Sunday, December 23, 2018

Final Top Ten Songs/Albums


Boygenus: Me And My Dog

Rayland Baxter: Cassanova

Neko Case: Bad Luck

Frontperson: Shorter Days

Lori McKenna People Get Old

Sharron Van Etton: Comeback Kid

Hop Along How Simple

Kississippi Cut Yr Teeth

Fancey: Caralina, Caroline


Boyenus: S/T

Neko Case: Hell-On

Fancey: County Fair

Rayland Baxter: Wide Awake

Frontperson: Frontrunner

Juianna Hatfield: Sings Olivia Neuton John

Mavis Staples: If All I was Was Black (Really November 2017 but got the most attention in 2018). 

Roseanne Cash She Remembers Everything

The War And Treaty Healing Tide 

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tania Was A Truth Teller/Girl With Cassettes
The Big Believe

The newest tracks from the UK band The Big Believe are one about a complicated lesbian relationship, Tania Was A Truth Teller, and the B Side, Girl With Cassettes, about a complicated straight relationship. Both feature the New Pornographers guitarist Todd Fancey, who is wonderful, just like the songs. The sound is the New Pornographers meets the jangle pop of Let’s Active, for a very satisfying and unique blend.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, November 30, 2018

XPN Top Ten

It's not a contest, but I do have fun here, and as it's songs that have been playecd on  the station, some artist who would otherwise be on my top ten have been omitted, like FrontPerson F*Up, and so on. No albuns, and treat this overall as a first draft, I expect this list to change, but the #one song might not change. People Get Old, funny, sweet song about watching their dad grow old, and themselves. 

Lori McKenna People Get Old

Childish Gambino This is America

Neko Case Bad Luck

Sharon Van Etton Comeback Kid

Kississippi - Cut Your Teeth (Philly band)

Caroline Rose Soul #5

Hop Along How Simple (Philly band) 

Rayland Baxter Casanova

Rainbow Kitten Surprise Fever Pitch

Mitski Nobody

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


Fucked Up
Dose Your Dreams
Merge Records

Here's yet another band cast out of Matador, who apparently got caught up in the same mishegoss that caused Cat Power to be dumped when she wouldn’t ape Adele. But who needs the major indie? Fucked Up have made the best album of their career. It recalls a lost classic, Game Theory’s Lolita Nation, college rock's answer to Sgt. Pepper, with its crazy experiments, very wide ranging mix of styles, and lyrics that are both poetic and trippy. 

Dose is a love story. David, of Fucked Up’s 2011 masterwork David Comes To Life, is now an office worker. He meets Joyce, the elderly woman of his dreams, an angel, but then she’s gone. Will Joyce’s other lover, Lloyd, find her too and be with her for eternity? 

Love is bought and sold, like any other impersonal consumer product, which also makes Dose very political. Its moods vary from extreme sadness and depression to celebrating life and love, all set to music that is unbelievable. It’s all pop--hardcore pop, digital hardcore, adult rock hardcore. By expanding their range like never before, they go beyond labels like post hardcore and become a class all their own.

A whole cast of musicians plays on this album, too many to list here, but special attention must be paid to lead vocalist Damian Abraham and guest vocalists Miya Folick and Jennifer Castle, all of whom are superb, as is M. Haliechuk. They are the vocal glue that makes the pieces fit, and embody all the emotional states on the album adroitly. 

Three cheers to Merge for releasing this. Don’t let this slip through the cracks. I’ve not heard another album quite like it all year, and this late in, I probably won’t. It's just wonderful, and thought provoking too. 

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Necessary Animals
Self released

On this dark beauty of an album, Necessary Animals knit together diverse influences into a comprehensive whole. The group comprises Keith Rodway (The Good Missionaries), Amanda Thompson (The Big Believe), and Alan Bruzon (Cuban Boys), with a host of top-notch guests, including Simon Charterton (Higsons) on drums, and produced by Fritz Catlin (23 Skidoo). Ingvild Deila (yes, that one -- Princess Leia in "Rogue One") brings powerful, honest vocals that are honestly good.

Well-crafted, complex arrangements with an eclectic array of instruments explore anxiety, loss, elusiveness, our animal nature, and hope, whether in the contemporary prog stylings of the eponymous opening track, the upbeat world music flavors of "Talk to Me", or the psych-Reggae "Walking to Babylon". The nocturnal, enchanting "Darkness Comes Over the Hills"layers a bluesy guitar solo by Steve Finnerty over a piano backbone and twinkling chimes. "Piano Thing" is modern chamber music, melodic but dissonant, evoking the depths of an unquieting night faced alone. Closer "Revelation" brings us back to the 90's beat-inflected post-pop we explore on "Amarilla", admonishing us to be strong, to not be afraid, to not lose hope. The songs draw you into a groove, then throw you a delightful curve ball of a key change, style change, or unexpected instruments coming in. All in all a wonderful album, disturbing and off-kilter enough to be interesting, even challenging, while maintaining melodic beauty and a balance of familiar, comfortable elements.   --

Jen Grover (guest blogger)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Cat Power

Where as Sun, Chan Marshall’s last album was pop, this is rock--a very soulful, bluesy type of rock--rare in indie rock. She’s never made a bad album, just gotten better with each of them, and that's true of Wanderer. 

While she’s never been cheery, this is warmer, the way someone who's desperate to connect, and has, is basking in that glow, but sensible about it. It makes the album very enjoyable and likable, even as the down side is loneliness. 

Marshall is now on Domino, not Matador The New York Times, in an interview with Marshall,  reported she got dumped for refusing to sound like Adele. That’s right--Matador, an indie label with a lot of cred, prestige, and history, wanted her to sell out. And it wasn’t just her. Fucked Up is now on Merge and the New Pornographers are on their own label. None of them sold out, and good for them. They all went on to make great records. With Marshall, I like this album even better than Sun, where Marshall went pop successfully, but it wasn’t enough for Matador. But good enough for me, and if you listen to Wanderer, it’ll be more than good enough for you. 

Andrea Weiss   

Saturday, September 29, 2018



FRONTPERSON are Kathryn Calder of the New Pornographers and Mark Andrew Hamilton, who has released six albums as Woodpigeon.

The nine songs on their debut are by turns lovely, haunting, fragile, and very sensible, with great singing and lyrics that read like short stories in verse. While most are about relationships, Hamilton’s same-sex, Calder’s "Long Night" marks the passage of time not just through years, but with every Sunday racing by to Monday, and in "Shorter Days" the winter. The music by and large is chamber folk/pop that reminds me of the band Winterpills in its hushed sadness and ultimate beauty.

If you’re a fan of either band, or of the other musicians who play on the album, you'll love this.Melissa McWilliams plays drums and drum machine, Jen Sévertson of Peach Pyramid plays bass, Clea Foofat of Raleigh and Dojo Workhorse plays cello, Foon Yap plays violin, and Marek Tyler of nêhiyawak plays percussion. This album is good for quiet, contemplative times, snow days and nights, late nights, and just as something different.

Andrea Weiss

Monday, September 24, 2018

Jill ,Sobule

Jill Sobule
Nostalgia Kills
Pinko Records

This is Jill’s first album in nine years. Her absence due to many things, including the death of her mom and a breakup, is now over with one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.

Overly spare, with rough instrumentation, there is also the bittersweet lightness of letting go. Anyone who’s ever seen Jill live, and her shows are not to be missed, knows what a wonderful guitar player she is, and the other musicians, whether playing horns, drums, or keyboards, match her.

John Doe has a wonderful cameo on “Tonight Is Breaking,” a song that reprises later as a fan duet with Nicholas Ford, who sings very well. The album was crowd funded, and one donation level perk was singing on the album. Both versions are wry and heartbreaking. Tonight is breaking because we’ll be gone tomorrow. Other people are honored on “The Donor Song,” which is self-explanatory.

Lyrically there seems to be a loose theme; isn’t life, and love, messy, even as there’s a wry, dry joy to it? There are songs about breakups, the closet, loose ends, how great someone almost was, and looking back with no regrets, despite wishing it could’ve been different and better.

The two covers put fine points on all of this, the Five Stairsteps' “Ooh Child” and Warren Zevon’s “Don’t Let Us Get Sick,” originally on a tribute album to him. Both are superb, and sweet. And finally, Jill’s singing is terrific.

Jill "Kissed A Girl" better and with more oomph than someone named Katy Perry did, and as with that song, the oomph is here, making this an album, just like her shows, not to be missed, and one that shouldn’t slip through the cracks.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, August 31, 2018

Go To School

The Lemon Twigs
Go To School

This is a great album with a great anti-bullying message. It's as theatrical as Tommy, with a vastly different plot, in which a childless couple take in Shane, a chimp, and raise him as a human boy. Shane goes to school, and like all misfits, gets bullied, found, fucked, and forgotten by the queen of the school. He snaps and commits an act of violence, setting his school on fire. A hundred people die. He goes on the run, into the woods, getting away clean by blending in with the other primates.

Brian and Michael D’Addario, who are the Lemon Twigs, clearly side with Shane, and you will too, even if you’ll recoil from the violence, knowing enough never to be that way.

If you’re a bullied kid, get help any way you can. Don’t be like Shane, or your life is over, and maybe the lives of others. Just be yourself, as clichédas that is, and be true to you, and you will come out on top eventually.

The music is why I compare this album to Tommy. It's a mix of Broadway show tunes, 70s AOR, and Big Star. Todd Rundgren sat in for an authentic 70s sound, with Jody Stephens of Big Star on drums for one track. It belongs on the stage or even TV or film just as much as any classic musical or Glee. Tommy is psych-rock that eventually wound up as a film and musical, and achieved it’s full effect there, as the plot was incoherent in spots on the album. This is true of Go To School, as well.

Does Shane’s mom cheat on his dad, and does his dad cheat on his family with Daisy, Shane’s once and future girlfriend? A song or two showing how badly Shane is bullied would have helped clarify things, too.

But all in all this is, as I say, a great album, and one that should not be missed. It really is for real.

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The best concerts so far this year. All at World Cafe Live unless otherwise noted:

1 Phobee Bridgers/Soccer Mommy.

2 Peace Train

3 Posies/Terrra Lightfoot/E Joseph and the Sparrows

4 Waxahatchee/Hurry For The Riff Raff - Union Transfer

5 Rayland Baxter/Okey Dokey

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Lemon Twigs
Small Victories single

This delightfully authentically 70s prog/pop- sounding single, produced by Todd Rundgren, speaks for itself lyrically, as it’s about just that, the small victories of everyday life. It’ll be on their upcoming album Go To School, a concept album about a chimp named Shane, raised as a human boy, which is a very interesting concept. The album comes out August 24. The single is out now.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rayland Baxter
World Café Live, July 14, 2018
Philadelphia, PA

He’s been around since 2012, but I’d never heard him until now, with the deeply quirky single "Casanova." College loan debt is likened to overbearing women who you’ve never met, yet who call you every day telling you to behave. For real. And that was enough to convince me to buy his new album, Wide Awake, and go see him live.

The album is great, a mix of folkish songs and adult rock. Some are political, like "Strange American Dream," about the US now, and "79 Shiny Revolvers, about gun control, but the relationship songs are sad in a "why did you go away" vein, and also a "don’t know where I stand" one. I like his gentle touch, and his guitar playing.

Live he shredded on guitar, was a lot rowdier than on the album, and the band kept things moving smoothly. When they took a break, the older, folk-like songs on solo acoustic guitar sounded right at home. I loved it.

When they played "Casanova" everyone sang, including his friends in the very good opening act, Okey Dokey, on the refrain, making an already strange song even quirkier.
Andrea Weiss
Peace Train
World Café Live, July 13, 2018
Philadelphia, PA

This has nothing to do with Cat Stevens. This is an interracial, female duo from South Africa, Sharon Katz and Nonhlanhla Wanda. They make Afro-pop, but with an indie rock edge, somewhat dream pop with guitars instead of keyboards. Katz is an excellent guitar player, Wanda a great singer. They are official musical ambassadors, internationally acclaimed, and Grammy nominated, who burst onto the world stage with a 150-voice choir, a 10-piece band, and a tour with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in South Africa in 1993, right when apartheid was crumbling.

When I saw them live they were on the verge of going to the US/Mexico border to lead a march from the US side into Mexico, to meet up with a choir there to protest the forced separations. There is more here about it.

They turned the Café into party central. People got up and danced in the aisles, walked up to the front and danced, and these were retirees. But who cares about age with this much fun to be had? They played songs from their wonderful new album Side By Side, and their edge came from the fact that they were musical freedom fighters, helping to end apartheid at home, and in the US.

I loved every bit of it, even as I was exhausted by all the high energy by the end. This is a duo and band to delight in, to protest with, and not to miss if they come to your town.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, June 17, 2018


Jonatha Brooke
World Café Live, June 14, 2018

The Posies, who I saw the night before, and Brooke represent very different types of 90s music. She’s an overlooked singer/songwriter, and great. The Posies are a wonderful, overlooked power pop band, and while I’m not going to slam grunge or alternative rock, I will say that back then, and what I realize now more than ever, is there were many alternatives, not just a few. These days that is indeed the case with all types of indie music.

Brooke played acoustic guitar, mandolin, and electric piano, and Sean Driscoll played electric guitar. He made a lot of noise, good noise, a fitting counterpart to Brooke's quirky lyrics and playing that were by turns wry, sweet, and gently depressing. Her subtle, nuanced singing was sweet and gentle.

She touched on her catalog, from the early 90s when she was one half of the Story, with Jennifer Kimball, to her new album "Midnight. Hallelujah." All are excellent, and a joy to hear live. When I said hello to her after the show, she seemed nice.

If all of this makes you curious to hear a type of 90s alt that never got its due, start with her wonderful latest album and work backwards. You’ll be rewarded with underrated music.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, June 16, 2018


The Posies
E. Joseph and the Sparrows
Terra Lightfoot 
World Café Live, June 13, 2018

I never tire of WC Live. It's clean and comfortable, with good food and great music. Like tonight.

Terra Lightfoot is Canadian, on her first extended tour of the US. She plays feminist indie rock--noise rock, that is--and she's great.

E. Joseph and the Sparrows play more straightforward hardish indie rock. While I’d heard both them and Terra on Philly’s WXPN, I didn't know who those songs were by until this show.  I liked both bands a lot live and bought their albums.

The Posies' set leaned 80s and 90s, with a few songs from their post-Geffen period. I felt their set tonight was better than when I saw them back in January, but that may be because the club they played in then wasn’t so hot.

Their loud, hard, power pop with a hint of darkness is my kind of music right now. Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow showed off their rock star moves, and their twin lead guitar playing was excellent. Funny onstage banter featured horror stories about their tour, including a less than perfect set the night before in Harrisburg, PA. 

I’ve been into them since the 80s, and I'm glad I finally got to see them in a good setting. 

If you want to see three bands who have something to say, and play, this is the tour to see. 

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Mid Year Top 5/8


Neko - Hell-On/Caroline Rose - Loner (Best album I’ve heard so far/find of the year)

Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off, Dog (Philly Band)

Fancey - Country Fair

Soccer Mommy - Clean


Neko - Bad Luck/Caroline Rose - Soul #5 (Personal favorites/best songs so far)

Childish Gambino - This Is America (Everyone should hear this)

Kississippi - Cut Your Teeth  (Philly Band)

Hurry - Waiting For You (Philly Band)

Hop Along - How Simple

Fancey - Carolina Caroline

Soccer Mommy - Your Dog

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Neko Case

Case’s first album in five years finds her in a haunted frame of mind; haunted about the past and about people that were in her life. The ballad “Sleep All Summer,” about lost lovers, appears here as a duet between Case and Eric Bachman, a cover of a song by Bachman's band, Crooked Fingers. It works very well as a duet.

"Gumball Blue,"co-written by Case and AC Newman, does sound New Pornographers-like, and wonderfully so, but also harks back to Carl’s days with Zumpano.

The single, “Bad Luck,” while she wrote it before her house burned down, does sound like it could’ve been about that. It also makes me want to dance (and I like any song that does), as well as think about the lyrics. It's the catchiest, most matter-of-fact pop song ever about bad luck.

The other duet is with Mark Lanagan, who is amazing on “Curse Of The I-5 Corridor.” With songs whose meanings are so buried, there’s a tendency to read more into them than might be there. I say the song might be autobiographic, since she did leave home as a teen, but maybe not the way the lyrics describe.

The music on this album, on several of the songs, is pop in the sense that the music is rich and full, melodic, but a lot gentler than on past albums. I like the way her music has evolved, and she’s singing better than ever.

While it’s impossible to hear every album released, I’ve heard enough to say that this is one of the better ones I’ve heard so far this year.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, May 11, 2018

Modern Rock

For anyone who's curious, the reason I haven't posted in a while is partly that I've had nothing to review in long form. I do plan a mid-year Top Ten, and I will post at least one review soon. The other reason is that I wrote a digital series (web series) script that is getting hits on the Blacklist, a top script hosting site, and it takes a lot of time to revise the script, per their reviews, and get it ready for script contests. 

The series is a comedy called Modern Rock. It's a satire of politics and music, but it’s more than that. It tackles ableism, and is a statement of "crip and proud." 

Remember the film and book Election, how a high school student council election stood in for the US political system? What if the same were tried with a music story? And like the film Get Out used horror to make great points about racism, what if ableism were tackled the same way? 

Now, while I use indie rock and culture as a stand-in for talking about ableism, I’M NOT SAYING INDIE ROCK IS ABLEIST. Far from it. It’s just that I know this form of art the best, and writing what you know is a writing golden rule. 

The band Modern Rock, whose leaders, Leaf and Gail, are a disabled couple, represent left-wing indie rock. They are stalked by the Alt-Alt, right wing indie rockers, the alternative to the alternative, personified by the band Bad Bliss. Simply because Leaf and Gail are disabled, they are sexy to Eliza and Olive, the female half of Bad Bliss. Bad Bliss--if Nirvana had been terrible instead of wonderful, what then? So you have songs that speak to this situation, label conflicts, and bandmates like X, the disabled drummer for Modern Rock, who's hounded by Donald and Gene of Bad Bliss. The left wins in the end, with the disabled on top. 

Where did I get the idea from? One question deserves another: Why isn’t there a #metoo movement about ableism? If you argue it isn’t the same, think of it this way: Both physically and mentally disabled people experience discrimination and abuse because of who and what we are, just like women do. We’re supposedly stupid, crazy, failures, infantile, and so on. If I were any of that, if any of the disabled were, would I be writing this? Think about it.

Lastly, this story is also a tribute to bands, some living, like the New Pornographers, some with members who are no longer with us, like the late Scott Miller, Gil Ray, who played with Scott for so long, Faye Hunter of Let’s Active fame, and Chris Cornell--all fine musicians, gone too young. Let them live again within this digital series. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Country Fair

 New Pornographers guitarist Todd Fancey’s digital only release is a tribute to the 60s/70s country music he loved growing up. He and Paul Rigby, Neko Case’s longtime guitarist, along with other guests, have made a great update here just by being faithful to the spirit of the originals. I like the bit of loving irony sprinkled in as well, as everyone on here knows this is off the beaten path. All the more reason to pay tribute to it.

It’s also fun to listen to, little psychedelic lyrically adding to it. If you’re a fan of Fancey’s previous releases, as I am, you won’t go wrong with an album this fun and good.

Andrea Weiss


Blog Archive