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The Key Studio Sessions: Madalean Gauze

Philadelphia singer and songwriter and badass rocker Madalean Gauze has been quietly making a name for herself for the past couple years. Last spring, she released the American War EP on Bandcamp. It was her first, but had quite a team behind it: recorded with Brian McTear at Miner Street Studio, it featured instrumental contributions from Dean Sabatino and Dandrew Stevens from Dead Milkmen; Pat Berkery from more bands than you can shake a stick at (most prominently The Bigger Lovers, Danielson and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah); and Dave Hartley from The War on Drugs. Let’s stop right there, though, and point out that while she had some heavy hitters working with her, Gauze could have made that EP with anybody and it would have been just as great – the strength is in the songs and the singing, and she’s a remarkable writer with a voice full of power and emotion. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Screaming Females

I first encountered New Brunswick shredders Screaming Females six years ago at World Cafe Live. In retrospect, the tidy and proper venue was an unlikely spot to see a punk rock power trio that, up until that point, had been fixtures on the basement and house show circuit. But paired with alt-rock icons Throwing Muses, the energy was electric and the fit couldn’t have been more perfect. I was an instant convert, and have seen them in all manner of settings since: a brutally crowded Pi Lam show, a glorious New Years’ eve gig at Johnny Brenda’s, numerous appearances in the First Unitarian Church basement.

As far as the current punk landscape, the Screamales’ playing is unparalleled. Frontwoman Marissa Paternoster is a remarkable guitarist with a powerful voice, and backed by drummer Jarrett Dougherty and bassist Michael Abbate, the band creates a wall of noise and fuzz and melody and lightning-fast playing, no fuss no muss. Their A.V. Club covers are incredible (from Sheryl Crow to Taylor Swift) and Paternoster dabbles in compelling side pursuits (like Noun, which recently played one of Sebastian Petsu’s Double Decker Music Series shows). You could probably, were you so inclined, trace their lineage through bands like Dinosaur Jr. and PJ Harvey and whoever else came before. But to me, Screaming Females songs sound like Screaming Females, and they’re all the awesomer for it. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Lou

Tess Emma wasn’t performing on the Philly singer-songwriter scene for too long before she realized she was more than a singer-songwriter. After her self-titled debut came out late last year, she dropped its country-folk leanings and re-convened with a group of friends from the modern rock outfit Modern Colour. Collectively, they took her music in more of an intricate and expressive dreampop / indie rock direction. The new band was dubbed Lou, and debuted in March. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Nik Greeley

We’ve had our eyes on Philadelphia’s Nik Greeley for a little while now, and it’s always been clear that he is one driven and charismatic dude. His old band Black Stars gave him a solid start – the four-piece fused classic and modern rock, showing a heavy reverence for two of his favorites, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Rolling Stones. Even though that group’s recorded output never quite managed to equal the polish and precision of its live show, it got Greeley established in navigating the Philadelphia music scene.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Alex G

It takes a moment to wrap your brain around the sheer volume of music on Alex G‘s Bandcamp page. Five full-lengths, three EPs and four standalone singles, all released in the past five years – most released in the past two – but recorded in fits and starts in various apartment bedrooms and suburban houses, ever since the man behind the project, Alex Giannascoli, was a teenager.

But he’s not just prolific for prolific’s sake; there seems to be a definite method to Alex’s madness, whether you’re talking about his DIY discography or his on-point live band. Instruments are arranged in a minimal but alluring manner – the interplay of chiming guitar lead with the chugging rhythm strums on “Black Hair” is intoxicating; the thumping floor toms on “Soaker” are moving and emotive. Then there are his lyrics, which are just as specific and descriptive as they are loose and mysterious – like “Wicked Boys,” and its mantra-like opening “real men walk / on the outside / and they take it for the team.” Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Spraynard

West Chester power trio Spraynard is having their second go as a band, and it sounds phenomenal. Regional punk scene vets Pat Graham (guitars / vocals) and Pat “Dos” Ware (drums / vocals) formed the band in the aughts and had a pair of cult fave LPs with 2010′s Cut and Paste and 2011′s Funtitled. Their cathartic, shout-along-at-the-top-of-your-lungs brand of introspective / extroverted punk made their shows feel like a community, and it teetered on the point where the band was beginning to look looking like it could be their full-time gig. But then some internal second-guessing and self-questioning put the breaks on that when they wrapped a three-month tour in 2012. (Graham opened up about that experience in this Q&A with Noisey last year.)

After a couple years in side-projects like NONA and Martin, the Pats decided to test the waters with a pair of reunion shows: one at Grand Slam USA in Malvern, for their superhometown crowd, and one in Philly in the basement of the First Unitarian Church. Both shows were a rousing success (check out our Megan Kelly’s photo-documentation of them) and with new bassist Jake Guralnik in tow, Spraynard set to work recording Mable, their excellent new record out on Jade Tree this month. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Little Strike

Born in the Middle East, schooled in Miami, inspired in East Asia and settled in Philadelphia, Tamar Dart is nothing if not well-traveled. You can hear that worldliness reflected in her electronic pop project Little Strike. After a nomadic year spent exploring and producing video work in China, Nepal and Thailand, Dart began channeling her creativity into music. The resulting Forever Always Leaving EP not only has a title that could be a mission statement of the universal wanderer, it sounds like Dart pulled rhythms and melodies from different corners of the world and fused them into something altogether new. Soweto guitar stylings, bhangra rhythms, a dubstep sense of bass versus beats. Those references may be entirely different from what Dart is going for, mind you – it’s totally my read on a very nuanced and exciting blend. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Hemming

If you’ve been paying attention to the Philly music scene for a few years, the voice behind emerging local act Hemming will sound rather familiar to you. Candice Martello is the expressive singer and songwriter at the helm here, and she caught our ear in the DIY punk duo Omar back in 2010. Last year, Omar landed on VH1′s Make or Break: The Linda Perry Project, but it was Martello’s more personal, introspective solo songwriting that caught the host’s ear and landed her a record contract with Perry’s label, Custard Records. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Kuf Knotz and Patrick Donovan

Kuf Knotz | Photo by Will Toms
Kuf Knotz | Photo by Will Toms

Collaboration is the name of the game in this week’s Key Studio Session. For starters, it was our first collaboration with RECPhilly, the music community outreach arm of the emergent Recollective Records and the evolution of local promoters Broad Street Music Group. They were in the middle of their 30 for 30 free concert series during the month of April, and approached us about hosting a studio concert.

The stars aligned that Philly rapper Kuf Knotz, who just released his second solo LP A Positive Light, was slated to come in to record that month, and he is no stranger to playing to an audience of fans in our studio. With Kufie’s blessing, we opened his set up to a small crowd and paired him up with Patrick Donovan, a local dude with a soulful voice and a bunch of great pop songs in his back pocket. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Nathan Earl and Rachel Joy

When he stepped into our studio to record this week’s Key Session, Nathan Allebach of Nathan Earl and Rachel Joy was wearing a City and Colour shirt. It was sort of a way of presaging what we were about to hear; delicate melodies and emotive vocals blending with a range of arrangements. Mellow and rootsy folk one moment gave way to to gutsy explosive rock the next, in the best imaginable way. Continue reading →