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The Key Studio Sessions: Katie Frank

At a West Philly gig earlier this spring, I watched local indie rock band Major Pursuit cover the Dixie Chicks immortal “Goodbye Earl,” an anthem about abuse, revenge and sisterhood. “If somebody hits you,” the band reasoned, “murder them.”

This is pretty much the aesthetic of the latest batch of songs singer-songwriter Katie Frank has cooked up over the past year. After debuting in 2012 with Covered Bridge Road and really stepping into the spotlight on 2014’s Counting Your Curses, the Elizabethtown native returned this spring with a revved up string of rocked up, honky tonk and blues inspired single about betrayal, scorn, emotional neglect and — in the case of “Through Your Window” — a search for a way out, pistol in hand. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Palm

There’s something about artists with origin stories in upstate New York university towns — they seem to run fearlessly against the grain, generally unconventional and all the awesomer for it. I’m picturing quiet seclusion in an area with a modest amount of commerce, a copious canopy of trees and a lack of excess pressure to be a dozen places at once. A place where you can take time to yourself to find yourself, focus inward and develop your art into something striking and unique. The experimental pop four-piece Palm got its start in 2011 in Hudson, New York, and by the time it moved to Philadelphia two years ago, its sound was out of this world. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Coping Skills

Philly’s Coping Skills need to start a podcast. Sure, Rachel Dispenza and Lauren DeLucca write fantastic punk / indiepop songs that are witty, catchy, humorous-yet-poignant, addressing issues that range from the college industrial complex and the mid-20s crash to gender roles and sexism; their self-released Relatable Web Content was a brilliant debut that not enough people talked about last year.

But the incredible chemistry heard on their songs carries over to Coping Skills as people. Being in the studio with them for a few hours earlier this month was wildly fun; even when they’re not technically “on,” Dispenza and DeLucca have a remarkable conversational rhythm, fast-paced and funny, building on one another’s thoughts, making cutting observations about gigs and touring and working in the service industry.

I mention how I almost wish the chatter was being recorded in addition to the songs; I said I could totally hang with an hour of Coping Skills in podcast form. They nodded, seemingly digging the suggestion. “That would be the longest con!” Dispenza shouts, grinning widely. “‘You thought you liked us for this music thing, but what about this…'” I’m not sure if a seed was actually successfully planted here, but if Coping Skills: The Podcast does emerge, we will be the first to let you know. Meantime, their music alone is stellar, and we’re glad to showcase a couple new songs for you in the band’s Key Studio Session. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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The Key Studio Sessions: Circadian Rhythms

Philly psych pop travelers Circadian Rhythms are coming up on their first decade as a band, and have they got a great new record to show for it. It’s called A Peculiar Kind of Afternoon and it releases early this summer. The nine songs contained within are a beautiful collection of catchy pop with delicate orchestrations and a psychedelic flourish in the vein of The Beach Boys and The Left Banke.

The sextet is made up of dueling singer-guitarist-songwriters James Mueller and Harry Murtha, bassist Yeho Bostick, violinist Jessica Tucci, keyboardist Michael Eckstrom and drummer Christopher Clark; collectively, they write music in the same spirit as their local rock forerunners Dr. Dog, drawing on the time-tested left-of-center approaches of yesteryear and recontextualizing them for today’s listeners. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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The Key Studio Sessions: Harrowgrove

South Jersey soundscaper C.J. Davis is a master of vibe and mystique. Under the banner Harrowgrove, he caught our ear in 2015 with the warped electronic tones and haunting-but-poppy vocal melodies on HOLY BROKEN FREE SPIRIT. At the time I called him a “captivating mix of Drake and Trent Reznor” — which wasn’t entirely inaccurate, though a bit reductive in retrospect. With the release of this year’s CAPS LOCK, he jettisons the pop leanings of his debut and doubles down on its raw, eviscerating industrial rock.

“I mean, I could make a whole record of Drake-sounding stuff if I wanted to,” he explained while setting up for his Key Studio Session. “But that’s not what I’m interested in doing.” Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Vince Tampio Quintet

Philly trumpeter Vince Tampio made a funny observation while we were setting up for his Quintet’s Key session: he’s recorded at WXPN studios so many times that his phone automatically connects to our wifi.

It’s true. In recent years alone, Tampio has sat in on sessions with Johnny Showcase, You Do You, Heyward Howkins and York Street Hustle. Outside of our walls, Tampio has performed onstage or on record with Allison Polans, OhBree, Impressionist, Red 40 and the Last Groovement and John Byrne Band. Basically he’s the go-to cross-genre horn-blowing utility man of the Philly scene, but this year he’s been revisiting his jazz roots.

In January, Tampio released a new album with his Quintet, Live at PAFA — an improvised concert recorded in October of 2016 in the rotunda of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The resonant walls of the room gave the performance an atmospheric tinge as sounds and styles collided from the jazz world and beyond. I was so impressed by the record, I invited Tampio and the group in our studio to record. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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Listen to the warped psyche of Pissed Jeans’ Sean McGuiness on his debut tape Ready To Be Rich

Sean McGuinness | via seanonthedrums.bandcamp.com
Sean McGuinness | via seanonthedrums.bandcamp.com

Sean McGuinness, known for his drum work with Pissed Jeans, Utensil and more, just put out his first solo tape EP, Ready To Be Rich. Being as unconventional as a record can get, the 17+ minute release (streaming as a single track, I might add) is split into 7 intertwined tunes, a Side A and Side B consisting of mostly instrumental sounds infused with otherworldly noises and aggressive punk vibes.

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The Key Studio Sessions: Pinkwash

While we were setting up microphones and amplifiers in the XPN studio, I chatted with Pinkwash singer-guitarist Joey Doubek about shooting video of the band’s performance. “Oh, that’d be great!” he said. “Because y’know, I think our uncompromising live show is where we really shine.” We laughed — his statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, a bit of fun poked at some music writing phraseology that gets applied to the heavy Philly duo again and again.

But there’s repetition for a reason. D.C. natives and longtime friends Doubek and drummer Ashley Arnwine are indeed a force when they perform at shows. The power of complex rhythms and intricate riffs, performed at a racing sprint at the nexus of prog and punk; Doubek yelling into the mic in a Robert Plant falsetto before switching gears into headbanging, Arwine franticly darting her head in every which direction depending on which part of the kit she’s laying into…between all of that, it’s virtually impossible to watch Pinkwash play and feel unmoved.
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Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head