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Strand of Oaks’ Timothy Showalter joins Magnolia Electric Co. tribute to Jason Molina

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In the years following the death of iconic singer-songwriter Jason Molina, many artists have come together to pay tribute — namely, the Songs: Molina project, which was started by Molina’s bandmates from Songs: Ohia and the Magnolia Electric Co. Songs: Molina, a Memorial Electric Co. will tour Europe this fall, with the addition of a familiar local face — Strand of Oaks‘ Timothy Showalter.

Showalter is a longtime Molina fan — the Strand of Oaks song “JM” is named for the musician, and he’s been known to share the story of the only time the two met. Molina himself spent some time in Philadelphia recording his 2002 album Didn’t It Rain, and Philly’s Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner played slide guitar on the album. Also on the tour is Molina biographer Erin Osmon, author of Jason Molina: Riding With The Ghost. Continue reading →

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Songs: Molina – A Memorial Electric Co. honors the music of Jason Molina at Underground Arts

songs: molina
Songs: Molina – A Memorial Electric Co. | photo via Underground Arts

A group of musicians will honor the songs of Jason Molina at Underground Arts on Thursday, June 22nd with Songs: Molina – A Memorial Electric Co. The tribute project was originally convened by the late singer-songwriter’s Songs: Ohia and Electric Magnolia Co. bandmates and friends in 2013 following his sudden death; this summer, they’ll gather together again for a run of dates in conjunction with the release of a new Molina biography.

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Unsung Folkadelphia #1: Jason Molina and Songs: Ohia’s Didn’t It Rain

Jason Molina, courtesy of Secretly Canadian.
Jason Molina, courtesy of Secretly Canadian.
From the 'Didn't It Rain' session, Jennie Bedford's lyric work sheet to "Steve Albini's Blues"
From the ‘Didn’t It Rain’ session, Jennie Bedford’s lyric work sheet to “Steve Albini’s Blues”

Welcome to the first chapter of Folkadelphia’s new project that we’ve gotten in the habit of calling Unsung.

In the history of music, there are many unsung artists and albums that we firmly clutch close to our hearts. These artists create the kind of music that we wish other people knew more about or cared more deeply for. We wish that we could share with others our exact feelings about how we’ve been touched and affected by some musicians. We want to show them the light. We want to sing these musicians’ unsung song for everyone to hear.

With this series, we hope we can provide a way for people to connect with music that has been influential beyond its commercial impact and, perhaps, appeal. It’s never too late to find a new favorite band and honor their legacy and discography.

For this first part, we focused on what has become one of my favorite albums: Songs: Ohia’s Didn’t It Rain, which was recorded in Philadelphia in 2002. Continue reading →

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Get Loose: Strand of Oaks takes Boot & Saddle on a journey for the 2017 Winter Classic

Strand of Oaks | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In cased you somehow missed it, “Get Loose” is Timothy Showalter’s mantra of 2017.

Those two words have been used effusively by his band Strand of Oaks: it’s a lyrical refrain in “On The Hill,” it’s a command shouted from the stage and a catchphrase on social media to get fans hype for their tour; it appears on huge block letters on t-shirts at the merch stand. Hell, it’s all over the artwork to Harder Love, the companion LP to this year’s Hard Love that Philly fans picked up an early copy of at the third annual Winter Classic, Oaks’ three sold-out nights at Boot & Saddle earlier this month.

The spirit of the phrase is all about loosening oneself from external expectation, finding joy in the moment, living your life for yourself and those who you love most dearly. With those shows, however, “get loose” took on a different meaning for Showalter: he was loose of the band he’d been touring with all year and loose of their locked-in style of improv that, while dazzling, could eclipse the incredible songwriting at the core of it all; he was loose of the sets focused largely on 2017’s Hard Love — recently named one of our don’t-miss record of the year — sets that rarely included anything earlier than 2014’s HEAL.

The Winter Classic shows were Showalter, on stage by himself for the better part of three straight nights, performing different and deep-diving song selections each show — constructed with fan input, his setlists touched on cuts from all five Oaks studio LPs, including songs he hasn’t played in five-plus years (maybe ever?), with a recurring jam from the slated January release of Harder Love and a new song dedicated to his wife Sue.

He was loose and, admittedly nervous about the ordeal — there was nothing to hide behind, just Tim and his gregarious personality. And at the end of it all, that looseness made room for discovery and re-discovery, for audience and artist alike. Here’s what we heard and saw that weekend. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Telepathic

Philly punk trio Telepathic is lean and mean, direct and driven. Its performance for The Key Studio Sessions this week rocks out six jams econo in a little over eleven minutes — and here I thought last week’s session with Radiator Hospital was efficient! — and its forthcoming LP, Self Check Out, packs in a walloping 19 ragers with little in the way of excess. Basically, these are three humans who know exactly what they want to say, know how they want it to sound, and they waste no time getting to the point.

The band is comprised of three players — Rob Garcia on guitar and vocals, Sarah Everton on bass and vocals, Mark Rice on drums — who have moved in indie circles for a while now. Garcia and Everton co-fronted the asskicking Bleeding Rainbow, while Rice played in Jason Molina’s Magnolia Electric Co. But unlike other bands of scene vets that, oftentimes, can come across as cynically calculated in attempting to optimize industry forces in their favor moreso than making art, Telepathic is the opposite. They are art first, all the way, and to this observer, their EPs and the forthcoming LP seem to say “we’ve been down that road already. We hated it. This time, our music is for us.”

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Weather changes moods

Hannah Frances | via hannahfrances.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

I will never not tell you to go see live music in some way or another. It’s part of my role here at The Key — shining a light on the artists that dwell in Philadelphia, as well as the spaces where their art comes to life. It’s just that, often, there’s so much of both of those things.

Friday night, I had a ridiculous amount of gigs to choose between. Two record release parties were on the calendar — one for Radiator Hospital, who headlined the church in support of the awesome and uplifting Play The Songs You Like, and one for Hound, who played Space 1026 to celebrate the asskicking Born Under 76. Technically, there were three, if you consider that The Lame-Os’ opening slot on the Preen / Pears gig at Everybody Hits was in celebration of their new self-titled jawn; and on the non-yay-new-album front, Vita and the Woolf headlined Johnny Brenda’s and The Overcoats played Arden. (To say nothing of huger shows like Ben Folds at The Fillmore, Brand New at the Tower, etc.)

Sometimes we have an embarrassment of riches. Sometimes it’s fine (and necessary) to step away from it all and collect your head. I ultimately chose the Vita show on Friday night — and I’m totally glad I did, it was a thrill to see a band I’d first seen perform to maybe a dozen people at Ortlieb’s a few years back galvanize a sold-out crowd at one of Philly’s most popular venues — but I also haven’t left my house since, pretty much.

And it’s been wonderful. I’ve gotten a lot of reading done, I’ve watched a couple movies, and I’ve listened to a lot of music — stuff that’s been accumulating in my New Music playlist on iTunes as well as new finds on the Philadelphia Bandcamp tag. We are now solidly, seriously in the autumn weather zone, and I’m all-around loving it: the temperature stability after all the seasonal elongation and upheaval we experienced earlier this year, the emergence of playfully macabre decor ahead of Halloween, and the way the turning of the leaves and the cooling of the air guides artists inward to a more reflective headspace.

If that’s the place you’re in as well, you’ll probably find a thing or two to love in the fifteen releases below.

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Friendship debut “Rich Man,” the first single from new F/V Hope EP

friendship
Friendship | photo courtesy of the artist

Local outfit Friendship are out on the road right now for a pretty serious national tour, but when they return on May 27th it’s to release a new EP called F/V Hope via Sleeper Records. While in Galveston, TX (according to their tour flier) a few days ago the country-tinged folk rockers shared a lead single from the record called “Rich Man,” which you can listen to below.

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Folkadelphia Session: Friendship (ft. Abi Reimold)

Friendship (sans Reimold), courtesy of the artist.
Friendship (sans Reimold), courtesy of the artist.

Back during the first half of 2015, we only knew Friendship as a social concept that we were bad at participating in. We ended 2015 with a new favorite band. Thanks to a “mysterious EP” (as posted by The Key) and a Folkadelphia house concert with Maine’s Jacob Augustine, Friendship really held our attention as we greatly anticipated their eventual debut full length, You’re Going to Have to Trust Me. With its somber country sound somewhere between Jason Molina and Gram Parsons (as WXPN’s John Vettese nicely describes it), Friendship hits that sweet spot where our interests in existentialism and pedal steel guitar converge.
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Listen to Obvious + Unafraid, the new LP from Psalmships

Psalmships | photo via Facebook

Resident ghostfolk/slowcore outfit Psalmships are back with Obvious + Unafraid, the first release of new material since 2014’s I Sleep Alone. Primary songwriter Joshua Britton is joined by friends Chelsea Sue Allen and Brad Hinton on the recordings, which place us deep into the Bucks County musician’s psyche as he ruminates on heartbreak, death and his place in the universe.

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