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Unlocked: Reflect on life and death in Hop Along’s “Happy To See Me”

Frances Quinlan | photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com
Frances Quinlan | photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com

One of the most powerful moments on Hop Along‘s 2012 album Get Disowned is one of its quietest.

On the second side of a record filled with emotional, cathartic ragers and explosive youth anthems sits the melancholic, haunting ballad called “Trouble Found Me.” Like much of the album, the song abstractly relates the story of a character with schizophrenia – a family friend of frontwoman Frances Quinlan – and follows as he struggles through life, is pushed through hospitals and is generally failed by the healthcare system. “Trouble Found Me” is a point of aching realization of all this: as much for Quinlan the third-person narrator as it is for the character and even the listener who might not know about the story line at play.

This lyric in particular drives it home:

Once I thought being lost was only a part of being young / But the old man in the bed next to your cot was screaming louder than anyone / Saying mama mama mama, little white mice run across my bed while the nurses play poker outside / Oh my God, how is the other guy? I can’t believe someday I’m gonna die.

Quinlan sings that last line – “I can’t believe someday I’m gonna die” – in a whisper, matter-of-factly acknowledging our collective mortality not with fear but rather a resigned uncertainty. In the distance, a slide guitar moans. Is there a greater significance to this aimless trip we’re all on? My exit could be a long ways off, or it could be this week, and it leads me to pretty much the same place in either case. All those questions that keep you up at night, you know?

Hop Along’s excellent sophomore album Painted Shut is out today on Saddle Creek Records, and the band celebrates this Saturday night with a headlining show at Union Transfer. As the week unfolds, you’ll doubtless read a lot out there in the musical-journalistic space about what a bold record it is, how it’s unflinching and energetic, how it unpacks heavy ideas with equally heavy volume and energy. All of those points are absolutely accurate, and we’ll be weighing in on them all week long as we explore the album in Unlocked, The Key’s recurring spotlight on new and significant releases from Philadelphia-area artists.

But for me, again, the most powerful moment on Painted Shut might just be its quietest. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Mason Porter & Chris Kasper’s Grateful Dead Tribute at the Ardmore Music Hall, Tei Shi at Milkboy, Toro y Moi at Union Transfer

Mason Porter
Mason Porter | photo by Lisa Schaffer

After a stellar midday tribute to the Grateful Dead a few weeks ago, Mason Porter and Chris Kasper bring the show to the Ardmore Music Hall tonight. Kasper and his band will perform American Beauty, the 1970 record that included “Sugar Magnolia,” “Truckin’” and “Box of Rain.” For Mason Porter’s set, he’ll do versions of “Uncle John’s Band,” “Casey Jones” and others from Workingman’s Blues. Tickets and information for the 21+ tribute show can be found here. Watch Mason Porter perform “Cumberland Blues” at the Free at Noon below.

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Fan the flames with the latest rocker from South Philly’s Sheer Mag

Sheer Mag, as pictured on the sleeve of their debut 7″
Sheer Mag, as pictured on the sleeve of their debut 7″

South Philly five-piece Sheer Mag has released a new 7″ (a followup to their debut released in Sept. 2014), and it’s full of rock/punk/pop anthems that are equally as heavy as they are catchy.

They’ve also accompanied the opening track, “Fan the Flames,” with a music video that confirms something we already found out at SXSW: this group can have a damn good time. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s (Non-#KeyFest) Concert Picks: Creepoid at Underground Arts, Cheerleader at Union Transfer, The Burgeoning at Bourbon and Branch

Creepoid | Photo by John Vettese

Okay, so Key Fest kicks off tonight, and that’s obviously the concert we’re most pumped about and think you should all go to. But we’ve been telling you about that all week – here are a few other live music options worth your attention, beginning with Creepoid‘s homecoming at Underground Arts. The band is moving back to Philly after spending the past year or so living in Savannah and writing their new record. Their new Cemetery Highrise Slum, is out on June 23rd via Collect Records, and the songs we’ve heard from it slay. Listen to “American Smile” below and get tickets and more info on the show at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Rainer Maria at Union Transfer, Kiska at MilkBoy, Voss at Underground Arts and more…

Rainer Maria
Rainer Maria | photo via Facebook

Wisconsin-born trio Rainer Maria bring their reunion tour to Union Transfer tonight. When this show was announced, Key editor John Vettese took a look back at his five favorite Rainer Maria moments, from a spring night in 2003 when the emo / indie band opened for Mates of State and played “Ears Ring” off of their then-new record Long Knives Drawn, to their final Philly show in 2006 when they closed with “Tinfoil” from Past Worn Searching. Listen to “Ears Ring” below and pick up tickets for the concert here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Hippo Campus at Union Transfer, RX Bandits at The Troc, Cold Fronts at The Depot and more

Hippo Campus | Photo via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thehalocline?fref=nf
Hippo Campus | Photo via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thehalocline

Get to Union Transfer early tonight: twin cities rockers Hippo Campus will open the show for The Mowgli’s. Think of this young four-piece as the Vampire Weekend of the midwest; they incorporate lively Afro-beat melodies into fuzzy indie rock, nicely exemplified by “Suicide Saturday,” which you can download below. Continue reading →

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Watch the gut-punching video for Courtney Barnett’s “Kim’s Caravan”

 

Courtney Barnett | Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana
Courtney Barnett | Photo by Pooneh Ghana | courtesy of the artist

When Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett isn’t wowing us with her live performances or having her album debut at number 10 on the US Billboard album sales charts, she takes on other feats: releasing music videos that seamlessly complement her tracks. The visuals for “Kim’s Caravan” are no exception. Continue reading →

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Awesome Collab Alert: Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell come together for Sing Into My Mouth

Ben Bridwell, Iron & Wine | Photo via Facebook.com/ironandwine
Ben Bridwell, Iron & Wine | Photo via Facebook.com/ironandwine

Longtime friends Sam Beam (otherwise known as Iron & Wine) and Band of Horses‘ Ben Bridwell have come together for their first collaborative album.

Sing Into My Mouth, which is scheduled for release on July 17, will hold 12 tracks that have influenced both men as musicians, such as  ”No Way Out of Here,” originally recorded by Unicorn, and eventually released David Gilmour of Pink Floyd’s solo debut. The duo performed this track on last night’s Late Show with David Letterman. Continue reading →

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Danced Out and Super Satisfied: The Ting Tings at Union Transfer

The Ting Tings | Photo by Morgan Smith | phobymo.com
The Ting Tings | Photo by Morgan Smith | phobymo.com

Rocking a wild pony tail and a t-shirt that read “Good Vibes”, The Ting Tings‘ frontwoman Katie White really brought serious energy (and, as advertised, good vibes) to Union Transfer on Friday night. The British duo commanded the crowd with disco tinged tunes and electro-pop anthems, making sure to perform songs from all three of their albums in their short but sweet 65-minute set. Continue reading →