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The Key Studio Sessions: Dark Blue

While setting up for his Key Studio Session, John Sharkey III of Dark Blue remarked that he’d just revisited some of his old Psychedelic Furs records. “People keep comparing my voice to Richard Butler, so I figured I should listen,” he said. “Man. They wrote some fantastic songs.” While it might be a stretch to call Dark Blue a direct descendent of the Furs – or any post punk band specific, despite what your Joy Division meter might be telling you – one commonality they share is placing mood and ambiance at an equal level of importance as tight songwriting. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: You Do You

As I was saying yesterday, funky Philly five-piece You Do You are true party rockers. I don’t necessarily mean that in the LMFAO sense, but it’s not too far off, in that these eclectic music heads from Pennsport take a wide assortment of sounds and styles – from disco to jam rock – mix them in the proverbial blender set to puree and cut the results with a healthy dose of Sly Fox. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: No Stranger

I first caught Jonathan Cooney onstage in the basement of the First Unitarian Church in the spring, performing a set as No Stranger at one of music / education nonprofit The Quarterly’s fundraising showcases. It seemed, in a peculiar way, like I’d been transported to a Church show some ten or fifteen years earlier. Cooney’s style – intricate, acrobatic guitar playing with soaring and emotive vocals – is firmly rooted in the emo / acoustic era of the early thousands, stuff like Jonah Matranga, The Weakerthans, Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes and so on. It’s bittersweet, sensitive, contemplative and totally engaging. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Mumblr

There’s a distinct feeling of raw energy on Full of Snakes, the debut LP from Philly fuzz-punk four-piece Mumblr. That’s the sound of a band that doesn’t overthink things when it’s recording, that doesn’t get lost in assembling its songs from pieces of pristine takes; it’s the sound of a band that kicks ass live first, makes great records second. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Son Little

One of the first things you’re likely to hear about Philly’s Son Little is its pedigree. The trio is primarily the songwriting project of singer-guitarist Aaron Livingston, who in the past has collaborated with The Roots and RJD2. Musical adventurers both, for certain, but those names as a point of reference doesn’t really clue you in to how expressive and eclectic his own songwriting is. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Dirty Dollhouse

I was hungover the first time I saw Dirty Dollhouse, but thankfully, so were they. It was a Saturday afternoon this spring, I had been out late at a show the night before. Sluggish and disoriented, I made my way to Bucks County’s East Coast Recording with my buddy Dan McGurk from Root Down in the Shadow to watch singer-songwriters Chelsea Mitchell, Amber Twait and Vanessa Winters perform during the studio’s short-lived afternoon concert series; one of the first things Mitchell did was apologize if they sounded off, as the band was also reeling from a whiskey and beer-fueled photo shoot, and were fending off colds to boot. Nonsense: they sounded remarkable, and their resounding Nashville-style harmonies worked wonders on my throbbing head. It was one of those rare perfect musical afternoons, and as the setlist wound into a country-folk spin on Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag,” I found myself an instantly-converted fan. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Thee, Idea Men

Call ‘em blues, garage or modern, Philly’s Thee, Idea Men are a tight and infectious rock four-piece. Emerging in 2012 from the Drexel University scene that also gave us Lucy Stone and W.C. Lindsay, the band’s rumbling Stratocaster overdrive (guided by frontman Matt Jurasek and lead guitarist Matt Raspanti) was in top form on their 2012 release New Level Shoes. Recorded with Tommy Joyner at MilkBoy and released in May, the album sits nicely alongside festival scene favorites J Roddy Walston & The Business and The Weeks, reviving a classic American music style in a contemporary setting. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Sëla

Ten years ago a group of talented young musicians with a common goal to push the boundaries of hip-hop met as students at the University of the Arts. Emcee Mike King, emcee/producer David Little and pianist/vocalist/producer Margel ‘theSophant’ Overton are the driving force behind Sëla, and their style has always been forward-looking. Their self-titled debut EP, released digitally in 2009 after years of performing and learning studio craft, was instantly infectious, particularly the ultra-modern beats on “Pedal To The Side” and the anthemic “Pump Ya Fist.” Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Sugar Tongue Slim

It’s very fitting that the words “Poet Laureate” are tattooed on Sugar Tongue Slim‘s neck. The charismatic Philly rapper has a way with words, a gift of gab, and it plays tremendously into his music and his persona. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Kalob Griffin Band

Yesterday, we came across a YouTube video of a Philadelphia television newscast circa 1979, profiling The Grateful Dead and their fans during a performance at The Spectrum, and there seemed to be a common refrain. This was music that made its audiences feel good. These were songs that tugged at your heartstrings, had bittersweet moments, but ultimately uplifted listeners into a positive space. I don’t bring this up to reductively infer that the Dead and this week’s Key Studio Session featured artist, Kalob Griffin Band, necessarily sound alike – though there is an undeniably 60s influence on their very “I Shall Be Released”-esque ballad “A Song For You” that closes the set. Instead, I mention it because of the effect each band has on its audience. Continue reading →