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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 →

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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 →

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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 →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Stinking Lizaveta

Twenty-two years, eight albums, an unquantifiable number of nimble guitar leads and drum fills, and Philadelphia instrumental metal trio Stinking Lizaveta is going strong as ever. Comprised of Yanni Papadopoulos on lead guitar, Alexi Papadopoulos on bass and Cheshire Agusta on drums, the band releases its latest outing, Journey to the Underworld, this week via Translation Loss Records. Tonight, they headline Johnny Brenda’s to celebrate.
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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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The Key Studio Sessions: Resilient

Philly rock outfit Resilient hit The Key’s radar this winter with a powerful and superfun music video about problematic creeper dudebos, and it was definitely a moment of realization. A moment, more bluntly, of “Good lord, how the heck have I slept on this band??” So apologies to Erin Fox on vocals and guitar, Katie Fox on drums and Alicia Dickerson on bass for being late to the party. That said, the part of me that grew up on rugged minor key riffs and distortion pedal rock of Jane’s Addiction and Babes in Toyland is super pumped that I made the discovery all the same.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Ill Doots

Philly collective ILL DOOTS has got to be one of the most creative forces at work on the local hip-hop scene right now.

Picture, if you will, a meeting ground between Hardwork Movement’s expansive big band arrangements (ten multi-instrumental members!) and non-stop hustle (ILL DOOTS’ Fourth Fridays at their Tasker House home base are always poppin’) with the ambitious, interdisciplinary performing arts outlook of musicians like Kate Faust (the band notably soundtracked a production of An Octoroon at the Wilma Theater last year) and you’re well on your way there. It’s no coincidence, in that sense, that ILL DOOTS were featured alongside both those artists on the sold-out opening lineup of Key Fest 2016, and we’re psyched to bring their vibes in the studio today.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Maitland

Last time we caught up with Central Pennsylvania’s Josh Hines, he was deep in the minimalist folk era of his ongoing songwriting outlet Maitland. The project has always existed in two forms, as I noted at the time: the multi-instrumental configuration Hines records with and brings out for shows on occasion, and the solo SoHo-inspired folkie that was making the rounds much more frequently in 2014.

As I wrote of the latter approach, which recorded Maitland’s first Key Studio Session: “It’s music that, in this most minimal of arrangements, sounds complete, but at the same time you’ll hear how Maitland the band might build on this foundation.”

Flash forward two and a half years, and the band does just that in Maitland’s return to the Key Studio Sessions.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Flat Mary Road

Philadelphia five-piece Flat Mary Road has been honing its craft for the better part of the past decade, from the warehouses of Fishtown and Kensington to the Victorian homes of West Philly, where most of its members currently reside. Helmed by singer-guitarist and songwriter Steve Teare, the band draws strongly on 80s college rock and 90s indie rock influences. You’ll hear traces of R.E.M., The Smiths and Camper Van Beethoven in their playing…not to mention Wilco, Built to Spill and Shearwater. Askew yet infectious guitar lines, emphatic vocals and observational lyrics, a bit of twang and touch of rock and roll fiddle from Pete Clark.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Louie Louie

How does one sing pop songs in times of despair? Let Philly’s Louie Louie be your guide. It was a rainy Wednesday in November the day the band rolled in to record its Key Studio Session. Not just any rainy Wednesday in November; it was the day after the 2016 presidential election, and there was an unsettled, uncertain stillness in the air.

To be perfectly honest, it was such a weird day that I wasn’t 100% sure that the retro rock four-piece was even going to show up as I arranged microphone stands and headphone amps around the studio. Ultimately, a knock at the door came, and upon answering, frontwoman Emily Robb seemed just as grateful to see me as I was to see the band; as she told me, they weren’t 100% sure that I would even be there. Continue reading →

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