Unlocked: Aaron Brown of Aaron and the Spell shares his video playlist of influences

Listening to Aaron and the Spell‘s new full-length Sing, you can tell that songwriter Aaron Brown pulls from a large pool of influences. The primary sound is soul, for sure, but there’s a lot more going on than just that. We asked Aaron put together a video playlist of artists that have shaped him as a songwriter. Here are his picks.

Wilco “Side With the Seeds”

“I am a huge fan of Wilco and was so excited to see them at the XPoNential Music Festival. They definitely seep into my music (especially this song).”

Nina Simone “I Love You Porgy”

“Maybe my favorite musician ever. This is the tune that first broke Nina to a wider audience and it happened in Philadelphia! I believe she used to live in West Philly for a time. I’m always walking Philadelphia hoping to bump into one of her relatives still living here.” Continue reading →


Watch The Roots perform songs from undun on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Yesterday The Roots released their new album undun. It’s not every day that bands need to work their “day jobs” when they release a new album, however last night The Roots performed songs from the album on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Below, watch “The Other Side,” and “Tip The Scale.” That’s Bilal singing with the band and on “Tip The Scale” they were also joined The Metropolis Ensemble and pianist D.D. Jackson, who performed with ?uestlove during the Philly Paris Lockdown. On this performance of “The Other Side,” the band expand on the studio version with an energetic back and forth between Bilal and guitarist “Captain Kirk” Douglas that you don’t want to miss.


Watch new videos from The Roots and Kindred The Family Soul (via Okayplayer)

The Roots premiered the first of a series of new videos for songs from their forthcoming album undun on Okayplayer yesterday. The album is being released on December 6th. From Okayplayer:

Here is the first of four videos from The Roots undun, the next three to be released at 12:06pm the next three Tuesdays leading up to release on 12/06. Watch the clip for “Make My” above and stay tuned for “Stomp” next week.

Okayplayer also premiered a new video from the husband-wife soul music duo Kindred The Family Soul. The video is the song “Take A Look Around” from their album Love Has No Recession. The video features Philly’s Bilal and BJ The Chicago Kid. Watch the video below.


Flying Lotus makes directorial debut and remixes Bilal’s “Levels”

Philly soul singer Bilal has a new video and an EP for the song “Levels” from his 2010 release Airtight’s Revenge. It includes the original song, an instrumental, and remixes by Sonnymoon and acclaimed producer Flying Lotus (whose real name is Steve Ellison). Ellison also makes his directorial debut which features appearances by Erykah Badu, Thundercat, and Shafiq Husayn (who produced the song). Check out audio track for the tune below; you can watch the video here.

Levels (Flying Lotus Re-Edit) by


Bilal Oliver Picks The Top Ten Albums Discovered In 2010

Bilal Oliver’s 2010 release Airtight’s Revenge is one of our very favorite albums of the year. One of the songs from the album, “Little One” was nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in this year’s upcoming Grammy Awards. It’s a gorgeous song that he wrote for his sons, one of whom has Autism, the other sickle cell. In addition to touring for the release of the album, Bilal made a stop by the WXPN studios for an upcoming session on World Cafe with David Dye. He also recently shared with Wax Poetics the Top 10 albums he discovered in 2010 and they include:

1. Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy/Wondaland Arts Society)
2. Jay-Z The Blueprint 3 (Atlantic/Roc Nation)
3. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Before Today (4AD)
4. Erykah Badu New Amerykah: Part Two (Return of the Ankh) (Universal Motown)
5. The Roots How I Got Over (Def Jam)
6. Diddy Dirty Money Last Train to Paris (Bad Boy Records)
7. Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella)
8. Kid Cudi Man on the Moon 2: The Legend of Mr. Rager (G.O.O.D.)
9. Flying Lotus Pattern+Grid World (Warp)
10. Little Dragon Machine Dreams (Peacefrog)


The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Best Local Albums of 2010

Philly Inquirer music critic Dan DeLuca dropped his 2010 Best of Music lists today including best albums, songs, live concerts and best local albums of the year. His best live show of the year was Sufjan Stevens at the Academy of Music. His best songs of the year list (which you can listen to here) has “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae featuring Big Boi at number one. DeLuca’s Best Local Albums of 2010 showcases why there is no doubt Philly’s local music scene is at a high point with a diverse group of excellent releases. The list includes:
1 – Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame
2 – Free Energy – Free Energy
3 – Jazmine Sullivan – Love Me Back
4 – Chiddy Bang – The Preview
5 -Drink Up Buttercup – Born and Thrown
6 – Summer Fiction – Summer Fiction
7 – Sun Airway – Nocturne of Exploded
8 – Notekillers – We’re Here To Help
9 – Bilal – Airtight’s Revenge
10 – North Lawrence Midnight Singers
You can read Dan’s comments on these local albums here. Check out a couple videos from Jazmine Sullivan and Free Energy below.

And speaking of the best of musical things local, The Key wants you to submit your favorites for the year for local bands, albums and up-and-coming acts for our first annual Best of Local Music year in review. You can submit your votes here.


Bilal’s sophisticated interpretations of Bob Marley and Soft Cell

One of our favorite Philly funk/soul artists, Bilal (who recently impressed us with his new album), did some exclusive video sessions for at Capitol Records studios in Los Angeles. The videos include classic tunes such as Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” and Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” This is some sophisticated soul here, with exquisite playing from a band under the musical direction of Miquel Atwood-Ferguson. Bilal returns to play his hometown here on Sunday, November 28th at World Cafe Live.

The Sounds of VTech / bilal_isthislove_web

The Sounds of VTech / Bilal: Tainted Love


Tonight’s Concerts: Lady Gaga at Wells Fargo Center + Broken Social Scene, Bilal

Lady GagaLove her, hate her, envy her meaty fashion taste: Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that we’re all living in a much better place when the Lady Gagas of the world are dominating the airwaves instead of, say, bands such as Creed, Nickleback, and Limp Bizkit. Those who’ve understandably grown weary of hearing Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” on the radio would do well to remember a darker time, back in the early ’00s, when it was impossible to drive anywhere without hearing the abysmally awful, how-did-humanity-come-to-this single, “Nookie.” (Seriously, even if you had your radio turned off, you would inevitably hear it blasting from the SUV of some fist-pumping, flavor-savor-sporting, nu-metal-loving meathead.) So, if you’re tired to death of hearing about Lady Gaga’s attention-grabbing antics, take heart in the fact that not only could it be much, much worse, but it actually used to be. Lady Gaga performs at 8 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center; tickets are $49.50-$175.

WXPN welcomes Canadian indie-rockers Broken Social Scene to Theatre Of Living Arts. The performances begin at 8 p.m.; tonight’s show is sold out, but tickets are still available for tomorrow’ nights show, $35.25.

Philly-born-and-raised soul musician Bilal celebrates the release of his new album, Airtight’s Revenge, at Johnny Brenda’s. The performances begins at 9 p.m.; tickets to the $21+ show are $20-$25.


Record Review: Bilal’s Airtight’s Revenge

It’s easy to define a musician with a genre label. However, most “file-under” tags—such as “indie-rock,” “freak folk,” or…(ugh)… “chillwave”—are as limiting as they are broadly descriptive. (And that’s not even getting into the ridiculousness of some micro-genre names music critics come up with.) Such is the case for Philly-born-and-raised Bilal, who—despite jumping across genres since the release of his 2001 debut, 1st Born Second—has always been saddled with the “neo-soul” label.

Perhaps the suits at Interscope (his former label) thought “neo-soul” was a great idea from a marketing perspective. But it’s pretty clear to anyone who isn’t a major label executive that it’s a confining—and, in this case, inaccurate—term. If Bilal’s previous work isn’t enough proof of that, his new album, Airtight’s Revenge (released today on Plug Research) should more than settle the matter. In the places where Airtight works best, Bilal is cross referencing several musical styles—mixing elements of soul, R&B, funk, and jazz. On top of the slow-grinding rhythms of “Move On” there’s a electric guitar wah-wah riff that gives the song the feel of an Isley Brothers classic; the album’s opening track, “Cake & Eat It Too” is a mid-tempo, psychedelic funk jam that brings to mind both Sly Stone and D’Angelo.

The two tracks that best sum up Airtight are the drum-riff-driven “All Matter” and the Weather-Report-esque “Levels.” The former is the latest—and perhaps greatest—showcase of Bilal’s ability to seamlessly incorporate his musical influences into one infectious, hook-laden song; the latter, meanwhile, is an indication of the more creative uncharted territory he could be exploring in the future. You could call it jazz-fusion, or maybe even spacey jam music. Just don’t call it “neo-soul.”

The record-release show for Bilal’s Airtight’s Revenge is tonight at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the $21+ show are $20-$25. NPR Music is streaming Bilal’s full album in it’s entirety here.