Listen to Polica’s Shulamith via NPR Music First Listen (playing Union Transfer on 11/5)

Polica | Photo by Kyle Costill
Polica | Photo by Kyle Costill

Mysterious Minneapolis electronic pop trio Polica fast became and XPN favorite following the release of their 2012 debut Give You The Ghost. After a year and a half of heard touring – which brought them to NonCOMM in 2012 and XPoNential Music Festival in 2013 – the band returns this fall with its followup LP, Shulamith. The album will be released on October 22 via Mom + Pop Music, but you can listen to it a week early via NPR Music’s First Listen series. NPR’s Andrea Swesson said this record sees the band finding its voice:

Not only does it build on the band’s established sound — a slinky, otherworldly style of electro-pop that mixes Channy Leaneagh’s angelic voice with distorted, occasionally disturbing sound manipulations and harrowing dual drums — but it also pushes them forward into exciting new creative areas. Whereas Give You the Ghost sounded like a Ryan Olson record with a guest vocalist finding her way to the forefront (Olson laid some of the groundwork for its sound as leader of Gayngs), Shulamith is a Channy Leaneagh record, plain and simple.

Listen to Shulamith in its entriety via NPR Music here. XPN Welcomes Polica to Union Transfer on Tuesday, November 5th. Tickets and information can be found here. Below, watch a video of the band performing at XPo Fest.


Stream the long awaited new Dismemberment Plan album, Uncanney Valley (XPN Welcomes the band to Union Transfer on 11/3)

Photo by Shervin Lainez
Photo by Shervin Lainez
After a 12 year recording hiatus, the Washington D.C. band The Dismemberment Plan release their new album, Uncanney Valley on Tuesday, October 15th. While lead singer Travis Morrison and his band mates pursued careers outside of rock and roll, the band did a show at the Roots’ picnic in June, 2011 during which bassist Eric Axelson told me, “Everyone’s pretty open to whatever happens,” when asked what the future for the band looked like. At the time Axelson said, “if we write, it’ll be fun, but we don’t want to force it.” Clearly not forced, the long wait for new D-Plan music is over with the release of their new album.

Stephen Thompson of NPR Music says Uncanney Valley “finds the band comfortably wearing its most playful face yet. Throughout the album, Morrison remains a wryly funny, deadpan-candid craftsman where words are concerned, while the band backs him with alternately loose and jittery arrangements.”

Listen to Uncanney Valley in its entirety here.

WXPN Welcomes The D-Plan to Union Transfer on Sunday, November 3rd. Go here for tickets.


Listen to the new Cults album, Static (playing TLA 10/23)

Olivia Malone/Courtesy of the artist
Olivia Malone/Courtesy of the artist
It’s been since June, 2011, when Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion of Cults released their debut album. The band has a new record, Static, being released on Tuesday, October 15th. Stephen Thompson, of NPR Music writes: “Like Cults’ self-titled 2011 debut, the duo’s new album keeps its sound rooted in a kind of plaintive shimmer — Follin remains approachable even as her words tap into the mystery and desolation wired into many of the arrangements.”

You can listen to the new Cults album in its entirety here. You can sample a new song, “High Road,” below.

The band performs at the TLA on Wednesday, October 23rd. Go here for tickets and more information.

Purchase Static here.

Listen to the new Cults album, Static, in its entirety here.


First Listen: Stream XPN Artist To Watch Haim’s new album, Days Are Gone

haim Our Artist To Watch this month is the Los Angeles based band of sisters Haim. They release their debut album, Days Are Gone, next Tuesday, September 30th. You can listen to their debut now, in its entirety here via NPR Music. Ann Powers of NPR writes:

HAIM’s thoughtful, playful music is good for the radio, good for rock, and good for music lovers of all ages who need to carve out a little space to dream. Diving into so many different musical wellsprings, HAIM discovered its specific superpower: the ability to channel influences most listeners recognize within a fresh, personal sound. It’s easy to play the game of references on Days Are Gone. “Honey & I” re-imagines Fleetwood Mac as a duo with just Lindsey and Christine; “The Wire” throws its Shania Twain guitar riff against a wall built by The Bangles. The wonderfully moody “My Song 5” imagines a perfect union of Nirvana and TLC. “Running If You Call My Name” runs up that hill in the Kate Bush and finds Tom Petty free-falling on the other side. And so on, until the jukebox is exhausted.

Listen to Days Are Gone here.
Purchase the album here.


Stream the new Mazzy Star album Seasons Of Your Day (playing Union Transfer on 11/22)


Mazzy Star will release Seasons Of Your Day next Tuesday, their first new album since 1996.  NPR Music has chosen the record for its First Listen feature this week and you can stream the full LP here.  From NPR’s Will Hermes:

Seasons of Your Day (out Sept. 24) is the first Mazzy Star record in 17 years, and it comes as the group’s sound is being echoed by younger artists — see Baltimore’s shadowy Beach House and the mutable glam-pop of Lana Del Rey. It’s a lovely, intoxicating record, but the group’s sound has also evolved…. Sandoval’s singing has become much more interesting since those early days — her phrasing more nuanced, less somnambulant, no longer so smothered in reverb. David Roback, Mazzy Star’s other central figure, is playing more acoustic guitar alongside his signature summer-of-love electric, and there’s a strong English folk and blues flavor on Seasons that recalls albums by Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions, the singer’s project of the past decade.

Tickets and information for Mazzy Star’s show at Union Transfer on November 22nd can be found here.  Stream Season Of Your Day here and listen to “California” off of the new record below.


Stream the new Chvrches album The Bones of What You Believe (playing Union Transfer Wed. 9/19)

chvrches The Scottish electro-pop band Chvrches release their debut full length album, The Bones of what You Believe next Tuesday, September 24th but you can listen to it in its entirety here via NPR Music.

Stephen Thompson of NPR Music writes:

Singer Lauren Mayberry, a former music journalist who’s toiled in local bands around Glasgow, has an idiosyncratically lovely voice to match her understanding of what builds a frontwoman’s mystique; she knows how and when to project charm, vulnerability, guts and grit.

The Bones of What You Believe does a fine job gathering up all of Chvrches’ charms into one diverse but cohesive collection of brightly rendered buzzy wonders. Those who’ve followed the band’s rise closely will recognize roughly a third of these songs: “The Mother We Share,” “Lies,” “Recover,” and “Gun” have already surfaced as singles in the run up to this, a big moment in its short but eventful history. But those fully vetted highlights don’t overwhelm the eight lesser-known tracks here — even those in which Mayberry cedes the spotlight to capable bandmates Iain Cook (a veteran of Aerogramme) and Martin Doherty (a touring member of The WTilight Sad ). Instead, all 12 songs help paint a picture of Chvrches as a band ready for the world; one that bridges styles and eras on the strength of its own charisma.

Chvrches play Union Transfer this Wednesday, September 19th. Go here for tickets and more information to the show.

Listen to Chvrches The Bones of What You Believe here in its entirety.

Purchase The Bones of What You Believe here.


Stream the entire new Sebadoh album, Defend Yourself, playing Johnny Brenda’s on 11/2

Photo by: Bryan Zimmerman
Photo by: Bryan Zimmerman

Veteran indie-rockers Sebadoh – Lou Barlow, multi-instrumentalist Jason Loewenstein and drummer Bob D’Amico – return with a new album, Defend Yourself, on September 17th. Listen to the new Sebadoh album in its entirety here.

Stephen Thompson of NPR Music writes:

“In a year packed with unlikely indie-rock reunions — including new material by everyone from to to — it’s a thrill to hear Sebadoh return, sounding as all-over-the-map glorious as ever. Even as Barlow offers up clear-eyed postmortems of a wrecked marriage, Defend Yourself exudes the live-wire energy of a vital band brought back from the brink.”

Sebadoh perform at Johnny Brenda’s on Saturday, November 2nd. Go here for tickets and more information.

Listen to the new Sebadoh album in its entirety here via NPR Music.


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.