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.
It’s the final weekend of summer, and folks all around me are taking full advantage. WXPN HQ was pretty much a ghost town by 4:00 on Friday afternoon, with most of my coworkers peacing out for long weekends at the shore or in the Poconos or wherever they may roam. Once I exited for the day, I spotted courtyard dining in full effect from Fishtown to NoLibs to Callowhill. Later on, I caught a sweaty, late-night, high-octane set from Philly hip-hop crew Hardwork Movement at Underground Arts, and it was a thing of beauty; as often as music that extols the virtues of party rocking can get blunted down to a businesslike live set, this gig actually felt like a literal party, and the packed house responded in kind.
And then there was the beautiful not-too-hot-not-too-chill temperature zone, ideal for yesterday afternoon’s N2N Festival in West Philadelphia, where legendary percussionist Sheila E. threw down in tribute to the late great Prince as the neighborhood turned out to fill the street at 50th and Baltimore. (Later on in the evening, her Minneapolis funk-rock contemporaries Morris Day and The Time performed in a downpour, but the true believers nevertheless stuck it out.)
I’m not one of those people who subscribes to the whole endless-summer mentality; I am perfectly happy to welcome in autumn, my favorite time of the year. But just as summertime carries a highly defined seasonal vibe that translates musically into summertime jams of all stripes — rap to rock to top 40 pop — so too does the fall have I guess what you’d call autumnal jams. Curiously, there’s even music for that nebulous hand-off between the two, and this week, I bring you several of those intersections of carefree pop and existential dread from the Philadelphia corners Bandcamp.
We previously met this singer-songwriter on disruption, an EP from Philly’s Gender Work that popped up on Items Tagged Philadelphia in August. Westbound is Rob’n Delaine’s own homage to the neighborhood they call home, West Philadelphia, and the muiti-instrumental artist sums it up by writing “These are the words that I wished I had said in the moment.” Her warm alto delivery mixes with electric guitar and keys, playing arrangements that recall Janis Ian, Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell, albeit with a bit more of a rock edge. Marina Murayama Nir joins on guitar, Bailey Dolan on drums, and another Items Tagged alum, Elaine Rasnake, on bass, with Gender Work’s Kenny Wittwer contributing synths to “If These Walls Could Talk.”
For those who couldn’t make it to Riot Fest this weekend to catch that dog.’s reunion set, perhaps Garden Club could offer some of the same spirit. This Philly five-piece’s summertime-adjacent tunes are a portal to 2010, when we collectively baske in the afterglow of seeing Dum Dum Girls and Girls at Making Time and got hyped to see Slutever open for Best Coast in the basement of the First Unitarian Church. Last week, Garden Club released its debut LP, Girls, on No Moms No Rules Records, which is a fantastic name for an indiepop imprint. Emma Hansson and Ashley Fatur share guitar and vocal duty, Grace Powers plays bass with Jordan Pyle on keys and vocals and Ian Norris on drums. The music is bright and melodic, but also languid and melancholic, sitting perfectly in that micro-season where we’re excited about the now but also pensive about what’s down the road.
“Blending Kitsch and Weird since 2010,” boasts Snagwing. The string-laden four-piece is comprised of Mike Pechter, Nina Willbach, Lauren Chimento and Peter Oswald on cello, guitar, violin and harmonizing vocals all around. The new Thief EP was recorded in a spare bedroom in West Philadelphia, and crafts minimal and meditative moods in the vein of Winterpills and Low — perfect stuff for living room concerts and backyard firepit sessions.
Similarly minimal is Lazarus, the jazz-tinged long-player from JMeB. It’s a play on her name — Jamie B. Lazarus — and though it appears that the Philadelphia singer, songwriter, pianist/guitarist and photographer may have just skipped town for San Francisco, this is a beautiful set of unadorned, direct and moving music in the vein of anything from Cocteau Twins to “Come Back From San Francisco.” Cause y’know.
In collaboration with producer Blacklunged, Philly singer and songwriter Kate Rios released a contemplative set of songs this month. The Epitaph EP ponders loss and loneliness to bass drops and trap beats, keeping the mood downtempo and haunting. For fans of Lorde, Wet, Sampha and Lana Del Rey.
Okay, this one’s just for kicks. I’ve always appreciated pop songs covered in a death metal style — I love when the typically over-the-top, superserious genre and its players can step back and be self-aware enough to laugh the ridiculousness of it all. Hearing children’s songs done up death metal style though? In the spirit of Juliet, the Australian 8-year-old who went mega viral five years ago with her first metalcore song, this new collection from Philly’s Mr. Litwin called Metal Kidz Vol. 1 is some next-level stuff. Truly you have not heard “The Wheels On The Bus” or “Eensy, Weensy Spider” until you’ve heard it with pinch harmonics and blast beats; paging the folks at XPN’s Kids Corner.
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