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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Skye Leppo’s top five artists to follow on Instagram

Friends forever. Sorry about Dirt, @kurtvile ! Never again.

A photo posted by Sharon Van Etten (@sharonvanhalen) on

 

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2015 incredible. Today, Key contributor Skye Leppo recaps five Instagram accounts she was hooked on in 2015.

Usually when people ask me what my ideal career is, I can honestly look at them and say I have no effing clue, except that I want it to involve social media and music. On that note, I decided to combine these two loves of mine for my Year End Mania post for The Key, so without further ado these are my top five favorite musicians to follow on Instagram. Continue reading →

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GIVERS deliver moodier pop approach on New Kingdom

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

From a band whose beginnings came from evacuating the path of a hurricane, I found it a little ironic that GIVERS’ latest album, New Kingdom, carries the drama of an impending storm. Moody and synth-heavy, this second effort from the Louisiana indie pop outfit is a stark departure from 2011’s In Light.

While the band circulated from festival to festival this year, I caught a few minutes at Eaux Claires in Jul speak to Tiffany Lamson (percussion, vocals), Taylor Guarsico (guitar, vocals) and Josh LeBlanc (bass) a little bit about New Kingdom.

Continue reading →

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Get on board with Gooch and the Motion’s bluesy debut

Gooch and the Motion / Photo courtesy of the artist.
Gooch and the Motion |  Photo courtesy of the artist.

There’s always roadblocks on the way to success. Resources. Location. Scheduling conflicts. Through these trials, many artists still enjoy a degree of freedom in their ability to break off and let the music do the healing.

For Ryan “Gooch” Nelson, music was the only way to recover, but the ability to play remained just out of reach.

In 2004, Gooch (who was 18 years old at the time) was injured in an accident that left him a C7 quadriplegic, unable to move at all below his neck. Continue reading →

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Eaux Claires Day 2: More mud, more sweat, a lot more tears

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

The Eaux Claires festival in Eau Claire, WI continued (read about Day 1 here) July 18 with a much slower start, a combination of Friday’s intense heat and thundershowers through the night having broken some of the pressure.

Leaving no time to waste, staff photog Jeremy and I headed over to the dome marked “Eternity Awaits” that I described yesterday. Once inside the dome, recorded “confessions” and “Alleluias” played as a soundtrack for the experiment as the hay bales started to fill with those anxious to confess. These recorded confessions included everything from a woman sharing she was really a cat to friends admitting they deceived each other; really weird mix of stuff. I pulled the number “12” from the ticket wheel and patiently waited. Astronautalis came out from the confessional between hearing confessions in full priestly regalia, guzzling a Miller Lite and sizing up every sinner in the room with his own appearance-based evaluation – never mind what each person was actually going to confess.

Finally, my ticket was called and I approached the confessional, totally unsure of what to do once I got up there. But, just like in my Catholic upbringing, I entered one side of the confessional and Astronautalis entered the other. The walls of the small box were filled with photobooth-like mugs of others; a kneeler and a screen were also present in on the wall facing Astronautalis. Continue reading →

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Eaux Claires Day 1: Mud, Sweat and Tears

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

The journey to Eau Claire (pronounced “Oh Clare”), Wisconsin for the inaugural Eaux Claires (EXC) indiefolk mammoth of a festival started like a freak folk dream that never really stopped. From the time we pulled into the two hour wait line outside the muddy camping grounds Thursday night – during which antsy campers skipped up and down the aisles of cars and coolly flaunted their half-shaven haircuts on cig breaks – the party kept rolling with no signs of slowing down.

Lines of hipster drones sweated outside the gates from 10 a.m. Friday morning until they could break through to music mecca curated by the one and only Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver. (Our staff photog Jeremy cleverly nicknamed the festival #BonnarooIver.) Make no mistake about it; everything on these grounds felt handpicked by JV from the focus on Midwestern artists – every artist on the bill had a personal connection to Vernon, even those of non-Midwestern descent – to the oddly terrifying family zone – more on that tomorrow. Continue reading →

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One More Trip: Cynthia G. Mason talks about coming back to the Philly music scene

Photo by Rachel Del Sordo
Cynthia G. Mason | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Longtime Philly singer-songwriter Cynthia G. Mason is ready to emerge back onto the scene after an eight-year hiatus. Mason, who was previously a mainstay on the local acoustic circuit, took some time off after 2007’s Quitter’s Claim to focus on her family. But, as she tells it, she started to “ache” for the need to create music again, and luckily for us, she’s returned with Cinematic Turn, her first EP since retreating from the music world. During a recent phone call, Mason shared details about her transition back into music and what’s so special about this album. Continue reading →

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App’ing into bands; how Kississippi part I met Kississippi part II

Kississippi | photo by Ali Nugent
Kississippi | photo by Ali Nugent

It’s a blustery day at the end of January when I meet up with Zoe Allaire Reynolds and Colin James Kupson, the Center City/South Phila. duo who play as Kississippi. I race to the basement of Last Drop coffee shop, finding the two of them laughing over a sandwich and very colorful cupcakes Zoe brought from work.

Immediately we shift from their current perch on the couch to a table, where Zoe drapes her long red coat over a chair. I notice all three of us are wearing bright hues of orange and red; Zoe decides it’s all serendipity. Getting started with the interview, I ask about how the band got started, since the online releases of “Kissi’s” music come from varied lapses of time.

Zoe starts, “Well, …July? Technically August-ish.  Maybe July? I’ve been writing songs for a while as kind of like a solo thing, so for a while it was just like me. But then I met Colin, and— ”

I interrupt. “How’d you guys meet?”

Colin starts laughing and Zoe gives a big grin. “We met on Tinder…I think it’s really funny.” Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Skye Leppo’s most heavily rotated albums of 2014

photo courtesy of jessieware.tumblr.com
photo courtesy of jessieware.tumblr.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, contributing writer Skye Leppo shares her most heavily-rotated albums of the year.

While I maintain that my first love is pop music, I was very surprised—and delighted—by a lot of new projects and genres new to me this year. There’s a few albums I would have loved to include (Chet Faker’s electronic Built on Glass was THISCLOSE to making my list, as was LDR’s Ultraviolence). I tried to find common themes in my favorite 2014 releases, but as I sought guidance from my “Year In Music” charts on Spotify I realized this year’s releases pulled me in a lot of different directions without traipsing into too much common territory (although pop music did take the lead of my 39,000 listening minutes at 29%, or approximately 11,310 minutes of pop music). In no particular order, here are my most heavily-rotated albums. Continue reading →

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Music Diaries: Concert illustrations from three Philly artists

Trish Houck sketches Michael Ford Jr. of The Apache Relay | Photo by John Vettese
Trish Houck sketches Michael Ford Jr. of The Apache Relay | Photo by John Vettese

It’s normal to find yourself spacing out at concerts—everyone’s guilty of it. Get lost vibing, fade a little, check Twitter, people-watch, scroll Instagram to see who’s also at the show you’re attending, etc. Despite praising performances with expressions like “hypnotizing!” and “captivating,” there are plenty of times concert attendees occupy themselves beyond the duties of “active listening” (or dancing a la Elaine Benes). However, some people choose to be more engaged, and if you’ve been people paying close attention in the Philadelphia music scene, you might have spotted a handful of artists illustrating the concert as they watched.   Continue reading →

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Talking touring and traveling with St. Lucia

st. lucia
Photo via stlucianewyork.com

The other day I had the chance to chat via phone with Williamsburg-based artist Jean-Philip Grobler, known better by his stage name St. Lucia. For those unfamiliar with his work, St. Lucia’s tropical 80s pop has this exotic quality of joy riding under every note, and the best way to experience its infectious effect (other than seeing the band perform live), is listening to the band’s debut, When The Night (2013). While the project remains entirely Grobler’s, the live band is rounded out with the talents of Nick Brown (drums) , Ross Clark (bass, guitar, keys, vocals), Nicky Paul (keys) and Grobler’s wife, Patricia “Patti” Beranek (keyboards, vocals).  St. Lucia, who hails from South Africa, has been been on a whirlwind of touring through the U.S. and other continents since early last January (they’ve already hit Philly twice this year!). Read on to check out our conversation. Continue reading →