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The Key Studio Sessions: Ode To Omni

“The only thing that helped me was Jesus,” says drummer Marcus Meyers as he introduces the song “Anchors.” “And I know when you bring that name up, it can kind of get weird today. Maybe it’s the perception or the lens that we’re looking at him with.”

While spirituality is an undeniable undercurrent of his genre-spanning ensemble Ode to Omni, which returns to the stage at World Cafe Live tonight, Meyers is admittedly not self-righteous about his faith — acknowledging through that description that, perhaps, the idea of confrontational Christianity (which is a thing that definitely exists in the world of 2018) is part of that aforementioned lens.

But that’s not what he is all about; Meyers is more apt to use his songs meditate on mental health and self-care, acknowledging our weaknesses and finding sources of strength where we are able. His beliefs inform his life, his life informs his music, and as they perform pieces about self-improvement and empowerment for The Key Studio Sessions, he and his collaborators proved to be anything but one-dimensional. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Ode to Omni Roots Tribute at World Cafe Live, Quilt at The Foundry, Digable Planets at Ardmore Music Hall and more…

Ode to Omni
Ode to Omni | photo courtesy of the artist

Local ensemble Ode to Omni is putting on a Roots tribute show at World Cafe Live tonight. The show is kicking off the group’s new Homegrown Series, which will spotlight local artists in a live setting. Omni’s Marcus Myers exchanged emails with The Key’s John Vettese just last week to explain the genesis of the tribute show, his vision for the Homegrown Series and how the group connected with emcee Mic Stew, who will be joining the band tonight. Read that interview here and pick up tickets for the all-ages show here. Watch The Roots’ video for 1996 track “What They Do” below.

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Why are Ode to Omni and Mic Stew covering The Roots at World Cafe Live?

Ode to Omni
Ode to Omni | photo courtesy of the artist

Boundary-pushing Philly nine-piece ensemble Ode to Omni blurs the lines between rock, funk, big band brass and soul, and next week the crew pays tribute to one of its very similar-minded Philly influences: The Roots. The band sets up shop at World Cafe Live on Friday, July 29th for their new Homegrown Series paying tribute to Black Thought, Questlove and crew. They’ll be joined by locally-rooted MC Mic Stew, who’s in town from Texas for the show. I swapped emails with Ode to Omni drummer Marcus Myers to get a vibe on the show, the series and what it is that they love about The Roots. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Dice Raw at Silk City, Ode to Omni’s Stevie Wonder Tribute at World Cafe Live, Seinabo Sey at Underground Arts

Dice Raw | via diceraw.net

As a sort of warm-up to this weekend’s Roots Picnic, Roots crew affiliate Dice Raw plays a set tonight at Silk City. If you’ve never seen him live, Dice cuts a charismatic figure and we can expect to hear songs from his records Jimmy’s Back and The Greatest Rapper Never, some of his Roots tracks and other collabs. Tickets and more information on the show can be found here. Continue reading →

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Download a live set from Modern Inventors via NYCTaper (playing Steel City Coffeehouse on 12/07, Johnny Brenda’s on 12/28)

Philly rock outfit Modern Inventors traveled up 95 in October to participate in Brooklyn’s Backyard Brunch Sessions.  With a format similar to Philly’s own Bands in the Backyard, BBS host Dave Chaitt invites bands into his backyard for an afternoon of music and home-cooked food (though this particular session appears to have occurred inside).  Several Philadelphia area bands have been featured in past sessions, including XVSK, Family Band and The Spinning Leaves.

Modern Inventors, preparing for the release of their debut album Trains and Aeroplanes, played a mix of old and new songs at the final BBS session of the season.  Omnipresent New York concert archivists NYCTaper were on the scene with their professional recording equipment, which means you can now download Modern Inventors’ entire session for free here.  View the setlist below and stream the live version of the rock band’s new single “Hello”; they a have a few dates coming up including a show with Suzie Brown and Scot Sax at Steel City Coffeehouse on December 7th and a headlining gig at Johnny Brenda’s on December 28th.  Tickets and information can be found here.

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Eric Bazilian’s “One Of Us” to be featured on tonight’s episode of Glee

GleeIf God were one of us, would He/She watch Glee? Probably not. But only because, as the Supreme Being—and Seer Of All Things That Have Ever Happened, Are Happening, And Will Happen—it’s not as if God has to tune in to Fox on Tuesday nights in order to find out what crisis the kids in New Directions are dealing with at William McKinley High School each week. (And—if His Holy Holiness is too busy watching mankind commit various atrocities against each other in His name to plop His Omnipresent Butt down on His couch and watch a little television—He can probably afford to get a DVR from Comcast.) Either way, we’re definitely looking forward to the cast of Glee performing Joan Osborne‘s 1995 hit single, which The Hooters founding member Eric Bazilian wrote for her album Relish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSllQ02kg_o&feature=related

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20 albums you shouldn’t overlook in 2018

Some of our unsung favorite albums of 2018

Fun fact: in a total coincidence of timing, The Key released our best albums of the year list on the same morning that NPR Music, The Guardian, and Paste rolled out their respective lists. Most other major and minor music publications followed suit in the week that followed, social media was aflurry with immense list excitement as much as total list fatigue.

The best hot take I saw in the fray came from Boston journalist Nina Corcoran (a writer for NPR Music, and Pitchfork, among others), who simply Tweeted: “The 50 Best Albums of 2018 That Didn’t Have a PR Machine Churning Behind Them.”

It’s frustrating, but true. It’s daunting when you’re reading about mostly the same albums in a slightly different order, and it begs some consideration. Like I’ve said in the past: while there is power in consensus, how does that consensus get there? Through mass recognition, through large teams of music journalists with widely eclectic tastes finding 15 or 50 or 500 albums (seriously tho, I’d love to see a top 500 list in haiku form) that they can all agree are great. And that happens when artists and their labels have the resources to seriously and steadily push those records to said journalists.

So what’s to become of a release by Philly rapper Ivy Sole, who self-released and self-promoted her outstanding 2018 outing Overgrown? Or one by Columbus psych/folk/punk collective Saintseneca, which did have label support on their beautiful Pillar of Na, easily the best record of their career, but the “campaign” behind it was limited?

My favorite lists, by comparison, are like the one you’re about to read — not driven by consensus, not presented in a ranked order. Not fostering a frustrating sense of competitiveness in an already-frustrating music scene. One that merely collects records that our team is tremendously excited about, and thinks you should make a point to spend some time with. Continue reading →

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Now Hear This: New songs from Cat Power, Elvis Costello, Matthew Dear, Half Waif, Richard Swift, Spiritualized and more

Half Waif | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist
Half Waif | photo by Tonje Thilesen | courtesy of the artist

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

This past Saturday was my 36th birthday, and, as it happens, this is my 36th Now Hear This column.  (I’ve been secretly keeping track: the first fifteen installments ran weekly over at Philly Voice during the fall of 2016; the monthly columns for The Key started in February 2017).  Thirty-six feels like a significant year – more so than 35 in many ways (especially considering what’s been happening to the institution of the presidency).  It’s divisible by more numbers, even if five isn’t one of them.  As one friend pointed out, it means I’m now old enough to vote twice! And, more notably, it means that I’ve been a quote-unquote “adult” for fully half of my life; that the time since I left my parents’ house now equals the time that I lived there.

So it’s afforded a nice opportunity to reflect back on the time around my 18th year – an age perhaps less overtly mythologized in song than sixteen or seventeen, but probably even more transformative in real (contemporary) life – which in my case was also the era of Y2K.  I’d reckon that nobody felt the cultural and historical shift from the 20th to the 21st century, from the 1990s to the still-nameless-after-all-these-years 2000s, more acutely than those of us for whom it paralleled the end of high school and the start of what-comes-next; i.e. me and my fellow circa-1982 babies: the oldest, truest millennials.  Conveniently, just two days before my birthday, September Now Hear This boy-toy Troye Sivan joined up with plasticwave popgenius (and certified ‘90s bitchCharli XCX to drop a video memorializing and celebrating the pop culture of that period – specifically 1999, although the references span roughly 1997-2000 – when, as many have mentioned, its creators were still in single digits, if not diapers.  It represents exactly, and in exquisitely realized detail, the “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered (late) ‘90s” that I have been ambivalently anticipating for quite some time now.

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The Key Studio Sessions: Rosie Langabeer and the BalletX Players

Experimental Philadelphia composer Rosie Langabeer is no stranger to ballet. She’s previously worked composing dreamlike scores and immersive soundscapes for Philadelphia contemporary dance company BalletX on 2016’s Sunset, 0639 Hours and on 2011’s Proliferation of the Imagination.

Likewise, BalletX is no stranger to doing interesting and unusual things with music; the’ve performed dance pieces based around the songs of Beirut and Amy Winehouse, and for their 10th anniversary, they did a retrospective of their greatest hits — dances to Rufus and Chaka Khan, to Joanna Newsom, to Ólafur Arnalds, to Bach and Handel.

For BalletX’s Summer Series, opening tonight at the Wilma Theater on South Broad Street, Langabeer once again joins forces with the dance company, working with choreographer Penny Saunders to create a score that broods with intensity and blisses out to heavenly pop. The piece, Rock-a-Bye, “explores transience and permanence, destiny and free will,” and Langabeer translates that into sound with the help of Tara Middleton of Sun Ra Arkestra and Gregg Mervine of West Philadelphia Orchestra.

We had Langabeer and the BalletX players in the WXPN studio this week to get a rare glimpse at the artists on the other side of a dance production. Continue reading →