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UNLOCKED: An afternoon in South Philly with Lushlife

Lushlife | Credit: Megan Matuzak
Lushlife standing in the entrance of Jinxed on Passyunk Ave. in South Philly | Credit: Megan Matuzak

All week long we’ve been putting the UNLOCKED spotlight on the new release by Lushlife and CSLSX, Ritualize. Tomorrow night’s record release party at Johnny Brenda’s is expected to be epic. Lushlife will be performing with CSLSX, and he promises some special guests.

Fresh off a 72 hour media marathon in NYC, Lushlife, aka Raj Haldar, is a little hazy. Slouched deep in his blue upholstered couch with his Harmony electric across his lap, it’s the first weekend he’s had in awhile. Before New York he was in Austin at his label’s, Western Vinyl, HQ and the next weekend he would be flying out to the midwest to film with Nik+Lamar, who filmed the award winning “Magnolia” for Plateau Vision. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Dive into Lushlife’s Ritualized with “Body Double”

Lushlife
Lushlife | Photo by Ebru Yildiz ebruyildiz.net | courtesy of the artist

“It’s weird. I’ve been Lushlife my whole adult life. The genesis of the name is incidental now to me, but it’s just cute high school shit. Ultimately, I was just a marching band, jazz dork. Today, what Lushlife does is only tangentially related to that stuff, but a name becomes I name, I guess. When I was in the airport this weekend, someone recognized me and yelled out that name as I was walking by, and my head turned in the same intrinsic way that my given name would,” Raj Haldar says.

Philadelphia’s Lushlife began challenging the way hip-hop is defined long before his first official release, Cassette City, in 2009. Since his first show in 2005 at The Jazz Cafe in Camden Town, London, Raj Haldar’s ability to blur the lines between what the genre is and what it could be is the gospel he lives by. Ritualize, which premiered on Billboard on February 17th and was officially released February 19th, is the next notch in Haldar’s career, and it’s a coming of age story. And the story behind “Body Double”, his first single, is a harrowing one. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Listen to an eclectic playlist from Philly’s Abi Reimold

Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist
Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist

All week long, we’ve been spotlighting singer-songwriter Abi Reimold and her terrific new album Wriggling. It’s a dynamic record, it’s an emotion-packed record. And that’s not just to say that it’s sad – though moments are quite sad – but rather that it captures the range of human emotion, from despondency and confusion to playful joy.

Thing is, beyond being a musician in her own right, Reimold is a huge fan of music – something that you can tell when you listen closely and dig into the record. In our review, we noticed bits of Cursive, Cocteau Twins and Creepoid. To conclude the series today, we asked Reimold to share five of her all-time favorite songs, and the list she gave us is equally eclectic; check it out below. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Go inside Abi Reimold’s creative process in a short doc on Wriggling

Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist
Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist

All week we’ve been exploring Philly singer-songwriter Abi Reimold‘s remarkable new album Wriggling on Unlocked – The Key’s recurring spotlight on new and significant releases from Philadelphia artists. Today, we step back a little bit to let Reimold tell a little bit of her own story.

While she was in the studio working on Wriggling in 2014 and 2015, Reimold teamed up with local filmmaker Jay Miller to document the recording sessions. In the process, Miller wound up providing a candid window into Reimold’s creative process and imaginative spirit, from his video of her performing “Vessel” on a rooftop to the short documentary we’re thrilled to give you a first look at today. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: The Key’s review of Abi Reimold’s Wriggling

Cover art to Abi Reimold's Wriggling | Photo courtesy of the artist
Cover art to Abi Reimold’s Wriggling | Photo courtesy of the artist

It should come as no surprise that, as a songwriter, Abi Reimold makes incredible use of imagery.

As we pointed out yesterday, we got to know her as a photographer before we knew her as a musician. Her visual style is one of incredible intimacy, one that gives you the sense that Reimold the person was able to completely disappear from a place in time, leaving instead Reimold the all-seeing eye to capture what’s happening around her: the brightness, the beauty, the grit, the sadness, the camaraderie and joy, all framed in one multifaceted, honest picture.

It stands to reason that an artist capable of this sort of feat – one that all visual artists, to some degree or another, aspire to – would also have a way with words. Even so, when Reimold opened her 2014 EP Forget with the lyric “Blood filling my shoes / everything I’ll lose / by letting you into my mind,” it was knock-down intense. There is so much going on there, sensory language and emotional detail, that you’re drawn in immediately, surrendering your imagination to descriptive language and evocative sounds that convey heavy states of introspection.

Today, Reimold’s debut LP Wriggling is out there in the world care of Sad Cactus Records, and this album – like her shorter releases leading up to it – has a way with words and sounds.  Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Listen to Abi Reimold get serene on “Machine”

Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist
Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist

We’ve had a great vantage point from which to observe Philadelphia artist Abi Reimold these past few years. She’s a WXPN intern alumnus and an occasional contributing photographer for The Key – a tremendously talented one at that, who has covered festivals and studio sessions for us. We’ve also seen her forge her path as a singer and songwriter, from her 2013 Folkadelphia session to the release of 2014’s excellent Forget EP and her place in the lineup of our tribute to Patti Smith’s Horses.

When Reimold sent over an early stream of her LP Wriggling last fall, it was clear something big was afoot, and when national press started picking up on it this winter, it felt less like the “exciting new artist” it may have seemed to them and more that of a hard-working songwriter getting her due. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Here’s what the Philly music scene loves about Hop Along

Hop Along | Photo by Shervin Lainez
Hop Along | Photo by Shervin Lainez

More than simply a great band, Philly’s Hop Along is a great band that understands the value of community. They’ve opened shows and tours for their more established scene peers like mewithoutYou and Dr. Dog, and in turn they’ve taken given opening opportunities to Thin Lips and Clique. They record at Philly studios, they have Philly friends contribute to their albums, they work with Philly people (like Cat Park and Tiff Yoon of Amanda X) on their music videos and merch. And in turn, they’re a band that’s embraced the Philadelphia music world around.

Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee has a tattoo of Hop Along’s Freshman Year album art on her left arm (opposite Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things on her right). When Modern Baseball recorded their Key Studio Session, bassist Ian Farmer rocked a sweet Hop Along t-shirt. And pretty much any time the band has a Philly gig, the crowd is filled with local musicians…meaning we’re expecting their headlining show at Union Transfer tomorrow night to be a total love fest. To get prepared, we got a bunch of their Philly music friends to tell us what exactly it is they love about Hop Along. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Finding strength in life and art with Philadelphia’s Hop Along

Hop Along in the studio | photo by Jonathan Minto
Hop Along in the studio | photo by Jonathan Minto

Frances Quinlan first heard the ravaged voice of Jackson C. Frank a few years while working a house painting job. She had a Nick Drake Spotify channel keeping her company during the long hours, and one day while working at her friend Mike’s house, the song “Tumble In The Wind” came on.

“I heard it and immediately was like ‘who is this?’” she recalls. “So I looked him up. And I read one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read.”

The legend goes that the New England musician got into music and guitar playing while recovering from a school fire which left him with burns on 50% of his body. When Frank received settlement money at age 21, he moved to England, met Paul Simon – who was living in the UK at the time – and the two worked together to record his self-titled album, his only commercial release during his lifetime.

However, while his music influenced the emerging 60s folk scene and his song “Blues Run The Game” was covered by Simon & Garfunkel and Nick Drake, Frank himself remained mired in obscurity. Returning to the United States, a series of tragedies struck – he developed paranoid schizophrenia, was homeless for a period of time, lost one eye when a group of kids sitting in a park accidentally shot him in the face with a pellet gun. Eventually a fan named Jim Abbott tracked him down in the 90s and helped him make his final recordings, including “Tumble.”

“He could barely play,” Quinlan says. “But it is such a great song. I couldn’t stop thinking about him.”

Frank’s story inspired “Horseshoe Crabs,” a track on her band Hop Along’s new album Painted Shut, which we’re featuring all week long on Unlocked. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Wander an artful maze of memory in Hop Along’s “Powerful Man” video

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A scene from Hop Along’s “Powerful Man” video

Most people know Frances Quinlan as a singer and songwriter, the powerful voice behind Philly’s Hop Along. But visual art was actually her first calling; she founded the band almost ten years ago as a freshman studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Most of her album art is the work of her own hand, with no shortage of ambition either. At the Get Disowned album release party in the basement of the First Unitarian Church, Quinlan decorated the stage with dozens of larger-than-life-sized leaves from the album cover, and then handed dozens more out to the audience. (It was June and the basement was sweltering, so they made good handheld fans, as well as mementos for the fans.) And the intricate, beautiful still life on the cover of Painted Shut is her work as well.

The new music video for “Powerful Man” might be Quinlan’s most complex and rewarding fusion of art and music. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: The Key’s review of Painted Shut by Hop Along

Painted Shut cover art
Painted Shut cover art

It’s Tuesday, meaning we’re at the part in our occasional Unlocked series where the person writing the series shares their review of the album we’re featuring. Thing is, we pretty much all love Hop Along and Painted Shut. So for today’s installment, we bring you our first-ever Key Staff collaborative album review. Enjoy!

Philly greats Hop Along have been hanging out in the shadows for quite some time. Although the band has been putting out exceptional music for the better part of a decade, they have kept a relatively low profile until now. Their new album Painted Shut, released this week on revered indie label Saddle Creek, introduces Hop Along to the masses. The album reads like a collection of short stories, leaving the metaphor and ambiguity of 2012’s Get Disowned behind and spinning narratives that pull you in like a great book.

The track “Horseshoe Crabs” exemplifies this beautifully. The song’s haunting melody perfectly accompanies the lyrics of loss illustrated through the lens of childhood memories about summertime adventures. Frontwoman Frances Quinlan reflects on memory throughout the album, memories that are pivotal to her – “Powerful Man” describes her fear and failure to intervene when, as a teenager, she saw a young child being abused by his father – but in some cases, the memories may not be the way others involved remember the situation.

Take “Waitress”: Quinlan blows up a frustrating, awkward scene in her head upon seeing somebody walk into her restaurant – “your friend looked over from the bar, she must have known who I was / the worst possible version of what I’d done” – but in reality, the people she’s waiting on may not have given the moment a second thought – “call you enemy because I’m afraid of what you could call me.” It definitely reflects that normal anxiety and overthinking self-consciousness that we are all prone to from time to time. Continue reading →