Explore Philadelphia with Dave Hartley and BlackBook Magazine

Photo by Dominic Neitz |

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.


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]


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 →


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 →


Stream Nightlands’ Oak Island (record release show at Kung Fu Necktie on 1/26)

Photo courtesy of Secretly Canadian Records

Philly’s own Dave Hartley is poised to release his second album under the moniker Nightlands.  The album, Oak Island, is streaming on WNYC’s Soundcheck blog and its easy, rhythmic intimacy mysteriously (possibly intentionally) could not be farther from a reflection of Hartley’s recent schedule.  As the bassist for the ever-busy The War on Drugs (Kurt Vile’s Philadelphia-based group), Hartley’s year included a recent appearance on Jimmy Fallon, months of international touring (including playing Primavera Sound in Barcelona), and evenings of back-to-back shows, such as two nights over New Year’s at Johnny Brenda’s to raise money for MANNA.  Somehow, Hartley found time to finish Oak Island, which has been in the making since he wrapped up his debut Forget the Mantra in 2010.  The album release show at Kung Fu Necktie is Saturday, January 26th and will be followed by a (surprisingly) quiet February before an ambitious national tour in March.  We wouldn’t expect anything less.


Watch Dave Hartley and Robbie Bennett of The War on Drugs play “Venus in Furs” with John Cale

This must have been something like a dream come true. Dave Hartley, bassist for The War on Drugs and frontman for Nightlands, joined his keyboard-playing WoD compatriot Robbie Bennett to sit with John Cale‘s backing band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. They played a song from Cale’s recent LP Shifty Adventures in the Nookie Wood, “I Wanna Talk 2 U” (which was not written by Prince, far as we can tell), and they dusted off the Velvet Underground classic “Venus in Furs.” Watch “Venus” below, see “I Wanna Talk To U” here. Nightlands is releasing its sophomore album Oak Island this month, and celebrating with a show at Kung Fu Necktie on Saturday, January 26. Tickets and information on it can be found at the WXPN concert calendar.


Purling Hiss, Nightlands make Spin Magazine’s 5 Best New Artist lists

Purling Hiss | Photo by John Vettese

Big congrats to a couple of our Philly scene favorites, Purling Hiss and Nightlands, who both made Spin Magazine’s 5 Best New Artists list for the month of January. (Both artists made our own crystal-ball-gazing list as well.) The Hiss has their awesome new full-length, Water on Mars, coming out on Drag City Records on March 19. Spin put it at the top of its list, saying:

Once code for the searing solo experiments of former Birds of Maya guitarist (and Kurt Vile and the Violators associate) Mike Polizze, Purling Hiss has mutated into a frightening, full-fledged power trio of late, as captured last year on an Adam Granduciel-curated episode of WXPN’s Shaking Through series. Afforded the opportunity to record with a budget, Polizze and his bandmates offered up “Lolita,” a headbanger whose chorus we’ve been humming ever since.

Nightlands’ Oak Island is out on Secretly Canadian Records on January 22, with a release show at Kung Fu Necktie on the 26th. Spin called Nightlands main man Dave Hartley a “rugged bedroom pop individualist, layering watery synthesizers and roaming percussion with delicate, desperate choir boy vocals.” Check out both writeups here, and watch Purling Hiss tear up The Bowery Ballroom with “Almost Washed My Hair” below.