Night School: Neon Indian, Beach House and (most of) The Walkmen on the Indie Rock Hit Parade!

Neon Indian | Photo by Ben Rayner
Neon Indian | Photo by Ben Rayner

You know what time of the week it is, so I’ll cut right to the chase. Tune in at 11pm ET for an all-new Indie Rock Hit Parade on XPN! Tonight we’ll spotlight VEGA INTL. Night School, the groovy new album from Alan Palomo aka Neon Indian. Plus we’ll hear a song from Beach House‘s new album, Thank Your Lucky Stars, their second LP of 2015. Don’t forget to be on the lookout for these tracks in the mix as well:

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“Jacked Up, Ready to Kick Butt”: Peter Matthew Bauer talks about his first solo outing, Liberation!

Peter Matthew Bauer | Photo by Eric Schuman
Peter Matthew Bauer in WXPN Studios | Photo by Eric Schuman

Peter Matthew Bauer thinks a lot about music in terms of his health. Coming off a ten-year stint making music with his lifelong best friends in The Walkmen, he candidly admits that a creative relationship that lasts that long isn’t always the best for the creators’ psyches.

“In a band, you think you’re expressing yourself in a way,” he says. “And you kind of are for a while, you create this group and it’s exciting. Then after a certain point you’re convincing yourself that some organ part is like an artistic expression…I think even Hamilton [Leithauser, singer of The Walkmen] probably felt that way at times. Being in a group for that long is not a healthy dynamic.”

Today, Bauer releases Liberation! on Mexican Summer Records, and he deems it a headphone freakout, a sonic assemblage put together over hurried months of recording and reworking over the course of 2013 – something that, in a way, can also be mentally unhealthy. But right now, he’s okay with that.

Last year The Walkmen announced its indefinite hiatus and the Mount Airy-based Bauer was faced with a decision – was he going to make music for the rest of his life?

“I gave myself two months to write four or five good songs,” he says. “I decided ‘you’ve got to have a song with words and singing, you’ve got to learn how to sing and why to sing, you’ve got to create something that has a reason to exist’. And if I didn’t have that, I was going to do something else.”

Liberation! doesn’t miss a beat, revisiting the lo-fi sonic grit of The Walkmen’s early work but incorporating unique textural elements – field recordings from foreign lands, loosely South Asian guitar patterns – as well as references to places around the globe in lyrics and titles (“I Was Born in an Ashram,” “Latin American Ficciones”). The base beneath these exploratory notes is driving guitar rock beat on by booming, urgent rhythms – a sonic snapshot of a longtime band player at the moment he confidently breaks out on his own.

Tonight, Bauer celebrates the release of Liberation! by headlining Johnny Brenda’s; we caught up with him when he stopped by WXPN before leaving for tour to chat about his artistic evolution. Continue reading →


Listen to Peter Matthew Bauer cover Bonnie Raitt on XPN’s Like A Version segment

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Photo by Eric Schuman

In advance of his debut solo LP Liberation!, Peter Matthew Bauer of The Walkmen appeared on WXPN’s “Like A Version” cover song segment with afternoon host Dan Reed. With three singers delivering backup harmonies – his wife Marisa Brown, Emily Ounsworth and Jess Conda – Bauer covered “Your Sweet and Shiny Eyes,” a country-infused song performed by Bonnie Raitt on her 1975 album Home Plate. Bauer and Reed also chatted about the song, about touring and recording. Listen to the cover (and interview) below, and catch Bauer when he and his band return from tour to play a homecoming album release show at Johnny Brenda’s on Tuesday, June 24th; tickets and information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.


Stream Hamilton Leithauser’s Black Hours in its entirety

Photo by Cameron Pollack
Photo by Cameron Pollack

Recently, during WXPN’s Non-COMM, Hamilton Leithauser – former lead singer of The Walkmen – performed a set of new songs that he showcased during his Free At Noon concert. He graced the stage with a large band that included a string section, yet dominated the set with his imposing height, charismatic showmanship, and excellent new material. Hamilton releases his solo debut album, Black Hours, on Tuesday, June 3rd, however you can listen to the record its entirety here via NPR Music.

In his review of the album, Stephen Thompson, of NPR Music, says:

The singer largely tones down the briskly jangled rush of The Walkmen’s sound throughout Black Hours, as he steers many of its songs toward a slow-burning seethe that suits him well. But there’s still a looseness to the record that allows Leithauser to play around on new terrain: “I Retired,” in addition to having the most solo-debut-friendly title ever, even finds him delving into doo-wop halfway through. But Leithauser still hews to themes of aging and alienation — “I retired from my war / No one knows what I was fighting for / I don’t even know myself anymore” — in ways that make Black Hours sound like a natural sequel to The Walkmen’s work.

Listen to Black Hours here.

XPN Welcomes Hamilton to the Prince Theatre on Saturday, July 12th. Tickets are on sale now, and can be purchased here


Non-COMM Recap: Hamilton Leithauser showcases his songwriting prowess

Photo by Cameron Pollack
Photo by Cameron Pollack

Coming up to the NPR stage second on Day 3 of NonComm was former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser, who treated the audience to varied selections from his forthcoming LP Black Hours. Accompanied by a gargantuan band comprised of guitars, bass, mallet percussion and a four-piece string section, Leithauser showcased his songwriting prowess and excellent stage presence and in so doing convinced the audience that even though The Walkmen are no longer together, he has no intention of slowing down.


Photos: The Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Spank Rock and more played Union Transfer to raise money for The Rail Park

The Walkmen | Photo by Matthew Shaver |
The Walkmen | Photo by Matthew Shaver |

Lest it be overlooked amid all the (well-deserved) attention paid to their final show, The Walkmen were just one of about nine acts on the stage at Union Transfer last Wednesday, from Spank Rock to Sun Ra Arkestra, all of who performed to benefit the first phase of The Rail Park. In case you weren’t aware, the project is a planned 3-mile linear park and recreation path along the former Philadelphia and Reading rail line, spanning some 50 city blocks and running through a diverse cross-section of neighborhoods. Organizers at The Rail Park were elated in the wake of the event, posting to their Facebook page:

We are still on cloud nine after Wednesday’s Rail Park fundraiser at Union Transfer. What a way to wrap up an incredible year for this project! Our deepest thanks and appreciation to all who helped organize the event, who brought their talents to the evening, and who came out in support of the project.

For more information on The Rail Park, watch a short video after the jump; below, check out a gallery of photos from the benefit, which also included Light Heat, Sharon Van Etten collaborating with Adam Granduciel of War on Drugs and Birdie Busch.

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Indie rockers to pay tribute to The Byrds’ Gene Clark at Union Transfer on January 22nd

a_no-otherFront On Wednesday, January 22nd the lead singers of three established indie-rock bands and one indie-rock band on almost hiatus are coming together at Union Transfer to pay tribute to one of the founding members of The Byrds, Gene Clark.

Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), Daniel Rossen (Grizzly Bear, Department of Eagles), Victoria Legrand (Beach House) and Hamilton Leithauser (The Walkmen) will be performing Clark’s classic album, No Other, originally released in 1974. Clark wrote or co-wrote many of The Byrds’ best songs including “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Here Without You,” “The World Turns All Around Her,” “She Don’t Care About Time” and “Eight Miles High.”

Clark started The Byrds in 1964 after he met Roger McGuinn and along with David Crosby, Michael Clark and Chris Hillman, set off on a path to change rock influenced folk music in the Sixties. Clark released his first solo album in 1967, while he was still in The Byrds. When he released No Other, it was considered to be a commercial and critical failure. Musicians however, have clung to it’s folk-rock songwriting and arrangements for years. Songs like “Silver Raven,” the eight minute epic “Some Misunderstanding,” and the soulful “Lady of The North,” give the album its lasting resonance. “What it adds up to,” writes Thom Jurek in AllMusic “is a sprawling, ambitious work that brought elements of country, folk, jazzed-out gospel, blues, and trippy rock to bear on a song cycle that reflects the mid-’70s better than anything from that time, yet sounds hauntingly timely even now.

Joining the band in the tribute will be Iain Matthews of Fairport Convention, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, with members of Lower Dens, Celebration, Cass McCombs’ band and Mt. Royal rounding the lineup out. Beach House had this to say about the album on Pitchfork:

Though we generally love all of his music, we are most infatuated with his 1974 record, No Other. It feels like a special moment in Gene Clark’s songwriting. At first, the overdone, studio nature of the album feels overbearing: the electric violin, the female chorus, the bass riffs, the layered guitar sequences. However, with more listens, Gene Clark’s very unique lyrics, voice and spirit become the central focus. It’s one of those records where each time you listen, you love a different song the most. Every song is nuanced and amazing in its own way.

Go here for more information and tickets to the show. Below, listen to several songs from the album.


The Walkmen are going on “extreme hiatus” according to bassist Peter Bauer

Photo by Arno Frugier
Photo by Arno Frugier

The Walkmen are calling it quits. Or, as bassist and organist Peter Bauer told the Washington Post:

“We have no future plans whatsoever,” Bauer says. “I’d call it a pretty extreme hiatus.”

According to Pitchfork:

Three members of the band are currently working on solo LPs: Hamilton Leithauser (whose album is due in 2014 and features members of the Shins, Fleet Foxes, and Vampire Weekend), Walter Martin, and Bauer (Liberation!, which will be released under the name Peter Matthew Bauer). Bauer and Leithauser’s records both feature other members of the Walkmen.

What quite possibly will be the band’s last performance together is next Wednesday, December 4th at Union Transfer at a fundraiser for The Rail Park with performances from the Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Van Etten, Spank Rock, Birdie Busch, Light Heat, Chris Ward, Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler.

Bauer last graced our presence when he performed with Light Heat in a Key Studio Session. You can download that session here.

Get tickets to the fundraiser for The Rail Park at Union Transfer here.

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The Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Van Etten, Spank Rock and others playing Rail Park Benefit at Union Transfer on 12/4

The Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Van Etten, Spank Rock, Light Heat, Jeff Ziegler and Mary Lattimore, Birdie Busch, and the Dufalo Brothers are playing Union Transfer on Wednesday, December 4th. The show is a benefit for Phase One of the Rail Park with all the proceeds going to the Friends of the Rail Park, a non-profit that has been advocating the planning, designing and envisioning of a continuous 3-mile linear park along the former Philadelphia & Reading Rail line corridor. Friends of the Rail Park outlined their vision and plans last Spring, outlined in this article about it in Hidden City Philadelphia. Nathaniel Popkin writes:

The proposed park meets the elevated Reading Viaduct just east of and directly below Broad Street at the section of the railway known as the SEPTA Spur. The 1/5 mile long, elevated Spur–which will undergo an $8 million transformation into a park beginning in 2014–together with the City Branch, which is also owned predominantly by SEPTA, would constitute a two mile long linear rails-to-trails park, connecting the Callowhill neighborhood to Fairmount Park. The rest of the railroad viaduct heading north from the SEPTA Spur is owned by the Reading Corporation. The firm, based in California, has demonstrated little interest in selling the Viaduct to the City of Philadelphia.

The new below-grade park would extend from two points at the east end: the connection to the SEPTA Spur, where the rail viaduct dips under Broad Street (which is a bridge over the railway) and at Broad and Buttonwood in front of the School District Administration building. A key to the plan is the planned reconstruction of the Broad Street bridge, owned by PennDOT. Planners hope to convince the agency to install see-through railings and to puncture the bridge with light towers that are to be installed in the center of North Broad (lighting the space above and below). The parking lot now in front of the School District building would be replaced with a multi-level public space leading to the park.

Take a tour of the proposed Rail Park in this video below.

Get tickets to the Friends of the Rail Park benefit with The Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Van Etten, Spank Rock, Light Heat, Jeff Ziegler, Mary Lattimore, Birdie Busch and the Dufalo Brothers here.


Through the years with The Walkmen at Union Transfer (photos, review, video)

For once, The Walkmen seem comfortable enough to take a quick breath and a look back.

Their seventh studio album, Heaven, is just over six months old, they’re heading out on a new round of tour dates in support of it. And appearing at Union Transfer on Friday with twelve years of back catalogue under their belts, the New York / Philly five-piece appeared relaxed moreso than rushed.

This wasn’t always the case. Used to be this was a band where I  could always count on their live shows containing zero material I was familiar with. A Pi Lam set in early 2003 featured mostly songs from Bows and Arrows, which wasn’t released for another year and change. A 2007 show at Johnny Brenda’s happened not long after their homage to Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats came out, but it largely showcased You & Me, which wasn’t released until 2008. And so on. The band was always looking forward, and that’s why we loved them.

Taking the stage on Friday following an opening solo set by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman Alec Ounsworth (and after treating a handful of fans to a spaghetti dinner and a warm-up set of covers), The Walkmen were fully in retrospective mode. Continue reading →