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Listen to The Blair Brothers talk film scoring and Philly collaboration on XPN Local

The Blair Brothers | photo courtesy of the artist
The Blair Brothers | photo courtesy of the artist

Before they co-founded the aughties Philly rock outfit East Hundred, brothers Will Blair and Brooke Blair had a background in film and music video. After the band parted ways in 2011, they turned their sights back to that world, and it’s since become their full-time gig.

Out of a small studio on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown, The Blair Brothers have crafted the tense sonic textures and evocative musical backdrops to a number of indie films of the suspense-driven variety; their big break came with Jeremy Saulnier’s acclaimed 2014 film Blue Ruin, and they’ve since teamed up with the director again on last year’s Green Room, and worked with their brother Macon on I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore.

Tomorrow, their latest soundtrack hits iTunes; it’s for Evan Katz’s Netflix thriller Small Crimes, and it draws on a variety of styles, from traditional salsa to mysterious jazz and haunting ambient textures. The Blair Brothers appeared on the WXPN Local Show this Tuesday evening to discuss their return to film, reflect on scores that inspired them and to share songs from the soundtrack. Continue reading →

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Escape the cold in Pilkington’s catchy, sunshine-pop tune “Soft Flesh”

Pilkington | photo via pilkington.bandcamp.com

Just last week when the weather was sunny and breezy and beautiful, it was tempting to believe that spring, or even summer, was here to stay. But it seems that Mother Nature has bamboozled us all. Though this drastic shift to cold weather and snow can be downright depressing, at least we have sunny tunes to distract our minds with relaxing waves and warm breezes.

Enter Philly indie-pop four piece, Pilkington‘s song, “Soft Flesh.” Blending video game sound bites with breezy guitar riffs, Pilkington’s catchy pop jam removes listeners from the cold and transports them to the beach for a carefree party in the sun. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Love or betrayal, death or glory

Fake Pulp | via fakepulp.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.

Night settles in. The jacket that was questionably necessary in the morning now feels essential, and is not really helping besides. Little things act as triggers, like a favorite music venue revamping its menu unexpectedly, getting rid of several vegan options. Or people converging just outside the front door, chain smoking and having frivolous conversations about celebrity encounters. A recording session not going completely as planned; instructions handed down encouraging neutrality and disengagement; a Lyft driver taking the most nonsensical roundabout route imaginable from South Philly uptown.

The weekend began with division and rhetoric, that awkward dance around co-workers and casual encounters where you try to silently ascertain which side they’re on so as not to offend. Or, if you’re particularly unlucky, you find yourself among a very outspoken group who ascertained wrong, whose assumptions about your own leanings couldn’t be more incorrect. You watch the news in secret at work as the afternoon wears on, you scroll through the GIFs and memes on the long train ride home, you laugh at that hateful guy getting punched in the face over and over again. You take a deep breath. And you mobilize. Continue reading →

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30 Concerts in 30 Days: Here’s your Philly live music agenda for November

Stevie Nicks photo by Kristin Burns | Jim James photo by Neil Krug | B.R.M.C. photo by James Minchin | all photos courtesy of the artist
Stevie Nicks photo by Kristin Burns | Jim James photo by Neil Krug | B.R.M.C. photo by James Minchin | all photos courtesy of the artist

There are two things I can tell you with relative certainty: when it comes to Philly live music, we’ve got an embarassment of riches. And when it comes to the weather, it’s going to become exponentially colder as the next few months progress. (Like I said — we’re talking relative certainty here.)

Point being if you, like us, are hooked on experiencing live music and discovering new artists, you should get out of your house do it now, while it’s practical, before winter finally sets in and you’re hunkered down at home wrapped in comforters and binge-watching Atlanta and Silicon Valley for days on end — which, honestly, is an enticing proposition in itself.

But we’re not there yet! October felt like a massive concert feast, and November is poised to be even moreso, with heavy-hitters Jim James of rock and roll army My Morning Jacket and Stevie Nicks of iconic pop ensemble Fleetwood Mac headlining major shows in Philly, as well as exciting gigs from up-and-coming artists like Toronto punk rockers PUP, Nashville singer-songwriter Margo Price, Minneapolis rapper Lizzo and more. It’s so jam packed, matter fact, that you could easily see a concert a day with options to spare. That sounds like a pretty fun experiment, actually. If we were going to do it, this is what it would look like. Continue reading →

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To Space and Back: Meet AniLi Mars, Philly’s most tripped-out hip-hop auteur

AniLi Mars | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN
AniLi Mars | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN

“Just blink twice and I’m there where you are / I was off the radar cuz I had to go to Mars / and them faces on the surface told me / Ms. Mars you an ancient, you an O.G.”

On her single, “Ego,” Philly-based MC / producer AniLi Mars delivers confident, stream-of-consciousness raps that range from cocky posturing to space traveling and sci-­fi adventuring. Mars’ confident, rapid-fire flow dances over a bed of thick 808, trap drums and dreamy, reverb-soaked vocal harmonies. Peruse her Soundcloud, you’ll find dozens of catchy songs of light and self-actualization filtered through colorful, self­-produced tracks and a youthful, futuristic aesthetic. Continue reading →

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Mixtape Master: Get to know Philly’s F. Woods before he opens for Dead Milkmen at Laurel Hill

F. Woods | photo courtesy of the artist
F. Woods | photo courtesy of the artist

Make sure you arrive early to the sold-out Dead Milkmen show at Laurel Hill Cemetery this Friday night, because you’ll see a mixtape master at work. F. Woods is known around the Philly scene for being a founding member of Mercury Radio Theater, the zany and subversive troupe informed by eastern European folk sounds and early 20th century radio plays.

Woods also played in Farquar Muckenfuss, a comical and surf-rooted band that made the rounds in in the late 90s Philly punk scene.

As Woods said when I caught up with him by phone earlier this month, it’s pretty simple – he likes a lot of music, and he wants to play it all. His first-ever solo album, Found On Road Dead, came out via Bandcamp last November, and it’s a varied and eclectic set. There’s a bit of surf, a bit of math rock complexity, some tunes reminiscent of the airy pop production of the pre-rock-and-roll 40s and 50s.

It’s basically a collection of stuff that together feels very unified, even though the songs are individually distinct. In that sense, it reminds me a lot of a Tarantino soundtrack, or a really good compilation. Below, read my interview with Woods about his musical origins and outlook. Continue reading →

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Girls Rock Philly releases two new compilations of local talent

Summer Campers at GRP | photo via girlsrockphilly.org

Two new rockin’ compilation albums, youth empowerment and music education — what more could you possibly ask for? Girls Rock Philly, a volunteer-based non-profit music and mentoring organization for girls, young women, and trans youth across the greater Philadelphia region, has just released two stellar efforts on their Bandcamp page. The campers (9-12 year old campers make up the Youth Mixtape, while 13-18 year olds created the Teen Sessions) formed bands, wrote songs, performed and recorded them all in the matter of a week. Some campers had never played their instrument before the first day of camp. Sounds like some out of this word School of Rock program doesn’t it? And yet it gets better. Now, everyone can hear for themselves what all the campers devoted their time to while writing, practicing and playing their hearts out. Continue reading →

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Foggy Notions: Philly artist Sonia Petruse on honoring Ryan Adams in drag

Sonia as Ryan | Photo by Laura Stock | courtesy of the artist
Sonia as Ryan | Photo by Laura Storck | courtesy of the artist

Sonia Petruse remembers exactly where she was the first time she listened to Ryan Adams. Like really, really listened to him.

She was familiar with the album 2001 Gold, of course, and its ubiquitous hit “New York, New York.” She remembered the song being paraded around patriotically in the months after 9-11, and hearing stories about how the songwriter wasn’t keen about its point being misconstrued.

But it was 2004 when the music really kicked in. She was 18, driving around her hometown of Leighton, Pennsylvania with a motley group of teenagers. They were in a small car, an old two-door BMW, and it was crammed to the gills. She sat on a friend’s lap. People were stoned. And “Dear Chicago” from the Demolition album came on the car stereo. Continue reading →

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July Jazz Guide: Top picks for live jazz in Philadelphia this month

jazz
Tony Miceli | photo courtesy of the artist

July’s typically a slow month for jazz in the city, as most of the venues and presenters have closed their seasons and audiences are skipping town for the summer months. That includes jazz writers, which means that I’m putting together the first installment of this to-be-monthly jazz roundup with one eye on the beckoning road. Despite all that, there are still quite a few shows worth catching between jaunts to the Shore, including local favorites, returning hometown heroes, intriguing experiments and a community-focused entry in the city’s festival season. Watch this space in the coming months for regular highlights of the Philly jazz scene; for now, here’s a few quick tips while I pack my bags to join the temporary exodus. Continue reading →

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How music and friendship saved Philly noir-rock army Northern Arms

Northern Arms (photo by Max Gaines, http://www.thechurchofmax.com)
Northern Arms (photo by Max Gaines, http://www.thechurchofmax.com)

In some ways, the story of Northern Arms is a story of redemption. It’s also a story about friendship, and being true to one’s self emotionally.

“I always felt that a lot of bands held back if they did anything emotional—like they had to do it ironically, or with a smirk,” says Eric Bandel, from the back balcony of Standard Tap. “The stuff we were working on—we just wanted it to be true. We didn’t want to hold back.”

His band mate Keith Pierce nods in agreement. Emotional honesty has always been at the core of Northern Arms’ process, leading to beautiful, complex compositions that juxtapose highs and lows, for a result that feels startlingly cathartic.

Over the past 13 years, the band’s gone through several incarnations, including the 10-person rock monolith it is today. This Friday, they’ll celebrate the release of their debut, self-titled record with a party at Johnny Brenda’s. Afterwards, they have plans to tour the East Coast. These days everything seems to be falling into place.

But that wasn’t always the case.

“[When we first started playing together] we made some really beautiful stuff, but we were fuck-ups,” says Pierce. “We couldn’t keep it together. We would play out just enough that we could sustain our drinking. We let our worldview weigh on us, and it had bad effects.”

But perhaps we should start from the beginning. Continue reading →