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The Truth Don't Stop

San Fermin debut new song off forthcoming album

Brooklyn-based chamber pop outfit San Fermin released a new song – “Open” – on Thursday. According to band leader Ellis Ludwig-Leone, the new song is the first off a forthcoming album.

“‘Open’ was the keystone of this new record, the song I kept coming back to that shaped the direction of everything else,” Ludwig-Leone told NPR. “It’s a call from that little nagging voice telling you that you might be a bad person, or at least want bad things.”

“Open” has a mystical feel to it. Singer Charlene Kaye shines amongst wandering strings, horns and percussion. Kaye’s lyrics allude to Ludwig-Leon’s comments on our primal desire to do things we know might not be right:

“Open your mind. Let me in. Give me your mouth. Give me your skin. I’m a ghost at the controls. I have your body. I have your soul. You’re letting go.”

The featured image of the landing page on San Fermin’s website matches the dark fantasy created in “Open.” We can’t see what’s beyond this little clearing in the trees. But aren’t you curious to find out?

san-fermin-landing-page

No release date has been set for Belong, but it sounds like we can expect it to arrive some time in the next few months.

-Mike Still

 

 

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Glass Animals perform “Pork Soda” on Late Late Night with James Corden

The new year has been kind thus far to Glass Animals.

Earlier this week, the British quartet announced they’ll be making an appearance at Coachella in April alongside heavy-hitting headliners like Beyoncé, Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar.

On Wednesday, Glass Animals stopped by Late Late Night with James Corden to play “Pork Soda” off of How to be a Human Being.

“Pork Soda” may be my favorite track on that record, especially in a live setting. The last third of the song has such bite to it as each element picks up the pace and intensity.

Frontman Dave Bayley acts accordingly in this performance. He appears possessed by a primal energy while flailing around barefoot and carelessly knocking golden pineapples to the floor with his guitar.

These guys look like they’re really enjoying every moment on stage. Sometimes that’s the highest compliment a band can get.

-Mike Still

This Just In…featuring Evolfo, St. Paul & The Broken Bones and Theo Katzman

Peep the playlist for this week’s keepers.

Evolfo – “Moon Eclipsed the Sun”

Evolfo is self-described as “garage-soul.” When I first heard them I immediately thought of The Black Keys, specifically Brothers-era Black Keys. It’s the kind of music you would listen to in a ’72 El Camino on dark streets in a lost neighborhood of a big city. On “Moon Eclipsed the Sun,” the Brooklyn-based rockers give us a stiff bass line and fuzzy guitar effects, while singer Matt Gibbs‘ distant vocals wail about a lost love that left him for good reason.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones – “Midnight on the Earth”

I realize now that I didn’t give St. Paul & The Broken Bones‘ 2016 release – Sea of Noise – a fair chance when it first came out.

I had fallen so hard for them a couple of years back when they debuted with Half the City. It was both joyous and heartbreaking. I remember hearing “Call Me” for the first time and just being blown away by frontman Paul Janeway’s soulful voice. Seeing them live at Bonnaroo was a revelation, with Janeway dancing around like James Brown in his sweat-soaked suit jacket.

Sea of Noise changes the pace from Half the City, and I think that’s why it took me a little longer to warm up to it. It’s a little edgier and wanders further out than the straightforward, Motown-esque hits found on the band’s first album. “Midnight on the Earth” is a great example of that. What starts with a simple drum-driven groove over Janeway’s “Na-na-na-na-na” melody steadily builds to a frantic climax. Janeway’s falsetto goes up and up, and the horn section’s notes go higher and higher till they might shatter nearby windows….A sea of noise, indeed.

Theo Katzman – “Crappy Love Song”

Theo Katzman’s second full length is due out on January 6th, and I cannot wait.

Katzman is a multi-instrumentalist from the funk group Vulfpeck. “Crappy Love Song” is stripped down from the dance-your-booty-off music Vulpeck regularly delivers, and that’s perfectly OK. If you still do want to dance around your room like a fool with Katzman, try “Hard Work.”

A buddy of mine pointed out that Katzman’s voice sounds a bit like blue-eyed soul singer Allen Stone. He and Katzman do share the same tones, but Katzman’s vocals are appropriately a little less refined and a bit raw. That vocal lens and honest songwriting make Katzman an every man we can all get behind.

-Mike Still

Top 10 concerts to see in January

There’s plenty of concert options for everyone coming up next month. Take a look and make your pick:

Lettuce/Tauk at the TLA on January 5th

Run the Jewels at Electric Factory on January 11th

JC Brooks at Kennett Flash on January 13th

Justin Townes Earl at Ardmore Music Hall on January 13th

Grouplove/Phantogram at Xfinity Live! on January 15th

The Lemon Twigs at Underground Arts on January 19th

The Marcus King Band at World Cafe Live Philadelphia on January 20th

Steve Gunn at PhilaMOCA on January 21st

Phox at World Cafe Live Philadelphia on January 26th

Rubblebucket at Union Transfer on January 28th

-Mike Still

This Just In…featuring Maggie Rogers, Michael Kiwanuka and YAWN

Happy Holidays!

It’s not much, but this week’s playlist is my holiday gift to the world. Enjoy, world!

Maggie Rogers – “Alaska”

Anything Pharrell touches seems to turn to gold. In Maggie Rogers‘ case, what she had was already golden. It just took someone like Pharrell taking notice for it to really shine.

Rogers was a student at NYU when Pharrell dropped by the Clive Davis Institute in February for an edition of Masterclass. He was there to critique music students’ work and offer advice.

But Pharrell had no criticism after Rogers played “Alaska” for him. He just sat next to her, arms folded across his chest as various expressions of impressed bewilderment cycled across his face. After the chorus hits for the first time, he gets that “Oh shit…this is a hit,” look.

pharrell

“Oh shit…” is right.

Rogers will be stopping in Philly for a sold out show at The Foundry on April 7th.

Michael Kiwanuka – “Love & Hate”

For his sophomore release – Love & Hate – Michael Kiwanuka enlisted the help of highly sought after producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton. Kiwanuka told Rolling Stone that Burton helped in encouraging him to build his songs in the studio from scratch.

That approach is evident on the album’s seven-minute title track, opening with just Kiwanuka’s acoustic guitar and a full chorus providing a back beat. Layers of percussion and dramatic synths help build the landscape until Kiwanuka’s weathered voice emerges.

He sounds tired and beaten down: “Standing now / Calling all the people here to see the show / Calling for my demons now to let me go / I need something, give me something wonderful.” But in the chorus he assures us (or more likely himself) that there’s still fight left in him: “You can’t take me down / You can’t break me down / You can’t take me down.”

YAWN – “Day Trip”

Judging by the video for “Day Trip,” YAWN sure seems like a fun group of dudes to hang out with.

After wrapping a wild (chemically enhanced) Swedish Fish trip in the woods, members of the band emerge to a city rooftop party. It’s the kind of scene you would hear Stefon rave about on Weekend Update“This private rooftop getaway has toasted Peeps, above ground snorkeling and sacrificial beard trimming.”

“Day Trip” has that “soundtrack to your summer” sound. Over a breezy, bouncy melody, frontman Adam Gil sings: “In the light of the morning / Everything feels alright / In the day morning after / Can we stay through the night?”

It’s care-free, let’s dance through the night because we can, kind of music.

-Mike Still

San Fermin’s Allen Tate flies solo before a hometown crowd at World Cafe Live

After playing the first song of his set at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on Friday night, Allen Tate took a moment to address the small crowd gathered before him.

“I think I know everyone here,” he joked, triggering a chorus of light laughter through the room.

Most days, Tate – a Philadelphia area native – is the lead singer of Brooklyn-based indie rockers San Fermin. That job has helped him become comfortable singing before festival-sized crowds. This time, however, Tate alone was the main attraction as he played songs off his new solo record to an assembly made up mostly of family and friends.

Tate’s debut – Sleepwalker – was released in October. Since then he has only tested out his songs in a live setting a handful of times. It was appropriate then that he let these tunes grow and explore before a familiar audience.

“I wrote this record myself,” Tate told the crowd with a slight sense of bewilderment in his voice, almost as if the finality of that process was still settling in for him. “It’s the first time I’ve ever done that.”

During a break in San Fermin’s tour, Tate escaped to Copenhagen for three weeks by himself to eliminate distractions and spark his songwriting creativity. Tate’s solitary experience is reflected in the new record as Sleepwalker is often much quieter and admittedly lonlier than San Fermin’s booming sound with many moving pieces.

He told a quick story about writing “Being Alone,” – the second track on Sleepwalker – how the effect of isolating himself in a foreign place began to manifest itself in the form of dark thoughts.  “Maybe it’s being alone that gets you down,” Tate contemplates in the chorus.

Tate has made appearances playing by himself with just a guitar to compliment his rich baritone. He was accompanied on Friday by a second guitarist, a drummer and a female keyboardist who supplied backup vocals as well.

The band’s cohesive, tight sound filled World Cafe’s intimate Upstairs space. Tate’s on-stage support perhaps had the greatest impact during “Don’t Choke.”

On his website, Tate explains how he put a certain degree of pressure on himself in trying to best portray the mixed feelings of optimism and doubt he harbored while writing the record. He called writing the hook for “Don’t Choke” – You’re gonna be great…don’t choke! – as “almost cathartic.”

You could nearly see Tate physically grow more comfortable as the music became louder and more emotive leading to its chorus. When his backup vocalist delivered that therapeutic line, his confidence became palpable.

Friday night’s audience saw a promising young songwriter with a strong ability to tap into the deeper, darker depths of the human experience. While Tate may feel he still has room to grow as a solo artist, he certainly has no reason to choke.

-Mike Still

This Just In…featuring B.B. King, Father John Misty and Pavo Pavo

This was one of those rare weeks where new music came right to me, and a lot of it you’ll find on this playlist.

Here a few songs that I’ve had on repeat:

B.B. King – “The Thrill Is Gone”

Last weekend my girlfriend and I were wandering down South Street looking for a place to escape the cold. We chose Jet Wine Bar, for no reason other than it meant being inside somewhere.

There were just two other patrons sitting at the rounded bar that sat no more than 15 people, and an episode of Lost was playing muted on the flat screen above rows of liquor bottles.

This place was quirky but in the best way possible. I knew we were in the right place the moment I recognized new A Tribe Called Quest tunes coming from the speakers. For the hour or so we were there, soul and funk hits from all time periods just kept coming. D’Angelo, Ike & Tina Turner…and finally B.B. King.

King’s cover of “The Thrill Is Gone” was released as a single in 1969 and earned him a Grammy in 1970. In 2011, Rolling Stone named it No. 183 in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It’s a slow toe-tapper with a beautiful interplay between strings and King’s guitar solos, showcasing a blues legend doing what he did best.

Father John Misty – “Real Love Baby”

My brother sent me a text last Friday night from a friend’s wedding he was attending. He said the bride and groom had just had their first dance to Father John Misty’s “Real Love Baby.” I told him, “I think they’re gonna make it.”

This standalone single released in July is a simple, sappy love song. There’s little fuss. Just a smooth melody and Josh Tillman (aka Father John Misty) spilling his heart:

“I’m in love, I’m alive
I belong to the stars and sky
Let’s forget who we are for one night
We’re not animals baby
It’s the people who lie”

It’s actually a lot like being stupidly in love. The song is soaked in sunshine and optimism, and there’s nothing there to distract you from that.

Pavo Pavo – “Ran Ran Run”

Tonight I’m going to see Allen Tate – lead male singer from folk-rock outfit San Fermin – play a solo show at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. Pavo Pavo will be opening for him, so I decided to check them out.

As it turns out, members of the five-piece from Brooklyn have “worked closely” in the past with San Fermin and a number of other highly regarded musicians on the indie scene. That list includes co-producers of Pavo Pavo’s debut album Young Narrator in The Breakers Sam Cohen (Yellowbirds) and Dan Molad (Lucius).

“Ran Ran Run” opens the record in whimsical fashion. Eliza Bags‘ vocals are hazy and almost distant. She could totally moonlight as the narrator of your dreams. I’m gonna go ahead and steal this description from a Stereogum review because it’s perfect: “Pavo Pavo makes weightless pop music that sounds like it was beamed down from a glimmering utopian future.”

-Mike Still

Thank you, Spotify! – Top Songs 2016 playlist

As much as I’ve learned to love looking forward to Spotify’s automatically generated playlist with my most played songs of the year, there are admittedly few surprises.

After all, I’m aware that I’m the one that chose to listen to Whitney’s Light Upon the Lake nearly every day since it was released back in June. It’s not all that enlightening to find out that three songs off that album are among my top five.

Still, it’s an interesting way to make sense of your taste. I always struggle when someone asks: What kind of music are you into? With this, I can tell them anything they’d like know – and then some – with one playlist.

My top 10 most played songs of the year:

  1. Whitney – No Woman
  2. The Leers – I Can’t Cope
  3. Whitney – Golden Days
  4. Lake Street Dive – How Good It Feels
  5. Whitney – Dave’s Song
  6. The Leers – Fool
  7. Night Moves – Carl Sagan
  8. Allen Stone – I Know That I Wasn’t Right
  9. Lotus – When Our Nerves No Longer Twitch
  10. White Denim – Take It Easy (Ever After Lasting Love)

And a deeper look into a few of my favorite albums from 2016:

Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

whitney

I didn’t want to attempt to rank my favorite albums of the year. I don’t think it’s fair to say one is better than another. You like different bands for different reasons. Apples and oranges, if you will.

Light Upon the Lake, however, was far and away my favorite new release this year. Whitney’s core is the combo of singing drummer Julien Ehrlich and guitarist Max Kakacek, both formerly members of the now defunct Smith Westerns. Ehrlich also drummed for another one of my favorite groups – Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

As the story goes, when Smith Westerns called in quits in 2014, the two began working on solo stuff and were bouncing ideas off of each other. Both Ehrlich and Kakacek had recently been through bad breakups and found writing together to be therapeutic. In an interview with The Line of Best Fit, Kakacek explained how the album’s first single – “Golden Days” – helped them through that process:

“To me, ‘Golden Days’ is the song we both sent our ex-girlfriends after we made it,” Kakacek explains, “to get some kind of closure. I remember sending it to her and she just started bawling. It wasn’t even in a sense of getting back together, more like – I sent you this, and now we can be friends, and everything’s cool.”

This is essentially a microcosm of the beauty of Light Upon the Lake. I’ve never experienced a more accurate portrayal of the bliss and tragedy of heartbreak. On “Golden Days,” Ehrlich sings:

“Oh, don’t you save me from hangin’ on
I tell myself what we had is gone
And after all that I put you through
I get knocked out like I never knew”

There is a thick layer of nostalgia over the hopeful sound of Ehrlich’s earnest falsetto. It’s a longing for the good ol’ days, like those that Ehrlich sings about on the lighthearted “No Matter Where We Go”:

“I can take you out
I wanna drive around
With you with the windows down
And we can run all night”

This emotional lyrical journey, combined with Whitney’s soulful and wistful sound, made for a near-perfect debut I expect to revisit regularly for a long time to come.

The Leers – Are You Curious? 

the-leers

I also have Spotify to thank for helping me find The Leers. Nine out of 10 times when I explore a band the app has recommended to me based on my listening history, I quickly move on after a couple songs. But for once I found myself going back to Are You Curious? again and again.

Maybe it’s the variety the young New Zealanders offer. If someone only played “I Can’t Cope” for you – a funky account of a stoner battling his anxiety, book-ended by head-bobbing grooves – you’d miss out on a unique blend of styles.

There’s a sense early on in the album that the band has some cornered aggression waiting to be released. It builds during “Hold On, You’ll See,” evidenced by guitarist James Kippenberger’s threatening solo midway through the song. Just a track later, that distorted guitar is growling menacingly through your headphones on the instrumental “Escapades.”

It’s not all angry, in-your-face rock and roll. There are many layers to peel back. “Easy Love” offers an infectious, simple hook along with some soft grooves. “Who The Hell” is your classic tale of unabashed jealousy.”Who the hell did you go out with last night?” wonders vocalist Matt Bidois.

What connects this mix of songs is an unmistakable coolness. These guys don’t give a fuck about what you expected to hear from an up and coming band making its full-length debut. Are You Curious? is unique and ambitious, but every aggressive punch lands with staying power.

Night Moves – Pennied Days

night-moves

I first listened to Pennied Days while riding a bike alone through the empty streets of Philadelphia late at night.

It was the perfect soundtrack.

These songs feel so recognizable. Not unlike Whitney’s Light Upon the Lake, Night Moves create a longing for the past. On “Leave Your Light On,” frontman John Pelant chooses to ignore that his once-love has moved on:

“So leave your light on
Still I’m wondering just where you’ve gone
Steal the days and it takes me back
Lovingly, lovingly
Somedays I wish it had last”

Despite some heartache, this is warm and inviting psych-pop with earworm hooks and tight grooves. It creates a freeing, weightlessness feeling. You feel it almost immediately during a break in the action early on in the album’s opener, “Carl Sagan.” Pelant’s voice is stretched thin above synths and dramatic piano. You can picture yourself floating for a moment through the arrangement.

I’ve tried to make sense of the record’s album art. It appears to be a couple people resting on a psychedelic cliff side, looking out to an otherwordly sky (See right-most photo in the featured image at the top of the page for reference.) Make of it what you will. I like to think it’s telling us just to slow down and appreciate the great unknown.

-Mike Still

Six concerts in Philly to check out on New Years Eve

The clock is ticking to make plans for New Years Eve. If you’re still up in the air, why not ring in the new year with some live music?

Here are six shows happening in Philly:

Kurt Vile at The Fillmore

You can expect Philly’s own indie rock veteran Kurt Vile to deliver a night to remember for his hometown crowd.  He’s even got the full support of Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Connor Barwin. Vile will be joined by Brooklyn-based Woods and its dreamy psych-folk, along with banjo picker Nathan Bowles.

Dark Star Orchestra at the Electric Factory

Of those on the long list of Grateful Dead cover bands, few do it better than Dark Star Orchestra. 

David Wax Museum at Johnny Brenda’s

I first heard “Guesthouse” – the lead single off David Wax Museum‘s 2015 release of the same name – on WXPN while driving to work one morning. By the time I’d returned home later that day and parked my car, I was still humming the infectious chorus to myself. Married couple David Wax and Suz Slezak have crafted their own unique sound while retaining elements of Mexican folk music that inspired them at their start.

Mo Lowda & the Humble at Ortlieb’s

As students at Temple University, Mo Lowda and The Humble earned its chops playing sweaty basements and small clubs all over Philly. Ortlieb’s compact venue will serve the booming, often frantic three-piece well.

Mo Lowda & the Humble have often been compared to Kings of Leon. They released a new song earlier this month – “Freight Train” – which I think sounds a lot like another young Philly band known for its stirring live act – The Districts.

Cabinet at the TLA

When asked to describe Cabinet during a 2013 interview with The Bluegrass Situation, guitarist Mickey Coviello called it, “Bluegrass by a bunch of guys who don’t know what bluegrass is.” 

“People call it bluegrass because we play bluegrass instruments. So, yeah, we’re bluegrass but not in the traditional sense,” Coviello said. “We mix reggae, elements of rock, folk, Americana, all kinds of stuff into our music. People have called it a lot of things.”

Start Making Sense at Ardmore Music Hall

The spirit of David Byrne and Co. is alive and well in this Talking Heads cover band. If you’re willing to make the trip out to Ardmore, Start Making Sense will make it worth your time.

-Mike Still

 

 

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