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The Key Studio Sessions: Cold Roses

It’s both a blessing and a curse: the more a band adheres to a time-tested, tried-and-true rock n’ roll sound, the harder it can sometimes be for that band to stand out from the pack. But even in a city with as robust a blues / Americana scene as Philly, Cold Roses makes an impact.

Here’s how: killer arrangements punctuated by a punchy horn section. Hooks for days. Direct, heartfelt songwriting by frontman Rob Clancy. The term “Springsteenian” would not be inappropriate in this circumstance, especially on “No Silence in the City,” the title track from its 2014 debut LP. Though if you couldn’t pick it up by their band name, Ryan Adams is also a huge reference point for Clancy and co., and you can hear traces of him in the new “Stayin’ Alive Ain’t Easy,” one of a handful of songs the band debuted during its Key Studio Session this week.

Stream and download the set below, and catch Cold Roses during one of its shows this spring: May 1st at Bourbon and Branch, May 16th opening for Breaking Benjamin at Wells Fargo Center and May 22nd at Connie’s Ric Rac. Tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Good Girl

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

It doesn’t take long to get hooked on infectious Philly R&B group Good Girl; I’d say about 60 seconds into their 2014 mixtape 90s Kinda Love was about all I needed. As somebody who grew up in the 90s, this charismatic four-piece captures everything that was great about TLC, Destiny’s Child, En Vogue, Janet Jackson…all those feel-good pop jams that soundtracked our bus rides and school dances. But as much as the ladies - Morgan, Megan, Arielle and Courtney – play off of this sense of nostalgia, you don’t need to be pushing 40 to appreciate what they’re doing. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Halfro

Photos by Dan Lidon | danlidon.com

A year ago when The Key’s Sameer Rao first introduced us to Philadelphia five-piece Halfro, he said that “comparing [the band] to its most obvious progenitor would be way too simple.” And while I do agree with his sentiment, not making that connection between this homegrown jazzy / funky hip-hop live band and The Roots leaves out a big part of their story. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Agudos Clef

Back in the fall, I was a presenting host in the city’s PHL Live music competition, and it led me one October night to Hard Rock Cafe where the finalists World Music category were set to take the stage. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go: “world music” is a broad term that can include anything from African highlife to Indian raga, eastern European klezmer to Jamacian reggae. I was nervous that my frame of musical reference (centered largely around Western pop/rock) was too narrow to do a good job at this gig.

Thankfully, my fears were for nothing. All the artists on the bill blew me away in one way or another, and though The Underwater Sounds (who we’ve been longtime fans of here at The Key) took home top honors, for me the standout set came from a new Latin hip-hop group called Agudos Clef. Based out of Trenton, this six-piece brought an unbelievable energy to the room – driving beats, a fierce delivery, undeniable charisma. They played an explosive 20-minute set that left me immediately wanting more, so in the days that followed, I tracked down their Bandcamp single “Monotonia” and invited them to our studio to record. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Brielle

Photos by Reji B. | rejibphotography.com

Singer, songwriter, composer, flautist: Philadelphia’s Brielle has a lot going on. In the same way that she plays a multifaceted role in making music, her sound is equally tricky to pin down. It’s got roots in R&B, but there is an undeniable experimental / psychedelic sheen on her 2014 EP The Rough Break-up. She raps verses and brings in guest MCs like fellow Philadelphian Thelonius, but calling it hip-hop isn’t entirely correct. When she plays live, her backing band – which, for this week’s Key Studio Session, was nine pieces – moves deftly between slick and smooth soul to amped-up funk rock. And then there are the bits of jazz that get folded in: trippy Bitches Brew-esque sax, emphatic trumpet and Brielle’s own breathtaking flute melodies.

In short: her’s is a heady, engrossing sonic blend, and hearing its growth from her initial recordings has been a treat.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Hoppin John Orchestra

Philly-area jazz ensemble The Hoppin John Orchestra has been doing its thing for nearly 20 years now, and it has a songbook to prove it. With over 200 selections in its repertoire – amassed by band leader Michael Hood since founding the ten-piece in 1996 – the HJO touches on vintage standards and original compositions in the spirit of Southern ragtime and New Orleans brass band music. Which means this time of year is the band’s busy season. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Bardo Pond

The longer they’re at it, the louder they get. Philadelphia psychedelic mainstays Bardo Pond have been a band for more than two decades at this point. Following an early handful of limited run 7″ singles, their proper debut Bufo Alvarius Amen 29:15 was released in 1995. Those numbers at the end of the album title? That was the running time of the closing track, and it was an epic game-changer. By the end of that year, the band had signed to Matador Records and were opening for Sonic Youth at the Electric Factory.

Over the ensuing years, Bardo Pond released immersive, gripping records at a steady clip. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: OCD: Moosh & Twist

It wasn’t all that long ago that DeQuincy “Moosh” Coleman McRae and Oliver “Twist” Feighan were Haverford High School kids matching up beats with their rhymes and envisioning one day when they’d be rocking massive crowds with their party-positive jams. In just about five years, OCD: Moosh & Twist has grown from being an after school hobby of two dudes who have been friends since sixth grade to becoming their legit careers. They’ve put out a string of well-received mixtapes - The Welcome Mat in 2011, The Vestibule in 2012, and Back to the Basement in 2013 – and last year dropped their first official album, Living Out Loud. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Suburban Living

When he was living in Virginia Beach back in 2011, Wesley Bunch spent a lot of his free time writing and recording songs for a bedroom pop project he dubbed Suburban Living.  It yielded a couple releases: the Twin Peaks-referencing Cooper’s Dream EP in 2012 and the Always Eyes 7″ in 2013. And though some light touring and appearances at CMJ resulted, Bunch wanted more. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Kicking Down Doors

In many ways, Philly-area country folk combo Kicking Down Doors got together by accident. Singer / lyricist Autumn Walden came across singer-guitarist Ernie Tokay at his Little Spiders Have Big Dreams Studio in Chester County; before they’d even known each other for a day, they’d already written a song together. The two musicians clicked so readily and had such a productive streak of writing music together that the project quickly became a functioning band; first a trio with bassist Michelle Lynn, and later a five-piece with Josh Steingard on drums and Stacy Weathers on banjo. Continue reading →