On the one hand, I think of Philadelphia rockers Univox as a bunch of funny, irreverent dudes. I remember recording their Key Session and watching drummer Kent Boersma run laps around the studio, apropos of nothing. They put out an iPhone video game (that I still have yet to beat). They recorded campy Halloween songs. But there’s also an undeniably sensitive, introspective, yearning side to them – you’ll hear it in the lyrics to “Tonight.” And you’ll also hear it in the solo tracks from singer and songwriter Josh Jones. Released this June, “All I Think About” and “The Body Grows Back” come from the perspective of a heartbroken character, knowing that the end is imminent but still struggling to express love. The warm synthesizer beds and slow dance pulse make these tracks – lo-fi as they might be – come across almost like R&B pop ballads asking forgiveness for wrongs he’s done. Maybe Jones is the Drake of the Philly punk scene, I don’t know. In any case, he makes his last Philly appearance of 2013 tonight at J.R.’s Bar in South Philly; get information on the show here, and grab free downloads of these two tracks below.
Philly DIY rock four-piece Univox has kept on the quiet side since releasing a Halloween single (“Wolfman”) and its corresponding video back in the fall, but with good reason. The band has been putting the finishing touches on it’s latest ventures: The Altec, a new full-length album available today, and Tour of Fire, a free-downloadable iPhone video game.
About the name (the album’s and their own), the band explained on Facebook:
the first tape Joe and I (josh) made together was an improvised experimental recording where all of the instruments were mixed down and re-amped through a Univox bass amp and cab. we self-recorded the new album and ran almost every signal on it through our Altec 1220 console. I think these names best represent our music as they have become esoteric titles of what is lost in contemporary music. since we’re largely steeped in golden oldies, our recordings tend to feel like something you might find in a dusty bin at a flea market
While there’s some silliness in the record (it’s more evident if you’ve seen these guys live and are familiar with their ridiculous personas), it can also be appreciated as a well-crafted post-modern homage to rock and pop from the 60s till today. The video game, however, is pure silliness. A free download from iTunes, it allows you to guide the band on a U.S. tour – tearing across I-80 in the van enroute to Cleveland, playing the show and literally slaying the audience members with your notes. That’s as far as I got, since I kept dying and wanted to write this up, but its Atari 8-bit look and comical road trip / tour vibe are very enjoyable and I swear I will beat it on my lunch hour.
Listen to The Altec below, and get a preview of the game in the band’s 2013 update video.
On their latest Animal Trust EP, Acres of Diamonds follow up 2010’s debut with three dark, post-punky songs recorded at Miner Street Studios. Mixing in a healthy dose of pop catchy-ness, Animal Trust hands out some unexpected twists by-way of an organ on the Sonic Youth-esque “Sweet Believers” and occasional Kate Bush-ian theatrics on the title track. Vocalist Sarah Davis’ Gwen Rooker’s raspy alto recalls the eeriness of Family Band singer Kim Krans at times, adding a mysterious counter-point to the fully-developed guitar and drum layers. Acres of Diamonds will be performing at PhilaMOCA on January 18th with Univox, Pow Wow! and Lux Perpetua. More information can be found here. Below, stream Acres of Diamond’s Animal Trust EP.
Irreverent Philly rockers Univox just dropped a name-your-own-price digital single for Halloween. They get all Cramps-style garage rock creepy on the title track “Wolfman” – and designed up an elaborate newspaper clipping casting singer-guitarist Josh Jones as a West Philly werewolf – but the lead-off instrumental “Driving River Road” is equally unsettling, like a bit of weird 50s synthesizer score to a Vincent Price double-feature. Check it out and grab a download below.
Out today in the self-release world of Bandcamp is the latest EP from Hurry, the dreamy noise pop / shoegaze project from Philly’s Matt Scottoline. He typically plays bass in the comparatively amped up pop punk band Everyone Everywhere, but that’s “amped” in terms of tempo and energy. There was plenty of pure volume filling the room when the live lineup of Hurry recorded its Key Studio Session. Joining Scottoline was Brendan McHugh of Everyone Everywhere on second guitar, and Rob DeCarlois of Univox on drums; I dig the raw immediacy they bring to Scottoline’s songs, which are deliciously lush and layered on the album. Download the session below, compare / contrast with Hurry’s music on Bandcamp, and keep an eye fixed on Facebook for news of their live appearances.
Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
Special thanks to all of the bands for coming to our studio, and to John Vettese for recording them. We’d also like to thank volunteer production assistants Fred Knittel, Madeleine Lesperance, and Dan Malloy as well as photographers Kate Bracaglia, Corey Cohen, Sarah Fry, Shamus McGroggan, Noah Gabriel Merenda, Sylvia Ramirez, and Heidi Schlenzig for sharing their work. Continue reading →
Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3rd
Scott Hansen is an artist with a vision. Before he debuted on the music scene as electronic composer Tycho, Hansen was known by his graphic design pseudonym, ISO50. As ISO50, Hansen produces intricate, often illusionary water color pieces—images that make an appealing first impression and grow more complex when scrutinized. His songs sound about the same. Hansen’s 2002 EP, Science Of Patterns, and the 2004 album Sunrise Projector hinted at his musical ideas, but it wasn’t until his 2011 album, Dive, that Tycho seemed to communicate in music what ISO50 did in visual art. Not surprisingly, Tycho’s current tour features a video component, which Hansen appropriately debuted on the ISO50 blog. Hansen will be playing both his music and visual art tonight in a show that’s certain to be sunny and synesthetic. Tycho performs with Beacon at 8:30 p.m.; tickets to the all-ages show are $5–$15. —Naomi Shavin
Since forming from the remains of Drink Up Buttercup, the members of White Birds have been quick to separate themselves from their former endeavor. Where Drink Up was fast and frantic, White Birds is slow and mellow. The band’s self-titled EP demonstrated just how much the members have evolved, with a dreamy tone and echoing harmonies. White Birds’ new album, When Women Played Drums, expands the fuzzy pop sound; the album comes out February 14th, but you can pre-order it now on Bandcamp. White Birds be joined at Kung Fu Necktie by Univox, whose Key Studio Session we posted earlier this week. White Birds performs with Univox and Tutlie at 8 p.m. at Kung Fu Necktie; tickets to the 21+ show are $10. —Nicole Soll
Snowmine front man Grayson Sanders has received praise for his mellow and melodious voice, with many noting similarities to both Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. The Brooklyn-based indie pop band’s debut album “Laminate Pet Animal” is obviously a tribute to all things natural and lullaby-esque, what with the use of odd instruments (including arbitrary household items, such as dish brushes and brooms) that help create a cultured sound. The band was featured as Weathervane Music’s Shaking Through artist for the month of November, and brings its Fleet Foxes-caliber potential to Johnny Brenda’s for the Philadelphia Bandcamp Hunter showcase. Snowmine performs with Gracie and Tours at Johnny Brenda’s at 9:15 p.m; tickets to the 21+ show are $5. —Lisa Henderson
Augustana had a rough 2011. The San Diego-based quartet was dropped from its label, Epic, following disappointing sales of its third album, had to cancel a summer tour with Jack’s Mannequin, and lost several of the original band members. But just as rumors of the band breaking up surfaced, lead singer Dan Layus announced he and the remaining members would continue making music under the name Augustana. Dan Lamoureux, who had previously played keyboard with the band, returned on drums, and Augustana released dates for a short winter tour. Despite the changes in the band, Augustana’s rock sound remains the same, and their set will feature both new music and hits off previous albums, such as “Boston” and “Sweet and Low.” Augustana performs with Graffiti6 at 8 pm at Theatre Of Living Arts; tickets to the show are $17. —Nicole Soll
Also Playing: Arctic Splash + DJ Deejay at PYT (10 p.m., free)
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4th
Brown Recluse + Acres Of Diamonds, Instamatic at Milkboy Philly (9:30 p.m., 21+, $8–$10); Jedi Mind Tricks + Diabolic, B. Lynch at Union Transfer (8:30 p.m., all ages, $18–$20); Jack’s Mannequin + Jukebox The Ghost, Allen Stone at Theatre Of Living Arts (7 p.m., $30.50); SOJA + The Movement, Fear Nuttin Band at Electric Factory (8 p.m., $25.95)
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5th
Rock To The Future Benefit featuring Polar Ice Cap + The Danger O’s, Fast Car, Jampa! at World Cafe Live (7 p.m., all ages, $7)
The guys in Philadelphia’s Univox are rock synthesizers. That’s not synthesizers in the EMF / Brian Eno sense – though truly it would be awesome to have a set of keys and bank of sounds literally at your fingertips – but rather in the sense that they’re musicians who pull tones and timbres from the disparate styles of the past three decades, and recontextualize them as something all their own. Or, if that sounds too smarty-pants for you, try this: I trust you’ve heard those cliche comparisons, “sounds like the love child of musician A and musician B jamming with musician C”? Well there’s a reason folks make declarations like that: as listeners, it’s always easier to dig on something new when you can relate it to something you love. On the flipside, as songwriters, its impossible to completely escape one’s influences. So why not embrace them? Univox gets it, and that’s why all across their Key Studio Session, you’ll hear snippets of Bowie, bits of Costello, nods to The Stooges and GBV, in songs that are very much the amped-up, wild and crazy work of these four dudes from Philadelphia who are writing and performing in 2012. Last fall, Univox self-released a fantastic 7″ for “Tonight,” which raucously closed out their session. They tell me they’re spending this winter and spring recording in their basement studio so they can release an album a month next year. I don’t know whether or not to take them seriously. But I do know that the four new songs they premiered – from the garage-y “Better Off By Myself” to the swinging 50s pop anthem “What’s More” – could be potential hits, or at least future nuggets. Judge for yourself tomorrow night when Univox plays Kungfu Necktie with White Birds and Tutlie.
Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
Plucky Philly foursome Univox is a reliable pick-me-up. They make extremely imaganitive music videos from simple ideas (like driving on the turnpike) and release solid rock albums like their self-titled full length debut from 2010. I was impressed with these guys the first time I caught them – way back on WXPN’s Free at Night showcase at the Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg nearly four years ago – and it continues right up through their latest 7″, Tonight, which was released a few weekends ago at a bright and booming gig at PhilaMOCA. The great thing about this single: the b-side, “Rug Stain” is just as noteworthy as the a-side. The music is snappy and addictive, while the lyrics spin a saga of domestic trials and tribulations. Rather than going all A-B verse-chorus about it, it works across an epic, Bowie-esque expanse of horn parts and gang vocal singalongs, kind of mirroring the rollercoaster ride of our central characters. Dig in on the journey below.
Whenever some seriously inclement weather—like, say, a freakish rainstorm—takes over the city, having a lack of worthwhile arts-and-entertainment options later in the evening is usually a good thing. That way, you don’t feel so bad about staying in the entire night, drying out your soaked clothes while drinking hot tea and watching re-runs of Law & Order. Unfortunately, there’s not one, not two, but three can’t miss shows going on tonight, all of which feature amazing local acts. So, Philadelphia: Get ready to get wet—again. At Johnny Brenda’s, Bill Ricchini celebrates the release of Summer Fiction, the debut album by his new indie-pop recording project of the same name (you can listen to the album here); In Grenada, which (re-)released its own stellar debut two months ago, opens (9 p.m., 21+, $10). Mike Polizze has recently been drawing a lot of attention with his latest side project, Purling Hiss. (Last month, he toured with Kurt Vile and The Soft Pack in support of Purling Hiss’ new album, Public Service Announcement.) Tonight at Kung Fu Necktie, however, he’s back with his main band, the loud-as-hell blues-rock trio, Birds Of Maya; Australia’s Taco Leg (yes, the band is really called “Taco Leg”) opens (8 p.m., 21+, $6). Finally, An American Chinese—which John Vettese highlighted last week in the Philly Local Philes (“Metropolitan” off the band’s new Utopian Trees is definitely worth checking out)—performs with Univox and The Naked Hearts at Danger Danger Gallery (8 p.m.)