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Watch a breathtaking performance by Philly instrumental ensemble Hour for Folkadelphia and The Key Studio Sessions

The seven members of Philadelphia instrumental ensemble Hour are intricately aligned, the pieces they play fitting together perfectly like a puzzle. In a recent visit to WXPN studios, the band showcased music from each of its two albums, last year’s moving Anemone Red — whose compositions are gradual bloomers, but deeply affecting, approximating the haunting film score for a naturalistic drama — and 2017’s Tiny Houses — an exercise in minimalism, and crafting sonic spaces marked by absence more than presence. Continue reading →

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Michael Cormier of Hour and Friendship meditates on memories in “Dinners” from new solo album

Friendship
Friendship | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

In the two years since the release of his debut solo album, Michael Cormier has been very busy. He has released two albums with Hour and one with Friendship. Now, the Philly based multi-instrumentalist has announced his second solo record. Titled Days Like Pearls, the album is set to be released on June 9th via Cormier’s own Dear Life Records.

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Two to Tango: The Midnight Hour’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge

The Midnight Hour
The Midnight Hour | photo courtesy of the artist

While T2T is normally reserved for a full-bill’s worth of entertainment, the joining of together legendary rapper/instrumentalist Ali Shaheed Muhammad (best known for his role in A Tribe Called Qwest) and equally audacious producer/player Adrian Younge (collaborator to Kendrick Lamar, Ghostface Killah and Philly’s own William Hart) for The Midnight Hour is worth breaking precedence.

The jazzy, soulful, and freeform orchestration, rhythms, and lyricism of the pair’s recorded output (their eponymous 2018 album, a soundtrack for Netflix’s Luke Cage) certainly does. I caught up with the dynamic duo — together, in separate cribs in Los Angeles — right before they camped out at Johnny Brenda’s for a mid-week jam, November 28. Continue reading →

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Listen to Hour’s autumnal Anemone Red LP in full

Hour
Hour | photo by Julia Leiby | courtesy of the artist

Instrumental six-piece Hour has been teasing singles from their sophomore album, Anemone Red, and although the album is officially out November 2nd via Lily Tapes and Discs, you can stream it now on Various Small Flames. The subdued strings arrangement evokes a sense of missing, brushing the blank silhouette where someone should be. The record works best when played all at once, without pause, preferably while staring wistfully across an autumnal scene. Continue reading →

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Hour gets emotional in new single “At the bar where you literally saved me from fatal heartbreak”

Hour
Hour | photo by Julia Leiby | courtesy of the artist

It’s tempting to call Philadelphia instrumental six-piece Hour “quiet as a kitten,” but that statement would be wildly inaccurate. Kittens might be tiny, but they can get loud when the situation demands; Hour, by comparison, seems intent on making as little sound as possible, at least as far as last year’s Tiny Houses LP is concerned.

That seems to be changing with the latest song from the band’s new LP Anemone Red. While the album’s initial teaser track — do instrumental bands have “singles”? — mostly traversed similar territory as their debut, the vividly-titled new “At the bar where you literally saved me from fatal heartbreak” is vibrant and alive with a pattering drum rhythm and interlocked guitar interplay, evoking a beautiful and emotional scene over seven and a half minutes. Continue reading →

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Hour teases new Anemone Red LP with the breathless minimalism of “Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You”

Hour
Hour | photo by Julia Leiby | courtesy of the artist

There are six people in Philadelphia’s Hour, though you might not guess that from listening to their recordings. These players — which include Abi Reimold, as well as Michael Cormier and Pete Gill of Friendship — are masters of haunting minimalism, open space, and autumnal melancholy, as we heard on their 2017 record Tiny Houses. This fall the band returns with its sophomore album, Anemone Red, out November 2nd on Rochester label Lily Tapes and Discs, and the band just released a teaser song from it. Continue reading →

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Introducing the Americana Music Hour hosted by WXPN’s Dan Reed

Willie Nelson | still from video

Beginning this Sunday, September 9th at 3 p.m., XPN Music Director and Afternoon host Dan Reed will host and produce a one hour weekly Americana music show.The Americana Music Hour will feature the best of Americana music, past and present, with weekly countdowns and features. From alt-country to country classics, from folk to bluegrass and singer-songwriters, the Americana Music Hour will include roots music that helped create the genre of Americana and the new artists that continue to stretch its broad scope. Continue reading →

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Two Hours of Phish: Warm up for this week’s BB&T gigs with Brian Seltzer’s annual all-Phish radio special

phish
Phish | photo by Doug Interrante

Perennial jam-rockers Phish are in town this week for a two-night stand at Camden’s BB&T Pavilion. It’s their first Philadelphia stop in a couple years, fans are flocking to the waterfront to catch them, and the perfect warm-up soundtrack is Brian Seltzer’s all-Phish radio special, which aired last night on WXPN. Continue reading →

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Taylor Mac’s 20th century: Twelve hours of song and struggle, solidarity and sex

Taylor Mac | photo courtesy of the artist

As I entered the Merriam Theater on Saturday, June 9th, as the PIFA street festival was slowly whirring into life outside on South Broad street, I braced myself. What I was about to experience, whatever it turned out to be, was definitely going to be way too much. How could it possibly not be? We’re talking about a non-stop, twelve hour long performance; an epic history-inspired drag cabaret-as-endurance feat, featuring upwards of one hundred songs – roughly ten per hour, or per decade since the starting point of 1896. Actually, this was only the second half of what is, in full, a twenty-four hour work, the first twelve hours of which – covering the decades between 1776-1896 – were staged a week prior. (It’s been presented as an uninterrupted 24-hour marathon only once – in Brooklyn two years ago – but the Philadelphia iteration notches a solid runner-up in the insanity stakes.) Still, much too much seemed like a foregone conclusion.

Here’s the funny thing though: it really wasn’t. Not everything in the twelve hours worked, of course, but an astonishing amount of it did. I was engaged more or less instantly – for one thing, I was called onstage twice within the first two hours (first as part of a wave of immigration from “Eastern Europe” – a.k.a. the back of the house – to an increasingly crowded turn-of-the-century “Jewish tenement” represented by the stage; second, along with every other male in the audience between 14 and 40, as a WWI conscriptee.) And I was never bored. I was never turned off, or overwhelmed in an unfavorable way. I only left the auditorium twice, for no more than two minutes (it was all I could bear.) And when I left for good, shortly after midnight, I was fully satisfied and yet still ready for more.

The show, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, is not just a cabaret performance; not merely a concert, but (also) a costume spectacular, a psycho-political identity-poetics deep-dive, an audience-participatory historical re-enactment and re-calibration, a rip-roaring communal performance art party. Or, as described by its mastermind, master of ceremonies, constantly captivating central figure and the singer of all but a handful of those seemingly-innumerable songs – one Taylor Mac – it is a “radical faerie realness ritual…sacrifice.” Continue reading →

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The Sidekicks let the sun shine on “Twin’s Twist” from new LP Happiness Hours

The Sidekicks | photo via sidekicksohio.net

Ohio indie rock band The Sidekicks is back with a new single, “Twin’s Twist,” from their upcoming album Happiness Hours, due out May 18th on Epitaph Records.

Like the album artwork, the song is brighter and more pop oriented than their usual stuff. Produced by John Agnello — notable for his work with Hop Along, Waxahatchee, and Kurt Vile — the song features charming vocals and harmonies, a super catchy melody, and double electric guitars. Continue reading →