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The inside story of Little Furnace with label owner Jack Firneno

Little Furnace Label | Photo courtesy of Jack Firneno
Little Furnace Label | Photo courtesy of Jack Firneno

Little Furnace is a relatively new local label, run by Jack Firneno. The label’s roster includes Cicada Jade, Borrowed Equipment, The Band Sheep, Tim Schmid, Alyssa Marsdale, Dime Street Joker, and Ashton John. The creator and backbone of the fresh faced record label reflected over email with The Key about a the label, its roster and a Little Furnace show at Connie’s Ric Rac in South Philly last month. The show included many of the artists on the label, including Ashton John. Firneno wrote: “I’ve never seen a bar go from empty to packed as fast as when he’s (Ashton John) playing.” Here’s more on Little Furnace from Jack Firneno: Continue reading →

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Being Novel: Eleanor Friedberger discusses the hard work of a singular songwriter

Eleanor Friedberger Photo by Joe DeNardo
Eleanor Friedberger | Photo by Joe DeNardo | courtesy of the artist

Eleanor Friedberger has impugned the Philadelphia Grand Jury, and roundly rejects Philly Councilman Mark Squilla’s now notorious (and already-dead) legislation proposal.

Take that, Philly. She’ll do what she wants here.

You’d have only to listen briefly to almost any of Friedberger’s work to hear something novel, enduring and for the most part accessible too — arguably a rare combination of qualities in pop music. Her three solo records are ear candy for audiophiles that never seems to wear thin, buoyant and quirky, with her trademark asynchronous lyrical delivery that manages to offer something new with each listen. And together with her brother Matthew, Friedberger’s bountiful catalog as half of the The Fiery Furnaces features eight intense studio records to date, often layered with discord and din, musical conversations of meandering meters masterfully woven with Friedberger’s bright vocal melodies, that serve to challenge and expand the listener’s sense of euphony.

In advance of her upcoming appearance at MilkBoy in Center City, our conversation with Friedberger covers everything from pop production to college keg stories, and she even offers her advice on the best way to come up with something new. Continue reading →

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The artist formerly known as John Wesley Harding is now “Self-Titled”

Photo by Ebet Roberts
Photo by Ebet Roberts
John Wesley Harding is no more. Well, maybe he is a little. The singer-songwriter we’ve known as John Wesley Harding has finally decided to put an album out under his birth name, Wesley Stace. Actually though, his new album is called Self-Titled, so we’re not so sure that actually counts. Wes/John, who has been living long enough in Philly to finally call him a local musician, has been making the transition to his given name over the last several years as a fantastic fiction writer and is releasing his new album on September 17 on Yep Roc Records. The album features a couple of co-writes with Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces, including “When I Knew,” that you can listen to below.

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Tonight’s Pick: Wesley Stace reads from his new novel at the Free Library Of Philadelphia

Wesley Stace, known to many as John Wesley Harding, will be at the Free Library Of Philadelphia tonight to read from his new book of historical fiction, Charles Jessold, Considered As A Muderer. Stace, who moved to Philadelphia in July, released the novel—his third—in February. The story, which takes place in England in the early 1900s, is a tale of murder and music: the book opens with the debut of Charles Jessold’s new opera, Little Musgrave, and—in a bizarre twist of events—Jessold murders his wife and her lover, then commits suicide. It is a macabre thriller, narrated through the words of Jessold’s music critic, friend, and collaborator, Leslie Shephard.

Stace recently told the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“What this book is massively about,” Stace says, “is how criticism distorts art by reducing it to handy narratives that tell the story people like to hear.”

Tonight, Stace will read from his book and perform “Little Musgrave,” a folk song that he wrote and has said (via e-mail) is “central to the novel, and the reading sets it up quite well.”

Stace recently finished recording a new album with members of The Decemberists in Portland; the band, tentatively titled The Sound Of His Own Voice, has been an Artist-In-Residence at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Last May, Stace collaborated with poet Robert Pinsky and Bruce Springsteen at Farleigh Dickinson’s WAMFEST (Words And Music Festival). In May, Stace will collaborate with Josh Ritter, The Fiery Furnaces, Alejandro Escovedo, and several New York writers in another event (details TBD). Below, Eugene Mirman interviews Stace about his new book.

Wesley Stace reads from Charles Jessold, Considered As A Murderer with Daneil Levithan reading from his book The Lover’s Dictionary at 7:30 p.m. at the Free Library Of Philadelphia (1901 Vine Street); the event is free.


Also playing:
Simian Mobile Disco + Blondes, Dave P And Sammy Slice at The Trocadero (8 p.m., all-ages, $17)

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Recap: Deerhoof at Theatre Of The Living Arts

Deerhoof

The word “anomaly” doesn’t do Deerhoof justice: the San-Franicsco-based art-rock-post-noise quartet (or whatever you want to call it), really is something else. And Friday night—on the heels of the release of the band’s tenth album, Deerhoof vs. Evil—an overjoyed Satomi Matsuzaki and Co. took the stage to prove just that.

Formed back in the mid ’90s, Deerhoof has been churning out head-scratch-inducing albums for close to a decade and a half—albums that have reportedly influenced bands such as The Flaming Lips, The Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens, The Fiery Furnaces, St. Vincent, Grizzly Bear, Of Montreal, and even Radiohead. (The members of Radiohead actually recruited the avant-garde foursome for a leg of their 2008 tour—no small accomplishment for a band that found its humble beginnings as the improvisational remnants of a defunct noise band). For years now, Deerhoof has eschewed accessibility for challenging rhythms and odd time signatures; the songs—at once whimsical and abrasive—are characterized by the puerile coos of lead-singer Matsuzaki, and have been the object of bewilderment and irritation for anyone who isn’t a devotee.

Enter The TLA, Friday, February 11th. At precisely 11:15 p.m. the band emerged before its largest Philadelphia crowd to date: a paint-laden, neon-clad fan base huddled around the kit of drummer Greg Saunier. Guitarist John Dieterich timidly greeted the crowd and catapulted the quartet into a cover of the Ramones’s classic “Pinhead,” the prelude to a schizophrenic set spanning most of the band’s discography. Not too long after, the band performed the Apple O stand-out, “Dummy Discards A Heart,” which featured the band’s most recent addition, guitarist Ed Rodriguez, screeching and writhing between Dieterich’s counterpoint riffs. Meanwhile, Matsuzaki purred and delivered a creaky choreography that resembled a flight attendant’s pre-takeoff instructions. (It involved her making the shape of a heart with her hands and imitating waves.) The attitude was playful, not pretentious; moments later, when the little-known gem “Come See the Duck” found Matsuzaki teaching the lyrics (which literally consist of “Come see the duck”) to the audience after its failed attempt at call-and-response, she did so joyfully, without the slightest hint of condescension.

The rest of the evening was composed of fan-favorites such as “Milk Man,” where Saunier, one of the most talented drummers in the indie/avant scene, especially shines. The tempo hurtled along and lurched in between scattered snare fills and battered bronze. His onstage mannerisms are that of a 10-year-old child behind his first drum set—and yet, Saunier, who graduated with a degree in music composition, is very much the keystone on which the band rests, controlling rhythms and grooves the way a good matador does bovine. As the evening wound on, the band completed a laundry list of tunes from its new album; of these, highlights included “Super Duper Rescue Heads!,” the vigilante love anthem “I Did Crimes For You,” and the bass-driven “The Merry Barracks.” Deerhoof’s lighthearted, childish abandon persisted to the evening’s endearing end, an uproarious encore of “Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back,” which features Matsuzaki parading around stage and exhibiting what sounded like a keen knowledge of sporting vernacular. —James E. Porter