Unlocked: The Key’s review of Soft Fall by Sun Airway

The impressive aesthetic is one thing. But a more important trait, perhaps, would be the groove, the beat, the ability to make listeners move and feel and really respond. On its sophomore album Soft Fall, Philly electronic pop outfit Sun Airway achieves both.

The album, released yesterday on Dead Oceans, opens with a placid, pulsating synthesizer note that swells and hums, building up alongside a gradual spectral beat. The minute-long scene-setter – one of three “Activity” interludes across the record – then launches fearlessly into lead single “Close,” and the song’s fierce snare drum hits and shaker percussion carry us away. This dramatic entrance is a contrast to the way their 2010 debut Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier began; a supernova of chimes, echo and mystical reverberations on the song “Infinity.” Also kind of dramatic, sure, but that gauzy dream-like vibe never quite let down – it was the sound of that album. So even when songs like “The American West” and “Put The Days” away were, underneath the clouds, kind of upbeat, it was hard to really feel it. On Soft Fall, the fog has lifted and Jon Barthmus is standing there with his musical collaborators, energized, invigorated, ready to go. Continue reading →


Unlocked: Download Sun Airway’s “Close” from the new Soft Fall

Tomorrow, Philly-born electronic pop outfit Sun Airway releases its second album, Soft Fall, on Indiana-based indie label Dead Oceans. The album is a sonic leap forward for the band, carrying a pulse and urgency that its 2010 debut Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier only hinted at. But this isn’t a reinvented Sun Airway, but a refined one – band leader Jon Barthmus and his crew of collaborators continue to explore dreamy, blissed-out atmospheres and sonic territories, but this time its been shaped by two years of ideas and experiences. I’m excited to dig into the album this week on Unlocked, The Key’s regular spotlight on new and significant releases from Philadelphia artists. Tomorrow, I’ll review Soft Fall; later in the week, we’ll discuss the album with Barthmus, and explore its video and design components. Today, to set the scene, we’re spotlighting the song “Close.” This was the first single we heard over the summer, and it still feels like the song rushes right out in front of you at a vigorous, exciting pace. Thanks to the band, we’re making it a free download for the next 24 hours, so grab your mp3 below, and check back later in the week for more on Soft Fall. UPDATE: 24 hours are up! Listen to the song in the YouTube player you see below, and stream Soft Fall in its entirety at MTV Hive.


Stream Sun Airway’s Soft Fall now via MTV Hive (playing Making Time on 10/5)

Photo by Shawn Brackbill |
MTV Hive is now streaming Soft Fall, the new album from Philadelphia indie group Sun Airway, who just performed at one of our own Free at Noon shows last Friday. Read MTV’s full interview with singer Jon Barthmus and stream the album here. The band performs next Friday, October 5, at Making Time’s $2 Bill show; tickets and information on that show are available here. Look for more next week when we feature Soft Fall on The Key’s featured album spotlight, Unlocked.


Listen to “Black Noise,” a new track from Sun Airway (playing Making Time’s $2 Bill show on 10/5)

Philadelphia electronic rock act Sun Airway releases its excellent sophomore album Soft Fall next Tuesday. It’s rich in atmospheric textures and driving rhythms, and we’ll be digging into it with you all week on Unlocked, The Key’s recurring spotlight on new and significant releases from Philadelphia artists. That series starts on Monday, but today, we’ve got a brand new track from the band. Listen to the symphonic pop of “Black Noise” via Soundcloud here, and get more information on the band’s upcoming appearance at the Making Time $2 Bill show on October 5 here.


Download Digest: This week’s best free music, incl. Matthew E. White, Family Band, Sun Airway

Photo by Shawn Brackbill

Here at The Key, we toss a fair heaping of free downloads your way, so it’s completely understandable if you miss a few. Here are our top five bits of digital music from the past week:

Richmond, Virginia musician Matthew E. White is releasing his album Big Inner on Hometapes/Spacebomb Records on August 21st, and plays the TLA on Oct. 11 with The Mountain Goats. This week, his song “Big Love” was a My Morning Download, and you can get it below.

On the heels of making an XPoFest splash a couple weeks ago (and tearing up The Barbary last week), Work Drugs released another track for free download from their album Absolute Bearing. Download “The Art of Progress” below – the band says it was “originally written in 1994 as a response to U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signing the Kremlin accords.” You can also watch the music video here; Work Drugs next plays Philadelphia on Aug. 31 at Johnny Brenda’s.

Family Band celebrated the release of its excellent new record Grace and Lies this week by playing the First Unitarian Church’s side chapel, recording a Live at the World Cafe session and appearing live on the air for XPN2’s Folkadelphia. You can download their Folkadelphia performance of “Ride” below.

Northern Liberties’ 2nd Street Festival is going on today, and one of the great Philly bands playing the main stage at the Pizza at Schmidt’s is The Great Unknown, who were spotlighted in last week’s Key Studio Session. Download their performance of “Borrowed and Temporary” below, and catch them this afternoon at 4:15.

As anticipation for their new record Soft Fall builds, Sun Airway released a mixtape on Wednesday that blends Bartok, Boards of Canada and The Chemical Brothers.


Download a new mixtape from Sun Airway (new album, Soft Fall, out Oct. 2)

Photo by Shawn Brackbill |
Sun Airway‘s music has always had a sense of audio collage to it; chamber string sections peek out like sunbursts, snippets of early electronic music swish and swirl, psychedelic rock rumbles underneath. In a mixtape the band released to Soundcloud as a free download today, the camera zooms out just a bit. Instead of hearing everything simultaneously, I Need You Close presents canopy of John Barthmus’ influences and contemporaries in a more structured 25-minute flow. In it, we hear Béla Bartok and Boards of Canada, The Chemical Brothers and David Bowie. Give it a listen:

Sun Airway also announced a string of dates with M83 today; there’s no hometown appearance among them, but we anticipate there will be a local blowout sometime around Soft Fall‘s release on Dead Oceans Records on Oct. 2. Meanwhile, you can check out the track list for I Need You Close below. Continue reading →


Sun Airway premier a new single, “Close” (new album, Soft Fall, out Oct. 2)

Photo by Shawn Brackbill |
Philly electronic pop band Sun Airway today announced their second full-length album, Soft Fall, due out on Dead Oceans Records on Oct. 2, and gave listeners a teaser of the record with its new single, “Close.” The song is skittery and punchy, with a bright wall of sound, synthesizer melodies reminiscent of New Order and a short n’ sweet guitar solo at the 2:45 mark. Listen to the song below, and stay tuned to The Key for more news on the album as we get it.

Soft Fall tracklisting

1. Activity 1
2. Close
3. New Movements
4. Activity 2
5. Wild Palms
6. Laketop Swimmers
7. Soft Fall
8. Black Noise
9. Symphony in White No. 2
10. Activity 3
11. Over My Head