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Jesse Barki of The Mellowells releases solo album Age Of Unknown Callers

Jesse Barki | courtesy of the artist

The Mellowells have had a quiet year, but that’s given the band’s members some time to work on their solo efforts. While the Lancaster-based quartet is known for its upbeat indie pop sound, on his new solo album Age Of Unknown Callers, vocalist/guitarist Jesse Barki goes in a different direction, pairing his classic folk singer vocals with just an acoustic guitar for a stripped-down sound that allows emphasis to fall on messages he packs into his lyrics.

Age Of Unknown Callers is outward-facing, socially minded LP, exploring more fully the themes Barki introduced in his 2017 Lightning Coma solo EP. According to Barki, the new album is “about how the world we live in today creates paranoia and anxiety in people’s lives through social expectations and attempts to face this problem and swallow the fears we have of not conforming to those expectations.” Continue reading →

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20 albums you shouldn’t overlook in 2018

Some of our unsung favorite albums of 2018

Fun fact: in a total coincidence of timing, The Key released our best albums of the year list on the same morning that NPR Music, The Guardian, and Paste rolled out their respective lists. Most other major and minor music publications followed suit in the week that followed, social media was aflurry with immense list excitement as much as total list fatigue.

The best hot take I saw in the fray came from Boston journalist Nina Corcoran (a writer for NPR Music, and Pitchfork, among others), who simply Tweeted: “The 50 Best Albums of 2018 That Didn’t Have a PR Machine Churning Behind Them.”

It’s frustrating, but true. It’s daunting when you’re reading about mostly the same albums in a slightly different order, and it begs some consideration. Like I’ve said in the past: while there is power in consensus, how does that consensus get there? Through mass recognition, through large teams of music journalists with widely eclectic tastes finding 15 or 50 or 500 albums (seriously tho, I’d love to see a top 500 list in haiku form) that they can all agree are great. And that happens when artists and their labels have the resources to seriously and steadily push those records to said journalists.

So what’s to become of a release by Philly rapper Ivy Sole, who self-released and self-promoted her outstanding 2018 outing Overgrown? Or one by Columbus psych/folk/punk collective Saintseneca, which did have label support on their beautiful Pillar of Na, easily the best record of their career, but the “campaign” behind it was limited?

My favorite lists, by comparison, are like the one you’re about to read — not driven by consensus, not presented in a ranked order. Not fostering a frustrating sense of competitiveness in an already-frustrating music scene. One that merely collects records that our team is tremendously excited about, and thinks you should make a point to spend some time with. Continue reading →

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Laser Background covers “Strange Eyes” for Magnetic Fields tribute to benefit No More Dysphoria

Laser Background | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren

A new benefit compilation, You Can Sing Me Anything: A Tribute to 69 Love Songs, will pay tribute to the classic Magnetic Fields album in honor of its 20th anniversary while also raising money for a good cause. The full, 69-track compilation features a different artist interpreting each song on the album, and proceeds from its sale will benefit No More Dysphoria, a non-profit that helps trans and nonbinary individuals with medical costs. The roster of artists lined up for the comp include Palehound, Sidney Gish, illuminati hotties, and lots more; we previously heard Worriers’ cover of “Grand Canyon.”

Now, there’s another single out before the entire compilation becomes available: Laser Background‘s cover of “Strange Eyes.” The Philly psych pop outfit put their own twist on the song, swapping out the original’s upbeat electronic sound for a more hushed, staticky sound that gives it a haunting feel. Continue reading →

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Caracara navigates a world of moving portraits in new “Evil” video

Caracara | still from video

They went to SXSW in March, they’ve got a show coming up at the cages before December is out, and in between, the impressionistic post-hardcore Philadelphians of Caracara have kept a relatively low profile in 2018. This could change in the new year, though, as the band was recently picked up by Memory Music, the boutique label curated by Conshohocken producer Will Yip. Continue reading →

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Worriers covers The Magnetic Fields’ “Grand Canyon” for No More Dysphoria benefit

Worriers
Worriers | photo by Molly Adams | courtesy of the artist

Punk outfit Worriers are the closing artist on the new benefit compilation You Can Sing Me Anything: A Tribute to 69 Love Songs. The album pays tribute to The Magnetic Fields’ landmark opus, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next September, and raises money in the process for No More Dysphoria, a non-profit that provides trans individuals with financial assistance for medical costs.

Worriers’ frontperson Lauren Denitzio covered “Grand Canyon” for the project; on the original album, it is the 29th love song (or disc two, song six), but the compilation resequences the record so it ends on “Grand Canyon,” and Denitzio’s solo electric rendition gives it a resonant, Billy Bragg-ish quality to close out the set, as compared to the shimmering synthpop of the original. Continue reading →

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Watch Curly Castro get his Death Grips on in a fired-up teaser for the TOSH LP

Curly Castro | photo via curlycastro.bandcamp.com

If you just went off of his Bandcamp discography, it might seem like Philly rapper Curly Castro hasn’t been too busy since the run of singles following his debut LP Winston’s Appeal. This would not be correct by a longshot; Castro’s excellent Fidel project dropped in 2013 via Man Bites Dog Records, he released EPs Brody and Restroy & Debuild with the Wrecking Crew in 2015 and 2015, respectively. Earlier this year, he and Zilla Rocca teamed up in the new duo project Grift Company, and not too long ago he revisited his debut with the remix / reimagining project Winston’s Dubplate.

So now that we’re up to speed on his Bandcamp extracurriculars, it’s a good time to dive into Castro’s latest; TOSH, his first full-length since Fidel. The project drops this Friday, December 14th, and Castro has given followers a few specimens to try out in advance of its release. Continue reading →

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Rachel Andie & The Fifth Element meditates on memory, time, and loss on her observational debut LP Tu Me Manques

Rachel Andie | via facebook.com/RachelAndie

We first caught wind of local singer-songwriter Rachel Andie and her band The Fifth Element earlier this year when they were one of a handful of Philly artists to enter NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest. Andie performed “Astral Projection,” a song off her 2016 concept album The Common Calamity, for that entry, but now she’s back with a brand new album, Tu Me Manques. The songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has been making music solo for a few years, but this is her first release with her full band, a six-piece alt-folk outfit of fellow local musicians and educators (Andie herself is an elementary school music teacher by day). Continue reading →