Our latest Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session is with a very prolific artist who’s one of our favorites. These days, Nick Diamonds (or Nick Thorburn, whichever) keeps busy as the lead singer and songwriter of Islands, though his work in The Unicorns, Mister Heavenly as well as a side hustle soundtracking films and podcasts has garnered similar acclaim. On his latest outing, Diamonds is joined by Islands keyboardist Evan Gordon for a duo arrangement that’s anything but sparse. While live performances on the tour behind Diamonds’ new solo album, City Of Quartz, flirt with a near industrial vibe, our session is effervescent and charming.
It’s been about a year since our friends Eternal Summers released an album, so that must mean it’s time for them to release another album! We’ll be joined yet again by the Roanoke trio on tonight’s Indie Rock Hit Parade, as they play songs from their newly released LP, Gold And Stone, live in our studio. Tonight’s full two-hour show also features a spotlight on City Of Quartz, the new solo album from Nick “Diamonds” Thorburn (Islands, The Unicorns). Plus a few of these selections in the mix:
Coming off of playing Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Montreal indie rockers Islands recently announced a Fall tour. Sadly, there’s no date in Philly yet, however they’ve shared a “bonus” song from their 2013 album, Ski Mask. Below, download “Aloe Hills Are Blooming.” Let’s hope they add a stop in Philly during their September tour.
Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company
English rockers Noah and the Whale will rock the TLA stage tonight. The band released its fourth album, Heart of Nowhere, last month via Caroline Records (it came out in the UK back in May). Their melodic alt-rock anthems are memorable and easy to enjoy. Get a taste of what to expect at tonight’s show below and get tickets here.
The Indie Rock Hit Parade returns from its holiday tonight at 10pm on WXPN! We might have taken the week off to enjoy this year’s XPoNential Music Festival, but the wheels of the music world kept a-turning, leaving us with lots of great new tracks to premier tonight. Check out a few of the songs you might hear in the mix tonight:
If you didn’t know the story behind A Sleep & A Forgetting, last Friday’s Free At Noon show might have left you wondering, “What happened to Islands?” The answer is that front man Nick Thorburn broke up with his long time partner, moved from New York to LA and, heartbroken, started writing the album on Valentine’s Day of last year. Released a year later, (on Valentine’s Day, appropriately) A Sleep & A Forgetting is a mellow, beach-rock handling of heartbreak and the moving-on process. And crying. Lots and lots of crying.
It seems that most songs on the album discuss crying, from opening tracks “In A Dream It Seemed Real” (“Even in the dream I cried”) and “This Is Not A Song” (“Feels a crime to be crying for this long”) to “No Crying” (no explanation necessary) and “Lonely Love” (“I heard you cry, cry”). A few songs talk about sorrow without outright discussing tears, including a tribute to Buddy Holly’s widow titled “Oh Maria,” and “Can’t Feel My Face,” which begins, “I miss my wife / I miss my best friend / Every night / I miss my home.” To top it off, the album was co-produced by Rob Schnapf, who famously worked with Elliott Smith. From content to context, this album should be depressing. Thankfully, Thorburn’s pop-rock weirdness wasn’t lost when he “lost [his] love”—a line from “Can’t Feel My Face.” The album, for all its sorrow, is an enjoyable listen and perhaps one of Thorburn’s best albums to date.
Though Thorburn has openly stated that this confessional album was inspired by his break-up, he remains as unpredictable as ever. Across the many bands and projects he’s written for—which include The Unicorns, Human Highway, Mister Heavenly, solo work under the name Nick Diamonds, guest work on Les Savy Fav’s Let’s Stay Friends, and Islands—Thorburn never uses the same style twice. Even within a single project, such as Islands, his sound varies enormously from album to album and from song to song. If listeners expected a Thorburn break-up album to be morose, then they expected him to be conventional, which is possibly the only thing he hasn’t tried yet.
A Sleep & A Forgetting has low moments, but they are balanced out by the buoyancy of the album’s delivery, a sound the group describes as “doom wop.” The result is reminiscent of The Kooks’ first album or of The Drums. It’s sad Beach Boys with a sprinkle of electronic experimentation and flourishes of jazz. Another surprising result of the beach-rock/break-up combo is the consistency across A Sleep & A Forgetting. Unlike Islands’ previous disparate albums, at 37 minutes, this is a short full-length composed of 11 brief songs: a record where every track adds to the story that it tells. A Sleep & A Forgetting is a tragic story, but it sounds fresh rather than raw, teeming with life instead of harping on the death of a relationship. A testament to the album’s duality is the way Thorburn performed it– dancing and shaking a tambourine during, of all songs, “Can’t Feel My Face.” His moves seemed a bit forced, but we’ll give him time. After all, Valentine’s Day was only a couple of weeks ago. –Naomi Shavin
1. In A Dream It Seemed Real
2. Lonely Love
3. Cold Again
4. This Is Not A Song
6. No Crying
7. Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby
8. Can’t Feel My Face
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24 Islands‘ fans were shown some love on Valentine’s Day with the release of the Canadian indie-rock band’s latest full-length album, A Sleep & A Forgetting. Yet blissful romance is hardly the album’s focal point: it was written following the end of frontman Nick Thorburn’s thorny relationship. One of the album’s earlier tracks, “This Is Not A Song,” is a somber telling of the past, and is indicative of most of the album’s tone. Not much has changed, however; we’re still graced with the same enchanting vocal harmonies and dreamy piano-pop feel. Due to popular demand, a second Philadelphia performance was added to the tour—and, with both shows now sold out, the men of Islands should be feeling plenty of love. Islands performs with Idiot Glee at 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. at First Unitarian Church; tickets to the all-ages shows are SOLD OUT. —Lisa Henderson
Also Playing: 1964 The Tribute at Keswick Theatre (8 p.m., all ages, $35-$40); Galactic + The Soul Rebels Brass Band at Union Transfer (9 p.m., all ages, $25); Zee Avi + Geology at Milkboy Philly (9:30 p .m., 21+, $12–$14)
NOTE: The The Twilight Sad + Forest Fire and Micah P. Hinson show at Johnny Brenda’s has been CANCELED.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25th Buried Beds is no stranger to the local music scene. In fact, the band has been around for quite a while, having received recognition as “Best Band” in Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of Philly” issue all the way back in 2004. The band has always had a knack for switching things up, whether it’s alternating male and female leads on vocals or adding a whopping six members to its live orchestral ensemble (complete with piano and strings). More recently, the band has made guest appearances on albums by other local artists such as mewithoutYou and Dr. Dog. Perhaps, as Buried Beds continues to slowly but surely gain the recognition it deserves in Philly, it will eventually start turning some heads outside of its hometown. Buried Beds performs with The Spinto Band and The Building at 9:15 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $10. —Lisa Henderson
Slutever, Little Big League, Dear Althea, and Mannequin Pussy: four bands on the same bill at Kung Fu Necktie, all of which are rooted in the Riot Grrrl and punk scenes. The noisy punk duo Slutever sounds like it was directly transported here from the early ’90s. The recently formed Little Big League, meanwhile, finds itself on the mellower end of the angst spectrum—which is to be expected from a group composed of Michelle Zauner and Kevin O’Halloran of Post Post, punk rocker Ian Dykstra of Titus Andronicus, and Deven Craige of Strand Of Oaks. It wouldn’t be a local Grrrl Punk showcase without the Sleater-Kinney-inspired Dear Althea. (Listen to John Vettese’s recent Philly Local Philes featuring Little Big League and Dear Althea.) Rounding out the show with the most rage is Mannequin Pussy, which brands itself as “childhood pals turned degenerates,” and sounds exactly like that. Slutever, Little Big League, Dear Althea, and Mannequin Pussy perform at 8 p.m. at Kung Fu Necktie; tickets to the 21+ show are $8. —Naomi Shavin
Also Playing: 1964 The Tribute at Keswick Theatre (8 p.m., all ages, $35-$40); Blayer Pointdujour + The Reckless Dodgers, Faux Slang at The Level Room (9:15 p.m., 21+, $10); Heartless Bastards + Hacienda, Devin Therriault at Union Transfer (8:30 p.m., all ages, $16–$18); The Pink Floyd Experience at Electric Factory (8:30 p.m., all ages, $26); Laura Mann And The Lifeboys at Tin Angel (21+, $10)
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25th
John Condron + Mickey Harte at Tin Angel (7 p.m., 21+, $10); Modern Inventors + Boom Chick, The Best Westerns at Kung Fu Necktie (8 p.m., 21+, $8)
Below, you can check out the new Islands video for the song “Hallways” from the band’s latest album, A Sleep & A Forgetting, which came out earlier this month via Anti- Records. Islands will perform a Free At Noon Concert at World Cafe Live on Friday, February 24th, followed by a pair of sold-out shows at First Unitarian Church.
Islands will perform a Free At Noon Concert at World Cafe Live on Friday, February 24th. The Canadian indie-rock act is touring behind its brand-new album, A Sleep & A Forgetting, which came out earlier this week via Anti- Records.
Tickets become available to the general public tomorrow afternoon following the Free At Noon performance by Joe Louis Walker; for earlier access to Free At Noon tickets, sign up for WXPN’s weekly email newsletter—you’ll be able to RSVP on Thursday mornings, immediately after the performing act has been announced.
As always, check back with The Key on Friday afternoon after the show for additional coverage, including a recording of the full performance.