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Helen Leicht’s Local Pick Of The Day: Deb Callahan’s “Gonna Get There”

Deb Callahan is in the blues business, and she don’t mess around. Her new album Tell It Like It Is picks up on where she left off with her 2008 release Grace & Grit. Deb collaborated once again with producer and songwriter Chris Arms and on the record she brings some tasteful touches of gospel and rock to the mix. Deb’s got several record release shows coming up throughout the area which you can check out the listings for here. This song, “Gonna Get There” has a nice little crunchy Stevie Ray Vaughan vibe to it. Local guitar legend Allen James knocks out some fairly classic blues-rock riffs and this girl sure can sing!

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Stringing along the singers in Oh! Pears’ “Singers”

About a minute or so into the Oh! Pears song “Singers,” it’s hard not to wonder, “Where the hell are the actual singers?” The vocals don’t kick in until the 1:10 mark, after a pair of acoustic guitar lines have had plenty of time to dance around each other to the steady beat of a kick drum. When Corey Duncan’s voice does finally arrive, however, it establishes an interesting tone for the rest of the song: rather than being pushed to the front, the repeated vocal melody is simply one of the many layers that share an equal presence in the mix. A few stringed instruments and shimmering hi hats later, and the song has erupted into an all-out symphonic spree. Not that it should surprise anyone: what originally started out as a solo project for the former Pattern Is Movement guitarist has since grown to a 13-person ensemble. Yet, despite its ever-expanding lineup, Oh! Pears manages to maintain an impressive degree of musical restraint; “Singers”—the first of five tracks on the band’s self-released EP—isn’t overly busy or needlessly complicated, but a perfect example of how a song as a whole benefits when its various different parts show a little respect for each other. Oh! Pears performs with Missing Palmer West and Jac at 9 p.m. on Friday, October 1, at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $10.

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Busses’ “Foundation Myth”

Busses

Thirty seconds into “Foundation Myth”—the first track off Busses‘ self-titled, self-released debut—anyone unfamiliar with the band has probably already started to reach for the bong. And for good reason: the fuzzed-out bass, reverb-heavy guitar riff, and lumbering drum beat that open the song are practically swirling in a smoky haze of ’60s-psych-rock (and drug) influences. But don’t be so hasty: Not too long after guitarist-vocalist Dave Brett breaks out his best Robert Plant impression at around the one-minute mark, the song takes an unexpected shift—the drums move to a skittering, hi-hat-centric beat; the guitars take on a choppy urgency. It’s not the only time the local trio will change things up in terms of both tempo and tone within the song—in fact, such switches are one of the band’s most defining characteristics, and can be found throughout the album. Thankfully, Busses’ tendency to shift gears doesn’t come at the cost of an overall sense of consistency; the progression of songs such as “Foundation Myth” makes sense in a manner that keeps listeners on their toes, not scratching their heads. Busses performs with Adam & Dave’s Bloodline, New Motels, and The Sky Drops at The Key’s launch party this Saturday, September 25th, at The Blockley.


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Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Pick Of The Day: New Motels’ “Modern Thinker”

New MotelsAny band that has spent a good amount of time on the road knows the many comforts of a night’s stay in even the shabbiest roadside motel. Sure, it probably costs more than the amount of money you made at that night’s show—but, when you’ve spent the last two weeks in a van with a handful of stinking bandmates and sleeping on grubby couches, you can’t put a price on a hot shower or a good night’s sleep in a real bed. Then again, the draw of New Motel’s “Modern Thinker” is such that, should the song be blasting from your stereo speakers at the same time you see a neon-lit sign promising plenty of vacancies, you’d probably just keep on driving. It’s perfect road music, a mix of sitting-in-a-rocking-chair-on-the-front-porch acoustic guitar strumming, modern Americana, and sighing vocal melodies. So why stop? After all, there will undoubtedly be another motel at the next exit; catchy folk-pop songs that keep your butt glued to the driver’s seat aren’t quite as common. New Motels performs with Adam & Dave’s Bloodline, Busses, and The Sky Drops at at The Key’s launch party this Saturday, September 25th, at The Blockley.

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Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Pick Of The Day: The Sky Drops’ “Long Way”

The Sky DropsThe Sky Drops might live in The House That Shoegaze built, but they don’t like being confined by the genre’s characteristic walls of sound. So you won’t find the Wilmington, DE-based duo behind closed doors, hanging up My Bloody Valentine posters in their bedroom; instead, guitarist Rob Montejo and drummer Monika Bullette are probably lazing the afternoon away on a ratty couch in the garage, listening to lo-fi rock and early grunge LPs. That’s not to say that stripped-down songs such as “Long Way”—off The Sky Drops’ 2009 debut, Bourgeois Beat—don’t have the distorted guitars and complementary vocal melodies you’d expect from a shoegaze-influenced band. They just don’t have tracks upon tracks of distorted guitars piled on top of each other, pushing the vocals deep down into the mix. Which means you might even be able to hear the lyrics when the band performs with Adam And Dave’s Bloodline, Busses, and New Motels at The Key’s launch party this Saturday, September 25th, at The Blockley. (Hey, did we mention that already?)

Every weekday at 1 p.m., Helen Leicht highlights a new song by a local artist during her XPN Middays program (Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.). Tune in (or listen online) to hear today’s pick of the day, as well as plenty of other songs from the many musicians Philadelphia has to offer.

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Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Pick Of The Day: Adam & Dave’s Bloodline’s “Cautious Again”

Adam And Dave's Bloodline

Is the title of Adam And Dave’s Bloodline‘s “Cautious Again” an indicator of the band members’ reluctance to revisit (and/or repeat) the past, or a declaration of their approach to handling the future? If the lyrics to the song (off last year’s Boycott Classics) are to be taken at face value, it’s the former. In between the breezy pop track’s jangling guitars and laid-back vocals, lines such as “I traipsed across the road/ I looked back at what I’d seen/ I etched it in my memory” and “We ain’t going back no more/ under dirty blankets, sleeping on the floor” are seeped in an unmistakable sense of nostalgia. Whatever past it is they’re wistfully looking back on, we’re looking forward to a pair of their upcoming Philly F/M Fest shows this weekend—including a headlining performance at our very own blog launch party at The Blockley on Saturday, September 25th (also featuring Busses, New Motels, and The Sky Drops).

Every weekday at 1 p.m., Helen Leicht highlights a new song by a local artist during her XPN Middays program (Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.). Tune in (or listen online) to hear today’s pick of the day, as well as plenty of other songs from the many musicians Philadelphia has to offer.

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Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Pick Of The Day: Toy Soldiers’ “When I Tripped Into You”

Toy Soldiers“What am I now/ if I don’t have you?,” asks Toy Soldiers’ vocalist Ron Gallo in “When I Tripped Into You” (from the band’s debut, Whisper Down The Lane). Why would you ever ask such a thing, Ron? Don’t you already know by now that you’re the ringleader of our favorite foot-stomping, hand-clapping, banjo-strumming roots-rock band to come out of South Philly in recent years? And who said you don’t have us in the first place? I mean, we invited you over to our studio for a recording session and everything. Doesn’t that mean anything to you? In fact, the real question is, what are we if we don’t have you? We do still have you, don’t we Ron? Answer us! Don’t make us pull the jealous-lover routine and storm onto the stage tonight at The Note during your XPN Welcomes show with Laura Veirs, The Watson Twins, and Sisters 3 to ask you in person. You know we’ll do it!

Every weekday at 1 p.m., Helen Leicht highlights a new song by a local artist during her XPN Middays program (Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.). Tune in (or listen online) to hear today’s pick of the day, as well as plenty of other songs from the many musicians Philadelphia has to offer.

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Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Pick Of The Day: Talain Rayne’s “Dear Sister, Your Brother”

Talain RayneLike your piano-driven pop infused with a tinge of sadness, but wrapped in the cozy warm blanket of boy/girl vocal harmonies and hummable melodies? Talain Rayne‘s “Dear Sister, Your Brother” (featuring Meg Lynch) sounds so upbeat, you’d probably never realize the poor guy is really crying on the inside. (Unless, of course, the Phoenixville, PA-based singer-songwriter straight-up told you his music is “influenced by nostalgia and his closest relationships,” contains lyrical content that “tugs on listeners’ hearts,” and that he “doesn’t hold back personal family struggles”—all of which he specifically mentions on his website.) Hey, Talain—cheer up, buddy! We can’t give you the kind of comforting reassurance you’re looking for in lyrics such as, “Please say everything is OK/tell me we can go play/like we did when we were younger”—but we can say that you write a pretty good pop song (which you can listen to here).

Every weekday at 1 p.m., Helen Leicht highlights a new song by a local artist during her XPN Middays program (Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.). Tune in (or listen online) to hear today’s pick of the day, as well as plenty of other songs from the many musicians Philadelphia has to offer.

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Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Pick Of The Day: Suzie Brown’s “Side Streets”

Singer-songwriter Suzie Brown is a practicing cardiologist who gave up her research career to pursue music. Despite only being in the songwriting business for two years, Suzie was named Best Of Philly Music Talent in last month’s issue of Philadelphia Magazine (which called her “bluesy, folksy, achy, rich” and “sweet-voiced”). Brown released her debut record, Side Streets, last fall and is currently working on a new studio album. Her next local show is at Tin Angel on September 25th.

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Helen Leicht’s Philly Local Pick Of The Day: Ben Arnold’s “Simplify”

One of our favorite local singer-songwriters, Ben Arnold, has a new album out: it’s called Simplify—and, to celebrate the release of it, he’s playing Free At Noon tomorrow. (Ben will also perform at the Phoenixville Blues Festival on Saturday.)

RSVP here for tomorrow’s show; if you can’t get to the performance, you can always listen to it over the radio or online. Here’s a new song from Ben’s album, which you’ll only be able to download today—so grab it now while you can. (Thanks to Ben for letting us give some of his new music away for free.)