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Watch Soft Idiot perform tiny-desk-esque show at Temple News office

Soft Idiot | photo by Anaje Brinkley | via the band’s Facebook page

I absolutely love NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts. There’s something about the intimate, stripped-down, super out-of-place setup that never fails to bring about the best performances from artists. The staff at The Temple News takes cues from this type of gig by hosting a web series that showcases local bands performing in their student news office. The recent feature of local indie-outfit, Soft Idiot, reaffirms this belief that packing musicians into a tiny office and making them play tunes is a vital necessity in life. Continue reading →

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Jam to Soft Idiot’s genre-mashing track, “Love Like”

Soft Idiot | via softidiot.bandcamp.com

Philly four-piece Soft Idiot released a teaser for their new album, stillborn, and let me tell ya, I’m hooked. The impeccably-named band’s teaser includes two tracks, including “Brother Part I” and “Love Like.”

The latter is the newest release from the album, and is an amalgamation of all kinds of awesome.  I love when songs surprise me, and oh boy did this song surprise me. The track begins in folk punk, singer-songwriter fashion, but then quickly builds into a wopping smorgasbord of different genres. A sweet banjo riff incites a bluegrass feel, only then to be matched by the addition of some psych synth. Then, about half-way through, searing amps and layers of guttural shouts take over, which abruptly fade into a spooky 80s synth send off.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: that’s a lot of different things going on right there. But trust me, all of this actually works together so well. It makes you question why punk-folk-screamo-Americana-synth isn’t already an established genre.  By the end of the song, you’ll be left blinking “what kind of strange beauty did I just stumble upon?” And you will never see the world the same again. Continue reading →

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Make Music Philly Day returns tomorrow with Sonni Shine, Lazy Eye and more

sonni shine
Sonni Shine | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller | koalafoto.com

June 21st, the longest day of the year makes for a great opportunity to open your porches, sidewalks, storefronts and yards for local musicians to perform in on and around them. Founded in France back in 1982, the fête is an opportunity to put on free shows by both seasoned and new artists testing their craft. If you’re into checking out what Philly has to offer but don’t know where to start, read through the neighborhood offerings below. And don’t be that guy running around screaming “Freebird” at every musician you see, please. Let’s keep it classy.

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Watch Harmony Woods perform Nothing Special tracks at WTSR Underground Live Session

Harmony Woods | photo by Emily Dubin | thedubyscoop.com | via harmonywoods.bandcamp.com

We’ve been pretty fairly hyped about Harmony Woods recently released debut album, Nothing Special, over here at The Key. We profiled the band early this week and we’ll be there at their album release party at JJ’s Diner. So it’s no surprise we’re also pretty fairly hyped about the band’s recent stop at WTSR Studios. Continue reading →

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Who is Harmony Woods? Getting to know the most exciting new artist in Philly DIY

Harmony Woods | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Harmony Woods | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

If you ask Sofia Verbilla, she’ll tell you she’s no good at onstage banter.

It gives her a not super comfortable feeling, a sentiment shared by just about any honest musician you’ll talk to. Her nerves are already frazzled enough getting up there with her guitar and performing; add in expectations for public speaking that’s witty, chill and conversational but also profesh enough to keep the show moving and remind you that, oh by the way, there’s merch in the back…it’s just daunting. Awkward. Verbilla is not the sort to toss around the word “hate,” so let’s just say the closest form of active dislike you can get.

I would argue that the frontwoman of Philadelphia basement scene favorites Harmony Woods is fantastic at banter, and here’s an illustration. It’s March, her band is playing Underground Arts for an International Women’s Day benefit; a tuning break is needed, and the slight silence that descended during the last song lingers. (Verbilla has that effect on crowds.) As bartenders dump ice buckets in the wings, she asks, “So, does anybody have any jokes?” A pause. “I know one. THE PATRIARCHY.” She blows a raspberry into the mic and gives a thumbs-down; the audience gathered round the stage laughs, and the band launches into another song.

Really, everything about it was perfect. The right thing to say for this crowd, at this event. (Or, let’s face it, in general.) The timing was spot-on. It was funny. And it got the gig from point A to point B. When it comes to banter, as with most things music-related, Verbilla is a natural. Continue reading →

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16 albums you shouldn’t overlook in 2016

DONTOVERLOOK2016The thing about year-end lists, though. Stuff gets left out. Incredible records are forgotten, or simply don’t make the cut when ranking around consensus. Sure, consensus can be a powerful tool in uncovering the things that your trusted sources can agree upon, framing these things as, definitively, “the best.”

But the idea of hierarchy is in itself exclusionary. “Best” does not equal “only.” We brought you our 15 best albums of the year earlier today, but by no means are these the sole albums that are impressive or important or worthy of your ears in 2016. They’re more of a starting point.

In a lot of ways, I’m more excited about this list: 16 albums that you should not overlook in 2016. These are releases that didn’t appear on more than a single list turned in by The Key’s contributing staff – most of them aren’t ranking on year-end lists elsewhere – but they were obviously striking enough to that person that they made their personal cut. So we asked them why.

These are all excellent records. Many of them are very important records, in the same way that Chance and Solange and Tribe and Beyonce are important. And they’re not getting talked about enough, by any stretch. Start listening, start talking. – John Vettese
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Review: Baths performs at Union Transfer (and loves it)

DSCN1567Will Wiesenfeld does not work in studios.

An electronic musician under the name of Baths, Wiesenfeld prefers to create in the privacy of his own house. But for the crowd at Union Transfer on Thursday night, Baths made an exception to come out of his bedroom and spellbind his audience with complex compositions and one of the purest falsettos out there.

An artist of the Anticon label, Wiesenfeld is on tour to promote his newest album, Obsidian. It is the follow-up to his debut record, Cerulean, a masterpiece collection of entrancing experimental pop that has often been grouped within the L.A. beat scene (a label with which Baths feels rather uncomfortable). Cerulean, released by Anticon in 2010, made Pitchfork’s “Album of the Year: Honorable Mention” list — a nomination which it certainly deserved.

But this time around, Baths has exposed a more enigmatic side. His tone has become deeper and darker, disregarding the breathlessness that defined Cerulean. He explores pain and confusion in his lyrics, introduces a fuller range of vocals, and includes some unexpected instrumentation. And it was this introspective mood — difficult, but just as valuable — that the twenty-four year old from California shared with the crowd at Union Transfer. Continue reading →