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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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The Key Studio Sessions: Johnny Popcorn

Hezekiah Davis spent a decade building his name as a relentless player in Philadelphia’s hip-hop community. He earned a rep as a charismatic, engaging stage presence and honed his skill for thought-provoking, observational lyrics met with driving beats (“Put Your Toys Away” from his 2005 debut Hurry Up And Wait is pretty classic). But like most passionate consumers of music, Hezekiah’s tastes aren’t constrained to a single sound.

Enter Johnny Popcorn, the project and persona he’s immersed himself in of late. On the surface, it’s rock and roll, but defining the band by genre sort of defeats the point, since Hezekiah and co front-person Jani Coral dip and dive across an exploration of various styles and vibes. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Archawah

Chances are, you already know Chris Archibald as the leader of the long-running Bucks County indie rock outfit Illinois. He’s a busy songwriter, so much so that one Illinois release (2009’s The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe) was broken up into a year’s worth of digital EP releases. Typically, the band takes several years between albums, and while he loves working with his longtime friends, Chris was in need of another outlet.

Enter Archawah, his solo project that debuted last year with the brilliant and serene single “Supermoon,” and subsequently released the 1 EP in January. As he told our Julie Miller at the time, the EP is the first of six we’ll hear from him this year. “Archawah is not going to wait around for anyone,” he said. “I’ll release my music when it is ready in my ears.” Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Square Peg Round Hole

It was one of those gigs that’s become quasi-legendary: about a year and a half ago, I got a frantic text message from Philly drummer Al Smith (then of Cold Fronts, now of American Babies) raving about the show he was at. “Dude, I’m seeing Darla and Square Peg Round Hole at The Fire right now and it’s incredible. You need to check these bands out!” I took his advice, and was equal parts impressed and surprised. Both were instrumental bands – an unexpected tip coming from a rock and roll kinda guy – and both featured crews of musicians from an obviously studied jazz background branching in vastly different directions, the former down a jammy funk path and the latter down a prog-tinged ambient path.

Darla went on to make waves as the ultimate Philly music scene party band in 2015 – rocking nightclubs as enthusiastically as Kamasi Washington crowds with spunky originals intermixed with covers of “The Boys Are Back In Town” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” (Check out their Key Studio Session here.) Now that we’re into spring of 2016, Square Peg is having a moment of its own. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Morelings

Philadelphia psychedelic pop outfit The Morelings seemingly arrived on the scene this past year with a fully realized look and sound. Spectral guitars, shimmering melodies, distant voices breathlessly beckoning you to pay close attention. Then again, the band and its sound is the product of years of friendship and collaboration between founding duo Kedra Caroline and Matthew William, stretching back to their college days in Ann Arbor, MI. And the sound continues to evolve.

Caroline and William bonded over Nick Drake and Fairport Convention; William also had a strong fondness for John Fahey, and these disparate influences informed the first music they wrote together. Flash forward to Philadelphia in 2014, when The Morelings recorded its debut EP No Sign with Kyle Johnson. Their songs moved in a decidedly dreamy direction comparable to the giants of the shoegaze 90s – Slowdive, Lush and their contemporaries. Drifting, spacious and minimal, the EP strikes notes of haunting serenity, with Caroline’s voice floating in the fray as though it was another instrument.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: ROMP

New Jersey indie punk four-piece ROMP is a bundle of energy. Which makes sense, considering they hail from the same geographical region that gave us Screaming Females, The Front Bottoms and Pinegrove. But for this band, which just released its debut LP Departure from Venus on Bad Timing Records, success stems from a variety of moving parts.

The fierce hard rock drumming of Mike Linardi blends with frontwoman Madison Klarer’s infectious pop hooks and vocal melodies. Her focused keyboard playing lends a dulcet compliment to Lucas Dalakian’s unhinged, jagged guitar riffage, while Chris Beninato’s bass holds the pieces together. In short, each part of the puzzle is integral, which is why the band’s profile has shot upward over the past six months. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ben Kessler

Philly-area singer-songwriter Ben Kessler has been on our radar for a couple years now, which is crazy when you consider he has yet to graduate high school. But he’s been at it since he was 14, with a smooth vocal style and a sturdy knack for writing 70s-influenced pop songs. He’s released a handful of EPs on Bandcamp – most recently So It Goes, which debuted a year and a half ago – and his music channels Jackson Browne, Bill Withers, James Taylor – and more contemporarily, fellow Philadelphian Amos Lee. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: GrandeMarshall

 

Philly rapper GrandeMarshall has a style unto himself. In his past few years of activity on the Philly scene, he’s impressed with his laid-back flow – cool, calm, collected and confident – with lyrics that are a little bit braggadocio, a little bit introspective. They don’t go for the throat as much as they put their hand on your shoulder, look you dead in the eye and tell you how things are going to be.

Paired with these rhymes are spectral, textured beats. Midtempo and sparse, they’re adorned by minimal production and ghostly synth melodies, carving out lots of space and creating an ambience that’s as chilling as it is meditative. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Former Belle

Bruno Catrambone is most visible as lead guitarist of Philly modern rock crew Cruisr, but his longtime musical squeeze is Former Belle, the indie-folk project he’s resurrecting this winter with a new EP called Foreign Bed.

Like his back catalog, the new music is tinged with nods to Elliott Smith and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning-era Bright Eyes. But Catrambone exhibits a newfound confidence and dynamic range in the new songs, and it was on prominent display during the band’s performance for The Key Studio Sessions. Continue reading →

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