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(Sandy) Alex G brings it back to the basement in a First Unitarian Church doubleheader

(Sandy) Alex G | photo by Rachel Barrish for WXPN

Philly’s (Sandy) Alex G spent Friday night performing the first of two sold out shows at First Unitarian Church along with support from Brooklyn’s Half Waif. Alex G has been touring off his 2017 album Rocket, one of my personal favorites of last year, and brought it to his hometown for a much more intimate performance than his Union Transfer headliner last summer. Continue reading →

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Jessie Reyez is ready

Jessie Reyez at Made In America | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

If you want to look at a moment of definition in one’s career without DEFINING one’s career, it came for shushing singer and frank-as-fuck songwriter Jessie Reyez during her performance at the Made in America festival in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend. The whole crowd watched and sang along with her every song as she stalked the stage in cut off shorts and a Scarface t-shirt (the movie, not the rapper). Just a few nights earlier, the Canadian-Colombian folk-rap singer had turned in bolt-upright electrifying performances at the VMAs, and on the night previous to MIA landed on Eminem’s surprise album Kamikaze, which features Reyez on two songs: “Good Guy” and “Nice Guy.”

That was but one of Reyez’s perfect storms.

“Oh man, you can say that,” she laughs. “That moment was surreal. Thank God I have a great team that has been working its asses off, because we’re just all moving so fast. Sometimes, you barely get a chance to appreciate what is, you know? It is difficult to stop, and take it in, because everything is ‘go go go.’ No sooner than I get a moment… I’m pulled into the present.” 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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Meek Mill’s new album Championships will be out before you know it

Meek Mill | photo via facebook.com/MeekMill

Philly rapper Meek Mill is gearing up for his first full-lenth project since being released from prion this summer. Though he’d previously termed it a “surprise release” — and you could still argue that it fits that mold, showing up with relatively short notice and without promotional teasers like singles or videos — we know know exactly what the record is called and when it’s landing. According to Meek’s Instagram, his fourth album will be called Championships, and it will be released on November 30th. Continue reading →

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Ellen Siberian Tiger talks collaboration and channeling emotion in new Shaking Through session

Ellen Siberian Tiger | still from video

Philly indie rockers Ellen Siberian Tiger are the focus of the latest Shaking Through session from Weathervane Music. The group, helmed by songwriter/vocalist Ellen Tiberio-Shultz and performing as a four-piece for this session, joined the Weathervane folks at Miner Street Recordings to put together a finished rendition of their previously unrecorded song “Everybody Always.” The final product is out now, and includes a polished music video of the song and a documentary-like look behind the scenes into the process of recording. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Ben Vaughn Quintet brings many moods to World Cafe Live

Ben Vaughn Quintet | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

“It’s great to be here in Philadelphia,” Ben Vaughn told today’s Free At Noon audience. “I came here for the weather. I went from fire to ice.”

It is absolutely too soon to be making jokes about the California wildfires that have left 66 people dead and over 200 missing over the past week; murmurs and groans in the audience let Vaughn know that, even if his status as a Cali resident gets him a marginal pass on the quip. But like a true comedian — or a musician for whom witty repartee is a big part of their act — Vaughn is unafraid to fall on his face, get back up, and keep the show moving. Continue reading →

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Little Strike’s new single “Loaded Gun” is born from magical realism

Little Strike | photo by Natalie Piserchio | nataliepiserchio.com
Little Strike | photo by Natalie Piserchio | nataliepiserchio.com

Tamar Dart, aka Little Strike, has just released a new single, “Loaded Gun,” and it sounds as though it was drawn from a Gabriel García Márquez novel. Dart’s captivating, breathy vocals drive the song, acoustic guitar accompanied by a doleful trumpet melody. She included found sounds from a trip to Ecuador, creating an atmosphere of mysticism and wonder. The song explores the interconnected energies of the universe. Continue reading →

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Ivy Sole tells a queer love story in “How High”

Ivy Sole | still from video

Philly-made rapper Ivy Sole has released a video for “How High,” off her debut album Overgrown. Directed by Sole in collaboration with Ethan Boye-Do, the video was shot in Venice Beach and shows Sole wandering the shore in the early morning, hand-in-hand with actress Andria Langston. The song captures that stomach-flipping rush of being in the proximity of someone you love. Continue reading →

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Listen to Amos Lee’s soulful rendition of a Marvin Gaye classic

Amos Lee | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On” has to be one of the most emblematic protest songs of the 70’s. The lyrics still ring true in 2018, touching on relevant social issues, so it’s no wonder artists are still covering it. Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Amos Lee is releasing a deluxe edition of his latest album My New Moon, which includes an acoustic rendition of the Marvin Gaye hit. His soulful vocals bestow a new power on the words, preaching a reverberating message: love over war. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Max Swan

The past few years have been a process of growth for Philadelphia sax player, composer, and producer Max Swan.

In the early 2010s, he was a recent graduate of UArts with a jazz saxophone performance degree, gigging around town. We first encountered him at Philadelphia’s Center City Jazz Fest in 2015, playing a set at Time that mixed soaring instrumental leads with electronic and hip-hop synthesizer textures. We heard more of it that autumn in his elegant single “So Much Chime,” a song driven by Swan’s R&B style vocals. As is happened, this was just the early stages of his dabbling in genre fusion; the beginning of his push to do more with his schooling than the humdrum traditional route.

This year, Swan released an album called The Fisherman, and it finds him stepping further away from jazz and into suave singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist mode.  Continue reading →