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Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell showcase musical friendship at Union Transfer

Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

While walking east towards Union Transfer on Tuesday night, loud rain could be heard in the immediate distance. This was odd because no rain was falling where I was. Then, like out of a movie, I walked into a rainstorm. It was this otherworldly experience that ushered in a night of music with Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell.

Playing behind Sing Into My Mouth, a covers album they recently released, Sam Beam (aka Iron and Wine) and Bridwell (frontman of Band of Horses) showcased their musical friendship to a sold out crowd. Trading lead vocal duties and often singing in harmony, these old friends give their own folksy rock take to a number of varying tunes. Standout moments included Sade’s “Bulletproof Soul,” the unexpected Americana turn of Spiritualized with “The Straight and Narrow” and a rousing version of David Gilmour’s “There’s No Way Out of Here.” Continue reading →

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Awesome Collab Alert: Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell come together for Sing Into My Mouth

Ben Bridwell, Iron & Wine | Photo via Facebook.com/ironandwine
Ben Bridwell, Iron & Wine | Photo via Facebook.com/ironandwine

Longtime friends Sam Beam (otherwise known as Iron & Wine) and Band of Horses‘ Ben Bridwell have come together for their first collaborative album.

Sing Into My Mouth, which is scheduled for release on July 17, will hold 12 tracks that have influenced both men as musicians, such as  “No Way Out of Here,” originally recorded by Unicorn, and eventually released David Gilmour of Pink Floyd’s solo debut. The duo performed this track on last night’s Late Show with David Letterman. Continue reading →

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WXPN’s Best Albums of 2013 (so far)

Photo by Alex John Beck
Photo by Alex John Beck

The first six months of 2013 are almost a wrap and the amount of great new music that’s piped its way into our collective earbuds is staggering. Before another wave of releases hits us, we here at The Key decided to pause and take the temperature of the year in music so far. What albums are bringing everyone together? What albums have some folks uniquely excited?

An informal poll of the WXPN on-air staff showed a lot of consensus around Vampire Weekend‘s excellent third outing, Modern Vampires of the City. It appeared on all but two of the lists, and ranked number one with World Cafe‘s David Dye and evening / weekend host Eric Schuman.

Dye says “I think the reason Modern Vampires of The City stands out so much for me – besides the fact that from note one of their debut I have loved this band – is how it builds on their two album legacy. From the simplicity of the harmonies and piano of ‘Obvious Bicycle’ thru the unexpected manipulation of ‘Diane Young’ this is a band working to do things differently.  But of course they can’t escape their melodic and percussive strengths, nor would we want them to!  Seriously, every song is good.  Half a year from now I expect it to be near the top of 2013.”

Also appearing on several lists is the lush and orchestrated Ghost on Ghost, the latest from Iron and Wine. For his fifth album, singer and songwriter Sam Beam broadened his palette to incorporated jazzy textures and ambitious arrangements. When he performed at Union Transfer in support of it this May, Beam’s band numbered 13 musicians, all dressed to the nines. Earlier that same day, Beam played a solo acoustic set at World Cafe Live, and that was the performance that caught the ear of XPN Morning Show host Michaela Majoun.

“It really hit home what an extraordinary songwriter Sam Beam is when he performed some of these songs at NonComm,” she says. “His language is so eloquent and the music perfectly suited to the sensibility that comes through these songs.  What an inspired piece of work.”

The funky disco rhythms, smooth downbeat jams and ambitious movie soundtrack set-pieces that make up Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories also performed well among XPN’s hosts. Dye, Schuman and XPN Program Director Bruce Warren all ranked the album on their lists. Schuman says that his favorite thing about the album is its attitude.

“For Daft Punk, the pressure was on after a lackluster studio album in 2005, a renaissance tour in 2007 and little activity outside the film music world in the years since. They had a lot of options for what their new album could sound like, and I think that reinventing themselves as a live band that dabbles in prog-rock and soul is the duo’s boldest and most admirable move yet.”

Below, watch videos from each of these top performing records and dig a little deeper by reading each host’s personal top five. Do you agree with our picks? Did we miss anything? What are you looking forward to hearing in the second half of 2013? Let us know in the comments.

Continue reading →

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Dressed to impress, Iron and Wine charmed a sold-out Union Transfer crowd (photos, review, setlist)

All photos by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

It was quite the elegant affair at Union Transfer last night, and everyone and their mother was there (literally). Folksinger Sam Beam took the stage in a suit with slicked-back hair, followed by his band of 13 (yes, 13) who were all dressed to the nines. Backup singers in long black dresses, the horn section in dapper jackets – everyone looked ready to impress. Over the course of the 100 minute set, Iron & Wine played selections from more than 10 years of music to a very eager, if fickle, sold-out crowd.

Starting the show on an upbeat note, Iron & Wine’s horn section do-wopped and sashayed through the “The Desert Babbler” from April’s release, Ghost On Ghost. While older fans of Iron & Wine have brushed off the band’s more recent releases in favor of the beautiful melancholy that is Sam Beam’s solo work, it could not be denied that the group onstage was having a great time. The crowd, however, was reluctant to warm up until a few songs in. Continue reading →

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Non-COMM Recap: Listen to Sam Beam’s acoustic cocktail hour set (photos, audio, setlist)

Sam Beam of Iron and Wine got NonCOMM 2013 to a breathtaking start by playing a short acoustic set during the convention’s opening cocktail hour. He played four songs touching on the more recent end of his catalog before before heading across town to headline a sold-out show at Union Transfer. See photos from Beam’s performance in the gallery above, check out the setlist below and listen to his set here (via the WXPN media player). Continue reading →

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SXSW Dispatch: Public Radio Rocks! showcase with Charles Bradley, Pickwick, Vampire Weekend and more

Yesterday a stacked, eclectic lineup took the Austin Convention Radio Day Stage for an afternoon-long show thrown by Triple-A public radio stations WFUV in New York, The Current in Minneapolis / St. Paul, KXT in Dallas, KUTX in Austin and WXPN.

The Public Radio Rocks! showcase kicked off with gritty rockers Divine Fits; went into introspective mode in a collaborative set by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, and a solo performance by Iron & Wine‘s Sam Beam; spotlighted classic soul showmanship care of Daptone Records all-star Charles Bradley; introduced the crowd to new soul-rock outfit Pickwick, from Seattle; brought perennial favorites Dawes out to regale the room with tunes from their new record; and wrapped up with Vampire Weekend playing to a massively packed house.

Check out scenes from the day in the photo gallery above, and watch videos of Vampire Weekend playing “A Punk” and Iron & Wine playing “Woman King” below.

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Iron & Wine and The Low Anthem (tonight at Electric Factory) to release Daytrotter sessions on vinyl

Earlier today, it was announced that Iron And Wine and The Low Anthem‘s Daytrotter sessions will be released via a limited-edition split 12-inch on May 17; the release—which is a joint venture between the website and the bands—will be limited to 1,000 copies and sold primarily at independent record stores (with copies also available from the Daytrotter, Iron And Wine, and Low Anthem websites).

Paste Magazine notes:

The release is an extension of the relationship formed when Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam invited The Low Anthem to open his US tour. “We played some shows in the U. K. together and I thought they were great,” Beam said. “Last time I saw them, [Ben] started doing his feedback loop with his cell phone and the whole crowd. It was beautiful. They’re just fun to watch. And their music’s great.”

Iron And Wine and The Low Anthem perform at 8:30 p.m. at Electric Factory; tickets to the show are $32. You can listen to the Iron & Wine and The Low Anthem sessions via the Daytrotter website.

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This Week’s Contest: Win a pair of tickets to see Iron And Wine at Electric Factory on April 21st

This week, we’ve got a pair of tickets to give away for Iron And Wine‘s performance with The Low Anthem at 8:30 p.m. at Electric Factory on Thursday, April 21st. For a chance to win the tickets, all you have to do is leave a comment below by 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 13th. We’ll select the winners at random that evening and notify them via email; once you’ve confirmed that you and your guest will be attending the show, your names will be added to the venue’s guest list. (Just, you know, make sure to use a valid email address when posting your comment; we promise not to sell your contact info or sign you up for anything—we just want to be able to get in touch with you if you win.)