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UNLOCKED: The inner workings of Thin Lips, or how its better not to keep secrets

Thin Lips practice at Big Mama's | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Thin Lips practice at Big Mama’s | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

It’s a soggy Monday night in Philadelphia and we’re crammed into small room in Fishtown’s Big Mama’s House arts space. The room, which maybe measures 15-by-15 feet, is the practice space of Philly punk four piece Thin Lips, but it also doubles as drummer Mikey Tashjian’s living quarters. He moved in not long ago, and started lightly decorating the room with random artifacts – record sleeves, iridescent fabric, a blue-ish abstract print made by his aunt.

The band is workshopping many things at once on this particular evening – it’s about to head out on tour in support of Riff Hard,  their debut LP out today on Lame-O Records (that we’ve been featuring all week long on Unlocked), and it’s been a while since they played these songs together live. Kinks are worked out, particularly on raging album opener “DEB.”

“It’s about how being a girl is hard,” says singer-guitarist Chrissy Tashjian, Mikey’s sister. “And how being a girl who dates girls is hard.”

After a few passes through the two-minutes-and-change blast of energy, the band stops for a breather and we casually chat about the items Mikey has scattered the room. Above his bed, a polo work shirt on a hanger dangles from a hook on the wall. It belongs to the Tashjian’s late brother Billy, who passed away at 22 in January of 2014, right before what was supposed to be Thin Lips’ live debut opening for Radiator Hospital and Potty Mouth at Boot and Saddle.

Mikey says the shirt is a reminder. “You can work hard,” he says. “You can be a good person. And you’re still going to die.” Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Go back to school with Thin Lips in “I Wonder”

Thin Lips
Thin Lips | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN

So we’ve talked a bunch these past couple days about Philly four-piece Thin Lips, and the serious undertones of their seriously catchy punk rock. The way they find release from personal struggles in loud riffs and fast drums.

But there’s another way the band finds release: by making sure fun is a conscious a part of their personas. We certainly saw that in the video for “Never Again,” where the band plays itself, a rival band and various audience members in attendance at a musical face-off at Kung Fu Necktie. Chrissy Tashjian told Noisey that it was “our homosexual Blink 182 video” and that about sums up the goofy party vibe they chose to visualize their hard luck anthem.

Today, there’s a new video for another Thin Lips song. And yes, it’s also got a total party atmosphere. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: The Key’s review of Riff Hard by Thin Lips

Thin Lips' Riff Hard
Thin Lips’ Riff Hard | courtesy of the artist

In the third act of Riff Hard, the fierce new long-player from Philly punk four-piece Thin Lips, frontwoman Chrissy Tashjian crafts a particularly striking image.

“Smoking out my window,” she sings. “Learning to let go.” Eight words, eleven syllables, five seconds. Yet so perfect. The song is “I Wonder,” a sprinting rager with twinkling hammer-on guitar leads and a chrunching, crushing rhythm. It’s invigorating in sound, boasting serious flail-around-the-room / go-for-a-hard-run / bike-from-West-Philly-to-Fishtown-in-the-rain kind of energy. But more affecting is the lyrical content, where Tashjian opens herself up as vulnerably as possible.

What is she learning to go of? A friend, a lover, a companion. Or more to the point, a connection in her life that she desires but knows is not working. “I still want you / but I don’t want to.” She sings. She knows that the person on the other end deserves something she’s unable to provide. It’s the moment of that tragic realization that something you dearly want is not something you’re able to have.

With any kind of tragedy, as we discussed in our introduction to Thin Lips’ new record, there are two ways of responding. You can huddle down, go inward, wallow in self-pity – an approach that, with the above situation, might result in a song like “Something I Can Never Have.” Or you boldly challenge the setback and circumstance through joyous melodies, through top-of-your-lungs shoutalongs with your friends. You make fast and loud and upbeat noise with your instruments. You riff hard.
Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Thin Lips wax poetic about compassion on “No Obituary”

Thin Lips
Thin Lips | photo courtesy of the artist

“What defines you as a person,” muses Chris Diehm, “is how you deal with tragedy.”

It’s a rainy Monday evening and the guitarist of Philly punk four-piece Thin Lips has been getting deepy contemplative with his bandmates over beers as we gather in a side studio at Big Mama’s Warehouse. The room has a markedly different vibe from the rest of the long-standing Fishtown arts community – instead of expansive floor-to-ceiling bright pageantry and reckless, paint-spattered abandon, this space is all about toned-down, quiet focus. Which carried over to our conversation.

Diehm, along with bassist Kyle Pulley, drummer Mikey Tashjian and singer-guitarist-songwriter Chrissy Tashjian, just wrapped up a long run of production on Riff Hard – Thin Lips’ debut LP, out this week on Lame-O Records. Recorded by Pulley at Headroom Studios, it’s a total blast: amplified, high-octane punk rock guitar jammers that are complex, catchy, fun — and most importantly, cathartic. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: An afternoon in South Philly with Lushlife

Lushlife | Credit: Megan Matuzak
Lushlife standing in the entrance of Jinxed on Passyunk Ave. in South Philly | Credit: Megan Matuzak

All week long we’ve been putting the UNLOCKED spotlight on the new release by Lushlife and CSLSX, Ritualize. Tomorrow night’s record release party at Johnny Brenda’s is expected to be epic. Lushlife will be performing with CSLSX, and he promises some special guests.

Fresh off a 72 hour media marathon in NYC, Lushlife, aka Raj Haldar, is a little hazy. Slouched deep in his blue upholstered couch with his Harmony electric across his lap, it’s the first weekend he’s had in awhile. Before New York he was in Austin at his label’s, Western Vinyl, HQ and the next weekend he would be flying out to the midwest to film with Nik+Lamar, who filmed the award winning “Magnolia” for Plateau Vision. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Not-so-casual business: Rising beatmakers CSLSX talk history and new record Ritualize with Lushlife

The band, with Lushlife (Photo by Ebru Yildiz)
The band, with Lushlife (Photo by Ebru Yildiz)

In some ways, the business of CSLSX (that’s “casual sex”)—started just as you’d expect it: casually. “We were all living at Broad and Tasker, and we had a room set up with all these instruments,” says producer/guitarist/vocalist Andrew Alburn, from a high-top table at Vincenzo’s Deli in South Philadelphia. “So people would come over and mess around. Originally CSLSX had no defined members; it was meant to represent music curated by the collective.” Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: The Key’s review of Lushlife + CSLSX’s Ritualize

 

lushlife
Lushlife’s Ritualize album cover | photo courtesy of the artist

Ritualize is a record that’s concerned with vibe and feeling—it’s a record that wants to transport you somewhere, then set the mood in broad, sweeping strokes. The collaboration between Philly rapper Lushlife (a.k.a. Raj Haldar) and production trio CSLSX is a dreamy journey through a jungle of smoke and sex, through which Lushlife, our narrator, weaves yarns and offers cinematic snapshots of the people and things he sees.

It’s beautiful, sultry record, with Lushlife’s raps the muscle that keeps it moving ahead. Constructed painstakingly by Haldar and CSLSX over the course of 3 years—in a process that Haldar describes as “Herculean”—Ritualize succeeds because it spares no detail in achieving its after hours vibe. Production is pristine, and listening on headphones, you get the sense that there is a real depth to these songs, even if they were layered together one piece at a time in the studio. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Dive into Lushlife’s Ritualized with “Body Double”

Lushlife
Lushlife | Photo by Ebru Yildiz ebruyildiz.net | courtesy of the artist

“It’s weird. I’ve been Lushlife my whole adult life. The genesis of the name is incidental now to me, but it’s just cute high school shit. Ultimately, I was just a marching band, jazz dork. Today, what Lushlife does is only tangentially related to that stuff, but a name becomes I name, I guess. When I was in the airport this weekend, someone recognized me and yelled out that name as I was walking by, and my head turned in the same intrinsic way that my given name would,” Raj Haldar says.

Philadelphia’s Lushlife began challenging the way hip-hop is defined long before his first official release, Cassette City, in 2009. Since his first show in 2005 at The Jazz Cafe in Camden Town, London, Raj Haldar’s ability to blur the lines between what the genre is and what it could be is the gospel he lives by. Ritualize, which premiered on Billboard on February 17th and was officially released February 19th, is the next notch in Haldar’s career, and it’s a coming of age story. And the story behind “Body Double”, his first single, is a harrowing one. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Listen to an eclectic playlist from Philly’s Abi Reimold

Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist
Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist

All week long, we’ve been spotlighting singer-songwriter Abi Reimold and her terrific new album Wriggling. It’s a dynamic record, it’s an emotion-packed record. And that’s not just to say that it’s sad – though moments are quite sad – but rather that it captures the range of human emotion, from despondency and confusion to playful joy.

Thing is, beyond being a musician in her own right, Reimold is a huge fan of music – something that you can tell when you listen closely and dig into the record. In our review, we noticed bits of Cursive, Cocteau Twins and Creepoid. To conclude the series today, we asked Reimold to share five of her all-time favorite songs, and the list she gave us is equally eclectic; check it out below. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: A conversation with Abi Reimold about creativity, context and ambition

Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist
Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist

When I first talked with Abi Reimold back in the fall about her forthcoming debut LP, she wasn’t quite sure how it was going to make its way into the world. She was talking shopping it around, she was talking self-release. She just knew that, since writing and recording on it began in 2014, she wanted to get it in people’s ears sooner rather than later.

What came as a surprise was the reception: being named an Artist to Watch by Stereogum, being featured in The Fader, being picked up by an emerging Hudson Valley record label, Sad Cactus.

“I’m just so blown away and so hashtag-blessed to have these people pay attention to me,” Reimold says with a laugh. “I feel like James [Rettig] from Stereogum and Leah [Mandel] from The Fader, we connected personally and they were very sincere and encouraging. I’m just blown away by everything.”

With the fantastic new album Wriggling out now (get your copy here) and some serious activity planned for the winter and spring – including a headlining album release party at Johnny Brenda’s – I sat down with Reimold to have a conversation about her background, her process and her goals. Continue reading →