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Just Announced: Shopping returns to Philly for an all-ages gig at PhilaMOCA

Shopping | Photo by Eric Schuman for WXPN

Fans of the dancier edge of 70’s post punk would do well to be in PhilaMOCA on September 6th when R5 Productions bring British agit-funk band Shopping back to Philadelphia. The band will be touring on their acclaimed new album, The Official Body, a fiercely danceable selection of songs that regularly draws comparison to Talking Heads, Gang of Four, and ESG (Shopping supported the latter two bands on previous tours). Continue reading →

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Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Shopping

Shopping | Photo by Eric Schuman for WXPN

Joining us for this Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session is a band that I’ve admired ever since their debut album was released in the US. Formed in 2012 by members of several punk- and dance-leaning bands in the London scene, Shopping features guitarist Rachel Aggs, bassist Billy Easter and drummer Andrew Milk. Earlier this year, Shopping released their third full-length, The Official Body. Not surprisingly, given the involvement of producer and indie rock luminary Edwyn Collins, the album is one of Shopping’s best and brightest. The nervous energy of their early records is not sacrificed but rather augmented by a momentum that keeps each song moving forward. Before their show at Johnny Brenda’s, Shopping stopped by to perform selections from The Official Body in our studio:

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Now Hear This: New music by Belle & Sebastian, Django Django, Tune-Yards, Soccer Mommy, Nils Frahm, Shopping and more

Belle and Sebastian | photo courtesy of the artist

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

We’ve had a pretty good last month or so here in Philadelphia, on a couple of fronts.  Musically though, at least in terms of the broadest, pop-cultural arena, things have felt just a tad uninspiring lately.  The best-selling album of the year thus far, by a wide margin, is the Greatest Showman soundtrack; an artistic triumph I have no doubt.  Camila Cabelo’s full-length bow, despite a couple of serviceable bangers, basically failed to make good on the promise of “Havana,” the year’s first new Hot 100 chart-topper and one of the best we’ve had in a while.  The most notable musical performance, the halftime show of that one football game, was a perfectly enjoyable and well-executed medley of five-to-fifteen-year-old hits with no real relevance to anything in particular – I’m not sure whether it’s more dispiriting that Justin “Man of the Woods” Timberlake chose not to even attempt promoting his just-released new album by actually performing something from it, or that this was, on balance, probably the right decision.  I mean, no offense JT…

Then there were the Grammys, which despite well-deserved (if largely meaningless) acknowledgments for the likes of LCD Soundsystem, The National, Aimee Mann and our very own War on Drugs, overwhelmingly reaffirmed its own insignificance, diversity issues and fogeydom (I mean, no offense Bruno); adding insult to irrelevance by denying a performance slot to (sole female) album-of-the-year nominee Lorde.  That hot pile of nothingness was capped off by the truly vile, toxic comments of Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, who, in response to questions about the underrepresentation of women among winners and nominees, called for “women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls…to step up, because I think they would be welcome.”

Of course, it goes without saying that, beyond the psychotically warped bubble that is mainstream culture and the self-congratulatory machinations of the “music industry,” music itself continues on and, as always, the past month offered plenty of tunes worth digging into.  You’ll find a smattering below, from indie-pop earworms to exuberant dance jams, including a handful of artists experimenting in various, intriguing ways, with strains of world music.  And – I swear I didn’t plan this – it just so happens that all but one of the selections below were made, either by solely or in part, by female artists.  Step on up! Continue reading →

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Interview: Cut Chemist talks record-shopping, Philly, and his collaborative Afrika Bambaataa tribute with DJ Shadow

Cut Chemist (Photo via Facebook)
Cut Chemist (Photo via Facebook)

Cut Chemist, né Lucas MacFadden, doesn’t just make beats. He makes vibes. The DJ, producer, and mix-Master (with a capital M) has been soundtracking moments for 20 years now. He got his start with boisterous underground rap crew Jurassic 5 (remember them?)—then also took turns in Latin-funk band Ozomatli and Less Than Jake (yes, really)—in addition to creating his own, mind-blowing jams.

Throughout the years MacFadden has worked closely with fellow DJ and like-minded artist Josh Davis—a.k.a., DJ Shadow. The pair has released four live records together, and share an affinity for creative yet effortless beats. This Saturday, they’ll team up at the TLA for their “Renegades of Rhythm” tour, featuring the music of hip-hop progenitor Afrika Bambaataa. Continue reading →

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Go shopping with Joey Sweeney in a pre-Record Store Day video for “Records and Coffee”

jsrcscreengrab1“I’ve been scrutinized, been sad and blithe,” sings Joey Sweeney. “And so many other often times, the only thing that made me feel civilized was records and coffee.” It’s a lyric that rings true for any of us who have spent an inordinate amount of time thumbing our way through boxes of vinyl, sitting in a corner of cafe with a dark roast and a hangover, making sense of our ever-changing world through one constant we can rely on: music. Through the ups and downs of life, it’s always there.

With Record Store Day fast approaching (check out our rundown of local events here), Sweeney and BITBY (who released the vinyl edition of his 2013 album Long Hair) debuted a new video for the toe-tapping “Records and Coffee.” It follows our narrator as he wakes up on his couch – where an excitable pup greets him as an LP spins – to the aisles of A.K.A. Music, down the nearby streets and back home where he reviews and revels in his purchases. If the music nerdery wasn’t enough of a winning point, the beautifully shot Old City streetscapes will get you.

Check it out below, celebrate Record Store Day this Saturday, April 19th, and be sure to catch Joey Sweeney and the Long Hair Arkestra at the Communion Club Night at Underground Arts on May 8th. Tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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The Key’s guide to your Record Store Day shopping spree

Siren
Siren Records | photo by Liora Arianna | via facebook.com/SirenRecordsDoylestown

It’s the time of year to trade in all those hard earned dollars for some new vinyl – as if you didn’t do that all year long already.

And if you don’t, Record Store Day – this Saturday, April 19th – is a good a day as any to start. While the debate continues as to whether or not the “holiday” has outgrown its original goal of celebrating independent record stores across the country, and turned more towards larger labels reissuing classics to cash in, that’s not to say you shouldn’t take advantage of what’s been released and take advantage of any potential deals.

When heading out this Saturday, be ready for something unavoidable – crowds. Blair Elliot, owner of Doylestown’s Siren Records, says that RSD has blown up a little more every year to the point of bringing more people through his shop’s doors than the Christmas shopping season. His store will have most of the RSD-exclusive releases. And if you check the RSD website; that’s quite a formidable list; must be a big investment for an independent store.

“We hope it’s big this year because it’s costing us a lot,” Elliot says laughing. “I don’t think it’s a risk, but you just need to make sure you sell enough of what you get.”

OurGriffins
Our Griffins will play an instore set at Siren Records in Doylestown

Siren Records will also be hosting Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band and Our Griffins for an in-store performance starting at 6 p.m. Forsyth and company will be releasing, Solar Live 11.15.13, a recording of the band’s November show at the Rotunda.

The show happening at Siren is just one of many in-store shows this year. Northern Liberties’ Creep Records is treating RSD as a “grand re-opening” as they expand into a neighboring store in the Piazza at Schmidt’s (shoppers will be able to enter from a new door on the inside of the Piazza). They plan to mark their stock down ten percent and expect to have all the RSD-exclusive releases. Goddamnit, Ex Friends, Good Graces and Families will be playing their in-store show starting around 4 p.m. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Take a trip record shopping with Psychic Teens

Photo by John Berry
Photo by John Berry

Tonight, Psychic Teens celebrate the release of their new LP, COME, by performing at Center City record store Long in the Tooth. We thought a record shopping trip with the band would be a good way to warm up for the show.

It’s 1 p.m. on a bright August afternoon in South Philly. Larry Ragone, guitarist and singer of raw post-punk annihilators Psychic Teens, is sifting through the “new arrivals” bin of vinyl records at Beautiful World Syndicate. He’s arrived before his bandmates. And that’s a good thing.

“Sometimes when we shop together we fight over who gets what records if there’s only one in the store,” Ragone says. “I’m glad I got here first.”

The vinyl record collecting boom isn’t a new craze, but audiophiles are especially embracing the LP’s resurrection. The format is a bit glorified by its enthusiasts, but the praise is warranted because of vinyl’s superior sound quality, enlarged artwork and pursuit of owning different versions and packages that many bands offer with their albums.

The sound advantage lies within each record’s grooves, which capture the entire sound wave of the music within by replicating the wave’s shape. That replication is what sets vinyl apart from other formats. CDs are much more inclined to lose certain tones of the music as it’s converted from its analog form to digital. And think about it, if vinyl is projecting the sound of vibrations from the shapes and indentations in its grooves, it’s actually natural sound. As opposed to digital downloads and CDs which is a laser reading of what laypersons may call, “computer language,” (read: 001011000011101, etc.). But the appeal of owning the physical copy of an album, may be an even bigger part of the vinyl collectors’ culture. Continue reading →

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A Few Familiar Faces: Catching up with local artists at SXSW

Cold Fronts at SXSW | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

 

Back in March, I hopped into a van with Vita and the Woolf and headed down to SXSW for the very first time. I had no idea what to expect. It was loud, crowded chaotic and confusing. The beauty of it all lied it everyone coming together to support music and support each other. Amit the clutter and chaos I met up with eight Philadelphia artists who also made the journey to Austin. We talked in all types of spots, from chilling poolside with Caracara to sneaking around a fancy hotel with Vita and The Woolf to tracking down Speedy Ortiz after their showcase’s venue had to get moved in the middle of the show. Music was literally everywhere and I couldn’t wait to dive in.

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The Skeleton Key: A Blizzard of gigs for March including Creten lutes, London postpunks, and a Bugg

Palm | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Palm performs at the First Unitarian Church on March 26th | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

You heard that story about Barbara Streisand getting her dog cloned, twice? I’ve been thinking about getting the same thing done to myself, just so I maybe can go to all the awesome shows happening this month. Unfortunately I went to school for journalism and not biomedical engineering so instead of having a mad scientist lair full of half-baked clones walking into walls while screaming, “I can’t wait for Superchunk and Swearin’ next month!” … I’m writing this column saying the same.

Welcome to the March edition of the Skeleton Key, your friendly neighborhood gossip column. As I sit here working on this, the weather report is calling for nonstop rain and possibly even snow for the next 24 hours. But just because it’s gross out doesn’t mean you should stay inside! It doesn’t keep bands home and so it shouldn’t keep you home. So bundle up and get to the gig. Continue reading →