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The Key Studio Sessions: SPORTS

Reasons to love SPORTS: to begin with, their mantra, “friends FIRST, band SECOND.” You can’t miss that contagious camaraderie when seeing them onstage or in the studio — free of ego, free of pretense, free of the B.S. that ultimately divides artists who are motivated by forces other than playing music they love. There’s ample laughter and supportive sentiments from bandmate to bandmate, intermixed with sick riffs and catchy melodies. It’s refreshing to see: despite their tongue-in-cheekily competitive name, SPORTS is just a group of upbeat pals who moved from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio to Philadelphia to write songs and rock shows.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Sea Offs

Need a solid argument for turning up early to a long day of music? Two words: Sea Offs.

The dream-pop four-piece is one of the opening acts on the Saturday lineup of next weekend’s Philly Music Fest at World Cafe Live — they play 3:10 p.m. on the upstairs stage — and their lucid, moving arrangements of intertwining electric guitars and emphatic drums are an invigorating entry point into the event’s eclectic bill of regional artists.

Sea Offs hail from Central Pennsylvania, in the most literal sense — songwriters and guitarists Olivia Price and Rashmit Arora met at State College, in the dead center of the state, and began writing and recording music in 2015 around the PSU / Happy Valley region. It’s a good place for creative companionship as well as creative isolation — the people who are indifferent about Nittany Lions football tend to stick together, but are nevertheless mutually distant from bigger creative hubs like Buffalo, NYC or Philly. Sea Offs’ debut single, “Colliding,” was a drifting and folky piece in the Nick Drake / Innocence Mission zone, a sound that bloomed into last year’s Sea the Blind EP, where ambient atmospheres were gradually worked into their palette.

And then, there was this year’s rhetorically-titled What’s The Point?, an immersive record and one of my favorites to catch my ear during the year-long Items Tagged Philadelphia project. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Bigness

Can we point to The Bigness an example of Philly D.I.Y.? They don’t play emo or punk rock — even though their songs are emotional, and they do rock. Their gigs don’t take place in tallboy-littered basements on the fringes of university campuses — but their sound is so dialed-in, it would feel just as good there as in a club. Hovering in and around their 30s, the bandmates have a solid decade-plus on the average D.I.Y. scene participant — but what is age, anyway, when it comes to art?

Surface similarities may be shaky, true. But as far as their work ethic, their love of hooks and their pure spirit, the common ground is hard to deny: The Bigness makes music by themselves, for themselves, and it’s an inviting and inclusive thing of joy.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Ivy Sole

West Philadelphia’s Ivy Sole is having a busy year, and she’s pretty happy about it.

After a steady run making records flavored with dreamy hip-hop production, pointed rhymes and melodic vocal hooks, the Charlotte transplant’s two-part release this year — the East EP, which caught our ear this winter, and its summertime companion West — got a flurry of attention from the music sphere. Outlets like Paste and NPR Music were finding out what the folks at Vibe and The Source had been hip to for the better part of a year, and by summer, Ivy Sole was on tour on the west coast, opening sows for Rag’n’Bone Man.

Her appeal is pretty clear: the production, a soundtrack-y pastiche of soul and electropop tapestries, is instantly likable, and lyrically it’s some of the most honest music out there. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Slaughter Beach, Dog

Seriously, how is it possible that Jake Ewald is this sick of a songwriter? The Philadelphia singer / guitarist and producer, known by many as half of Modern Baseball’s core songwriting duo, also leads a rotating-cast indie rock troupe called Slaughter Beach, Dog, and has done so for the past several years. Though the band is a considerably more lowkey experience than when he plays theater-size spaces to pop punk devotees, it’s no side joint either; Ewald’s attention to craft, both lyrical and compositional, is in top form here, and only continues to heighten as the project releases more music. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ellen Siberian Tiger

Many facets make up Ellen Tiberio-Shultz’s musical personality.

There’s the teenager from State College, cutting her teeth on folk and blues-inspired songwriting but discouraged by the dude-centricity of the local open mic scene. There’s the grad of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, studious and cerebral, with predilections for askew guitar licks and unconventional arrangements that draw unashamedly from the prog world (and the classical genres that inspired it). And then there’s the working Philadelphia musician who cuts loose with power trio fuzz and feminist punk rock.

With all these disparate elements in play, her band Ellen Siberian Tiger — possibly maybe a modified anagram of her name? For you to decide. — is a unique and wholly captivating listening experience. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Honeytiger

“If it wasn’t for Liverpool FC,” muses Josh Glauser, “we would never have become a band.”

The drummer of Philly garage duo Honeytiger is setting up in WXPN studios back in June, just before I left on a two-week vacation to England. As such, our conversation moved from UK music to UK sports and Glauser shared how first connected with singer-guitarist Isaac Clark over morning pints at Jose Pistola’s in Center City, watching football (the kind with a round ball) and cheering as “GOAAAAAAL” gifs got retweeted the internet around.

Turns out sports wasn’t their only commonality; Clark and Glauser shared a love of gritty, grungy garage rock in the vein of The Strokes and early Black Keys records. A band was formed (initially called Swimmer, promptly changed to Honeytiger when they realized the plethora of Swim-related acts in the indie rock sphere), a sound was honed, killer gigs at The El Bar were played and the band released the knockout Half Clean LP, one of the fiercest debuts from the Philly scene last year.

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The Key Studio Sessions: Queen Jesus

This week marks, believe it or not, the third time Pat Brier has sat at the drumkit in WXPN Studios in the past six months. Back in January, he played with the propulsive punk trio Eight.

This week, though, is a little different. In Queen Jesus, Brier fronts the band from behind the kit. 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 →

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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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