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The man who makes the songs, and the songs that make the man: Two nights with The Magnetic Fields at Union Transfer

The Magnetic Fields at Union Transfer, night two | photo by K. Ross Hoffman for WXPN
The Magnetic Fields at Union Transfer, night two | photo by K. Ross Hoffman for WXPN

Stephin Merritt, the ingenious and wholly singular songwriter behind The Magnetic Fields, among other enterprises, calls himself “the least autobiographical person you are likely to meet.”  And yet, he has created his autobiography, of sorts, in 50 Song Memoir: the Fields’ latest, eleventh album as well as a two-part live performance (a concert, but also something slightly other than a concert) that was staged this past Wednesday and Thursday at Union Transfer.  The premise, or gimmick, is winningly simple and perfectly Merrittian: one song for each of the first fifty years of his life – bringing us from 1966 to 2015 – split evenly between the two nights.  The resulting experience was fascinating, complicated, revelatory – for fans, at least – and strangely human. Continue reading →

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Waxahatchee, Mary Lattimore and Molly Fischer pack Johnny Brenda’s to support the Bicycle Coalition

Waxahatchee | photo by Michelle Goodwin for WXPN

Headlining a fundraiser for the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee performed a delightfully eclectic collection of new songs and old to a sold-out crowd last night at Johnny Brenda’s. The first show of a several-week tour with Philadelphia’s Mary Lattimore, Waxahatchee charmed fans with an intimate, solo performance spanning her discography. Continue reading →

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Download the audio for Pink Floyd’s flawless performance at The Spectrum in 1973

The Dark Side of the Moon is  Pink Floyd’s greatest commercial success. This is the LP with the famous cover art of light refracting through a triangular prism, an image so iconic it is almost universally recognizable due to the massive reach of the album. The record focused on correlating themes of mental health, greed, death and conflict, among others. These were topics that had been previously explored by the psych-rockers, but were never incorporated in such a direct manner as was used in this 1973 release. Continue reading →

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Regina Spektor dazzles The Fillmore on a snow day eve

Regina Spektor | photo Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | <a href=http://www.michellemontgomeryphotography.com/ target="_blank">michellemontgomeryphotography.com</a>
Regina Spektor | photo Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

Singer-songwriter Regina Spektor graced the stage at The Fillmore on Monday night to play a stellar set to a sold out crowd. Spektor is currently touring across the country in support of her new album, Remember Us To Life. As soon as she walked on stage and took a seat at her beautiful Steinway grand piano, the crowd went wild with excitement. Continue reading →

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All These Sick Scenes: Los Campesinos! at the TLA

Los Campesinos! | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

“Enjoy this night, because I know for a fact that we’re not likely to be invited back.” It seems impossible that it’s been six whole years since hearing those words, the last time Los Campesinos! played in Philadelphia. At one of the first ever shows at the newly inagurated Union Transfer, the Welsh post-twee band celebrated the same thing they always have been — that the present is the only thing we’re ever guaranteed, even as bleak as it may seem. It’s a common theme in the band’s work, and existence as a whole. Even while remaining prominent cult favorites, eleven years into their so-called career, the future band has never been assured. At the TLA on Wednesday night, they approached the end of an impossible US tour and proved that there’s a certain kind of charming nostalgia hidden within bitter nihilism. Continue reading →

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Noname shines in her Philly debut at World Cafe Live

Noname | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Noname | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A week before the show, tickets to see Noname at World Cafe Live were being sold online for up to six times their original $15 asking price — the show had sold out months prior, and the Chicago rapper’s profile had only grown through an appearance on SNL with Chance the Rapper and acclaim for her Telefone project. To say the least, the show this Wednesday, March 1st was in demand.

Doors were at 7 p.m. and by the the time 7:15 rolled around the first four rows were spoken for. By the time that the opener, Ravyn Lenae, graced the stage 45 minutes later, the entire downstairs of World Cafe Live was abuzz with energy. Continue reading →

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Vagabon blasts off with Infinite Worlds release show at PhilaMOCA

Vagabon | photo by Rachel Del Sordo

“You’re a big fish now, though!” someone shouted from sidestage, just before Vagabon launched into “The Embers,” the final song of a stunning record release show at PhilaMOCA on Saturday night. Vagabon — the stage name of one Laetitia Tamko — was riding high on the release of Infinite Worlds, out the 24th on Father/Daughter Records. “The Embers,” a song exploring a more solipsistic landscape, repeats in its refrain that “I’m just a small fish.” While inside, Tamko may feel like a small fish in a big pond, the acclaimed release of Infinite Worlds and it’s two sold-out release shows (Friday night she appeared in Brooklyn with Mal Devisa and Jelani Sai) are ripples indicating that something big is emerging from beneath the surface. Continue reading →

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Lisa Hannigan weaves a strong, soaring setlist at Underground Arts

Lisa Hannigan | photo by Joe Del Tufo | <a href=http://moonloopphoto.com target="_blank">moonloopphoto.com</a>
Lisa Hannigan | photo by Joe Del Tufo | moonloopphoto.com

It’s been an interesting journey for Lisa Hannigan. Known first 15 years ago as the backing vocalist whose soaring duets helped launch Damien Rice to fame, she’s since outpaced him with three solo releases. I’d always considered her work with Rice her strongest and, though each solo release would have a gem or two, I typically found her voice to be stronger than her songwriting. But I had never seen her live.

Her recent tour concluded in Philadelphia, something she mentioned being really grateful for, as the city has been a great beacon of listening for her over the years. And a very full Underground Arts transformed into a listening room. Pulling mainly from her most recent and best work, At Swim, Hannigan wove a setlist that served to feature the band as much as her soaring, elemental vocals. Continue reading →