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The Key Studio Sessions: Littler

The story of Littler is the story of circumventing expectations, of forging your own path. It’s the story of artists coming together for the first time and making something honest and awesome. The band got its start under the name Calamity Jane back in 2014 at the inaugural First Time’s The Charm festival at PhilaMOCA, and though it’s evolved, those origins are important to note. For those not familiar, FTTC encourages creative people marginalized in the music community to say the hell with it and play a show anyway – bands on the bill have feature either first-time-musicians, people new to their instrument, or musicians who identify as female, trans, queer and/or a person of color. The idea, as frontwoman Madeline Meyer put it on Facebook last year, is a firm reminder: “if you want to be in a band, you can be in a band!” Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Prowler

If math and memory serves, postmodern funk punks Prowler are the first Philadelphia band to visit WXPN on three separate occasions over the years to record a studio session with me. Of course, in their trademark mix of cockiness and self-depreciation, they shrug that off. When I recently showed the band its original signature on our studio wall, guitarist Ryan Kerrigan looked at the tags of his local peers surrounding it and concluded that many artists making the scene in 2008 have since broken up. Prowler, on the other hand, kept on keeping on.

In 2008, pork pie hats and LCD Soundsystem were all the range, and the band brought us a fierce, crisp and disco-fied set from its En Garde! EP. They hung multicolored lights from the rafters in our production studio and rocked a party for myself and my co-host Jake Rabid. Flash forward several years and the terra firma had shifted – indie rock was becoming scuzzier, less shiny. Their Wooly Mammoth EP reflected this change, and a session in our large performance space (also disco ball’d up) had teeth (tusks?) in a way that its predecessor did not.

Along the way, the band shared the stage with V.V. Brown and Janelle Monae, collab’d with Reef the Lost Cauze and Plastic Little, and dished a steady string of singles and EPs, its preferred medium. The latest one, a cassette release called Trash Bag, finds Prowler at its most unguarded and experimental. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Pick: Christopher Paul Stelling at World Cafe Live

Christopher Paul Stelling
Christopher Paul Stelling | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN

After making a splash opening for Ben Harper this spring, Florida-born, NY-based and otherwise nomadic troubadour Christopher Paul Stelling returns to Philly tonight on a solo tour to headline World Cafe Live. He’s been hard at work on the road in support of Labor Against Waste, which came out last summer on Anti- Records. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Sunwatchers

We’re heading a bit beyond our regular geographic region on this week’s Key Studio Session, but that’s okay – Sunwatchers is a band that knows no geographical boundaries.

I was hipped to them a few months back, care of NPR Music’s Lars Gotrich, who featured their song “Herd of Creeps” in his Viking’s Choice column (which you should definitely follow if you’re a fan of unusual and reliably compelling music). It’s a heavy, meditative jam rooted in Southeast Asian folk, krautrock and free jazz, exploding out of the speakers in simultaneous brilliance – and it totally bowled me over. Turns out, the New York-based four-piece features Philadelphian Peter Kerlin on bass, who we also know from Chris Forsyth’s Solar Motel Band. After swapping a few emails, the band was setting up in studio on a Thursday afternoon following a late night gig and a long drive back home.

There was no loss of energy, as Sunwatchers powered through a set of riveting instrumental music. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Snails

It’s like that Bob Marley song goes: roots, rock, reggae.

Central Pennsylvania rooted Philly rockers The Snails got their start playing reggae as high schoolers, but quickly expanded their sonic palette. A big influence, undeniably, was punk rock and The Clash, who dipped their feet in all manner of sonic waters in a decade-long career. But also The Specials, Bob Dylan…even the gruff soul of Dr. Dog, who you can hear undeniable traces of on “Sedated,” which opens The Snails’ Key Studio Session.

At the front of the band is songwriter-guitarist Todd Fausnacht, whose timeless vocals bounce and cavort across tracks that move energetically from one to the next. The swaying breeze of “Liberty Street Lights” glides directly into the swaggering garage rock dance of “Press Play,” into the confrontational anthem of “Basement,” an ode to authenticity and artistic integrity.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Brian McGee

From Southwest Philly to Asbury Park and Asheville, NC, Brian McGee is a rock and roll lifer. Almost twenty years ago, he first connected his songwriting with a rabid audience in the punk power trio Plow United, arguably the most important band in local independent music circa late 90s.

While that band was steeped in quadruple time raucous rhythms (thanks to fierce drummer Sean Rule) and searing vocals (McGee’s own), the songwriting at its core was rooted in traditions of of protest folk, of Woody Guthrie and the music of the people, of speaking up for the downtrodden and using songs as a means of universal self-discovery. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Laser Background

When we last heard from them, Philly’s Laser Background was feeling a lot more confrontational. The project of songwriter-composer Andy Molholt led its psychedelic pop tunes down dark and abrasive corners, exploring harsh realities of life in a candy-coated sheen that was equal parts hooky and demented.

In our interview from 2013, Molholt talked about that process of drawing his listeners in, pushing them over the edge and then pulling them back from the abyss. A few years time has passed, and on the new LP Correct – out on May 13th via La Société Expéditionnaire & Endless Daze – Molholt feels less angry and more focused. The project is still unconventional, to be sure. It might still pose a challenge to listeners who, when they think psychedelic, they think The Monkees.

But it also finds Molholt keeping his pop craft front and center as it assembles lucid lyrical puzzles evoking the clash between nostalgic memory and alternate reality. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Abi Reimold

Wriggling, the debut LP from Philly’s Abi Reimold, is the very definition of “music with feeling.” Over the course of a dozen tracks, the album cavorts with joy and seethes with rage. Through an unbridled vocal delivery Reimold conveys pain and sorrow in a way that few of her peers can match; backed by members of Mumblr and Roof Doctor, dynamic arrangements echo the sentiment.

But these feelings, even when heavy and unpleasant, are greatly preferable to feeling nothing at all. They’re part of life, and I think that Reimold – an optimist at heart – is trying to embrace all of that with her art, both visual (she’s a talented photographer) and sonic. Wriggling is about hurt and mortality as much as it’s about love and friendship, and Reimold and her band put it on bold display when they stopped by WXPN to record a Key Studio Session. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Lawsuits

Over the course of their five-year career, Philly rockers The Lawsuits have tried just about everything. Truckstop country and introspective, spectral folk. Shimmering psychedelic rock and bright 60s pop. Smooth Philly soul and boisterous hip-hop (for those who remember that legendary gig when they backed up Ground Up in Rittenhouse Square).

In short, the Philly-via-Bucks-County five piece has serious range – they can take whatever style fits their mood and make it work. But on the band’s latest, Moon Son, we hear The Lawsuits bringing that broad range into into focus. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Hardwork Movement

Philly hip-hop collective Hardwork Movement is a force of nature. Anchored by four longtime friends – singer Jeremy Keys with rappers Sterling Duns, R.B. Ricks and Rick Banks – the crew released the impressive debut Good Problems in January via Bandcamp, and assembled a band of talented Philly musicians to bring it to life on stage. And then from there, the movement took on a life of its own. Continue reading →

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