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Two to Tango: New York City’s Shilpa Ray and Philly’s Shawn Kilroy team up Sunday at Kung Fu Necktie

Shilpa Ray photo by Ebru Yildiz / Shawn Kilroy photo by Bill Di Cecca || courtesy of the artists

New York City’s Shilpa Ray makes oddly noir-ish, neo-jazzy pop on albums such as her lustrous new Door Girl on the Northern Spy label. Philadelphia’s Shawn Kilroy has an angular, Bowie-like demeanor to whatever brands of music he chooses to essay, especially now in his most recent electronic excursions. Ray and Kilroy may not know each other, but they will share a journey (or at least a bill) at Kung Fun Necktie on November 19. Here is their story. Continue reading →

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The Promise to Keep it Real: Lukas Nelson talks with the Dan & Dan Music Podcast

Lukas Nelson | photo by Myriam Santos | courtesy of the artist
Lukas Nelson | photo by Myriam Santos | courtesy of the artist

Meet Dan and Dan! Dan Reed, Music Director and Afternoon Host at WXPN/Philadelphia and Dan DeLuca, Music Critic and Columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer sit down on a bi-weekly basis to talk MUSIC!

Lukas Nelson was in Philadelphia this week for a show at Union Transfer.  Prior to taking the stage, he stopped by WXPN and joined the Dan & Dan Music Podcast.  Lukas talks openly about his evolution as a songwriter, growing up the son of Willie Nelson, and his work touring & recording with Neil Young.  He even sings us a short acapella verse from the first song he ever wrote. Hear it now.

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The High Key Portrait Series: Ivy Sole

Ivy Sole | photo by Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

This past September, Ivy Sole played a set at Philly Music and Arts Fest at World Cafe Live that showcased best the talent and skill that she’s honed for engaging her audience. Closing that night with “Life,” a track that’s maybe her best-known to date, the artist modulated several times from theatrical gesticulations to rap verses, and slipped seamlessly into song for her choruses too, a swaying audience in tow.

In this interview, recorded earlier that evening, the 24-year-old artist describes her relationship with the performing arts, and how a background with spoken word poetry may have informed the arc of her artistic development, ultimately lending an element of effortless elegance to her stagecraft.

Having returned from show dates in Berlin and London, and with a new EP out recently, Ivy Sole looks toward a full-schedule though this year, with a focus on video production and a new full-length on the horizon too.  Continue reading →

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PREMIERE: Curtis Cooper’s Messy is a visceral work of compelling catharsis

Curtis Cooper | photo by Abigail Townsend Photography | courtesy of the artist

“I feel like all my closest friends are damaged,” says Philly’s Curtis Cooper. “And I don’t mean damaged in a bad way. I mean they have been beat down in one way or another and they’ve come back, and now they know the difference between having a good life and having a bad life, and they really appreciate what’s going on in their lives now. Those are the kind of people I want to spend time with.”

We’re talking one evening last week over falafel at Mama’s Vegetarian in Center City; “I love coming here,” Cooper comments, “there’s always somebody behind the counter wearing a Clique shirt.” And indeed, we’re handed our pita sandwiches from somebody wearing a jet black LIZARED tee. We grab a table and proceed to talking about Cooper’s personal and creative journey – through drugs, depression, and breakdowns – to their new album Messy, released this week. Continue reading →

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With The Fall of the Fool, Andrew Mars of Settled Arrows searches for solutions

Settled Arrows | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Andrew Mars likes to keep busy. After debuting his emotive, atmospheric songwriting project Settled Arrows with 2015’s Public Privacy — an album that finds moving beauty in personal tragedy, the loss of friends and the death of loved ones — Mars existed in that body of work for a year. He released Unsend, a stripped-down solo-piano revisit of the album recorded in one take. He released two live collections, one of Public Privacy performed before a studio audience at South Philly’s Buckeye Recording, and one a collection of covers from the same gig, rooted in his then day job at a piano bar. He even took part in an ambitious production with BalletX last fall, writing operatic lyrics for a production of Sunset, 0639 Hours at the Wilma Theater.

At the time, his next body of work was poised to be more surreal and abstract — and we definitely hear sonically free-form moments on INNOCENCE//The Fall of the Fool, the latest Settled Arrows album, released last Friday on Bandcamp. But topically, we find Mars responding to world events: a tense and uneasy climate both politically and socially, a litany of men behaving badly and a public demanding accountability, an uneasy undercurrent of aggression. On one level, the album is a takedown of toxic masculinity, but it also sees toxic masculinity as one component of much more deeply-seated societal ills. I caught up with Mars this week to chat on the phone about all of these things, as well as the current four-piece configuration of Settled Arrows that will perform live at Ortlieb’s tomorrow night.

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Step Into the Light: The ascent of Bishop Briggs

Firefly 2017 | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

 

It was only two years ago that Sarah Grace McLaughlin — the Scotland-born, nomadically-raised modern rock singer and songwriter better known as Bishop Briggs — was living in Los Angeles, hustling for gigs at any venue that’d give her a space to play.  And then “River” happened.

Released in January of 2016, the earworm single was an instantly captivating blend of sinister, simmering electronic rock, with an undercurrent of retro soul and R&B, tied together by a powerful vocal delivery from the then-23 year old Bishop. The single crawled its way up the modern rock charts and got something of a second life this past summer, when her self-titled debut EP was released on Island Records. Her set at the main stage of Dover, Delaware’s Firefly Festival this summer was gripping on a sweltering June afternoon; her pop-up performance in the shade of the festival’s Treehouse stage was even better.

This fall, Bishop returned with her latest single, “Dream,” a hugely uplifting gospel anthem with a lyrical dark side; it’s been slaying on her fall tour. This Thursday night, Bishop plays the main stage of The Fillmore, opening up for Bleachers, but when I caught up with her via phone, she was pulling in to Toronto’s almost-certainly haunted Massey Hall, getting ready to open for Alt-J. “It’s been insane, it’s a dream come true,” an effusively positive Bishop says at the top of our chat. “I love Alt-J so much, I love seeing them every single night. They’re unwaveringly good and consistent.”

Our conversation from there touched on collaboration, knowing one’s limitations, the slow-and-steady release strategy, and the influence of place on the creative mind.
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Lukas Nelson and Co. bring the real

Lukas Nelson | photo by Myriam Santos | courtesy of the artist
Lukas Nelson | photo by Myriam Santos | courtesy of the artist

Two years ago, Lukas Nelson, his brother Micah Nelson, and the membership of the ragged Promise of the Real were just coming into its own as backing band-collaborators of Neil Young for his Monsanto Years album and tour. The Nelson Brothers and their surfer buddies in Promise had recorded rough, jammy, Cali-countrified albums such as 2010’s Promise of the Real, and 2012’s Wasted, by that time (Micah is a solo artist under names such as The Particle Kid and Insects VS Robots), yet, between this then-new association with Young – to say nothing of their personal and professional lineage, playing and touring with their dad, Willie Nelson – there could have been a fear that legend would overshadow youthful ebullience and individuality.

“Willie’s my dad, Neil is our friend, both are masters and originals; why run from that?” Lukas Nelson told me back in 2015. Besides, with its slow, syrupy 2017 album Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real topping the Americana charts (along with the December 1 release of his collaboration with Young, The Visitor), Nelson & Co have found a sound, a niche and an audience all its own.

With that, they hit Union Transfer on November 14 as WXPN’s Artist to Watch for the month of November. Continue reading →

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Awakening the Feminine: Mhysa’s E. Jane on harnessing the power of softness

Mhysa | photo by Naima Green | courtesy of the artist
Mhysa | photo by Naima Green | courtesy of the artist

Conceptual artist E. Jane is, to put it in their own words, “always working on all cylinders.” In addition to pursuing an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art, which they completed last year, E. has been performing as one half of the electronic duo SCRAAATCH since 2013, and exhibiting work in galleries across the globe for nearly as long. This summer, E. stepped out as a solo musical act, releasing fantasii, the debut album of their popstar alter-ego, Mhysa.

On fantasii, which is set for a vinyl release later this month, music is imagined as a space of resistance for Mhysa and other Black women and femmes, foregrounding joy, affection, and sexuality as a gesture of opposition to those who would rather hold them down. The Key spoke with E. about the origins of the Mhysa project, the intersections of art and music, and the nature of resistance. Continue reading →

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The Story of Rolling Stone‘s Jann Wenner: Dan & Dan Music Podcast talks with biographer Joe Hagan

Jann Wenner in 1977 | photo by Jean Pigozzi

Meet Dan and Dan! Dan Reed, Music Director and Afternoon Host at WXPN/Philadelphia and Dan DeLuca, Music Critic and Columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer sit down on a bi-weekly basis to talk MUSIC!

Jann Wenner is the cofounder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine.  Joe Hagan is the author of the new biography STICKY FINGERS: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine.  The book looks at the life of a pivotal player in the history rock and roll, but it has also caused a stir.  Despite authorizing it and generally positive reviews, Jann is on record calling the biography ‘deeply flawed’.  Dan and Dan welcome Joe to the podcast to talk about accepting the project, the actual process of writing the book and the reaction its received.

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Shamir Shamone: Upping the pureness with Philly’s Shamir

Shamir
Shamir | photo by Jason MacDonald | courtesy of the artist

There are a hundred reasons to write about Shamir Bailey – known professionally as simply Shamir – beyond a recent relocation to Philadelphia. With a piercing contralto/tenor falsetto, Shamir demonstrates a musical curiosity ranging from 90s house, soul, country (all on 2015’s Rachet album), and now, lo-fi rock and fizzy pop (2017’s Hope and its follow-up, Revelations).

The-Vegas-to-NYC-to-Philly transplant has a singular voice, making any song identifiably theirs – be it silly (“90’s Kid”) or heartbreaking (“Like a Bird”) or angrily disgusted (“I Fucking Hate You”) in its lyricism. With Revelations out this Friday, November 3rd on Father / Daughter Records, and a First Unitarian Church gig on the horizon, I got Shamir on the phone to talk about their process, influences and aspirations.   Continue reading →