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Items Tagged Philadelphia: The evolution of the arm

Trash Knife | via facebook.com/trashknife

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.

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you need something until you’re immersed in it.

Like a lot of people my age, I fell powerfully into the work of filmmaker David Lynch some twenty years ago; the spark for me was Lost Highway, the cerebral/abstract noir-erotica mystery scored by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. I was moderately obsessed with that band in my younger days; Reznor could have scored a Raisin Bran commercial and I would have been freaking the heck out. Thankfully, Lost Highway was a bit more rewarding as a cinematic work, and through it I worked my way backwards through Lynch’s filmography. First to Twin Peaks, his surrealist serial TV show that confounded audiences for two seasons in the early 90s — for most, this was probably their entry point — and further back still to Eraserhead and (god help me) Dune.

I’m a fan of Lynch’s work to this day. I love that I live in a city where a prominent music venue and art space celebrates him once per annum, and I was thrilled that I got to see Lynch speak at the Prince Theater upon the occasion of his painting exhibition opening at PAFA in 2015. But short of a Twin Peaks re-watch leading up to that art show, I don’t think about Lynch as often as I used to in my twenties, when I practically made a pasttime out of, say, popping on a VHS of Blue Velvet and watching it with the lights turned low and not getting a heck of a lot of sleep that night as my brain tried to pick apart what just had rattled it. I used to believe that there were clues to meaning all over his work, and by watching it enough, I’d solve the puzzle. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: See you at a place

Gibbous Moon | via gibbousmoonphilly.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.

If my Google calendar and Facebook invites are any indicator, this spring is about to get seriously busy. This week, Harmony Woods celebrates their album release at JJ’s Diner on Tuesday, and then it’s XPN’s NonCOMMvention wall-to-wall through Friday. If I have energy Saturday, Trenton Ave Arts Fest and Making Time are possibilities. The following week, Pixies, Macy Gray and Break Free Fest on the radar. The following following week, Roots Picnic.

This has been a mostly chill Mothers’ Day Weekend, a calm before the storm, and besides brunching with my mom at Fishtown’s seriously tasty Front Street Cafe, I’ve spent a lot of time at home, playing catch-up with my Bandcamp listening. It’s been a crazy week in the world, lots or stories involving power and abuse of such — accusations of reprehensible behavior by an artist who was seemingly so right-on, acts of blatant political aggression by leaders (well, one in particular) who makes no attempt to hide who they are.

I thought I’d spend a lot of time in my Items Tagged Philadelphia processing my thoughts around these issues, as I’m wont to do. But then I found a lot of music that perfectly channeled those feelings, so I’ll just dive in to that.

Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: A generous helping of fuzz and vice

Cameron Wayne | via Facebook

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.

Say what you will about lo-fi: its practitioners are generic and interchangeable, it’s a relic of the 90s that is contrived as we approach the 2020’s. I mean, I don’t necessarily agree, but those are totally valid perspectives to consider.

What you’ve got to acknowledge in discussing this long-standing approach to independent musicianship: lo-fi is truly a form of art. Sure, there’s the common criticism about unskilled musicians making records that sound crappy (or the common mantra from the artist’s side, about ragtag players doing what they can in the moment with limited means and less-than-stellar gear). I don’t buy either of those interpretations. Have you ever tried to make a bad recording? Like actually tried? It’s freaking difficult! And time-consuming; not in-the-moment at all. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: Days of scorched earth and mystical discovery

Diamond Tooth | via diamondtooth.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.

Some people just want to hear the hits, and that’s perfectly okay. Hell, sometimes I just want to hear the hits — or I don’t mind / actually kind of enjoy that tingly sensation serotonin-release vibe you get when a near-and-dear song comes on in your auditory range.

Diving head-on into the unfamiliar, however, takes another sort of listening commitment. It’s not one that everyone shares, which makes total sense because it can be kind of a bonkers pursuit. But if you’re game, it can be intensely rewarding as well.

This project, obviously, is one example of such. This past Saturday’s Center City Jazz fest is another, and as I watched Norman David’s Eleventet perform with explosive, big band-style joy on the Franky Bradley’s stage, I realized how similar the two ideas were.  Continue reading →

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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 →