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The Key Studio Sessions: Matt Cappy

Local trumpeter Matt Cappy is full of loving references to his native New Jersey. Just look at the song titles that he and his band played for their Key Studio Session: “856,” for the area code. “Rose Lane,” for a street he grew up on in Berlin, NJ. “East Philly,” regional slang for Camden County.

But as much as Cappy makes it clear where his roots run, he’s Philly through and through. The University of the Arts-schooled jazz player gigged at the now-defunt Wilamena’s back in the day, blew horns in late 90s ska staples The Freakin’ Cads and has played on and off with Jill Scott since her band went by the name Fatback Taffy.

Last year, Cappy released his long-in-the-works debut solo album, Church and State, and it sees him flexing his sound and style both inside and outside the jazz spectrum. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Aleana

When we first encountered Philly’s Aleana, it was her voice that grabbed our attention.

Teamed with Philly rapper / crooner Mars Parker as a backing vocalist on his Key Studio Session, she gave the performance what I described at the time as “a stunning, introspective counterpoint.” Now I’m not saying she straight up stole the show, but she definitely stood out with that performance, and we put Aleana on our radar here at The Key to see what came next. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Grace Vonderkuhn

Singer-guitarist Grace Vonderkuhn has been making weird and wild rock music out of her home city of Wilmington for a hot minute, and 2018 is poised to be a breakout year for her.

Her latest full-length, Reveries, is on the way via EggHunt Records, and it’s already attracted attention from tastemakers at GoldFlakePaint (which premiered the undeniable rager “Worry” back in December), NPR Music (which recently included “Bad Habits” on their All Songs Considered podcast) and The Grey Estates (which just yesterday unleashed the cosmic “Cellophane” into the world).

So, what’s different this time around that Vonderkuhn is getting all this love? Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Workhorse III

As long as I’ve been covering the Philly music scene, Lisa Lyne Flynn has been a fixture in it. Whether it was fronting the 90s rock power trio Lisa Christ Superstar — where she sang and shredded on lead guitar, Led Zep style — or booking gigs at The Trocadero, or collaborating with Sara Sherr on her amazing run of Sugar Town parties highlighting women in the independent music scene, Flynn was seemingly everywhere for a while.

Over time, the divide between real-world needs and the instability of the rock and roll life came to a point of reckoning, and she got a regular 9 to 5, but kept music a constant part of her life. Enter Workhorse III, which is Flynn’s primary musical squeeze these days. Alongside her husband Eric Perfect on drums and Steve McCarthy on bass, the band has raged across three records of grunge / punk anthems for the past decade; their most recent album, Closer to Relevance, was released just over a year ago.

One of that album’s best songs opens Workhorse III’s Key Studio Session, and it’s pretty much a mission statement for Flynn circa 2018; she sings about getting older and not shaking her ways, about remaining inspired, about dreams that don’t fade. “How I hope it’s something wonderful that keeps me hangin’ on,” she wails on the hook. “How I hope it’s something wonderful and you’ll know me when I’m gone.” Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: AllegrA

An old friend once made an observation about Ani Di Franco’s classic live album Living In Clip that’s stuck with me for 20-odd years: you can hear it in Ani’s voice when she’s smiling.

Even when the songs are devastatingly tragic, or fuming with rage, listening to the record (or, honestly, Ani’s entire catalogue) is a total joy, because at the end of it all, there’s this warm beacon of hope staring down an uncompassionate world, this realistic optimist standing at the microphone and singing words they wrote that, for that moment anyway, have the ability to make them happy…and by extension, make others happy.

I don’t bring that up to necessarily align Philly’s Allegra Eidinger to Di Franco in a musical sense; yes, both are masters of the fretboard-tapping guitar licks like you hear in folkies Tim Reynolds and Kaki King (or twinkle emo bands like Cap’n Jazz and Marietta). But beyond that stylistic affect, AllegrA the band has a sound all its own; bits of classic 70s singer-songwriter music in a Janis Ian sort of way, an effervescent energy straight out of the basement show scene, and a singing voice more mellifluous and honest than many of the band’s peers.

That idea of hearing a smile, though. That’s something that Eidinger carries forward into their work, whether intentionally or subconsciously.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Queue

East coast modern rock four-piece Queue has had a wild ride of a 2017. Despite being geographically split between Philadelphia and Washington D.C., the band — a project of singer-songwriter Olivia J. Price and lead guitarist Aida Mekonnen, with bassist Matt Clinkscales and drummer Steve Vannelli filling out the rhythm section — finds time to rehearse weekly, play gigs on the regular…and when the stars align, go somewhat viral.

That’s what happened to their song “Frontier,” a high energy jam with entrancing vocal harmonies and an indelibly catchy guitar lead from Mekonnen zipping you across an anthem about escaping into the unknown. The song was released this spring, landed on Spotify’s coveted Fresh Finds playlist shortly thereafter, and is presently closing in on 60K spins — not too shabby.     Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Young Statues

South Jersey indie rock four piece Young Statues became something of a surprise hit about six years ago.

Led by songwriter Carmen Cirignano, the band started super casually; just a writing and recording project with friends at Haddon Heights hub Gradwell House Recording. Those sessions became their self titled debut, which was picked up by Boston label Run for Cover Records, and Young Statues was off to the races touring with Saves the Day and The Early November.

The band’s sound, undeniably indebted to Death Cab and The Promise Ring, played well with those crowds, but their tastes went beyond the emo canon. Their 2014 sophomore LP The Flatlands are Your Friend, explored darker and moodier sounds and textures, and a covers EP showcased a collective fondness for Billy Bragg, The Magnetic Fields and Ryan Adams. And then life came calling. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ryan Tennis

Somewhere, somehow, Ryan Tennis is probably playing music right now. The Philly singer-songwriter has logged quite a few frequent flyer miles this year, between his summer tour in Colombia and the autumn European run he just completed with percussionist Joseph Keim. Both excursions mixed up busking shows and venue performances, and we caught up with Tennis and his band in the between-time this fall when he and his full band were home in Philly. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Killiam Shakespeare

Over the past few years, Philadelphia’s Killiam Shakespeare has become known for its nimble incorporation of sick beats and space age instrumental sprawl with skilled under-the-radar rappers and singers from all around the Philly scene. In that context, this five-piece sounds like a production unit cranking out some seriously left-of-center beats and backings for the next generation of local hip-hop and R&B (not to mention legends — they had a Freeway collab on last year’s Killiam Season1). But take away the voices, and just listen to the music — like we hear in this week’s Key Studio Session — and it becomes something else altogether.   Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Kingsley Ibeneche

When we first met Kingsley Ibeneche, he was dancing.

More specifically, he was onstage backing Kate Faust and her sensual electronic rock with impressive poise and fluid motion. The Camden artist, who studied ballet at University of the Arts and spent a few years after school practicing modern dance in Germany, has always been an interpreter of music, the vehicle that a current of music sets into motion. But the more time he spent around it, the more he began to absorb and incorporate music directly into his practice. This year, Ibeneche debuted with CHi, an eclectic EP that serves as a fine introduction to him as a singer and songwriter, an interdisciplinary artist. Continue reading →