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 →
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).
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 →
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 →
The second Friday the 13th of 2017 is upon us, so we’ve assembled a playlist of songs for the superstitious and non-superstitious alike.
If you have even a tinge of concern, we would urge you to avoid black cats, walking under ladders, opening umbrellas in doors, and definitely do not accept any invitations to cookouts, late-night bonfires or sleep over trips to Camp Crystal Lake.
With music by Stevie Wonder, Howlin’ Wolf, Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, and Johnny Cash, we hope you enjoy our Friday the 13th Spotify playlist. Continue reading →
There’s a frenzied unpredictability to Adia Victoria — it what makes her performances so captivating. It’s like an underlying current of electricity that bursts unexpectedly through her trademark soft and raspy vocals. And just as quickly as it comes, it disappears with a sweet smile, but is left with traces of daggers in her eyes.
It’s this undeniable swagger and confidence that oozes through the slinky, unsettling songs of Victoria’s acclaimed album, Beyond the Bloodhounds — which she entranced the XPN Fest crowd with today. Armed with a guitar and commanding vocals, Victoria strays from sugar-coated, predominantly white country music depictions of Southern life by unapologetically describing the harsh realities of living as a black woman in the South. Continue reading →
There was a lot of pent-up energy in the air last night as the XPNFest crowd settled in for the headlining BB&T Pavilion show. Was it going to rain or no? Would all the shifting around of sets and times throw a wrench in the festival works? Was that ominous flock of Canada geese going to go at it with the crowd on the lawn?
The answers: no, no and no. The show was kicked off by an explosive 30 minute set from Hop Along, sauntered through a powerful mix of Bright Eyes and solo tunes from Conor Oberst and was capped by a 95-minute jammer by Wilco — shorter than their usual fare, but nevertheless satisfying. Continue reading →
Before bringing the show to XPoNential Music Fest on Friday, Conor Oberst kicked off a weeklong tour with Philly’s Hop Along last Thursday in Brooklyn,playing the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival. The outdoor show took place at the Prospect Park Bandshell on a hot July night. Continue reading →