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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: The Goon Sax

The Goon Sax | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a young band with a classic sound. Formed while the members were still in high school, Brisbane’s The Goon Sax carry a lifetime of influences with them. With James Harrison and Louis Forster trading off guitar and bass duties and Riley Jones supplying drums (and all three members singing), The Goon Sax quickly gained attention and acclaim for their inspired spin on the Australian (and New Zealand) indie pop traditions of the ’80s and ’90s. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Madeline Kenney (2019)

Madeline Kenney | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade session is an artist who’s quickly becoming a regular around these parts. Madeline Kenney‘s first visit to the IRHP was just that; she was touring with Chaz from Toro y Moi and the Mattson 2 and was a non-performing companion at their session. Shortly after releasing her debut album, Night Night at the First Landing, Kenney charted a course to make our studio her own. That session was a swirling, guitar- and voice-looping delight, but it didn’t quite prepare us for the creative leap that Kenney would make on her next record. Perfect Shapes, produced by Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak/Flock of Dimes, was one of my favorite albums of 2018. Its blend of billowing synths, springy guitars and, of course, Kenney’s dynamic vocals, felt like a debut of a new kind of artist. In what has become a kind of tradition, Kenney returned to our studio when her Perect Shapes tour brought her back to Philly. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Jon Spencer + the HITmakers

Jon Spencer + the HITmakers | Photo by Katie Tapman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade Live session is a pivotal figure in the world of wigged-out fuzz punk. Jon Spencer has served as leader of countless groups and collaborations over the last 30+ years, including (but not limited to) Pussy Galore, Heavy Trash and, of course, the Blues Explosion that bears his name. After a handful of years recording and touring with a reunited Blues Explosion, 2018 saw something a bit surprising emerge from Spencer’s cavern of cro-magnon rock: his first ever solo album. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: IAN SWEET

IAN SWEET | Photo by John Vettese for XPN

Joining us in the studio for the first Indie Rock Hit Parade live session of 2019 is a trio led by a wildly talented and creative songwriter. Originally founded as IAN, the solo project of singer/guitarist Jilian Medford, IAN SWEET grew to include a shifting array of supporting players. As they do in this session, IAN SWEET usually materialize as a trio; Medford is joined for this session by bassist Hudson Buckley and drummer Miles Wintner. On her second album, 2018’s Crush Crusher, Medford explores themes of emotional fragility, toxic relationships and self-reflection with both unflinching directness and startling allusions. The music is nothing short of thrilling. The choruses on Crush Crusher are the biggest that Medford has devised and the occasional use of synthesizers makes the songs even more dynamic. IAN SWEET are currently in the midst of a months-long tour of Europe, but back in November (just a few weeks after the new album’s release), they stopped by our studio to play some of the new songs live…

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: BRONCHO (2018)

BRONCHO | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a band whose members are no strangers to our studios. Back around the time of their debut album, Oklahoma’s BRONCHO made a stop for a performance on World Cafe. A few years and one album later they were back for a set on this very show! Now the band is back with a vengeance, which is to say they have a new album and it’s their tuffest yet. BRONCHO is still led by singer Ryan Lindsey, with guitarist Ben King, bassist Penny Pitchlynn and drummer Nathan Price rounding out the lineup. They stopped by before a show at Johnny Brenda’s to perform tracks from Bad Behavior live in our studio.

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Watch Speedy Ortiz play “I’m Blessed” for WXPN’s Indie Rock Hit Parade

Speedy Ortiz | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Don’t think for a second that music with pop leanings isn’t music for the mind. Take Philly indie four-piece Speedy Ortiz, which this week heads out on its last run of tour dates in support of this year’s awesome Twerp Verse LP. The band’s power chord riffs are ear pure candy, while frontperson Sadie Dupuis’ vocal melodies rise and fall in remarkably hooky arcs.

It’s fun to hear, but a closer listen reveals complexity, both structural — the odd angles and unexpected sharp turns each arrangement takes — and lyrical — Dupuis just published her first book of poetry, if that gives you any indication of the angle from which she approaches her songwriting.

One of the standouts when Speedy Ortiz recorded an Indie Rock Hit Parade session at WXPN last month was “I’m Blessed,” a song that burns and builds over about three different movements, and while the concluding melody seems in one sense uplifting, it’s also cathartic, as Dupuis spends the song unpacking repressed anger. Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Mirah

Mirah | Photo by Eric Schuman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is an artist with a celebrated and ever-evolving approach to songwriting. Though she was born here in Philadelphia, Mirah Zeitlyn is most closely connected to the music scenes of Olympia, Washington (and, more specifically, the venerated K Records label) and New York City. Over the course of the last decade, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Mirah perform her one-of-a-kind compositions in a variety of configurations. There was the live presentation of her insect-focused song cycle Share This Place, a collaboration with the Spectratone International string section, that featured stop motion creepy-crawlies projected above the stage. In 2011, Mirah teamed up with Thao Nguyen of the Get Down Stay Down for a co-headlining album (and memorable World Cafe session). This time around, Mirah brought two of the versatile musicians that appear on her new album, Understanding, bassist Maia Macdonald and drummer Andrew Maguire, to perform a set of new songs in our studio.

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Mass Gothic

Mass Gothic | Photo by Katie Tapman for XPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade session is a group that truly is a family affair. Led by the husband-and-wife duo of guitarist Noel Heroux and bassist Jessica Zambri, Mass Gothic released their second full-length album for Sub Pop, I’ve Tortured You Long Enough, earlier this year. Its title a winking nod to the often tumultuous nature of married life, the album weaves heartfelt ballads with experimental rockers in a thrilling and eclectic (and brightly colored) package. Just like on the record, Noel and Jessica are joined in this performance by keyboardist Cristi Jo Zambri (a performer in her own right and, as you might have deduced, Jessica’s sister) and drummer Joseph Stickney, who is Christi Jo’s partner. The fluid interplay between each member of Mass Gothic suggests a band that has ironed out all the kinks, but that doesn’t tell this album’s whole story. Listen to the live performances and hear the album unfold:

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Speedy Ortiz 2018

Speedy Ortiz | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session is a band that visited us back in 2015 when their last album was released. In the years since Foil Deer, Speedy Ortiz and its leader, singer/guitarist Sadie Dupuis, have kept rather busy. In addition to releasing a solo album as SAD13, Sadie relocated to Philadelphia and revamped her main band with a few new friends. Joining Sadie in the studio for this session are founding drummer Mike Falcone, guitarist/keyboardist Andy Molholt (also of Philly’s Laser Background), and bassist Audrey Zee Whitesides (whose credits include stints with Mal Blum and Lucky Cat). Speedy Ortiz dropped by our studios before they opened a sold-out show with Liz Phair at Union Transfer to perform songs from their newly released third album, Twerp Verse.

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Khruangbin

Khruangbin | Photo by Katie Tapman for WXPN

Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is the band behind my favorite album of 2018 (so far, anyway). The road to Khruangbin’s formation is as swirling and easily-paced as the band’s music. Guitarist Mark Speer and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson originally met when they played in a gospel band in their hometown of Houston, Texas. Later, Speer met bassist Laura Lee while touring with another band and the idea came up to form a group focused on performing a mélange of globally influenced music. Once the trio was assembled, their fusion of Thai funk, jazz, film music and more immediately caught people’s attention. Earlier this year, Khruangbin released their second album, Con Todo El Mundo. The album is an expertly crafted blend of in-pocket grooves, textural vocals and the occasional funk breakdown. Before the first of two sold-out shows opening for Leon Bridges at the Fillmore, Khruangbin stopped by our studio for a career-spanning live performance.

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