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Revisiting the road to Tomorrow with Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten | photo courtesy of the artist

Sharon Van Etten makes me feel like I don’t do anything.

In the five years since her 2014 opus Are We There alone, it would be hard to find something she hasn’t done. In addition to touring behind that album, she performed and collaborated with countless other artists. She started scoring films. She branched out into acting and appeared on some of the buzziest cult television shows of the era. She even started pursuing her degree in Psychology. On top of all of that, she settled into a long-term relationship and became a parent. Oh yeah, and she wrote and recorded her latest masterpiece, the soaring, sobering Remind Me Tomorrow. Just typing all of that out makes me want to go back to bed, but Van Etten sounds as energized and dynamic as ever. While this album’s songs aren’t about these life events and achievements, specifically, they do accurately convey the emotions and perspective shifts that came with them. It’s a meditation on what it’s like to be happy during unhappy times, and how important and challenging it is to stay happy.

Ahead of next week’s performance at Union Transfer, Sharon was gracious enough to have a long chat with me about everything that’s been going on in the years leading up to Tomorrow, the work and influences that went into it, and how she stays grounded and positive through everything going on around us. Continue reading →

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Hello and Goodbye, Sagar Bumsweat: Philly basement show rapper closes up shop with Greater Fool Radio

Sagar Bumsweat | photo courtesy of the artist
Sagar Bumsweat | photo courtesy of the artist

Sagar Vasishtha’s weird and wonderful digital rap tapes first landed on our radar just over a year ago, in a late-2017 edition of the dormant Items Tagged Philadelphia project. Following up on the earlier release PROPERMEDITATION, Vasishtha’s home-recorded hip-hop project Bumsweat released an instrumental EP called BOOGSLOOPS1000, purporting that it was inspired by a legendary series of underground beat tapes that inspired him as a budding producer. Taking in by the mystique and taking him at his word for such, I praised the project’s “totally transportive Theviery Corporation / Faithless / Massive Attack vibrations” while acknowledging the obscure origins of its influence. Turns out the Boog’s Loops tapes were more obscure than I realized: as I learned in this interview, they were Vasishtha’s own projects, released as a teenager learning to navigate the world of DIY production. He’s been at this game for longer than we realized.

So what exactly brings us to this interview? For one thing, Sagar Bumsweat (as the project has gone for its last couple releases) has a new collection of music out today called Greater Fool Radio. It’s another set of dream-like synthesizer tapestries, fierce beats, and matter-of-fact flow that wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Anticon-era Why? or Stones Throw Records luminary Peanut Butter Wolf. But enough with the reference points; the other reason we’re talking to Vasishtha is because after two years and change, he’s closing the book on Sagar Bumsweat as he prepares to leave Philadelphia. Continue reading →

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Ramping up Philly DIY with Ramp Local label

Very few labels start on purpose. Normally it’s just something that happens, a confluence of circumstances, an accident – but hopefully a happy one. You or your friends are in a band that’s recorded something and you want to put it out but you don’t think any existing label would be interested and so you say, “It’s DIY music so I can just do it myself! And really, why stop with just this release when I can be a resource for others? I mean, how hard can it be?”

The answer, as anyone who’s ever stumbled into running a label, is simple: it’s close to impossible. There are so many pitfalls, so many ways things can go wrong, so many ways to lose lots of money and have little to show for it but a few hundred records tucked away in storage forever. The rewards are equally plentiful, which is why so many people go down that route.

Jake Saunders has been walking that tightrope since being handed the keys to Ramp Local, the label he’s been running for the last couple years. It was started by Trip Warner of Wharf Cat Records in Brooklyn – home to Urochromes, WALL, Flasher, Bush Tetras, and a ton more amazing bands – as “a way for him to release more experimental, obscure stuff” on cassette, according to Saunders. Since taking it over, he’s expanded things to also include vinyl releases, most recently a record for Harrisonburg, VA “industrial blues” two piece Buck Gooter. More on them later.

Saunders explained that he initially met Warner while booking shows in Brooklyn. He was putting together a compilation that included a track from Sediment Club, who Wharf Cat has worked with in the past, and Warner suggested that Ramp Local could release the cassette. They started working together shortly after that tape, called Eclectic Sessions, was put out in October of 2015. According to Saunders, “After a while, I was kind of just getting into it and he said, ‘You can run this shit, man’ and he handed it over to me no questions asked. I think he just had too much going on.” Continue reading →

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Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek talks music, danger, and what the band once did at the First Unitarian Church altar

Chairlift
Chairlift | photo courtesy of the artist

Caroline Polachek, vocalist, songwriter, and one-half Brooklyn pop duo Chairlift, has for many years now earned a reputation as one of indie’s most mesmerizing front women, thanks to her smart lyrics, strong pipes, and ability to completely immerse herself in a performance. Together with band-mate Patrick Wimberly, Chairlift has helped refine and defy expectations about pop music for over a decade, moving from a trendy band in an Apple commercial to an innovative musical force, whose repertoire includes everything from re-appropriated action-flick music to choose-your-own-adventure-style music videos—and has continued to grow and evolve with time.

Case-in-point: the band’s third full-length Moth, which dropped earlier this year and might be their best record yet. A glistening, sun-soaked journey through lows and super highs, Moth navigates vulnerabilities and triumphs while always remaining firmly planted in the groove. This month, the band will bring Moth to Philadelphia, playing Underground Arts on April 12. In advance of the show, we rung up Caroline to talk writing, tour, and what Chairlift once did at the First Unitarian Church altar. Continue reading →

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It’s the End of the World, and I Feel Fine: Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou talks Pale Horses

mewithoutYou | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
mewithoutYou | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

“It doesn’t make me that sad,” muses mewithoutYou frontman Aaron Weiss. He is, of course, talking about the apocalypse — what else? It’s the central train of thought in the band’s new record, Pale Horses, out today. Weiss keeps it all in perspective. Whether the apocalyptic references are talking about death, ISIS, or the potential breakup of the band, he’s chipper throughout our conversation. Continue reading →

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Questlove reveals his impressive wall-to-wall vinyl collection for Dust & Grooves

Questlove and his records | via Dust and Grooves
Questlove and his records | via Dust and Grooves

Philly music hero Questlove recently gave fans a peek into his massive vinyl collection for Dust & Grooves, a project that explores people and their eclectic record collections across the globe. The 43-year-old bandleader, drummer for The Roots, NYU professor and DJ has become a household name over the years, for both his music and encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture.

Dust & Grooves founder and photographer Eilon Paz, along with reporter Jameson Harvey, sat down with Questlove this past summer for an in-depth interview about his collection. Continue reading →

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Slingshot Dakota release grungey new jam “Grudge”

Slingshot Dakota | photo by Ryan Russell | www.ryanrussell.net
Slingshot Dakota | photo by Ryan Russell | www.ryanrussell.net

After Bethlehem Carly Commando and Tom Patterson announced their full-time commitment to Slingshot Dakota by dropping their day jobs and jumping on tour with Citizen and You Blew It!, the newly married duo also put out a new track entitled “Grudge.”  The track premiered on Noisey yesterday, along with an interview where Commando discusses the band’s slow-burn approach to its career. Continue reading →