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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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The Key Studio Sessions: Kississippi

Think of them as Philly’s existential pop band that could. In the beginning, it was just Zoë Reynolds singing and strumming and making haunting, emotional lo-fi recordings at home to share with her friends.

As word spread, and Kississippi began to evolve from a free-time project to a full-fledged band – one that caught the ear of our Skye Leppo just about a year ago. And after the release of I Can Feel You In My Hair Still, Reynolds linked up with Jake Ewald from Modern Baseball, who worked with the band on their label debut, We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed, released last November on Soft Speak Records.

The EP is a sonic step forward for Kississippi, bringing Reynolds’ arresting voice to the forefront and surrounding it in lush, beautiful arrangements of slinky clean-tone guitar and measured drumming. It recalls a lot of bands from the sadcore 90s; central PA favorites The Innocence Mission, as well as NYC duo Ida and of course The Sundays.

If you ask Reynolds, though, her personal influences are decidedly more contemporary, and the band absolutely #slay with their cover of “It’s Okay” by Montreal cult faves Land of Talk during this week’s Key Studio Session.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Orion Tango

From expressive contributions to King Britt’s Back to Basics house band in the 90s to work with UK singer-songwriter David Sylvian (of the new wave outfit Japan) and his duo with acclaimed poet Ursula Rucker, Philly guitarist Tim Motzer is no stranger to constant collaboration. His latest project matches him up with two very like minded musicians in an experimental power trio they call Orion Tango. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Chelsea Sue Allen

Chelsea Sue Allen is a leading light in the Philadelphia folk scene, but then again, she’s something more. The West Chester singer-songwriter crafts intensely emotional songs that transcend the coffeehouse world, much as she’s a favorite over at Burlap and Bean. On last year’s Lonely Ages, she detailed the tug-of-war between aspiration and self-doubt – “I’ve got daydreams pressing against siren walls / will I become something better if I let them out” – as well as the crash of colossal letdowns – “you’re not the one I’m bankin’ on anymore, anymore?” – and does so over a bed of pattering electronics (“Creaks and Moans,” “Bankin’ On”) and full band swiftness (“Tall Dreams”).

Live, the flourishes are brushed away – Allen goes minimal and meditative, and the songs remain every bit as powerful. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ben Arnold

Veteran Philly singer-songwriter / rock-n-roller Ben Arnold has covered a lot of ground in the two decades he’s been making music. In the mid-90s, he was signed to Ruffhouse / Columbia and released the slacker-pop nugget Almost Speechless – which is a tiny bit ironic since the man is the total opposite of a slacker.

By the early aughties, he had grown into a more nuanced singer-songwriter and received a lot of attention from WXPN for In Case I’m Gone Tomorrow, as well as his acclaimed 4-Way Street supergroup with Jim Boggia, Scott Bricklin and Joseph Parsons. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Queen of Jeans

They got their name by putting a feminist spin on an uber-masculine piece of South Philly signage. They write pointed fuzz-rock songs punctuated by hooky melodies and retro-pop harmonies, washed in a dreamy soundscape. They’re Queen of Jeans, and they’re a band that needs to be on your radar. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Residuels

There’s a smoky, blues-from-a-gun furor to Philadelphia trio Residuels. The band, fronted by singer-guitarist Justin Pittney, caught our ear in the past with the heavy, heady Jesus and Mary Chain guitar jams it’s tapped into over various self-released singles. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Bryant Eugene Vazquez

You’ll doubtless hear nods to the masters in the songwriting of Bryant Eugene Vazquez: Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan. But this local rock and roll dude – who moved to Philadelphia in 2013 after growing up in Flagstaff, Arizona – has a strong and singular voice at the center of it all. It’s husky yet melodic, poppy yet vicious, the sound of celebration and desperation.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Innocence Mission

Lancaster folk trio The Innocence Mission had been hard at work for a decade by the time they broke through to mainstream recognition with “Bright As Yellow” from their 1995 album Glow. While it remains their best-known song on a certain level, the band’s best work was truly ahead of them. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Family Volleyball

Family Volleyball is an indie pop four-piece from Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, that made a big impression at this summer’s Beta Hi-Fi competition over at World Cafe Live. They’re a young crew, still in high school with bandmates averaging age 16, but they’ve got a self-assured of sound and chops to back it up. The wash of dreamy guitar textures and jangling leads recalls Beach Fossils and Youth Lagoon as readily as New Order and The Feelies, and frontman Ethan Kerr’s voice interacts with the songs almost like another instrument, ebbing and flowing along with the tide. Continue reading →

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