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“An Art Project With Multiple Layers”: Getting to know Carol Cleveland Sings ahead of their new album Effervescent Lure

Carol Cleveland Sings | photo via facebook.com/CarolClevelandSings

Thomas Hughes and Gretchen Lohse are longtime creative collaborators in the regional music scene, the former a solo artist and former leader of the indie-folk ensemble Yellow Humphrey, and the latter a member of DE indie pop favorites The Spinto Band. Over the past year, they’ve worked together under the banner Carol Cleveland Sings – a delightful synthpop outfit with a penchant for dazzling, retro-stylized music videos.

Fans of The Magnetic Fields will find a lot to like in their sound, but the look of their project is just as crucial, and the Carol Cleveland Sings Vine channel is clever, fun and very popular. Hughes and Lohse, both visual artists in addition to musicians, use it to tease song ideas while also playing on pop culture touchstones like Pokemon and Stranger Things.

With its visual identity firmly established, Carol Cleveland Sings is stepping out with its first full-length of recorded music this fall. This morning, it announced the release of Effervescent Lure on Humble Twin Records. To mark the occasion, we’re premiering the song “Black Canvas” – which was teased in six-second format this spring on Vine. Lohse says it generated a lot of excitement and questions about when the full track would be available. Listen to it below, and read an interview between Hughes, Lohse and myself about the genesis and scope of Carol Cleveland Sings. Continue reading →

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Talking risks and rewards with Boston punks Somos ahead of their Foundry gig

Somos | photo by Nick Karp | via facebook.com/SomosMA

When Boston punk four-piece Somos released their new LP First Day Back back in February, the big headline was the different approach they took.  In contrast to the chugging guitars and driving beats on its 2014 debut Temple of Plenty, the band’s latest – and first release for Hopeless Records – is textured, soundscapey and a little electronic. A review on PunkNews compared it to Hozier – and it wasn’t a bad review, per se, as much as confused. Like as if to ponder what sounds like this were doing in punk.

Then again, it’s 2016. The punk umbrella stretches far and wide, and is inclusive of many sonic angles. First Day Back is not an outlier anymore; just listen to the new single from Balance and Composure. Or consider the recent Hotelier tour that was supported by the melodic melancholic minimalism of Told Slant and the lush soundscapes of Bellows. Those bands don’t fit the narrow definition of what punk is supposed to sound like, but it was absolutely a punk tour.

When I mention this over email to Somos, singer / guitarist Michael Fiorentino responds “Absolutely. Just to add to last list a bit, I’d say Crying is another example of a band incorporating electronic elements in a way that’s highly effective. I think it’s great that there is a whole wave of bands who are comfortable taking those types of risks; there will be swings and misses, but I think the net result is more interesting and adventurous music.”

With the band in town tonight for a gig at The Foundry of The Fillmore Philadelphia, Fiorentino and I traded questions and responses about the band’s growth, the rapport with its audience and the nostalgia dig of its new single “Eternal Yesterday.” Continue reading →

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Interview: Fresh Cut Orchestra turn new page with Mind Behind Closed Eyes

fresh cut orchestra
Fresh Cut Orchestra | photo courtesy of the artist

When the Fresh Cut Orchestra returns to the Painted Bride, the venue that started it all, the occasion was always planned to be both homecoming and celebration, falling just one day after the release of the ten-piece ensemble’s second CD, Mind Behind Closed Eyes on Ropeadope Records. As it turns out, though, the show has also become a farewell, as trumpeter and co-leader Josh Lawrence made the move to New York City earlier this week.

On the phone from his rapidly emptying Philly place a few days ago, occasionally interrupted by movers pushing past on their way out the door, Lawrence insisted that the move wouldn’t cause any drastic changes for the FCO. “It basically means the mail’s gonna go to Jason instead of me now,” he shrugged, referring to bassist Jason Fraticelli, “but that’s really the only difference.”

Given the challenges of keeping a large ensemble together in today’s financial and musical climate, an extra couple hours’ commute is hardly the biggest hurdle that Lawrence, Fraticelli, and co-leader Anwar Marshall face in maintain the adventurous orchestra. The fact that they’ve kept the band active for nearly four years now is all the more remarkable given the fact that they were put together by Painted Bride music curator Lenny Seidman to celebrate the Vine Street venue’s 40th anniversary of presenting jazz in 2012, not by their own initiative.

Continue reading →

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Q&A: Charlie Hall talks Miles Davis and his Get Up With It project

get up with it
Charlie Hall | photo courtesy of the artist

Charlie Hall is many things. He’s a drummer (you might recognize him from The War on Drugs), he’s the leader of an incredible a cappella group (check out The Silver Ages next January), and he’s a pretty knowledgeable Miles Davis enthusiast. On Wednesday, August 24th, the Philadelphia resident will combine two of those talents when he performs with Get Up With It, a group of musicians from Philly and NYC who will bring Davis’ music to Johnny Brenda’s for a rare live appearance.

We caught up with Hall over email to hear about his nearly life-long exploration and education of Davis’ catalog, how that morphed into a live ensemble and where he finds Davis’ legacy in contemporary music; read what he has to say below, and pick up tickets for the 21+ show here. Continue reading →

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From Philadelphia to New Orleans, Carsie Blanton talks recording her latest album So Ferocious.

Carsie Blanton | Photo by: Bobby Bonsey Photography
Carsie Blanton | Photo by Bobby Bonsey Photography

Carsie Blanton spent eight years in Philadelphia – the longest, the Virginia-born songwriter says, that she’s lived in one place as an adult. She arrived here as a teenager, forged strong and lasting connections with the local songwriting community, played a key role in developing the city’s swing & blues dancing scene, and just generally won our hearts with her captivating warble, her sprightly metaphors and her signature flower-adorned curls. Continue reading →

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Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds: Mercury Girls

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It’s been a brutal summer this year, the type of brutal that makes me curl up on the couch in the air conditioning with my cat and watch re-runs while sipping a (whiskey) lemonade. (Some call it the dog days of summer, I call it the cat days). One thing that’s been helping me survive? Making playlist of my favorite songs, just like I did back in high school, when summers were alll about cruising through in town my ‘93 Taurus, windows down and cool jams on the tape deck. (Some of my friends had CD players, but I kept it old skool).

Philly five piece Mercury Girls are essential mix-tape material. The band burst onto the scene just 2 years ago, but has already morphed into one of the city’s brightest up-and-comers, thanks to a sparkling mix of warm vocals, playful guitars, and plenty of fuzz—earning props from everyone from Brooklyn Vegan to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s Kip Berman, and sharing stages with Fear of Men, Beverly, and Allo Darlin’ (during Pop Fest ‘16). Earlier this year, their 7” “Ariana”/”All That Heaven Allows” dropped on Slumberland Records; later this fall, they will hit the road with Balance and Composure for a North American tour. Continue reading →

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YJY provides the perfect end of summer soundtrack with a new EP, The Same Noise

YJY | photo by Jill Hendershott | courtesy of the band
YJY | photo by Jill Hendershott | courtesy of the band

Jersey alt wunderkinds YJY just released their sophomore EP The Same Noise — and it’s anything but. Hurdling the band into more refined territory since debut EP Couch Surfin’ USA, piecing together four tracks with diverse qualities and standing out from the rest of the scene, YJY’s The Same Noise is the result of being unabashedly true to yourself and your craft — a mentality that simply couldn’t end in the status quo. Comprised of surf-tinged opener “Summer Lifeguard,” quirky pop “Past My Prime,” the anecdotal “Through Being Hip” and light as air closing track “Evergreens,” the new EP captures a mood and translates it amongst several different sounds and styles. Continue reading →

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Camp Candle: Instinctive electropop for the people

Camp Candle | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | courtesy of the artist
Camp Candle | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | courtesy of the artist

“And I feel it….I’m still shaking…..The weapons are drawn against me…I can’t take it.”

“Weapons,” the opening track from Philly-based Electro­Pop duo Camp Candle’s debut ERE, delivers these words on top of a bed of sweet, dreamy synth chords. Heavy programmed beats, handclaps and tambourine bring the song into the realm of traditional black sacred music, a 21st century gospel spiritual of survival and self­-awareness.

Dynamically shifting between loud and quiet sections, the brief, two-minute piece alternately flirts with light and darkness, capturing tense and fearful but resolute spirit of the day. Singer / guitarist Hetepsa describes the song as the hymn of a heart and mind heavy with disappointing revelations about our world. “’Weapons’ represents an awakening to the lies we are surrounded by and fed. The song sounds so happy because although the truth can be hard, it’s still beautiful to be in the know,” Hetespa says. Continue reading →

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Back to Star: A conversation with Tanya Donelly on the return of 90s alternative faves Belly

Belly | photo courtesy of the artist
Belly | photo courtesy of the artist

On an MTV set in 1993, Tanya Donelly was interviewed in support of Star, the debut record she’d just released with her new band Belly. She exchanged several minutes-worth of witty banter with Kennedy, the mononymous veejay who always seemed to face the challenge of having to concurrently contain her effusive enthusiasm and her runaway ADHD. By contrast, the singer shows a unique guile and sly introspection, an unassuming administrator of a remarkably sharp tongue. Dressed in dark clothing and smoking a cigarette, Donelly is clearly a little uneasy in the spotlight, as she humors the host’s exuberant if erratic interrogation. Prompted early in the interview to address her place as a frontwoman in a predominantly male industry, Donelly responds almost immediately, as though she’d already given it plenty of thought, “Kurt Cobain’s allowed to be Kurt Cobain, and Michael Stipe’s allowed to be Michael Stipe, but it’s really hard to find a niche as a female. They have to put you somewhere.”

When asked about that quote during a recent interview with us, she debriefs about the industry’s evolution over the last two decades, in that regard. “I do think that’s updatable now, happily.” Twenty-three years on, the singer has rallied her seminal ‘90s dream pop band Belly for a new record and a reunion tour – which makes a much anticipated stop in Philadelphia this Sunday at Union Transfer – and when asked to reflect again on the role she played in several ways as pioneering female voice in a generally male-dominated industry, she seems glad to revisit. “I don’t think that the glass ceiling is totally smashed, but I do think that women in music are sort of taken much more individually now than back then. And I also think it comes in cycles, you know, that that waxes and wanes for women. And so there will be spaces sort of where everything feels like it’s moving forward, and then there’ll be a step back. But I would say for the most part I think that the playing field is much more level now than it was in the ‘80s.” Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: G. Love

G. Love | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
G. Love | 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.

We seem to be enjoying a bit of a 90s renaissance lately. A bill full of 90s headliners sold out The Fillmore in Philadelphia two weeks ago, and last week another Clinton addressed a Philly-hosted national convention. An “I Love The 90’s” Festival featuring Salt-n-Pepa, Vanilla Ice and Color Me Badd hit BB&T last week. The revival is afoot.

Most of Philly’s Gen X-ers will remember that era of the city’s cultural history with a special reverie, and listening to Garrett Dutton reflect on those years in anecdotes is sure to evoke nostalgia for anyone who was there.

In a candid interview held backstage at his Fillmore show earlier this year, the man known as G. Love talks sentimentally about his days tagging walls and playing street corners and cafes, about basketball and the neighborhoods he called home. He recounts first recognizing the potential of integrating elements of blues rock and hip hop to develop his signature sound. He doesn’t pull punches, either, about the frustrations he faced as a recording artist, with open rebuke for the elements of media or local industry that from his perspective offered paltry support.

While Dutton is known best for the hits that drove his early following, his latest records and performances show an artist still evolving. Last October, G. Love and Special Sauce released their latest record Love Saves The Day, a collection of blues rock tracks including collaborations with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Los Lobos vocalist David Hidalgo.

Speaking of that 90s revival, though, mark your calendars: G. Love plays the Mann with Blues Traveler and The Wallflowers on August 21st. Tickets and more information on that show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →