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On the Record: EMA, Todd Terje, Teebs, Dan Croll, Pure X, and S. Carey

The Future’s Void
(Matador Records)
Sounds Like:
Erika M. Anderson is back and it’s got a little more darkness, depth and mania than 2011’s Past Life Martyred Saints, which is a surprising accomplishment/rad achievement.
Free Association: A rising star in the strong, independent rock woman world does not disappoint.
For Fans Of: Kurt Cobain x Zola Jesus, Wild Flag + Gowns/Amps for Christ, Cat Power on amphetamines.

ToddTodd Terje
It’s Album Time
(Redeye Label)
Sounds Like:
The meaty, juicy debut from the Norwegian DJ/producer/remixer is a revelation – just in time for warm weather and rising libidos; rad disco-flavored electronic dance-outs.
Free Association: Though 2012’s “Inspector Norse” grabbed attention, this LPs got variety and depth.
For Fans Of: His boy Lindstrom, Classixx + Tensnake, Apparat/2 Bears/Caribou x summer and drugs.

Sounds Like:
A headphones masterpiece for 2014; the Prefuse 73 and Flying Lotus associate’s focus is on the intersection of synthetic and organic, plus a flirtation with world music.
Free Association: Finally! An electronic musician who’s obsessed with Koushik like it’s 2006.
For Fans Of: Boards of Canada x Panda Bear, Le Loup plus Yo La Tengo with rainsticks in kaftans.

dan_crollDan Croll
Sweet Disarray
Sounds Like:
This 23-year-old Brit’s debut is excellent and I’m hooked: playful melodies, smartly-written, of-the-moment but not trendy, joyous and celebratory; just super-fun.
Free Association: I’ve seen some hate and I wholeheartedly disagree – already given it five+ spins.
For Fans Of: Vampire Weekend x Beach House + Small Black, Tanlines/Cults + giving in to pleasure.

GD30OBH5.pdfPure X
(Fat Possum Records)
Sounds Like:
The gorgeously-drowsy and atmospheric blues pop trio from Austin delivers on its third with woozy guitars, languid ambience and sun-kissed sadness for late nights and long drives.
Free Association: Couldn’t tell you from experience, but these guys must really love barbiturates.
For Fans Of: Mac DeMarco + Real Estate x Kurt Vile, Woods with White Denim, guitar magic.

careyS. Carey
Range of Light
Sounds Like:
Sean Carey, Bon Iver’s drummer, delivers on his sophomore; characteristically heavy-but-pretty indie rock full of pastoral beauty (like on the cover!) and moody emotional tones.
Free Association: You can hear the badass drummer swirling around the tank of mature dad rock.
For Fans Of: Lost in the Trees x Megafaun + Volcano Choir, Grizzly Bear/Owen Pallett, sophisticated sadness.

Last night’s #techInColor mixer chipped away at “cracking the brogrammer code”

Chris Bartlett, the William Way Center (where he’s the executive director), free food and drink and the promise of gay nerds was enough to make me eager to ride my bike in the rain last night to Philly Tech Week’s #techInColor mixer. I figured maybe I’d talk to someone who reps for WordPress and talk Twitter shop with some in-the-know queers. Another reason that compelled me to attend the mixer were the whispers of something I’d never heard before: the Facebook event shouted “Let’s crack the brogrammer code!” There’s been too much talk about bros in pop media recently, and cracking the brogrammer code had me very curious.

I got to talk to Mia and Tracy Levesque, partners in life and in Yikes, a “web design and development” firm at 204 E. Girard Ave.

“We’re a full web design and development shop: front-end and back-end development, we primarily work in ColdFusion, WordPress, WordPress development and PHP,” said Mia. My eyes crossed a little. What’s that? I blinked a few times. “Front-end is like the pretty part and programming is the fancy that does all the magic—the magic that makes the website work,” her partner, Tracy, explained.

Mia quickly referred me to a fascinating story the New York Times put together this weekend, entitled “Technology’s Man Problem.” It’s a good read and a startling one. It details a handful of horrific but sadly unsurprising situations women in tech have endured, from subtle to overt disrespect, sexual harassment and a regularly insensitive but much-practiced notion of doubting the capabilities of women on programming, technology and seriously advanced computer science teams.

“As a woman in tech, I’m the only woman in the room many, many times,” explained Mia. “The only woman in the room,” she added for emphasis.

One of the things that the “Man Problem” story kicks up is the GitHub controversy that surrounded Julie Ann Horvath’s ugly and saddening account of how she felt bullied and pushed out of a pursuit she’d once been so optimistic about. A brilliant programmer, she found herself a target of male coworkers and then started getting haunted by a founding partner’s wife. The tale is the stuff women in technology’s nightmares are made of.

Mia boiled it down nicely: “It’s not a woman’s problem; this is a man’s problem. Men who don’t feel that they need to call it out need to stick up for the people that they believe should be there.” You wonder if Horvath had found more allies, in men and in her female contemporaries alike, if she would have found the strength to stay and outlast the assholes that are definitely now targets because of how much ridicule they’re rightly receiving. “Your allies helping you is what makes a difference,” Mia added.

If you’re into queer issues and technology, there’s no way you haven’t gotten wind of Mozilla’s Brendan Eich and his ascension and swift descent from the coveted CEO seat. He put some of his money down in support of Proposition 8, and it’s easy to find this stuff out. People were pissed, especially queer folks who use the browser, and made a proper stink about his questionable position in a high-powered company. Susan Adams did a nice roundup of the watershed issues that stem from this stinker of a controversy, and OK Cupid even asked their users to use a different browser (points!). Of course, Mozilla’s got a very sterile Q&A up about the nature of the dust-up and how it reflects their collective morality.

Fascinating, isn’t it? As a feminist and a queer, it seems pretty natural and obvious to me that diverse perspectives and staffs translate into successful businesses and products.

“Diversity in tech gives a perspective to see things the way you wouldn’t. It gives you ideas and opens up your creativity,” concurs Mia, the mother of an seven-year-old daughter. She wants to see a better world for her, and she’s rightly worried that she’ll grow up and struggle to find the stories of minority and female success in the technology sector.

“One of the things I find very sad is that people who have done innovative things in the technology world, women, queers, people of color, they’ve been removed,” she said with conviction. “Literally physically removed from their innovations.” Frightening, indeed. PW recently did their best to make sure that no one forgets the six women who were, essentially, the world’s first computer progammers in 1945 with last week’s cover story. Never forget.

But Mia sees the future crop of potential female tech leaders as an inspiration. “Thirteen and 14-year-old girls who are using technology to change their worlds are so inspiring to me. I’m really inspired by that. It inspires me to make the world better for my daughter.”

We’ve got a female-female team and firm in Yikes, who are seemingly actively breaking the brogramming code. And that’s something to celebrate.

Good news: XPN’s 2014 XPoNential Music Festival lineup is tight

Goodness gracious! Good gets, WXPN! Yesterday came the excellent news that the artists performing at the Susquehanna Bank Center’s three-day summer affair (July 25-27) have been solidified, and they are some of my favorites. These are some really great picks from my perspective: Ryan Adams, Jenny Lewis and Dawes on the 26th; and Beck, Band of Horses and The Districts on the 27th. Reserved seat tickets go on sale at noon on Friday for these headliner nights, but WXPN member pre-sale options start at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

The Camden waterfront will be an indie rock haven for this weekend, thanks to the UPenn radio station’s team-up with LiveNation. The full three-day lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but the SBC headliner nights are included in the three-day “Go-Everywhere Pass.” What makes these tickets a smart buy is that they include all the Wiggins Park acts PLUS these big-name draws. Those are on sale on the 17th, when the complete lineup will be announced.

SBC and neighboring Wiggins Park play host to the 10th annual celebration of upcoming and established AAA rock (for Adult Album Alternative) luminaries and, frankly, compared to 2013, this summer’s lineup straight-up slays. The headliner for Day One was The Lumineers and for Day Two, they hosted the AmericanaramA Festival of Music with Bob Dylan & His Band, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Ryan Bingham. As far as I know, the Lumineers are done for until they make another “Hey Ho,” and I have zero desire to see Bob Dylan perform as he coasts into his mid-70s. But I’ve been a huge Jenny Lewis and Rilo Kiley fan for about ten years now (classics like Rabbit Fur Coat and Acid Tongue will hopefully get due attention during her set). Plus, Dawes’ 2011 Nothing is Wrong is still a favorite in the canon of contemporary Laurel Canyon Americana folk. This year’s Day Two is rad, as well: Beck’s new one is still simmering in our stomachs and revealing its beauty over time. Band of Horses, though guilty of putting out crap records in the past, are still an all-time favorite because of their extraordinary 2006 Sub Pop debut, Everything All The Time. And The Districts, those local critical darlings, have got to be pumped to be in such good company.

We’ll eagerly look forward to a full lineup announcement, and we’ll pick apart cheers and jeers for you when it arrives.

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Mad Decent Block Party announces its 2014 — and pre-sales are happening now

Approximately 24 hours ago, we got a heads-up that a big announcement was coming. Today we see what it is: the Mad Decent Block Party (#MDBP2014, naturally, if you’re into hashtags) has announced its tour path and lineup. The early-bird tickets are pretty cheap with the presale—only $25. Be forewarned: there are limited opportunities once you’ve bought them. There are no transfers of tickets to other people’s names, and there are no refunds. Makes sense, I suppose. Don’t sell a bunch of $25 tickets so that jokesters can turn around and sell them for $100 on StubHub.

Our date’s one of the first five: It starts in Ft. Lauderdale on July 26 and ends in Vancouver on September 21. The train rolls into Philly on Friday, Aug. 8, and the presales are only 250 tickets per city. I have a feeling that by the time some of you get to a post like this, they could be gone—but it’s worth the $25 bucks! It’ll definitely sell out, and it’ll definitely be a party. There’s no doubt in my mind it shall be a sweaty, sexy friendly party for youths, one that will certainly exclude turning down (see below).

MDLupAs a refresher, last year, the lineup consisted of Major Lazer, Dillon Francis, Flosstradamus, Riff Raff, Nadastrom, DJ Sega, Dirty South Joe, Swizzymack and Jahan Lennon. I wrote a blog post last July in which I debated the merits and demerits; for a person of a certain age and disposition, I see essentially zero demerits. But if you’re grown and not into #EDM/Electronic dance music/anything Skrillexy, there are concerns—no seats, pushers, heat stroke, fatigue with the children, etc.

Of course, last year was the first year MDBP became a ticketed event. And that makes complete sense to me. Who’s in the business of providing a tricked-out full-day festival for free? Curious to see what kind of shenanigans are to be expected? There’s a mini-documentary about the traveling circus-like extravaganza of 2013, plus the trailer from the 2013 tour announcement. Naturally, we’ll be screaming about a lineup when it’s announced and—who are we kidding—we’ll go if we’re feeling like turning up.

As for the [fake] lineup, well, I know I’m pumped for everything from a Nick Cannon DJ set (featuring Mariah) and a Disclosure visit to a Lance Bass and Joey Fatone moment.

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The Philadelphia Orchestra springs into action this month

CHRISTOPHVONDOHNANYIGuest conductor Christoph von Dohnányi (Photo by Terry O’Neill)

The time has come to shed those post-winter woes and treat yourself to an evening of beautiful music. This month, the Philadelphia Orchestra presents an impressive series of classical music featuring brilliant guest conductors and a rare performance utilizing the Kimmel Center’s Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, the largest mechanical-action concert hall organ in the country.

To kick off the series, guest conductor Christoph von Dohnányi presents a program of German masterpieces. Like a spring thaw, each of the pieces selected embody the richness of the newness of spring. Through the vibrancy of Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Haydn, to the jovial interpretation of the virtuosic Clarinet Concerto No. 1 by Carl Maria von Weber performed by principal clarinet Ricardo Morales. The finale piece is none other than Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, a full-bodied masterpiece where seemingly small themes blossom into rich musical fare.

The next weekend brings more vivacious arrangements to Verizon Hall, featuring the return of guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda. This program opens with a suite from Alfredo Casella’s opera La donna serpent, a compilation of themes from the rarely-heard operatic score. Full of jubilant marches and strong-bodied fanfares, this selection establishes the platform for an evening of exhilarating orchestrations. Audience favorite James Ehnes returns to Philadelphia to perform Prokofiev’s thrilling Second Violin Concerto. Topping off the program is a thrilling performance of Symphony No. 3 by Camille Saint-Saëns, a perfect piece to properly demonstrate the vigor of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ. Audiences should recognize the main theme from the hit 1995 film Babe, a beautifully crafted selection of classical music.

Musical Director and Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and guest piano prodigy Jan Lisiecki present the next program—a celebration of Mozart, featuring four performances over the course of three days. Each performance will showcase the three prominent strong points of Mozart’s work: his operas, his symphonies and his piano concertos. Featured within this series are some of Mozart’s more widely known overtures, such as Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni and the fabulous Marriage of Figaro.

Finally, Nézet-Séguin returns with Lisiecki to present Mr. Mozart: Musical Genius. In this family-oriented concert, the orchestra regales the audience with more upbeat, vibrant arrangements by the former child prodigy. Hosted by the Grammy Award-winning Dan Zanes, this program will educate and entertain family members of all ages.

In addition to its remarkable programming, the most striking quality of the Philadelphia Orchestra is its talent. Listening to classical music is one thing, but to experience such robust musical accomplishments live makes watching the level of professionalism this ensemble is known for all the more exciting.

Beethoven’s Seventh, featuring guest conductor Christoph von Dohnányi: Fri. through Sat., April 4-5, times and prices vary.
The “Organ” Symphony, featuring guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda: Fri. through Sun., April 11-13, times and prices vary.
The Mozart Celebration, featuring guest pianist Jan Lisiecki: Thurs. through Sat., April 24-26, times and prices vary.
Mr. Mozart: Musical Genius, featuring Jan Lisiecki, hosted by Dan Zanes: Sat., April 26 @ 11:30am, prices vary.
The Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, Verizon Hall, 300 S. Broad St. 215.893.1999.

Local writer and artist Natalie Hope McDonald on her First Friday reception for “Invented Surfaces”

The Road Home largeWinter in My Room lrg

Natalie Hope McDonald is secretly one of my favorite Philadelphians. Her social media presence is always just right: I “favorite” her Tweets, double-tap her Instagrams (@nataliehopemcdonald) and “like” her Facebook statuses and comments on the regular. She’s just one of those calming, mature artists in this city who seems genuinely engrossed in her work and uninterested in playing the tawdry game of attracting web traffic with shallow content. If there’s a story to be told, with pen or paint, she seems to take the task pretty seriously.

Well, she’s also a painter, and a talented one at that. In anticipation of tomorrow’s First Friday opening at Bluestone Gallery in Old City (142 N. Second St.), we were able to get a few questions answered to illuminate her process and paintings.

PW: I can already hear First Friday wanderers who wonder how color and composition abstractions tell a story—especially a personal one. How do you combat that? How would you explain to less-than-intuitive art consumers how personal experience can be gleaned from abstract paintings?
NATALIE HOPE MCDONALD: Abstraction actually offers an unrestricted means to tell a story or to convey thoughts or memories that might inspire a person in a less, well, linear way. It’s a bit like daydreaming when we drift from one thought to another. My paintings are collages of these feelings and ideas. They start off with a basic idea that becomes much more intensely personal as I paint, draw and carve away on the canvas. Practically speaking, it involves a lot of layering and color techniques. The experience of painting is a very solitary one. So for me, that lends itself to soul searching and an exploration into one’s own psyche.

I don’t paint to feel better, though there is satisfaction that comes from a finished piece. I paint because I have to. But I do think it provides a medium to explore sometimes more complex ideas and feelings in a way that can also become (ideally) an appealing composition. I use a lot of visual codes —lines, scribbles, words and numbers—that help tell the stories. They make sense to me. But I also find them to be visually exciting.

Can you say a little about the title inspirations? Where does “The Road Home” come from (Is it Stevens?) and what about “Winter in my Room” (above, L-R)? What’s the process like when inspiration from poetry becomes a painting?
Poetry is a big inspiration to me. I was thinking about Wallace Stevens’ work, which I had been rereading, as well as a regular trip I take back and forth to the town where I was born. For me, the title is both literal (I drive the same road back home) but also philosophical—and what it means to go back to where you come from. Can we ever go back? And if we do, how are we different? How is the place different? I’ve been spending a lot of time in my hometown lately and had been preoccupied by these thoughts as I painted for this show. I sometimes feel like a tourist there, while there are still so many places that remind me of what it was like growing up. There are also a lot of ghosts, people who meant so much to me who are now gone. The large piece in this show is aptly titled “Ghost Stories.” That could also be the title for this show, in a way.

“Winter in My Room” also has a two-fold meaning. I painted the piece when it was snowing, but I also considered what winter tends to symbolize, especially in poetry and literature—and how it relates to the chill or coldness that I was experiencing in my own life. I spent many months going through some personal challenges that left me wondering how one can reconcile sweeping inspiration with what’s required of me to be able to function comfortably in the “real world.” One can feel trapped, as in a room. But that place can also be quite comfortable because it’s so familiar, and it’s safe.

Has abstraction been an ongoing theme in your work? I’m a pretty huge fan of abstraction for the way that it allows for compositions to simply play with color and visual appeal; there’s a also sense of timelessness that I believe abstract painting can capture. What are your roots with the technique? Why does it appeal to you?
In many years, it has been an important theme. But I was trained, like many artists, to paint from real life in art classes. I think that foundation provided an important platform, if only to rebel against. I’m not sure I would have such an appreciation for line, texture, color and composition if not for understanding how they come together in order to completely tear them apart. I find abstraction to be much more challenging than any of the figurative work I had done in the past. Not only must it appeal compositionally, but it also needs to come from somewhere vastly more complex. I don’t simply look at a horse and paint a horse. Abstraction appeals to me because I can share things that I might not ordinarily share in any other way. I used it as a kind of code for years—for lovers and experiences that I wanted to keep personal. For example, if you take a look at some of Marsden Hartley’s portraits, they are collages of objects rather than images of a person’s face. He approached abstraction in a similar way. For him, it involved concealing his subjects. I value that same idea—especially in a world where privacy is harder to come by.

On the Record: Nickel Creek, Shakira, The Hold Steady, Tokyo Police Club, Boy George, and Thievery Corporation

nickel-creek-a-dotted-line-450Nickel Creek
A Dotted Line
Sounds Like:
Prog folk lives! If there’s one band that epitomizes the micro-genre it’d be this California trio, runnin’ 25 years strong now and their first in nine years is an outstanding resurgence.
Free Association: Sometimes bands go away and we miss them, but then they return with boss-ass records.
For Fans Of: Allison Krauss/Union Station x Bela Fleck + Dolly Parton, Del McCoury in Laurel Canyon.

Sounds Like:
The tenth from the Colombian and “The Voice” favorite is definitely of-the-moment with J. Lo-esque grabs at dancefloor hits and a well-known Rihanna collab, and it’s still not that awesome.
Free Association: She’s a great woman to ricochet through pop culture but her talents are seemingly finite.
For Fans Of: Ricky Martin x Paula Abdul, Nelly Furtado x Gloria Estefan, legit Latina pop heroes.

hold-steady-teeth-dreamsThe Hold Steady
Teeth Dreams
(Razor & Tie)
Sounds Like:
The Brooklyn outfit, led (primarily) by Craig Finn’s (often) monotonic and spoke-sang grumblings (he’s 42), returns with a mixed bag of punk, grunge, heartland and prog rock that’s pretty solid.
Free Association: Heaven is Whenever (2010) was rushed, they say? Kinda like that one better, though.
For Fans Of: Bruce Springsteen for Gaslight Anthem, Lucero x Ted Leo + Guided by Voices, BK dad rock.

TPC-Forcefield-608x608Tokyo Police Club
(Mom + Pop)
Sounds Like:
Pleasant but ultimately lightly cheesy indie rock from the Candian quartet’s third LP with proportionate amounts of shocking sophistication and alarmingly corny pop rock.
Free Association: At least they’re not the kind of band whose success you resent due to annoyingness.
For Fans Of: Tapes ‘n Tapes x French Kicks + Two Door Cinema Club/The Used, old Rilo Kiley.

boy-george-this-is-what-i-do-album-artBoy George
This Is What I Do
(Very Me Records)
Sounds Like:
His first original material in almost 20 years! The legend’s stateside release isn’t a miracle but there are some very pleasant dubbed out reggae-flavored blues pop gems in here.
Free Association: The 52-year-old’s had ups and downs – looks like he’s currently up and that’s nice.
For Fans Of: Simply Red + Lee “Scratch” Perry x George Michael, Fine Young Cannibals/Duran Duran.

thieverycorpThievery Corporation
(Esl Music)
Sounds Like:
The D.C.-based DJ duo’s seventh reveals a tone in its title; “saudade” is a Portuguese word for longing or melancholy from loss, but it’s not all bummers – this is excellent bossa nova blues.
Free Association: T.C. make great atmospheric noise, this just sounds like it’s from a Spanish widow.
For Fans Of: Groove Armada x Air/Tricky + Mark Farina, Bebel Gilberto makes mushroom jazz.

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