By

Finding balance with Soccer Mommy

Soccer Mommy
Soccer Mommy | photo by Kelsey Hart | courtesy of the artist

“Only what you wanted for a little while,” sings Sophie Allison, the quietly dominant voice of Soccer Mommy, in the chorus of the first song of her new record, Clean. It is a line that, like most every song on the excellent output, catches a moment, a vulnerable one where the singer can’t help but admit the nature of fleeting infatuation. It is a familiar feeling for many, a time where the love we thought was alive suddenly dries up, putting into question everything that came before. It is these kind of moments, sweet and cutting, that make Clean such an impressive record, a record that will hold onto listeners for far longer than, “a little while.”

Sophie is bringing this unique style of dynamic intimacy to Johnny Brenda’s tonight for a sold-out show, and in advance of it (and in between tour stops), I got a chance to speak to her by phone about Clean and her biggest headlining tour to date. Continue reading →

By

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 →

By

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 →

By

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 →

By

Tonight’s Concert Picks: Soccer Mommy at Everybody Hits, Bob Dylan at Tower Theater, Modern English at Johnny Brenda’s, and more

Soccer Mommy | photo via sopharela.bandcamp.com
Soccer Mommy, the project of Sophie Allison, was in town recently opening for Jay Som, and now they’ll headline their own gig tonight at Everybody Hits. Past Life and Witch Bomb also play. Soccer Mommy, known for their “chill but kinda sad bedroom-pop jams,” released Collection in August; listen to standout track “Out Worn” below. Find tickets and more information on tonight’s show on the XPN Concert Calendar.

Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: Megan Cooper’s top ten train tracks (a commute playlist for 2017)

Chastity Belt | photo via chastity-belt.bandcamp.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Megan Cooper shares the soundtrack that kept her sane on SEPTA.

This past year, I’ve spent a quite a bit of time on public transport. Not having a car, while splitting my life between the ‘burbs as I finished up school (woo I’m done!) and the city as I worked and went to many a gig, you could say the R5 Regional Rail line was —  for better or for worse — sort of like a second home to me.

Because although SEPTA often left me shaking my fists towards the sky at impossibly excessive delays, my feelings of seething hatred would immediately melt into warmth and contentment as soon as I’d slump into my window seat — eager for the twenty or so minutes of peace to come. Devoid of road rage and panic that parking spot quests bring, train commutes are a unique kind of solitary experience where the world seems to slow down and stand still as it ironically whirs right past you. So unless you’re on your way to some event you need to get mega hyped for, abrasive and loud tracks don’t really have a place here — at least for me. Though I love me a good ole punk jam, this quiet setting is reserved for reflective mindfulness where chill, soft and introspective songs reign supreme.

So, in no particular order, here’s a list of ten songs that served as my trusty train companions this year. Ranging from laid-back and soothing, to somber and melancholic, to atmospheric and poppy, these songs will get you in your head, make you feel many a feeling, and maybe even give your brain a comforting little hug of solidarity. Continue reading →

By

Laura Stevenson talks cover songs, creative streaks, constant touring and making a live record for Planned Parenthood

Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist
Laura Stevenson | photo by Kenneth Bachor | courtesy of the artist

Laura Stevenson has been quite busy. Over the past year and a half, the punk scene songwriter fave released her excellent fourth LP, Cocksure, via Don Giovanni Records and went on several back-to-back-to-back laps touring the U.S. and abroad in support of it. She hit the festival circuit last summer, released a live album this winter, and appeared on the Don’t Stop Now covers compilation to benefit the ACLU. Somewhere along the way, she found a minute to marry her bass player, Mike Campbell.

Live At the Vera Club came out in December, with 100% of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood. It captures a night at the storied club and community creative space in Groningen, situated in the North of the Netherlands. The crowd was small, Stevenson recalls in the album notes, and she couldn’t speak Dutch, so she wasn’t as chatty as usual, but the show rules — the band sounds tremendous, from the uppers like “Torch Song” and “Runner” to the slow burn of “Out With a Whimper” and “Renee,” and a delightful cover of “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements.

Stevenson and her band — Campbell, Alex Billig on accordion and keys, John Burdick on guitar, and Sammi Niss on drums – just headed out on an east coast tour that brings them to Boot and Saddle Thursday. When I caught up with Stevenson via phone from the Hudson Valley home she’s lived in for the past few years, she had just gotten back from a solo tour of Australia with the frontpersons of various down-under DIY acts: Iona Cairns of Shit Present, Lucy Wilson of The Sugarcanes and Wil Wagner of Smith Street Band. We began by discussing this photo of them cuddling a chill koala named Waffles at the Lone Pine Sanctuary in Brisbane. Continue reading →

By

NonCOMM Recap: Phoebe Bridgers provides an oasis of calm amongst the storm

Phoebe Bridgers | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Watching Phoebe Bridgers‘ set today was the most delightful form of deva vu. Having the pleasure of seeing her at this exact stage just a few months back, I actually forgot for one moment that I was at NonCOMM. This was not just a set in the schedule of many, it was a Phoebe Bridgers concert.

Though the hustle and bustle of the exciting NonCOMM festivities can sometimes set an overcast of foreboding hurriedness, Bridgers and crew were not the least bit affected. With the clock ticking away on the tight thirty minute schedule, time seemed to slow down as Bridgers allowed the songs to be what they are: slow and building, weary and atmospheric, sad folk ballads. Continue reading →

By

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 →