Speaking the truth with Philly punk visionaries Soul Glo

Soul Glo | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Soul Glo | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

For many rockers of color, finding films like AFROPUNK — James Spooner’s groundbreaking documentary about minority involvement in punk and hardcore movements — was and is a critical milestone in their development. As a young black and queer punk rocker immersed in the community, watching this film’s scenes unfold, bearing witness to ideas, perspectives, and experiences expressed in the film that were so wildly different, I realized something: each one of those perspectives, from both the youthful, energetic dayglo punk who “didn’t want to be defined by their race” to the raging political hardcore kid using the genre towards black liberation, at some point I had felt similarly, at least in part, to all of the interviewees. The lived black punk rock experience was given a voice. In that documentary’s wake the legions of weird yet still culturally impactful black music has practically given birth to new ways of discovering music through blogs and social media. This wave has infiltrated community centers and Shriners’ hallls, as well as taken to the stages usually reserved for all white bands.

Philadelphia is a city ripe for a black and brown punk reclaiming. Entire movements have thrived for more than a decade dedicated to promoting art and music by marginalized people. Enter Soul Glo, a band etching dark, interpersonal screeds on ancient parchment cut from the skin of the rotting corpse of hardcore punk. Their music travels pedal-driven through lush, dense shoe-gaze forests, bursting out of the other side screaming. Lead singer Pierce Jordan’s voice is an unmatched wail that snakes through the band’s wiry punk orchestration as a truly exhaustive vessel for his trauma-informed lyrics. While their name — taken from a parody product from the cult 80’s Eddie Murphy comedy Coming To America, said to give black folk luscious, wavy jheri curled hair — may come across as comedic, it’s important to remember that the moniker choice is all a part of the intricate cultural interplay and relevancy that truly revolutionary, unbothered and alternative black acts have traditionally embraced. From Parliament’s colorful renditions of life on the mothership to Odd Future’s notorious hyper-cartoon troll Tyler the Creator’s transformation into a living meme, there’s certainly room for jest in this revolution. The sentiment is most aptly put by an interviewee in the AFROPUNK doc when she casually intones: “I don’t feel less black because I’m less normal”

We sat down with Soul Glo to discuss the contradictions, struggles and even empowerment of speaking the truth of the black lived experience to a punk power structure that often values the social capital of whiteness over others. Continue reading →


Members of Clique, Soul Glo and Sororoity Noise team up in En Route

En Route | photo via

The seeds of Philly-based rock trio En Route came from guitar player and songwriter P.J. Carroll, of the punk four-piece Clique. Carroll teamed up with Soul Glo’s Rubin Polo on bass and Sorority Noise’s Charlie Singer on drums for a set of slightly downtrodden, guitar-infused songs self-described as “early ’90s slow core” on their EP, Then is a Song. Continue reading →


Break Free Fest Spotlight: Soul Glo

Soul Glo | photo by Joey Tobin via

“For years punk and hardcore have been deemed white genres of music,” write the organizers of Philly’s Break Free Fest, “pushing aside and ignoring people of color who have been shaping it for years.” The festival, which takes place on Saturday, May 27th at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, seeks to bring those marginalized artists together and to the front. All week long leading up to the event, we’re highlighting some of the performers on the bill.

Soul Glo / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1. Who is in the band, how long have you been around for, and how would you describe what you’re doing to someone who might not be familiar?

In our band currently are vocalist Pierce, guitarist Ruben, bassist GG, and drummer Jamie. Soul Glo has existed since July 2014. Essentially our music is the sound of the yelling and cussing in our heads as we field the various microaggressions of our lives.

2. What are you most excited about when it comes to Break Free Fest?

When it comes to Break Free, we’re most excited about the commingling of Black and Brown people who make and love to hear punk and hardcore. We’re most excited about being surrounded by those people and hopefully seeing this become an annual event, if it doesn’t exhaust Scout too much to do so. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Natalie Prass fuses neo-soul and power pop for a stripped down set

Natalie Prass | photo by Dylan Eddinger |

Decked out in a sparkling yellow ensemble and backed by a full band, Natalie Prass performed songs from her new album The Future And The Past as well as some older songs. Prass opened with “The Fire,” a song that shows off her unique blend of neo-soul and power pop. Her music is full of infectious rhythms and on-a-dime key changes, expertly handled with her signature soprano. She mentioned the lack of their touring keyboardist, resulting in a more stripped-down set, but still perfectly and polished and executed with style. Continue reading →


Khruangbin’s Tiny Desk Concert meshes 70’s soul funk and Middle Eastern jazz

Khruangbin | photo by Elsa Attar via NPR

Texas trio Khruangbin dropped by NPR to play a Tiny Desk Concert this week, and their set was nothing short of incredible. Khruangbin most recently opened for Chicano Batman at The TLA back in October, and you can see them again on the east coast this fall.

They played a three song set, beginning with “Maria También,” possibly the best-known track in their catalog. What sets this group apart from other instrumental artists is the fact that they rely on simplicity. They don’t pack their songs with heavy, jumping beats in order to propel the song forward where lyrics otherwise would. Instead, they let Laura Lee on the bass take charge and play a loop while Mark Speer on the guitar fills in whatever is missing in a gentle but intricate style. That mood was evident during their Tiny Desk set. The vibe was so obviously relaxed, with all three members so in sync and fearless. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Five holiday soul classics from the York Street Hustle

York Street Hustle | photo by Seeetpea Shots Photography | courtesy of the artist |

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. But sometimes we get a little seasonal, and as it gears up for its final show of 2017, Philly’s York Street Hustle weighed in on its favorite sounds of the holidays.

Philadelphia ten-piece York Street Hustle always brings the party, whether they’re celebrating R&B, soul and Motown hits from the stage of World Cafe Live and Underground Arts, or they’re celebrating with stringed lights and tinsel at their annual holiday spectacular.

With this year’s show set to take place at Union Transfer tomorrow night, December 8th, we asked York Street’s Imani Roach to share the band’s five favorite holiday jams. Read on below, and get tickets and more information on tomorrow’s show at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


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 →


Hear Hoots & Hellmouth’s gloriously grand new EP, Uneasy Pieces

Hoots & Hellmouth | photo courtesy of artist

When local rootsy blues rockers Hoots & Hellmouth released their fourth album In The Trees Where I Can See The Forest last fall, it raised the bar quite high for the four-piece. Their new EP Uneasy Pieces, however, seems to have no problem exceeding those lofty expectations.

The chilling title track opens up the EP with an atmospheric spookiness that just sounds big. Sans the eerie vibes, the rest of the songs follow in the same grand nature as Hoots & Hellmouth are large and in charge of their trademark passionate, lively sound. Single “The Down Part of Town” and “Oh The Bugs” bring the folky organ-searing soul, while last tune, “Soft and Lazy” slows things down for a self-condemning bluesy-gospel mix. Continue reading →


Now Hear This: New songs from New Pornographers, Six Organs of Admittance, Lydia Ainsworth, Soulwax and more

new pornographers
The New Pornographers | photo by Jenny Jimenez | courtesy of the artist

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

Happy Spring! Are we allowed to be happy it’s Spring? While it feels like we’re still a long way from Summer jam season proper – Calvin Harris notwithstanding – the contenders are already starting to get in line. So far I’m liking Lorde, Lana, and Charli XCX’s bubbly one-off with Mura Masa, or maybe something from hnew oer super-fizzy PC Music-abetted mixtape – I’ll admit that I have yet to fully contend with last month’s highest-profile, er, “playlist” (shut up, Drake!) though I hear there may be some keepers there too.

Meanwhile, over on the indie side of the fence, we’ve already got a solid backlog of Spring-ready melodies to sift through as we round the bend on the first quarter of 2017. With worthy new efforts from Spoon, The Magnetic Fields, The Shins and (soon) New Pornographers (see below) joining Jens Lekman and, sure, the Flaming Lips, it’s been a busy couple of months for indie-pop lovers of a certain vintage, with plenty of opportunities for nostalgic reminiscence. (You’ll have to forgive me a few slight indulgences along our way.)

Continue reading →