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Now Hear This: New songs by Amber Coffman, The Mountain Goats, Jade Jackson, Bleachers, Diagrams, Blondie and more

Amber Coffman | via facebook.com/AmberCoffman123

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

The calendar still says it’s spring, but that’s purely a technicality. It is summertime, buddypals, and with the year we’ve been having, it’s about dang time. So where are the jams? Doesn’t quite seem like Katy Perry’s coming through for us this time around – the Teenage Dream summer of 2010, it turns out, was a long seven years ago. I’m personally getting major mileage out of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut To The Feeling,” a soundtrack loosie packing as potent a dose of fizz-pop headrush euphoria as anything on E*MO*TION, let alone last year’s B-Sides (Man, was 2015 only two years ago?) Keep a lookout for Lorde’s new LP this Friday (and Haim a bit down the line), but in the meantime I’ll share some other prospects with you below.

On the live show front, it’s been a busy month what with another fabulous NonCOMMvention here at WXPN, last weekend’s dueling cross-town polarities of the Roots Picnic and West Philly Porchfest, and an action-packed concert calendar across the board – my personal highlight being the first of Sylvan Esso’s two-nighter at Union Transfer, featuring the most fervently enthusiastic audience I’ve been a part of in ages (no wonder, considering the show sold out in a matter of hours.) Things are looking strangely sparse for the remainder of June, at least from my vantage point (U2 who?), which I blame on the increasing dominance of the summer music festival circuit, infiltrating nearly every level of the industry as opportunities for the sweaty intimacy of those AC-free mid-summer Unitarian basement gigs steadily dwindles. Perhaps. Still, there are a handful of bright spots, particularly on the rootsy/folky end of things, which I’ll get to a bit further on. Continue reading →

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Pop’s Not Dead: Bleachers blow up Union Transfer on Thanksgiving Eve

photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com
photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com

“POP’S NOT DEAD.” You’ve probably seen spray paint stencils boldly proclaiming this sentiment around our city, recently. Some days I kinda wish it were dead, though. If you know me, or have read my articles, you probably know that I’m not too excited about the Top 40 / pop music scene. But after a few recent experiences, I’m starting to come around. Experiencing Bleachers blow up Union Transfer on Thanksgiving Eve was one of those events which give me hope for pop. Continue reading →

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Bleachers and Grimes (both playing MIA Festival 8/30 & 8/31) collaborate on new track, “Take Me Away”

Photo via teco apple
Photo via teco apple

Bleachers, the solo project of fun.’s Jack Antonoff, has been attracting attention with poppy hooks and ’80s-injected melodies on his 11-track debut LP, Strange Desire. One track in particular, “Take Me Away,” stands apart as a dreamy cyber-hop tune that definitely channels the influence of his collaborator, Grimes.

The Canadian producer/singer’s ethereal vocals offer a delicate contrast to Antonoff’s beats, stark screams, and dramatic build-up towards the end of the song. The song’s brevity keeps it tight, but you may find yourself hitting “repeat” at least twice. Bleachers is scheduled to play the Made In America Festival on August 30, while Grimes is slated to perform on August 31st. You can find information about MIA on our concert calendar here. You can listen to the track on Pitchfork here.

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Firefly Music Festival Day Two: Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys, Band of Horses, Girl Talk, Bleachers and more

Foo Fighters | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Foo Fighters | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/

Yesterday we wrapped up our second day at Firefly Music Festival, which was best described by one word: ROCK!!! Here’s some of our photo highlights from day two.

Band of Horses | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Band of Horses | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Arctic Monkeys | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Arctic Monkeys | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
American Authors | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
American Authors | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese
Young The Giant | Firefly | Photo by John Vettese
Young The Giant | Firefly | Photo by John Vettese
The Jezabels | Firefly | Photo by John Vettese
The Jezabels | Firefly | Photo by John Vettese
Airborne Toxic Event | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Airborne Toxic Event | Firefly | Photo by Joe del Tufo | http://www.joedeltufo.com/
Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

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The Chairman Dances covers Joni Mitchell’s “Blonde in the Bleachers” (playing Milkboy on 8/2)

chairman-dances-620x413-1Philly-based group The Chairman Dances, whose latest LP Michael and the Prohetess is available now via their Bandcamp, recently took a break from writing their own music to do a charming cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Blonde in the Bleachers” from her 1972 album For The Roses. Check out the Gregor Knell-directed video for the cover below, as well as the original, and be sure to catch The Chairman Dances this coming Friday, August 2nd, when they’ll be performing at Milkboy Philly. More info can be found here.

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Now Hear This: New songs from Dizzy, Mitski, Mirah, Tirzah, Jake Shears and Years & Years, and more

Mitski
Mitski | photo by Bao Ngo | courtesy of the artist

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

Alright, here we go: it’s prime time! Besides bringing with it probably the most satisfyingly distinct, decisive seasonal shift of them all – both meteorologically and culturally – September is reliably one of the biggest and busiest months for new music releases. And this year is no exception: every Friday this month is marked by a veritable embarrassment of riches, with plenty of big names and lots more worthy lesser-knowns in danger of being overshadowed. I’ll do my best to sift through the glut of goodness and report back to you next month – I’m only the scraping the surface of September’s bounty in the selections below, many of which date from later August. This month’s trawl, meanwhile, brings us a mixture of autumn-ready atmospherics and last-gasp-of-summer throwback vibes (keep ‘em handy, though; it’s bound to heat up again for at least a minute.) In approximate sequence, you’ll find: a bevy of single-named singer-songwriter beauties, some slinky mood jams of varying degrees of oddness, a trio of big, bold, brazenly gay pop bangers, and a bit of truly bizarro R&B. NB: Over half of the featured artists also have upcoming Philly concert dates! Continue reading →

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Firefly Guide 2018: 20 artists to discover in the Woodlands this week

Firefly 2017 | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Dover, Delaware’s annual Firefly Music Festival kicks off this Thursday, and will jam-pack some 130-plus artists into four days. For a few of those artists, like headliners Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, it’s safe to say that most of the tens of thousands in attendance will be watching. For several of the artists — electropop duo Marian Hill, alternative vets Jimmy Eat World, Alaskan modern rockers Portugal. The Man, 90s R&B hitmaker Warren G — the crowds will be be reliably huge.

But for many of the acts on the bill, the audience might be less automatically robust. It might take a little bit of discovering to see them, and these are often times the most thrilling sets to catch. In the past, this has meant Bishop Briggs playing the intimate confines of the treehouse stage, or Laura Stevenson rocking the Toyota Music Den; it’s been the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff spinning the hits on a sunny midday, or singer-songwriter Hamilton Leithauser at the Coffeehouse Stage; it’s been rapper Pell rocking a Porch Stage set in the twilight, or Maggie Rogers starting the day off at the Lawn Stage at 1 p.m.

In short, it’s established names in much smaller settings than we expect, or unfamiliar names that we go on to remember. This year, we present you an assortment of artists to discover at all tiers of Firefly 2018 — from newcomers like Cali punks The Regrettes and Philly rapper Tierra Whack each playing two sets on Friday, all the way to acclaimed jazz visionary Kamasi Washington taking to the festival main stage on Sunday. Listen up, pack your sunscreen, stay hydrated, and get ready to explore. – John Vettese

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How Philly’s Perry Shall went from basement show punk to in-house artist for Dan Auerbach

Perry Shall
Perry Shall | photo by Alyssa Tanchajja | courtesy of the artist

You might not know Perry Shall by name, but if you’re a music fan in Philadelphia, you’ve almost certainly heard the longhaired rocker in one of his many bands or seen his art gracing the albums and t-shirts of some of your favorite acts. You might have even heard him on WFMU’s The Best Show – he has the show’s slogan WE GET IT / THEY DON’T tattooed on his wrists – or seen the wildly popular SuperDeluxe video about his immense vintage t-shirt collection, 1400 and counting.

He is the very definition of a man about town, though these days that town isn’t just Philly: Shall has been doing much of the art and design work for Nashville-based label Easy Eye Sound, run by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Don’t worry, he’s not leaving us for the Music City. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who loves this city as much as Perry does and I suspect he’ll never live anywhere else. Continue reading →