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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Junip with Birdie Busch at Union Transfer, Alessi’s Ark at Johnny Brenda’s, Jackie Paper at Ortlieb’s Lounge

Led by Swedish songwriter Jose Gonzales, the band Junip, is sharing the stage with Philadelphia singer Birdie Busch tonight at Union Transfer. Known for their soft, but invigorating sound, both musicians take their own spin on folk by mixing blues progressions with atmospheric, psychedelic breaths, soft rock riffs, and delicate lyrics. Find more information and tickets for tonight’s show here. Watch Birdie Busch’s “These Banks” from her PledgeMusic-funded album, The Greatest Night, below.

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Azure Ray and Soko played the First Unitarian Chapel (photos, recap, setlist)

Haunting folk outfit Azure Ray returned to Philadelphia last night for an appearance at the side chapel of the First Unitarian Church. The core duo of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor was backed by cellist Heather McIntosh and multi-instrumentalist Andy LeMaster (of Fink’s other band, Now It’s Overhead), and their subtle arrangements and evocative playing rang nicely off the lofty ceiling of the chapel. Touring in support of the As Above So Below EP (out last week on Omaha-based label, Saddle Creek Records), the band opened with its current single “Scattered Like Leaves,” then dipped surprisingly deep into its back-catalog, playing the title track of its 2002 EP November, encoring with its melancholy single “The Drinks We Drank Last Night” from its definitive 2003 album Hold On Love, and digging back to its 2001 self-titled debut for five songs. One of those, “Sleep” – which resurfaced on the soundtrack to The Devil Wears Prada a few years back – featured piano and vocal accompaniment from opening act Soko, whose set was impressive in its own right. Offsetting troubled, aching songs about heartbreak and addiction with a sprightly, playful stage persona – often entreating the crowd to sing along – she played an engaging set (and gave hugs to many audience members at the merch table afterwards). Check out a photo recap above, and see Azure Ray’s setlist below. Of note to XPN listeners – Taylor told the crowd that, while the band was in town, it visited Exton to record a Living Room Concert with Echoes, WXPN’s nationally-syndicated program spotlighting ambient, electronica and musical soundscapes. Their concert will broadcast on the October 8 edition of the show, and their interview will air in late October. Continue reading →

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Watch a new video for “Scattered Like Leaves” by Azure Ray (playing the First Unitarian Chapel on Monday)

Touring behind their latest release, the As Above So Below EP, ethereal folk-pop duo Azure Ray premiered a new music video for their song “Scattered Like Leaves” at Paste Magazine today. Watch the video below, and catch the band on Monday September 10 when they perform at the side chapel of the First Unitarian Church. Ticket and information available here, listen to the EP (via Rolling Stone) here.

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Tonight’s Concert Pick: Azure Ray at Johnny Brenda’s

Azure Ray

When Azure Ray faded into the ether six years ago, it did so the same way it did everything else: quietly. After going on “indefinite hiatus” (which is as non-committal as a band breakup can get), childhood friends Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink went their separate ways, working on various solo albums and musical collaborations with their pals in the Saddle Creek scene of the mid-’00s. Between those efforts—not to mention the other similar acts that followed in Azure Ray’s wake—it was almost as if the dream-pop duo never left at all. So it’s not surprising that the band’s recent reunion also came with relatively little fanfare: Taylor and Fink didn’t come blazing back into the spotlight as much as they did show up on the scene’s front porch one morning, wearing a friendly smile that said, “How you doing? How long has it been?” As such, the new Drawing Down The Moon (released in September by Saddle Creek), is every bit as familiar as you’d expect, 12 tracks of primarily sparse tunes accentuated by melancholy vocal harmonies and the occasional extra instrumentation. Azure Ray performs with Tim Fite and James Husband at 8 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $12.

Also playing: The Coathangers + Tough Sh-ts, Slutever at Kung Fu Necktie (8 p.m., 21+, $8)