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The Key Studio Sessions: ROMP

New Jersey indie punk four-piece ROMP is a bundle of energy. Which makes sense, considering they hail from the same geographical region that gave us Screaming Females, The Front Bottoms and Pinegrove. But for this band, which just released its debut LP Departure from Venus on Bad Timing Records, success stems from a variety of moving parts.

The fierce hard rock drumming of Mike Linardi blends with frontwoman Madison Klarer’s infectious pop hooks and vocal melodies. Her focused keyboard playing lends a dulcet compliment to Lucas Dalakian’s unhinged, jagged guitar riffage, while Chris Beninato’s bass holds the pieces together. In short, each part of the puzzle is integral, which is why the band’s profile has shot upward over the past six months. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ben Kessler

Philly-area singer-songwriter Ben Kessler has been on our radar for a couple years now, which is crazy when you consider he has yet to graduate high school. But he’s been at it since he was 14, with a smooth vocal style and a sturdy knack for writing 70s-influenced pop songs. He’s released a handful of EPs on Bandcamp – most recently So It Goes, which debuted a year and a half ago – and his music channels Jackson Browne, Bill Withers, James Taylor – and more contemporarily, fellow Philadelphian Amos Lee. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: GrandeMarshall

 

Philly rapper GrandeMarshall has a style unto himself. In his past few years of activity on the Philly scene, he’s impressed with his laid-back flow – cool, calm, collected and confident – with lyrics that are a little bit braggadocio, a little bit introspective. They don’t go for the throat as much as they put their hand on your shoulder, look you dead in the eye and tell you how things are going to be.

Paired with these rhymes are spectral, textured beats. Midtempo and sparse, they’re adorned by minimal production and ghostly synth melodies, carving out lots of space and creating an ambience that’s as chilling as it is meditative. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Former Belle

Bruno Catrambone is most visible as lead guitarist of Philly modern rock crew Cruisr, but his longtime musical squeeze is Former Belle, the indie-folk project he’s resurrecting this winter with a new EP called Foreign Bed.

Like his back catalog, the new music is tinged with nods to Elliott Smith and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning-era Bright Eyes. But Catrambone exhibits a newfound confidence and dynamic range in the new songs, and it was on prominent display during the band’s performance for The Key Studio Sessions. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Kississippi

Think of them as Philly’s existential pop band that could. In the beginning, it was just Zoë Reynolds singing and strumming and making haunting, emotional lo-fi recordings at home to share with her friends.

As word spread, and Kississippi began to evolve from a free-time project to a full-fledged band – one that caught the ear of our Skye Leppo just about a year ago. And after the release of I Can Feel You In My Hair Still, Reynolds linked up with Jake Ewald from Modern Baseball, who worked with the band on their label debut, We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed, released last November on Soft Speak Records.

The EP is a sonic step forward for Kississippi, bringing Reynolds’ arresting voice to the forefront and surrounding it in lush, beautiful arrangements of slinky clean-tone guitar and measured drumming. It recalls a lot of bands from the sadcore 90s; central PA favorites The Innocence Mission, as well as NYC duo Ida and of course The Sundays.

If you ask Reynolds, though, her personal influences are decidedly more contemporary, and the band absolutely #slay with their cover of “It’s Okay” by Montreal cult faves Land of Talk during this week’s Key Studio Session.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Orion Tango

From expressive contributions to King Britt’s Back to Basics house band in the 90s to work with UK singer-songwriter David Sylvian (of the new wave outfit Japan) and his duo with acclaimed poet Ursula Rucker, Philly guitarist Tim Motzer is no stranger to constant collaboration. His latest project matches him up with two very like minded musicians in an experimental power trio they call Orion Tango. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Chelsea Sue Allen

Chelsea Sue Allen is a leading light in the Philadelphia folk scene, but then again, she’s something more. The West Chester singer-songwriter crafts intensely emotional songs that transcend the coffeehouse world, much as she’s a favorite over at Burlap and Bean. On last year’s Lonely Ages, she detailed the tug-of-war between aspiration and self-doubt – “I’ve got daydreams pressing against siren walls / will I become something better if I let them out” – as well as the crash of colossal letdowns – “you’re not the one I’m bankin’ on anymore, anymore?” – and does so over a bed of pattering electronics (“Creaks and Moans,” “Bankin’ On”) and full band swiftness (“Tall Dreams”).

Live, the flourishes are brushed away – Allen goes minimal and meditative, and the songs remain every bit as powerful. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ben Arnold

Veteran Philly singer-songwriter / rock-n-roller Ben Arnold has covered a lot of ground in the two decades he’s been making music. In the mid-90s, he was signed to Ruffhouse / Columbia and released the slacker-pop nugget Almost Speechless – which is a tiny bit ironic since the man is the total opposite of a slacker.

By the early aughties, he had grown into a more nuanced singer-songwriter and received a lot of attention from WXPN for In Case I’m Gone Tomorrow, as well as his acclaimed 4-Way Street supergroup with Jim Boggia, Scott Bricklin and Joseph Parsons. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Queen of Jeans

They got their name by putting a feminist spin on an uber-masculine piece of South Philly signage. They write pointed fuzz-rock songs punctuated by hooky melodies and retro-pop harmonies, washed in a dreamy soundscape. They’re Queen of Jeans, and they’re a band that needs to be on your radar. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Residuels

There’s a smoky, blues-from-a-gun furor to Philadelphia trio Residuels. The band, fronted by singer-guitarist Justin Pittney, caught our ear in the past with the heavy, heady Jesus and Mary Chain guitar jams it’s tapped into over various self-released singles. Continue reading →

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