Listen to Heyward Howkins’ excellent sophomore album Be Frank, Furness

HeywardTalk about a great Saturday afternoon surprise. Philly songwriter Heyward Howkins, who has been dropping iPhone demos and informal peeks at his new batch of songs for the better part of this year, unveiled his sophomore album Be Frank, Furness today. And it’s fantastic. Streaming on Soundcloud as of a few hours ago, the record takes Heyward’s distinctive style – snappy melodies mixing with clever wordplay and regional references (“Lorraine, you look divine” being a favorite) – and furthers it with lush arrangements and feisty tempos that rock out way harder than you’d expect the erstwhile mellow singer-songwriter to rock. Credit that in part to producers Quentin Stoltzfus of Light Heat and Ben Reisman of Le Fits, and also to Howkins for refusing to be constrained by popular expectations for singer-songwriters. Bop along to the opening “Nogales,” compare the snappy “Praline County” to its more downtempo demo from November, and just crack the windows and breathe in the entire album.


Nothing’s Domenic Palermo on Guilty of Everything and getting signed by Relapse (playing AKA Music tomorrow)


“It’s grown more miserable,” says Domenic Palermo when we swap messages about the next chapter of his band, Nothing. “You can expect us whining about shit.”

Which, okay, he’s clearly being a bit facetious. But in light of yesterday’s big news for the band – as Stereogum announced, Nothing was signed to the roster of heavy-hitting independent label Relapse Records, which will release their debut LP Guilty of Everything in 2014 – it does mean a bigger, broader platform for the band’s amplified emotional white-noise soundscaping.

“We have been in contact with Relapse for about a couple months now,” Palermo writes. “They heard some early mixes and were interested.”

The Upper Darby label is known for pretty much introducing the term “grindcore” into the American musical lexicon, and also launching the careers of prog-metal, psych-metal and metal-metal groups like Mastadon, Neurosis and current favorites Baroness. And the pairing makes sense when you consider Palermo’s linage – he fronted the Philly hardcore outfit Horror Show, which became cult favorites in the early aughts with a string of 7″ EPs on Deathwish Inc. Records. Nothing’s 2012 EP Downward Years to Come was also released on an underground punk label, A389 Records.

But that EP was also the turning point where Nothing’s sound moved from the skittish, gritty industrial tones of their debut EP Poshlost and a more complex, sweeping, dreampop-influenced sound that drew from My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. But way more badass. That EP – and especially the band’s live show – was mega-distorted and amped to eleven. As Philebrity‘s Joey Sweeney said to me after Nothing played an in-store show at AKA Music, “it’s like they took shoegaze and stripped it of every fey genome.”

Based on “Dig,” the song Nothing premiered yesterday, that progression is continuing. The wall of sound gives way to the most clear and present vocals we’ve heard from Palermo, and very melodic ones at that. It’s aggressive, but catchy – commenters on Soundcloud are already fondly comparing it to Smashing Pumpkins and other 90s faves.

Relapse is known for its uncompromisingly loud and aggressive roster, and Nothing has that down, no question. But it’s also got a strong sense of melody that you rarely hear from the label’s bands (maybe from Neurosis), and that’s something that will make Nothing stand out from the pack in a massively positive way. When I mention this, though, Palermo says he would prefer not to think about being “the melodic Relapse band.”

“I hate the word melodic,” he says. “And probably every other thing were gonna get lumped in with as far as titles go. But I also don’t really give a shit either. We’re a punk band and I’m psyched Relapse wants to put out a punk record.”

The nine-track Guilty of Everything was produced by Jeff Zeigler at Uniform Recording (“Jeff’s the man,” says Palermo), and will be out early next year. Nothing performs an all-ages in-store set tomorrow at AKA Music along with their current tour-mates Whirr; both will also perform the 21+ This Is Hardcore after-party at Kung Fu Necktie. Listen to “Dig” below.


Premiere: “Love is Weight,” a new single by The Lawsuits

Lawsuits fourFolksy pop-rock outfit The Lawsuits have released a catchy new tune, “Love is Weight.” Much less Americana than most of their other work, the single is a soaring, nostalgic 70s-style poppy tune that still manages to have a bit of a slight folk feel. Tracked in the Converse Rubber Tracks studio back in June, it has hints of synth in the beginning that lead into an overall breezy, smile-inducing track – good stuff. The band is playing both the Philly Folk Fest on August 16th and the Brandywine Folk Festival in Kennett Square on August 24th.


Dr. Dog announce new album, B-Room, debut lyric video for “The Truth” via Spin (playing XPoNential Music Festival on 7/27)

Get ready to ramp up your Dr. Dog excitement-meters, folks. Not only is the Philly band set to play the XPoNential Music Festival this coming weekend, but it seems like we might just hear some new material from the guys in their setlist. Word just got out via Spin Magazine this morning that the band will release its seventh LP, B-Room, on Anti- Records on October 1. The album was produced by Nathan Sabatino in an old silversmith mill in Clifton Heights (DelCo represent!) converted into a studio. Sabatino also worked with Dr. Dog on 2012′s Be The Void – and judging from “The Truth,” the song Spin debuted in lyric video format, the new material re-immerses itself in the heady, studio-oriented vibe of Dr. Dog’s early work. The song simmers, gradually unfolds to airy strings and a reverberant reggae rhythm section – in that sense, it’s not unlike “Wordless Chorus,” which opened My Morning Jacket’s incredible 2005 outing Z. Singer Scott McMicken soon enters in classic existential mode: “The Devil’s done, I’ve paid my dues / but he just won’t quit, he don’t like to lose. / It’s coming down, the truth don’t stop.” Which, those lyrics might sound like a potential bummer, but in the skilled hand of Dr. Dog, it’s pure bliss. Listen to “The Truth” (and watch its lyric video) below.


Download Khari Mateen’s cover of George Gershwin’s “Summertime”

We’re in the throws of summertime, folks. As if the burning sun and humid air wasn’t enough to tip you off. To celebrate, eclectic local producer / electronic artist / songwriter / visionary Khari Mateen recorded a suave cover of the George Gershwin standard, intermingling funky beats, graceful string parts, and breathless singing; the cover art (above) strikes a warm and comforting seasonal vibe, with Mateen jamming on cello and surrounded by verdant greenery in his Manayunk backyard. Ease on up and listen to it below, or grab a free download at Bandcamp.


New album, new video game from Philly’s Univox

Photo by Rob Perkins

Philly DIY rock four-piece Univox has kept on the quiet side since releasing a Halloween single (“Wolfman”) and its corresponding video back in the fall, but with good reason. The band has been putting the finishing touches on it’s latest ventures: The Altec, a new full-length album available today, and Tour of Fire, a free-downloadable iPhone video game.

As we learn in a Univox YouTube update starring bassist / vocalist Rob DeCarlois, The Altec was recorded (with mixing assistance by Farzad Houshiarnejad of Night Panther / White Birds / Drink Up etc.) in the lovingly-constructed basement studio singer-guitarist Josh Jones built in the house he shares with his wife Sarah. It’s a solid listen: snappy pop-rock tunes, rough-yet-polished, a tasty garage vibe. “Yellow and White Lines” sounds great cranked up, “Mary” is one they played for us during their Key Studio Session a while back, album closer “At The End of the Day” is a exhuberant mix of vocal harmonies and whistling.

About the name (the album’s and their own), the band explained on Facebook:

the first tape Joe and I (josh) made together was an improvised experimental recording where all of the instruments were mixed down and re-amped through a Univox bass amp and cab. we self-recorded the new album and ran almost every signal on it through our Altec 1220 console. I think these names best represent our music as they have become esoteric titles of what is lost in contemporary music. since we’re largely steeped in golden oldies, our recordings tend to feel like something you might find in a dusty bin at a flea market

While there’s some silliness in the record (it’s more evident if you’ve seen these guys live and are familiar with their ridiculous personas), it can also be appreciated as a well-crafted post-modern homage to rock and pop from the 60s till today. The video game, however, is pure silliness. A free download from iTunes, it allows you to guide the band on a U.S. tour – tearing across I-80 in the van enroute to Cleveland, playing the show and literally slaying the audience members with your notes. That’s as far as I got, since I kept dying and wanted to write this up, but its Atari 8-bit look and comical road trip / tour vibe are very enjoyable and I swear I will beat it on my lunch hour.

Listen to The Altec below, and get a preview of the game in the band’s 2013 update video.


Download Radiator Hospital’s new album Something Wild, pre-order the vinyl LP

RadiatorHospitalAfter a boatload of EPs and limited run releases, Philly’s Radiator Hospital – the songwriting vehicle of midwest transplant Sam Cook-Parrot – is releasing a new full-length called Something Wild on Salinas Records next month, with limited time name-your-own-price downloads available today. True to the project’s earlier releases, this new set of music revolves around love and heartache as told through 50s and 60s pop songwriting styles – doo-wop to country – and filtered through a boisterous DIY punk sound. Parrot’s falsetto, somewhat nasal and utterly delightful vocals, makes him sound like a Daniel Johnston or Half Japanese for a new generation, but unlike Radiator Hospital’s back-catalogue, this set notches up the production. It’s still rough ’round the edges, but is much cleaner, more evenly mixed, and ready to be boomed out of bigger speakers. The album is out July 15th, and pre-orders can be made for the vinyl LP here. We also have word that Radiator Hospital will be playing a wicked cool July 4th block party in West Philly, with details forthcoming. In the meantime, check out “Down Again,” a cool track from the new album, in the player below, and get your limited time name-your-own-price download here.