Listen to the new Elvis Costello & The Roots’Wise Up Ghost in its entirety

elvis&thetroots Elvis Costello and The Roots’ new album, Wise Up Ghost, comes out September 17th on Blue Note Records.

Listen to the album in its entirety here.

The Roots and Costello’s collaboration began when Elvis was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where The Roots are the house band. Ben Greenman, co-author of Questlove’s autobiography, Mo’ Meta Blue accounts:

The Roots’ iconic drummer, suggested the project to Costello. “I subliminally put out the idea of a larger collaboration,” Questlove says. “Or maybe passive-aggressively—I was too afraid to actually suggest that we should make a record together.” The project was originally envisioned as an EP, but the field of vision expanded. “I had worked with them enough on Fallon to know it was a good match,” Costello says. “This is a band that does what I’ve done from the start: they draw off everything, all types of music.”

About the album, Ann Powers of NPR Music writes:

Though it’s not a concept album (that’s Undun, the 2011 Roots album it sometimes brings to mind), Wise Up Ghost has a unifying theme: trouble, as it bubbles up inside bedrooms, snakes through the halls of power and festers on the streets. This is sexy music about scary topics like the abuse of power and the manipulation of desire. Is the woman in “(She Might Be A) Grenade” a lover or a spy? Does the spent prophet singing the title track warn of hardening hearts or of a creeping totalitarian threat? It’s both, throughout these songs, each examining the individual betrayals and dashed ideals that contribute to a culture’s demise. “Cinco Minutos Con Vos,” a duet with the dazzling La Marisoul of the L.A. band , comes on like a Joan Didion novel, humid with the mist of terror. “Come the Meantimes” glances sidelong at apocalypse in ways Curtis Mayfield would have appreciated. Throughout the album, Costello also samples from his own earlier songs; that literary touch recalls the self-referential mirror games of writers like Jorge Luis Borges, even as it nods to the wordplay of rappers like the one absent Roots member, Black Thought.

The sound of Wise Up Ghost comes closer to the early-’70s cinematic funk of and than to anything else. Strings swell and horns punch, but everything stays true to the rhythm ?uestlove, percussionist Frank Knuckles and bassist Mark Kelley lay down. Co-producer Steven Mandel’s mix opens up the songs’ complex arrangements so that little details — bells tinkling, a murmured aside — widen every scene. Listening, it’s hard to separate oneself from these dreamy nightmares.

Listen to the record via NPR Music here.


Stream Kiss Land, the new album by The Weeknd (playing Susquehanna Bank Center 10/4)

La Mar C. Taylor/Courtesy of the artist
La Mar C. Taylor/Courtesy of the artist
Canadian rapper and singer Abel Tesfaye, who performs as The Weeknd, emerged in a haze of mystery in 2010, and in 2011 released three albums of music for free. Almost immediately The Weeknd captured the attention of music fans and critics with a slow to mid-tempo R&B sound that was a cross between Drake and Massive Attack with sample choices as diverse as Beach House, Portishead, and Siouxie and The Banshees. The first three records were remastered and released as Trilogy in 2012 and he releases his new album, Kiss Land, on September 10th. The Weeknd plays the Susquehanna Bank Center on Friday, October 4th. Go here for tickets and more information.

You can stream Kiss Land in its entirety here via NPR Music, or sample a couple songs below.


Stream Neko Case’s new album in its entirety via NPR Music First Listen (XPN Welcomes Neko Case to the Electric Factory 9/25)

Photo bu Emily Shur
Photo by Emily Shur
Neko Case releases her new album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, on September 3rd. You can stream the new album in its entirety here via NPR Music. Stephen Thompson of NPR Music writes:

Case’s gift for disarming commentary carries over to the quotable, thoughtful, frequently lovely songs on The Worse Things Get: She can be bracingly acerbic (as in the aggressive power-pop gender-bender “Man”), boldly inspiring (“Ragtime” again: “I am one and the same / I am useful and strange”), or achingly tender (as in her Nico cover “Afraid,” with its gasp-inducing delivery of the words, “You are beautiful and you are alone”) while conveying equal, virtually boundless charisma.

Recorded with an assortment of her favorite collaborators — including producer Tucker Martine, longtime backup singer Kelly Hogan, M. Ward, her New Pornographers colleague A.C. Newman, Visqueen’s Rachel Flotard, and many more — The Worse Things Get (out Sept. 3) tucks thrills into its margins and doles them out in time-release doses. As her subtle touches suddenly cohere and register as surprises six or eight listens later (wait, are those submarine noises?), it’s clear that Case remains essentially peerless: No one sounds like her, so every little revelation feels altogether new.

Stream Case’s new album here.

WXPN Welcomes Neko Case to the Electric Factory on Wednesday, September 25th. Go here for tickets and more information about the show.


Stream No Age’s new LP An Object via NPR Music (playing PhilaMOCA on 9/7)


L.A.’s No Age will release An Object next week, the experimental / punk noise duo’s follow-up to 2010′s Everything in Between.  Streaming now on NPR Music’s First Listen, An Object is a bit of a departure from No Age’s earlier efforts in both sound and presentation.  Songs like “Lock Box” and “Defector/ed” are rooted in the grungy punk days of Everything in Between, but instead of an all-out, 30 minute thrash fest, there are many moments of melodic and delicate beauty that, together with the brashness, reflect the mission of the album to be an exploration of dichotomies (analog vs. digital, tangible objects vs. intangible elements).  No Age will play PhilaMOCA on September 7th with Perfume River; tickets and information can be found here.  Stream “An Impression” below and listen to the full album here.


Stream Bosnian Rainbows’ new LP on First Listen (playing Underground Arts on 7/13)

Bosnian Rainbows at the First Unitarian Church | Photo by Chris Sikich
Bosnian Rainbows at the First Unitarian Church | Photo by Chris Sikich

With the new collaboration between Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Teri Gender Bender on the cusp of releasing its debut self-titled full-length, NPR Music has picked up Bosnian Rainbows for a First Listen feature this week.  The album is heavy, enigmatic and, at times, terrifying with Lopez’s rich and twisting guitar playing swerving around Gender Bender’s incredibly powerful vocal performance.  From NPR:

Every song on Bosnian Rainbows is catchy and anthemic, with frequent nods to the ’80s work of Simple Minds and Bowie. Lopez, who can get too tangled in his own head, here finds a way to package his ideas in a succinct and digestible way. Songs like the bouncy “Torn Maps” and the wistful “Turtlenecks” are easy to enjoy, but not too reduced — they’re full of rich narratives, unusual musical progressions and cryptic, Tori Amos-esque lyrics to keep listeners feeling both included and intrigued.

Bosnian Rainbows will release the LP via Sargent House on June 25th and will play Underground Arts on July 13th.  Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here.  Stream Bosnian Rainbows in its entirety here and watch a video of the band performing “Morning Sickness” from their March show at the First Unitarian Church below.


Stream Gold Panda’s new LP Half of Where You Live (playing Union Transfer on 10/13)

gold panda

Electronic artist Gold Panda will release Half of Where You Live via Ghostly International on June 11.  The second full-length from the English producer, the album represents a complete 180 in Panda’s life in terms of experiential environment.  While his 2010 debut LP Lucky Shiner was recorded during a pet sitting gig, the recording of Half of Where You Live followed a period of extensive traveling that took Panda to Asia, South America and beyond.  This exposure seems to have influenced the album in several ways, from phrases in the vocal samples to instrument choices and of course rhythmically.  From the press release:

The whole album, in fact, is described as a “city album” by its maker, and it’s easy to see why — each track possesses a different aesthetic and reflects a different environment. Gold Panda describes it as “a jump from location to location… I felt like I was stealing a piece of each place I went to.” ‘Community’ is a house-tinged reflection on cultural divides in London, while “Brazil” catalogs Gold Panda’s arrival in Sao Paolo….

Half of Where You Live is up for streaming via NPR Music First Listen on XPN’s website here.  After a sold-out Johnny Brenda’s show last month, Gold Panda announced another Philadelphia show at Union Transfer on October 13th.  Tickets and information can be found here.  Listen to “Brazil” below.


Stream new She & Him album via NPR Music (playing The Mann Center on 7/9)

she & him

Set for official release on May 14th, She & Him‘s Volume 3 is streaming on NPR Music’s First Listen this week.  It’s been three years since Zooey Deschanel and M Ward’s last offering, though that’s no surprise given Deschanel’s other projects.  Though Ward contributes occasional vocals on the album, his primary role is as the arranger and, as NPR points out, the songs are clearly Deschanel’s:

Playful, soft, sunnily melancholy and springlike, its songs once again subsist on the strength of their own agreeability. Timelessness has long been key to She & Him’s charm, and indeed, Volume 3 seems to be floating through AM speakers at all times. But the album also demonstrates that there’s more to Deschanel than her doe-eyed New Girl persona would suggest: She & Him is led by a confident singer-songwriter who, on records and elsewhere, knows exactly what she’s doing.

XPN welcomes She & Him have to The Mann Center on July 9th with Camera Obscura.  Tickets and information can be found here.  Stream Volume 3 here and listen to “Never Wanted Your Love” below.


Stream Laura Mvula’s debut album, Sing To The Moon, in its entirety (playing WXPN’s Non-Comm music conference in May)

lauramvula_nyc_516_rt_hi_res One of the most beautiful and unique new voices we’ve heard this year belongs to UK based singer-songwriter Laura Mvula. Her debut album, Sing To The Moon, was released this week. You can stream the album in its entirety here. Like Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse, Mvula has a striking and exotic voice. She blends soul, jazz and pop music in magical ways. For Mvula, it’s not just about her engaging voice, it’s about her unparalleled musical vision. Stephen Thompson, writing about the album for NPR Music has this to say:

Classically trained and only 26, Mvula writes songs that sound like the whole world at once, making Sing to the Moon — out digitally Tuesday, with a physical release to follow on May 14 — an auspicious debut in a year full of them. Equally adept at radiating joy (“Like the Morning Dew”), articulating a socially conscious mission statement (“That’s Alright”), and singing sweet ballads (the harp-infused “Can’t Live With the World”), Mvula radiates the worldly confidence of a singer twice her age.

Mvula was scheduled to play at World Cafe Live next week, however her show was cancelled. She’ll be back in town to play the WXPN Non-Comm in May, which will be broadcast live. More details soon on the live broadcast.


Listen to Inspiration Information / Wings of Love from Shuggie Otis via NPR’s First Listen (playing The Blockley on 8/9)

shuggiecouch630R&B recording artist Shuggie Otis will celebrate the deluxe reissue of his 1974 record Inspiration Information (paired with a selection of unreleased tracks on Wings of Love) next Tuesday when the double album is released through Sony’s Legacy label.  Now streaming in full courtesy of NPR’s First Listen series, the release comes hand in hand with an international tour, which brings the iconic musician to Philadelphia for the first time in two decades in August.  From NPR:

Shuggie Otis has long been adjacent to worldwide stardom. His late father, the R&B legendJohnny Otis, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The younger Otis’ most ardent fans consider his brief late-’60s and early-’70s recording career to have produced works on par with those of Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix.

The nine-songInspiration Information… took three years to record, in part because Otis insisted on playing and singing every part himself. But the work itself — a sublime mix of psychedelia, blues, pop and soul — possesses a dreamy quality that’s intoxicating and untethered to any era.

Best known for his 1971 hit “Strawberry Letter 23″ (recorded by The Brothers Johnson and sampled by OutKast for “Ms. Jackson”), Otis has kept to himself over the years but has recently announced plans to work on a brand new album with his new band.  Get prepped for Shuggie Otis’s return by streaming Inspiration Information / Wings of Love here and watch him perform “Strawberry Letter 23″ live in London below.  XPN welcomes Otis to The Blockley with Mutlu on August 9th; tickets and information can be found here.


Stream Iron & Wine’s Ghost On Ghost via NPR’s First Listen (playing Union Transfer on 5/15)

Iron and Wine | Photo by Laura Fedele |  WFUV
Iron and Wine | Photo by Laura Fedele | WFUV

Iron & Wine will release Ghost On Ghost next Monday through 4AD but you can stream the album in full via NPR’s First Listen feature this week.  Ghost follows 2011′s Kiss Each Other Clean with a more fully realized palate of sounds that approach orchestral and a Fleet Foxes meet My Morning Jacket feel.  From NPR:

For all its rich, Technicolor brightness, Iron and Wine’s new Ghost on Ghost retains the capacity to burrow knowingly into bleak Wisconsin winters (“Winter Prayers”) with an acute understanding of loneliness and alienation. Even amid cheery oohs and ahhs, “The Desert Babbler” finds Beam warning wearily, “California’s gonna kill you soon.”

Even if his next album finds him at the head of a 100-piece symphony, he’ll still build its arrangements around accessible emotions, with a deceptively soft touch and turns of phrase that cut to the marrow.

XPN welcomes Iron & Wine to Union Transfer on Wednesday, May 15th, with The Secret Sisters; tickets and information can be found here.  Below, watch Sam Beam perform “Naked As We Come” at the SXSW Public Radio Rocks stage presented by WXPN and stream Ghost On Ghost here.