Tonight’s Concert Picks: Grandchildren at Johnny Brenda’s, Black Landlord at MilkBoy, Light Heat at Race Street Pier

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Philly orchestral pop outfit Grandchildren are returning to Johnny Brenda’s tonight. The band released their folksy, acoustic-yet-electrified album, Golden Age, in May – a unique sound both classic and very modernized. Grandchildren will also be playing with The Eastern Sea and Ton-Taun. Check out Golden Age below, and find tickets here.

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Grandchildren release “Endtimes”” music video (playing The TLA on 6/25)

Grandchildren_4331web (2)Orchestral pop band Grandchildren recently released a crazy music video for their song “Endtimes” a single off of their latest album, Golden Age, which came out in May. The group is set to play at The TLA on June 25th with Caravan Palace, but hopefully this video can satisfy us until that time.  It features a bunch of strange and colorful creatures, plus a skeleton who can’t seem to figure out his true identity.  It’s a very strange video, but it pairs beautifully with the song.


The Week’s Best MP3 Downloads, incl. The Postal Service, Grandchildren, Joseph Arthur, Mount Moriah, and more

photos by Myriam Santos
Photo by Myriam Santos
XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week featured Joseph Arthur and his new song “Saint of Impossible Causes.” The track comes from Arthur’s upcoming album The Ballad of Boogie Christ. Stream and download the song below, and learn more about Ballad here.

Wednesday’s My Morning Download featured a quartet from Nashville called The Features and their song “The Disorder.”  The band is a musical chameleon, drawing their quirky sound from classic rock, indie rock, southern soul and more with ease.  They’ll be at MilkBoy Philly on Wednesday, May 8th; go here for info.

Mount Moriah delivered a stirring performance for this week’s Folkadelphia session.  The North Carolina band performed songs from their recent Miracle Temple LP – download the full set on Folkadelphia’s Bandcamp here, and listen to “White Sands” below.

We got a double dose of Key Studio Sessions this week.  Liz & the Lost Boys turned in a preview of their upcoming LP on Wednesday, with jazzy harp-playing and theatrical vocals.  Thursday saw the release of the Key Studio Sessions Vol. 7, featuring tracks from Waxahatchee, Pissed Jeans and more.  Download the compilation here, grab the full Liz & the Lost Boys appearance here and stream their song “I’ll Stay” below.

In advance of its release on May 7th, Grandchildren‘s Golden Age was the topic of this week’s Unlocked series.  The in-depth look at the local band’s new album kicked-off with a download of “End Times.”  Revisit the full feature here and download “End Times” here.

Finally, The Postal Service are celebrating the 10th anniversary release of its album, Give Up. From it, download one of the two new songs from re-release, “A Tattered Line Of String.”


Unlocked: The Key’s Review of Grandchildren’s Golden Age


Much like a track runner, Granchildren see the benefit of getting off the block with the burst of energy that will maintain you through the finish line.  Momentum is key to Golden Age, the new album by Grandchildren, out May 7th on Ernest Jenning. The album is big in scope and big in sound, though not maximalist. The album explores quite a few variations of their orchestral pop, while being a more cohesive compared to the band’s debut album Everlasting . For example, the percussion is brought to the forefront on the album and is constantly apparent – though never overwhelming – and never close to being redundant.

Awaking the album is the pulsing and humming “Sunrise,” with it’s tribal percussion, distant keys and ascending vibraphone. From the start you can hear the complexity of the arrangements, which flow into each other like bodies of water meeting and growing as an ocean. Without slowing down much the album progresses to the dreamy title track “Golden Age” and then into one of the standout tracks, “End Times.”

As you reach the middle of the album it opens up into a different kind of album where, instead of combining all the ‘essential’ parts of Grandchildren, like they did to begin the album, they explore the various directions their arrangements can go. This begins with the jumpy, precautionary track “No Way Out” which is highlighted by an idiosyncratic clapping part, otherworldly falsetto and wandering horns.  The atmosphere completely shifts for the next song to a gentle, calming surrounding, with something magical in the air. The light strumming, distant drums and lead singer Aleks Martray’s soft, and comforting voice all compliment each other in the beautiful song. Rounding out the middle of the album is the cinematic “Into Gold” which blooms in front of you, and does so elegantly.

The back of the album is less easier to define musically. “You Never Know” is one of the most restrained moments of the album. It shows the band’s musical chops, but does so in a different light.  On this album there are various moments where the songs can go in different directions, either going big or pulling back on the reins.  This album succeeds because, despite their large size and ability to go bigger, they choose to restrain compositions as a way to let them breathe.  The band, on their previous album, were working on defining their sound. Equally important to a band having a sound, though, is having a “voice” and a “vision.” On Golden Era, Grandchildren continue to evolve and mature their sound, while finding focus in their songwriting, arrangements, and studio performances.

Grandchildren celebrate their record release tonight at Johnny Brenda’s with support from The Lawsuits, Laser Background, DJ POW POW (Man Man’s Chris Powell).


The Week So Far: 9 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Kurt Vile, Grandchildren, Khari Mateen and Dave Hartley’s Top of The Key)


Grandchildren‘s Golden Age is featured in this week’s Unlocked series [link]

It’s been a big week for show announcements, with The Monkees [link], Patty Griffin [link], Pet Shop Boys [link] and The Olms [link] unveiling Philly dates

Joe Pug played a show at Johnny Brenda’s this week – check out a free download of five tracks from the Chicago singer-songwriter [link]

Khari Mateen will kick-off Brewerytown’s summer jazz concert series on May 15th [link]

Take a listen back to this year’s Key Studio Sessions with Volume 7, featuring Waxahatchee, Pissed Jeans and Ruby the Hatchet [link]

Kurt Vile shares a new video for “Never Run Away” – he’ll be at Union Transfer on May 18th [link]

Dave Hartley presents an overview of the NBA playoffs in a new edition of Top of Key [link]

Mount Moriah highlighted their sophomore album Miracle Temple during this week’s Folkadelphia session [link]

Download a compilation of music from local bands including Cheers Elephant, Roof Doctor and Norwegian Arms c/o Beat the Indie Drum [link]


Tonight’s Concert Picks: XPN Welcomes The Bacon Brothers to The Keswick Theater, XPN Welcomes The Smithereens to The Landis Theatre, XPN Welcomes Steve Earle to The Colonial Theatre, Daughter at Union Transfer, Grandchildren at Johnny Brenda’s


XPN welcomes The Bacon Brothers to the Keswick Theatre tonight. The Philadelphia natives were playing music together long before Kevin’s acting and Michael’s composing careers took off, though their last album of new material was 2008’s New Year’s Day.  Tickets and information for tonight’s show can be found here.  Watch a video of the brothers and their band performing live below.

XPN welcomes The Smithereens to the Landis Theater tonight.  After putting out their tenth studio album in 2011, the New Jersey rock band has continued to tour steadily and will join Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers on the road this summer.  Tickets and information for tonight’s headline show can be found here.  Below, watch the video for 2011 single “One Look at You.”

XPN welcomes Steve Earle & the Dukes to the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville.  Modeling himself after famed singer-songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, Earle has released fourteen records over the course of his career.  The Low Highway was released this month through New West Records.  Tickets and information for tonight’s show can be found here.  Below, watch the video for “Invisible.”

UK alt folk trio Daughter headline Union Transfer tonight.  Building buzz off of two EPs, the London outfit have finally released a hauntingly emotional debut album this week called If You Leave.  Tickets and information for the show can be found here.  Below, watch the video for “Still.”

Grandchildren celebrate their album release at Johnny Brenda’s tonight.  Golden Age will be released on May 7th, and you can get an in-depth look at the orchestral pop band’s world surrounding the album in this week’s Unlocked series.  Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show with The Lawsuits, Laser Background and DJ POW POW can be found here.  Watch the video for “Sunrise” below.


Unlocked: It’s Alive! Watch a performance of ‘End Times’ from Grandchildren’s recent Underground Art’s show. (playing tomorrow night, May 3rd at Johnny Brenda’s)

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This week’s Unlocked series has been about Grandchildren’s expansive new album Golden Age. Earlier in the week we premiered the new track “End Times,” and today the track is getting the live treatment.  Shot at their Underground Arts show back on March 1st, this live performance video is a delicious sample of what Grandchildren do best. Their sound has become what it is, in part because of time spent touring and practicing their dynamic live show, which demands precision, but exudes pure energy. Lucky for you, the band is celebrating the release of their new album tomorrow at Johnny Brenda’s with support from The Lawsuits, Laser Background, and DJ POW POW (Man Man’s Chris Powell) spinning througout the night. Watch the video for “End Times” below:


Unlocked: Q&A with Grandchildren mastermind Aleks Martray


“The attitude that nature is chaotic and that the artist puts order into it is a very absurd point of view, I think. All that we can hope for is to put some order into ourselves.” – Willem de Kooning, 1968

Everybody deals with getting older in different ways.  Some people get motorcycles, others opt for meditation retreats, but everyone faces it regardless. It is the constant struggle to age gracefully, and Aleks Martray and the members of Grandchildren are all dealing with very essential times of their lives. One of the results of the past few years is their new album Golden Age, out May 7th, which The Key is exploring for Unlocked series this week. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the daily routine we caught up with Aleks Martray to chat about the recording process, growing older, and defining the Golden Age.

The Key: What is the Golden Age? 

Aleks Martray: It has sort of become a catchall.  I tend to write a bunch of music and not really know thematically what I’m working with, or what the message is, it’s all music first.  I work a lot more like a composer or an arranger. I have all of this material that I compile, and then I sit back and listen to it and create songs out of it. The lyrics, the words, the concepts, they all come at that last phase once the music has come together. I never really know what I am writing about until the end, and “Golden Age” happens to be the last song I wrote for the album. I think of it like how an author writes an entire book, and then they write an epilogue, and somehow, the epilogue becomes the arc of the story.

For me, that specific song (“Golden Age”) was about the feeling of getting older, and those moments where you feel a narrowing of the openness and possibility of anything happening in your life, and the excitement of it all. And it was about having an experience that was renewed, where you no longer have to see things that way, and things are still open and possible.

It was also about having gone through a lot of things the past few years with family and friends. The past couple years have been weddings and funeral and babies being born, so it is just that time in my life and my band members lives where there is this generational shift, and you are just in the middle trying to place yourself in it. As an adult, and as an artist, and when you are around your parents and grandparents shifting to old age and you have your friends shifting to other phases of life, what happens is everything comes to the surface. It is a sea change moment. “Golden Age” was really revolving around this idea, that everybody, no matter what age or generation, has this magical, golden reference point of the way things used to be, or aught to be, but that is always just a figment of ones imagination.

TK: There seems to be a relationship between the song “Everlasting” from your last album and the new album.  Was the thought process that went into “Everlasting” a jumping off point for the new record?

AM: The song “Everlasting” was written, not only at the end of the first record, but a few months after the whole thing was finished. I was actually writing “Everlasting” to start a new record. I think it was the beginning of the process of starting a new record.  Two things happened, stylistically I was going in a really different direction. I was a lot more interested in singing and putting the vocals up front, because I have never been a natural singer before, I have always been a songwriter and the singing just came as something I had to figure out. And then beats, being very beat oriented.  Those are two things that came together just from writing that song “Everlasting,” and I think that definitely was the beginning of the new album.  I see that song “Everlasting”, as a link or bridge between the two albums, and I think you can sort of hear that.
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Unlocked: Explore the artwork for Grandchildren’s new album, Golden Age, with frontman Aleks Martray

Several of the members of Grandchildren are artists in additional mediums besides music. Some of them went to school for painting, while frontman Aleks Martray studied film. Needless to say, the album art for Grandchildren is not a simple after thought and was conceptualized with a keen visual eye. This week for our Unlocked series we’re exploring Grandchildren’s new album Golden Age, and today we take a look at Golden Age’s nostalgic cover art with some commentary by Martray.

Front Cover:


“Yeah I worked for months and months on album art, had a bunch of different drafts and ideas but nothing really worked.  I didn’t even have a grasp on what the album was about yet, but I think when I wrote “Golden Age” and realized what the album was all about, right away this little photo that I had found a few years back came into my mind. I thought, that’s it, no question, no intentions, that’s the image that all this music is about.

My grandfather passed away a few years back and I was in his house with my dad just cleaning it out, and I am kind of a history buff, particularly when it comes to my family history, so I was just collecting hundreds of photos that were all over the house, and out of these hundreds of photos I found this one photo and I never before looked at a photograph and in one second everything was just put into perspective and everything just made sense and was so clear. To me, I know all these people at an older age, so I could already see into their character, so it looked really true to life, but on the other hand, it looked like a staged photograph with costumes and blocking involved. But really it was just this moment in 1969 when my father had graduated from West Point where his family just stood there, and somebody took the picture.

I think it is a really intriguing image, and when somebody who doesn’t know these people sees it, it is even more powerful because they can inject it with their own experiences, their own ideas.  It is a very open photograph in a lot of ways.  I like anything that borders the line between fact and fiction, or reality and imagination, so for me, the photo is really powerful in that way.”

Back Cover:


“The back cover is at a place called Battle Monument, which is actually a Civil War monument. It is an outlook over the Hudson and I have dozens of photos and videos of myself hanging out there as a kid, but it’s at the same location where the front photograph was taken. It’s the idea that the front is a photo from 1969, and then the back is a place where I spent a lot of time as a kid in the 80’s. It was a weird, surreal place to grow up, because, it was a military base so I was surrounded by military culture and these monument cannons, but I would just sit on these cannons and look out over the Hudson. It was a really calm and beautiful place, and it was a weird paradox to have all this military culture in such a beautiful place when you are a kid.” 

Gatefold Art: 
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