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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Nap Eyes

Nap Eyes | Photo by Eric Schuman for WXPN

Joining us for this latest Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a band with some of the most sneaky-catchy songs you’re likely to hear all year. Nap Eyes formed in 2011 out of the solo project of singer/guitarist Nigel Chapman. Joined by bassist Josh Salter and drummer Seamus Dalton, the group is rounded out by lead guitarist Brad Loughead. Earlier this year, Nap Eyes released their third proper album, I’m Bad Now. The album has a breezy, laid-back quality that evokes keystone records by Silver Jews or early Wilco. The band visited us before their show at Johnny Brenda’s to perform some of the new songs in our studio.

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Nap Eyes and Cian Nugent bring “thought rock,” and dream-inspired folk, from Halifax and Dublin to Boot & Saddle

Nap Eyes | Photo by Colin Medley | courtesy of the artist
Nap Eyes | Photo by Colin Medley | courtesy of the artist

Maybe it’s something in those icy North Atlantic waters.  Two of this young year’s finest, most quietly intriguing records have come from a couple twenty-something artists approaching what you might broadly call American musical traditions – folk, country, blues, indie rock, etc. – with a contemplative, slyly curious outsider perspective and from unexpected corners of the Anglophone world.

 

From Ireland, Dublin-bred guitar whiz Cian Nugent, who made his first decisive foray into singer-songwriterdom with January’s Night Fiction (Woodsist); from Nova Scotia, folk-rocksy Haligonian quartet Nap Eyes, the brainchild of biochemist-by-day Nigel Chapman, whose playful, poetic musings on February’s sophomore outing Thought Rock Fish Scale (Paradise of Bachelors) strike a balance between casual and considered.  I caught up with Nugent and Chapman, in their respective maritime hometowns, in advance of a joint American tour which brings them to the Boot and Saddle on Thursday.

On record, Chapman comes off as hyper-articulate and self-consciously cerebral, very much a words-first sort of songwriter – he was, indeed, delightfully chatty and effusive in our conversation – and Nugent as a man of fewer, cautiously chosen words; a patient instrumentalist equally comfortable letting space and silence (and his nimble fingers) speak on his behalf.  But both described similarly gradual, even painful processes of finding their voices.  When Chapman first picked up the guitar in his teens, he says, “I felt like I certainly couldn’t sing and also certainly couldn’t write songs” – but he made a conscious determination that the latter was the “more important” goal; a decision whose pay-off is now gloriously evident. Continue reading →

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XPoNential Fest: The Fleeting Ends get fingers snapping at the River Stage

Photo by Eric Ashleigh
Photo by Eric Ashleigh

Today hometown boys The Fleeting Ends played the River Stage at the XPoNential Music Festival.The indie rock group rallied the crowd with their tune, “I Feel Cursed,” and guitarist Matt Vantine showcased an impressive range of vocals, dropping several octaves towards the end of the track. For “Operator,” he switched to the keyboard and slowed things down to get the audience swaying. For their second to last song, the group performed “I’m like That,” perhaps their most popular single — and for good reason. The beat was catchy and the vocals were right on point, and the audience snapped fingers and beat heels in appreciation of the local band. Their most recent album, Our Eyes are Peeled, was released in March 2013.See photos of the performance in the gallery below, read the setlist after the jump, and listen to the set in its entirety here (via the WXPN media player).

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Now Hear This: New songs from Andy Jenkins, Gang Gang Dance, Gorillaz, Arp, LUMP, Wilder Maker, and more

Orquesta Akokán | via orquestaakokan.bandcamp.com

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

Aw yeah, summer. The entropy, the lethargy, the visceral extremes.  Now, summer makes all sorts of things weird anyway, but I feel like summertime in music-land has gotten especially wonky in recent years. Basically, my take is that the focus on large-scale music festivals which has ballooned over the past decade or so has taken a palpable bite out of non-festival-centric touring itineraries, and thus summer concert calendars, and even, indirectly, album release schedules. (Aside from the overwhelming hype cavalcade of Drake, Jay-Zeyonce and Kanye and Co. all dropping within a matter of weeks, the last few weeks have felt a bit thin for noteworthy new releases, and the rest of July and August, peering ahead, are looking even sparser.) Maybe I’d be less sore about all this if I felt closer to the target audience for either Firefly or Made in America, but as it stands those festivals’ biggest impact on me, personally, has been (presumably) shutting Philly out of proper local headline dates for the makers of some of my favorite music of the year: Janelle Monáe, for instance, and Amen Dunes.

Still, there’s plenty that’s worth seeing, concert-wise, in the coming weeks – it just feels like (even) more of an unpredictable hodge-podge than usual. Some of it is coming in the form of smaller, locally-targeted festivals: there’s XPN’s own XPoNential Festival, of course, and the decidedly weirder and more DIY All Mutable Summer Jam which is running the same weekend (July 27th-28th); I’m also pretty hyped about the free, Latin Roots-affiliated Nuevofest which is coming up this Sunday (read on for more about that.)

Anyhow, this being summertime, what do you say we all take a trip? Just a little musical vacation around the globe and beyond, to points both familiar and strange; real, imaginary and somewhere in between. I can’t say that it will all be straightforward or entirely uncomplicated – what is nowadays, after all – but I do promise we’ll have some fun along the way. And it’ll feel oh so nice to arrive back home at the end.

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The Week Ahead: Guided By Voices, Julien Baker, Bilal, Los Lobos and more

Guided by Voices | photo by Scott Troyan | courtesy of the artist

Get things started tonight with prolific indie rockers Guided By Voices; keep it running throughout the week with soul master Bilal, or heartrending songwriter Julien Baker; get lost in the tones of etheral soundscaper Madam Data, then wrap up with The Mountain Goats in Ardmore. Here are 16 shows you can see in and around Philly over the next seven days. Continue reading →

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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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Now Hear This: New songs by Torres, Alvvays, Lucky Soul, EMA, Partner, Dent May and more

Alvvays | Photo by Shervin Lainez, courtesy of the artist

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

It’s prime time. As summer winds to a close, we’ve arrived emphatically at the part of the year where seemingly every week brings a fresh trove of high-profile new releases. The last few weeks have seen records from what feels like a who’s-who of top-tier “prestige” indie rock acts: The National, Grizzly Bear, Iron and Wine, LCD Soundsystem and, of course, Philly’s entry in the conversation, The War on Drugs. And there’s more right around the corner from Beck, St. Vincent, Destroyer, Wolf Parade and, of course, Philly’s entry in the next phase of the conversation, Kurt Vile (in collaboration with Courtney Barnett.) As always, it’ll be interesting to see which of these albums manage to live up to the anticipation, and how many wind up largely forgotten in a few months time.

But it’s a great time of year for all sorts of music; not just the big names and known entities. There’s so much stuff coming out it’s hard to even keep track of it all, and the influx of well-established acts means higher-than-usual potential for worthy smaller records to slip through the cracks. But I’ll do my best to help – read on for a smattering of relatively under-the-radar releases from the past month or so. No deliberate themes or through-lines this time, but there are a few trends that stick out. Notably, we are now sufficiently far enough removed from last November’s election – and the many varieties of devastating fallout that ensued – that an increasing number of new releases are referencing or responding to the national (and global) political situation at least on some level – and there are several examples below. Also, for no particular reason except that it just happened that way, all of these songs were made by women – well, with one or two exceptions right at the end, but at least those are sung in falsetto. Enjoy! Continue reading →

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(Sandy) Alex G announces new headlining tour dates and an opening spot with Fleet Foxes

(Sandy) Alex G | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist
Alex G | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist

On July 17th, the Fleet Foxes Instagram account posted an announcement that they had added several artists to their upcoming US tour(Sandy) Alex G in the Northeast, Natalie Prass in the Northwest, Bedouine in the Southwest, and Nap Eyes in the Midwest in addition to the already-billed Animal Collective and Beach House.

For a good 24 hours, information on this news was nowhere else to be found, save the account (likely run by frontman Robin Pecknold) answering direct fan inquiries in the comments section. Either way, I naively thought that it was safe to assume the addition of Philly’s own Alex G to the upcoming July 31st show at The Mann Center was a given, as he had no other scheduled shows that day and Philadelphia is a Northeast location. Continue reading →