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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 →

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UNLOCKED: Go inside Abi Reimold’s creative process in a short doc on Wriggling

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 we’ve been exploring Philly singer-songwriter Abi Reimold‘s remarkable new album Wriggling on Unlocked – The Key’s recurring spotlight on new and significant releases from Philadelphia artists. Today, we step back a little bit to let Reimold tell a little bit of her own story.

While she was in the studio working on Wriggling in 2014 and 2015, Reimold teamed up with local filmmaker Jay Miller to document the recording sessions. In the process, Miller wound up providing a candid window into Reimold’s creative process and imaginative spirit, from his video of her performing “Vessel” on a rooftop to the short documentary we’re thrilled to give you a first look at today. Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: The Key’s review of Abi Reimold’s Wriggling

Cover art to Abi Reimold's Wriggling | Photo courtesy of the artist
Cover art to Abi Reimold’s Wriggling | Photo courtesy of the artist

It should come as no surprise that, as a songwriter, Abi Reimold makes incredible use of imagery.

As we pointed out yesterday, we got to know her as a photographer before we knew her as a musician. Her visual style is one of incredible intimacy, one that gives you the sense that Reimold the person was able to completely disappear from a place in time, leaving instead Reimold the all-seeing eye to capture what’s happening around her: the brightness, the beauty, the grit, the sadness, the camaraderie and joy, all framed in one multifaceted, honest picture.

It stands to reason that an artist capable of this sort of feat – one that all visual artists, to some degree or another, aspire to – would also have a way with words. Even so, when Reimold opened her 2014 EP Forget with the lyric “Blood filling my shoes / everything I’ll lose / by letting you into my mind,” it was knock-down intense. There is so much going on there, sensory language and emotional detail, that you’re drawn in immediately, surrendering your imagination to descriptive language and evocative sounds that convey heavy states of introspection.

Today, Reimold’s debut LP Wriggling is out there in the world care of Sad Cactus Records, and this album – like her shorter releases leading up to it – has a way with words and sounds.  Continue reading →

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UNLOCKED: Listen to Abi Reimold get serene on “Machine”

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

We’ve had a great vantage point from which to observe Philadelphia artist Abi Reimold these past few years. She’s a WXPN intern alumnus and an occasional contributing photographer for The Key – a tremendously talented one at that, who has covered festivals and studio sessions for us. We’ve also seen her forge her path as a singer and songwriter, from her 2013 Folkadelphia session to the release of 2014’s excellent Forget EP and her place in the lineup of our tribute to Patti Smith’s Horses.

When Reimold sent over an early stream of her LP Wriggling last fall, it was clear something big was afoot, and when national press started picking up on it this winter, it felt less like the “exciting new artist” it may have seemed to them and more that of a hard-working songwriter getting her due. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Here’s what the Philly music scene loves about Hop Along

Hop Along | Photo by Shervin Lainez
Hop Along | Photo by Shervin Lainez

More than simply a great band, Philly’s Hop Along is a great band that understands the value of community. They’ve opened shows and tours for their more established scene peers like mewithoutYou and Dr. Dog, and in turn they’ve taken given opening opportunities to Thin Lips and Clique. They record at Philly studios, they have Philly friends contribute to their albums, they work with Philly people (like Cat Park and Tiff Yoon of Amanda X) on their music videos and merch. And in turn, they’re a band that’s embraced the Philadelphia music world around.

Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee has a tattoo of Hop Along’s Freshman Year album art on her left arm (opposite Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things on her right). When Modern Baseball recorded their Key Studio Session, bassist Ian Farmer rocked a sweet Hop Along t-shirt. And pretty much any time the band has a Philly gig, the crowd is filled with local musicians…meaning we’re expecting their headlining show at Union Transfer tomorrow night to be a total love fest. To get prepared, we got a bunch of their Philly music friends to tell us what exactly it is they love about Hop Along. Continue reading →