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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Helado Negro

Helado Negro | Photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade is an artist who is no stranger to our performance space. Roberto Carlos Lange has been releasing music as Helado Negro for just over a decade and, in that time, has become a reliable source for intimate, expressive music. Combining sweeping electronics with rhythms gleaned from Floridian hip-hop and his own Ecuadorian heritage, Helado Negro’s latest album is This is How You Smile. The new songs expand on the socially- and culturally-minded lyrics of his last album, 2016’s Private Energy. For that album, Helado Negro performed a memorable World Cafe session accompanied by a string quartet (including IRHP session veteran Renata Zeiguer on violin) and a pair of tinsel-clad dancers. While on tour with Beirut earlier this year, Lange returned to our studio with two of the versatile musicians who appear on his new album: Angela Morris and Nathaniel Morgan. Both provide synth and saxophone parts on the record, and they reprise their instrument-hopping roles here. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Potty Mouth

Potty Mouth | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

Joining us for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a band whose new album is a long-awaited (and much welcome) return. Formed in Northampton, Massachusetts nearly a decade ago, Potty Mouth stormed onto the scene with their debut album, Hell Bent, in 2013. While touring that record, they visited our studios for what is still regarded as one of the loudest World Cafe sessions ever recorded. Six years on, Potty Mouth have just released the full-length followup to Hell Bent, SNAFU. Borrowing a military parlance for its not entirely tongue-in-cheek title, SNAFU represents the determination of Potty Mouth’s members to persist in the face of personal and professional challenges. Guitarist Abby Weems, bassist Ally Einbender, drummer Victoria Mandanas and touring guitarist Kate Meizner returned to our studio on the eve of SNAFU‘s release to charge through a set of new songs. And this time they might have been even louder. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: The Goon Sax

The Goon Sax | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a young band with a classic sound. Formed while the members were still in high school, Brisbane’s The Goon Sax carry a lifetime of influences with them. With James Harrison and Louis Forster trading off guitar and bass duties and Riley Jones supplying drums (and all three members singing), The Goon Sax quickly gained attention and acclaim for their inspired spin on the Australian (and New Zealand) indie pop traditions of the ’80s and ’90s. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Madeline Kenney (2019)

Madeline Kenney | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade session is an artist who’s quickly becoming a regular around these parts. Madeline Kenney‘s first visit to the IRHP was just that; she was touring with Chaz from Toro y Moi and the Mattson 2 and was a non-performing companion at their session. Shortly after releasing her debut album, Night Night at the First Landing, Kenney charted a course to make our studio her own. That session was a swirling, guitar- and voice-looping delight, but it didn’t quite prepare us for the creative leap that Kenney would make on her next record. Perfect Shapes, produced by Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak/Flock of Dimes, was one of my favorite albums of 2018. Its blend of billowing synths, springy guitars and, of course, Kenney’s dynamic vocals, felt like a debut of a new kind of artist. In what has become a kind of tradition, Kenney returned to our studio when her Perect Shapes tour brought her back to Philly. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Jon Spencer + the HITmakers

Jon Spencer + the HITmakers | Photo by Katie Tapman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade Live session is a pivotal figure in the world of wigged-out fuzz punk. Jon Spencer has served as leader of countless groups and collaborations over the last 30+ years, including (but not limited to) Pussy Galore, Heavy Trash and, of course, the Blues Explosion that bears his name. After a handful of years recording and touring with a reunited Blues Explosion, 2018 saw something a bit surprising emerge from Spencer’s cavern of cro-magnon rock: his first ever solo album. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: IAN SWEET

IAN SWEET | Photo by John Vettese for XPN

Joining us in the studio for the first Indie Rock Hit Parade live session of 2019 is a trio led by a wildly talented and creative songwriter. Originally founded as IAN, the solo project of singer/guitarist Jilian Medford, IAN SWEET grew to include a shifting array of supporting players. As they do in this session, IAN SWEET usually materialize as a trio; Medford is joined for this session by bassist Hudson Buckley and drummer Miles Wintner. On her second album, 2018’s Crush Crusher, Medford explores themes of emotional fragility, toxic relationships and self-reflection with both unflinching directness and startling allusions. The music is nothing short of thrilling. The choruses on Crush Crusher are the biggest that Medford has devised and the occasional use of synthesizers makes the songs even more dynamic. IAN SWEET are currently in the midst of a months-long tour of Europe, but back in November (just a few weeks after the new album’s release), they stopped by our studio to play some of the new songs live…

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: BRONCHO (2018)

BRONCHO | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a band whose members are no strangers to our studios. Back around the time of their debut album, Oklahoma’s BRONCHO made a stop for a performance on World Cafe. A few years and one album later they were back for a set on this very show! Now the band is back with a vengeance, which is to say they have a new album and it’s their tuffest yet. BRONCHO is still led by singer Ryan Lindsey, with guitarist Ben King, bassist Penny Pitchlynn and drummer Nathan Price rounding out the lineup. They stopped by before a show at Johnny Brenda’s to perform tracks from Bad Behavior live in our studio.

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Watch Speedy Ortiz play “I’m Blessed” for WXPN’s Indie Rock Hit Parade

Speedy Ortiz | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Don’t think for a second that music with pop leanings isn’t music for the mind. Take Philly indie four-piece Speedy Ortiz, which this week heads out on its last run of tour dates in support of this year’s awesome Twerp Verse LP. The band’s power chord riffs are ear pure candy, while frontperson Sadie Dupuis’ vocal melodies rise and fall in remarkably hooky arcs.

It’s fun to hear, but a closer listen reveals complexity, both structural — the odd angles and unexpected sharp turns each arrangement takes — and lyrical — Dupuis just published her first book of poetry, if that gives you any indication of the angle from which she approaches her songwriting.

One of the standouts when Speedy Ortiz recorded an Indie Rock Hit Parade session at WXPN last month was “I’m Blessed,” a song that burns and builds over about three different movements, and while the concluding melody seems in one sense uplifting, it’s also cathartic, as Dupuis spends the song unpacking repressed anger. Continue reading →

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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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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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