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Watch Kamasi Washington’s new ode to an old jazz hero

Kamasi Washington | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Calling the work of jazz icon Kamasi Washington “earth-shattering” would simply be an understatement. His 2018 sophomore album Heaven and Earth is a masterpiece of adrenalized improvisation with roots in Afro-Latin rhythms. The series of music videos accompanying the latest album seem to be piecing together a larger narrative, one laden with political and cultural significance. His song “Hub-Tones” is a take on trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s 1963 piece of the same name, and in its new music video, directed by Jenn Nkiru, the camera focuses on three hypnotic women dancing for a full nine minutes. Continue reading →

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Watch Noname rock a medley of songs from Room 25 on Colbert

Noname on Colbert | via twitter.com/colbertlateshow

The last time Noname was on late-night TV was two years ago, accompanying collaborator Chance The Rapper on Saturday Night Live. But last night the Chicago rapper claimed the entire stage for herself with an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Backed by a full band, Noname performed a three-song medley off her flawless new album, Room 25“Blaxploitation,” “Prayer Song,” and “Don’t Forget About Me.” Any jittery nervousness that might have been evident was swept away as she fell into the rhythm of her verses, reinforcing the fact that this woman was born for the spotlight. Continue reading →

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Listen to an otherworldly Folkadelphia performance from The Innocence Mission

The Innocence Mission
The Innocence Mission | photo courtesy of the artist

Lancaster folk trio The Innocence Mission released their 11th album, Sun on the Square, this past spring. In it, three decades worth of experience culminate in a vast and enchanting work, and though it’s hard to believe the band could get anymore stripped down, that’s exactly what they did in a recent Folkadelphia session. Without orchestral accompaniment, there is nothing to distract from Karen Peris’ lilting vocals, which float above an intricate puzzle of Don Peris’ fingerpicked guitars, creating an otherworldly feeling. Check out the session below. Continue reading →

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I Think Like Midnight releases a labyrinth of an EP

 

I Think Like Midnight | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

I Think Like Midnight, the Philly instrumental rock four-piece (and self-proclaimed “close cousins” of Pell Mell, Luna and You La Tengo), are back with their second release of 2018, an EP called Kompromat. The title is derived from a Russian word meaning compromising material, usually in reference to a political figure. It seems impossible for art made in the last few years to lack any political context, but rarely is that context so subtle. The title is only the slightest nod, not letting itself be consumed by connotation. The lyric-less jam session leaves space for ambiguity, the songs open to limitless interpretation. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Joey Sweeney and the Neon Grease

Joey Sweeney has been a fixture on the Philadelphia scene for as long as I can remember. Back in my college days, he was a witty, sassy, no-bullshit columnist for the Philadelphia Weekly who also fronted the Wilco-tinged indie rock band The Trouble With Sweeney. He went on to found the revered cityblog Philebrity (which, sadly, seems to be on something of an extended hiatus), then returned to music in the 2010s: first with the wacky denimcore rock outfit Arctic Splash, then with the elegant Long Hair Arkestra. That’s to say nothing of the early ramshackle rock acts of his formative years, which I wasn’t around for, but I’m told The Barnabys were quite good, and their brief reunion at his 40th b-day gig Your Life is Calling, and tracks on its companion compilation, seem solid.

Point being: Sweeney has been ingrained in the city’s music and culture for so long that he probably needs no introduction. And now that I’ve gone and spent all this time introducing him, we arrive at the question: why? What keeps us returning to Mr. Joey Sweeney two decades into his career? Continue reading →

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Hour gets emotional in new single “At the bar where you literally saved me from fatal heartbreak”

Hour
Hour | photo by Julia Leiby | courtesy of the artist

It’s tempting to call Philadelphia instrumental six-piece Hour “quiet as a kitten,” but that statement would be wildly inaccurate. Kittens might be tiny, but they can get loud when the situation demands; Hour, by comparison, seems intent on making as little sound as possible, at least as far as last year’s Tiny Houses LP is concerned.

That seems to be changing with the latest song from the band’s new LP Anemone Red. While the album’s initial teaser track — do instrumental bands have “singles”? — mostly traversed similar territory as their debut, the vividly-titled new “At the bar where you literally saved me from fatal heartbreak” is vibrant and alive with a pattering drum rhythm and interlocked guitar interplay, evoking a beautiful and emotional scene over seven and a half minutes. Continue reading →

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Watch Caroline Rose’s eccentric study of suburban malaise in the “Jeannie Becomes A Mom” video

Caroline Rose
Caroline Rose | still from video

Before she heads out on her fall headlining tour, which includes a stop at Underground Arts next month, everybody’s favorite eccentric rocker Caroline Rose has a new music video to share. Rose released her breakout sophomore album LONER earlier this year, and the new video brings one of its standout singles, “Jeannie Becomes A Mom,” to life. Continue reading →

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Trap Rabbit talks virtuosity, collaboration and Philly on the 25 O’Clock Podcast

Trap Rabbit
Trap Rabbit | photo courtesy of the artist

Philly instrumental duo Trap Rabbit gets around, whether they’re backing rappers like Kuf Knotz or working with singer-songwriters like Sophie Coran. For the latest episode of the 25 O’Clock podcast, bandmates Arjun Dube (drums) and Logan Roth (keys) chat with host Dan Drago about their origins, their entry point into the Philadelphia music scene, and how they’ve managed to stay so busy as musicians. Continue reading →

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“The ethic of taking care of ourselves” fuels new benefit comp with tracks from Void Vision, Plastic Ivy, and more

Casey Grabowski performs as Secret Societies | still from video

Cancer is a cruel disease. It kills slowly, sometimes over the course of years, and even when it’s been cut and irradiated out of the body there’s still always that worry it may come back. Likewise, there is no quick solution, no easy fix. Treating cancer can take years and is incredibly taxing on the body, mind, and last but not least the wallet.

Local musician and artist Casey Grabowski has been living with stage four pancreatic cancer since 2017. Known both in electronic music circles – he played as Nearest, Obligate Surrogate, and Secret Societies and booked events for years – and as the founder of the Philadelphia Zine Fest, Grabowski, a civil engineer by trade, has been unable to work during that time. His wife and main caretaker Michelle Dewey set up an ongoing digital fundraiser that has allowed the couple to tread water while he receives medical care.

Still, even with the help of friends and strangers, they are seriously struggling to get by. Continue reading →

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Now Hear This: New songs from Cat Power, Elvis Costello, Matthew Dear, Half Waif, Richard Swift, Spiritualized and more

Half Waif | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist
Half Waif | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

This past Saturday was my 36th birthday, and, as it happens, this is my 36th Now Hear This column.  (I’ve been secretly keeping track: the first fifteen installments ran weekly over at Philly Voice during the fall of 2016; the monthly columns for The Key started in February 2017).  Thirty-six feels like a significant year – more so than 35 in many ways (especially considering what’s been happening to the institution of the presidency).  It’s divisible by more numbers, even if five isn’t one of them.  As one friend pointed out, it means I’m now old enough to vote twice! And, more notably, it means that I’ve been a quote-unquote “adult” for fully half of my life; that the time since I left my parents’ house now equals the time that I lived there.

So it’s afforded a nice opportunity to reflect back on the time around my 18th year – an age perhaps less overtly mythologized in song than sixteen or seventeen, but probably even more transformative in real (contemporary) life – which in my case was also the era of Y2K.  I’d reckon that nobody felt the cultural and historical shift from the 20th to the 21st century, from the 1990s to the still-nameless-after-all-these-years 2000s, more acutely than those of us for whom it paralleled the end of high school and the start of what-comes-next; i.e. me and my fellow circa-1982 babies: the oldest, truest millennials.  Conveniently, just two days before my birthday, September Now Hear This boy-toy Troye Sivan joined up with plasticwave popgenius (and certified ‘90s bitchCharli XCX to drop a video memorializing and celebrating the pop culture of that period – specifically 1999, although the references span roughly 1997-2000 – when, as many have mentioned, its creators were still in single digits, if not diapers.  It represents exactly, and in exquisitely realized detail, the “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered (late) ‘90s” that I have been ambivalently anticipating for quite some time now.

Continue reading →