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The Key Studio Sessions: Flat Mary Road

Philadelphia five-piece Flat Mary Road has been honing its craft for the better part of the past decade, from the warehouses of Fishtown and Kensington to the Victorian homes of West Philly, where most of its members currently reside. Helmed by singer-guitarist and songwriter Steve Teare, the band draws strongly on 80s college rock and 90s indie rock influences. You’ll hear traces of R.E.M., The Smiths and Camper Van Beethoven in their playing…not to mention Wilco, Built to Spill and Shearwater. Askew yet infectious guitar lines, emphatic vocals and observational lyrics, a bit of twang and touch of rock and roll fiddle from Pete Clark.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Louie Louie

How does one sing pop songs in times of despair? Let Philly’s Louie Louie be your guide. It was a rainy Wednesday in November the day the band rolled in to record its Key Studio Session. Not just any rainy Wednesday in November; it was the day after the 2016 presidential election, and there was an unsettled, uncertain stillness in the air.

To be perfectly honest, it was such a weird day that I wasn’t 100% sure that the retro rock four-piece was even going to show up as I arranged microphone stands and headphone amps around the studio. Ultimately, a knock at the door came, and upon answering, frontwoman Emily Robb seemed just as grateful to see me as I was to see the band; as she told me, they weren’t 100% sure that I would even be there. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Cuddle Magic

It’s hard to believe that Cuddle Magic has been a band for a decade at this point.

The Brooklyn / Philly crew is a conglomeration of artists from along the northeastern seaboard, over the years featuring members from Boston to DC. The band first got on our radar during West Philly’s heady Danger Danger Gallery days with its second record, Picture. It was one of the first artists I ever wrote about for The Key, actually, and at the time I called its music “a striking balance between earthy and ethereal.” I’d say that description still holds up.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Three Man Cannon

To be honest, I still can’t believe we got all four members of Three Man Cannon in the studio at the same time.

The Philly-based four piece — vets of the regional punk rock community — are busy, busy dudes. Singer-guitarist-keyboardist Matt Schimelfenig is a studio engineer by day (and night), and seems to always be working on someone or other’s records. Pat Brier drums plays in at least two other bands (8 and Queen Jesus) while Spenser Colmbs can sometimes be seen holding down the low end for Cherry, other times performing solo. As for guitarist Dennis Mishko, I’m not certain, but I believe TMC is his only project — so there’s that. But he also lives in Scranton.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Camp Candle

Philly duo Camp Candle caught our ear last year with ERE, which is a totally fun thing to say out loud. Really though, that’s the name of their debut, and its blend of body-moving beats, suave vocals and harmonized textures is entrancing. It calls to mind any number of forward-thinking, electropop-driven acts dotting the modern rock landscape these days, from the sleek guitar lines of The xx to the bold saxophone leads of M83 and the rhythmic grit of Phantogram. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Hello Shark

The past few years, the final Key Studio Session of December has been one for quiet contemplation — an echo of the headspace we all find ourselves in as we get ready to hang up a new calendar and promise ourselves that this will be our year. It may not always play out like we want it to. Things can change, external forces we don’t have any control over can muddle our goals up. But stepping from one year to the next with the right outlook, and attempting to maintain that outlook as the months pass, is crucial.

In the Philly scene this year, few did quiet contemplation quite like Hello Shark. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: A Day Without Love

Brian Walker has been feeling pretty positive lately. The Philly musician has made reflective music under the A Day Without Love banner for as long as we’ve been covering the scene here at The Key, and the project had several incarnations over the years. There was the acoustic, sensitive and Dashboard Confessional-esque early songs and shows meditating on heartbreak and sorrow. Then there was the anthemic power pop band circa 2013-14, showcased on the impressive Young Professionals EP, a collection with a sirplus of seize-the-day energy.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Rosali

Philadelphia’s Rosali Middleman debuted this year with an excellent collection of earnest, roots-tinged songwriting and contemporary folk. Released simply under her first name via local imprint Siltbreeze Records, Rosali‘s Out of Love hearkens back to the 70s singer-songwriter era of Joan Baez and Neil Young as much as it recalls more recent parallels — Lucinda Williams, or R.E.M. circa Out of Time. At the core of the music is Rosali’s engaging voice: confident, sublime, delivering observational stories of the fast-paced world around her and going inward for self-reflection. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Louds

For the past few years, Philly indie rock outfit Louds has craftily fused artful textures and atmospheres with infectious pop/rock sensibilities. Founded by brothers Charlie and Petie Brooks (guitars / vocals and keyboards, respectively) the band is fleshed out by Juston Stens on drums, Dan Henry on bass and Alejandro Giraldo Torres on guitar.

Their 2015 debut EP  If More People Bought Art More People Would Buy Art was solely a studio project of the Brooks Bros. that friends were brought in to bring to life onstage; since then, Louds’ studio work has turned into a lively full-band collaboration. Petie describes it as a middle ground between synth-pop and more organic 60s and 70s tinged rock and roll — I hear pieces of aughties faves Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Broken Social Scene, and MGMT, and well as flourishes of New Order and The Feelies. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Mannequin Pussy

It’s certainly not inaccurate to call Philly’s Mannequin Pussy a punk band. We’ve described them that way quite a bit, and given the revved up guitars, vocal howls and minute-and-a-half songs that make this year’s Romantic such a gripping listen, it’s not entirely inaccurate. But sometimes “punk” can be a limiting bit of jargon, especially when used in the more puritanical sense — the definition that eschews ambitious production, or nuanced songwriting, or any kind of artistic complexity.

And complexity, no doubt, is compelling. It can be the dynamic tide of the album’s title track, or the interspersing of acoustic arrangements amid the fray. It can be frontwoman Marisa Dabice’s bold vocals that are as much of an emotional gut-punch on the tender melodies as they are on the visceral snarls. So in that regard, I would say that Mannequin Pussy are absolutely not punk, and all the better for it. Continue reading →

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