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The Key Studio Sessions: Slingshot Dakota

With this appearance, Lehigh Valley indie pop duo Slingshot Dakota joins the Key Studio Sessions three-timers’ club. And while we haven’t yet decided if members of their elite society get a jacket, we can tell you that watching artists grow over a span of years and albums — and instudio performances — is something truly special.

In 2013, singer-keyboardist Carly Comando and drummer Tom Patterson were two contagiously upbeat people with catchy songs, deep feelings, and a record called Dark Hearts that showcased all of those things. In 2016, a Break-era session found them more at a more complicated place, and writing songs that reflected the good and the bad of adulting; the deepening of relationships as well as the frustration of not moving as quickly in life as you’d like.

Their solution: keep getting louder, as the lead single of their tremendous new record Heavy Banding suggests. It’s 2019, Slingshot Dakota are writing the best songs of their career, and as a musical two-piece they are more tightly in sync than we’ve ever seen — a connection that obviously carries over to Comando and Patterson’s marriage as well. (Keep tabs on their social media for lots of #couplegoals content, and find even more in this ongoing photo essay by photographer Matt Smith.) Continue reading →

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Elaine Rasnake talks mastering her craft (plus the craft of mastering) and navigating Philly independent music on the 25 O’Clock Podcast

Elaine Rasnake | photo by Jordyn Lyric of Fawnover, Co. | via facebook.com/elainerasnake

Here at The Key, we first noticed the work of songwriter / producer Elaine Rasnake back in the days of our Items Tagged Philadelphia project, when her Postal Service-esque single “Spacesuit” hit Bandcamp. The series later taught us, through seeing her name pop up in the credits to releases by Rob’n Delaine and Marina Murayama Nir, that Rasnake was more versatile than her one-person electropop artist page led us to believe.

As Rasnake reveals in this conversation with Dan Drago on the latest 25 O’Clock Podcast, her intention with releasing music on Bandcamp in the first place wasn’t so much to land her spots on shows or in bands — though both things eventually happened, though her own performances, her Breathe Again EP, as well as her multi-instrumental contributions to Kate Dressed Up. Her intention in releasing music on Bandcamp was a calling card, a portfolio, a demo reel of what she’s able to do production wise, in the hopes that it would connect her with clients and collaborators. Continue reading →

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Listen to Devon Gilfillian play acoustic and chat with Helen Leicht on XPN Local

When he was in town for a smokin’ NON-COMM set earlier this month, Pennsylvania-born singer-guitarist and songwriter Devon Gilfillian caught up with Helen Leicht of the XPN Local Show to play a couple songs acoustic and chat about his journey.

Born in Morton, Pennsylvania and schooled at West Chester University, Gilfillian was immersed in a vast variety of musical influences as a child. His parents gave him classics by Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and The Temptations; meanwhile, he was a hip-hop fanatic, listening to Jay-Z, Kanye West, and The Clipse. Once he picked up a guitar, he dug deep into classic rock and psychedelia from luminaries like Jimi Hendrix, Allman Brothers, and Led Zeppelin.

“I was all over the place musically as I was growing up,” he says. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Ingrid Michelson will bring Stranger Songs to Union Transfer in October

Ingrid Michaelson | photo via facebook.com/ingridmichaelson

Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson returns this summer with Stranger Songs, her ninth studio album and one aesthetically in the spirit of the Duffer Brothers’ immensely popular Netflix thriller series Stranger Things. Teaser photos for the album have shown Michaelson styled like Barb and referencing Eleven, and while it’s unclear whether or not this is the actual album cover, come on now. Continue reading →

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#XPN5050: 1991

For fifty weeks this year, we’re celebrating the music of a specific year every Saturday on WXPN. We’ll be choosing the years randomly; for this week’s #XPN5050, Mike Vasilikos is putting the musical spotlight on the year 1991.

1991 was “the year punk broke.” It was the year grunge became a mainstream phenomenon, with the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten, and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger. It also saw the release of adventurous psychedelic classics, like the acid house fueled Screamadelica by Primal Scream, or the dub-heavy trip-hop of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines. The year also saw singer-songwriter classics like Bonnie Raitt’s Luck of the Draw, and golden era hip-hop essentials like A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory.   Continue reading →

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Music Auxiliary Support: Listen to Kristen and Paige of Cherry-Veen Zine guest DJ on XPN Local

Paige Walter and Kristen Levine of Cherry-Veen Zine at WXPN | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A few years ago, Kristen Levine watched The Punk Singer, the 2013 documentary on Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna and the riot grrrl movement she helped propel from the Pacific Northwest scene to the national spotlight. It wasn’t just a movement about music, though. It was about art, it was about feminism, it was about independence and DIY — doing things by yourself, for yourself, and answering to no one.

Levine was inspired, and channeled that energy into Cherry-Veen Zine, a Philly music scene chapbook she began publishing in the spirit of the zine-makers she saw in The Punk Singer. Fleshed out with the work of graphic designer Laura Cherry, an initial run of six limited-edition issues popped up at places around Philly throughout 2016 — Milkcrate, Johnny Brenda’s, Steep & Grind, and Rocket Cat (RIP) — with lots of social media activity like gig photos and playlists filling the space between one print edition and the next.

But early 2017, however, the independent publishing grind had taken a toll on Levine, and she left Philly to spend a year in York, Pennsylvania. When she returned last year, she met Paige Walter — a Pittsburgh transplant with a background in education and journalism — and Cherry-Veen Zine was re-invigorated.

Last weekend, Issue 9 hit the streets, and on Tuesday night, Levine and Walter appeared on the WXPN Local show for a guest DJ set spotlighting their favorite Philadelphia artists — corey flood to Barney Cortez, Blushed to Pine Barons — and talk about their mission. Continue reading →

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Gritty’s summertime playlist will getcha all the way to Cape May

Catch a wave with Gritty

Here at The Key, we’ve brought you Gritty-themed playlists before, but never have we had a playlist that actually came from Gritty himself.

To kick off the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Flyers’ mascot Tweeted a playlist that’s stacked with hits perfect for sunny skies and the open road. IT SUMMATIME Y’ALL opens with “Island In The Sun” by Weezer, dips right into the groove of “Family Affair” as done by Mary J. Blige, and races across an invigorating assortment of sounds — but as Gritty puts it, only “if listened to in my strategically curated order.”

Philly summer classics are in the mix (“Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince), along with wedding DJ staples that even the most cynical groomsman has to admit are bangers (“September” by Earth Wind and Fire, “Tootsie Roll” by Old School Players), some reggaeton (El Chombo’s “Chacarron”), modern rock (Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue”), classic rock (Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”), and yes, even Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” (Which, we already knew Gritty was down with the yeehaw agenda, so it comes as no surprise.) Continue reading →

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Watch Native Harrow perform “Can’t Go On Like This” in WXPN studios for Folkadelphia

Native Harrow | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

Philly area singer-songwriter Devin Tuel founded her duo Native Harrow back in 2011 in Woodstock, New York, where she connected with drummer and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms; since then they’ve moved to Philly, then spent a nomadic year on the road, and as of this winter are back in the Chester County burbs with a new record called Happier Now under their belts. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Yarrow

With all due respect to the bassists of the world, I respect the hell out of artists that don’t buy into rock and roll convention, that firmly jettison the four-stringed low end from their instrumental setup. When they do that and sound as thrilling as Philly’s Yarrow, all the better.

Fronted by some familiar punk scene faces — Christo Johnson of King Azaz, Meri Haines of Great Weights — the band takes the Sleater-Kinney guitar-guitar-drums power trio approach, but with the density and catharsis of Drive Like Jehu’s “Luau.” Or, as our Yoni Kroll put it when he named Yarrow one of his favorite new Philly bands last year, Yarrow feels like it’s “channeling Slint and Unwound but in a perfectly pissed off kind of way.” In short: it’s heavy stuff.

Ahead of their appearance this Saturday, May 25th at Break Free Fest — the third annual edition of the festival centering black and brown artists in punk and hardcore — Yarrow (rounded out by drummer Dani Elephant) came by WXPN studios to play an explosive set of songs from A Mild Circus, their February release on Get Better Records. Continue reading →

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Tash Sultana lives in the moment at The Met Philly

When Tash Sultana told The Met Philly that the world “is a pretty messed up place right now,” they didn’t specify what they felt was making it that way. Sure, we could venture a guess, but last Friday night, the Melbourne singer-guitarist could have been referring to any number of things that flashed across our news feed all week. For Sultana (who is nonbinary and uses they/their pronouns) it was more crucial to focus on uniting rather than dividing — something, they observed, their gigs tend to do.

“It is so nice when you look into a crowd of people and see every single age, every single race, every single sexuality and gender,” they said. “There’s people in the world who want to tear that simplicity apart, but not in here montherfucker! Things are changing, and it’s beautiful to be a part of.” Continue reading →