Indie four-piece Owls are hitting Union Transfer tonight in support of their long-awaited second album, Two. The band, who gained popularity in the early aughts with the release of their eponymous debut album, overcame two different break-ups, but the group’s reunion in 2012 brought forth a full-scale rework of the band’s best qualities. With no disregard to the musicianship that won fans over from the band’s first album, Two brings out an easier listening component but asks for a more dedicated listener lyrically. The band’s growth is sure to bring delight to old fans and new listeners alike, and with a dynamite opener like Philly’s Hop Along this’ll be a show you’ll hear friends raving about the rest of the week. Find ticket information here and check out “I’m Surprised…” from Two.
This summer’s gonna be a good one for punk. So many great new albums are coming out (ie. Kite Party, Tigers Jaw, etc.), and you can add Joyce Manor‘s newest, Never Hungover Again, to that list. However, I have to stress that this album – out July 22 – isn’t likely to be buried. (None of them will be, quite frankly.) The California band recently released the first single from the LP, “Catalina Fight Song,” and it’s hard not to press repeat at least three times. It has a fun video, too, showing the four-piece band trying their hands at jiu jitsu while thrashy guitars chime in the background and heavy drums add to the welcomed chaos.
Is it likely that any local martial arts studio will be using the new album as a warm up? Probably not, but that’s besides the point. The small little preview into the album shows the true character of the band – the fun, and friendship. Speaking on which, that whole friendship aspect can be seen in its cover as well, which will make any Philly punker / house show die-hard / Bandcamp fiend’s heart swoon. Pictured on the front is bassist and vocalist Matt Ebert arm-in-arm with Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan.
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.
Frances Quinlan is melting hearts once again. On Friday morning, she came to Facebook with some pretty stellar news for any fan of Philly punk band Hop Along – the group is set to go on a nationwide tour with West Coast stops supporting Waxahatchee and East Coast stops supporting the band Owls. Quinlan and her crew will be swing by Union Transfer on July 14. Tickets for the all-ages show are $15 and doors open at 7 p.m.
Oh, and for those who don’t know, Owls is the project of Tim and Mike Kinsella, Victor Villarreal and Sam Zurrick; pretty much, it’s everybody from iconic emo band Cap’n Jazz, less Davey van Bohlen (aka the guy from The Promise Ring and Maritime). The members of Owls have also variously played in Owen, Joan of Arc, Make Believe, and Ghosts and Vodka.
But you’d never really be able to guess with their newest record. However, you still get exactly what you need from each artist. Two‘s got that punk poppy feel loaded with sporadic guitar notes that have Villarreal moving up and down the neck at lightning speed.
The free Brooklyn Night Bazaar will be taking place on March 8th, and will strangely enough feature two prominent Philadelphia bands, Paint It Black and Hop Along, and two New Jersey bands, Night Birds and Bad Canoes. Presented by Noisey, this show might just be worth the drive up from Philly. Get caught up on Paint It Black’s propulsive hardcore music on the Invisible EP, and Hop Along’s Shaking Through single “Sister Cities” below. The show is 16+, and doors open at 6 PM. For more information, visit the Brooklyn Night Bazaar’s site.
New York based Palehound released the six song Bent Nail EP back in October, and I have to say I’m disappointed I did not hear about them until now. A lot of potential is wrapped up in this band, from the songwriting and lo-fi tunes, to singer Ellen Kempner’s striking voice.
Similarities can definitely be drawn to Philly’s own Hop Along - both feature passionate and aggressive front women backed by calculated hooks that result in something that is heartfelt and catchy.
“Drooler” contains a softly trudging verse that leads into a blown-up chorus where Kempner exclaims “Vandalize my body / If it helps you sleep soundly.” This song definitely grows on you. “Psycho Speak” is a trip through stories of rich lovers, bad neighbors, and laziness that flows with a non-stop upbeat guitar riff.
The band’s most notable song comes with “Pet Carrot,” with a great amount of humor and honesty intertwined throughout. Kempner takes us through this song as her voice dips and dives across her vocal range, but the guitar and bass also also pop. The EP finishes strong with “I Get Clean,” which focuses on the inability to clear your mind and “Flytrap,” which is a powerful humming ballad.
Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, Key contributor Julie Miller shares her favorite video sessions of the year.
Live session videos are great because they give the musician a chance to experiment with their music and perform it in an unusual setting or surprising way. From Out of Town Films to La Blogotechque’s Take Away Shows, there are more and more series popping up each year that put unique spins on the music video art-form. These are five of my favorite live session videos of 2013:
1. Radiator Hospital – “Our Song” Piss Couch Session, filmed by Maggot House Records. This is one of the most honest break-up songs since Bob Dylan’s demo recording of “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” and the guys over at Maggot House got an incredibly intimate and vulnerable recording of it. Sam Cook-Parrott released a studio version of the song on his Something WildLP a few months after the filming but this version is still my favorite.
Yesterday the crew over at Philebritydug up a video of Waxahatchee (Katie Crutchfield) performing an acoustic rendition of Guided by Voices‘ “Game of Pricks” at a high school in Pomona, CA last year. Crutchfield’s ability to sing confessional music in an off-the-cuff manner sounds just as honest and stripped down with an acoustic guitar as it does with her three-piece power trio band. She brings the emotional charge of emo and the sound of indie pop in a way similar to that of Frances Quinlan from Hop Along.
With the GBV cover, Crutchfield handily transforms their snappy minute and a half power pop jammer from the 1995 album Alien Lanes into her own thing; watch the video below, and compare it against the original. Waxahatchee’s 2013 album Cerulean Salt is available here; she plays the First Unitarian Church on January 26th with All Dogs, Cayetana, and Heavy Bangs. Tickets and information can be found here.
Going twelve years strong, The Fest is an annual gathering in Gainesville, Florida, that brings together a cross-section of players in the national DIY scene for four days of action. Though it began firmly rooted in punk and hardcore, it’s expanded over time to include a broader range of sounds and styles, from singer-songwriter (Tim Kasher) to metal (Torche) and indie pop (Slingshot Dakota). Think of it as an anti-corporate response to the music festival circuit.
Every year, an impressive swatch of Philly bands make the trek down to Gainesville for the festival, whether as a tour stop or as a single destination. Photographer Allison Newbold made the trip this year, and caught up with several of them: below, check out images of Daylight, The Menzingers, Slingshot Dakota and more. She also collected thoughts from some of the artists on how Fest 12 was treating them and why they Fest in general. Check them out below.
Mark Quinlan from Hop Along
“Fest always treats me in a way that’s far better than I deserve. There are friends on every corner. Once a year, Gainesville is my punk rock home away from home”
Jacob Ewald from Modern Baseball
“My first Fest was perfect. I got to hang out with all the friends we made across the country this summer and I got to see all my favorite rock and roll bands. Woo!”
Ben Pierce from Restorations
“Of the multiple fests I’ve been to, this one was the most relaxing. I saw about 4 bands out of 400 which is fine because I was about to see about 400 friends. Nice weather, nice beverages and great conversations with friends. Fest.”
Had I heard last years Awkward Breeds LP without knowing anything about the people who created it, I would not have guessed that Columbus, Ohio four-piece The Sidekicks had such strong ties to the punk / hardcore world. The DIY group plays basements and house shows, releases split 7″ singles with bands like Tiger’s Jaw, makes the annual pilgrimage to Gainesville, Florida for Fest, and are generally scuzzy and raw performers. The album, on the other hand – polished production, total hooks, very poppy and infectious, connecting the dots between Weezer, The Replacements and Elvis Costello. (That split actually has a fantastic cover of the latter’s “Angel’s Wanna Wear My Red Shoes.”)
The band is currently on a late summer tour with Philly’s Hop Along – the two were also tourmates this spring on a run of European dates. Tonight they make their way through Philly to play the First Unitarian Church, and I swapped emails with singer-guitarist Steve Ciolek about Columbus, new music and The Sidekicks’ place in the punk rock world.
The Key: Tell me about the Columbus scene. The only other current band I know from there is the folk-ish group Saintseneca, which is also very DIY but with a totally different sound. Is there much cross-pollination between the different DIY players? Does OSU wind up being a hub?
Steve Ciolek: Columbus is great, there’s really a lot of different little scenes depending on what you’re into. But yeah, we definitely have existed more in the house-show DIY scene there until more recently when we’ve been playing a couple clubs and stuff. I’ve been playing with Saintseneca for the past couple years (as have a lot of other Columbus folks intermittently), so you’d be right about the cross-pollination. Our band has also had various players in the underground scene fill in at shows for us (including Saintseneca members actually). It’s pretty awesome how many different bands include members of other bands too. Ryan (Starinsky, bassist) plays in a band called Nasty Habit with the drummer of Tin Armor, and there’s lots of bands that offshoot from the pop punk band Delay, intermingling with all sorts of folks. OSU keeps things fresh and keeps the punk scene from being too samey and jaded. Continue reading →