Courtney Barnett sometimes gets saddled with the “slacker” tag—she’s got this shaggy hair and these boxy tees, and these slow, shuffling bass lines that amble lazily across your eardrums, like maybe they had two beers and it’s a Saturday. Really though, she’s anything but—the Aussie crooner founded her own record label, Milk Records, while in her early 20’s; now, barely into her mid-20s, she’s emerged as somewhat of a workaholic, playing no less than 64 shows since I saw her last February, in addition to working on a new record.
“I don’t reckon you would know anything about me if I wasn’t moderately hard-working,” she once quipped.
Hard work probably got Courtney there a little sooner. But it’s her songwriting—and quirky, relatable lyrics—that did most of the heavy lifting. Continue reading →
In some ways, British singer Lily Allen is your typical pop star: she’s sold millions of records worldwide and attracted tons of media attention thanks to her wild partying and antics; if you didn’t know any better you might compare her to Miley Cyrus (in fact, she opened for Cyrus on her 2014 Bangerz tour).
But look at it another way and she’s totally different: where much of pop music is based on artifice and least-common-denominator lyrics, Allen is real and quirky; where most pop stage shows are carefully choreographed extravaganzas, Allen is spontaneous and down-to-earth, her strong personality a large part of what makes her so magnetic. Friday night, Allen brought her unique view and vision to life at the Electric Factory, dazzling fans with witty lyrics and candid commentary. Continue reading →
Cut Chemist, né Lucas MacFadden, doesn’t just make beats. He makes vibes. The DJ, producer, and mix-Master (with a capital M) has been soundtracking moments for 20 years now. He got his start with boisterous underground rap crew Jurassic 5 (remember them?)—then also took turns in Latin-funk band Ozomatli and Less Than Jake (yes, really)—in addition to creating his own, mind-blowing jams.
Throughout the years MacFadden has worked closely with fellow DJ and like-minded artist Josh Davis—a.k.a., DJ Shadow. The pair has released four live records together, and share an affinity for creative yet effortless beats. This Saturday, they’ll team up at the TLA for their “Renegades of Rhythm” tour, featuring the music of hip-hop progenitor Afrika Bambaataa. Continue reading →
Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds is our occasional, seasonal foray into summer vibes with our fave local “summertime” bands, in which we meet up, share a drink, and revel in the sunny weather (check out editions 1, 2, and 3, featuring Work Drugs, Cruiser and Chill Moody, here). Today we catch up with Philly’s The Pretty Greens; read on to experience the adventure.
One thing I love about The Pretty Greens is that their take on “summer” music is delightfully multi-faceted. They’re not writing music to escape, or bliss out to; and they’re not writing ragers to sweat out to in some basement. No, The Pretty Greens are writing music that’s visceral and tough to characterize, incorporating bits of surf, garage, Brill Building pop, punk, new wave, and more, into a warm blend of sounds that’s perhaps more evocative of the real complexities oflife.
Philly rock trio Tinmouth has been kicking around the city for a couple of years now, playing bills with the likes of Eternal Summers, Free Time, and Dent May while refining their brand of fuzzy, college rock. A self-described bunch of “reformed romantics, somewhere beyond Missed Connections and Casual Encounters,” the band both distills and pays tribute to classic rock tropes, creating something exciting and warmly familiar. Continue reading →
There’s something about old-school hip-hop that just oozes summer in the city—whether it’s DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince celebrating chicks at Fairmount Park or Snoop paying tribute to his favorite bev—and the videos, with their beach chairs, bbqs, and wild block parties—only drive this home. Summer in the city is not like the other seasons: people go wild and indulge, as if their inhibitions melt under the summer sun.
Every year to celebrate summer, Chill hosts a #nicethings Weekend (#nicethings is his catch-all catchphrase), complete with bbq, bowling, and a pool party at a mystery location. This year’s #nicethings event runs August 22 through 24. Curious about the event—and his summer go-tos in general—I met up with Chill at one of his fave Center City bars, Time, to talk Will Smith, cocktails, and how he’d spend his ultimate summer in Philly. Continue reading →
About 45 minutes before I’m supposed to meet Philly pop rebel Juston Stens for a poolside cocktail at North Shore Beach Club, I get a text: “Kate, I’m so sorry. My van broke down in South Philly. Should we reschedule?”
I’m headed back to South Philly myself, and his van just so happens to be near my neighborhood. So I tell him no worries, we can do the interview as he waits for a tow. It’s about 90 degrees out and by the time I reach him, he’s already been waiting 4 hours. “They sent a guy out already, but the trailer bed wasn’t big enough,” he quips, gesturing towards his monolith of a vehicle.
Considering how long he’s been waiting, he’s in a surprisingly good mood. He apologizes profusely for ruining our pool plans, then eagerly starts describing his new record. When the tow truck arrives, he chats with the driver, then helps push the van into a parking spot post-tow. “I work as a mover, part-time,” he tells me, unphased by its enormity. “This is nothing.” Continue reading →
I’ve been a fan fan of Man Man for almost a decade now—the same amount of time I’ve lived in Philadelphia. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think there’s something quintessentially Philly about this wacky foursome—something passionate, and unhinged, and maybe a little sweaty—with a big heart underneath all the face-paint. For the past 10 years, I’ve loved watching them grow with the city, transitioning from a ragtag group of gypsy punk weirdos singing fantasy-inspired chants—to a (more) polished quartet crafting real moments of heartache—while never losing their unique essence.
From the start, front man Ryan Kattner (a.k.a. Honus Honus) has been the driving creative force behind the band, as well as one of our fave interview subjects. One year after our last chat, I rung up Kattner again, in advance of Man Man’s set at XPoNential Fest. We talked kids, celebs, and audience requests—read on to get the full scoop. Continue reading →
In some ways, the ladies of Amanda X are the biggest punks we know. When they first came together, they were still new at their instruments (guitarist/vocalist Cat Park had previously played bass and sang in Band Name; and bassist Kat Bean and drummer Tiff Yoon had only played guitar). Yet they formed an easy bond despite this, and within 2 months of coming together, recorded their first EP—much like the Ramones or the Sex Pistols before them.
It was a beautiful night Saturday night: moderate, breezy, low-humidity—and Camera Obscura—the long-running, Scottish twee act—proved the perfect digestif, their similarly breezy melodies closing out a perfect evening. The band regaled fans with an hour-and-a-half-long set at World Café Live, imbued with sweetness, sentimentality, wistful vocals, and warm, candy-coated harmonies.
The past year has been a busy one for the band, due to two, new, Camera Obscura babies [both front woman Tracyanne Campbell and bassist Gavin Dunbar welcomed sons]; as a result, the band is hitting the States just now in support of their 2013 LP, Desire Lines. But if the new material feels stale to them by now, they certainly didn’t show it, running through half the record with energy and workman-like charm: bouncing in place to “Do It Again,” then dialing it down slightly for calypso-tinged slow groove “Cri du Couer.” Normally a five-piece, the band numbered seven Saturday night, with the addition of a trumpeter and a second percussionist.
And while the whole band was on-point, it was front woman Tracyanne Campbell who really shone, and whose gorgeous, gauzy vocals—which can convey both sadness and euphoria in a single note—are a large part of what makes Camera Obscura so magical. Live, Campbell was just as mesmerizing as on record, her nuanced intonation lending the songs depth and breadth.
When I spoke to keyboardist Carey Lander the other week before the show, she revealed that it’s impossible to fully give in to the pain behind the songs night after night without burning out; instead, she explained, “You have to make it a song you perform for other people to enjoy.” Still, Campbell did such a good job replicating songs’ emotional highs and lows, I felt like I was experiencing everything for the first time, and left feeling strangely cleansed.
With so many earnest, summery tunes, it’s hard to pick faves—but I felt particularly exhilarated during joyous, summer anthem “Honey in the Sun”—and thrilled during swirling, twee standby “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken.”
The band closed its set with a trio of old songs—“Come Back Margaret,” “Books Written for Girls,” and “Razzle Dazzle Rose”—but I swear I could’ve listened to them for another hour easily. Camera Obscura’s reality is warm, inviting, and invigorating; bathed in their tunes, I felt simply invincible.