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With new music on the horizon, CRUISR shares single “Get Out”

CRUISR | photo by Natalie Piserchio | courtesy of the artist

CRUISR is up to something. The Philly indie-pop trio has been hinting at new music for a while now, and they just shared their second single of 2019. The upbeat new tune “Get Out” is out now wherever you listen to your music, and it’s certainly worth a listen — or two or three. Chances are you’ll soon have the bright, poppy tune on repeat; and like most CRUISR tracks its smooth, catchy melody makes it a great one to dance to, too. Continue reading →

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J.S. Ondara shares video for “Television Girl”

J.S. Ondara | photo by Josh Cheuse | courtesy of the artist

After he released his debut album Tales of America earlier this year, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding J.S. Ondara, XPN’s February Artist to Watch. Sold-out audiences are now to be expected for the folk singer-songwriter, but Ondara shuts out any outside noise in his intimate new video for “Television Girl.” Shot in black-and-white, the minimalistic video captures Ondara with just an acoustic guitar, his captivating voice echoing throughout the room. It’s easy to see why Ondara, who immigrated to Minneapolis from Kenya just a few years ago, cites Bob Dylan and the American folk tradition as influences — and why everyone is calling him an artist you need to know. Continue reading →

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American Trappist walks the line, drunkenly, in the “Holy Moses” video

American Trappist | still from video

Joe Michelini of American Trappist is a generally positive person, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t dealt with his share of darkness. His last album, Tentanda Via, was born out of a struggle with existential dread, rejection of the religion he’d been raised in, but also a fear of a world sans faith.  His latest song, the distressed rocker “Holy Moses,” came from a different kind of low where Michelini needed to work out the idea of forgiveness. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Empath

We weren’t even ten minutes into setting up for Empath‘s Key Studio Session this week and conversation had already shifted from record pressings and tour schedules to laser light shows and the prospect of finding one that works at a basement gig scale.

Which, for four people dubbed “2018’s trippiest punk band” by Rolling Stone, it’s not entirely surprising. On the one hand, the booming low end blasts from Randall Coon’s Moog bass synthesizer throw us back to the cutting indie-dance of The Faint, or earlier to the sheen 90s noise-popsters Stereolab, earlier still to 70s experimentalists Suicide, while singer-guitarist Catherine Elicson spends the outro of “Soft Shape” coaxing caustic squeals out of her instrument, feverishly picking way up the fretboard in a frenzy reminiscent of Sonic Youth and Versus. Empath is punk at heart, and when it wants to hit, it hits hard and unrelenting, choosing the path of vivid and visceral expression over a more approachable conventionality.

But listen to their performance of “Hanging Out of Cars,” another song from their new Active Listening: Night on Earth, and a spark of serenity enters the picture. The introductory minute and a half of warbling guitar, racing rhythms and lyrics about travel, freedom, and desire give way to an ambient expanse. For the next four minutes, we’re adrift in upper-register keyboard pulsations from Emily Shanahan, soft and subtle free-time beats by drummer Garrett Koloski, bubbling loops from Koon, waves of sound from Elicson, with an underbelly of windchimes, bird sounds, and a voice murmuring indistinctly. It’s peaceful without being overly pretty, a potent improvisation in the spirit of Pink Floyd at Pompeii, and an immersive experience for performers as much as the spectators. Watching from the mixing console, the phrase Active Listening clicked in a big way. I also realized that, yeah, they weren’t at all joking about those laser lights. Continue reading →

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Kurt Vile covers The Rolling Stones for Spotify Singles session

Kurt Vile | photo by Samantha Bloom | courtesy of the artist

Hometown hero Kurt Vile recently stopped by Spotify HQ recently to record a pair of singles, including a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations.” The track, from the Stones’ 1968 album Beggars Banquet, is reimagined in Vile’s signature style and stripped down for the session, with drawn out vocals and harmonica. The B side is an acoustic version of “Loading Zones,” off Vile’s recent album Bottle It In. Listen to the singles below via Spotify. Continue reading →

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Let the music move you in Hozier’s “Sweet Music” video

Hozier | still from video

Irish singer-songwriter Hozier knows a thing or two about connecting music with deep sentiment, and in his new music video, he adds an element of motion to all that emotion.

The snappy “Sweet Music” boasts a slight electronic groove and a massively catchy melody, and as the song plays out, we find Hozier performing it in a warehouse space, surrounded in various corners by musically-inclined people dancing to the rhythm: a cellist and a jazz trio, a tap dancer and a couple pulling interpretive moves in their apartment. Continue reading →

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Khemist speaks up for struggling musicians with new single “I Been On A Budget”

Khemist | photo by Brian Freeman | courtesy of the artist

Many rappers today want to tell you about their wealth — the designer clothes, the luxury cars, the endless fountains of champagne. Not Khemist. This Philadelphia-based rapper and poet just released a new single called “I Been On a Budget” that exposes the difficult life of the starving artist. The song’s composition calls back to jazz rap of the early 1990s as defined by groups such as A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets. A combination of bass, drums, and horns underscore Khemist’s verses and emphasizes that, while a musician’s struggle to make ends meet is not new, it still matters. Continue reading →