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Romaplasmic Rumblings from Baths’ Will Wiesenfeld

Baths
Baths | photo by Mario Luna | courtesy of the artist

As Baths, Will Wiesenfeld has a rare gift for making the fantastic feel smaller, more intimate, and vice versa. Over the course of three records and various singles, he has built a subtle but instantly distinct world where emotional epiphanies will seem to appear out of nowhere from networks of beats and ambient sounds that move and mutate around each other with an impressive fluidity. This is no small feat, particularly considering the specifically queer bent those epiphanies take on record while also feeling universal.

His latest album, 2017’s Romaplasm, offers the most vivid and welcoming tour of his world yet. He’ll be opening that world on stage tonight at The Foundry here in Philadelphia. I caught up with Will while he was on the road to talk about the artistic influences and evolution that went into making his most accessible statement to date while staying true to his interests… Continue reading →

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Sweet Talk with Beth Ditto

Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto | photo courtesy of the artist

Beth Ditto is the kind of artist where one’s fandom can and often does feel like friendship.

From her tenure as the formidable frontwoman of iconic queer punk band The Gossip all of the way through her recent debut solo album, Fake Sugar, listening to her songs possess a fun but familiar feeling to them, like you’re having a conversation with a friend you either just met or haven’t seen in forever. That intimacy becomes even more immediate when you see her do her thing live, which she’ll be doing at Union Transfer this Sunday.

It felt more instant still when I had the pleasure of chatting with her on the phone last month. It was freewheeling discussion that covered a lot of topics both mundane—we commiserated over our dirty laundry piles and the state of my shoe collection—and more relevant to her music, her philosophies about life and work, and what she gets from both. The highlights from the latter can be found below. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Rob Huff’s favorite queer music moments of 2017

Perfume Genius
Perfume Genius | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Rob Huff reflects on five musical moments that offered solace and inspired strength in the LGBTQ community.

5. Austra’s Future Politics presented a path forward

There’s no nice way to put it. This year sucked. It started bleak, and despite moments of mild respite here and there, managed to end even bleaker. The idea of a future worth inhabiting after the onslaught that was 2017 can still seem laughable. It was downright unfathomable on January 20th when the current administration took control and blew open a gaping political Hellmouth.

And yet, through sheer serendipity, the new album from queer synth-popera artist Katie Stelmanis arrived on that same day. Originally written in the aftermath of personal turmoil, Future Politics doubled as a balm for the doom and gloom that cloaked the country in the wake of an election year where the personal arguably became more political than ever. Songs like the softly pummeling title track and the pulsing “Utopia” – immaculately rendered on record and rivetingly performed at Union Transfer just a week later – stuck with me throughout 2017’s tumultuous twelve months, making the idea of any future at all beyond then, let alone one where anyone “other” gets to have a say, feel just a little more possible. Continue reading →

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Ever-Evolving: In conversation with Rainer Maria about time apart, the new album S/T, and Philly memories

Rainer Maria | photo by Shawn Brackbill | courtesy of the artist

Rainer Maria recently released their first album of new material in over a decade, the propulsive, powerful S/T. Short, sharp, and intense, it finds the trio simultaneously evolving from their signature emo roots while seeming to actively dialogue with them in real time.

They will be bringing those songs, past and present, to Underground Arts in Philly this Friday. Ahead of the show, I got to have a chat with Kaia Fischer, Caithlin De Marrais, and William Kuehn about what it’s like to be back together, how much has changed, and how those changes inform their music and approach to life now… Continue reading →

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Unlocking the Cage with Frankie Rose

Frankie Rose | photo courtesy of the artist
Frankie Rose | photo courtesy of the artist

Veteran New York synth-rocker Frankie Rose is set to release her latest, possibly greatest album Cage Tropical this Friday. Following a period of intense tumult and transition in her life, the album draws on vintage sci-fi and and ‘80s pop influences to illustrate and navigate her journey back to music, to New York, and to Slumberland who will release the album. This Friday will also see her kicking off her tour for the album at Philly’s own Johnny Brenda’s. Ahead of the show, I got to chat with Frankie about the hardships that preceded the making of Cage Tropical, as well how sci-fi and the paranormal has and continues to inspire her. Continue reading →

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Dawn Richard brings Redemption and radiance to Club Coda

young killa

A post shared by D∆WN (@dawnrichard) on

“Y’all want me to keep going?”

This was the question that alt-R&B amazon Dawn Richard (aka D∆WN) posed again and again to an absolutely rapt audience last Friday night in Philadelphia. It was equal parts invitation and threat, hinting at a sense of giddy validation even when asked with “Are you not entertained?” steeliness. Richard was as enticingly elusive onstage as she is on record, and after every permutation of the phrase across an exhaustive, exhilarating 90-plus minute set, the answer from the crowd was an obvious, resounding “yes.” Continue reading →

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Taking shape with Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas

Perfume Genius
Perfume Genius | photo by Ebru Yildiz | courtesy of the artist

As Perfume Genius, Mike Hadreas creates worlds and narratives on his albums that are as decadent as they are delicate. These worlds often serve as a sonic sanctuary for queer music fans that now, more than ever, are as life-saving as they are life-affirming.

No Shape, released earlier this month, is his best and biggest salve for the agony and ecstasy of the queer experience yet. If no family was safe when he sashayed on 2014’s Too Bright, he’s built himself, and us, a hell of a lot more walking room this time, lyrically as well as musically. Before he sashays onto the stage at Union Transfer this Thursday (a show that will be livestreamed via Pitchfork), Mike took a generous time out to talk about the album, the circular energy that can build at a show (including one particularly memorable night in Philly), and the importance of queerness in music and art in the current dark times. Continue reading →

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John K. Samson remembers past and pets fondly at World Cafe Live

John K. Samson | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
John K. Samson | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

“We are a middle aged soft rock band from Canada.”

This is how John K. Samson christened himself and his Winter Wheat band on the downstairs stage at World Café Live this past Tuesday. It was a gently self-deprecating statement with that felt accurate in spite of itself. The band’s set was indeed filled with softness and warmth as it reminisced about recovery and relationships past, as well as Samson’s own musical legacy via several covers of his signature band The Weakerthans. Continue reading →

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In Conversation with Worriers’ Lauren Denitzio

Worriers | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Worriers | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Punk collective Worriers made quite the well-earned splash two years ago with their fiery, Laura Jane Grace-produced debut album Imaginary Life. Their fans will get to see a softer, subtler side of the group’s sound, however, when front person Lauren Denitzio and drummer Mikey Erg strip things down to open for the one and only John K. Samson at World Café Live next week. Leading up to it, I chatted with Lauren about where things stand with the Imaginary follow up, their recent move to Philly, and how to motivate in the new political landscape. Continue reading →

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Interview: Bleeding out with Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval | photo by Jenny Berger Myhre | courtesy of the artist
Jenny Hval | photo by Jenny Berger Myhre | courtesy of the artist

Jenny Hval is smart as hell. The kind of smart that makes you want to know everything she knows about art and life. Over her recent run of records, she’s explored issues of gender politics and sexuality in a manner that’s as playful as it is provocative. Her latest and maybe greatest effort, Blood Bitch, continues to investigate both through what is arguably one of their most primal and oddly taboo sources: menstrual blood. While some might be unfortunately quick to turn away from such subject matter, Hval expands on it to explore ideas of identity and eternity, all in the form of some of her more accessible yet challenging songs yet. See? Smart.

She’ll be showing off those smarts live at PhilaMOCA this week. I had the privilege of chatting her up beforehand, discussing her influences for the record, getting awesome film and book recommendations, and reflecting on how she brings her ideas to life on stage. Continue reading →