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Mitski Ascends: The reigning queen of indie rock owns the Union Transfer stage

Mitski | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Forget everything you thought you knew about a Mitski concert.

The basement show power trio with the frontwoman rocking a hot pink bass? The expanded band that brought songs from Puberty 2 to life on an arena show with Lorde? The occasional solo sets that are moving in the best way? All things of the past.

For the opening night of tour in support of this year’s outstanding Be The Cowboy, Mitski Miyawaki showed a packed Union Transfer that — much in the same way the record is a next-level move in terms of taking her already deeply affecting songwriting to new heights — her stage show was now bigger, bolder, and more of a vehicle for the best kind of catharsis.

With her four-piece band handling practically all the instrumental duties, Mitski stayed in the front of the stage, using her freed up limbs to spend the entire set gesturing, twisting her body, leaping on the floor, moving to the music in powerful and gripping ways. It reminded me of Klaus Nomi, it reminded me of St. Vincent. It showed that, as much as words and sounds are powerful vehicles for conveying meaning and emotion, so too is movement. Continue reading →

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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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Start your day with Mitski’s burning new ballad “Two Slow Dancers”

Mitski
Mitski | photo by Bao Ngo | courtesy of the artist
For the first single from Mitski’s forthcoming album, she went epic and orchestral. For the second, she hit the dancefloor.

This morning, the indie rock singer songwriter brings us to the end of the night, long after the lights have come up, long after the doors are locked, long after everybody else has moved on, and all that remains are “Two Slow Dancers.” The song is withdrawn and contemplative, a solitary Rhodes-sounding keyboard as the scene is set with an estranged couple reunited in a high school gymnasium and reflecting how “it would be so much easier if we were young again.” Continue reading →

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Mitski shares new single “Nobody” from upcoming album “Be The Cowboy”

Mitski | photo courtesy of the artist

Ahead of Mitski’s new album Be The Cowboy, Mitski has released a music video for the second single “Nobody”. I first heard this track a month ago, closing out Mitski’s set at NON-COMM. I was struck by how different it is than her previous work, in everything but the sentiment. She ventures farther up the fretboard on this track, upping the tempo to create a perfect bop while the chorus, only the word “nobody,” hints at a darker side. The song builds in its subtle eeriness, an offsetting key change near the end creating unease while the chorus fades in and out. The song perfectly collides pop and disco with Mitski’s self-reflective nature. Think “crying-but-dancing”. Continue reading →

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Harmony Woods opens the Spruce Street Harbor Park summer season with new songs, old faves, and covers of Mitski and Miley

Harmony Woods | photo by Sam Kesler for WXPN

Underneath neon lights and in front of a sunset on a Philadelphia skyline, local band Harmony Woods performed for the first of Spruce Street Harbor Park’s 2018 Waterfront Sessions. The air smelled of beer, local food trucks, and the miscellaneous scents of the Delaware River, and as Sofia Verbilla, front-woman for the four-piece band, noted: “I’ve seen so many dogs and babies in the last hour! This is why I do what I do!” An incredibly peaceful and joyous night of amazing music, it was a perfect way to start off the summer-long series, featuring all local Philly bands and free admission.

The Key’s own John Vettese warmed up the crowd for a couple hours with an amazing DJ set featuring tracks from Kississippi, Maggie Rogers, Caroline Rose, Lauryn Hill, Sylvan Esso, Japanese Breakfast, and an infuriatingly smooth transition from Hop Along to Daft Punk. He concluded with the almost-too-on-the-nose track “The Walk” by Oso Oso for Harmony Woods to walk onto.

Harmony Woods began with the opener of their 2017 album Nothing Special, “Vignette # 1” leading into “The Best Things”. Their sound was surprisingly clear for an outdoor venue, the rough rhythm guitar of Sofia Verbilla punctuated by the sharper lead guitar provided by Chance Halter, smooth bass from Hank Byerly, and dynamic drums by David Juro. Sofia’s vocals were stellar as well, standing out among the instrumentation, particularly on their hit single “Renovations,” which rises from hold-your-breath serene to breathtakingly anthemic within three minutes. Their set also featured standout tracks “Jenkintown-Wyncote” and “Negro y Azul” with sparkling guitar riffs perfect to match the outdoor lighting and transportive descriptions of romance. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Mitski will kick off North American tour at Union Transfer this fall

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

Some consider her the queen of indie rock — and they may just be right. Still gliding on the success of her 2016 breakout album Puberty 2Mitski recently announced her next record, Be The Cowboy, which will be released August 17. The first string of full-band tour dates behind the new record will take Mitski through the UK and Europe, but lucky for us her just-announced North American tour starts off right here in Philly, with a Union Transfer show on October 19. Singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield will open the show. Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Mitski turns up the volume on the NPR Music stage

Mitski | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.comMitski | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

“Hi. My name’s Mitski. It’s spelled M-I-T-S-K-I, if you want to google me.” That’s how the inimitable Mitski opened her set tonight at NonComm, but it quickly became clear that most of the audience knew exactly who she was. And as NPR’s Bob Boilen pointed out when he introduced the set, even if you’ve never seen Mitski before, she is the kind of performer who will immediately grab your attention and never let go.

When Mitski’s name first appeared on this year’s NonComm lineup, I was a bit perplexed. She hadn’t released new music since Puberty 2 (a Key top album of 2016), but the mystery was solved with the announcement of her forthcoming record Be The Cowboy, out August 17. Mitski released the new album’s first single “Geyser” and its video earlier this week.

Though “Geyser” wasn’t a part of tonight’s set, Mitski treated us to selections of her previous work, including Bury Me at Makeout Creek standouts “Francis Forever” and “Townie.” Several songs off Puberty 2 were also in the mix; notably “Thursday Girl” and that album’s lead single and emotional whirlwind “Your Best American Girl,” a song so poignant that I’m not kidding when I say I studied it in a college literary theory class. Continue reading →

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All eyes are on Mitski in her new music video ”Geyser”

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

An anticipated set during night one of WXPN’s Non-COMM convention is from indie rocker Mitski Miyawaki, who just announced her latest full-length, Be The Cowboy, out August 17th via Dead Oceans Records. The album’s leadoff single ”Geyser,” released yesterday, truly emphasizes the intensity of Mitski’s vocals. It delivers a haunting, yet serene atmosphere — a feeling reflected in the music video, which takes place on a beach with dark skies and Mitski dead center and alone, dancing and gesturing for the camera. Continue reading →

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Mitski transforms Billie Holiday’s “I’m a Fool to Want You” for Planned Parenthood

Mitski | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist
Mitski | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist

Mitski‘s rendition of Billie Holiday’s “I’m a Fool to Want You” is one of many exclusive cuts featured on the new benefit album 7 Inches for Planned Parenthood; it is transformative, ethereal and sounds all sorts of vintage. The cover sounds like it could be the 1951 track with its slow tempo and melancholic vocals, but Mitski also channels Holiday’s original intention of a classically sad love song into her modern synthesized soundscape. It’s ethereal, heavy and one of the coolest songs on the album. Continue reading →