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Interview: Craig Finn talks Hold Steady anniversary, Seth Meyers, and his new solo record We All Want The Same Things

Craig Finn | photo via Partisan Records

Craig Finn may have spent years as the bar-band king of The Hold Steady and Lifter Puller, but the Minneapolis son has always primarily been a songwriter. Finn releases his third solo record, We All Want The Same Things, this Friday, March 24th, and it’s an exercise in both eloquent lyrical imagery and textured melodic phrasing. It’s only been a short while since his last solo outing, 2015’s Faith In The Future, but Finn has kept busy writing like he always does best: Pulling apart his specific characters and the exact moments from their daily life to tell a grander story. Whether it’s hanging in the park drinking dark Bacardi, fumbling through the jitterbug, or waiting on a savior to come, Finn writes slice of life epics that bring you with him.

His US tour with Japandroids ended a couple days ago, but I got a chance to sit down with him before their show at Union Transfer last month. We spoke about his thought process going into the new record, his residency with the house band on Late Night With Seth Meyers, the Boys And Girls In America anniversary shows, and more. Finn will be returning to Philadelphia this Saturday to play a free in-store performance at Main Street Music, open to fans who pre-order his new record. Read our conversation below. Continue reading →

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Laura Stevenson talks cover songs, creative streaks, constant touring and making a live record for Planned Parenthood

Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist
Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist

Laura Stevenson has been quite busy. Over the past year and a half, the punk scene songwriter fave released her excellent fourth LP, Cocksure, via Don Giovanni Records and went on several back-to-back-to-back laps touring the U.S. and abroad in support of it. She hit the festival circuit last summer, released a live album this winter, and appeared on the Don’t Stop Now covers compilation to benefit the ACLU. Somewhere along the way, she found a minute to marry her bass player, Mike Campbell.

Live At the Vera Club came out in December, with 100% of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood. It captures a night at the storied club and community creative space in Groningen, situated in the North of the Netherlands. The crowd was small, Stevenson recalls in the album notes, and she couldn’t speak Dutch, so she wasn’t as chatty as usual, but the show rules — the band sounds tremendous, from the uppers like “Torch Song” and “Runner” to the slow burn of “Out With a Whimper” and “Renee,” and a delightful cover of “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements.

Stevenson and her band — Campbell, Alex Billig on accordion and keys, John Burdick on guitar, and Sammi Niss on drums – just headed out on an east coast tour that brings them to Boot and Saddle Thursday. When I caught up with Stevenson via phone from the Hudson Valley home she’s lived in for the past few years, she had just gotten back from a solo tour of Australia with the frontpersons of various down-under DIY acts: Iona Cairns of Shit Present, Lucy Wilson of The Sugarcanes and Wil Wagner of Smith Street Band. We began by discussing this photo of them cuddling a chill koala named Waffles at the Lone Pine Sanctuary in Brisbane. Continue reading →

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Indigenous Rhythms and Rage: Ottawa DJ trio A Tribe Called Red on bringing pow wow step to the masses

A Tribe Called Red | photo via utatouring.com

On my twenty seventh birthday, A Tribe Called Red, a first nations DJ trio from Ottawa, played a show at Silk City. I waited for hours before they performed at midnight. The summer night was sweltering, and over watered down drinks, my boyfriend and I considered leaving. Finally, the group took the stage. They started out where the previous DJ had left off, playing a bland party track. And then — up surged the deep bass, the heavy drums. Jolted from exhaustion — my entire body began to shake.

I found that I danced in a new way that night.

Four years and one Juno award later, the band is now playing bigger venues – like The Foundry of The Fillmore Philadelphia this Thursday, March 16th. Practitioners of what they call pow wow step, ATCR’s music is about something as elemental as a heartbeat, and as modern as dubstep. Ian Campeau, or DJ NDN, explains that “people hearing pow wow for the first time felt that same thing that indigenous people have always felt hearing pow wow.” The group matured at club nights in Canada’s capital city, where Native kids could go out, have fun and connect with each other. Continue reading →

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Vibing Out With Ivy Sole: A conversation with one of Philly’s most exciting new MCs

Ivy Sole | photo by Araba Ankuma | courtesy of the artist
Ivy Sole | photo by Araba Ankuma | courtesy of the artist

One of the best ways for an artist to create a vibe with their music is by allowing their listeners to enter their world. The feeling become genuine when the listener obtain the artist’s perspectives, stories, and even their moods. To do that the artist mustn’t be hesitant to be personable with their music. That’s exactly why Ivy Sole an artist that the city of Philadelphia should look out for.

Whether she’s getting busy on the mic or creating soulful melodies, the Charlotte, North Carolina native hip hop artist always finds ways to bring her listeners into her universe. I was recently able to sit down with the local MC to discuss her introduction to hip hop, her debut project Eden, her recent followup EP East, and her upcoming performance at Underground Arts’ International Women’s Day benefit, which is happening tomorrow evening.  Continue reading →

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Tumors and disco balls: Jens Lekman on growing older, feeling starstruck, “emotional autobiography” and why he wants the Phillies to lose

Jens Lekman | photo by Ellika Henrikson | courtesy of the artist
Jens Lekman | photo by Ellika Henrikson | courtesy of the artist

Jens Lekman, one of our most beloved and singularly charming songwriters, returned last month with his triumphant fourth full-length, Life Will See You Now. It might be the Swede’s most immediately gratifying collection yet, juxtaposing his typically tender and perceptive wit with some of his most exuberant (and danceable) music to date. It’s his first album since 2012’s relatively more subdued and reflective breakup-album-of-sorts, I Know What Love Isn’t, although he hasn’t exactly remained silent during the interim. In 2015 he wrote, recorded and released a new “Postcard” song every week – an effort to shake off writer’s block that paid some handsome dividends – and launched “Ghostwriting,” a project wherein he wrote songs based on other people’s stories. He’s also taken on a sideline as a wedding singer, performing at the nuptials of fans worldwide as way to help keep himself afloat while fulfilling the unwittingly prophetic promise of his 2004 ballad “If You Ever Need a Stranger (to Sing at Your Wedding).”

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Norman David and the Eleventet will celebrate 100 shows, two new records at Plays & Players

eleventet
Norman David and the Eleventet | photo via Facebook

Near the beginning of a performance by his Eleventet earlier this month at the band’s longtime home base upstairs at Plays and Players, Norman David made a (mostly) solemn pledge. “Whether there’s two or 2,000 of you,” he proclaimed, “we’ll blow your faces off.”

At the moment that David made that vow, the audience was closer in number (maybe even spot on) to the lower limit of that estimate, but David was as good as his word while his band outnumbered the crowd five-to-one and as the room filled in over the course of the evening’s two sets. The Eleventet has faced varying situations over its seven-year tenure at Plays and Players, but David insists that the run has provided an invaluable opportunity to hear his music realized on a regular basis by some of the city’s most talented players.

“The ups and downs are worth it,” he says, “and most often it’s ups.”

Expect the room to be packed on Monday, February 27th, which will be a celebration for David and The Eleventet for several reasons. It will be the 100th performance for the band in its third-floor headquarters, and will mark the release of two new CDs – the studio recording Please Call and the live album Crazy in Philly! – only the second and third releases in the ensembles 35-plus year history.

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Meet Brandy Butler: A Philly-born songwriter who rediscovered her voice abroad

Brandy Butler | via facebook.com/pg/brandybutlerandthebrokenhearted

“I don’t think of it as a breakup record,” says Brandy Butler. “I think of it more as my journey through learning how to let something come, and then let it go. Letting go of things is like everyone’s struggle on so many levels.”

The Inventory of Goodbye, the latest full length project by Philly born, Zurich Switzerland based singer-songwriter and her band The Brokenhearted is a harrowing journey through a cycle of love, loss, heartbreak and rejuvenation. Touching on soaring rock an soul, twangy country-blues and cinematic retro-pop, The Inventory… is a colorful and diverse listen.

From the bittersweet pop ballad “Crying” to the heart-wrenchingly sparse guitar epic “The Hardest,” Butler’s hushed windswept vocals breathe life into each of the album’s dark, emotionally dense love songs. We caught up with her before a trip to South Africa to film a video and spoke with her about her youth studying Jazz at UArts, new music and building a new life on another continent. Continue reading →

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More GD Gusto: Marge shines on its debut LP Bruise Easy

Marge | Photo courtesy of artist
Marge | Photo courtesy of artist

 

When I first heard a glimmer of Marge‘s new material back in June of last summer, songs like “Give It Time” and “Half Year” simultaneously stole my heart and punched me in the gut — a sort of lovesick ache that comes from such comfortable familiarity. Driving guitars play steadfast under simple yet sharp lyricism that offer up a relatability that’s not easily captured. “The pain feels new” /  “Let your heart rest” / “I had doubts anyway.”

Now, half a year later (not a pun, just a fact) and with a full cannon of work to share, Marge’s first full-length release, Bruise Easy, builds on that palpable sincerity and the results are effortless. Marge will impress you with their subtlety, if you have the ear to catch it all. With 13 tracks of lo-fi, fuzzed out, wailing, zig-zagging mania, the Philly do-it-yourselfers will reel you in with their ’90s alt rock sensibility and swallow you whole with their cutting one liners. Continue reading →