Listen to The War On Drugs covering “Touch Of Grey,” Courtney Barnett covering “New Speedway Boogie” and more from The National’s Grateful Dead tribute comp

the war on drugs
The War on Drugs | Photo by Kate McCann |

Confession: I’ve never considered myself a “Deadhead.” Every once in a while when I was growing up, my dad would play “Friend of the Devil” or “Brokedown Palace” (pretty much just American Beauty). I’ve always enjoyed their music, but I’ve really only scratched the surface when it comes to their immense catalogue of live recordings, Dick’s Picks, and journeys into psychedelia.

But when it comes to songwriting and capturing the American experience, The Grateful Dead really were one of the greatest bands of the past 50 years. The National knows this, and apparently 58 other hugely successful bands and musicians do as well. That’s why the Dessner’s (Bryce & Aaron of The National) have assembled the outrageously massive Day Of The Dead tribute compilation, which features everyone from Bruce Hornsby to Wilco, Philly’s The War on Drugs to Bob Weir himself covering classic Dead tunes from their earliest stages up until present day. Continue reading →


The National complete all-star Grateful Dead tribute with Courtney Barnett, Wilco and more

Courtney Barnett | Photo By Noah Silvestry for WXPN |
Courtney Barnett | Photo By Noah Silvestry for WXPN |

After several years of working on a benefit compilation of Grateful Dead covers, The National have announced the track list and contributors of their Day of the Dead box-set. The 59-song album is the second all-star project members of The National have put together for AIDS organization Red Hot, following up 2009’s Dark Was the Night.

Continue reading →


WXPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Return To The Moon” by El VY

El Vy | Photo via
El Vy | Photo via

Matt Berninger, the lead singer and songwriter from The National and Brent Knopf from Portland’s Menomena and Ramona Falls have combined musical forces as El VY (pronounced El-Vye). Their debut, Return to the Moon, is out October 30th with a tour that makes a stop at Union Transfer in Philly on November 10th. Continue reading →


Eaux Claires Day 1: Mud, Sweat and Tears

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman |

The journey to Eau Claire (pronounced “Oh Clare”), Wisconsin for the inaugural Eaux Claires (EXC) indiefolk mammoth of a festival started like a freak folk dream that never really stopped. From the time we pulled into the two hour wait line outside the muddy camping grounds Thursday night – during which antsy campers skipped up and down the aisles of cars and coolly flaunted their half-shaven haircuts on cig breaks – the party kept rolling with no signs of slowing down.

Lines of hipster drones sweated outside the gates from 10 a.m. Friday morning until they could break through to music mecca curated by the one and only Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver. (Our staff photog Jeremy cleverly nicknamed the festival #BonnarooIver.) Make no mistake about it; everything on these grounds felt handpicked by JV from the focus on Midwestern artists – every artist on the bill had a personal connection to Vernon, even those of non-Midwestern descent – to the oddly terrifying family zone – more on that tomorrow. Continue reading →


Listen to Strand Of Oaks cover The National’s “Pink Rabbits”

Strand of Oaks | Photo by Dusdin Condren
Strand of Oaks | Photo by Dusdin Condren

Strand of Oaks frontman Tim Showalter just released a powerful cover of The National’s “Pink Rabbits,” a song from the Brooklyn epic rock band’s 2013 album Trouble Will Find Me. The Oaks version is immediately original from the get-go, drawn out in layered synths and 80’s-style backbeats and centered around Showalter’s raw vocals. Noted by Stereogum for its powerful nature, Showalter alludes to the song’s personal relevance in his life. Continue reading →


Made in America day one blasts off with Kanye West, The National, J Cole, Mayer Hawthorne and more

Kanye West | Photo by John Vettese
Kanye West at Made in America | Photo by John Vettese

This year’s Made in America festival kicked off yesterday with an exhilarating lineup of performers along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The day spanned 11 hours and a spectrum of genres, from the discofied openers in Cherub to the hardcore punk / metal of Glassjaw; EDM hitmaker Baauer to funky fresh hiphop vet Big Daddy Kane; sweet soul grooves from Mayer Hawthorne to an explosive set from The National. And of course, the man of the hour was Kanye West, whose closing 90-minute performance was at peak energy throughout. Continue reading →


Listen to Matt Berninger and Andrew Bird’s rendition of “A Lyke Wake Dirge”

Photo via
Photo via Consequence of Sound

Matt Berninger, of The National, has been doing a lot of collaborations lately. In April, he sang with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Alec Ounsworth on “Coming Down” off of CYPH’s Only Run. He also appeared on Walter Martin’s “We Like the Zoo (‘Cause We’re Animals Too)” from We’re All Young Together and “I’ll See You In My Dreams” with Vince Giordano and the Night Hawks on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire Volume 2. Last but not least, The National did a cover of “The Rains of Castamere” from HBO’s Game of Thrones late last year.

More recently, Berninger paired up with Andrew Bird to sing “A Lyke Wake Dirge” for AMC’s Revolutionary War drama Turn. In a manner befitting a Puritan dirge about the travel of a soul to purgatory, Bird layers on his signature heavy strings. The vocals starts off with Berninger’s low voice, joined later by Bird’s, and then accompanied by a choir. The song is driven by a percussive acoustic guitar. The overall combination is unsettling, which suits the subject matter perfectly. The song is the second song that Berninger did for Turn. Earlier this year, he released “Hush“, the theme song featuring Joy Williams.

Catch the National August 30th as a part of Made in America. Get more information at the XPN Concert Calender. Listen to “A Lyke Wake Dirge” below.


The Week So Far: 11 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Steve Gunn Trio, W.C. Lindsay, Disclosure and more)

Father John Misty | Photo by Noah Silvestry |
Father John Misty | Photo by Noah Silvestry |

Relive the weekend’s live music with reviews and photos of The National, Father John Misty, Devendra Banhart, The Bailey Hounds and Of Monsters and Men [link]

The Steve Gunn Trio recorded a Key Studio Session while on tour with Kurt Vile [link]

War on Drugs bassist and Nightlands frontman Dave Hartley returns to The Top of The Key with a look at basketball nicknames [link]

New Jersey’s Aspiga premiered a new song called “Direction” from an upcoming 7″ split [link]

Take an in-depth look at Break It Up‘s debut self-titled LP, featured this week on Unlocked [link]

Stream the exclusive premiere of W.C. Lindsay‘s super fun Tree EP [link]

WXPN announced the daily line-up for this summer’s XPoNential Music Festival [link]

We have a Gotta Hear Song from Disclosure and a Gotta Watch Video of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell this week [link and link]

PhilaMOCA announced their second annual ERASERHOOD FOREVER celebration of David Lynch and the venue’s Callowhill neighborhood [link]

Last Good Tooth teamed up with Folkadelphia for this week’s live session [link]

Sigur Ros, Kate Nash and Neko Case announced Philly shows for the fall


The National enthrall a waterlogged crowd at the Mann Center (photos, review, setlist)

All photos by Noah Silvestry |

Brooklyn based indie rock group The National made a stop in Philadelphia as part of their tour supporting their most recent album, Trouble Will Find Me. Torrential rainfall as a result of remnants of tropical storm Andrea did not sway the fans nor the band from putting on an incredible musical experience, but the contrary: The National listeners ranging from soggy to dripping were brought together through their collective wetness and love for what Stephen Colbert dubs “the hippest indie thing out there”.

After taking the stage with their typical low-fi video tour following the group through the backstage corridors all the way onstage, this band “about songs” (as Annie Clark of St. Vincent categorizes them), opened up with “Don’t Swallow The Cap” off the new record, a song that confirms many fans’ suspicion that saturnine baritone frontman Matt Berninger has a bit of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana in him. Continue reading →


Watch The National perform “Sea Of Love” (playing The Mann on Friday, June 7)

Photo by Dierdre O'Callaghan
Photo by Dierdre O’Callaghan
The National release their new album, Trouble Will Find Me, tomorrow. This week, the album is WXPN’s Featured Album of the Week. XPN’s Mike Vasilikos writes:

On their sixth studio album, Trouble Will Find Me (4AD), the Brooklyn-based band further embrace their ominous personality that seeks to find beauty though sorrow and darkness. The band saw new heights of success following the release of their last album, High Violet, both in terms of record sales and press, and also an ever-growing fan base. With the bar set a little higher this time around, The National are seemingly undaunted of new expectations and utterly focused on harnessing their music persona. It’s clear that on Trouble Will Find Me The National are comfortable and confident in their pursuits. Brothers Bryce & Aaron Dessner whom compose most of the music for the band offer some ambitious, unconventional music timestamps on songs like “Demons” and “Humiliation.” There are songs that simmer into powerfully moving moments like “This is the Last Time” and “Firefly.” And of course, there are points on the album where the band purely flexes their collective muscle and offers anthemic moments like on “Sea of Love,” which offers us the album’s title, and “Graceless.”

Tomorrow, the band is on World Cafe with David Dye. Below, watch a performance of “Sea of Love.” The band performs at The Mann on Friday, June 7.