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Our Best American Girl: Grown Up Talk with Mitski

mitski
Mitski | photo courtesy of the artist

Mitski Miyawaki understands the sobering realities of growing up more than most people twice her senior. If 2014’s breakthrough album Bury Me at Makeout Creek detailed the bad decisions and existential hangovers that come with first flirtations with freedom, its follow up Puberty 2 dives into how that dread of consequence and uncertainty lingers long into adulthood and beyond, haunting you even in your happiest moments. Or as her press release puts it more bluntly, “Happiness fucks you.” She of course elaborated further on that thesis in our recent chat ahead of two sold out shows in Philly this week. We talked about the new album as well as how she likes to write, perform, and be talked about…

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The High Key Portrait Series: Birdie Busch

Birdie Busch | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com
Birdie Busch | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com

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.

Birdie Busch’s new record Thunder Bridge is beautiful, meditative, with an attention to production details and sonic textures that would make Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Jeff Tweedy envious. Recorded in Germantown, Busch’s sixth LP sees the introduction of longtime friend Jaron Olevsky as keyboardist, as well as co-producer along with her partner, bassist Todd Erk. It’s a pensive, reflective collection of eight tracks that might remind you of Lucinda, Feist, or the moods of Beth Orton, and you’ll be comforted to know that Busch is a local Philly girl too.

What’s more, on June 18th, the Philly songstress will host a record release party at Boot & Saddle in celebration of the new work (get tickets and more info here). She’ll also be around town with a handful of show dates this summer, and come Fall, Johnny Brenda’s will host her seventh annual Philly Opry, a night of music cultivated by Busch, and conceived to mix-and-match local and traveling acts.

In her interview with us, Busch related her eclectic influences, her love for the city and its arts community. She speaks thoughtfully, poised with deliberation and without calculation, and throughout shares her contagious outlook of renewal and rejuvenation, whether it’s with reference to her relationship with live performance or just walking or biking the city’s streets and neighborhoods. Continue reading →

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Point, Counterpoint: Kevin Morby talks expanding his sonic palette on the new Singing Saw

Kevin Morby | Photo courtesy of the artist
Kevin Morby | Photo courtesy of the artist

A piano was left behind in the house that Kevin Morby moved into in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles in the fall of 2014. He began using it to write new songs, and he may not have realized it at first, but it would play a major role in carving out his latest album, Singing Saw.

Morby’s new tool for writing allowed him to explore a new way of adding layers to his music, rather than just using a piano for texture. It combined with his then new home had afforded him more time and space he needed for writing an album much more lush and thought-out. It’s one that shines a brighter light on the poignant folk singer-songwriter through additional orchestration. Continue reading →

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Interview: RJD2 talks his new album Dame Fortune, collaborating, and the Columbus music scene

RJD2
RJD2 | Photo by Benny Mistak | courtesy of the artist

If you’re into RJD2, you know the electronic producer / songwriter is big on collaborating. Even longer than his list of studio albums (which clocks in at 10 with this year’s Dame Fortune) is his list of production work, and the names are big: Aesop Rock, Mos Def, Massive Attack, Elbow, Yo La Tengo and Son Little just scratch the surface. So when he started work on the new project, the Columbus native and former Philadelphia resident called up some old (and new) friends to fill in the gaps. The result is a synchronous, soulful album full of twists, turns and eclectic surprises.

We spoke with RJ about how his production and songwriting methodology has changed from 2002’s Deadringer debut to Dame Fortune, his long list of Philly collaborators and what it’s like to be back in Columbus. Read the interview below, and see the master in action at Union Transfer on Saturday, May 28th.

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Seizing the Moment: The Birth of Needlove Records

Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst
Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst

In the fall of 2014, Needle Points were approached by Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog with interest to produce their next album. It was to be the neo-psych ’n’ rollers’ second album, following up their six-song LP, Bom Tugangu, that they self-released the year prior. However, the album has yet to see the light of day.

After spending two weeks at Mt. Slippery studio with McMicken, the band spent the next year and a half shopping the end result around to multiple record labels. They received varying levels of interest, as local as Brooklyn and as far away as England. Ultimately the band decided it would be in their best interest to release it on their own. They would utilize it to get their own record label, Needlove Records, off the ground with plans to finally release the new album later this summer.

The startup record label will be run by Needle Points’ lead singer Colin Holloway and drummer Jordan Kaplan. Having already released their own Bom Tugangu debut and through their dealings with other musicians and labels through their work with McMicken, the two definitely have some do-it-yourself experience under their belts.

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Abi Reimold talks life since releasing Wriggling on the 25 O’Clock Podcast

Abi Reimold
Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist

Since the January release of her LP Wriggling, Philly’s own Abi Reimold has been getting a lot of attention, including stopping by for one of The Key Studio Sessions in April. More recently, the Havertown native sat down with Dan Drago on the latest episode of his 25 O’Clock Podcast.

The two chatted for over an hour, and the range of their conversation was all over the place. They addressed what music journalism is at the moment, considering Reimold studied journalism at Temple. They talked about Wriggling and the sad state that it conveys, even though Reimold doesn’t see herself as the same person now. Drago shared his thoughts on the record as a listener, saying he hears different voices from Reimold at different points. Reimold discussed what she’s been doing off the stage, like photography and a follow up album, to what she does on it, such as making use of looping pedals. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Brian LaPann

Brian LaPann | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | <a href=http://www.hellerhound.com/ target="_blank">hellerhound.com</a>
Brian LaPann | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com

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.

Although New Jersey native Brian LaPann had enjoyed a modest following fronting Jersey-based blues-rock band 61 North, he says the draw of Philly’s music community compelled him to make the leap a few years back to set up shop near one of South Philly’s hottest neighborhoods, and to begin work with some of the local musicians whom he admired most. Here LaPann honed his skills as a lead guitarist, and considered a broader diversity of influence and instrumentation as he wrote, recorded and produced his latest EP. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: The inner workings of Thin Lips, or how its better not to keep secrets

Thin Lips practice at Big Mama's | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Thin Lips practice at Big Mama’s | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

It’s a soggy Monday night in Philadelphia and we’re crammed into small room in Fishtown’s Big Mama’s House arts space. The room, which maybe measures 15-by-15 feet, is the practice space of Philly punk four piece Thin Lips, but it also doubles as drummer Mikey Tashjian’s living quarters. He moved in not long ago, and started lightly decorating the room with random artifacts – record sleeves, iridescent fabric, a blue-ish abstract print made by his aunt.

The band is workshopping many things at once on this particular evening – it’s about to head out on tour in support of Riff Hard,  their debut LP out today on Lame-O Records (that we’ve been featuring all week long on Unlocked), and it’s been a while since they played these songs together live. Kinks are worked out, particularly on raging album opener “DEB.”

“It’s about how being a girl is hard,” says singer-guitarist Chrissy Tashjian, Mikey’s sister. “And how being a girl who dates girls is hard.”

After a few passes through the two-minutes-and-change blast of energy, the band stops for a breather and we casually chat about the items Mikey has scattered the room. Above his bed, a polo work shirt on a hanger dangles from a hook on the wall. It belongs to the Tashjian’s late brother Billy, who passed away at 22 in January of 2014, right before what was supposed to be Thin Lips’ live debut opening for Radiator Hospital and Potty Mouth at Boot and Saddle.

Mikey says the shirt is a reminder. “You can work hard,” he says. “You can be a good person. And you’re still going to die.” Continue reading →

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Unwrapping the post-punk complexity of West Philly’s Pinkwash

Pinkwash |photo by AmyJuneBreesman | courtesy of the artist
Pinkwash |photo by Amy June Breesman | courtesy of the artist

West Philly drum and guitar duo Pinkwash have spent the past three years crafting hypnotic punk ragers with muscular guitar parts wrapped in oddly-timed rhythms. Their first release, the magnificently tense yet explosive Your Cure Your Soil EP (Sister Polygon) was a brutal, outraged set of songs dealing with the death of singer / guitarist Joey Doubek’s mother from breast cancer.

After releasing the Cancer Money 7” and going on tour, the band returned to Philly to work on their first full length, Collective Sigh out this month on Don Giovanni Records.

We sat down with Joey and drummer Ashley Arwine to talk about touring, their new album and West Philly’s emerging post-punk scene. Continue reading →

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A brief pause of life with Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum

Wild Nothing | Photo courtesy of the artist
Wild Nothing | Photo by Shawn Brackbill | courtesy of the artist

Jack Tatum thinks himself less as a real musician than a fan and student of music. As Wild Nothing, he communicates what he’s learned and loved about pop-rock greats like Fleetwood Mac and The Cure with crystalline clarity. Never has that love sounded more cinematic than on his latest record, Life of Pause. He’ll be presenting Pause live this Saturday at 714 as an all too fitting soundtrack for the Making Time Sweet Sixteen Party. Beforehand, I caught up with Tatum to chat about the album, how the sound of Philly influenced it along with many others, and what not to call his music.

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