Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.
My legs were pretty useless when I woke up this morning, but I shouldn’t act surprised; according to Google Maps, I biked 29.4 miles yesterday. Mt. Airy to XPN to South Philly to Trader Joe’s and back northwest. Short runs in the neighborhood notwithstanding, I’ve barely used my bike since the fall — mad respect to those of you who keep it on two wheels throughout the winter months — so this was quite a bit of distance for me.
It was also exhilarating, and a beautiful way to see Philly on a beautiful day. Rows of stoop hangs on South 21st; the ambitious gardener with the vertical planters on East Morris; daydrinkers navigating the blocks of construction that make up center city; the golden hour majesty that is Kelly Drive.
If you have a bike, I totally recommend making a point to break it out and traverse the city aimlessly, going outside the comfort zone surrounding your own block, and definitely outside the overly-visited areas. There’s a lot to see and hear in Philadelphia, and if you only stick to what you know — as with anywhere — it gets stagnant. Which is kind of how I’ve been approaching this listening project on Bandcamp. This week begins with three of the quietest releases to get my attention this year, before moving with two potent hip-hop releases, one fired-up and another tripped out. We hear a variety of instrumental explorations, and kick it on a emo-rock nugget for good measure. Let’s dive in.
Singer, songwriter and multiinstrumentalist Hannah LaRocca builds cathedral vocal harmonies around vibey tremolo guitar in her one-person project Lazy Eye. This week’s release The EP! is a short and heartwarming collection of “Songs I wrote on the brink of adulthood.” In addition to “Philadelphia,” it’s also tagged “cigarettecore,” which I’ve never heard of but sounds pretty accurate on “saddrday” or the yearning “I’m Just Scared,” where LaRocca intones “let’s get high and talk about our childhood.”
MOST SELFLESS CHEERLEADER
Amelia Pitcherella did not tag her release “cigarettecore,” but she could have — the mood and emotion is very much in line with Lazy Eye’s The EP! and the name for her project Most Selfless Cheerleader’s latest release is even more literal. 2 voice memos is comprised of “two sparse live voice memos recorded on iphone in 2017. not-so-sparse EP to come later in the spring.” The melancholy of “inauguration” works in this most minimal of approaches; a cover of Tobin Sprout’s “martha” is just as moving. Pitcherella’s voice barely reaches above a whisper, and the close listening that it demands makes it all the more powerful.
The term Future Tense makes a wonderful double entendre of a title; it works for bookish grammarians as well as people who look ahead on their personal calendar and see no relief to the uncertainty surrounding them. Philly’s Danimakesmusic writes sad songs draped in sheets of minimal electronic pop; imagine a middle ground between The Postal Service and Tinashe.
Helmed by wordsmith Durso the Pilgrim and producer old eskimo, the Philly project BAD DOG is hallucinogenic hip-hop at its finest. Opening on a warbling showtunesy sample set to a downbeat loop, the gravel-voiced Durso trades verses with guest Lil’ C; in three minutes and change, they ruminate on addiction, power and oppression, and the interconnectedness of the three. And that’s just the opening cut.
This Philly spitter got some attention in XXL Magazine a few years back, and as they observed, he has a sweet old school / new school blend. The instrumentation on Dell-P’s 4 Da Art is rooted in classic soul, the beats are more sampledelic than turn-up, but Dell’s voice is timeless and his concerns are contemporary, whether is he’s on a political / social commentary tip or waxing poetic on self-motivation and determination.
The abstract three-piece Beholder takes a very minimalist, sound-sculpting approach to jazz on its Claim No Native land collection. Pianist Dan DeChellis, guitarist J.P. Tomasic and drummer Zach Martin work around softly pitter-pattering sound loops and electronics on songs that span anywhere from 7 to 14 minutes, casting moods that shine as often as they shudder.
Also instrumental and jazz-inspired, Philly seven-piece Kingfisher is decidedly more vivacious with its swift and suave funk beats, jangling minor seventh guitar licks and a horn section brightening up the room. This fun fusion crew is made up of Marc Jaffee on guitar, Bogi Trifunovic on drums, David Frebowitz on bass, Ethan Fisher on Rhodes, Spencer Edgers on saxophone, R.J. McGhee on trombone and Andrew Carson on trumpet. Kindred spirits of Three Oranges (featured in an earlier installment of ITP) and Darla, there’s a cool charisma to what they do on record; I imagine it’s multiplied live, especially if — as their Bandcamp artist photo seems to indicate — they play basement gigs.
The score to Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man is, in my estimation, one of the best things Neil Young has ever done, so the new Living Inside the Dome release from local guitarist Francis McKeys is right up my alley. Strings bend and ring out as fretting fingers navigate open tunings, while an overdrive pedal ads a roar and accelerates the feedback and drone, turning what could be twangy folk compositions in other circumstances into something more cerebral and foreboding.
Lots of heady stuff to take in this week, so let’s close it out on a good old straightahead rock song. Philly emo outfit Faulty is releasing a new song or two each month this year, or so their Bandcamp discography seems to indicate, and they’ve recorded in the past with CJ Blair at Drowning Fish Studio. Beyond that, information is sparse, but “Forever Content” — the band’s latest — is a punchy and crunchy riff anthem that puts a Killers / Band of Horses scope on more introspective concerns.
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