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Items Tagged Philadelphia: A good week for rock and roll

Thee Minks | via facebook.com/theeminks

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

It’s been a busy several days. A Latin rock show on Wednesday, a solid lineup of DIY scene singer-songwriters on Thursday, a queer punk rager on Friday, a revered rapper from Chicago tonight. It’s been one of those weeks where I barely get to catch my breath, where I barely get to pause and look around — and reflection-time is important. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: From the crib to the club to the chamber strings

The Private Sector | via theprivatesectormusic.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

The first time we had a snowstorm this year, I saw a flurry (hah) of activity when searching for Philadelphia artists on Bandcamp. That was, like, barely two inches of snow. This time, we got enough that the region went into full-on shut down mode, and once again the Philly tag is poppin’.

I don’t know that the two are entirely related — I do know that at least one local singer-songwriter, Michael Youngkin, used the day to write, record and mix an entire multi-instrumental ten-song album, and while some points of it definitely sound like an album written/recorded/mixed in a day, other parts of it are actually quite fantastic, and it’s an impressive project in any case. Other artists, it seems, dug into their vaults of yesteryear and dusted off unreleased projects for a digital / streaming era. And others still were probably planning on releasing their jams regardless, and the day off was coincidental. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Light and shadow, low and high

Chiaroscuro | via therealchiaroscuro.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

Pet peeve: the word “beachy” as a description of music. I’m sure we’ve used it a fair share of times in these pages, and I apologize. It’s typically a catch-all for carefree breezy pop, particularly of the mindless electro-tinged indie dudebro variety. And I don’t know about you, but I — like Philly’s Dead Milkmen — am not the biggest fan of the beach, or “the shore” in the parlance of our region. It’s a tremendously sad place on any number of levels: desolation and decay, ennui and loneliness, the desperation of clinging to some societal myth about youth and conventional beauty while the tide of time literally washes it further and further away.

Not that there isn’t worthwhile art to be made in those surroundings, of course. Last night I watched The Promise, a doc on the making of Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, the brooding and quote-unquote difficult followup to his blockbuster 1975 LP Born to Run. Bruce wrote the album’s songs (along with, like, a gazillion others) while living on a farm in Homdel, just north of his Asbury Park stomping grounds. These new digs came in the wake of Born to Run‘s massive success, but rather than following the 70s rock cliche of songs bemoaning success — and before diving into the nostalgia-laden body of work that became The River — Springsteen used Darkness to focus even harder on the lives of those who he grew up around, the hard-working regular people looking for a break.

The doc included a short live set filmed inside the empty carousel house on Asbury’s Casino Pier, and the chipped and cracked grandeur of the building at sundown provided a perfect setting for these songs about the endurance of faded glory. It’s worth Netflixing — possibly a double feature with The Wrestler — whether you’re a fan of The Boss, or you’re just interested in seeing a different take on that place where the ocean meets the sky.  Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: In like a lion

Black Urn | photo by JjCa | via facebook.com/blackurn

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

Honestly, I love the unpredictability of it all.

“It all” referring to this somewhat bonkers listening-and-writing project, of course. But also the past several days and the way music has found its way into them. A hard drive meltdown caused one performance on a jam-packed Friday to reboot 30 seconds in, the fleet-footed band somehow not missing a beat and rebounding even stronger than they started. On Saturday, a blank canvas event space (called, uh, The Event Space) hosted a varied roster made up of nimble-fingered instrumentals, soaring if somewhat bombastic pop-rock, charming metropolitan folk and one disastrously cornball crew that couldn’t even save its set with the the playing-off-mic-mid-crowd trick. With every high, there’s gotta be a low, though, and that latter band-that-shan’t-be-named definitely owned that low point at a gig that also reached close to the weekend’s heights. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: The music of chance and the sounds of silence

Erica Corbo | via ericacorbo.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

In a room on the second floor of my house in the East Mt. Airy section of Philly, there’s an air purifier, and it’s always running. The humming oscillations of the motor, the gentle thwack of the belt, and the static rush of air passing through a polymer filter create a background static that dulls the constant sounds of close proximity and rowhome living. It becomes like the proverbial buzzing of the fridge, per Radiohead, or those cars on the interstate passing in the night that my friends in the river wards no longer even notice.

When the air purifier switches off, for whatever reason — it needs maintenance, the power went out, my wife and I can’t hear the record on the turntable — the sensation is almost like waking up, or stepping out of a fog. There’s a sudden clarity, hearing becomes more acute, sounds become more nuanced, details are picked up upon and auditory space is abundant. It’s at once freeing and kind of frightening. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: On the proverbial hits, and how they just keep on coming

Child Savage | via childsavage.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

I don’t know what it is, honestly. Is it that I’m becoming less discerning the more music I listen to for this project? It’s possible, but I doubt it — I feel just as psyched about music as I’ve always been, and typically that sort of thing moves in an inverse direction: like the more music you consume, the more you reach burnout levels and the less stuff stands out. Is it that the quality of stuff showing up under the Philadelphia tag on Bandcamp is increasing as this project goes on? Also possible, but the one certainly doesn’t have anything to do with the other.

All’s I know is that in the first installment of Items Tagged Philadelphia, I picked out four standout releases to spotlight with relative ease, and this week — seven weeks in — I had a tough time winnowing it down to ten. Maybe I started the project on a slow week?

Whatever the case, this current batch of recordings has intertwined in positive ways with my vinyl listening over the weekend. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Anti-matter and inexpensive eyewear

Andy McLeod | via andymcleod.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

The DJ was spinning “Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club and the bar was packed. Not exactly wall-to-wall but not too far off, remarkable stuff for a Friday night in February where the air is damp and the sidewalks are recovering from a day of snow and ice proceeding from a day of 70 degree bliss. Like I was saying, not much of a mystery here.

I’d just gotten off work and made my way through the weekend bender set to the folk show on the second floor after some convincing of the guy working door that, yes, I’m aware that the headliners went on 25 minutes ago and there’s not much show left but I’d like to see what I can, please. The gravelly voice of Chris Frantz drawling “JAAAAMESSS BROOOOOOWN, JAAAAMESSS BROOOOOOWN” faded in the distance as I headed upstairs. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Poetry, prose and making the world better through sound

Ash the Spoken | via ashthespoken.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

We’re coming to you a day or two early here at ITP HQ (a subsection of The Key HQ, a division of WXPN-FM). Why? I certainly hope the reasons are obvious.

This column relies on the wonderful independent music streaming / community-nurturing network Bandcamp, which today is donating 100% of its proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, many artists and labels and digitaldistros are matching that by donating their own sales as well, either to the ACLU or to other nonprofits working to make our country and our world a better / safer / more compassionate place. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: It was all a dream

Geisha Facade | via facebook.com/geishafacade

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

A drumline marched through uptown Philadelphia on Thursday. A singer-songwriter strummed an acoustic guitar in a minivan on Saturday. A world famous DJ mixed up hits in the middle of the dancefloor on Tuesday. A passionate fan pushed their way to the front of a crowded room on Wednesday, energized from the dance party that shut down the streets a dozen blocks north. All of those things actually happened in some form or another, but it was a bit of a blur to be honest with you.

The busses on the way home were delayed. I wound up out at Broad and Olney kicking the curb with dozens of others into the late hours. Between that, and headlines seeping into my dreams, and the book I’m reading full of its hysteria-inducing passages, and my cats jumping on my lap at 4 a.m. because that’s what cats love to do, sleep wasn’t much of a thing, and focus was a bit off. I have no right or room to complain, though, since I have it so much better than so many others these days.
Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Love or betrayal, death or glory

Fake Pulp | via fakepulp.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

Night settles in. The jacket that was questionably necessary in the morning now feels essential, and is not really helping besides. Little things act as triggers, like a favorite music venue revamping its menu unexpectedly, getting rid of several vegan options. Or people converging just outside the front door, chain smoking and having frivolous conversations about celebrity encounters. A recording session not going completely as planned; instructions handed down encouraging neutrality and disengagement; a Lyft driver taking the most nonsensical roundabout route imaginable from South Philly uptown.

The weekend began with division and rhetoric, that awkward dance around co-workers and casual encounters where you try to silently ascertain which side they’re on so as not to offend. Or, if you’re particularly unlucky, you find yourself among a very outspoken group who ascertained wrong, whose assumptions about your own leanings couldn’t be more incorrect. You watch the news in secret at work as the afternoon wears on, you scroll through the GIFs and memes on the long train ride home, you laugh at that hateful guy getting punched in the face over and over again. You take a deep breath. And you mobilize. Continue reading →