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The Key Studio Sessions: Telepathic

Philly punk trio Telepathic is lean and mean, direct and driven. Its performance for The Key Studio Sessions this week rocks out six jams econo in a little over eleven minutes — and here I thought last week’s session with Radiator Hospital was efficient! — and its forthcoming LP, Self Check Out, packs in a walloping 19 ragers with little in the way of excess. Basically, these are three humans who know exactly what they want to say, know how they want it to sound, and they waste no time getting to the point.

The band is comprised of three players — Rob Garcia on guitar and vocals, Sarah Everton on bass and vocals, Mark Rice on drums — who have moved in indie circles for a while now. Garcia and Everton co-fronted the asskicking Bleeding Rainbow, while Rice played in Jason Molina’s Magnolia Electric Co. But unlike other bands of scene vets that, oftentimes, can come across as cynically calculated in attempting to optimize industry forces in their favor moreso than making art, Telepathic is the opposite. They are art first, all the way, and to this observer, their EPs and the forthcoming LP seem to say “we’ve been down that road already. We hated it. This time, our music is for us.”

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The Key Studio Sessions: Radiator Hospital

Five years ago, Sam Cook-Parrot moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to West Philadelphia with some guitars, some songs and a healthy Bandcamp back-catalog. His project, Radiator Hospital, pretty much became an instant hit around the scene, whether he was performing solo in the basement of Nacho House (where I first encountered him, opening for Ted Leo) or turning it up full-band style at Golden Tea.

Having trusted friends for collaborators helped. Sam knew drummer Jeff Bolt from back home, and the two relocated to Philly around the same time. They joke that they picked up Cleveland bassist Jon Rybicki along the way, while New Yorker Cynthia Schemmer joined on lead guitar after meeting Sam amid her own move to Philly. The chemistry was undeniable, the enthusiasm was contagious and the appeal was clear: this band had rip-roaring punk rock energy, classic pop songwriting motifs and themes — their honest, vulnerable songs tend to dissect love and yearning over hooky melodies — and a totally earnest, engaging delivery. Or, as their very on-point Facebook bio distills it: “We are a rock band of rockers who love to rock. We also can be just one person who is much quieter but still loves to rock.” Right on.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Zeek Burse

We first met charismatic Philly crooner Zeek Burse a couple years back when he lent his vocal talents to a Key Studio Session by transglobal house music outfit Worldtown Soundsystem. That crew, as we observed at the time, very much operates like a family, and Burse carries the same spirit over to his own ensemble — a seven-piece rock band that brings a bounty of energy to its monthly engagements at South Philly rhythm and blues institution Warmdaddy’s, as well as to Zeek’s 2017 record XXII…and this week’s Key Studio Session.

Burse is a engaging performer, a dynamic singer and a gifted interpreter of songs; a recent gig saw him tackling songs by Prince (his self-professed number-one influence), Gnarls Barley and Imagine Dragons. Those Warmdaddy’s shows mix in a fair amount of covers, but his own material is impeccably strong. XXII is funky and fun, filled with hooks, grooves, and unexpected sonic turns — there’s room to dance and room to meditate.

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The Key Studio Sessions: Bahamadia

You can’t talk about Philly hip-hop in the 90s without talking about the queen: the most awesome Bahamadia, who first stepped to the mic in ’93 and has been active at it in some form ever since.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Joshua Chase Miller

“What do you think of that vocal harmonizer?” asked Joshua Chase Miller during his Key Studio Session. “I turned it down, was it too much?”

I responded that I actually liked hearing it in the mix. It took his songs, which were solid piano-driven pop songs to begin with, and added an otherworldly Bon Iver flare to them.

Miller laughed at this observation. “It’s not like I don’t have three Bon Iver tattoos or anything,” he slyly responded. “My inner fanboy comes out no matter what.”
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The Key Studio Sessions: Caracara

In a previous life, Will Lindsay and George Legatos played electropop for the basement show punk kids in W.C. Lindsay, a group we dug a lot around here at The Key. In a concurrent life, Carlos Pacheco-Perez and Sean Gill are two-thirds of Square Peg Round Hole, the progressive, percussion-driven instrumental ensemble that we also enjoy, whether they’re onstage or in the studio.

This would lead us to reason that we’d be all about Caracara, the new collaborative project of those various musicians. But we were nevertheless surprised how epic their debut record wound up being.
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The Key Studio Sessions: SPORTS

Reasons to love SPORTS: to begin with, their mantra, “friends FIRST, band SECOND.” You can’t miss that contagious camaraderie when seeing them onstage or in the studio — free of ego, free of pretense, free of the B.S. that ultimately divides artists who are motivated by forces other than playing music they love. There’s ample laughter and supportive sentiments from bandmate to bandmate, intermixed with sick riffs and catchy melodies. It’s refreshing to see: despite their tongue-in-cheekily competitive name, SPORTS is just a group of upbeat pals who moved from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio to Philadelphia to write songs and rock shows.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Sea Offs

Need a solid argument for turning up early to a long day of music? Two words: Sea Offs.

The dream-pop four-piece is one of the opening acts on the Saturday lineup of next weekend’s Philly Music Fest at World Cafe Live — they play 3:10 p.m. on the upstairs stage — and their lucid, moving arrangements of intertwining electric guitars and emphatic drums are an invigorating entry point into the event’s eclectic bill of regional artists.

Sea Offs hail from Central Pennsylvania, in the most literal sense — songwriters and guitarists Olivia Price and Rashmit Arora met at State College, in the dead center of the state, and began writing and recording music in 2015 around the PSU / Happy Valley region. It’s a good place for creative companionship as well as creative isolation — the people who are indifferent about Nittany Lions football tend to stick together, but are nevertheless mutually distant from bigger creative hubs like Buffalo, NYC or Philly. Sea Offs’ debut single, “Colliding,” was a drifting and folky piece in the Nick Drake / Innocence Mission zone, a sound that bloomed into last year’s Sea the Blind EP, where ambient atmospheres were gradually worked into their palette.

And then, there was this year’s rhetorically-titled What’s The Point?, an immersive record and one of my favorites to catch my ear during the year-long Items Tagged Philadelphia project. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Bigness

Can we point to The Bigness an example of Philly D.I.Y.? They don’t play emo or punk rock — even though their songs are emotional, and they do rock. Their gigs don’t take place in tallboy-littered basements on the fringes of university campuses — but their sound is so dialed-in, it would feel just as good there as in a club. Hovering in and around their 30s, the bandmates have a solid decade-plus on the average D.I.Y. scene participant — but what is age, anyway, when it comes to art?

Surface similarities may be shaky, true. But as far as their work ethic, their love of hooks and their pure spirit, the common ground is hard to deny: The Bigness makes music by themselves, for themselves, and it’s an inviting and inclusive thing of joy.
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The Key Studio Sessions: Ivy Sole

West Philadelphia’s Ivy Sole is having a busy year, and she’s pretty happy about it.

After a steady run making records flavored with dreamy hip-hop production, pointed rhymes and melodic vocal hooks, the Charlotte transplant’s two-part release this year — the East EP, which caught our ear this winter, and its summertime companion West — got a flurry of attention from the music sphere. Outlets like Paste and NPR Music were finding out what the folks at Vibe and The Source had been hip to for the better part of a year, and by summer, Ivy Sole was on tour on the west coast, opening sows for Rag’n’Bone Man.

Her appeal is pretty clear: the production, a soundtrack-y pastiche of soul and electropop tapestries, is instantly likable, and lyrically it’s some of the most honest music out there. Continue reading →

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