For those of you who don’t know about NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, you may want to head over to their site and root through their enormous and equally impressive archive. Their 15-minute videos feature live performances from artists of all genres held in the quaint offices of NPR at All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen’s desk.
Ranging from big names like Adele and Alt-J to up-and-coming artists such as Angel Olsen and Rubblebucket, viewers are able to watch the artists perform in the intimate setting, giving the performances a stripped-down, no B.S. vibe. While these videos are ultra fun to watch (perhaps continuously, one after another…), NPR kept things interesting this winter by kicking off a contest to feature a new artist in their series.
Based entirely off of video submissions from all over the United States, an artist will be chosen to perform a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR headquarters in Washington D.C. as well as snag a slot in the big Lagunitas Couchtrippin’ showcase in Austin, Texas. Philadelphia, brimming with the amazing musical talent that it is, seems to have jumped at this opportunity. Continue reading →
Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, The Key’s editorial assistant Julie Miller shares five local records you might have missed the first time around.
Philadelphia dominated music this year. The War on Drugs and Strand of Oaks grew exponentially with records that topped almost every year-end list published so far; Modern Baseball led a crew of Philly bands down to Florida for a FEST takeover; and Cayetana’s Nervous Like Me debut sits at the top of our own best-of list, beating out national acts St. Vincent, Ryan Adams and the previously mentioned Drugs and Oaks (among others).
But sitting behind this list of ever-growing big names from Philadelphia is a vibrant and dense scene of musicians, bands, artists, performers…. pretty much every style of music you can think of has strong representation here in Philly. So to celebrate just a small portion of what the rest of Philly did this year, I’ve compiled five records by local musicians you might have missed in the glow of the big names. Go ahead and give these albums a second (or first!) listen.
Local singer-songwriter Abi Reimold (and contributing photographer for The Key) has curated an 8-track mixtape for the Walla Fest blog, a Norristown-based art and music showcase that Reimold performed at this past July. Everything’s Gonna Be Super Duper is one of the most eclectic 30-minutes your ears could experience, opening with Angel Olsen’s “Acrobat” and hitting tracks from Usher and Chief Keef between songs by fellow Philadelphia musicians Alex G and Emily Yacina. Listen to the mixtape below, followed by a video of Reimold performing “Morning” at Walla Fest. You can catch her live this weekend at Kung Fu Necktie on Friday and at a house show on Saturday.
Frances Quinlan has a voice that can fill a room, and on Wednesday night, it did just that. The Hop Along frontwoman’s evocative singing carries a compelling range of emotion, from playfulness to sorrow to anger and frustration, and its dynamic rise and fall cuts powerfully through the heavy and ambitious art-punk of her bandmates.
But at Golden Tea House, there was no need for it to cut through anything. Quinlan played solo, without loud amplifiers or heavy drums; just a clean electric Gibson and her singing resonating off the tall brick walls, an experience all the more affecting for the listeners. The crowd was exceptionally attentive – it was one of those “you could hear a pin drop” nights, which is rare at house shows, or rock shows of any sort for that matter, and especially so considering Quinlan’s set was mostly made up of unfamiliar material. Aside from two selections from 2012′s Get Disowned (“Some Grace,” “Trouble Found Me”) and a couple covers (a spot-on “Carry the Zero” by Built to Spill into “Barstool Blues” by Neil Young), the songs she played were all works in progress – hopefully to see the light of day on the next Hop Along album.
It’s probably premature to really evaluate the music at this stage – it sounded great, but was definitely in a skeletal state compared to how it will sound in a full band context – but suffice it to say, Quinlan nicely mixed up moody slow burns with riffy uptempo moments, and there’s an absolutely awesome song about the disappearing grave of jazz musician Buddy Bolden.
Joining Quinlan on the bill were two other vocal powerhouses: Abi Reimold (a former Key intern and occasional Key photographer), who performed a stunning and totally PJ Harvey-ish set backed by guitarist Nick Morrison of Mumblr, bassist Zach Kuntz and drummer Alex Giannascoli (of Alex G). Her new EP Forget is a knockout, but most of the songs she played weren’t on it, showing great promise for things to come. Emperor X from Jacksonville has a delivery in the vein of John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats – sorta nasal but supremely confident – and come to think of it, his clever and erudite songwriting was sort of Mountain Goats-esque too, as was his lively banter and command of the crowd. Switching between guitar and keyboard, he sang into a echo-filtered vocal mic on the quiet parts and stepped back to project to the entire room the rest of the time. “At A Rave With Nicolas Sarkozy” was a winning number; I knew nothing about this dude at the beginning of the night, and left a converted fan.
On the opposite extreme was Foot, the solo project of Pat Conaboy of Kite Party. It had a distinctively slowcore sad-rock vibe a la Red House Painters and Low; a lot of minor key progressions interlocking with somber and withdrawn vocals. While some points in Foot’s set were a bit too wandering and introverted to really connect with, its best points were chilling in their own sort of way. Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.
With a record release show happening at Fishtown spot Hong Kong Garden tonight, local singer-songwriter Abi Reimold (who also photographs and contributes to The Key) has shared a bare-bones live performance of “Your Shoes” this week. The song comes from her new Forget EP and this acoustic version features Mumblr’s Nick Morrison harmonizing with Reimold in a backyard. Check out the video below, filmed by new Denver, PA based project Communion (not to be confused with this Communion). More information for the release show can be found here.
Philly-based songstress Abi Reimold – also a photographer and occasional contributor to The Key – will celebrate the arrival of her new EP FORGET this Saturday at Hong Kong Garden and the new set of tracks isn’t dark for dark’s sake; it’s beauty and pain all rolled into one haunting confessional. There’s even a sense of fear on “Forget” as she repeats “I’m scared I’ll forget you” over a fleeting guitar riff ascends into fuzzy reverb before ending with a few solemn bass notes. Get the EP here and more details on the show here. Listen to “Your Shoes” below.
Bleeding Rainbow stopped by for this week’s Key Studio Session in support of their new record Interrupt. As Key editor John Vettese writes, “[it’s] not their easiest to listen to – at turns it can be raw, biting, forlorn, enraged and rarely poppy – but it’s undoubtedly the truest to where the band is at artistically…” and these live tracks capture all of those emotions and personalities.
Philadelphia musician Abi Reimold released her new EP Forget. The name-your-own-price effort is reminiscent of both PJ Harvey and Angel Olsen, with Reimold plunging into the depths of heartbreaking lyrics and dream-like vignettes. Stream and download “Morning” below and get the full EP here.
Boston psych-rock outfit Quilt returned to the XPN studios for the first repeat session in Folkadelphia history. On the heels of releasing their sophomore record Held in Splendor, the trio. along with a touring bassist, recorded a three-song set of expansive and comforting new songs. Take a listen and download below. Revisit the band’s first session here.
Revolution, I Love You, a pop-tinged rock band out of Philadelphia, released their new EP The Atlantic Ocean. The duo looked to many different genres for inspiration, saying the EP “is influenced as much by The Replacements, Bruce Springsteen, and Big Star as they are by the electronica and hip hop artists whose influence was so prevalent on Revolution, I Love You’s earlier recordings.” Stream and download it below.
This week on Unlocked, The Key dug into Creepoid‘s new self-titled LP. We were introduced to the record on Monday with a free download of “Baptism,” described as having “a spiraling riff that drags you through the mire down to the water.” Stream and download it below and check out the rest of the week-long feature here.
“I’m scared I’ll forget you” are the lone words sung by local musician Abi Reimold on the title track of her new EP Forget, released today through Bandcamp. At just a few seconds longer than one minute, it’s the shortest song on the five-song EP and yet it embodies the record’s universal truth both sonically and lyrically, stripping it down to its unadorned core before the letting the context of its surrounding tracks wash over.
Across all five songs there is this sense of impending change, a calm before the storm, as each one builds to a pivotal final thought. Often Reimold is grasping for something just out of reach or right before it slips away, whether it’s “you” like on “Forget” or an emotion on “Burn,” a former self on “Morning.” Using dark imagery broken into sentence shards like a shattered mirror, she examines basic human instincts and conditions like fight or flight, fear and love, life and death, though she does it more poetically and strikingly than most of her peers. This isn’t a melodramatic meditation on “the big questions,” though, by any means. Forget is artful, complex, challenging and uncomfortable at times, and the scenes constructed by the vivid lyrics will stay with you.
Backed by friends Nick Morrison and Scott Stitzer from Mumblr on drums, bass and Jesse Kennedy on guitar, Reimold has elevated the production on this effort, incorporating more instruments and elements with her signature looping, swelling and harmonizing that she usually manages to do solo. But the EP benefits from the fullness of instrumentation. From the crushing crescendo of “Morning” to the taunting repetitions of “Your Shoes,” Forget is a simultaneously chilling and igniting release from Reimold that pulls in the best fragments of her earlier single releases to create something full of unexpected shifts and lyrics that warrant much consideration. Stream the EP below and get a name-your-own-price download here.
Without exaggeration, if you continue down this page to the music player, you will hear two of our favorite Folkadelphia Sessions that we’ve recorded. Well, technically, it’s one session from two awe-inspiring and up-and-coming songwriters. Andrea Tomasi and Johanna Warren, both Northeasterners and on tour together, visited us at the end of October 2013 during their stop in Philadelphia. They return for another Folkadelphia Concert presentation this Saturday, February 1st at the Random Tea Room with Philly’s Abi Reimold.
My discovery of the two musicians happened organically, through the beauty of word-of-mouth recommendation. I received an email from Nate Krenkel of Team Love Records telling me about this amazing songwriter he had been following and would be working with soon. Then he sent me Andrea Tomasi’s album. Tracked outdoors on the Shawangunk Ridge at Minnewaska State Park in New York, the album blends nature, song, and recording together in a quiet but powerful way. Tomasi gives a voice to the trees, the insects, and the Appalachian spirit. It has been crystalized and digitized for us to hear.
It so happened that Tomasi was working on an autumn tour with a musical collaborator, Johanna Warren, and we communicated about setting a concert up in Philadelphia, which we soon did. I had the distinct impression that I had previously listened to Warren, some kind of sonic deja vu. After a time, I remembered that during college, a friend of mine frequently recommended a band called Sticklips to me, a group in which Warren is a key member. Is it coincidence or perhaps our musical destinies interwining? Who can say. The compositions that comprise Warren’s Fates release have hooks that pull you in and don’t let go; we hear the deadly beauty of a siren’s song.
Together, particularly at the live show, the musicians have unbelievable chemistry. Tomasi and Warren draw from the forest and its sounds and silences. They are two woodland deities, mythological elementals, spinning moss-covered stories and sap-scented spells through song.
Their albums, both solo debuts, steadily became two of my favorite releases of last year and continue to be frequently revisited. I hope that you will use these Folkadelphia Sessions to discover two extraordinary and uncommon songwriters. These sessions not only feature collaborative performances, but also unreleased tracks.
It just so happens that one of the best concerts I went to in 2013 was one that I put together. During the evening, two Northeastern-based songsmiths performed and blew the audience and me away. We were entranced. These musicians were Johanna Warren and Andrea Tomasi, two up-and-coming singer-songwriters who released jaw-dropping gorgeous debut solo albums last year.
On this episode of Folkadelphia, we’ll premiere a segment from their album-sized session that they recorded when they were last in Philadelphia. This Saturday, February 1st, they both return to the Random Tea Room for another Folkadelphia Presents concert.
Watch an Orchard Session featuring Johanna Warren and Andrea Tomasi (with Talia Billig): Continue reading →