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Andrew Lipke returns with a exploratory new EP Overture

Andrew Lipke | courtesy of the artist

Andrew Lipke, the Philly-based, South African born composer and multi-instrumentalist, is known for his fusion of musical genres. His innovative and ever-evolving style has built him a career that ranges from composing classical music to covering Led Zeppelin, but what stands out most is his rich catalogue of solo songwriting, which showcases his ability to find common ground among his varied inspirations.

The newest addition is Overture, a new six-track EP that came out Friday. Lipke calls the EP “a collection of some of the music I’ve created so far in my exploration of themes and concepts within Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha.” The novel, which follows the title character’s spiritual journey in search of enlightenment, has inspired countless readers to follow their own paths of self-discovery — one can only assume that Lipke, through his songs, is on a similar journey. Continue reading →

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Bruce Springsteen and The Meaning of Life: Western Stars is uneven, but unafraid

Bruce Springsteen | photo courtesy of the artist

At this point in history, Bruce Springsteen doesn’t need to try anymore.

If we’re being completely honest, he hasn’t needed to try for a long time. The man wrote, recorded, and released no fewer than three masterpieces in the first ten years of his career – 1975’s Born to Run, 1980’s The River, and 1983’s Nebraska. The albums that surrounded them were all valiant efforts filled with strong, nuanced songwriting and major radio hits. His live shows have been things of legend since he was playing The Stone Pony and The Main Point. On legacy alone, arenas of fans the world around will continue flocking to the man who put Asbury Park on the map, regardless of what he brings to the table – whether it hits or misses.

Springsteen’s newest offering, Western Stars, is out today. It is his nineteenth studio album, and on the surface could be heard as a lackluster late-career move by a 70s rock veteran. But if you consider the road that led to it, it’s not that at all. Continue reading →

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Distantstarr keeps repping introversion and self-reliance on new mixtape Fine

Distantstarr | photo via facebook.com/distantstarr

Earlier this month, Philadelphia producer and emcee Distantstarr released Fine, a new mixtape that combines his psychedelic production and sound collaging with wry honesty. In eight curious tracks totaling less than eighteen minutes, the hip-hop artist brings us along on an introverted trip, and he explains how he’s gotten so comfortable with himself.

Distantstarr has been a prolific contributor to the local beats scene fo almost a decade, though his tastes have kept shifting throughout that time. His Bandcamp catalog — the most extensive collection of his output — dates back to 2012 and contains nineteen different releases, including six releases in the time since The Key caught up with him in February 2018. Continue reading →

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Slingshot Dakota deepen their sound on impressive new album Heavy Banding

Slingshot Dakota’s Heavy Banding LP | cover photo by Em Dubin | courtesy of the artist

Bethlehem-based indie punks Slingshot Dakota have gotten even more ambitious on their new album Heavy Banding, and the payoff is strong. For more than ten years, the wife and husband duo Carly Comando and Tom Patterson have been bringing melodic and lyrical sensibilities from pop and pop punk into the soundworld of current indie and alt rock using only a keyboard and a drum set. Now more than ever, their chosen combinations of thundering drums and fuzz-washed synth sounds often recall the thick textures and rough-around-the-edges mixes on recent records by Mitski and Waxahatchee. Other touchstones could be fellow Pennsylvanians like Kississippi (with whom Slingshot Dakota toured in 2016) or Cayetana. Continue reading →

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Seven bands from the Philly DIY underground you need to hear right now (2019 edition!)

Pit Hair | photo by Gabe Coffey | courtesy of the artist

Covered in debris from dust-strewn practice spaces, tucked into dank basements where the drum kit competes for space with old rusting washing machines the landlord refuses to repair or throw out, huddled together under bridges or in struggling speak-easys with one speaker sound systems — it’s Philadelphia punk rock, a movement informed not only by the DIY community at large — a sprawling network of zines (they still exist), record labels, show spaces, and resources that wild youth and curmudgeonly old crusties have tapped into for decades — but also by wack shit like the city’s raging stop-and-frisk laws, the constant assault of rapid gentrification that feels inevitable, and a tumultuous, strange push-pull that has existed within the context of the punk, hardcore and activist/art scenes in a city that still feels reverberations from the MOVE bombing. To say that Philly’s punk rock community has a tenuous relationship with the city is an overstatement.

But more and more, people who exist outside of the margins, not just because they wear all-black or have pink mohawks, but because of who they are, are finding the resources to get involved, and the cultural texture of the city is richer for it. We’re a city that has been home to Break Free Fest — a musical event highlighting bands who feature Black and Brown musicians screaming their brains out, an event that happens this Saturday and Sunday at The Rotunda. We’re a city that, before Break Free, was home to Rockers, a recurring event that for more than a decade sought to do the same. Continue reading →

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Philly indie band Lester return with a new set of atmospheric jams

Lester | photo by Georgia Smith | courtesy of the artist

Last July, Philly D.I.Y outfit Lester, released their debut EP swamp. Now they’re back with it’s follow-up, the seven-track We Could Have Been Anywhere. The band continues to experiment with caustic guitar, reverb-drenched vocals, steady drums, and moody lyrics.  We Could Have Been Anywhere opens with “supply/contact,” a brief instrumental track soaked in distortion and effects. “Untld” bounces between abrasive guitar playing and Juli McCue’s subdued vocals. At points the two seem to blend together, as if they were coming from the same source.

The closing track, “polly,” feels like one long exhale, as if it is signaling the release of the drama created by the soft-loud contrasts in previous tracks. It is hard not to get lost in “folds” and “spoiler.” These tracks a perfect examples of Lester’s ability to create soundscapes that build and unravel, twirling listeners around and forcing them to focus solely on the music. Continue reading →

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Shamir wows with surprise album Be The Yee, Here Comes the Haw

Shamir | via shamir.bandcamp.com

Last week, Shamir dropped a new album and it’s as glittery, defiant, and explorational as anything he’s done before! The Las Vegas-born, Philly-based artist’s three previous albums include: Revelations, Room, and Resolution, all of which have received wide-spread acclaim for their inventive indie pop sound and refusal to be reigned in by genre boundaries. His latest album, Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw, follows in this tradition.

While unconfirmed, its possible that Shamir is channeling the recent yeehaw agenda that made waves on Twitter in 2018 and whipped through the sound and aesthetics of  music industry greats like Solange, Beyonce, and Cardi B. For those who haven’t saddled up to this trend, the yeehaw agenda embraces the rich, and often invisible, history of black cowboys in the United States and pushes for defiant, powerful black musicians decked out in cowboy hats and stir-ups whose music is as adventurous as their tasseled fashion choices. While Shamir’s album only hits at yeehaw, its obvious placement in the title is enough to convince listeners that he has been reading up on this trend and implementing it in his work. But this kind of experimentation with genre isn’t new for Shamir. Maybe Shamir was the original yeehaw, hawing before we knew to yee. Continue reading →

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So Totally moves from fuzzy pop to overdriven rock on “Pluto”

So Totally | photo by Jeff David Beardsmith | via sototally.bandcamp.com

Philly indie four-piece So Totally has been a fixture on the DIY scene for the past couple years, and next month will release its full-length debut, in the shape of…

The nine-track record, out May 3rd, was produced by the band, with Chance Halter of Harmony Woods and Hank Byerly of Americanadian contributing some rhythm section engineering work, and Shannen Moser collaborator Eric Muth mastering the project.   Continue reading →

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Listen to Vicious Blossoms’ Solace, The Tisburys’ Wax Nostalgic, Dave Hause’s Kick, and other Philly albums out today

Native Harrow (left), The Tisburys (center), and Dave Hause (right) | photos courtesy of the artists

There’s always amazing music coming out of Philadelphia. But when the stars align and numerous releases we’re excited about drop in a single day, well, we tell you about it

Local rock and roll fans have a lot to be excited about today, from the high profile of Dave Hause all the way to upstart scale of Manauynk faves The Tisburys. (But knowing Hause’s affinity for the Ridge Avenue river wards, how sick would a double bill of those two be? Sure, he’s got a gig tonight in Chicago. That’s not till late. Hop on over for an afternoon doubleheader at Main Street Music, Dave!) Then again, you’ll also find mind-bendy psych, dreamscapey folk, and upbeat indie punk in the mix today from the Philly music community. Read and listen on.

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Tombo Crush illustrates small scenes with thoughtful lyrics on new EP never looked better

Tombo Crush | photo by Amanda Silberling

After a year-long hiatus, Tombo Crush is returning to music, with a new EP out now. The project of Philly songwriter Mary Allen, Tombo Crush explores solitude on never looked better, their first release since 2017’s pass thru. The EP’s short, lo-fi songs pack a striking depth of emotion into their sparse framework, illustrating small scenes with thoughtful lyrics. Continue reading →