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.
If my Google calendar and Facebook invites are any indicator, this spring is about to get seriously busy. This week, Harmony Woods celebrates their album release at JJ’s Diner on Tuesday, and then it’s XPN’s NonCOMMvention wall-to-wall through Friday. If I have energy Saturday, Trenton Ave Arts Fest and Making Time are possibilities. The following week, Pixies, Macy Gray and Break Free Fest on the radar. The following following week, Roots Picnic.
This has been a mostly chill Mothers’ Day Weekend, a calm before the storm, and besides brunching with my mom at Fishtown’s seriously tasty Front Street Cafe, I’ve spent a lot of time at home, playing catch-up with my Bandcamp listening. It’s been a crazy week in the world, lots or stories involving power and abuse of such — accusations of reprehensible behavior by an artist who was seemingly so right-on, acts of blatant political aggression by leaders (well, one in particular) who makes no attempt to hide who they are.
I thought I’d spend a lot of time in my Items Tagged Philadelphia processing my thoughts around these issues, as I’m wont to do. But then I found a lot of music that perfectly channeled those feelings, so I’ll just dive in to that.
This heavy, hypnotic three-piece stopped me dead in my tracks as soon as I hit play on their self-titled EP. Driving guitar and beats; a vocalist with unbridled bravado singing through swirling, surreal tape delay; heavy, spacey riffs; mantra-like lyrical repetitions. Gibbous Moon is seriously loud, seriously heady, and very much kindred spirits with (gonna name a bunch of bands this EP conjured up for me over three short songs) Birds of Maya, X-Ray Spex, Siouxie and the Banshees, Ecstatic Vision, Can, Pylon. I could go on. The band is made up of Noelle Felipe on bass, vocals, Mauro Felipe on guitar and Michael Mosley on drums. Turns out they were featured by the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s A.D. Amarosi last week in a story about supergroups — the three bandmates have worked with some 20 other bands, onstage with The Friggs and in studio with Schooly D. Their next gig is next Sunday, May 21st, at Fishtown’s El Bar for a Refugees and Immigrants Benefit.
The self-titled debut full length from this prog / jazz / rock three-piece is loud and varied — a lot of sonic fenzy, met with serious technical skill, as well as a dynamic rise and fall — “Shy55” being a moving, gentle piece that shifts unexpectedly back and forth between melody and dissonance. The players are Jody Salani on bass, piano, percussion and synths; Rishabh Bhan Singh on guitar and synths; and Sean Clinton drums. Shy just played Philadelphia Speedway last night; between shows in Brooklyn and Bloomington, their See You At A Place tour has them back in town at the Black Box Theater on May 19th and Gigtown USA on June 2.
Catharsis doesn’t always have to be dramatic and complex. Sometimes it is found in just turning up the amps, cranking the vocal PA to the point where your voice crackles and fizzes, and playing god dang pop songs with your friends. Fuzz rock three-piece Fussy — Sky Kalfus on guitar and vocals, Emily Kraus on bass and vocals and Grace Mumby on drums and vocals — gives me Moldy Peaches via Bikini Kill vibes, and their self-titled EP is catchy, fun, sad and energized as hell.
Since we were speaking of Making Time earlier, this very much reminds me of the artists Dave P and friends would book circa 2006. For their latest EP, Breezy, local electronic groove act The Thangs collaborate with singer / lyricist Mike Robinson to make music that’s very much in the vein of 80s David Bowie, or Talking Heads, or (for my goths) KMFDM’s work with Pig.
SLOWEY AND THE BOATS
At some point in my mp3-amassing days of the Limewire aughts, I came across a sprawling, incredible compilation of vintage Hawaiian music from the 20s and 30s — luau tones and breezy tempos from ukes and slide guitars. Philly combo Slowey and The Boats totally re-create that vibe on their new LP Set Sail, but with the utmost in reverence and sincerity. Which is to say: this is no tacky shirt with palm leafs and straw hats affair, this is just good sounds and songs. Catch them sooner rather than later at Manayunk’s Dawson Street Pub.
Ultra poppy singer-songwriter Brian Fitzy weilds a violin and plays it very well, but his true style is glossy pop / soul / R&B in the vein of Timberlake and Jamiroquai. If his new LP Hard Times For Dreamers — from which two singles appeared on Bandcamp this week — comes off a bit saccharine at moments, you’ll forgive it because the performance is so tight, the production on point and the songs catchy as they come.
Going to end this week’s selections on two pure ragers. Little Girls is the four song / eight minute debut from punk three piece Chronic Anxiety — bandmates Ambr, Mary Jane and Marco Pollo on guitar, bass and drums — and if Fussy, who we heard previously, was Moldy Peaches x Bikini Kill, this band is Bikini Kill x Sonic Youth circa early 80s. Loud, abrasive, aggressive and supremely awesome.
Philly power trio HUMO’s cover art vibe is very reminiscent of stories anarchist punks Crass, and circular text around a blown-out battlefield photo reads “Las voces del pueblo gritan con agonia / voces humildes calladas con violencia / destruidos por querer ser / destruidos por querer vivir en paz libres.” Roughly translated, that’s “The voices of the people shout with agony / humble voices quiet with violence / Destroyed for wanting to be / destroyed for wanting to live in free peace.” The music, accordingly, is incendiary — ferocious vocal growls, brutal riffs and beats collectively making noise for freedom.
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