The National and Courtney Barnett kick off their summer tour with a rowdy night at the Mann Center

The National | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

The National and Courtney Barnett both delivered punchy sets of new and old material at the Mann Center on Tuesday night as The National kicked off a summer tour in support of their new album I Am Easy to Find. Barnett was unflappable in her power trio, and The National — sharing the stage with several new collaborators — showed the full spectrum of emotions they could evoke with the songs from I Am Easy to Find. Continue reading →


The National’s Scott Devendorf talks stepping back to let new creative voices emerge on I Am Easy To Find

The National | photo by Graham Macindoe | courtesy of the artist

The National‘s striking new album finds the New York band at their most reflective and impressionistic, alongside a cast of many new collaborators, including the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, orchestral and electronic instrumentalists, and several women who lend their vocals to the project. I Am Easy To Find arrived on May 17th with an accompanying short film of the same title, directed by Mike Mills — an indie filmmaker known for Thumbsucker and 20th Century Women — and it marks the band’s first full-on foray into the world of multimedia releases.

Ahead of tonight’s Philadelphia show at The Mann Center with Courtney Barnett, The Key spoke to The National’s bassist Scott Devendorf about the choices the band made on this new album, and their experiences of writing and performing together for over twenty years. Devendorf was warm and modest as we spoke on the phone — he showed how comfortable he feels living an adult life in the world of modern rock music. Continue reading →


NON-COMM Recap: The National preview the stunning new I Am Easy To Find

The National | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

During today’s Free at Noon, indie rock giants The National treated us to an early taste of over half of their new album. Produced by Mike Mills, I Am Easy To Find will be officially released tomorrow, May 17th, and is accompanied by a short film directed by Mills and staring Alicia Vikander. Expanded to a ten-piece band, The National showcased ten of the album’s sixteen tracks, demonstrating the beauty and strength of the project. Vocalist Matt Berninger led a the group’s vast array of instruments and vocalists, and kept everything from sounding overwhelming. The resulting set was a glorious display of emotion and expansive sound.

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Just Announced: The National will bring new album I Am Easy To Find to The Mann in June with Courtney Barnett

The National | photo by Graham MacIndoe | courtesy of the artist

The National announced a new album, I Am Easy To Find, which is set to be released on May 17th via 4AD. This is the group’s eighth studio album and it is bursting with featured vocalists, such as Sharon Van Etten, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle and more. In addition to the album, The National teamed up with Academy Award-nominated director Mike Mills (20th Century Women, Beginners) to produce a companion short film by the same name. The film stars Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander, and the trailer for both projects is out now. Continue reading →


The National warm hearts and inspire action on a chilly fall evening at the Mann Center

The National | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN |

Indie rock foretellers The National returned to Philadelphia on Thursday night, where they ushered in the beginning of fall with their Sleep Well Beast tour at the Mann Center. With opening sets by Phoebe Bridgers and Cat Power, and a forecast that called for a rain that never really came, the night was a reflective experience brought on by the political undertones of the day and a warming sense of community. Continue reading →


XPN Fest Recap: Brooklynites The National Reserve channel the spirit of southern rock and roll

The National Reserve | photo by Natalie Piserchio |

The National Reserve don’t sound like they’re from Brooklyn. The five-piece rock outfit took to the River stage donned in grass-stained denim and faded plaid. The hazy Philadelphia skyline rose up behind them, a breeze off the water providing relief from the pressing summer heat and their southern tinged, roots rock.

They opened with the upbeat, stomp-dancing “Don’t Be Unkind,” conjuring images of tipped cowboy hats and Texan ranches. The songs off their latest album, Motel La Grange, were heavily piano-driven, with blusey, electric keyboard solos that grew increasingly chaotic. They slowed it down for the ballad “Roll On Babe,” bearded vocalist Sean Walsh wielding a gorgeous fire-engine-red hollow body guitar. Continue reading →


Listen to The National Reserve’s Sean Walsh play acoustic on the WXPN Folk Show

The National Reserve | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

This Friday, WXPN’s July artist to watch The National Reserve will play Wiggins Park for the first day of the XPoNential Music Festival. The country-tinged New York City band has been making the rounds in public radio circles, appearing at NonCOMM the past two years, and performing on the World Cafe-curated camp stage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival last summer. In advance of the latter gig, singer-guitarist Sean Walsh performed a solo acoustic set on the WXPN Folk Show with Ian Zolitor on August 13th of 2017.

During the segment, Walsh and Zolitor discuss the intersection of roots / Americana and rock and roll, as well as travelling and performing at Folk Fest. Walsh also explains how a midwestern motel stay inspired the title track from their 2018 LP Motel La Grange, tells how “I’ll Go Blind” is a middle distance letter to his girlfriend in Reading, and shares his admiration for the lyricism of Dillard and Clarke (whose “Through the Morning, Through the Night” he performed a cover of.
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Free at Noon Flashback: The National Reserve brings the heat to World Cafe Live

The National Reserve | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

On Friday afternoon, Brooklyn rockers The National Reserve brought a high energy set to World Cafe Live, filled with solos on the drums, keys, and guitars. The band opened on some older cuts, dropped a cover of Ronnie Lane’s “Roll on Babe,” slowed it down with “Don’t be Unkind” from their new full-length project Motel La Grange, which was released Friday. Continue reading →


#XPNFest announces more artists, incl. Natalie Prass and The National Reserve

Natalie Prass | photo by Tonje Thilesen // Fantastic Negrito // The National Reserve | photo by Michael Cooper // Forth Wanderers | photo by Julia Leiby // all photos courtesy of the artists

77 more days, 11 weeks left, a little over two months to go – however you want to say it, you better believe XPNFest is coming up quickly! Kicking off on Friday, July 27 across the river in Wiggins Park, NJ, the annual festival is returning for its 25th rendition. Today, we’re pleased to announce four more artists set to appear at the fest.

Joining the Wiggins Park crowd on Friday is Brooklyn’s The National Reserve, who just wrapped up a Free at Noon set earlier this afternoon. The Brooklynites show off their bluesy brand of Americana rock on their latest album, Motel La Grange, which just so happens to be out today. Give the album a spin if you missed the band’s set, or relisten to some of the tracks the band played earlier on air. Continue reading →