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A.M. Mills is both vintage and contemporary on the contemplative “Ain’t Life Grand”

A.M. Mills
A.M. Mills | photo by Joshua Cicetti | courtesy of the artist

Picture this — it’s a warm, sunny spring day and you’re walking through a garden filled with flowers, probably tulips. There’s a soft breeze blowing. A song plays. It’s A.M. Mills‘ new track, “Ain’t Life Grand,” and it makes you instantly agree with the songwriter and answer into the blue sky, “Yes, life is grand.”

Who knows if that’s what Mills was envisioning when he made the new song, but the scenario certainly fits. “Ain’t Life Grand” is four and a half minutes of soft, lilting musical goodness. Like all of Mills’ songs, it sounds entirely timeless — not like a 21st century artist copying a retro sound, but like it actually could have been made decades ago. At the same time, it’s not old fashioned — like the title suggests, the song is sunny and upbeat, focused on calm pleasantries and filled with delicate harmonies. It’s like the 1950s, minus the bad parts. Continue reading →

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A.M. Mills puts a fresh twist on a classic sound in the Window Box EP

A.M. Mills | photo via the artist’s Facebook page

Window Box, the latest EP from Philly’s own A.M. Mills, has been a long time in the making. The retro songwriter has kept a fairly low profile since his former project Blood Feathers disbanded a few years ago (If your memory stretches back far enough, you may recall seeing the band play both Free at Noon and XPoNential Festival in 2010). Mills released a few songs online over the last couple of years, “Wreckin’ My World” and “Window Box,” which now appear on the new EP, along with four new tracks.

The songs on Window Box were recorded in San Francisco in 2013 but the full collection wasn’t released until this past November, when Mills surprise-released the EP on a Tuesday. Now, the EP has received a ringing endorsement from Joey Sweeney (yes, that Joey Sweeney), who shared “Wreckin’ My World” on his long-running blog Philebrity. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Petal at Everybody Hits, The Districts at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center, A.M. Mills at Ortlieb’s, and more

Petal | Photo by: Ellen Miller | ellencm.com
Petal | Photo by Ellen Miller for WXPN | ellencm.com

You may have caught Petal in stunning solo form recently at that fantastic show with Julien Baker and Half Waif, and now the Scranton-based project of Kiley Lotz returns to Philly for another solo performance — this time on a smaller-scale, at Everybody Hits, but the show is sure to be no less beautiful and even more intimate than it was on the big stage. Born Without Bones, Super American and Tombo Crush will also play the Home Outgrown Presents gig. Petal’s latest release is the Comfort EP, which includes a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs.” Listen below and find tickets and more information on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: MH The Verb at Silk City, Diana at Boot and Saddle and A.M. Mills at Ortlieb’s

MH The Verb | Photo courtesy of the artist
MH The Verb | Photo courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia jazz-inspired hip-hop artist MH The Verb plays tonight at Silk City. The rapper recently released a video for his song “Last Dance” commemorating the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut in collaboration with his production collective ArtHouse95. Check out the video for “Last Dance” below and click here for more information and tickets. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties at The Foundry, The End of America at Boot & Saddle, A.M. Mills at Ortlieb’s

aaron west
Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties | photo via facebook.com/aaronwestandtheroaringtwenties

Dan Campbell brings his Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties project to The Foundry tonight. The Wonder Years’ frontman by day, Campbell started this conceptual folk-rock band as “a character study conducted through music” last year. His first release under the moniker was We Don’t Have Each Other, which will be performed in its entirety tonight. Tickets and information for the show can be found here; watch “Our Apartment” below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: A.M. Mills at Ortliebs, Dawn Hiatt at Tin Angel, The Warhawks at Kung Fu Necktie and more

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

Philly singer-songwriter A.M. Mills celebrated Record Store Day at AKA Music and tonight he plays at Ortlieb’s. Last month, he released a stellar track titled “Wreckin’ My World” which has a ’70s California-rock ballad feel to it (think Tom Petty). It’s simple, melodic and feels good all around. Check it out below and get tickets here.

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The Week Ahead: Guided By Voices, Julien Baker, Bilal, Los Lobos and more

Guided by Voices | photo by Scott Troyan | courtesy of the artist

Get things started tonight with prolific indie rockers Guided By Voices; keep it running throughout the week with soul master Bilal, or heartrending songwriter Julien Baker; get lost in the tones of etheral soundscaper Madam Data, then wrap up with The Mountain Goats in Ardmore. Here are 16 shows you can see in and around Philly over the next seven days. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Katie Ellen at PhilaMOCA, Chill Moody at Boot and Saddle (benefit for Beyond the Bars), The Cactus Blossoms at Johnny Brenda’s

Katie Ellen | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com
Katie Ellen | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

The official release of Katie Ellen‘s debut LP Cowgirl Blues is tomorrow, but you can hear it live a night early at the band’s record release show tonight at PhilaMOCA. The new project of Anika Pyle, former frontwoman of punk outfit Chumped, Katie Ellen is her platform for anthemic, cathartic, feminist “sparkle pop twang punk fuzz core” jams. Listen to leading single “Sad Girls Club” below and check out the XPN Concert Calendar for tickets and more information. Continue reading →

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“Jacked Up, Ready to Kick Butt”: Peter Matthew Bauer talks about his first solo outing, Liberation!

Peter Matthew Bauer | Photo by Eric Schuman
Peter Matthew Bauer in WXPN Studios | Photo by Eric Schuman

Peter Matthew Bauer thinks a lot about music in terms of his health. Coming off a ten-year stint making music with his lifelong best friends in The Walkmen, he candidly admits that a creative relationship that lasts that long isn’t always the best for the creators’ psyches.

“In a band, you think you’re expressing yourself in a way,” he says. “And you kind of are for a while, you create this group and it’s exciting. Then after a certain point you’re convincing yourself that some organ part is like an artistic expression…I think even Hamilton [Leithauser, singer of The Walkmen] probably felt that way at times. Being in a group for that long is not a healthy dynamic.”

Today, Bauer releases Liberation! on Mexican Summer Records, and he deems it a headphone freakout, a sonic assemblage put together over hurried months of recording and reworking over the course of 2013 – something that, in a way, can also be mentally unhealthy. But right now, he’s okay with that.

Last year The Walkmen announced its indefinite hiatus and the Mount Airy-based Bauer was faced with a decision – was he going to make music for the rest of his life?

“I gave myself two months to write four or five good songs,” he says. “I decided ‘you’ve got to have a song with words and singing, you’ve got to learn how to sing and why to sing, you’ve got to create something that has a reason to exist’. And if I didn’t have that, I was going to do something else.”

Liberation! doesn’t miss a beat, revisiting the lo-fi sonic grit of The Walkmen’s early work but incorporating unique textural elements – field recordings from foreign lands, loosely South Asian guitar patterns – as well as references to places around the globe in lyrics and titles (“I Was Born in an Ashram,” “Latin American Ficciones”). The base beneath these exploratory notes is driving guitar rock beat on by booming, urgent rhythms – a sonic snapshot of a longtime band player at the moment he confidently breaks out on his own.

Tonight, Bauer celebrates the release of Liberation! by headlining Johnny Brenda’s; we caught up with him when he stopped by WXPN before leaving for tour to chat about his artistic evolution. Continue reading →

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The Key’s guide to your Record Store Day shopping spree

Siren
Siren Records | photo by Liora Arianna | via facebook.com/SirenRecordsDoylestown

It’s the time of year to trade in all those hard earned dollars for some new vinyl – as if you didn’t do that all year long already.

And if you don’t, Record Store Day – this Saturday, April 19th – is a good a day as any to start. While the debate continues as to whether or not the “holiday” has outgrown its original goal of celebrating independent record stores across the country, and turned more towards larger labels reissuing classics to cash in, that’s not to say you shouldn’t take advantage of what’s been released and take advantage of any potential deals.

When heading out this Saturday, be ready for something unavoidable – crowds. Blair Elliot, owner of Doylestown’s Siren Records, says that RSD has blown up a little more every year to the point of bringing more people through his shop’s doors than the Christmas shopping season. His store will have most of the RSD-exclusive releases. And if you check the RSD website; that’s quite a formidable list; must be a big investment for an independent store.

“We hope it’s big this year because it’s costing us a lot,” Elliot says laughing. “I don’t think it’s a risk, but you just need to make sure you sell enough of what you get.”

OurGriffins
Our Griffins will play an instore set at Siren Records in Doylestown

Siren Records will also be hosting Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band and Our Griffins for an in-store performance starting at 6 p.m. Forsyth and company will be releasing, Solar Live 11.15.13, a recording of the band’s November show at the Rotunda.

The show happening at Siren is just one of many in-store shows this year. Northern Liberties’ Creep Records is treating RSD as a “grand re-opening” as they expand into a neighboring store in the Piazza at Schmidt’s (shoppers will be able to enter from a new door on the inside of the Piazza). They plan to mark their stock down ten percent and expect to have all the RSD-exclusive releases. Goddamnit, Ex Friends, Good Graces and Families will be playing their in-store show starting around 4 p.m. Continue reading →