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Just Announced: The National is coming back to Philly and bringing Cat Power and Phoebe Bridgers along

The National | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Prepare yourselves, because there’s an incredibly good show coming our way this fall. So good that it may take a moment or two to process that it is actually happening. It hasn’t been too, too long since we’ve seen The National in town (those who were lucky enough to score tickets, that is) — the band played to a very sold-out Kimmel Center in December, and performed their new album Sleep Well Beast to an even more sold-out Union Transfer last September for NPR Music’s First Listen Live.

This September, The National is coming back to Philly — not to either of the previously mentioned venues, but to the Mann Center. And if that’s not reason enough to get excited, the opening acts will be Cat Power and Phoebe Bridgers. What?! How does a lineup like this even come together? Maybe it’s best not to ask questions, but just mark our calendars and thank whatever cosmic forces made this happen. Continue reading →

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XPNFest 2018 brings Josh Ritter, Margo Price, Bermuda Triangle, Phoebe Bridgers and more to Wiggins Park

clockwise from left: Josh Ritter | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN // Margo Price | photo by Hope Helmuth for WXPN // Phoebe Bridgers | photo by John Vettese for WXPN // Bermuda Triangle | photo by Harvey Hale courtesy of the artist

The Wiggins Park lineup of the 2018 XPoNential Music Festival was rolled out today, and it will bring veteran singer-songwriter Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band to the Camden Waterfront this July, along with country breakout Margo Price, the Nashville trio Bermuda Triangle (featuring Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, Becca Mancari and Jesse Lafser) and returning festival favorites The Lone Bellow. Continue reading →

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Laughter to Tears: Phoebe Bridgers and Soccer Mommy show a range of emotions at World Cafe Live

Phoebe Bridgers | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A country song began to play. Like the very commodified, mainstream country radio kind of song. The kind of breezy, late summer day, wind-blowing-through-your-hair-as-you-drive-your-pickup-truck kind of country song.

I heard the phrase “parked out by the lake” more than a few times, but didn’t think much of the glossy genre’s fairly standard fare. The question of why Phoebe Bridgers chose this track in particular to walk onto stage to though — that nagged at my noggin. I mean, there are so many options, Pheebs. Poised at the mic, she even began to sing along a bit. Well, dang, I thought; attributing definite deeper layers I just didn’t pick up on as the reasoning. I mean, it must be a meaningful tune for such a prolific songwriter to single out.

Ha. What I learned later is that the song in question — the very aptly-titled “Parked Out by the Lake” — is actually a parody. “I’m parked out by the lake,” the very real and actual bluegrass / gospel artist, Dustin Christensen, begins in that perfectly gritty and melodic rasp, as his very not real alter-ego, Dean Summerwind. “Eighty miles from Sante Fe,”he continues. “And I’m sitting here just parked out by the lake. If you’re wondering where I parked, I’m out parked by the lake. It’s the lake that’s eighty miles from Sante Fe.”

A wave of relief washed over me. Perfection. Semi-akin to Bo Burnham’s iconic parody, “Pandering,” the song is a joke. And it’s exactly this kind of wry and multi-dimensional, mildly cynical but completely truthful melding that so perfectly encapsulates both of the artists who graced the stage at World Cafe Live this past Wednesday. Continue reading →

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Now Hear This: New music by Miguel, Baths, Karl Blau, Phoebe Bridgers, Little Mazarn, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and more

Phoebe Bridgers | Photo by Frank Ockenfels | via Dead Oceans

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

Happy 2018! The year’s off to a great start, musically speaking, with much to look forward to on the horizon (including some heavy-hitters poised to return – The Breeders, David Byrne, Superchunk and Jack White among them) and a surprising number of strong releases already out in the world, a mere two weeks into the year. Plus the local concert calendar is already heating up, possibly more than any January I can remember. Let’s take a look at some of what’s ahead, concert-wise, by simultaneously taking one final glance back to 2017 at some cuts by artists who had notable breakthrough years, a few great late fall/early winter releases, and a smattering of others that you (or I) might have overlooked along the way. All but one have upcoming Philly tour dates – many of them happening this month and several further on down the line. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Phoebe Bridgers brings Stranger in the Alps to World Cafe Live in February

Phoebe Bridgers | Photo by Frank Ockenfels | via Dead Oceans

Los Angeles based alt-folk artist Phoebe Bridgers released her debut full-length Stranger in the Alps to wide acclaim earlier this fall. The single “Motion Sickness” was named XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week in August. Bridgers will bring the sounds of the new album to Philly on February 21, 2018 for a headlining show at World Cafe Live. Continue reading →

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A Few Familiar Faces: Catching up with local artists at SXSW

Cold Fronts at SXSW | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

 

Back in March, I hopped into a van with Vita and the Woolf and headed down to SXSW for the very first time. I had no idea what to expect. It was loud, crowded chaotic and confusing. The beauty of it all lied it everyone coming together to support music and support each other. Amit the clutter and chaos I met up with eight Philadelphia artists who also made the journey to Austin. We talked in all types of spots, from chilling poolside with Caracara to sneaking around a fancy hotel with Vita and The Woolf to tracking down Speedy Ortiz after their showcase’s venue had to get moved in the middle of the show. Music was literally everywhere and I couldn’t wait to dive in.

Continue reading →

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Now Hear This: New music by Belle & Sebastian, Django Django, Tune-Yards, Soccer Mommy, Nils Frahm, Shopping and more

Belle and Sebastian | photo courtesy of the artist

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

We’ve had a pretty good last month or so here in Philadelphia, on a couple of fronts.  Musically though, at least in terms of the broadest, pop-cultural arena, things have felt just a tad uninspiring lately.  The best-selling album of the year thus far, by a wide margin, is the Greatest Showman soundtrack; an artistic triumph I have no doubt.  Camila Cabelo’s full-length bow, despite a couple of serviceable bangers, basically failed to make good on the promise of “Havana,” the year’s first new Hot 100 chart-topper and one of the best we’ve had in a while.  The most notable musical performance, the halftime show of that one football game, was a perfectly enjoyable and well-executed medley of five-to-fifteen-year-old hits with no real relevance to anything in particular – I’m not sure whether it’s more dispiriting that Justin “Man of the Woods” Timberlake chose not to even attempt promoting his just-released new album by actually performing something from it, or that this was, on balance, probably the right decision.  I mean, no offense JT…

Then there were the Grammys, which despite well-deserved (if largely meaningless) acknowledgments for the likes of LCD Soundsystem, The National, Aimee Mann and our very own War on Drugs, overwhelmingly reaffirmed its own insignificance, diversity issues and fogeydom (I mean, no offense Bruno); adding insult to irrelevance by denying a performance slot to (sole female) album-of-the-year nominee Lorde.  That hot pile of nothingness was capped off by the truly vile, toxic comments of Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, who, in response to questions about the underrepresentation of women among winners and nominees, called for “women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls…to step up, because I think they would be welcome.”

Of course, it goes without saying that, beyond the psychotically warped bubble that is mainstream culture and the self-congratulatory machinations of the “music industry,” music itself continues on and, as always, the past month offered plenty of tunes worth digging into.  You’ll find a smattering below, from indie-pop earworms to exuberant dance jams, including a handful of artists experimenting in various, intriguing ways, with strains of world music.  And – I swear I didn’t plan this – it just so happens that all but one of the selections below were made, either by solely or in part, by female artists.  Step on up! Continue reading →

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Pre-order Live at the World Cafe Volume 43 featuring The Districts, Maggie Rogers, The War on Drugs, Waxahatchee and more

Live at the World Cafe Volume 43

The latest compilation of live performances from NPR’s World Cafe is available this spring to XPN members — and it’s a fantastic collection.

Ranging from rock and folk vets Bob WeirLittle Steven & The Disciples of Soul, and Suzanne Vega to new voices Maggie Rogers, Sweet Spirit, and Phoebe Bridgers, Philly rooted artists The DistrictsThe War on Drugs, and Waxahatchee, Live at the World Cafe Vol. 43 is an expansive release. Continue reading →

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Soccer Mommy shows she’s not “Your Dog” in kickass, self-assured single

Soccer Mommy | photo via artist’s Facebook

Nashville-bred NYU student Sophie Allison has been releasing “chill but kinda sad” lo-fi tunes on Bandcamp for years now under the moniker Soccer Mommy. Less than a year after the release of her debut full length Collection, Soccer Mommy’s biting new track,”Your Dog,” not only anticipates the upcoming album, Clean — out on March 2nd via Fat Possum Records — but also hints at a more expansive, no-nonsense direction.

Remastering some tracks from earlier EPs, last year’s Collection flowed in the same kind of hopelessly heartsick blue vein of Soccer Mommy’s bedroom-recorded tracks, where Allison oft dreamt up stories of falling in love with perfect strangers and far-away crushes. All of which, I adore, as there’s nothing wrong with vulnerability and hopeless romanticism standing there right alongside the strength and independence of a badass lady.

Embracing the latter characteristics on the for young hearts EP-featured “bloody honey,” and Collection’s shining anthem, “Out Worn,” these songs glimpsed at someone who didn’t just sulk in sadness when wronged, but fought back with knock-out self-assuredness. With the release of “Your Dog,” though, we find that these tracks had offered just a teeny, tiny sliver of the kick-assery that Allison can dish out. Continue reading →