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Christine and the Queens hold court at Union Transfer

Christine and the Queens | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Héloïse Letissier is a star. That may not be news to you if you’ve been following her work as Christine and the Queens since her 2014 debut Chaleur Humaine, or even its English 2015 translation simply titled Christine and the Queens. It might not even be a surprise if you’re just getting acquainted with her via this year’s commanding, life-affirming sophomore album Chris. There is a difference, however, between recognizing stardom and witnessing stardom, in real time, on stage. Letissier’s performance at Union Transfer last Friday was a showcase of stardom at its best. Equal parts vivacious, vulnerable, and virtuosic, it saw the radiant French popstart bring the kind of spectacle usually reserved for big arenas and amphitheaters to an indie club without losing any of its grandeur. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Christine and the Queens brings a midday dance party to World Cafe Live

Christine and the Queens | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Turns out all it takes to get a Free at Noon crowd dancing that early in the day is permission from Christine and the Queens, a French artist with contagious confidence. But last time the singer, songwriter and producer played a show in Philadelphia, her project looked quite different. Héloïse Letissier was just beginning to find international success with her debut EP, released in French as Chaleur Humaine and in English as a self-titled Christine and the Queens. She’s still recording in both English and French, but this time her new album is simply called Chris, in both languages.

Part of the artist’s reinvention involved shortening her moniker to Chris, and sometimes displaying it as Christine and the Queens. A bigger shift, though, came in her newfound, liberating approach to songwriting as she began to explore the confines of gender, settling into an androgynous appearance and writing music more sharply focused than her previous work. The songs on Chris may be influenced by 80s pop and iconic musicians from David Bowie to Michael Jackson, but as a recent profile on Chris in the New York Times points out, her thoroughly modern lyrics, many about eschewing traditional expectations, counter her retro sound. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Full Bush, Josh Ritter, Christine and the Queens, Kaia Kater and more

Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens | photo by Jamie Morgan | courtesy of the artist

While there’s not much doing on Halloween itself, that’s fine — it’ll just give you more time and space to roam your neighborhood as a free agent looking for parties, collecting candy, or collecting candy with your kids if you’re at that point in your life. The rest of the week, though: JAM. PACKED. Here are 18 concerts to see in the next seven days in and around Philadelphia, from tonight’s punk rock mischief night gigs at Johnny Brenda’s and Ortlieb’s, to indie rock, soul and trance all round the region on Sunday. Continue reading →

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Christine and the Queens returns with a stark, moody dance track and a Union Transfer gig

Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens | photo by Jamie Morgan | courtesy of the artist

French songwriter and producer Héloïse Letissier, better known by her artistic moniker Christine and the Queens, has released a new single and music video, “Doesn’t Matter”. The song is a prelude to her upcoming album Chris, due out 9/21 via Because Music. “Doesn’t Matter” is a stark, moody dance track that manages to be both danceable and thought-provoking. Likewise, the video, shot in a gorgeous vintage filter, plays on a balance of tension and attraction in its choreography between two bodies. It amounts to a complex aesthetic experience that will thrill art-pop enthusiasts. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Christine and the Queens at World Cafe Live, InAeona at The Fire, Bloc Party at The Fillmore and more…

christine and the queens
Christine and the Queens | photo courtesy of the artist

French singer Héloïse Letissier performs as Christine and the Queens at World Cafe Live. Christine released her US self-titled debut EP last year to growing acclaim. Her aesthetic and sound are clearly influenced by a range of styles and acts, though an affinity for the iconic silhouette of Michael Jackson is perhaps strongest in her dance / pop songs. Watch the video for “Christine” below and pick up tickets to the all-ages show here.

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Now Hear This: New songs from Cat Power, Elvis Costello, Matthew Dear, Half Waif, Richard Swift, Spiritualized and more

Half Waif | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist
Half Waif | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist

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

This past Saturday was my 36th birthday, and, as it happens, this is my 36th Now Hear This column.  (I’ve been secretly keeping track: the first fifteen installments ran weekly over at Philly Voice during the fall of 2016; the monthly columns for The Key started in February 2017).  Thirty-six feels like a significant year – more so than 35 in many ways (especially considering what’s been happening to the institution of the presidency).  It’s divisible by more numbers, even if five isn’t one of them.  As one friend pointed out, it means I’m now old enough to vote twice! And, more notably, it means that I’ve been a quote-unquote “adult” for fully half of my life; that the time since I left my parents’ house now equals the time that I lived there.

So it’s afforded a nice opportunity to reflect back on the time around my 18th year – an age perhaps less overtly mythologized in song than sixteen or seventeen, but probably even more transformative in real (contemporary) life – which in my case was also the era of Y2K.  I’d reckon that nobody felt the cultural and historical shift from the 20th to the 21st century, from the 1990s to the still-nameless-after-all-these-years 2000s, more acutely than those of us for whom it paralleled the end of high school and the start of what-comes-next; i.e. me and my fellow circa-1982 babies: the oldest, truest millennials.  Conveniently, just two days before my birthday, September Now Hear This boy-toy Troye Sivan joined up with plasticwave popgenius (and certified ‘90s bitchCharli XCX to drop a video memorializing and celebrating the pop culture of that period – specifically 1999, although the references span roughly 1997-2000 – when, as many have mentioned, its creators were still in single digits, if not diapers.  It represents exactly, and in exquisitely realized detail, the “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered (late) ‘90s” that I have been ambivalently anticipating for quite some time now.

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Now Hear This: New songs by Haim, SZA, Kesha, Daphni, Aminé, Julia Michaels and more.

SZA | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
SZA | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

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

Ciao!! Now Hear This is coming to you this month one week later than regularly programmed, due to your faithful correspondent’s international travel schedule: I recently spent ten days in Sicily, where I got to experience firsthand the pleasures of a record-setting heatwave fondly dubbed “Lucifer.” Trips abroad always afford an interesting lens on pop music – you never know quite what you’ll get when you flip on a radio. The Italian pop I encountered seemed generally jaunty and decidedly dorky, featuring a surprising amount of accordion. The DJs were effusive and highly entertaining, speaking faster than I could probably follow even if I did know any Italian. I heard “Young Folks” and noname (the latter playing in a shop.) I heard one DJ leapfrog from The Beatles to Run-DMC to Empire of the Sun; rambling excitedly over the introduction to each song. The only current American pop number I heard in multiple places while in Italy was Calvin Harris’ “Feels” (ft. Pharrell, Katy Perry and Big Sean), a supposedly “summery” song that I guess I support more in theory than in practice. Continue reading →

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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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A day too short, Governors Ball still brought the heat

GovBall2016-39
Gov Ball | Photo by Rachel Barrish for WXPN

Festivals and I have such a love/hate relationship. Not only as a music lover and someone who works in the industry, but as a general human being. There’s the hot humidity of the early days of summer mixed with the tangled bodies of hippies and hipsters gallivanting across an open field, overpriced food and alcohol, and crowds so large you can hardly see the band you’re there to see. At the same time, you’re completely enthralled with the good vibes, the exciting atmosphere, and the thrill of so much good music.

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