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Items Tagged Philadelphia: The shearing of spring lawns and hissing of stray cats

Veev | via veev.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.

Greetings from a front porch in the Mt. Airy section of Northwest Philadelphia. This week’s edition of Items Tagged Philadelphia is the first that I’ve written out of doors, and it’s a lovely experience, I tell you what. I gave my matchbox-size front yard a long overdue cleaning prior to breaking out my laptop; a stray tabby from the neighborhood just skulked around the perimeter of the porch, giving me an uncertain but endearing death stare on the way to pillage the remnants of a cookout next door; there’s a cool breeze keeping things comfortable.

Yesterday was not as agreeable, climate-wise, much to the chagrin of the Record Store Day hopping set. I kept my outing focused on Main Street Music in Manayunk, where Philly son Ron Gallo played a rip-roaring Stooges-covering instore set to a packed room escaping from the rain. Ronny was great — his new record Heavy Meta smokes — and I picked up RSD singles from The Districts and Big Thief, in addition to a live double LP from The Roots dating back to 1992 that may or may not be an official release, and The Spinners’ 1975 album Pick of the Litter, recorded right here in Philly at Chinatown’s Sigma Sound, a historic site now being converted to luxury condos because capitalism can be so very evil. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Irreverence and solitude on a Sunday afternoon

Mary Graham | via marygraham.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.

One of the best thing about growing up Catholic and then growing out of it is that realization that Sunday is a normal day, just like any other day of the week. People go to work, or go to the store, or go on a morning run — as I did this morning, on a decently crowded Wissahickon Trail.

It was my first run since the autumn; it was five miles long. It didn’t hurt too too badly but it didn’t feel great either. Gotta run more often. But again, it was not just a Sunday, but Easter Sunday, which when you’re a kid in the Catholic church is impressed upon you as like the most important Sunday of all time and all the world should stop to rotate around its glory — and maybe there was a time, 60 or 70 years ago, when America actually did function that way. Thankfully, Easter today is able to exist as a normal day, just like any other, at least in Philly. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Cigarettecore in the quiet hours

Lazy Eye | via lazyeye.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.

My legs were pretty useless when I woke up this morning, but I shouldn’t act surprised; according to Google Maps, I biked 29.4 miles yesterday. Mt. Airy to XPN to South Philly to Trader Joe’s and back northwest. Short runs in the neighborhood notwithstanding, I’ve barely used my bike since the fall — mad respect to those of you who keep it on two wheels throughout the winter months — so this was quite a bit of distance for me.

It was also exhilarating, and a beautiful way to see Philly on a beautiful day. Rows of stoop hangs on South 21st; the ambitious gardener with the vertical planters on East Morris; daydrinkers navigating the blocks of construction that make up center city; the golden hour majesty that is Kelly Drive.

If you have a bike, I totally recommend making a point to break it out and traverse the city aimlessly, going outside the comfort zone surrounding your own block, and definitely outside the overly-visited areas. There’s a lot to see and hear in Philadelphia, and if you only stick to what you know — as with anywhere — it gets stagnant. Which is kind of how I’ve been approaching this listening project on Bandcamp. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Blues for the first quarter

Sea Offs | via seaoffs.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 think a lot about nostalgia. In the XPN universe, it often rears its head in stories I write about historic (and not-so-historic) Philadelphia concerts, or through the playlists of my monthly 90s show What’s The Frequency. In my life among the outside world (though what is the outside world, really?) it happens when I’ve completely caught up listening to new music and I opt to decompress by putting on a record from, say, five or fifteen or twenty five years ago, or reading a book / watching a film from a similar distance in times past.

Yesterday afternoon, I ducked the sunny day and hung out inside the cozy Prince Music Theater for a double feature — High Fidelity, from 2000, and Singles, from 1992. Both deal heavily in nostalgia in both art direction and story; the formerly explicitly so, following a middle-aged ne’er do well record store owner taking stock and looking back over his life amid aggressively curated album sleeves and band t-shirts; the latter focusing on Seattle 20-somethings of the early 90s, but intentionally shot as a time capsule that probably appeared dated upon release.

That’s not to slag either; both were comedies, and thus both were a lot of fun to watch. But awkwardly so. Especially Singles, which I last saw as a 14-year-old, when the characters seemed distantly old and impossibly cool. They were 23 — not even ten years older than me — and they were actually pretty normal basic people.

Looking back is a tricky thing, whether individually or collectively; the wrong stuff gets remembered, or the most visually / sonically sensational stuff that isn’t in any kind of real way representational of a moment in time. (I can’t wait till aughties nostalgia kicks in about five years down the line and the cultural narrative tries to say that everybody dressed in day-glo, wore their hair in jet black asymmetrical cuts and danced to LCD Soundsystem.)

Worse than exclusion, the nostalgia zone runs you the risk of overly revering the art and music and memories of youth in favor of everything that’s right in front of you, right now. Which, as I’ve said often around here, is just as good if not better than anything from the past. Maybe the ideal should be cautious nostalgia — I love zoning out to The Execution of All Things or Disintegration and nothing will ever change that, but I also love putting on records by PWR BTTM and Jay Som and The Menzingers and Chance the Rapper. And, for that matter, any of these artists that I dug up this week for the Items Tagged Philadelphia — which, with this writing, has hit the quarter-year mark. Continue reading →

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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 →