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The Week Ahead: Jenny Lewis, U2, Eternal Summers, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and more

Jenny Lewis
Jenny Lewis | photo by Rich McKie for WXPN

You can’t tell us that there’s nothing going on this week — even if you don’t count the Firefly Music Festival (which you should totally count), there are more artists moving through the Philly region that we can pin down. Massive arena shows like U2 and Harry Styles to modest DIY gigs like Cold Fronts and Eternal Summers, the spectrum is huge. Here are 27 concerts you can see in and around Philly this week. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Sadie Dupuis

Sadie Dupuis | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Sadie Dupuis | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

Philly, meet your new neighbor Sadie Dupuis. Oh sure, you know her best as the frontwoman of Speedy Ortiz, the now-veteran award-winning attention-getting indie-rock darlings of every music writer from Noisey to Pitchfork, who’ve been around the touring block with the likes of Thurston Moore, Stephen Malkmus, and the sisters Deal. You know. NBD.

But what you might not know is that, as mononymous solo artist Sad13 (and yes, that’s “Sad Thirteen”), Dupuis has moved from the heart of New England right to our backyard. With her debut record Slugger racking up the critical acclaim, she’s already on tour, and you can catch her at Girard Avenue’s Everybody Hits tonight.

As she settles into life in Philly, Dupuis compares and contrasts for us her experiences in Philly and Boston and tips you local vegans off to the best tofu hoagie in town. You’re welcome. Continue reading →

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Teen Spirit: Alex G’s introspective youth anthems bring out a hometown crowd

Alex G. | Photo by Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com
Alex G. | Photo by Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN | hellerhound.com

If you were standing up front, close to the stage last night at Union Transfer, you’d have noticed a disproportionate demographic of 17- to 20-year-olds, holding iPhones instead of beer and waiting bright-faced and wide-eyed for the double-bill of Philly’s own Alex Giannascoli — better known as Alex G — and New York’s Porches.

Concurring that Giannascoli’s fans were largely a younger demographic, the 19-year-old next to me expressed his moderate and considered sartorial disdain for his generation: “They’re all dressed weird too.”

That said, many were wearing band shirts advertising their adoration for the Philly-based, highly prolific DIY bedroom-recording-studio songwriter.

On the contrary, Porches tees were few and far between, and the blank faces on the crowd seemed to suggest that this was largely an introduction to the music of opening band Your Friend. Continue reading →

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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Bury Our Friends” by Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney | Photo by Brigitte Sire
Sleater-Kinney | Photo by Brigitte Sire

The rock and roll band Sleater-Kinney is back and rocking like no time has passed at all since their decision to to go on hiatus in 2004. A lot of people are very happy they’re back together, and releasing a new album, No Cities To Love on January 20th. Their show at Union Transfer on February 28th sold out quickly, and most of the recently announced tour is close to selling out. Continue reading →

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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Habit” by Ought

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

Montreal indie rockers Ought is one of those bands that recalls the older sounds of punk & post punk groups like Television, Gang of Four and early Talking Heads, yet sounds fresh and inspired. Lead singer and guitarist Tim Beeler has an instantly lovable, endearing vocal style, similar to the manner that Stephen Malkmus of Pavement or Jonathan Richman sings. There’s bewilderment and a child like endearment in his voice, as it takes unexpected twists and turns through jangly, angular guitar playing and inspired songwriting.

“Habit” is one of many excellent songs on the band’s debut album, More Than Any OtherDay on the Montreal indie label Constellation Records. It starts out like a slow stroll that builds into a raging, cathartic release of emotion.

Ought play Boot & Saddle on Wednesday, July 9th. Go here for tickets and more information. Below, download “Habit.”

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Download “Habit,” an inspiring post-punk new song from Montreal indie rockers Ought

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

The Montreal based indie rock band Ought is one of those bands that recalls the older sounds of punk & post punkers like Television, Gang of Four, early Talking Heads and the Modern Lovers, but leaves you feeling fresh and inspired. Lead singer and guitarist Tim Beeler has an instantly lovable, endearing vocal style in the same way it felt like hearing Stephen Malkmus of Pavement or Jonathan Richman for the front time. There’s bewilderment and a child like endearment in his voice, as it takes unexpected twists and turns through jangly, angular guitar playing and inspired songwriting.

“Habit” is one of many excellent songs on the band’s debut album, More Than Any OtherDay on the Montreal indie label Constellation Records. It sounds like Jonathan Richman’s “That Summer Feeling” sped into the Pixies “Monkey Gone To Heaven,” and starts out like a slow stroll that builds into a raging, cathartic release of emotion.

Ought play Boot & Saddle on Wednesday, July 9th. Go here for tickets and more information. Below,

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Q&A: Get to know Julian Booker, the new host of Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow host Julian Booker
Sleepy Hollow host Julian Booker

Last April, Sleepy Hollow host Keith Brand announced that he would be retiring from his Sunday morning post of 27 years to spend time working on other creative outlets.  Now just about one year later, the “eclectic, quiet sounds of Sleepy Hollow” have a new voice to carry the show into its next several decades.

Julian Booker took over the mic at the end of February and has already shown a great ability to curate interesting and surprising playlists that fit the Sleepy Hollow mood while exploring new directions and introducing new artists to the rotation.  We thought it would be a good idea to get to know the newest addition to the XPN DJ line-up so we sent a few questions Julian’s way.  Check out his thoughts on the heritage of Sleepy Hollow, avoiding preconceptions and what he does in his time off below while listening to some of the songs he played on his first few Sleepy Hollow broadcasts.

The Key: How did you get started DJing?

Julian Booker: I got my first radio show towards the end of college. I had worked for my father (who has been in radio for over forty years) at Delmarva Broadcasting Company in Wilmington, DE throughout high school.  Later he asked me if I would help develop their HD-affiliate Graffiti Radio, whom I’ve worked with ever since. I started DJing live around the same time and was the house DJ at The Blockley until it closed last December.

TK: How did you spend your Sunday mornings before becoming the host of Sleepy Hollow?

JB: In addition to my new position at XPN, I work as a live sound engineer, so I spent a lot of Sunday mornings sleeping after late nights at shows. My schedule is kind of inverting now, so far I enjoy actually seeing the sunrise.

TK: What drew you to the eclectic Sleepy Hollow format?

JB: I’ve always loved a wide spectrum of music – I grew up listening to everything from The Spinners to Steely Dan to Carole King and music that was popular on the radio at the time – things like Semisonic or New Radicals. So when I began to get older, that eclecticism really started to grow. I try to find elements that I like in everything that I hear – I think it helps to become a more well-rounded listener.

Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Heyward Howkins on songwriting, personal discovery and the power of using interesting language

Heyward
via Handsome Lady Records

There’s a chuckle at the other end of the line when I ask Heyward Howkins about his iPhone demos – the raw, one-take early recordings of songs that went on to form his new album, Be Frank, Furness.

“Yeah, some of my friends asked me ‘Why are you doing that? Who’s going to listen to your record?,” he says. There’s a pause, and the auditory equivalent of a shrug. “Even if its a little rough, I like to get it down – I like to capture those moments where it’s fresh. Where it’s like like ‘this is awesome, I need to share it.'”

Doing this definitely served a purpose, or purposes – building momentum for the release of Be Frank, Furness, getting listeners familiar with the new songs in an early stage (something he also did in a few video sessions). And it also created companion versions of his new songs that exist in a different space and harbor different feelings than the finished versions – they’re the same, but they’re their own unique artifacts. Heyward sees it more simply.

“I just like playing music,” he tells me “and I like people to hear it.”

It took him a bit of time to reach this comfort zone as a solo artist. In the late 90s, he was the guitarist for The Trouble With Sweeney, with noted local musican, writer and editor Joey Sweeney. Before that, Howkins recalls, the only other he played in “was some Cure and Smiths cover band in high school. We did some originals, I wasn’t the singer but I wrote the songs.”

He remembers his time in The Trouble fondly, but when that group disbanded in 2005, he didn’t immediately think to pursue music. He got a regular 9 to 5 in Philly, he and his wife started a family. He would play guitar at home sometimes, and write songs when ideas struck him, but nothing super serious until he was between jobs in 2009 and decided to use his free time making demos. One was the song that became the title track of his first record, “The Hale and Hearty.”

“I had been working on that song for a few years,” he remembers.

The demos he initially kept to himself, sharing it only with his old band mate Sweeney – who told him he should, no question, do more. Continue reading →

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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “I Won’t Be Long” by Beck

iwontbelong Since his last proper studio album, 2008’s Modern Guilt, indie-rocker and singer-songwriter Beck has been involved in a number or creative projects.

With various musicians he started the Record Club, recording full albums in one day sessions including Velvet Underground & Nico, Songs of Leonard Cohen, Kick by INXS, and Oar by Skip Spence.

He has produced music for Dwight Yokum, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Stephen Malkmus (of Pavement). He has contributed songs to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack, True Blood, the soundtrack to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and released a single for Jack White’s Third Man Records. He collaborated on Rework_Philip Glass Remixed (a remix album of Glass’s to commemorate his 75th birthday), and he’s collaborated with rapper Childish Gambino. Last year, Beck released Song Reader, a new “album” only available as sheet music. It was a stunningly creative project, brought to life by hundreds of musicians who records their interpretations of Beck’s songs, but not one song actually recorded by Beck. Last month, Beck released a new song, “Defriended,” and on July 2nd he released “I Won’t Be Long.” Listen to the song below, and purchase it here.