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Listen to the infectious new Electric Singles EP by Philly’s My Son Bison

via facebook.com/mysonbison
via facebook.com/mysonbison

Call them electronic folk or experimental pop – however you frame it up, Philly four-piece My Son Bison writes some damn catchy music. After playing North Star Bar last night with North Carolina five-piece Matrimony, the band dropped a pair of brand new tunes on Bandcamp today – its first output since debuting a year ago with a self-titled EP.

Electric Singles is a big step up in production from the lower-fi, rougher-round-the-edges debut. “Vermin” has a sleek New Wave feel, with intricate chord changes and very studied (almost jazzy) solos intertwined with purely poppy piano and vocal hooks. “Stable Places” skews a bit more theatrical a la early Pattern is Movement, but is no less infectious. Check out the EP below and keep tabs on MSB’s Facebook page for news of when they’re playing live next.

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Review: The Roots champion innovation on another game-changing LP, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

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Romare Bearden’s collage “Pittsburgh Memory,” the cover art for The Roots’ …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

It’s easy to forget that The Roots spent most of their career in an extremely different place than they are now.

Years of increasing acclaim as a live act and reverence for drummer/producer/ideologue Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s idiosyncratic vision – one that put him and other group members in the nexus of a turn-of-the-millenium revolution with Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, the late great J Dilla, and others – do not measure up to the intense fame and ever-growing public stage that they occupy as Jimmy Fallon’s house band. What could have been the introduction of terrible stasis, in which our beloved home town heroes trade artistic viability for the empty spectacle of primetime fame, ended up being their greatest blessing.

Now, The Roots are a veritable enterprise. They decimated and rebuilt the house band tradition with agility and irreverence. Frontman Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter has continued to stretch his underrated creative muscle as the head of his own side project, an actor, and a philanthropist. Most notably, Questlove has solidified his reputation as the hip hop generation’s main public intellectual by authoring a remarkable memoir and series of critical theory-laced essays on the pop culture vortex that surrounded this group of Philly prodigies and carried them to their current vaulted heights.

Remarkably, they have time for the one thing that every diehard Roots fan was afraid of losing – great, game-changing albums. Three of them, in fact, since they hopped on Fallon’s road to unpredictable success (if you don’t count their handful of flashy, fun collaboration albums). The third of these and their eleventh overall, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, officially dropped today via Def Jam. The concept album functions both as a definitive statement and a continuation of the evolution charted since 2010’s How I Got Over. Continue reading →

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Great cause, great bands: The Districts, The Tontons and Kurt Vile & The Violators to rock Connor Barwin’s benefit for his Make The World Better foundation

The Districts | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com
The Districts | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com

To raise money and awareness for his Make The World Better foundation, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin announced an inaugural benefit concert at Union Transfer on Friday, June 20th with The Tontons (from Houston, Texas), and local favorites The Districts and Kurt Vile and The Violators. MTWB is a non-profit founded by Barwin in 2013 and its mission is “dedicated to enriching the lives of our youth by providing safe and fun areas for artistic and athletic enjoyment.” Barwin writes on his website:

I believe that public parks are an essential part of any community, and that all children, regardless of neighborhood, deserve safe and clean facilities for athletic and artistic activities. It is our goal to work with the city of Philadelphia and the local communities to renovate courts, fields and parks, and to slowly but surely, Make The World Better.

Go here for tickets and more information about the benefit. The Districts recently played XPN’s NonCOMM; listen to their set here, and they’re appearing this Summer at the XPoNential Music Festival. The Tontons recently did an episode of Shaking Through; listen to the song they cut for the Weathevane Music project below.

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Mirah performs two haunting new tracks for On the Hill Session

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Mirah | photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Prolific acoustic singer/songwriter and indie rock mastermind Mirah performed two new tracks for Kettle Pot Track’s On the Hill Series session last week. The songs come from her most recent album Changing Light, released May 13 via Absolute Magnitude. The Philadelphia-area native kept the studio session simple yet powerful, playing “Gold Rush” and “Fleetfoot Ghost”, with Mirah’s acoustic guitar stylings accompanied by violin and drums for added oomph. Her tempered yet heart-penetrating vocals carry the tracks all the way through. Mirah performs at Johnny Brenda’s tomorrow, May 20 at 8pm. Get tickets for the show here. The vinyl of Changing Light will be released June 24, you can pre-order it here. Watch the On the Hill Session below.

Mirah — Gold Rush from Michael Batchelor on Vimeo.

Mirah — Fleetfoot Ghost from Michael Batchelor on Vimeo.

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#XPNFest headliner Jenny Lewis back from six-year hiatus with new album The Voyager, co-headliners Beck and Ryan Adams produced

The cover art to Jenny Lewis' new album The Voyager | via facebook.com/JennyLewis
The cover art to Jenny Lewis’ new album The Voyager | via facebook.com/JennyLewis

Confirmed today via Rolling Stone, Jenny Lewis has finished her third solo album The Voyager. The expected release date for the album is July 29th on Warner Brothers Records, which is conveniently only 2 days after Jenny Lewis will headline the 2014 XPoNential Music Festival. Lewis told Rolling Stone that making the album got her through one of the most difficult periods of her life.

After Rilo Kiley broke up and a few really intense personal things happened, I completely melted down. It nearly destroyed me. … Many of the songs on The Voyager came out of the need to occupy my mind in the moments when I just couldn’t shut down.

Go here to read the whole Rolling Stone story. Coincidentally, the production team for the record included two other XPN Fest headiners: Ryan Adams and Beck. Click here for the entire festival lineup, and check out the album track listing after the jump. Continue reading →

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Katie Frank & The Pheromones cover Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock n’ Roll” for Cover Club

Photo by Will Hoover
Photo by Will Hoover

Today Root Down in the Shadow released its latest Cover Club session with Philadelphia’s Katie Frank. The local singer played a cover of Joan Jett’s classic “I Love Rock n’ Roll,” accompanied by her bandmates Josh Werblun on acoustic guitar and Joe Bissiri on electric. The cover is a stripped-down version of the hit that really lets Frank’s voice shine, but sticks close enough to the Joan Jett original to show that Katie Frank & The Pheromones can battle any rock band. Watch the video below, and catch Frank this weekend at the Sundrop Music Festival at The Fire (check out the full lineup here).

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Listen to Alex G’s euphoric new single “Harvey,” see him at Michael Jordan house tomorrow

Alex G | Photo by Abi Reimold
Alex G | Photo by Abi Reimold

Philadelphia artist Alex G has released a new single from his upcoming full-length album DSU. The track called “Harvey” has a wistful sound with hypnotizing harmonies and blissful music. It puts the listener in a euphoric state, but as quickly as “Harvey” starts, it ends. The listener falls down the rabbit hole and is left to struggle alone coming down from the high. Like a drug, the song becomes addictive — it’s hard to take it off repeat. Listen to “Harvey” below, and catch Alex G tomorrow night at West Philly show house Michael Jordan; information on the show can be found at its Facebook event page.

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Cayetana will release its Nervous Like Me LP this summer and we’re freaking pumped

te-136-hiWe’re big fans of Philly power trio Cayetana over here at The Key, so today’s news that their full-length Nervous Like Me is on its way sooner rather than later has us pretty excited. That’s the cover art up there, and you can check out the track listing after the jump. The album is due out on local-ish label Tiny Engines Records this August (exact date TBD) and the band is touring this summer with The Menzingers (they play Union Transfer on May 31st, info at the XPN Concert Calendar).

If you’re not familiar, the band was founded by three punk scene friends – singer-guitarist Augusta Koch, bassist Allegra Anka and drummer Kelly Olsen – in 2012. Their sound is angular and gritty, yet undeniably poppy. Their single “Hot Dad Calendar” is a righteous jam with a super fun music video. Their song “South Philly” is super heartfelt and poignant. They recorded a Key Studio Session for us last year, and did a Shaking Through session this year that we’re looking forward to hearing. Keep your eyes on this band, they’re moving fast.

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Mastodon rages on for a capacity crowd at The Electric Factory

Mastodon | photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa
Mastodon | photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa
The best metal band of their generation blasted a capacity crowd at The Electric Factory with an impressive seventeen song career-spanning set on Saturday night. Over the course of fourteen years and five albums Mastodon has unleashed their musical ragings against the dying light and the general frustration of everyday human existence to an ever-increasing audience. Don’t let the “metal” classification scare you off though, theirs is thinking person’s music with complex, constantly shifting song structures and probing, literary lyrics usually provided by drummer Brann Dailor. Mastodon’s albums have frequently been thematic, with subjects like wormholes and being a soul inhabiting the body of the “mad monk” Grigori Rasputin (2009’s Crack The Skye) and Moby Dick (2004’s Leviathan.) Mastodon is on tour leading up to their much anticipated next album Once More Around The Sun that is due out June 24th.

The group took the stage with no fanfare and immediately launched into “Hearts Alive,” a thirteen minute-plus snake-like guitar opus from their breakthrough, Leviathan. Clouds of smoke billowed out from behind the stage, the band was bathed in an eerie grey/green light and the packed floor of the Electric Factory was immediately turned into a bobbing, horn-gesture-throwing, sweaty sea of bodies. At the back of the stage under a huge psychedelic painted backdrop and sandwiched between two huge stacks of amps, Dailor thunderously pounded his drums. Singer/Bassist Troy Saunders bounded around pumping out thudding bass notes and wailing into a mic at center stage. (By the way – Saunders has a Rasputin-like beard, which has it’s own Facebook page.) Guitarist Bill Kelliher and guitarist/singer Brent Hinds anchored the right and left sides of the stage respectively. Kelliher sports an impressive handlebar mustache and an even more impressive array of riffs that he spent ninety minutes dropping on the audience. Hinds is a bearded, burly menacing figure who facially resembles an angry Zeus on stage. He hurled forth lightning bolts from a battered Gibson SG all night long, unleashing blistering volleys of notes and hammering riffs to the crowd’s delight.

As the band played they were constantly bathed in aquatic green and blue lights or sinister red lights. Behind them, three light cannons alternated between blasting out grids of laser lights that segmented the air above the crowd and spewing forth shimmering holographic, 3-D, upside down pyramids of green light. One early musical highlight was “Capillarian Crest” with Dailor constantly leading the shifting gears of the song with his drumming and tight, spiralling interlocked guitar parts from Hinds and Kelliher. Mid-set came two highlights in the form of thrashing speed metal riffs of “Megalodon” and some amazing dark harmonies from Hinds, Saunders and Dailor on the cosmic stoner rock of “Oblivion.” Soon after the fans received a preview of their new album and maybe one of Mastodon’s best songs ever in “High Road,” a chugging rocker with a soaring chorus that manages to sound like something that might be blasting out of radios all this summer while simultaneously still sounding distinctly like Mastodon. They closed with a loud/soft combo of songs. First up was a thrashing rendition of “Aqua Dementia” that whipped the crowd into a moshing frenzy one last time. Mastodon followed it up with the almost prayerful dark beauty of “The Sparrow” which they dedicated to a lost friend before leaving the stage for the night, hopefully to return soon.

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Highasakite close a short American headlining tour at Underground Arts tonight

Highasakite | via facebook.com/highasakitemusic
Highasakite | via facebook.com/highasakitemusic

When the three inordinately talented youngsters that make up London Grammar played their first Philadelphia show, the turnout wasn’t that great. Blame the fact that it was on a Monday, or that their sultry brand of electro-soul takes a little time to fully land in people’s heads. Either way, the handful of folks in the audience witnessed something music lovers cannot help but chase: the elusive “I knew them when” gig, where the kinetic energy of something massive begins to take shape.

Tonight, Norwegian outfit Highasakite presents another one of these moments at Underground Arts. Their sound is a new twist on something familiar, a pop-friendly brand of atmospheric indie rock that rings of bands like Phoenix and Yeasayer. Crowning the top of their potent synth-strings and climactic builds is singer Ingrid Helene Håvik, whose alto voice and surrealist lyrics cut through the mix for some of the catchiest choruses of any band making music today.

London Grammar also clearly knew a great moment when they saw it, bringing Highasakite on select US tour dates last month. Tonight, the band caps a small headlining American tour (including small-but-hearalded venues like DC’s Black Cat) before heading off to Europe in support of their second full-length Silent Treatment. This is a show worth seeing, if only to say “I knew them when” before they start selling out bigger venues.

Highasakite play Underground Arts tonight with Bondage & Discipline. Doors open at 8 PM. Click here for tickets and info.

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