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Summer Scouts sophomore LP Endless Light offers unwavering energy

Summer Scouts | photo by K. Egan | courtesy of the artist

Allentown rock band Summer Scouts has just released their newest project, an album called Endless Light. The five-piece’s debut took place in 2016 with Furthest Reach, which proved that their energetic sound could hold its own in the PA alt rock scene. The group has done it again three years later, their new album bringing even more chill-inducing harmonies and fiery guitar leads. Continue reading →

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Mannequin Pussy burn brighter than ever on new album Patience

Mannequin Pussy | photo by Marcus Maddox

Friday morning, rising Philadelphia rock band Mannequin Pussy released Patience, their third full-length album and their most cohesive effort to date. Vocalist and guitarist Marisa Dabice pushes her voice to all its extremes, and the band — with Athanasios Paul on guitar, Colins Rey Regisford on bass, and Kaleen Reading on drums — pushes every song forward with a new urgency.

The band’s previous albums GP and Romantic, both put out by Tiny Engines, feature harsher sounds and drier mixes on spite-filled indie-punk jams that usually lasted two minutes or less. On Patience, their first release on Epitaph, they seem to have deepened their ambitions, with admirable results. Many of these songs — “Drunk II”, “Fear/+/Desire”, “In Love Again” — burn brighter and longer than any of their past work. Mannequin Pussy recorded the new material at Conshohocken’s Studio 4 with local producer and engineer Will Yip, and they achieved warm, thick mixes with guitars and drums spread out wide in stereo space. The band has distilled their tense DIY sound into something steadfast by incorporating elements of grunge and shoegaze, but they have not lost their edge. Continue reading →

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On Keepsake, Hatchie demonstrates a mastery of dream pop

Keepsake cover art | courtesy of the artist

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This is the philosophy Hatchie has embraced on her debut album, Keepsake, out now via Double Double Whammy. The Australian artist, real name Harriette Pilbeam, pulls from Cocteau Twins, New Order, and Sky Ferreira to craft a 2019 dream pop treatise. The album rarely strays from genre norms, making it easily accessible and as addicting as Heaven or Las Vegas. Throughout the album, she proudly wears her influences and heart on her sleeve. The opening track “Not That Kind” begins with vicious drums and then morphs into a syrupy indie pop jam. It sets the stage for the rest of the album, introducing both Pilbeam’s remarkable voice and songwriting patterns.

The album’s first single, “Without a Blush”, is a jangly and punchy pop tune. It pulls listeners further into Hatchie’s hazy sonic world. “Unwanted Guest” is another jolt of energy that pops up at the album’s halfway point. These tracks mirror last year’s Sugar & Spice EP, but also show Hatchie sounding even more confident. The woozy, guitar-heavy outro on “Guest” makes a bold statement without words. Pilbeam’s lyrics are piercing throughout the record, so when she chooses to be silent, she is still saying something. Her silence represents an acceptance of vulnerability and letting others figure you out a bit. What is a debut album if not an opportunity for people to try to understand who you are, or want to be?

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Andrew Lipke returns with a exploratory new EP Overture

Andrew Lipke | courtesy of the artist

Andrew Lipke, the Philly-based, South African born composer and multi-instrumentalist, is known for his fusion of musical genres. His innovative and ever-evolving style has built him a career that ranges from composing classical music to covering Led Zeppelin, but what stands out most is his rich catalogue of solo songwriting, which showcases his ability to find common ground among his varied inspirations.

The newest addition is Overture, a new six-track EP that came out Friday. Lipke calls the EP “a collection of some of the music I’ve created so far in my exploration of themes and concepts within Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha.” The novel, which follows the title character’s spiritual journey in search of enlightenment, has inspired countless readers to follow their own paths of self-discovery — one can only assume that Lipke, through his songs, is on a similar journey. Continue reading →

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Bruce Springsteen and The Meaning of Life: Western Stars is uneven, but unafraid

Bruce Springsteen | photo courtesy of the artist

At this point in history, Bruce Springsteen doesn’t need to try anymore.

If we’re being completely honest, he hasn’t needed to try for a long time. The man wrote, recorded, and released no fewer than three masterpieces in the first ten years of his career – 1975’s Born to Run, 1980’s The River, and 1983’s Nebraska. The albums that surrounded them were all valiant efforts filled with strong, nuanced songwriting and major radio hits. His live shows have been things of legend since he was playing The Stone Pony and The Main Point. On legacy alone, arenas of fans the world around will continue flocking to the man who put Asbury Park on the map, regardless of what he brings to the table – whether it hits or misses.

Springsteen’s newest offering, Western Stars, is out today. It is his nineteenth studio album, and on the surface could be heard as a lackluster late-career move by a 70s rock veteran. But if you consider the road that led to it, it’s not that at all. Continue reading →

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Distantstarr keeps repping introversion and self-reliance on new mixtape Fine

Distantstarr | photo via facebook.com/distantstarr

Earlier this month, Philadelphia producer and emcee Distantstarr released Fine, a new mixtape that combines his psychedelic production and sound collaging with wry honesty. In eight curious tracks totaling less than eighteen minutes, the hip-hop artist brings us along on an introverted trip, and he explains how he’s gotten so comfortable with himself.

Distantstarr has been a prolific contributor to the local beats scene fo almost a decade, though his tastes have kept shifting throughout that time. His Bandcamp catalog — the most extensive collection of his output — dates back to 2012 and contains nineteen different releases, including six releases in the time since The Key caught up with him in February 2018. Continue reading →

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Slingshot Dakota deepen their sound on impressive new album Heavy Banding

Slingshot Dakota’s Heavy Banding LP | cover photo by Em Dubin | courtesy of the artist

Bethlehem-based indie punks Slingshot Dakota have gotten even more ambitious on their new album Heavy Banding, and the payoff is strong. For more than ten years, the wife and husband duo Carly Comando and Tom Patterson have been bringing melodic and lyrical sensibilities from pop and pop punk into the soundworld of current indie and alt rock using only a keyboard and a drum set. Now more than ever, their chosen combinations of thundering drums and fuzz-washed synth sounds often recall the thick textures and rough-around-the-edges mixes on recent records by Mitski and Waxahatchee. Other touchstones could be fellow Pennsylvanians like Kississippi (with whom Slingshot Dakota toured in 2016) or Cayetana. Continue reading →

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Seven bands from the Philly DIY underground you need to hear right now (2019 edition!)

Pit Hair | photo by Gabe Coffey | courtesy of the artist

Covered in debris from dust-strewn practice spaces, tucked into dank basements where the drum kit competes for space with old rusting washing machines the landlord refuses to repair or throw out, huddled together under bridges or in struggling speak-easys with one speaker sound systems — it’s Philadelphia punk rock, a movement informed not only by the DIY community at large — a sprawling network of zines (they still exist), record labels, show spaces, and resources that wild youth and curmudgeonly old crusties have tapped into for decades — but also by wack shit like the city’s raging stop-and-frisk laws, the constant assault of rapid gentrification that feels inevitable, and a tumultuous, strange push-pull that has existed within the context of the punk, hardcore and activist/art scenes in a city that still feels reverberations from the MOVE bombing. To say that Philly’s punk rock community has a tenuous relationship with the city is an overstatement.

But more and more, people who exist outside of the margins, not just because they wear all-black or have pink mohawks, but because of who they are, are finding the resources to get involved, and the cultural texture of the city is richer for it. We’re a city that has been home to Break Free Fest — a musical event highlighting bands who feature Black and Brown musicians screaming their brains out, an event that happens this Saturday and Sunday at The Rotunda. We’re a city that, before Break Free, was home to Rockers, a recurring event that for more than a decade sought to do the same. Continue reading →

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Philly indie band Lester return with a new set of atmospheric jams

Lester | photo by Georgia Smith | courtesy of the artist

Last July, Philly D.I.Y outfit Lester, released their debut EP swamp. Now they’re back with it’s follow-up, the seven-track We Could Have Been Anywhere. The band continues to experiment with caustic guitar, reverb-drenched vocals, steady drums, and moody lyrics.  We Could Have Been Anywhere opens with “supply/contact,” a brief instrumental track soaked in distortion and effects. “Untld” bounces between abrasive guitar playing and Juli McCue’s subdued vocals. At points the two seem to blend together, as if they were coming from the same source.

The closing track, “polly,” feels like one long exhale, as if it is signaling the release of the drama created by the soft-loud contrasts in previous tracks. It is hard not to get lost in “folds” and “spoiler.” These tracks a perfect examples of Lester’s ability to create soundscapes that build and unravel, twirling listeners around and forcing them to focus solely on the music. Continue reading →

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Shamir wows with surprise album Be The Yee, Here Comes the Haw

Shamir | via shamir.bandcamp.com

Last week, Shamir dropped a new album and it’s as glittery, defiant, and explorational as anything he’s done before! The Las Vegas-born, Philly-based artist’s three previous albums include: Revelations, Room, and Resolution, all of which have received wide-spread acclaim for their inventive indie pop sound and refusal to be reigned in by genre boundaries. His latest album, Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw, follows in this tradition.

While unconfirmed, its possible that Shamir is channeling the recent yeehaw agenda that made waves on Twitter in 2018 and whipped through the sound and aesthetics of  music industry greats like Solange, Beyonce, and Cardi B. For those who haven’t saddled up to this trend, the yeehaw agenda embraces the rich, and often invisible, history of black cowboys in the United States and pushes for defiant, powerful black musicians decked out in cowboy hats and stir-ups whose music is as adventurous as their tasseled fashion choices. While Shamir’s album only hits at yeehaw, its obvious placement in the title is enough to convince listeners that he has been reading up on this trend and implementing it in his work. But this kind of experimentation with genre isn’t new for Shamir. Maybe Shamir was the original yeehaw, hawing before we knew to yee. Continue reading →