Unlocked: Get to know the animated GIF side of The National Rifle

All week we’ve spotlighted Philly rock four-piece The National Rifle and their brand new album Almost Endless in Unlocked, The Key’s regular series on new and significant albums from Philadelphia-area musicians. We’ve looked at the band’s growth and the process of self-discovery that went into the new album, and we’ve also seen that they’re still the same goofy, ridiculous crew of players we’ve know for the past half-dozen years. Today, we wrap up the series on a definite note of ridiculousness. Guitarist Hugh Moretta and keyboard Lynna Stancato put together a series of animated GIFs that include scenes from tour, Kickstarter rewards from home, and more. Check them out, and read Stancato’s descriptions, below. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: The National Rifle shares their Almost Endless journey of self-discovery

Three-fourths of The National Rifle are gathered ’round a table at XPN Studios, scrambling on smart phones to find thank-you videos they made for their Kickstarter backers. In one, drummer Buddy Mazzenga rolls around Scrooge McDuck-style on a pile of donated money. In another, bassist Jeremiah Sweeney dances to Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” For as much as their new album Almost Endless – which we’ve explored all week on Unlocked – finds the band in more serious, contemplative territory than we’ve heard from them before, they’re the same goofy group of players we’ve watched for the past six years. After some laughs, we got collectively focused and talked about a few things – the process of self-discovery that went into this album, the transportive power of synthesizer tones and how personality (which they have no shortage of) goes a long way, but solid songs go even further.

The Key: When you perform, your personality does come across in your live show. I like that you’re taking the extra step further with these personalized videos. How did you realize that your fans would respond like that?

Hugh Moretta: It’s because we really try to talk to everybody at shows, we’re not shy about it. We hang out with everybody that comes, so they all kind of know our personalities. It’s almost like inside joke stuff…they get it, they know our sense of humor, we know how they are.

Jeremiah Sweeney: We’re really close with all our fans. We talk to them every day on our Facebook, they even text us.

HM: There’s a few people in Philly, but it’s mostly people on the road. Texas specifically.

Lynna Stancato: Yeah, for some reason, we have this group of fans in Texas. We have a really good draw in Dallas, and in Austin too. And they, after we played there a couple times and there’s a group of people who like clung on to us. And because we’re not shy people, when we’re on the road, too, we’re gonna hang out, you know? Where else are we gonna go? Continue reading →

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The Week So Far: 12 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Nightlands, Catnaps and Thao)

Nightlands | Photo by Matthew Davis

Prairie Empire stops by to record a Folkadelphia session [link]

Philly’s Nightlands celebrates the release of Oak Island at Kung Fu Necktie [link]

My Morning Jacket’s Jim James streams his new album, announces a Union Transfer show [link]

Philly rockers Free Energy get interviewed by a couple sixth graders [link]

Remembering versatile guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away at age 54 this week [link]

Indiepop five-piece Catnaps releases a new EP for free downloading [link]

Shoegazers Nothing will make the First Friday crowd wish they packed earplugs [link]

Lancaster folk trio The Stray Birds records a Key Studio Session, comes to World Cafe Live [link]

Philly rapper Chill Moody releases a mini-documentary of his December TLA show [link]

Thao Nguyen plays “We The Common” on a banjo, through a microphone, at a rally [link]

All week the Unlocked series features Almost Endless, the new LP from The National Rifle [link]

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Unlocked: Get visually stimulated as we PREMIER The National Rifle’s “Coke Beat” video

When I described The National Rifle‘s song “Coke Beat” in our album review yesterday, I used the word “glimmering.” Funny how a visual metaphor seemed appropriate for the song, since the music video that we’re premiering today – which I got a first look at late last night – is all about perception, sight and the unseen.

TNR’s keyboardist / vocalist Lynna Stancato explained that the band knew that it didn’t want to release a music video that was “funny” or “cute.” The group as a whole was inspired by found footage productions a la Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” music video, while singer and songwriter Hugh Moretta’s had his own fascination with macro photography. So the result is a frenetic and trippy montage of frenzied eyeballs, close-ups of cells and molecules, insects, paint being applied to impressionist canvases, edited together by filmmaker Brian Carroll.

“You notice that the video gets more and more colorful towards the end of the video, which is on purpose,” writes Stancato. “Overall I think the concept is seeing things for what the truly are. Although I particularly like how the eyes kind of ‘freak out’ throughout the video because, to me, it represents how we are not always prepared for what we may find out.” Watch our premier of The National Rifle’s “Coke Beat” video below.

Almost Endless is the featured album in this week’s edition of Unlocked; download the spotlighted single “Street Burn” in Monday’s post, read yesterday’s album review and check back later in the week for interviews, video and more.

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Unlocked: The Key’s review of Almost Endless by The National Rifle

There are ways to deal with frustration and disappointment through music. You could take the pouty, solitary route – and certainly, singers from Nick Drake to Night Beds have done that with breathtaking results. You can do the aggro-bummer thing – I think of course of the nu-metal nadir of aughties angsty “modern rock.” Or, you could do something that’s less of a drag, something that doesn’t stew in upsetness but channels it into a positive release.

Now, I can’t claim to know what exactly Hugh Moretta and his bandmates in The National Rifle are upset about. They don’t provide us with many specific lyrical clues, either. There a lot of vagueness about not wanting, and not having. But on the new Almost Endless – the band’s full-length debut, and it’s most refined effort to date – the frustration is palpable, as is the joy.

Having garnered a reputation as a hard-touring party band on the night club / house show circuit, TNR’s sound was formerly scraggly and boisterous. But with a few notable exceptions – “Jazz History of the World” from the Vanity Press EP, and it’s self-depricating opening stroke “I’m the same age my mother was when she had me, but I’m not grown up” -  it didn’t particularly tug at any emotions, short of “let’s have fun.” This album takes that honest, reflective side of the band and chases it full speed ahead. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Download “Street Burn” from The National Rifle’s Almost Endless

Photo via PhilaMOCA

Up to this point, we’ve known and loved The National Rifle as the mischievous, loveable scamps of the Philadelphia rock scene. They’re goofy, irreverent, and a bit ribald. But they write hooky songs, release solid EPs and reliably slay in concert – Exhibit A: this video of “Bad News from the District”, performed live at Kung Fu Necktie in August of 2010. But on Almost Endless, the debut LP the band recorded last year and released last week, there’s a real sense of growth and maturity. Might be the glossy, New Wave-inspired sound that carries across the album. Could be the older-wiser thing, given that TNR has been at it for about seven years now. Or maybe they were just ready to make music on a bigger scale.

We’re exploring the album all week on Unlocked, The Key’s regular showcase of new and significant releases from Philadelphia-area artists. Tomorrow I’ll review the album; later in the week we’ll premier a new video, and chat with the band. Today, we’ve got a download of a personal favorite track on the album – “Street Burn.” They played this song in our studio two years ago, when they recorded their Key Studio Session – back then it didn’t have a name, but it had a distinctively synth-heavy sound, bridging the band’s worlds; riled-up rockers and synth-pop adventurers. Thanks to the band, we’re making it available as a free download this week, so grab it below. And check back all week for more from Almost Endless on Unlocked.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The National Rifle at Johnny Brenda’s, Everyone Everywhere at The Barbary, The Weeks at MilkBoy, JD Malone at Burlap and Bean, XPN Welcomes Lee Fields & The Expressions to World Cafe Live

With an album release a mere two weeks away, The National Rifle headline Johnny Brenda’s tonight.  Almost Endless will be the Philly band’s first full-length, following up four EPs that span a seven year career.  With glam rock vocals, spacey synths and a pulsing bass line, The Nationals Rifle’s new recordings move the quartet away from the punk vibes of their previous releases and into the world of Bowie and M83 dipped in dream pop.  Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show with The New Connection and Crills Wilson can be found here.  Below, stream “Glass Line” from Almost Endless.

Continue reading →

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