By

The Key Studio Sessions: Porter & Sayles

Christian Porter and Regina Sayles have been friends and musical collaborators for over a decade, and two summers ago, the Stroudsburg singer-songwriter duo released their debut album of songs that straddle the worlds of poppy folk and contemporary country. They’re a little bit Civil Wars, a little bit Lady Antebellum, and their self-titled record caught the ear of XPN midday host Helen Leicht, who connected with the moving contemplation of “This Guitar,” a yearning ballad about balancing the conflicting passions of one’s music and one’s relationships.

This summer, Porter & Sayles returns with its latest single since that record, following up on the spring release “#IAmOne.” It’s a revved up country ripper and unofficial Pocono Speedway anthem “Buckled Up In Drive,” which the duo played acoustically for us during their Key Studio Session. In the set, you’ll also hear “Country,” which reflects on the universality of their preferred form of American music — even for folks who don’t come from down south — as well as “You Had Me From Hello,” a jangling pop tune about first impressions. Continue reading →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: Anthony Green

It seems like there’s a fountain of wisdom coming from Anthony Green these days. Maybe it’s his hard-won sobriety and the introspection that comes with battling depression. Maybe it’s the fact that he just came off of a tour that simultaneously looked back and looked ahead, celebrating the 10th anniversary of his solo debut Avalon as well as his latest record, Would You Still Be In Love, released last month on Memory Music. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s fully embraced his role as a rock and roll dad — as anybody who follows him on social media will tell you, this dude clearly loves the heck out of his kids.

But as Green played songs from the new record in a breathtaking, intimate solo acoustic session at WXPN Studios recently, it felt at points like he was letting those experiences had and knowledge obtained over his 36 years creep into the room through his striking tenor voice. Continue reading →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: Career Crooks

I feel like “ravenous” is a solid adjective to use when talking about Philly rapper Zilla Rocca. Ravenous consumer of popular culture. Ravenous collector of hip-hop records and trivia tidbits. Can somebody ravenously rock the mic? I don’t know, but if it’s possible, he can do it.

He’s been kicking around the scene as long as The Key has been around, in various permutations of his Wrecking Crew collective: their hard-boiled 5 O’Clock Shadowboxers, his production and hype man work alongside Curly Castro, and his solo noir-hop outings. His latest is called Career Crooks, and it finds him teaming up with Small Professor for moody throwbacks to the late 80s and early 90s NYC scene; textural ref points include Nas, Mobb Deep, and 36 Chambers-era Wu-Tang (the semi-official Beatles of the Wrecking Crew), while Zilla’s gravelly flow recalls a bit of Action Bronson and Slick Rick.

Continue reading →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: Ode To Omni

“The only thing that helped me was Jesus,” says drummer Marcus Meyers as he introduces the song “Anchors.” “And I know when you bring that name up, it can kind of get weird today. Maybe it’s the perception or the lens that we’re looking at him with.”

While spirituality is an undeniable undercurrent of his genre-spanning ensemble Ode to Omni, which returns to the stage at World Cafe Live tonight, Meyers is admittedly not self-righteous about his faith — acknowledging through that description that, perhaps, the idea of confrontational Christianity (which is a thing that definitely exists in the world of 2018) is part of that aforementioned lens.

But that’s not what he is all about; Meyers is more apt to use his songs meditate on mental health and self-care, acknowledging our weaknesses and finding sources of strength where we are able. His beliefs inform his life, his life informs his music, and as they perform pieces about self-improvement and empowerment for The Key Studio Sessions, he and his collaborators proved to be anything but one-dimensional. Continue reading →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: Rosie Langabeer and the BalletX Players

Experimental Philadelphia composer Rosie Langabeer is no stranger to ballet. She’s previously worked composing dreamlike scores and immersive soundscapes for Philadelphia contemporary dance company BalletX on 2016’s Sunset, 0639 Hours and on 2011’s Proliferation of the Imagination.

Likewise, BalletX is no stranger to doing interesting and unusual things with music; the’ve performed dance pieces based around the songs of Beirut and Amy Winehouse, and for their 10th anniversary, they did a retrospective of their greatest hits — dances to Rufus and Chaka Khan, to Joanna Newsom, to Ólafur Arnalds, to Bach and Handel.

For BalletX’s Summer Series, opening tonight at the Wilma Theater on South Broad Street, Langabeer once again joins forces with the dance company, working with choreographer Penny Saunders to create a score that broods with intensity and blisses out to heavenly pop. The piece, Rock-a-Bye, “explores transience and permanence, destiny and free will,” and Langabeer translates that into sound with the help of Tara Middleton of Sun Ra Arkestra and Gregg Mervine of West Philadelphia Orchestra.

We had Langabeer and the BalletX players in the WXPN studio this week to get a rare glimpse at the artists on the other side of a dance production. Continue reading →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: Lovelorn

There’s always been an element of chaos to the three lifelong friends in Philly’s Lovelorn. It followed them all across their long running heavy psych punk outfit Creepoid, from brawls to arrests; for a survey of the more legendary incidents involving that band, check out this retrospective by Megan Matuzak, written prior to their farewell show in February.

With that kind of lineage, it couldn’t be more appropriate that a fire alarm went off during Lovelorn’s first-ever radio performance at WXPN. Continue reading →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: Trap Rabbit

A couple years back, renowned jazz trumpeter Christian Scott introduced the concept of “stretch music” in his album of the same name. The idea was one not of total re-invention or boundary-smashing, but rather of taking one’s creative vocabulary and stretching it to include as much style and range as possible, incorporating uncommon influences while remaining true to one’s musical roots.

Philly duo Trap Rabbit could easily qualify as stretch music for the local scene…though they might prefer their own category of “weirdo beat rock.” Indeed, Arjun Dube’s complex drumbeats are prominently present in the band’s work, propping up and goading on Logan Roth’s expressionistic keyboard playing. Continue reading →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: Dominic Angelella

There was a time that, whenever I’d write about Philly singer-guitarist-multi-instrumentalist Dominic Angelella, I’d begin by launching into a litany of local and national acts he’s been involved with over the past ten or twelve years. I’m not going to do that here — at this point, there are too many of them. And beyond being an exceptionally busy person in the supporting cast of other local and national bands, Angelella is a tremendous songwriter in his own right, and this spring he blessed us with a whole new batch of tunes. Continue reading →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: &More

It started as a one-off collaboration. Philly singer-songwriter and author Donn T. was working on a new single called “Clear,” a musical companion to her short story “Time to Soar,” and she needed a rapper to provide a counterpoint to her simmering vocal. Enter Chill Moody, veteran West Philadelphia MC who’s been kicking out some serious jams since 2010. Working together on the cut felt effortless and natural for them — not unexpectedly so, as both artists have spent years cultivating their personal brands, building up their fan bases and running their own record labels. They’re stylistically different, but nevertheless simpatico, and as soon as the track was done, &More was born.   Continue reading →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: The Retinas

As Philly indie rock trio The Retinas roared from their song “Checked Out” into “Dissatisfaction” in WXPN studios, I turned to my coworker Mike Vasilikos and said “I keep expecting them to launch into a Pixies song.”

That is not, I should note, a diss of any kind. Yes, these Philly gents wear their influences proudly on their sleeve, and yes there was a bit of a “Wave Of Mutilation”-ness to that one-two punch on the opening. But they sound great doing so, and what The Retinas bring to the table is an energy and chemistry that’s simply intoxicating to watch. Continue reading →