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The Key Studio Sessions: Little Strike

Born in the Middle East, schooled in Miami, inspired in East Asia and settled in Philadelphia, Tamar Dart is nothing if not well-traveled. You can hear that worldliness reflected in her electronic pop project Little Strike. After a nomadic year spent exploring and producing video work in China, Nepal and Thailand, Dart began channeling her creativity into music. The resulting Forever Always Leaving EP not only has a title that could be a mission statement of the universal wanderer, it sounds like Dart pulled rhythms and melodies from different corners of the world and fused them into something altogether new. Soweto guitar stylings, bhangra rhythms, a dubstep sense of bass versus beats. Those references may be entirely different from what Dart is going for, mind you – it’s totally my read on a very nuanced and exciting blend. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Hemming

If you’ve been paying attention to the Philly music scene for a few years, the voice behind emerging local act Hemming will sound rather familiar to you. Candice Martello is the expressive singer and songwriter at the helm here, and she caught our ear in the DIY punk duo Omar back in 2010. Last year, Omar landed on VH1′s Make or Break: The Linda Perry Project, but it was Martello’s more personal, introspective solo songwriting that caught the host’s ear and landed her a record contract with Perry’s label, Custard Records. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Kuf Knotz and Patrick Donovan

Kuf Knotz | Photo by Will Toms
Kuf Knotz | Photo by Will Toms

Collaboration is the name of the game in this week’s Key Studio Session. For starters, it was our first collaboration with RECPhilly, the music community outreach arm of the emergent Recollective Records and the evolution of local promoters Broad Street Music Group. They were in the middle of their 30 for 30 free concert series during the month of April, and approached us about hosting a studio concert.

The stars aligned that Philly rapper Kuf Knotz, who just released his second solo LP A Positive Light, was slated to come in to record that month, and he is no stranger to playing to an audience of fans in our studio. With Kufie’s blessing, we opened his set up to a small crowd and paired him up with Patrick Donovan, a local dude with a soulful voice and a bunch of great pop songs in his back pocket. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Nathan Earl and Rachel Joy

When he stepped into our studio to record this week’s Key Session, Nathan Allebach of Nathan Earl and Rachel Joy was wearing a City and Colour shirt. It was sort of a way of presaging what we were about to hear; delicate melodies and emotive vocals blending with a range of arrangements. Mellow and rootsy folk one moment gave way to to gutsy explosive rock the next, in the best imaginable way. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Grandchildren

When The Key launched just about five years ago, we had our sights pretty strongly locked on the West Philly avant-pop six-piece Grandchildren. They were the fearless sonic adventurers of Baltimore Avenue, a band that blended the audio collage sensibilities of Animal Collective with the live intensity of a really tight punk band. We’ve checked in several times in the years since, at shows, at SXSW and when they followed up their debut LP Everlasting with an excellent EP called The Golden Age.

But things have been a little quiet over in camp Grandchildren for a little while now, so we’re extremely psyched to have them breaking the silence this week with a Key Studio Sessions performance of two brand new songs, along with the first news about their third record and a show where you can hear the entire thing live. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Burgeoning

The Burgeoning | Photo by Brant Fuller
The Burgeoning | Photo by Brant Fuller

Philly four-piece The Burgeoning has one leg firmly planted in the indie-dance nightclubs of the Making Time set, while the other one reaches ambitiously for the poppy world of arena rock. The band caught our ear last year with their debut single “Lighthouse” and a solid sonic recipe: tight playing, unique arrangements and big, big hooks. Quick points of reference would be Real Estate and Bastille. Since releasing their Love Alchemy, Life Algorithm EP, the band has been going hard on the Philly live music circuit, honing their craft, sharpening their form and whipping up an on-point cover of “Message In a Bottle” by The Police.

The cover appears in the band’s Key Studio Session, and as you’ll hear, it’s practically custom designed for frontman Logan Thierjung’s elastic voice. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Church Girls

Church Girls jumps out from the bustling crop of new indie rock bands emerging on the Philly scene this year, and there are a few reasons why. One, there’s no artifice about them – they play hooky rock songs with memorable melodies and solid playing. No fuss, no muss, no bullshit. There’s also singer and songwriter Mariel Beaumont’s voice, which is just effortlessly awesome, and it blends well with her songwriting style – as I described it in the past, “personal, honest and direct…a bit singer-songwriter but with a cutting punk edge.”  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Mercury Radio Theater

If you’re a fan of Orson Welles and 1930s Hollywood, you’ll appreciate Philly’s Mercury Radio Theater for their name. If you’re a fan of adventurous music – gypsy punk, theatrical klezmer and general exotica – you’ll dig how they sound too.

The band has been kicking around the Philly scene for the past 15 years under the leadership of Buddy Mercury and his eight bandmates, who weird sax, horns, vibes and accordion in addition to the standard guitar-bass-drums. In the past, their music has covered dystopian sci-fi themes. The currently-in-progress Fabulous Red Menace is themed around Eastern European propaganda set in an American context. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: RFA

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RFA | Photo by Jeremy Quattlebaum

Last April while combing through the Philly bands on Bandcamp – as we do from time to time at The Key – we came across a new four-piece with the kinda silly name Really Fast Automobiles (RFA for short). The raw and retro Just Don’t Turn The Lights On EP impressed us, and after writing it up, we noticed they had some gigs around town at The Balcony and in the Temple University house show community. This led me to believe that the band was a group of Temple students or recent grads, and their spot-on set at last year’s Beta Hi-Fi competition further confirmed this suspicion. This was not, however, the case. Continue reading →

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Download The Key Studio Sessions Volume 13 (featuring Bardo Pond, Girlpool, Moosh & Twist and more)

The Key Studio Sessions Volume 13
Photo by Ola Baldych | facebook.com/ola.baldych

I don’t want to gush. But I’d be lying if I said that this latest collection of performances from The Key Studio Sessions wasn’t special to me.

In the past four months, I’ve recorded one of my favorite Philadelphia bands of the past 20 years – shamanistic psychedelic rock masters Bardo Pond, whose performance was a thrill – as well as one of my favorite new Philadelphia bands – the brilliant duo Girlpool, transported locally from LA this winter with a unique sound and an incredible collection of songs in tow. I also recorded a local guitar icon whose work I’ve admired since I first began covering the scene for City Paper 15 years ago, Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, doing a set of his raga-influenced compositions on the 22-stringed chaturangui. (Brenner also sat in on lap steel with folk outfit Kicking Down Doors.)

And that’s only the beginning. Continue reading →