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The Key Studio Sessions: Mars Parker

Philly’s Mars Parker came on our radar relatively recently, back when he opened for Camp Candle at Boot And Saddle in October.  But in the grander scheme of things, we’re a little late to the party — Mars has been active in the Soundcloud zone for a few years now, releasing singles, EPs and full-length mixtapes that explore a variety of sounds and approaches to this thing we call hip-hop.

His latest, Mars Museum 3, finds its focus in a surrealistic tapestry of tripped-out jazzy production and warm melodies that strike a the balance between bars that spit and bars that sing. It’s a comfortable flex zone inhabited by luminaries like the Grammy champ Chance the Rapper, party rocker Future, and local celeb PnB Rock. Mars has the style and charisma to sit alongside those names in due time, and he showed his skills off for us in this week’s Key Studio Session. Continue reading →

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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: Ju-Taun

Philly rock six-piece Ju-Taun has roots that stretch back to childhood. Brothers Jake and James Evans learned to sing from their father, who schooled them on the classic harmonies of soul and Motown. In the late 90s, their friend Samoeun Cheng joined them for a high school competition, and some variation on the band has been in in place ever since. Continue reading →

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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 →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head