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Ali Awan, Strand of Oaks, Rachel Andie and more rocked #AmplifyPhilly at SXSW

Ali Awan at #AmplifyPhilly | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

Last month at SXSW in Austin, Texas, Amplify Philly convened during SXSW Interactive for three days of networking, cheerleading, panels, and partying from members of Philly’s tech, startup, business, music, and cultural communities. The Amplify Philly “house” took over the Pour Choices Bar and Restaurant in Downtown Austin for three days and nights. During the day, the programming featured panels and discussions, and the evenings were filled with some incredible Philly grown talent. Continue reading →

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Unpacking Strand of Oaks’ Eraserland in 10 essential lyrics

Strand of Oaks’ Eraserland | courtesy of Dead Oceans

Complicated thinkers make compelling art, and Tim Showalter was never one to look at the world simplistically. Whether it’s the hazy metaphorical view of loss and death in Pope Killdragon or the gutting emotional catharsis of HEAL, the Strand of Oaks frontman has historically excelled at reflecting on the turbulence of his life — and by extension, all of our lives — in an acute, multidimensional manner.

The latest Strand of Oaks record, Eraserland, is out today. It’s Showalter’s sixth release under that banner, it’s a culmination of most styles he’s dabbled in over the past 15 years — the folk introspection of his early years, the atmospheric mysticism of Killdragon and Dark Shores, the bold rock of the HEAL era, the dripping psychedelia of Hard Love — not to mention, as has been much discussed in the album rollout, it was made with some pretty famous friends.

Showalter’s backing band in the studio included most of My Morning Jacket — guitarist Carl Broemel, keyboardist Bo Koster, bassist Tom Blankenship, and drummer Patrick Hallahan — with contributions from Jason Isbell as well. In that regard, the album sounds extraordinary, but for this longtime Oaks listener, the people who worked on Eraserland might be the least interesting element of it. These songs are the most honest, raw, and vulnerable Showalter has ever been in his music. In them, we see a person who is not simply sad, or angry, but hopeless and terrified, confused and at an impasse, unsure of where or whether to go. And throughout the album’s ten songs, he articulates every one of those feelings. Continue reading →

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Slow down time with Strand of Oaks’ heartwarming home movie music video for “Ruby”

Strand of Oaks | photo by Alysse Gafkajen | courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia’s Strand of Oaks is readying the spring release of its sixth LP, Eraserland, and today frontman Tim Showalter brings us another taste of the record. Following the pensive build-and-burn of album opener “Weird Ways,” this teaser is a joyous pop anthem called “Ruby,” built around a ringing chord progression, snappy staccato keys, and a hooky refrain about not losing sight of the joy in life as time marches on: “Ruby, won’t you slow it down, this is happening so fast.”

“Ruby is by far one of the happiest songs I’ve ever written, unabashedly so,” Showalter writes on Twitter. “I know this seems like strange, uncharted waters for the Oaks catalog and especially Eraserland, but even the darkest night has a dawn. This is a song about the time and how with each year passing it feels like a dream.” Continue reading →

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Strand of Oaks is ready to transform on “Weird Ways” from new Eraserland LP

Strand of Oaks | photo by Alysse Gafkajen | courtesy of the artist
Strand of Oaks | photo by Alysse Gafkajen | courtesy of the artist

There’s an air of finality in the opening notes of Strand of Oaks‘ new single “Weird Ways,” as frontman Tim Showalter very plainly and directly sings “I don’t feel it anymore.”

Set to warm, close-mic’d acoustic guitar, with his robust baritone upfront in the mix, this is the intimate and vulnerable Showalter we hear once a year at the Boot & Saddle Winter Classic; it’s the Showalter of back-catalog songs like “Kill Dragon” and “Sister Evangeline.” And it’s a Showalter who, as he was writing, clearly felt out of place with the direction his music traveled versus the direction the music world was heading.

“The scene isn’t my scene anymore.”

This is the way that Strand of Oaks’ just-announced sixth album Eraserland begins, and a glance over song titles like “Final Fires” — or knowing the song “Keys” from his live set, where he sings “we should just run away” to his wife Sue — seem to paint a picture of somebody ready to move on.

But then a snare drum downbeat kicks in. And the realization hits — we’re not going anywhere just yet. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Strand of Oaks

Strand of Oaks | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in recurring installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

It was by luck of the draw that Tim Showalter became a Philadelphian. Having spent his childhood in his hometown of Goshen, Indiana, the Strand Of Oaks frontman was sold on Philly by a childhood friend of his who’d already pioneered the relocation, and to hear Showalter tell it, it hardly even feels adopted, anymore.

He makes reference to that several times, in a recent interview with us, effusive in his affection for all he feels Philly has been able to offer him over the past decade and a half here. Wearing his beard long and his lumberjack coat red, Showalter reminisced warmly about wandering the Wissahickon, building out his band, getting to see Philly legend Jack Rose play hallowed local stages like Brenda’s — and then, with a sense of genuine gratitude, the good fortune of getting to later play them himself.

Showalter also talks “Winter Classic”: a lineup of several consecutive Strand Of Oaks shows that launches tonight at Boot And Saddle. On deck this week to celebrate a fourth year of these gigs with him are folk-singer Joe Pug, and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel. Continue reading →

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Watch Tim Showalter’s Goshen Electric Co. perform “Ring The Bell”

Goshen Electric Co. | still from video

Strand of Oaks frontman Tim Showalter spent just half a day recording as Goshen Electric Co., but he spent the better part of two decades as a fan of the late Jason Molina, who wrote music as Magnolia Electric Co. and Songs: Ohia. Since Molina’s passing in 2013, many artists have paid tribute to the songwriter by covering his deeply moving songs, but Showalter has taken his tribute a step further by teaming up with the remaining members of the Magnolia Electric Co. band to form Goshen Electric Co. and record a 7″ of two Molina deep cuts, out today. Continue reading →

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Strand Of Oaks’ Winter Classic IV features guests Joe Pug and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In what’s become something of a Philly tradition, Strand of Oaks will return to South Broad Street’s Boot and Saddle this December for three nights in a row: the storied Oaks Winter Classic, edition IV. This year, the shows take place Thursday, December 6th; Friday, December 7th; and Saturday, December 8th.

Unlike last year’s gigs, where Showalter hand-picked different openers each night, these shows will all feature Greenbelt, Maryland singer-songwriter Joe Pug — a full-circle moment, since one of Showalter’s first tours in the wake of Pope Killdragon‘s success was opening for Pug — as well as Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket, who Strand of Oaks opened for at the Tower Theater in 2015. Continue reading →

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Watch Strand of Oaks reimagine “Same Emotions” live

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

While touring through Europe this summer with and festival hopping in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Montenegro, Strand of Oaks‘ frontman Tim Showalter teamed up with three amazing Dutch musicians for his EU backing band. Showalter and company transformed the 2014 HEAL cut, “Same Emotions,” and developed it from a vaguely new wave electronic jams into a face-melting rock track. With the help of Showalter’s Dutch companions, the track transforms into an expansive 6 and a half minutes, and was captured in video form on July 21st at the Sea Rock Festival in Kotor, Montenegro. Continue reading →

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Strand of Oaks’ Timothy Showalter joins Magnolia Electric Co. tribute to Jason Molina

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In the years following the death of iconic singer-songwriter Jason Molina, many artists have come together to pay tribute — namely, the Songs: Molina project, which was started by Molina’s bandmates from Songs: Ohia and the Magnolia Electric Co. Songs: Molina, a Memorial Electric Co. will tour Europe this fall, with the addition of a familiar local face — Strand of Oaks‘ Timothy Showalter.

Showalter is a longtime Molina fan — the Strand of Oaks song “JM” is named for the musician, and he’s been known to share the story of the only time the two met. Molina himself spent some time in Philadelphia recording his 2002 album Didn’t It Rain, and Philly’s Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner played slide guitar on the album. Also on the tour is Molina biographer Erin Osmon, author of Jason Molina: Riding With The Ghost. Continue reading →