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Explore Philadelphia with Dave Hartley and BlackBook Magazine

Photo by Dominic Neitz | blackbookmag.com

Dave Hartley is a man of many roles. He’s the versatile bassist who performs regularly with The War on Drugs, and has joined the Lindsey Buckingham Appreciation Society, and Buried Beds on occasion. He’s the sonic mastermind behind Nightlands. He’s the scribe behind Top of The Key. Adding to this ever-growing list, you could now call Hartley a civic and cultural ambassador for the City of Philadelphia. The twelve-year resident recently took the folks at BlackBook Magazine out of Brooklyn and on a tour of Philadelphia, stopping at popular locals Letoah’s Coffee, Miner Street Recording, Loco Pez and more. Add into the mix a collection of stunning portraits by photographer Dominic Neitz and it’s a rich and multi-sensory look at our fair city. (I can almost smell the basil in the Pizza Brain photo.) Get a look at the article here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: DRGN King at PhilaMOCA, The Great Unknown at Johnny Brenda’s, XPN Welcomes Martin Sexton to The Landis Theater, Nightlands at Arden Gild Hall

Philly’s DRGN King are celebrating the release of Paragraph Nights tonight at PhilaMOCA.  The full-length debut from the psychedelic power pop outfit was released through Bar / None Records on January 22nd and runs the gamut of infectiously good songwriting from the slick “Holy Ghost” to the party-ready “Wild Night.”  More information for the all-ages show with Dangerous Ponies, Walking Shapes and Idle Idols can be found here.  Stream Paragraph Nights here and watch DRGN King’s Dominic Angelella perform a solo, stripped-down version of “Holy Ghost” at Sofar Sounds from last weekend below.

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Nightlands’ Dave Hartley talks tape speed, deconstructs “Nico” with ArtInfo (playing Arden Guild Hall tomorrow)

Photo by Catherine Maloney
A trademark of Dave Hartley’s Nightlands is swirling layers of vocals and psychedelic instrumentation. In an interview with ArtInfo yesterday, Hartley broke down his creative process to reveal how he arrives at his sound: recording take after take, manipulating the speed of his tape machine and other experimental tricks of the trade. To further illustrate, he shared three versions of the song “Nico” from Nightlands’ new Oak Island – the album version, an instrumental version and an a capella version. Listen to them below. Nightlands plays the Arden Guild Hall in Deleware tomorrow night, opening for School of Seven Bells – find tickets and more information on the show at the WXPN Concert Calendar.

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The Week So Far: 12 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Nightlands, Catnaps and Thao)

Nightlands | Photo by Matthew Davis

Prairie Empire stops by to record a Folkadelphia session [link]

Philly’s Nightlands celebrates the release of Oak Island at Kung Fu Necktie [link]

My Morning Jacket’s Jim James streams his new album, announces a Union Transfer show [link]

Philly rockers Free Energy get interviewed by a couple sixth graders [link]

Remembering versatile guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away at age 54 this week [link]

Indiepop five-piece Catnaps releases a new EP for free downloading [link]

Shoegazers Nothing will make the First Friday crowd wish they packed earplugs [link]

Lancaster folk trio The Stray Birds records a Key Studio Session, comes to World Cafe Live [link]

Philly rapper Chill Moody releases a mini-documentary of his December TLA show [link]

Thao Nguyen plays “We The Common” on a banjo, through a microphone, at a rally [link]

All week the Unlocked series features Almost Endless, the new LP from The National Rifle [link]

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Nightlands bring magic harmonies to Kung Fu Necktie (review, setlist, photos)

Standing front and center for Nightlands’ performance Saturday night at Kung Fu Necktie felt like standing in the entranceway of a grand cathedral, a choir’s golden melodies wafting through the air. It was a transportive, although not unexpected experience—when I spoke to front man/creator Dave Hartley about Nightlands’ live show a few weeks back, he told me he would focus mostly on the vocals. “I want to get some people who sing really well, and we’ll just sing together,” he said.

Said “people who sing well” were of Eliza Jones (of Buried Beds) and Jesse Moore (of Auctioneer/Ladies Auxiliary), who together with Hartley added heart and corporeality to songs which on record, twinkle with space-age mystery—while drummer Michael Johnson’s (Ape School) beats added velocity and momentum. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: XPN Welcomes The A’s to Underground Arts, Nightlands at Kung Fu Necktie (downstairs), Catnaps at Kung Fu Necktie (upstairs), Ladyfest Philly Benefit at Kung Fu Necktie (downstairs), XPN Welcomes Garland Jeffery’s to The Sellersville Theater

XPN welcomes new wave outfit The A’s to Underground Arts tonight.  Led by charismatic front-man Richard Bush (currently of The Peace Creeps), the Philadelphia band became a fixture in the east coast club scene with their energetic power pop.  1981′s “A Woman’s Got the Power” gave the band its first hit outside of Philly and though the The A’s never broke through to a national audience, their dedicated hometown following remains intact three decades after they parted ways.  Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here.  Watch a video of the band performing “A Woman’s Got the Power” live below.

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Interview: Nightlands’ Dave Hartley on sci-fi, sinkholes, and how when you really get down to it, the music biz is all one big “book of friends”

Oak Island is not just the title of Nightlands’ new record. It’s also an island off the South shore of Nova Scotia, imbued with mythical proportions. First discovered in 1795, it’s home to a mysterious pit, in which explorers found strange pick markings and layers of logs. The discovery sparked rumors that the pit housed treasure, and for years afterwards, explorers sailed to Oak Island and continued to dig, hoping to unearth the pit’s secret.

These days, scientists believe the phenomenon was likely caused by a sinkhole—although excavation groups today still continue to explore. When I ask Nightlands’ Dave Hartley how the tale relates to his new record, he tells me he’s drawn to the idea of “mystery without end.” “I think mystery is important in art,” he continues, over coffee at Kensington’s Leotah’s Place. “On record, I never let my voice be alone. I always cloak it in millions of itself. Maybe that’s an attempt to keep the mystery going…because the human ear always wants to hear a single voice. And I feel like I’m always pulling it away, dangling the carrot.”

Thick, echo-y, vocal layers are one key element of Nightlands, a solo project started a few years back by Hartley, most known for his role as bassist with The War on Drugs. As Nightlands, he boasts two records of complex, moving synth pop: 2010’s Forget the Mantra, and Oak Island, out this week on Secretly Canadian.

Compared to Mantra, which felt dreamy and dense, Hartley describes Oak Island as “more confident.” “It’s an evolution,” he adds, calling it the “next step” in an ever-changing musical journey. Continue reading →