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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Main Street Music’s best-selling records of 2016

Wilco listening party at Main Street Music | photo by Tyler Asay for WXPN
Wilco listening party at Main Street Music | photo by Tyler Asay for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, we bring you Main Street Music‘s 20 records that flew off their shelves.

Manayunk’s resident record store celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this year, so they know a thing or two about selling vinyl. Their customers also seem to know their stuff: the shop recently shared a list of their best-selling records of 2016 on Instagram, and it’s packed with great bands that also made the XPN rotation this year like Car Seat Headrest, Pinegrove, Dr. Dog and more. View the full line-up and dig into a video playlist of the albums below.

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: John Vettese’s Top Six Philly Music Discoveries of 2016

Harmony Woods | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Harmony Woods | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. To kick off the series, Key editor John Vettese recaps six of his favorite Philadelphia music discoveries from the past 12 months.

Ah, Philly. Keep on being awesome. It’s once again time for me to look back and reflect on the past year of music that came out of our community, and once again I’ve had a harder time than ever narrowing it down.

Locally rooted artists are breaking into the broader music conversation, whether they remain at home (Modern Baseball‘s Holy Ghost receiving international acclaim) or venture outward to other cities and scenes (Michelle Zauner’s sometimes-Philly / sometimes-Brooklyn Japanese Breakfast, Ron Gallo and Liz Longley taking up residence in Nashville). More people than ever are moving from other cities to Philly – including The Dove and The Wolf, who got their start in Paris. And as always, artists like Dr. Dog (who released an impressive two albums in 2016), Kurt Vile (who celebrates New Year’s Eve at The Fillmore) and The Roots (still rocking the late night TV party) rep the city on a national scale.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s my annual reflection on artists who I had not heard of prior to this year, who totally bowled me over and made me want to find out everything about them. These are artists that deserve to be one of those high profile artists in coming years. These are my favorite music discoveries of 2016. Continue reading →

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Documenting The Scene: Philly labels SRA and Richie Records on their parallel ethos

F.O.D. performs at Stalag 13 in the 90s | photo courtesy of SRA Records
F.O.D. performs at Stalag 13 in the 90s | photo courtesy of SRA Records

Around 2011, Bruce Howze, founder of SRA Records, had been looking for a singer to front his reverb-laden five-piece, Dangerbird, when he got in touch with Jim McMonagle of long-standing Philadelphia hardcore band F.O.D.

Howze would recruit him to help write, sing and play guitar on songs for a four-band compilation in the works. While in the studio McMonagle got to talking about F.O.D. material that’s been out of print since its original presses and that some people were interested in reissuing it at the time but McMonagle didn’t know them well enough to pursue it. Howze explained that he’d already been getting Dangerbird’s first two CDs and seven-inch into stores, so he was fit for the job. McMonagle agreed, and SRA Records was born.

A few years before that, in a similar recording scenario, Richie Records founder and namesake Richie Charles recorded some music to cassette with his friend just for fun. Charles’ friend made copies of the tape, wrote “Richie Records” on them and handed them out to other people they knew. Soon after that, a different friend approached Charles, mentioning the tape and its “Richie Records” moniker, assuming Charles was behind it. However, it was the first Charles had heard about it. Turned out his recording partner was passing the tapes without telling him he made copies, or even named them. After that, they made a couple more tapes together and distributed them informally because, “people wanted them for the novelty,” Charles says modestly.

When Charles was hit by a car in 2004, he used the settlement money to launch the label and Richie Records became more than a series of lo-fi home recordings circulating among friends. Perhaps Howze was in the right place at the right time, while Charles was in the wrong place at the right time. But even though these two records labels, each geared towards loud, hard-hitting and oft-abrasive garage, punk and metal, are completely unrelated to one another, they do overlap in ethos. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Sadie Dupuis

Sadie Dupuis | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Sadie Dupuis | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

Philly, meet your new neighbor Sadie Dupuis. Oh sure, you know her best as the frontwoman of Speedy Ortiz, the now-veteran award-winning attention-getting indie-rock darlings of every music writer from Noisey to Pitchfork, who’ve been around the touring block with the likes of Thurston Moore, Stephen Malkmus, and the sisters Deal. You know. NBD.

But what you might not know is that, as mononymous solo artist Sad13 (and yes, that’s “Sad Thirteen”), Dupuis has moved from the heart of New England right to our backyard. With her debut record Slugger racking up the critical acclaim, she’s already on tour, and you can catch her at Girard Avenue’s Everybody Hits tonight.

As she settles into life in Philly, Dupuis compares and contrasts for us her experiences in Philly and Boston and tips you local vegans off to the best tofu hoagie in town. You’re welcome. Continue reading →

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Mr. Self Destruct: Watch Nine Inch Nails rage at The Spectrum on December 11, 1994

Nine Inch Nails at The Spectrum | still from video
Nine Inch Nails at The Spectrum | still from video

Don’t let anybody tell you the 90s weren’t an era of excess. Case in point: industrial rock dieties Nine Inch Nails spent a solid five minutes onstage knocking over and beating up synthesizer keyboards when their Self Destruct Tour came to The Spectrum on December 11th, 1994. Synths, as any instrument retailer will tell you, are not cheap. And yet in this video from the show, you can cue up to about the 34 minute mark during an extended jam on “Happiness In Slavery” and watch Trent Reznor and his motley crew knock around, punch and topple at least a half dozen of them stationed around stage.

For sure, that seems like an unnecessary amount of synths for this live show given how much of it (probably, even in this era) was digitally sequenced. Maybe some of these were older models that were used a props to facilitate NIN’s instrumental nihilism. But the rampage rolls to the 39:16 point, when Reznor lifted one synth like he was Paul Simonon on the cover of London Calling, smashed it on the stage, took it to the front, propped it on its end and kicked the keys off one by one. Continue reading →

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Load-In to Load-Out: Carroll settles into their new home with a gig at The Barbary

Carroll | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com
Carroll | Photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com

Fishtown, Friday night, November 11th. The wind’s got a sharp bite that makes it feel like fall in Philadelphia, finally. It’s record release day for Philly-via-Minneapolis indie rockers Carroll. Their sophomore LP, As Far As Gardens Go, offers listeners a glimpse into their move, recorded in remote waterside cabins and gracious friends’ living rooms, or so the liners suggest — they’re also due to appear on the Shaking Through series on December 14th. But tonight, at the Barbary, the city feels like home. Continue reading →

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Celebrate the life of the Thin White Duke during Philadelphia Loves Bowie Week, January 6-14

Philly Loves Bowie Flyer by Sean E. Brown | made with Tootsie Pops, Mamba, Starburst and Dum Dum wrappers along with Hershey's Bliss foils, acrylic and ink on wood with glitter
Philadelphia Loves Bowie Week Flyer by Sean E. Brown | made with Tootsie Pops, Mamba, Starburst and Dum Dum wrappers along with Hershey’s Bliss foils, acrylic and ink on wood with glitter

Almost a year after his death, fans of David Bowie are still feeling the pain of losing their idol so suddenly. Here in Philadelphia, the loss is especially heavy. This is the place, after all, where Bowie recorded three records, including Young Americans and David Live at the Tower Theater. The place where the Sigma Kids ruled the streets outside of the eponymous studio, welcoming anyone who had been inspired by Bowie’s confident and vibrant individuality to join their ranks.

Now, channeling their sadness into creative celebration, a group of those super-fans have curated a week-long David Bowie fest called Philadelphia Loves Bowie Week. There will be karaoke. There will be a birthday brunch. There will be quizzo. And everything, of course, will be in honor of The Thin White Duke.

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Frances Quinlan of Hop Along, Cat Park of Amanda X will show artwork at Rocket Cat tomorrow

This spring, two notable things occurred in the Philly music circles of Instagram. First, Cat Park – the singer-guitarist of power trio Amanda X – began more actively posting her visual art in the mix along with her slice-of-band-life photos. A couple weeks after that, Frances Quinlan of Hop Along started an Instagram for her sketches from the tour van.

Given that both women have a background in visual art before turning to music, it was exciting to get a look at this lesser-seen side of their creative work — a return to their roots as it were. It also provided an interesting contrast of their styles, Quinlan’s sketches leaning more classic and naturalistic with a touch of impressionism, Park’s work carrying a strong modern flare. Tomorrow night, we’ll get to see their work side by side during an art opening at Fishtown’s Rocket Cat Cafe. Continue reading →

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Ubiquitous Philadelphia videographer Bob Sweeney guests on the latest episode of 25 O’Clock

@sweeneybob recording #CoverClub

A photo posted by RDITS (@rootdownintheshadow) on

I can’t even begin to guess the number of times Bob Sweeney’s videos have appeared in the pages of The Key. Dude has worked with a remarkable range of Philadelphia artists, from Moor Mother to Nik GreeleyThe Bul Bey to The LawsuitsZilla Rocca to Queen of Jeans and more.

Bob is the guest on the latest episode of the 25 O’ Clock Podcast, and he gets in a long and wide-ranging conversation with host Dan Drago about the hustle for video work, coming of age to 90s independent cinema, the trappings of nostalgia (“it’s okay as long as you don’t live in it”) and embracing one’s roots in small town America (in Bob’s case, Scranton; in Dan’s case, Rochester). Continue reading →