From outsider rock to pure pop, Honey Radar are experts at harvesting jams

Honey Radar | photo by Scott Troyan | courtesy of the artist

There are a few things that catch your eye right away upon walking into Jason Henn’s Kensington home where he lives with his wife. Some might be drawn to the shelf holding a variety of books, CDs and records along the wall to the right of the front door. It’s hard to miss the dinner table-sized textile loom just behind the couch, right next to the actual dinner table, which fills the living room as if it were any other ordinary piece of furniture.

Henn, guitarist and singer of Philly lo-fi rock band Honey Radar, walks into the living room where the other four members of the group are sitting. They’ve gotten together tonight to discuss their new album Ruby Puff of Dust. Fast forward to an hour later when wiry and exuberant guitarist Jess Stober makes an observation of something on Henn’s shelf.

“Jason, I just noticed all of your Jandek CDs on your shelf,” he says half excitedly, half amazed. “Man, I thought I had a lot.”

Everyone turns toward the shelf where there are stacks of jewel cases with white labels on their spines. “Yeah, they’re there because I wanted to protect my Monkees box sets,” Henn replies without a moment’s hesitation.

A collective belly laugh fills room. Continue reading →


Kevin Morby shows off his range, shares the mic with Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, at Union Transfer

Kevin Morby and the Oh My God Band | photo by Emily DeHart for WXPN

The clouds had settled on stage and flowers were in place: Kevin Morby was back for his first show in Philly since 2017. Touring in support of his acclaimed album Oh My God, Morby and his powerful backing band ran through a Sunday night set touching on all five of his neo-folk rock albums for a modest, yet enthusiastic Union Transfer crowd. Continue reading →


How Laser Background’s Andy Molholt and Ava Luna’s Julian Fader rose to the summer camp songwriting challenge of Coughy

Coughy | photo by Natalie Piserchio | courtesy of the artist |

With great summer camp memories come great friendships. With highly efficient recording sessions come infectious albums. Combine the summer camp memories with the recording sessions in two vastly different settings; now pour over the friendship and you have Coughy’s debut album, Ocean Hug.

The twenty-song effort comes from Andy Molholt and Julian Fader, of Laser Background and Ava Luna fame, respectively, while spending the summer of 2016 together at Buck’s Rock Creative and Performing Arts Camp in New Milford, Connecticut. While counseling and teaching classes on songwriting to kids aged anywhere from eight to eighteen, the two managed to find time for some late-night recording sessions in the studio at the camp. It wasn’t until they started playing together that they decided to make all their songs as close as possible to being only one minute long. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brian Wilensky’s favorite hype labels of 2018

photo by Brian Wilensky for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key vinylologist Brian Wilensky unpacks the part of the record that often goes overlooked: the hype label.

Chances are you bought a record or two this year, and paid little mind to the hype label slapped on the shrink wrap. Maybe you briefly glanced over it while frantically tearing the plastic from the corner of the sleeve to release the album from the its embrace. Maybe you contemplated the verbiage on the sticker while in the store, pushing you to put the hammer down on a $22.67 LP that you’ve only hear good things about. These labels, as innocuous as many of them can be, deserve some recognition.

The hype label is the last piece of bait, at least if you’re shopping in a store, that the record label and/or artist has to reel in the listener, rather, consumer. They’re important in that they’re supplemental to the album art, an additional piece that’s often communicative for what’s seen on the cover, but also suggestive of what’s to come aurally. But they’re intriguing in how easily they can be overlooked. Which in turn, they often get thrown out. And saving them? Well, who really wants to cut the plastic wrap just to save the sticker? Where would you store it – in the sleeve with the album? It’ll probably get crushed, much like that annoying download card that will never be redeemed. Keep it in a binder or collage? Sure, that sounds nice but also sounds like extra work and I’m not very crafty.

If I like one enough, whether for the language or design, I’ll save it by ever so carefully slitting the cellophane, forever preserving the sleeve in its original wrap and keeping these stickers intact and where they belong: with the record. Here are a few of my favorite hype labels of 2018. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brian Wilensky’s favorite trash-picked records of 2018

Mystery sidewalk records | photo by Brian Wilensky

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Brian Wilensky has a pile of vinyl LPs practically fall into his lap, so he decides to take a listen.

One man’s trash is another man’s dollar bin. And someone left theirs on my apartment building sidewalk steps. Finding trash or strange items left behind from passersby may not sound abnormal for South Philly, but this box of records was a bit peculiar. Here is my story of a few noteworthy albums I found in a box of trash left on my property.

A little over a month ago I was leaving for work early in the morning when I noticed a brown box on the ledge above the steps that lead to my apartment building’s basement from the sidewalk. It wasn’t one of the dozens (or at least what seems to be) of nearly weekly deliveries dropped by Amazon for one of my neighbors in my building. The flaps of the box were folded shut, but it was clearly already opened and repacked. I checked up and down the block. No one was around. It was raining, so I decided to check it quick and bring it inside.

The box contained a couple boxes of assorted pizza scraps, presumably from a shop nearby, several bags of slimy romaine lettuce hearts and almost 20 vinyl records. I still don’t understand how the box arrived or why it was filled with these things, but I decided it was basically trash…minus the records, of course. Continue reading →


R&D Vinyl looks to build community, left-of-center style, in new South Philly digs

R&D Vinyl | photo by David Milstein

Just over a year ago, Queen Village locals started peaking their heads in R&D Vinyl’s original Fourth Street location. At first the curious window shoppers were coming into the store out of earnest friendliness and interest. But quickly things changed, influencing R&D to take their experimental-focused and cassette tape-heavy inventory to a better-suited block of South Philly’s Dickinson Narrows neighborhood.

Now situated only a couple doors off Dickinson Street’s southwest corner at Sixth Street, R&D, which is short for Research and Development, is feeling at home. As a matter of fact, co-owner David Milstein calls that block of Sixth Street home, too. One day he passed the storefront, noticing a “For Rent,” sign on the door, automatically imagining having the store on the same block in which he lives being “kind of like a fantasy.” At the time, he and other co-owner John Mariano, had been considering moving the store for multiple reasons. One of which was the pushback they got from Queen Village residents throughout R&D’s inaugural year in business. Continue reading →


Philly’s Ecstatic Vision on making the blistering psychedelic get down of Raw Rock Fury

Ecstatic Vision | via

Boxes of new t-shirts have arrived, and each member of Ecstatic Vision is checking them out for the first time. They’re unpacking them while Spacemen 3’s “Walkin’ with Jesus” is sound checked from the stage just opposite the room at Underground Arts last month. There are two versions of the shirts, each features the band in a fiery red silhouette, emblazoned with “Raw Rock Fury” to go along with their new album of the same name. And the hard-hitting four-piece would bring exactly that to the stage later that night.

Raw Rock Fury is a scorcher that burns hot and leaves a nothing in its path. It’s undeniably deliberate and a product of the way Ecstatic Vision evolved from their 2015 album, Sonic Praise, which was written predominantly by guitarist and singer, Doug Sabolik, prior to the band’s current lineup being fully formed. Sabolik says he was listening to a lot of African music at the time that inspired the album’s expansive space and looping rhythms underneath his heavy and whirling psych riffs. After saxophonist / guitarist Kevin Nickles sat in with Sabolik, drummer Jordan Crouse and bassist Michael Field Connor enough times following the release of Sonic Praise, they realized their lineup had been solidified and Nickles became a permanent member.

As the band continued writing more material they gradually steered away from the looping rhythms of their origins and veered into what Crouse describes as party rock. However, he and Sabolik assure there’s a bit of a concept to the album that begs a specific question: What is raw rock fury?

“The first [album] had all this tribal stuff and we kind of changed after that,” Sabolik says while venue staff hurry about preparing the bars and floor space before show time. “And then this whole idea of ‘raw rock fury’ came. What is that? So, then we kind of tailored the material around what we thought that would be at the time.” Continue reading →


Listening to a Dementor: Spirit of the Beehive on channeling the emotional spectrum for Pleasure Suck

Spirit of the Beehive | photo courtesy of the artist
Spirit of the Beehive | photo by Emily Burtner | courtesy of the artist

Pat Conaboy, drummer of Spirit of the Beehive, stands his bed, which is just a mattress, up against the wall of his bedroom so that the rest of the band can fit their amps, a synth and other gear for practices. The room is densely filled — stepping on cables strewn about the floor is unavoidable. Upon entering, each member of the band is laughing as if they’re old friends just hanging out, beers already in hand. But not long before that cymbals stopped ringing and the amps are now being turned off as practice is being wrapped up. Continue reading →


There’s The Magic: Philly’s Dulls begins with shoegaze and branches beyond on their new Moon Violet

Dulls | photo by Emilia Randler | courtesy of the artist
Dulls | photo by Emilia Randler | courtesy of the artist

Last year, Fishtown four-piece Dulls played a couple shows with like-minded shoegazers, the Stargazer Lilies. However, neither band realized at the time of those summer and early fall gigs that the connection they’d made would bode so well, for Dulls specifically.

Dulls’ guitarist Evan Raab says the two bands just hit it off right away. He and drummer Jack Pfeifer had particularly liked the way the Stargazer Lilies’ albums sounded, and it just so happened that they were recorded by the band’s guitarist John Ceperano.

“I just like their sound,” Pfeifer says in earnest over a glass of water in a loud and crowded Fishtown Tavern. “So, I asked [drummer Tammy Hirata], ‘Who recorded this? Because it sounds really good.’ And she’s just like, ‘John recorded us, you should totally record with him.’ That was it. It just worked out like that.”

A couple months later, Dulls spent the first weekend of Novemeber taking in all Ceperano had to offer in his home studio in the Poconos. Raab, Pfeifer, singer and guitarist Erica Carter and bassist Kirk Bray, all agree that the experience left the band feeling positive. Even though it was just a weekend, Raab was looking forward to getting to the mountains. And as far as recording their first tape compared to this one upcoming, Raab says the setting couldn’t have been any more different. Continue reading →


Documenting The Scene: Philly labels SRA and Richie Records on their parallel ethos

F.O.D. performs at Stalag 13 in the 90s | photo courtesy of SRA Records
F.O.D. performs at Stalag 13 in the 90s | photo courtesy of SRA Records

Around 2011, Bruce Howze, founder of SRA Records, had been looking for a singer to front his reverb-laden five-piece, Dangerbird, when he got in touch with Jim McMonagle of long-standing Philadelphia hardcore band F.O.D.

Howze would recruit him to help write, sing and play guitar on songs for a four-band compilation in the works. While in the studio McMonagle got to talking about F.O.D. material that’s been out of print since its original presses and that some people were interested in reissuing it at the time but McMonagle didn’t know them well enough to pursue it. Howze explained that he’d already been getting Dangerbird’s first two CDs and seven-inch into stores, so he was fit for the job. McMonagle agreed, and SRA Records was born.

A few years before that, in a similar recording scenario, Richie Records founder and namesake Richie Charles recorded some music to cassette with his friend just for fun. Charles’ friend made copies of the tape, wrote “Richie Records” on them and handed them out to other people they knew. Soon after that, a different friend approached Charles, mentioning the tape and its “Richie Records” moniker, assuming Charles was behind it. However, it was the first Charles had heard about it. Turned out his recording partner was passing the tapes without telling him he made copies, or even named them. After that, they made a couple more tapes together and distributed them informally because, “people wanted them for the novelty,” Charles says modestly.

When Charles was hit by a car in 2004, he used the settlement money to launch the label and Richie Records became more than a series of lo-fi home recordings circulating among friends. Perhaps Howze was in the right place at the right time, while Charles was in the wrong place at the right time. But even though these two records labels, each geared towards loud, hard-hitting and oft-abrasive garage, punk and metal, are completely unrelated to one another, they do overlap in ethos. Continue reading →