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The Key Studio Sessions: Cuddle Magic

It’s hard to believe that Cuddle Magic has been a band for a decade at this point.

The Brooklyn / Philly crew is a conglomeration of artists from along the northeastern seaboard, over the years featuring members from Boston to DC. The band first got on our radar during West Philly’s heady Danger Danger Gallery days with its second record, Picture. It was one of the first artists I ever wrote about for The Key, actually, and at the time I called its music “a striking balance between earthy and ethereal.” I’d say that description still holds up.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Ju-Taun

Philly rock six-piece Ju-Taun has roots that stretch back to childhood. Brothers Jake and James Evans learned to sing from their father, who schooled them on the classic harmonies of soul and Motown. In the late 90s, their friend Samoeun Cheng joined them for a high school competition, and some variation on the band has been in in place ever since. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Camp Candle

Philly duo Camp Candle caught our ear last year with ERE, which is a totally fun thing to say out loud. Really though, that’s the name of their debut, and its blend of body-moving beats, suave vocals and harmonized textures is entrancing. It calls to mind any number of forward-thinking, electropop-driven acts dotting the modern rock landscape these days, from the sleek guitar lines of The xx to the bold saxophone leads of M83 and the rhythmic grit of Phantogram. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Diarrhea Planet at Underground Arts, Dylan Jane at Ortlieb’s, Impressionist at Bourbon and Branch

Diarrhea Planet | Photo by John Vettese
Diarrhea Planet | Photo by John Vettese

Nashville rock and roll dudes Diarrhea Planet return to Underground Arts tonight for a headlining gig in one of their fave Philly rooms. The band put out its latest LP Turn To Gold earlier this year, and if you’re a fan of epic shredding and power chords, you need to give it a listen. Philly’s Straw Hats open the show; watch DP rock “Hop Topic” for the Indie Rock Hit Parade below, and get tickets and more information on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar.   Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Hello Shark

The past few years, the final Key Studio Session of December has been one for quiet contemplation — an echo of the headspace we all find ourselves in as we get ready to hang up a new calendar and promise ourselves that this will be our year. It may not always play out like we want it to. Things can change, external forces we don’t have any control over can muddle our goals up. But stepping from one year to the next with the right outlook, and attempting to maintain that outlook as the months pass, is crucial.

In the Philly scene this year, few did quiet contemplation quite like Hello Shark. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: A Day Without Love

Brian Walker has been feeling pretty positive lately. The Philly musician has made reflective music under the A Day Without Love banner for as long as we’ve been covering the scene here at The Key, and the project had several incarnations over the years. There was the acoustic, sensitive and Dashboard Confessional-esque early songs and shows meditating on heartbreak and sorrow. Then there was the anthemic power pop band circa 2013-14, showcased on the impressive Young Professionals EP, a collection with a sirplus of seize-the-day energy.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Rosali

Philadelphia’s Rosali Middleman debuted this year with an excellent collection of earnest, roots-tinged songwriting and contemporary folk. Released simply under her first name via local imprint Siltbreeze Records, Rosali‘s Out of Love hearkens back to the 70s singer-songwriter era of Joan Baez and Neil Young as much as it recalls more recent parallels — Lucinda Williams, or R.E.M. circa Out of Time. At the core of the music is Rosali’s engaging voice: confident, sublime, delivering observational stories of the fast-paced world around her and going inward for self-reflection. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Mannequin Pussy

It’s certainly not inaccurate to call Philly’s Mannequin Pussy a punk band. We’ve described them that way quite a bit, and given the revved up guitars, vocal howls and minute-and-a-half songs that make this year’s Romantic such a gripping listen, it’s not entirely inaccurate. But sometimes “punk” can be a limiting bit of jargon, especially when used in the more puritanical sense — the definition that eschews ambitious production, or nuanced songwriting, or any kind of artistic complexity.

And complexity, no doubt, is compelling. It can be the dynamic tide of the album’s title track, or the interspersing of acoustic arrangements amid the fray. It can be frontwoman Marisa Dabice’s bold vocals that are as much of an emotional gut-punch on the tender melodies as they are on the visceral snarls. So in that regard, I would say that Mannequin Pussy are absolutely not punk, and all the better for it. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ron Gallo

If we’ve learned anything watching Philly-bred songsmith Ron Gallo for the better part of the past decade, it’s this: dude can do it all. Propulsive electric blues? Check. Sprawling big-band Americana? Check. Jangling global pop? Check. Leon Redbone-esque roots folk excursions? Check.

After logging innumerable Philly hours as leader of Toy Soldiers, a solo artist, a variety show promoter and sometimes comedian, Gallo skipped town late last year for a new start in Nashville, which suits his current musical interests quite well. Sure, it’s the capital of twang, and Gallo’s back-catalog has twang in spades. But the city has experienced a massive garage-punk resurgence in the past decade, from JEFF The Brotherhood, Diarrhea Planet and The Ettes to Jack White making the city the home base of his Third Man Records.

Gallo’s new Heavy Meta LP fits right into that zeitgeist, with propulsive riffs, hair-raising howls and a fierce power trio configuration: Joe Bisirri on bass, Dylan Sevey on drums, all three chipping in on vocals. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: JaE the Artist

One night a few weeks back, I left the XPN performance studio and immediately noticed the louder-than-usual power rock jams wafting down the staircase from World Cafe Live’s upstairs stage. The source was JaE the Artist, a regional singer and songwriter playing a benefit organized by Ladies’ Night to help victims of the 2016 Louisiana floods.

JaE has been active locally for a couple years now, and earlier this year released her first LP, The Evolution of JaE. As she describes it, her musical path was indeed an evolution: she grew up in a highly musical household that raised her on soul and R&B. But she also had a strong interest in rock music as well, Aerosmith to Alanis to Lenny Kravitz. Working on the record helped her find a way to fuse those sounds, and you hear it in the live band that assembled in our studio for this week’s Key Studio Session.  Continue reading →

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