and recording period. Continue reading →

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Get flashy with Beach Day, The New Pornographers & Literature on the Indie Rock Hit Parade!

Beach Day | Photo by Kimmy Drake
Beach Day | Photo by Kimmy Drake

The Indie Rock Hit Parade returns to the XPN airwaves tonight at 10pm! Tune in for a colossal assortment of brand new tracks from Beach Day, The New Pornographers, Tennis, Alvvays and more! And don’t miss our album spotlight on the newly released sophomore LP from Philly’s own Literature! Here’s a sampling of what’s in store tonight:

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Go inside the studio as Restorations makes the most important album of its career

Restorations Jon Loudon records vocals at Miner Street | Photo by Mitchell Wojcik | mitchellwojcik.com
Restorations’ Jon Loudon records vocals at Miner Street | Photo by Mitchell Wojcik | mitchellwojcik.com

When a young music fan hears stories about their favorite bands recording new music, they often invent grandiose visions of the studio and its space. There’s a certain mystique inherent for those who haven’t stepped foot in one; like most unlived experiences it’s portrayed in our heads as distant, unattainable, a place where all-time art is created. A place where “regular people” don’t ever go. Of course, that’s not really true. Studios come in all shapes, sizes and budgets, from cavernous state-of-the-art compounds where million-dollar records are made, to dirt-floor basements walled with smoke-stained eggshell padding.

Philadelphia’s Miner Street Recordings, which has gone through several locations in its two decades of existence (and is no longer located on Miner Street, for the record – the name comes from its original location in West Chester), lies somewhere in between the two extremes of the studio spectrum. Situated at a central crossroads in Fishtown, it’s a nondescript, vaguely abandoned-looking building in a city full of them. Off-white and faded blue paint peels from the exterior walls, exposing bricks underneath. The only visual confirmation that it’s the right place is a small piece of black tape on the front door with the words “this is Miner Street” written on it.

Before spotting the “sign” though, there’s an aural confirmation; standing on the sidewalk outside, the sound of muffled, droned, noteless guitar strumming breaks through the walls. We’re here to observe Restorations as they record their third full-length and second for SideOneDummy Records, and even those distant, cacophonous non-notes are immediately identifiable with the band’s growing reputation for weaponizing sharp, bright melodies by weaving them into heavy, distorted riffs, an unassumingly thunderous rhythm section and the occasional organ, all of it anchored by the throaty vocals of Jon Loudon. Continue reading →

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Listen to a new Dark Blue song, “Here On My Street”

Dark Blue | Photo courtesy of the artist
Dark Blue | Photo courtesy of the artist

Philly’s Dark Blue are Clockcleaner’s John Sharkey III, Paint It Black/Ceremony’s Andy Nelson and Strand of Oaks’ drummer Mike Sneeringer. In May, the band released their debut 7-inch single for Jade Tree, “Just Another Night With The Boys.” This week they announced their debut full length, Pure Reality. Continue reading →

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Why you should listen to Bear in Heaven’s new album in a thunderstorm

Bear in Heaven | Photo by  Shawn Brackbill
Bear in Heaven | Photo by Shawn Brackbill

Bear In Heaven’s latest record, Time is Over One Day Old, has a telling song called “Dissolve the Walls.” It song starts off as a faraway confusion of conversation, blitzy synth running down a long tunnel as an upbeat womanly chorus chants: “Let the walls dissolve/ till there’s no room at all/ there’s no ceiling, no floor/ no windows, no door.”

Given this particular track and the cover art of the 2014 album (on which I can’t help but see a galactic rolling paper), you might think you could easily file it under ‘other worldly weirdness,’ right next to 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the group never has stopped with just one sonic style compartment, so you really can’t file this album as a whole under anything (and not next to any of the group’s previous releases, either).

“We’re always talking about output or creation, so it’s certainly not this, ‘alright, let’s definitely make this an effort to strip things back…’” says Adam Wills, guitarist and co-founder of Bear in Heaven, and writer of the song. The group, which headlines Johnny Brenda’s tonight, began 10 years ago as a project between Wills and co-founder/vocalist Jon Philpot. Continue reading →

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Philly native Orrin Evans talks about paying tribute to a friend in Liberation Blues

Orin Evans | Photo by Jimmy Katz
Orrin Evans | Photo by Jimmy Katz

It was a time before cell phones when Orrin Evans moved to New York City in 1996 with friend and trumpeter Duane Eubanks. So when he’d meet other musicians on the scene he’d simply tell them, “Call me at Duane’s crib if you need to find me.” The only problem was that Evans and Eubanks had been preceded by another Philadelphian named Dwayne a few years earlier – bassist Dwayne Burno. Evans realized his mistake when he received a phone call from the none-too-pleased bassist, who skipped past the pleasantries and proceeded to play an answering machine full of messages intended for the young pianist. Continue reading →

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Clocked In: A conversation about the difficulties of working and touring with Little Big League’s Michelle Zauner

little big league

I called Michelle Zauner on the phone a couple weeks ago and this is what she said to me: “I forgot this was happening.”

It is easy to forget things are happening, especially in the summer. Plus Zauner was on vacation, in Oregon, the state where she grew up and where she lived before attending college at Bryn Mawr, before making Philadelphia her home and before starting the band Little Big League.

It was recently announced that Little Big League signed with Run For Cover, the Boston label that released the new album by fellow Philadelphians Modern Baseball, You’re Gonna Miss It All. A new Little Big League LP, the follow-up to the well-received These Are Good People (Tiny Engines; 2013), is expected to arrive later this year.

In addition to her work as the singer and guitarist in Little Big League, Zauner also makes music under the name Japanese Breakfast. Last month, the Seagreen Records label released her cassette American Sound & Where Is My Great Big Feeling?

Zauner is clearly very busy with music, but when she’s not on tour, she works elsewhere. For this new installment of Clocked In, we spoke with Zauner about her non-music-related work history, from clerical work at her dad’s truck broker business, to bossing a grill at Bryn Mawr, to holding down the comic shop Brave New Worlds. Continue reading →