A self-proclaimed “life long lover of all things synth,” Philly-based Strand of Oaks‘ Tim Showalter and bandmate Chris Ward (also of Pattern is Movement) helped The Tallest Man on Earth re-imagine the title track to his 2012 LP There’s No Leaving Now for Moog Sound Lab. The two projects were on tour together last summer, with Showalter supporting his own 2012 release Dark Shores. With a plethora of Moog gear at their disposable, the collaborators turn the pensive, piano-based song into a warpy, chillwave stunner. Watch the video below and check-out the list of Moog equipment they employed here.
For The Key’s year-in-review, we asked our trusted sources – our writers and photographers, XPN’s on-air staff, fellow bloggers in the Philly scene and even a few musicians – to send us their Top Five Whatevers. Could be the traditional music route – albums, songs, concerts of the year – or it could be only loosely connected. We’ll be sharing these recaps every day through to the end of the year. Today, World Cafe host David Dye tells us about his five most surprising interviews of the year.
This does not mean the “best” necessarily. Tune in starting Dec 26 for the eight best World Cafe interview segments (two per day). These are five interviews that exceeded my expectations. People who ended up being a lot of fun to talk with or were much more forthcoming than I expected.
1. Nils Lofgren – What a storyteller. From early days showing up at The Childe Harold in DC to meet Neil Young to how he was asked to become part of The E Street Band, Nils had fascinating stories to tell. Listen to the interview here (via the WXPN media player).
2. Bassnectar – Not knowing a whole lot about the Dubstep and EDM world it was fascinating to have a guide like Lorin Ashton who performs as Bassnectar. He took us through building a track up to the all important “Drop” when sonic joy ensues. Very open and intelligent guy. Listen to the interview here.
3. Lana Del Ray – After seeing her unsettling performance on Saturday Night Live I thought maybe she was all about the hype. Not so. She was surprisingly down to earth and had a real sense of her strengths and who she was. Really good stripped down performances and she even gave us one for our Live at The World Cafe CD. Listen to the interview here.
4. The Tallest Man On Earth – The Swedish alternative singer-songwriter Kristian Mattson is one of my favorite new artists. I had also heard that he disliked interviews. So I really prepared and he told people afterward how much he loved our conversation. A lot of that made it into the edit we aired. Listen to the interview here.
5. Dwight Yoakam – I had no idea how smart the country star/actor is. He took off on my questions and talked for over an hour, about half of which made it onto the show. Once again he was eager to talk about his early life and influences. Listen to the interview here.
I was in attendance on Friday evening with featured performances from Tallest Man on Earth, The Walkmen, Wild Nothing, Animal Collective, and more. The festival took place at the Grand Hall de Vilette, a large auditorium fit with two stages on either end. The room was filled with people excited and eager to catch their next favorite act.
Check out her photos in the gallery above, and watch a video of Tallest Man on Earth playing “Revelation Blues” below.
Last night’s double-header bill at a sold-out Union Transfer was a study in musicians doing more with less.
Kristian Matsson, the title character in The Tallest Man on Earth is about as minimal a performer as one can get, bringing himself and an acoustic guitar onto the venue’s cavernous stage, which was empty except for a chair, a microphone and a Yamaha piano sitting off to the side. There was so much open space that it would dwarf even…well, you can complete that thought for yourself.
But Matsson was undaunted, belting out songs in his husky voice – think Tom Waits or Bruce Springsteen, were they a tenor – and working the crowd with admirable charisma and charm.
His music is hooky and infectious, particularly “1904″ from his 2012 album There’s No Leaving Now, which had the whole hall joyously singing along. (Later in the set, “King of Spain” from 2010′s The Wild Hunt had a similar effect). Continue reading →
On the heels of releasing his latest full-length record, Dark Shores, Strand of Oaks plays Philadelphia tonight, opening up for recent Free at Noon highlight The Tallest Man on Earth. Knowing Oaks’ main man Tim Showalter to be a fellow with broad-ranging and exquisite taste in music, we asked him to make us a Spotify playlist to provide a snapshot of where he was while working on his new record. Interestingly, he talked about how focused on his craft he becomes in the album-writing zone that finding new music becomes secondary to making new music. From Showalter:
My approach to music listening is pretty boring. Especially when I started making records, my appetite for discovery really subsided. My manager Ryan sends me new records that I always love and my friend Morgan is huge source for tunes. It really feels like I’m some recluse that people are sending little bits of the outside world too. If you ask my wife what I listen to it would be probably be youtube demo videos of synthesizers and guitar pedals. With that said I will try and combine a list that feels somewhat relevant to where my life has been in the past year or so. Some of these songs influenced what became Dark Shores. Actually, the two songs (Active Child, Future Islands) we’re big influences in me NOT making a Dark Shores a synth album. They made such beautiful albums that I really didn’t want to compete. I was also considering making a pure Pumpkins list but spotify seems pretty weak on deep cuts…
You can listen to Showalter’s mix in the player below. Strand of Oaks plays with The Tallest Man on Earth at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden Street, tonight at 8 p.m. The all-ages show is sold out.
British experimental pop star Charli XCX sinks into the sky wrapping herself up in fuzzy overtures and synthetic instrumentals. She sprung to stardom around 2010 after writing and playing songs for years. Her dad used to be a show promoter, booking the likes of Bob Marley and Siouxsie and the Banshees, which fed her desire to go out and perform. But over this past year she has perfected her craft by making electronic pop tunes while simultaneously speaking in a danceable language that everyone can understand. Just a reminder that our giveaway is still going on to win a pair of tickets to tonight’s show. All you have to do is make sure you follow @TheKeyXPN on twitter and tweet at us before noon to win. Simple, no? If you don’t win, you can still check her out tonight at North Star Bar for $12-14, the event is all ages. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Before you get too excited for ten days of free music at Musikfest in Bethlehem next weekend, check out a pre-event hosted by Musikfest Cafe; The Happy Together Tour 2012 at ArtsQuest Center at Steel Stacks. The tour has been traveling around the country playing old school classic jams from the 60′s and 70′s. Some of the greatest songs of all time came from these bands including songs such as “Happy Together”, “I’m a Believer”, “Young Girl”, and “Kind of a Drag”. Featured bands in the tour are: The Turtles ft. Flo & Eddie, The Grass Roots, Micky Dolenz (of The Monkees), The Buckinghams, and Gary Pucket & The Union Gap. Doors open at 6 p.m., show starts at 7. You can grab theater or balcony tickets here.
From the first resounding strums out of Sweden-born Tallest Man on Earth‘s guitar, the air filled up with an organic warmth that is hard to describe. Kristian Matsson is himself a seed, body clenched tight about his guitar and sprouting out green shoots of song, all crawling vines of plucked guitar and the broad leaves of his wide, penetrating voice. He trades the electric guitar for an acoustic and brings out “1904,” the single from his recently released album, There’s No Leaving Now. The familiarity of his music does not stem from a likeness to his over-referenced musical doppelganger, Dylan. Rather, his songs have a way of working inside you, taking a seat, and staying for a while, long after the music stops. In performance, Tallest Man has a great amount of nervous kinetic energy stored in his tiny frame, weaving its way into excitedly spun guitar playing. As he leans into the mic, his muscles tense; he paces the stage in small steps, taking a seat for a moment only to get up a moment later. And even seated, he looks about, legs akimbo, taking brief wild-eyed glaces into somewhere just beyond. He ends with the beautiful “Wind and Walls,” and in a flurry of bows he blows us a kiss and takes his leave.
Wanderlust followed up with a high-energy set, all shiny guitars and harmony’d choruses. They were in full force, playing with enough energy to confuse the noon-time gig with a sold-out midnight show. “I saw this on a Rolling Stones concert,” says frontman Scot Sax, who then proceeds to spray his water bottle over the audience. The Free at Noon show having been thus thoroughly Mick Jaggered, Wanderlust rocked through one more final song and bid us a good day. Be sure to catch them tonight at North Star Bar. (Tickets available here for $12; the show is 21+).
Veteran Philly lords of power pop Wanderlust just released a video for their song, “Lou Reed,” the first track from the forthcoming album Record Time, which is due out in September. The band will have copies of Record Time available for purchase when they swing by XPN for a Free At Noon show on Friday, July 27th. The Tallest Man on Earth will be joining Wanderlust for the show, which you can RSVP to here. Below, check out the video for Wanderlust’s “Lou Reed.”
Way back in December, Philadelphia’s Tim Showalter recorded a Shaking Through episode with his one-man band Strand of Oaks. Along with collaborators Eliza Hardy-Jones of Buried Beds and Chris Ward of Pattern is Movement, he tracked a version of their song “Spacestations,” which you will also be able to hear on his brand new album Dark Shores, which is being released digitally to Bandcamp next Tuesday. If you pre-order the album now, you will receive a a free download of the album track “Trap Door,” as well as some bonus material bundled up as The Alma EP. Says Showalter:
The “Alma EP” (named after my grandma), … was recorded in the winter of 2005 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I had just finished college and had no idea what to do with my life, so we just kept playing weird shows and recording. These recordings we’re the beginnings of what became [Oaks' debut record] Leave Ruin.
Watch the Shaking Through episode and listen to tracks off the album below. Strand of Oaks will be opening for Tallest Man on Earth at Union Transfer on July 30th. Go here to purchase tickets.