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Imperfect Perfection: Neutral Milk Hotel plays an elated set at the Mann Center

There’s probably no indie rock group surrounded by more enigma than Neutral Milk Hotel. Their second record, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, is considered by many to be one of those elusive perfect albums. I’m not quite sure about perfect (maybe it’s just that I have a minor beef with “King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 2”, but not 3), but it’s certainly a record unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. To add to the intrigue, the band’s auteur, Jeff Mangum, played white rabbit in a magic trick and, for all intents and purposes, disappeared from the public eye a year after Aeroplane‘s release. After a decade of near hermitage, Mangum started playing shows, and has just recently reunited the original Aeroplane lineup for a reunion tour. Even though he’s no longer in mysterious hiding, he refuses to give an interview, record a followup record, or even be photographed. I guess it’s a case of wanting the music to speak for itself, but the world may never really know. So just as with any great indie rock show, music geeks, hipsters and fans of beards alike made their way out to The Mann Center on a beautiful midsummer evening to hear the most mystifying act in music. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Trails and Ways at Boot and Saddle, Neutral Milk Hotel at Mann Center, OOIOO at Johnny Brenda’s

Photo via facebook.com/TRAILSANDWAYS
Photo via facebook.com/TRAILSANDWAYS

Oakland quartet Trails and Ways are causing quite a stir. Two years ago, the band released their debut EP Trilingual, which had multilingual lyrics, political themes and an eclectic blend of 90s shoegaze and modern beats. For example, “Border Crosser” is in support of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. When they’re not making great, politically active music, the band also does dope covers, like their trilingual take on Frank Ocean’s “Lost”. Watch their video for “Tereza” below. The band will make its Philly debut tonight with another talented band, PHOX. Get more details at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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5 Indie Rock shows you can’t miss this summer

Photo via facebook.com/TheStrypes
Photo via facebook.com/TheStrypes

Indie rock is a diverse field and hard to specify, other than, you know, it’s indie rock. Keeping that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to highlight the variety of indie rock shows playing in Philly through July and August. Included are new local artists, like Vita and the Woolf as well as great classics, like Neutral Milk Hotel. The genres run through American folk, punk, and blues.

1. OK Fest August 1st and 2nd at Golden Tea House and Nacho House

OK Fest is possibly one of the coolest festivals this summer, at least in terms of indie punk. Presented by Philly’s Golden Tea House, the festival is all ages, has tickets at extremely low prices ($8 to $12) and a truly amazing lineup. Highlights for the first day include are locals Amanda X, Radiator Hospital, who released their newest LP Touch Song this month, Cayetana who did a great Key Studio Session, a phenomenal Shaking Through Session and talked about singing to a label on NPR. On August 2nd, the awesomeness continues with Speedy Ortiz who released their Real Hair EP in February and Swearin’ who did a fun Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session. Listen to Speedy Ortiz’s “American Horror” from Real Hair below.

2. Vita and the Woolf July 15th at Ortlieb’s

Vita, of the talented new duo of Vita and the Woolf is playing at Ortlieb’s July 15th. Featuring the soaring vocals of Jennifer Pague and the beats by Joey Anderson, the band has an EP Fang Song on the way. They recently played at Walla Fest. Their light though somewhat melancholy music draws comparisons to Florence and the Machine as well as Arcade Fire. Let their music sweep you into a great night of music, along with Thunderhank and I Am Love. Listen to “Mary” from Fang Song below. And if you miss this show, Vita & The Woolf will be performing for the EP release party on September 20th at Ortlieb’s.

3. The Strypes August 20th Union Transfer

Irish rock band, The Strypes, have been getting a lot of attention both for their music as well as their youth. Only 15 to 17 years old, they’ve been on tour with the Arctic Monkeys and played in a slew of huge festivals like Glastonbury and SXSW. In March, the group released their first full length, Snapshot. The music is a classic high tempo rock and roll, infused in R & B and the blues. The group makes the classic genre their own, by playing with reckless abandon and high energy. In other words, it’s the perfect show to end summer. Watch the video for “Mystery Man” below.

The Strypes – Mystery Man from Finn Keenan on Vimeo.

4. Sun Kil Moon July 23rd at Union Transfer

Sun Kil Moon, the moniker of Mark Kozelek, makes a reflective, moody combination of acoustic guitar and intimate lyrics. Earlier this year, Sun Kil Moon released a beautiful, harrowing album Benji. The album chronicles the life of Benji, a country man, and his many sorrows. In many ways, it’s the most personal and intimate album Sun Kil Moon has released. Recently, he’s pairing up with Volcano Choir (Bon Iver’s side project) for a release for Project Carousel Restoration. The performance should be a welcome respite from the relentless summer energy. Listen to the ballad of “Carissa” below.

5.  Neutral Milk Hotel July 21st at The Mann

Despite having broken nearly 16 years ago, no new music, and imminent retirement, Neutral Milk Hotel continues to tour. In fact, they extended their tour due to the overwhelming public response, including two sold-out shows in Philly last year. Recently, Jeff Mangum was featured in a fun, candid feature about getting signed onto Merge Records. As a bonus, the band also released a free download of “Song Against Sex” from On Avery Island. Grab your tickets while there still available and settle in for a nostalgic, beautiful night. Listen to “King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1″ from In the Aeroplane Over the Sea below.

Find more details about these shows (and many others) at the XPN Concert Calender.

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Just Announced: Neutral Milk Hotel returns on 7/21 for a show at The Mann

 

Neutral Milk Hotel | photo via www.glidemagazine.com
Neutral Milk Hotel | photo via www.glidemagazine.com

In the wake of two instantly sold-out shows in Philadelphia last week, Neutral Milk Hotel have announced a tour extension that brings them back to town for a show at The Mann on July 21st.  Jeff Mangum and his band released two studio albums in the 90s that reached the height of their popularity after the band’s dissolution, but they have been back in the spotlight since Mangum’s recent solo tours, despite no new material since 1998.  Tickets will go on sale February 7th; more information will be available here.