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One of pop music’s best-kept secrets, Ryn Weaver makes her live debut at Ortlieb’s

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@ryn_weaver sounding great! I spy the worlds best drummer ever from #thewalkmen providing the beats tonight too! #ortliebs

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The sounds of Ryn Weaver’s bouncy bliss-pop shook Northern Liberties last night for her delightful live debut at Ortlieb’s. Weaver dove straight into the sweepingly melodic opener “Promises,” the title track of her new EP, and even if you were hearing it for the first time you couldn’t help but want to chant along as she told her relatable tale of self-betrayal. Continue reading →

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Review: Vacationer’s Ode 2 Summer mixtape

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

Vacationer‘s Ode 2 Summer mixtape is just a little treat before their new record Relief comes out on June 24th; and this one takes you beyond the beach (though it sounds like they’ve set up DJ equipment right on the sand for the bulk of the set). We only hear singer Kenny Vasoli’s crisp vocals on the opener “Ode 2 Summer”, “Woke Up”, and closing send-off serenade “Held High”. The rest is strictly experimental with touches of hip-hop and old soul.

Beginning with the steady bass and elegant strings of “Moab,” the mixtape digs into hip-hop inspired percussion on “Vibe” and even sneaks in an excellent old school soul sample by the end. “Lake Wynonoah” is a chill follow-up that bleeds right into “Eyes” which ends with the sound of the ocean and an airplane flying in overhead. Timbaland-inspired jam “Newport” has that knock and pull that gives life to hip-hop production. So maybe this section of the mixtape is all a dream…Vasoli sings of waking up with a “hurt head” on “Woke Up” and it sounds like he’s floating back to consciousness with each lyric.

The stuttering beat of “Hawthorne” builds up right into “San Joaquin which features some great drum work. Off we go to “Toronto”, the tape’s 10th and final urban-influenced instrumental and it’s a sweet mid-tempo groove that ends this impressive section. The tape as a whole ends on a mellow but uplifting note with “Held High” as all the melodic meanderings come full circle back around to that simple Vacationer sound.

Download it for free here.

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20 years of destroyed sweaters and Weezer’s Blue Album

weezer-blue-album-coverWhen their self-titled debut album arrived on May 10, 1994, Weezer did what a lot of post-Nirvana bands couldn’t: to mold a sound that was unmistakably their own. Whether you remember making the trip to Tower Records on South Street to buy a copy when it hit shelves 20 years ago or discovered it many years later as a teenager (like myself), you knew this record was special. Dubbed the “Blue Album” due to its artwork’s background, it found frontman Rivers Cuomo unabashedly nerdy and sincere in a way that only he could be through his lyrics and vocal delivery.

Insanely melodic? Yes. Era-defining? Yes. When you hear the opening chords of “My Name is Jonas”, it’s them knocking you out of your world and into theirs and your first thought is probably: “Who is Jonas?” and you come to love the guy simply because he inspired such a great song (it’s actually inspired partly by River’s brother and Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver, depending on the source). There’s a theme of abandonment and loneliness that sort of says it’s okay to be open and bluntly state your predicament without fear of judgment. It doesn’t get anymore blunt than “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” just by the title alone, but by the end when you’re chanting “Do you believe what I sing now?” at the top of your lungs you realize it’s gotta be more than that.

In the same vein, Weezer embraces solitude and feeling safe and content in your own world when we hear Cuomo listing all things that make him content despite being unheard and unnoticed by the outside world when he’s “In the Garage” which may seem like a contradiction on the surface but it’s a clear distinction between being lonely involuntarily and being alone by choice. Singles “Buddy Holly”, “Say It Ain’t So”, and “Undone (The Sweater Song)” all stand out for different reasons. The first is super melodic Weezer, the second is semi-aggressive Weezer, and the last being super-strange-but-so-catchy-you-can’t-resist Weezer. It’s the combination of all three modes that gives the entire record such vitality that was so fresh and memorable back then and even more so now when we jam to it 20 years later.

Check out live local performances of songs from the album below and (dare I say it) pick a favorite. Some of these come from a holiday show the band did with the now defunct commercial alternative radio station WDRE.

1. “My Name is Jonas” live at The Electric Factory, 1996

2. “Buddy Holly” live at The Electric Factory, 1996

3.. “Undone (The Sweater Song)”, live at The Electric Factory, 1996

4. “Say It Ain’t So”, live at The Electric Factory, 1996

5. “In The Garage”, live at the Tweeter Center (now known as Susquehanna Bank Center), 2002

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Lee Fields & The Expressions (and you) to cap off the second annual Make Music Philly on 6/21

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

On June 21st, Make Music Philly presents a full day of free genre-spanning musical performances all throughout the city to ring in summer solstice. The festivities will commence at Love Park where the date will be declared Make Music Philly Day followed by Philly Drum Project‘s “percussion party” where all local drummers can bring their equipment and join the group jam session.

The day will end with a performance by R&B singer Lee Fields & The Expressions at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. Fields releases a new album, Emma Jean on June 3rd. Additionally, harmonica players will have a chance to shine as they are invited to join others who play the instrument for a harmonica jam session. Other events represent music across genres in different parts of town including performances from over 150 artists in neighborhoods and venues all around the city of Philadelphia.

Stay up-to-date on all the events happening near you by visiting Make Music Philly’s website beginning May 15th where you can search by neighborhood, genre, and time of day. Below, listen to Fields’ cover of JJ Cale’s “Magnolia” from Fields’ forthcoming record.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: A.M. Mills at Ortliebs, Dawn Hiatt at Tin Angel, The Warhawks at Kung Fu Necktie and more

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

Philly singer-songwriter A.M. Mills celebrated Record Store Day at AKA Music and tonight he plays at Ortlieb’s. Last month, he released a stellar track titled “Wreckin’ My World” which has a ’70s California-rock ballad feel to it (think Tom Petty). It’s simple, melodic and feels good all around. Check it out below and get tickets here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Cub Sport / Communion Philly at Underground Arts, Mobb Deep at TLA, Prism Quartet at World Cafe Live and more

CubSportAustrailian indie-pop outfit Cub Sport will play this month’s Communion Club Night at Underground Arts for their very first show in Philadelphia. This tour is the first US/Canada run for the band who self-released their Paradise EP last year. Their sound is super energetic and poppy at times (see “Paradise”) and more mellow and subdued at others (see “Shuffle”) but it’s all done in a dewy dream pop context that’s pretty hard to resist at both ends of the spectrum. Watch “Paradise” below and get tickets here.

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Watch Lana Del Rey’s “West Coast” bliss end in a sun-kissed blaze

Photo courtesy of artist
Photo courtesy of artist

Lana Del Rey is basking in all her sweet sun-kissed glory in her new video for “West Coast” from the upcoming album Ultraviolence and everything is picture perfect. She frolics on the beach with her lover to the swaying melody but there has to be some sort of unbecoming disruption to it all that mirrors the track’s bluesy undertones, and there is. Watch Lana’s fiery fate below and get tickets to her show at The Mann this Sunday here.

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Watch El Malito’s ode to rump-shakin’ fun, “Llego La Hora de Mover La Cola”

el-malito-620x534Back in 2003, P. Diddy, Nelly, and Murphy Lee urged you to “Shake Ya Tailfeather” and now local rapper El Malito is conveying the same message in his new video “Llego La Hora de Mover La Cola” which translates to “the time has come to shake your butt.” In the black-and-white clip, we see an exact reflection of the this as women (and men) prance around to the song’s cheeky lyrics. At times there is a shimmering effect when El Malito appears and in one scene he dons a super shiny suit. He asked ordinary people to send in videos of themselves dancing to the song and it turned into a kind of fun flashback to early ’90s dance videos in terms of the dancing and camera work. Check it out below and get tickets to El Malito’s show at Milkboy on May 24th here.

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Philly’s Chill Moody emerges from the depths of despair on new single “Concrete Jungle”

Chill Moody | Photo by John Vettese
Chill Moody | Photo by John Vettese

With his appearance at this year’s Roots Picnic just a few weeks away, it’s only right for Chill Moody to drop some fresh new fire. His new single “Concrete Jungle” features R&B singer/actor Mack Wilds on the chorus and it’s the perfect centerpiece that compliments Chill’s hard-hitting rhymes over the pulsating beat. You have to believe him when he raps: “I’m from the concrete you’ll find me right where talent and grind meet, ahead of the class with no assigned seats.” His work ethic, flow, and lyrical dexterity set him apart from the crowd on one of his best showings to date. Check it out below (see if you can catch the Freeway reference) and get tickets to Roots Picnic here.

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Watch #xpnfest artist Lucius’ new lyric video for “Don’t Just Sit There”

Lucius | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Lucius | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com

Indie-pop darlings Lucius have released a new lyric video for “Don’t Just Sit There” from Wildewoman and there’s lots of doodling involved. As the same face is scribbled over and over, you can’t help but think it’s the face of a lover as they sing: “Did you find love? Have you found love again?”, yearning for them to disclose the painful details of how he/she may have moved on. With crisp and fluid harmonies, the acoustic ballad soars and rests in territory that’s fresh and inviting. Watch it below and see Lucius live at this year’s XpoNential Music Festival on July 25th at Wiggins Park. More details here.