Philly’s City Rain are known for their big-beat electro-pop anthems (cue “The Optimist,” the excellent single from earlier this year). But the new music they’ve been teasing on Facebook from the forthcoming Songs From a High School Dance indicate the new LP might be more dynamic than we might expect. The duo of Ben Runyan (vocals, production) and Scott Crumpstone (guitars) took a late autumn trip to the beach in Avalon this week to finish tracking, and the snippets they shared included a minute and a half of reverbed doo-wop (a sketch of a song since taken down) and the full new cut called “Mama I Want To Go Home.”
I’m used to hitting play on a City Rain soundcloud link and hearing a lush synthesizer bloom, a slamming kick pulse, a hollering vocal from Runyan, the City Rain format that I’ve come to know and dig. So when this one opened with an acoustic strum – something out of Radiohead’s The Bends – and a sensitive and hushed falsetto, I was taken aback.
As the single builds, we hear piano chords and keyboard beeps – eventually being led along with a gently swaying drumbeat – but none of the in-your-face volume and energy of the past. But there’s no lack of intensity either. Runyan calls it “Folk Rain.” I call it an impressive display of sonic restraint, and a great development for their sound. City Rain headlines The Transfer Station – a new arts space in Manauynk – tonight at 8 p.m. with Former Belle; more info at the show’s Facebook event page.
Local dream rock frontrunners The War on Drugs have announced that their new record, Lost in the Dream, will be released on March 18th accompanied by a release show at Union Transfer. ”Red Eyes” is our first glimpse of the third full-length from the band, and it’s a beautiful and energized track that sounds like a natural progression from 2011′s exceptional Slave Ambient.
The song layers hazy synths and a driving piano line with fast-paced and nervy energy in the drums that foreshadows an epic build long before the song takes that turn. Front man Adam Granduciel’s unmistakable melodic guitar playing and vocals are not at all static, echoing and distorting and moving up and down in the mix the way someone speaking in a dream might. Tickets and info for the hometown record release show will be available here. Stream “Red Eyes” below.
For the longest while, there was a definite refrain you’d hear about heavy roots crew Levee Drivers. “Oh man, that band is awesome, you’ve gotta hear their song ‘Tennessee Girl.’” The Philly via Bucks County group’s signature tune from its 2008 self-titled debut is, make no mistake, a rager. It’s a blistering, burning railroad anthem chugging along like Johnny Cash through a distortion pedal. But for the longest time, that EP was the only recorded music the band had, and the Levees were being defined by a five-year-old song – even though catching any of their raucous live sets locally and on tour showed that songwriter and frontman August John Lutz III has many, many more compositions in his notebook. This winter, the Levees released their first new EP since their debut, Live at East Coast Recording. It’s got an acoustic undercurrent to it but not, you know, wimpy acoustic. You’ll hear in the songs the band performed for their Key Studio Session that even quieter Levees get notched up – from the booming kick drum on “Stars and Highway Blues” to the rambling rhythms and twangy harmonies of “Them Heartaches.” Of course they did “Tennessee Girl” – it wouldn’t be a Levee Drivers set without it. But they also introduced a new song, newer than the new EP, a searing rocker called “There You Go” that matches and possibly outdoes the band’s signature tune in rootsy rambunctiousness. Levee Drivers are heading into the studio next year to record another batch of new material – hopefully we’ll hear it sooner than later. Meantime, help them celebrate the new EP on Friday at Kung Fu Necktie; information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Below, download the Levee Drivers’ Key session and check out two videos from it care of local filmmaker Bob Sweeney. Also, don’t miss a sweet gallery of scenes from the session by photographer Caitlin McCann at the top of the page.
There’s something democratizing about being a singer-songwriter. It’s a style of music that is open to just about anybody, so long as they have a guitar, a voice and something to say. The other side of the coin: it takes a lot more for a musician to stand out of the pack when so many others are participating.
Elizabethtown, Pa. native Katie Frank first caught our attention with a simple and somewhat mysterious video shot in black and white on a South Philly stoop for Bands in the Backyard. She came across as your typical sensitive singer with lovely, striking voice. Turns out we were seeing just one side of her.
The Covered Bridge Road EP showcased the twangy country vision Frank had for her music, and introduced us to her collaborators – who would later become known as The Pheromones. It was beautifully arranged and poppy sounding, but wait. When the band recorded its Key Studio Session, we saw a much more butt-kicking side, some rumbling rock and roll to mix with Frank’s lyrics about heartache and self-doubt. It’s kind of like she sings: “Maybe you knew me once, but you don’t know everything.”
Tonight we bring you “Tunnel Vision,” the first single from Katie Frank and The Pheromones’ debut LP Counting Your Curses, and in it we see the total of everything we just talked about. Frank is quiet and pensive on the jangling verse while rootsy guitar leads ebb and flow. And then, as the chorus kicks in, she’s spitfire, angry and belting out “We’re running but we’re doing the best we can” over rumbling amplifiers.
Katie Frank doesn’t fit easily into the singer-songwriter stereotype, and that’s exactly what makes her a singer-songwriter to watch. She’ll sadly sing you her secrets, and then she’ll scream in your face if you dare do her wrong. She’s introspective, but she’s aggressive; she isn’t embarrassed to open up and be earnest, but she won’t take any guff.
Counting Your Curses is out in February, and we’re pretty excited to hear the whole thing. Get your pre-order here and listen to “Tunnel Vision” below and get information on Katie Frank and The Pheromones’ album release show at MilkBoy on Friday, February 21st at the XPN Concert Calendar.
In the spirit of #GivingTuesday – which takes place today – WXPN is spotlighting the great work of various organizations and businesses throughout the community. We have a day for giving thanks, days for giving gifts, and now we have a day for giving back! Start your giving season with a pledge to WXPN here.
Our friends at WMMR recently began their week long annual Camp Out For Hunger at XFINITY Live! at the Sports Complex in South Philly during which they are collecting donations for Philabundance’s mission to fight hunger and malnutrition in the Philadelphia and Delaware Valley. During Camp Out for Hunger, WMMR Morning Show hosts Preston Elliot & Steve Morrison literally live in an RV for the week, broadcast live, and accept donations of non-perishable foods. Go here for more information about Camp Out for Hunger and how to donate food. Camp Out for Hunger ends Friday, December 6th. Go here to find out more about #GivingTuesday.
New York country duo The Sweetback Sisters bring their country christmas sing-along spectacular to Johnny Brenda’s on December 17th. Now in its fifth year, the show has sparked a holiday album that features yuletide classics like “Winter Wonderland” along with some rare tracks including “Christmas Boogie,” a retelling of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by the Davis Sisters. The Sweetback Sisters and their full band (with local musician Ross Bellenoit manning the guitar) encourage crowd participation to make for a night of merriment and cheer. Tickets and information can be found here. Below, watch their video for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”