Oh man how I wish I could tell you a cartoon band a la Jem and the Holograms was playing at Johnny Brenda’s tonight, but you know what? The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a pretty freaking great alternative, even if they’re only cartoons in their amazing new video for “Until The Sun Explodes.” (Watch it below.) Last month the band released its latest and best album, Days of Abandon, and it’s a delightful set of anthemic ethereal dream pop. You probably know all the 80s / 90s comparison points by now (if not: Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths) – regardless of who they might sound like, The Pains are the genuine article. Tickets and information on tonight’s show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.
Austrailian indie-pop outfit Cub Sport will play this month’s Communion Club Night at Underground Arts for their very first show in Philadelphia. This tour is the first US/Canada run for the band who self-released their Paradise EP last year. Their sound is super energetic and poppy at times (see “Paradise”) and more mellow and subdued at others (see “Shuffle”) but it’s all done in a dewy dream pop context that’s pretty hard to resist at both ends of the spectrum. Watch “Paradise” below and get tickets here.
“We’re going to play an album,” Matt Pond tells a Philly crowd in the colorful low lights of a basement room. “And it goes something like this.” The singer and songwriter then launched straight into Emblems’ opening track, “KC.”
It’s been 10 years, down to the month, since the release of the haunting Matt Pond PA album Emblems. And now 5 full-lengths, 7 EPs, 9 singles, and a name strip-down later, the band is briefly slipping back on the “PA” for a May-long, mini North American tour. Coming back to its early roots Friday night, Matt Pond and his band – who were based in Philly once upon a time – celebrated the album’s 10th anniversary with a three band bill at Underground Arts.
First to the stage was Philly’s rising folk rock group Rosu Lup. Backed by strings and light orchestrations, the core trio blends beautiful Americana-esque harmonies with the powerful elegance of cello, violins, and a bit of trumpet. Giving the audience all that they had, Rosu Lup played an ethereal set complete with tunes off of their recent Currents EP, a cover of Matt Pond’s “Brooklyn Fawn,” and a well-received cello solo. Although their inspirations seem to be somewhat eclectic, Rosu Lup’s dynamic orchestrations stitch together a variety of thoughts and sounds seamlessly. I’m not one to catch too many trends before they happen, but this is definitely a band you should keep your ears on.
Next, Ohio pop-folk quad The Lighthouse and the Whaler took over the stage with their jaunty tunes and knee-bouncing energy. Touring alongside Matt Pond for the 10th anniversary, the band brought along a violin / keyboard floater who added in a certain oomph to their already-invigorating blend of mandolins, glockenspiels, guitars, and drums. Getting the crowd on their toes while keeping on his own, lead singer Michael LoPresti lead the band through a series of tunes including the title track off of their 2012 album This is an Adventure. With a sound similar to The Last Bison and Lord Huron, this is one band you don’t want to miss next time they’re in town.
Finally Matt Pond took to the stage, humbled that so many fans came out to support the tour and their upcoming happenings. “It’s like ‘people know this stuff?’” Pond tells me bewildered while shaking hands after the show. But when it comes to knowing Matt Pond’s work, Philly knows it to a tee. “I’m going home, back to New Hampshire. I’m so determined. I’m so determined…” the crowd sang long in awe as Pond and his band flawlessly played though the “honest dose of melancholy” album, as Paste Magazine described Pond in 2004. To complete the nostalgic show, the band came back to the stage for a four song encore including “Love to Get Used” from their 2013 release The Lives Inside the Lives In Your Hands.
As a ‘thank you’ to all of his listeners, Pond recently released Skeletons and Friends via Noisetrade. “It’s an album of brightened corners and beautifully incomplete sentences. It’s the structure and skeleton of what’s to come,” Pond describes, which is the perfect way to describe the framework tracks in my opinion.
Check out and reminisce with the photo gallery and set list from Friday’s show below.
Tonight, underground rap sensation Pharoahe Monch will bring his talents to the Milkboy stage as he celebrates his new album P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The new disc, which features guest appearances by Black Thought, Talib Kweli, and more, is a continuation of the story he tells on his previous record W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) of his place in the industry as an artist and in America as a black male. Listen to lead single “Bad MF” below and get tickets here.
Acoustic folk trio Nickel Creek are riding high on the success of their new album A Dotted Line, which arrived last month and coincided with their 25th anniversary as a band. Tonight they bring the excitement to the Tower Theater stage. Mostly folk but at times leaning toward bluegrass, their music, which rests on the band’s intricate musicianship and harmonies, has a raw quality that’s soulful at heart. Watch them perform “Rest Of My Life” live on Soundcheck below and get tickets here.
Yesterday, in our review of City Rain‘s Songs From a High School Dance, we talked about how the album saw frontman Ben Runyan finding his voice as a songwriter. A classic way to test that claim out: take away all the bells and whistles and electronic layers of the music, listen to the songs in their most basic, stripped-down format, and consider the results. Do they hold up?
Filmmaker Matthew Albasi did just this over the winter months, bringing Runyan and his City Rain partner Scott Cumpstone into a wooded outdoor path (looks like the Wissahickon Valley Park, but I could be wrong) and had them play two songs with only an acoustic guitar and a boombox to add a bed of tones and beats. You might call the boombox cheating, but it’s only minimally audible, leaving these performances of “The Optimist” and “Mama, I Want To Go Home” to be carried by Cumpstone’s fervent strumming and Runyan’s singing.
A few takeaways – Runyan is a really good singer. Take away the studio reverb and vocal doubling and whatever the heck else makes his voice sound huge on the record, and guess what? It still sounds huge. Cumpstone should consider working an acoustic into City Rain live sets sometime – it adds a nice nuanced touch to the music. And the music and the melody absolutely hold up. Check it out and decide for yourself below. Who knows, maybe there’s still time for City Rain to work an acoustic micro-set into their Thursday album release show at Underground Arts.
Songs for a High School Dance is the featured album in this week’s edition of Unlocked. Download the single “Waiting on a Feeling” in Monday’s post, read yesterday’s album review, and check back tomorrow for an interview and Friday for a travelogue.
Last night, power-pop vets Hellogoodbye teamed up with summery locals Vacationer to headline a packed performance at Underground Arts. A lot has changed with Hellogoodbye since their breakout album in 2006, when “Touchdown Turnaround” was the sound track on innumerable summer mix tapes. Since those wasted teenage years the band has released two full lengths, Would it Kill You? on their own label, Wasted Summer, followed by Everything is Debatable in 2013 on Old Friends Records. Philly favorites, Vacationer rounded out the bill delivering their breezy lullabies and synthpop tunes from Gone. The band is currently working on a new album called Relief, to be released in June. The new song, “The Wild Life” has a cool afropop, ‘circle of life’ theme. The Austin, TX band Heavenly Beat opened the show with their buzzing pop vibes. Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.
Tonight, M.I.A. graces the Tower Theater stage and fans (old and new) should, as always, expect a little bit of everything from the singer-songwriter’s genre-bending music. On her latest album Matangi, it’s clear that her sound is still a hybrid of electronic, pop, hip-hop and world music. Best known for her 2007 platinum hit “Paper Planes”, M.I.A. isn’t a traditional singer or rapper; she’s crafted a style that’s somewhere in between and it’s infectious. Watch “Y.A.L.A.” below and get tickets here
Local pop bands Weekender and Delco Pacers will hit the Ortlieb’s stage tonight in celebration of their collaborative mixtape, Philly Tapes Philly Volume 2. The first 50 people to the show will receive a free copy of the limited edition cassette. More details here.