Top of the Key: The Sixers are Going to be Abysmal Next Year – and That’s a Good Thing

Dave Hartley – bassist for The War on Drugs, mastermind of Nightlands, and all-around hoops enthusiast – weighs in on the basketball scene for us periodically in his Top of the Key column. This week, Dave presents an analysis of why the Sixers’ 2014 roster is not unlike the Fleetwood Mac album Penguin.

1. The 76ers have a new GM and a new CEO, both of whom are fully onboard with advanced metrics and Moneyball-style statistical analysis
2. We traded our only All-Star for the most talented player in the draft (who is recovering from a torn ACL) and a 2014 draft pick (this is big)
3. We’re going to lose a ton of games next year, which should get us an additional high draft pick in 2014
4. Experts are calling the 2014 draft the best in decades

We’re going to have boat loads of young talent and a ton of cap-space to potentially lure a big name free agent

1. To get your basement really clean, you generally have to make a giant mess first, pull out those old boxes, dig through that pile of trash, sweep the cat litter into a big pile, stir up tons of dust
2. To fix that nagging wrist injury sometimes you have to re-break the bone and set it properly
3. Fleetwood Mac had to get worse after the departure of Peter Green (the Kirwin, Spencer, Welsch, Weston years, etc.) before they got better (eponymous, Rumours, Tusk, Mirage, etc.)
4. The Sixers are about to release their Penguin Continue reading →


The Week So Far: 11 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Steve Gunn Trio, W.C. Lindsay, Disclosure and more)

Father John Misty | Photo by Noah Silvestry |
Father John Misty | Photo by Noah Silvestry |

Relive the weekend’s live music with reviews and photos of The National, Father John Misty, Devendra Banhart, The Bailey Hounds and Of Monsters and Men [link]

The Steve Gunn Trio recorded a Key Studio Session while on tour with Kurt Vile [link]

War on Drugs bassist and Nightlands frontman Dave Hartley returns to The Top of The Key with a look at basketball nicknames [link]

New Jersey’s Aspiga premiered a new song called “Direction” from an upcoming 7″ split [link]

Take an in-depth look at Break It Up‘s debut self-titled LP, featured this week on Unlocked [link]

Stream the exclusive premiere of W.C. Lindsay‘s super fun Tree EP [link]

WXPN announced the daily line-up for this summer’s XPoNential Music Festival [link]

We have a Gotta Hear Song from Disclosure and a Gotta Watch Video of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell this week [link and link]

PhilaMOCA announced their second annual ERASERHOOD FOREVER celebration of David Lynch and the venue’s Callowhill neighborhood [link]

Last Good Tooth teamed up with Folkadelphia for this week’s live session [link]

Sigur Ros, Kate Nash and Neko Case announced Philly shows for the fall


The Week So Far: 9 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Kurt Vile, Grandchildren, Khari Mateen and Dave Hartley’s Top of The Key)


Grandchildren‘s Golden Age is featured in this week’s Unlocked series [link]

It’s been a big week for show announcements, with The Monkees [link], Patty Griffin [link], Pet Shop Boys [link] and The Olms [link] unveiling Philly dates

Joe Pug played a show at Johnny Brenda’s this week – check out a free download of five tracks from the Chicago singer-songwriter [link]

Khari Mateen will kick-off Brewerytown’s summer jazz concert series on May 15th [link]

Take a listen back to this year’s Key Studio Sessions with Volume 7, featuring Waxahatchee, Pissed Jeans and Ruby the Hatchet [link]

Kurt Vile shares a new video for “Never Run Away” – he’ll be at Union Transfer on May 18th [link]

Dave Hartley presents an overview of the NBA playoffs in a new edition of Top of Key [link]

Mount Moriah highlighted their sophomore album Miracle Temple during this week’s Folkadelphia session [link]

Download a compilation of music from local bands including Cheers Elephant, Roof Doctor and Norwegian Arms c/o Beat the Indie Drum [link]


Top Of The Key: Can the Spurs Postpone the Heat Dynasty? An NBA Playoff Primer by Dave Hartley


So, you haven’t been paying attention to pro hoops this season? Fear not, I have. Here’s what you need to know:

Lebron James is really good at basketball. If you stopped caring after Michael Jordan retired, here is your reentry point.

Lebron is currently enjoying a level of sustained dominance we’ve only seen from Michael Jordan (if you don’t believe me, check out the advanced metrics), but in a totally different way. His preposterous speed, power and finishing ability gets lots of deserved ink and SportsCenter real estate, but it’s the little things he does that set him apart from his contemporaries like Durant and Carmelo. Check out this pass:

It’s not flashy, but it is deadly. Incredible velocity, impossible to defend. There are maybe a handful of players in the league who can make a pass like that, and none of them have anything close to Lebron’s athleticism and skill set. It’s unfair.

Here’s another one:

And another:

And another:

Other things that make The Heat fascinating:

– Ray Allen: He ditched the Celtics because of a feud with Rajon Rondo, took less money to join the Heatles, is 59 years old and now the all-time leading three point shooter in both regular season and playoff history.

– Chris “Birdman” Anderson: Dennis Rodman-lite, Anderson has the craziest tattoos of any pro athlete and seems to change the vibe of the game the moment he checks in.

– Chris “VelociRaptor” Bosh: One of the homeliest players since Sam Cassell, Bosh is on the short list of legit power forwards who can change a game from beyond the arc along with Durant, Kevin Love and Dirk, and is a perfect superstar-as-role-player.

– Juwan Howard: 63 years old, somehow still getting paid to play basketball, impossibly well groomed.

– Mike Miller: He played with a destroyed lower back in last year’s finals, he’s capable of spurts of incredible play, super gutty. Check this shit out

– “Positionless Basketball” – The Heat are pioneering what they call “positionless basketball”: surrounding Lebron and/or Dwayne with a squad deadly long distance shooters. It spreads the defense wide open and creates a nightmare of mismatches. it’s a Moneyball-esque paradigm shift.

– Shane Battier: He’s hilarious and erudite off the court, as clutch as it gets on the court; the second coming of Robert Horry.

None of this means Miami is going to sleepwalk their way to a second consecutive title. They have vulnerabilities and, like every other team, are an injury or two away from elimination on their best day. But if you love greatness, or love to root against it, here is your muse.

The New York Knicks are relevant for the first time since Patrick Ewing was in short pants.
Continue reading →


Top of the Key: Hoops, Pinball and Bilateral Neuropathy – Talking with Todd MacCulloch

Photo by Jim Capale |
Photo by Jim Capale |

I know what I like: voices in harmony, major seventh chords, and thick, spacey drones. I like science fiction. Hard science fiction. I like basketball and I love to play pinball. They are simple things and they give me pleasure, especially when they unexpectedly overlap. At one of these intersections stands Todd MacCulloch, former NBA Finalist and pinball champion. Talking with him on the phone recently was a joy; I found him to be intelligent, humble, forthcoming, and extremely generous with his time (you can read the full transcription of our conversation here).

His path has been unconventional. Like most Canadian youths, Todd fancied himself a hockey player, but his rapidly increasing height had other ideas. In high school he committed to basketball and “got noticed as a 6’9″, 6’10”, 6’11” skinny kid from Winnipeg that had decent footwork and a decent ability to catch the basketball.” By his senior year he was seven feet tall and being recruited by colleges all over America. He chose Washington and powered them to the sweet sixteen in 1998, leading the nation in field goal percentage three consecutive years (one of only two players ever to accomplish the feat).

Todd finished college, got his degree and was projected to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft. Disappointingly, though, he was taken 47th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers: “I think the perception was that I was too slow to compete at the NBA level”. About this and other setbacks, Todd is refreshingly honest: “I slipped to the second round and was crushed. I thought I had failed and that they had forgotten about me and that I wasn’t a very good player.” Being drafted that late generally means you show up to training camp and fight for a spot. It can mean playing overseas and ultimately never making an NBA roster.

To regain his confidence Todd joined Steve Nash on the Canadian National Team to try for a spot in the 2000 Olympics. In the qualifying competition they upset a number of teams and earned a trip to Sydney, but it was his performance against the third Dream Team that changed the course of Todd’s life. Continue reading →


The Week So Far: 12 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Bleeding Rainbow, Kurt Vile, Attia Taylor and Pissed Jeans)

Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Happy Valentine’s Day from Helen Leicht – get free downloads of Philly Local love songs [link]

Philly punks Pissed Jeans ravage the Key Studio Sessions [link]

Indiepop five-piece Catnaps releases a prom-themed music video for “Novelty” [link]

WXPN will broadcast Sunday’s Mumford & Sons concert from the SBC in Camden [link]

Bleeding Rainbow‘s new LP Yeah Right is the subject of the Unlocked showcase [link]

Philly’s Abi Reimold is spotlighted in a Folkadelphia session [link]

See photos from Toro y Moi‘s appearance at Union Transfer [link]

Five Things That Inspired Mary Lattimore’s Debut Album, The Withdrawing Room [link]

Watch local actors, fashion designers and musicians Khari Mateen and Elegant Animals collaborate in a video called The Living [link]

Explore Philadelphia with Dave Hartley of Nightlands and BlackBook Magazine [link]

Kurt Vile announces a headlining Union Transfer show, shares a free download [link]

Philly space-rocker Brendan Codey shares a new track called “Twin Chimney” [link]

UK experimental trio Beak> plays Underground Arts on a snowy night [link]


Explore Philadelphia with Dave Hartley and BlackBook Magazine

Photo by Dominic Neitz |

Dave Hartley is a man of many roles. He’s the versatile bassist who performs regularly with The War on Drugs, and has joined the Lindsey Buckingham Appreciation Society, and Buried Beds on occasion. He’s the sonic mastermind behind Nightlands. He’s the scribe behind Top of The Key. Adding to this ever-growing list, you could now call Hartley a civic and cultural ambassador for the City of Philadelphia. The twelve-year resident recently took the folks at BlackBook Magazine out of Brooklyn and on a tour of Philadelphia, stopping at popular locals Letoah’s Coffee, Miner Street Recording, Loco Pez and more. Add into the mix a collection of stunning portraits by photographer Dominic Neitz and it’s a rich and multi-sensory look at our fair city. (I can almost smell the basil in the Pizza Brain photo.) Get a look at the article here.


Interview: Nightlands’ Dave Hartley on sci-fi, sinkholes, and how when you really get down to it, the music biz is all one big “book of friends”

Oak Island is not just the title of Nightlands’ new record. It’s also an island off the South shore of Nova Scotia, imbued with mythical proportions. First discovered in 1795, it’s home to a mysterious pit, in which explorers found strange pick markings and layers of logs. The discovery sparked rumors that the pit housed treasure, and for years afterwards, explorers sailed to Oak Island and continued to dig, hoping to unearth the pit’s secret.

These days, scientists believe the phenomenon was likely caused by a sinkhole—although excavation groups today still continue to explore. When I ask Nightlands’ Dave Hartley how the tale relates to his new record, he tells me he’s drawn to the idea of “mystery without end.” “I think mystery is important in art,” he continues, over coffee at Kensington’s Leotah’s Place. “On record, I never let my voice be alone. I always cloak it in millions of itself. Maybe that’s an attempt to keep the mystery going…because the human ear always wants to hear a single voice. And I feel like I’m always pulling it away, dangling the carrot.”

Thick, echo-y, vocal layers are one key element of Nightlands, a solo project started a few years back by Hartley, most known for his role as bassist with The War on Drugs. As Nightlands, he boasts two records of complex, moving synth pop: 2010’s Forget the Mantra, and Oak Island, out this week on Secretly Canadian.

Compared to Mantra, which felt dreamy and dense, Hartley describes Oak Island as “more confident.” “It’s an evolution,” he adds, calling it the “next step” in an ever-changing musical journey. Continue reading →


The Week So Far: 12 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Roots Picnic, ONUINU and #LetBonnerShoot)

Photo by Pete Troshak | |

The lineup for the 6th Annual Roots Picnic includes Gary Clark Jr., Lushlife and more [link]

Dave Hartley‘s Top of the Key returns to tell you why the NBA should #LetBonnerShoot [link]

Folk-inspired Philly songwriter Gretchen Lohse records a stunning Key Studio Session [link]

The latest album from Joe D’Amico gets the Unlocked treatment [link]

Portland dance-rock artist ONUINU chats about his upcoming show at Kung Fu Necktie [link]

Get your vote on in The Deli and Tri-State Indie‘s year-in-review polls [link]

Pitchfork gave Bleeding Rainbow‘s new LP a bad review, then premiered it anyway [link]

UK pop singer Jessie Ware played Union Transfer, reminisced about World Cafe [link]

Listen to Simian Mobie Disco recorded live on Making Time RADio [link]

Elder grunge statesmen Soundgarden brought their reunion tour to The Tower Theater [link]

Listen to Yo La Tengo cover The Spinners’ classic “I’ll Be There” from Free at Noon [link]

Ohio singer-songwriter Dolfish is spotlighted in this week’s Folkadelphia session [link]