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Sweet Talk with Beth Ditto

Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto | photo courtesy of the artist

Beth Ditto is the kind of artist where one’s fandom can and often does feel like friendship.

From her tenure as the formidable frontwoman of iconic queer punk band The Gossip all of the way through her recent debut solo album, Fake Sugar, listening to her songs possess a fun but familiar feeling to them, like you’re having a conversation with a friend you either just met or haven’t seen in forever. That intimacy becomes even more immediate when you see her do her thing live, which she’ll be doing at Union Transfer this Sunday.

It felt more instant still when I had the pleasure of chatting with her on the phone last month. It was freewheeling discussion that covered a lot of topics both mundane—we commiserated over our dirty laundry piles and the state of my shoe collection—and more relevant to her music, her philosophies about life and work, and what she gets from both. The highlights from the latter can be found below. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Deer Tick, Gospel Roots, Skull Eclipses, Beth Ditto and more

Beth Ditto | photo by Mary McCartney | courtesy of the artist

In like a lion, right? But the Philly concert calendar is like that all the time anyway — though, with another nor’easter poised to hit our region tomorrow, a handful shows in our weekly roundup are question marks. So here are 17 and maybe even 20 concerts you can see locally in the next seven days, from the kickoff of XPN’s Gospel Roots of Rock and Roll series to a set from legendary jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb at South, and beginning tonight with the farewell show from Philly indie rockers Callowhill. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Beth Ditto will headline Union Transfer in March

Beth Ditto | photo by Mary McCartney | courtesy of the artist

The final record from Portland-via-Arkansas dance punk trio The Gossip landed in 2012 and the band officially parted ways in 2016, but frontwoman Beth Ditto keeps plenty busy. Between acting (a part in a new Gus Van Sant’s new Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot), fashion (a plus-size clothing line designed with Jean Paul Gaultier), collaborating with her heroes (she contributed to Blondie’s 2013 album), and writing (a memoir Coal to Diamonds), Ditto has a full agenda of pursuits outside the music-specific zone.

But oh, that music. And specifically that solo album, Fake Sugar, Ditto’s first outing under her own name, released in June on Virgin Records. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Beth Orton at The Trocadero, Cousin Brian and Vintage Kicks at PhilaMOCA, Bell X1 at World Cafe Live, David Gray at American Music Theatre, Gossip at The TLA

Singer-songwriter Beth Orton will take the stage at The Trocadero tonight.  The English musician’s forthcoming record Sugaring Season is her first in six years and represents a time of self-reflection and transitions in both her personal life and her music career.  Supporting Beth Orton is Vermont-bred folk singer Sam Amidon.  Tickets for this seated all-ages  show are $29.50, available here.   Doors are at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 8:00.  Below, watch the video for Beth Orton’s single “Magpie”.

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Neko Case returns with her first album in five years, Hell-On, and a Festival Pier gig

Neko Case
Neko Case | photo courtesy of the artist

Singer-songwriter and occasional member of The New Pornographers, Neko Case, is back with her first solo project in 5 years, a new album called Hell-On. The album art is intense, featuring Case wearing a top made of brown hair, a hat sculpted out of cigarettes, the words “Hell-On” melting off of her shoulder, and a small, smokey fire bursting out from under her top. The first single, “Hell-On” features imaginative lyrics, whimsical production, and her unique voice. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Flaming Lips at Festival Pier, Blondie / X at Keswick Theater, Wesley Stace at World Cafe Live and more

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Hailed for their dense psychedelic compositions and exuberant nature, experimental alt-rock legends The Flaming Lips play alongside Tame Impala tonight at Festival Pier. Although the Oklahoma native, five piece outfit toned down their never-leave-a-dull-moment-untouched attitude with April release The Terror, front man Wayne Coyne tells Rolling Stone that the album is “possibly the best Flaming Lips record ever made.” However bleak the release may be, it has not stifled the internationally acclaimed band’s over the top personality; which can be seen in their recent “Turning Violent” and Devo cover “Gates of Steel” videos seen below. Find details and tickets for tonight’s show at the XPN concert calendar.

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Now Hear This: New songs by Kacey Musgraves, Alexis Taylor, Gwenno, Baloji, Young Fathers, Mount Eerie and more.

Young Fathers
Young Fathers | photo by Julia Noni | courtesy of the artist

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

Last month I was seeing double; this month I’m going solo.

I spent a probably unreasonable amount of time in the last couple weeks compiling a list of my personal top 25 albums of the past 25 years – a time period which happens to correspond, more or less, with my lifespan as an active, conscious listener to contemporary music – and then discussing/dissecting said list in detail via Facebook comments, which turned out to be a surprisingly emotional process.  (The whole undertaking was inspired by a prompt commemorating the 25th anniversary of Philly-based staple Magnet Magazine, wherein the list will eventually be published.)

One thing that struck me along the way was how astonishingly many acts from this time-frame – even the earliest years of it – remain (or have again become) relatively musically active.  Now, maybe it’s just a factor of my age, but I don’t really remember the musical landscape of the ‘90s, for instance, being quite so well populated by artists who’d been around since the ’70s.  Of the twenty-five artists who made my list, all but four are either still at it or at it again: two have died (Elliott Smith and Aaliyah; three if you count Stereolab’s Mary Hansen), but only two – Rachel Stevens and Aberfeldy – have, to my knowledge, simply stopped making music.   Continue reading →

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Get your moody alt-rock fix with Blacksalt’s new Rubix EP

Blacksalt | courtesy of the artist
Blacksalt | photo by Rocco Peditto | roccopeditto.com | courtesy of the artist

Last year, Philly’s Blacksalt “welcomed” us into their world of darkness with their debut EP Welcome. A year later, they’re picking up where they left off with a new, four song set they’re calling Rubix. With a better sounding mix and more varied, mature songwriting, it’s an improvement on all fronts. Continue reading →

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Michaelapalooza: Sending off XPN Morning Show host Michaela Majoun at World Cafe Live

Michaelapalooza | Photo by Rocco Peditto | roccopeditto.com
Michaelapalooza | Photo by Rocco Peditto | roccopeditto.com

It’s the end of an amazing era; WXPN Morning Show host Michaela Majoun will host her final shift on Tuesday, June 30th. Michaela started at WXPN on March 1, 1989. Last night at World Cafe Live, her time on the air and contributions to the Philly music, arts and culture scene were recognized during Michaelapalooza, a two and a half hour outpouring of love for Michaela. Continue reading →