Items Tagged Philadelphia: Irreverence and solitude on a Sunday afternoon

By
Mary Graham | via marygraham.bandcamp.com

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.

One of the best thing about growing up Catholic and then growing out of it is that realization that Sunday is a normal day, just like any other day of the week. People go to work, or go to the store, or go on a morning run — as I did this morning, on a decently crowded Wissahickon Trail.

It was my first run since the autumn; it was five miles long. It didn’t hurt too too badly but it didn’t feel great either. Gotta run more often. But again, it was not just a Sunday, but Easter Sunday, which when you’re a kid in the Catholic church is impressed upon you as like the most important Sunday of all time and all the world should stop to rotate around its glory — and maybe there was a time, 60 or 70 years ago, when America actually did function that way. Thankfully, Easter today is able to exist as a normal day, just like any other, at least in Philly.

Still, it was interesting to see the religious holiday reflected in the stuff I sorted through on Bandcamp this week, from straight up praise music (which I haven’t encountered on the Philadelphia tag before) to a new release by pop-punk band called Androgynous Jesus, which was crazy irreverent and probably more coincidental than intentionally timed. I was actually able to hang with the latter for a good minute — the playing is loud and tight and the recordings are well-produced in a gritty Bouncing Souls kinda way — but once I hit a thread of lyrics extolling, verbatim, “money, weed and blow,” I realized okay, this is a doofus party song. Not my vibe this week.

It’s cool, though — I found a solid handful of stuff to talk about; folk, goth, hip-hop, experimental pop, and quite a gorgeous selection of album art.


MICCHEAL

An acoustic and sort of vaguely cosmic singer and songwriter from Philly, Miccheal wrote the two seas EP on a drive from the east coast to the west coast and back. He goes so far as to thank the interstate highway system for its support. And while others have certainly done a more sophisticated job fusing space rock and Americana — nothing on this set will touch The War on Drugs driving up the 101 from Mexico to California YEAH — it’s a positive first step for an artist just finding their land legs.

MARY GRAHAM

This Philadelphia singer, songwriter and poet claims she cannot play any instrument and that her wonderful Too Much Sugar EP is the result of “Garage Band and a lot of patience.” I say she’s selling herself a little short here, since the set delves skillfully into hypnotic Imogen Heap style looping and crosses it with a stirring reverence for Nina Simone and Billie Holiday’s emotive vocal jazz. There’s a cover of “Strange Fruit,” to boot, and Graham’s singing is dynamic and powerful. But let’s not forget, the voice is an instrument as much as any piece of gear. Graham writes that the songs are about love and the loss of childhood, and the intersections between the two – a poignant description if there ever was one. She also tags the set “idk man,” which seems to be a not inactive roundup of Bandcamp artists from Florida to Manchester to Bogotá. Stay tuned next week for my new column, Items Tagged idk man.

GOODNIGHT / GOODLUCK

It’s just a demo, but it sounds pretty great. The Philly five-piece Goodnight / Goodluck has an Edward R. Murrow thing going on with their band name and a solid Get Up Kids / Rainer Maria vibe sonically, with a penchant for mathy arrangements and lyrics about suburban sprawl and psychic unease. They’re also so new that there’s no information indicating which band member does what, but the people involved are Alex Brown, Sarah Puleo, Ed Taylor, Jayson Verdibello and Eric Zrinsky. Give these folks a hi-five next time you see them.

BYRDVERSION1

Not terribly much to say on this one — it’s beat tape that sounds pretty sweet, 31 tracks that mine soul hooks and funky beats in the style of the early digital 90s era. I also this the cover photo of Nevermore is beautiful, and its geometry nicely aligns with our next selection.

KYLE ROBERT LAW

Seriously, they both involve cars and would look beautiful in matted frames side by side on a gallery wall, right? Anyways, Kyle Robert Law is a banjo playing dude, but give him a chance — he’s got swift fingers, a sweet voice and a knack for observational folk. My fave: “The Dudebro in the Front Row,” which takes a self deprecating dig at white male privilege (and Bernie bros, to a lesser extent) and blends comedic lyrics with trad playing successfully when most folk musicians attempting that tend to faceplant. Or rather, most folk musicians in that situation mistake the laughter of the coffeeshop crowd in the moment as having done something profound and timeless, when it’s like naw man, this joke-song is not a song people are going to want to listen to down the line. Maybe Law’s is though; or maybe he’s got deeper stories to share. In any case, I dig it.

MONICA DE VITRY & JORDAN RAST

More folk, this time from Lancaster — with one half of the duo sharing a last name with another folky Lancastrian, The Stray Birds’ Maya de Vitry. Not sure if the two are related, or if it’s another coincidence, but there’s a spiritual connection if nothing else, with Monica de Vitry playing upright bass and harmonizing with singer-guitarist Jordan Rast. It’s an unfussy arrangement but sounds wonderful, whether they’re covering “Angel From Montgomery” or playing the knockout original “Glory Land.”

HIDDENKEY

Another collection of demos, this one of songs with a Cocteau Twins sensibility sung by an artist who clearly also digs the Lorde and Lana side of the spectrum. A nice set of haunting goth / folk to put a chill into your Sunday.

SNAKE BOY GANG

On the topic of musical irreverence on this Sunday, dude, most ridic artist promo pic I’ve seen in a minute. Spit is the new EP from Snake Boy Gang, the project of one Madel Rafter, and though it opens seeming like they’re going to take the music in a quirky Beck-style direction of looped drumming and kitchen sink instrumentation, it turns into a flat our rager of a rock song that captures that moment when you’re feeling antisocial and yet seriously yearn for connection.

YOU & YOUR WHATEVER

Early R.E.M., or The Replacements, or Pavement — take your pick, but if you like any of those, you’ll probably headnod along to this lively two-song single from Philly trio You & Your Whatever.

NTHAN
We’ll close out this week on two beautiful ambient tracks by Philly’s NTHAN (full name unknwn), who is sonically very in step with the gauzey dream pop synth orchestrations of M83 — between atmospheric drones and lightly plucked acoustic guitar strings, these could be the interstitial moments on Before the Dawn Heals Us. The first of the Two Songs single is called “Shut Yr Eyes and You’ll Burst Into Flames,” and I’m not sure if it’s a reference to Kaki King, or the Log Lady, but I’d like to think it’s a little bit of both.

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