Fake Pulp | via fakepulp.bandcamp.com

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

Night settles in. The jacket that was questionably necessary in the morning now feels essential, and is not really helping besides. Little things act as triggers, like a favorite music venue revamping its menu unexpectedly, getting rid of several vegan options. Or people converging just outside the front door, chain smoking and having frivolous conversations about celebrity encounters. A recording session not going completely as planned; instructions handed down encouraging neutrality and disengagement; a Lyft driver taking the most nonsensical roundabout route imaginable from South Philly uptown.

The weekend began with division and rhetoric, that awkward dance around co-workers and casual encounters where you try to silently ascertain which side they’re on so as not to offend. Or, if you’re particularly unlucky, you find yourself among a very outspoken group who ascertained wrong, whose assumptions about your own leanings couldn’t be more incorrect. You watch the news in secret at work as the afternoon wears on, you scroll through the GIFs and memes on the long train ride home, you laugh at that hateful guy getting punched in the face over and over again. You take a deep breath. And you mobilize.

Some of the new music we heard on Bandcamp this week felt like a direct reaction, one way or another, to our country’s recent transfer of power. And some of it, while not explicitly related, channels deep emotions that are analogous to what many around the country are feeling. In times of frustration and discord, music can be a conduit for escape — and if escape is what you need, that’s fine. We’ll certainly get to the music of escape at some point as this project rolls on. Right now, the music of action, reaction and raw feeling is the music that stands out.


This Philly power trio gets right to the point, describing itself as an “anti-religion, anti-sexism, anti-fascist, anti-homophobia, anti-government, sludge metal / hardcore punk” band. As such, they were none too happy with Friday’s events, and released a new single to coincide. It’s a brutal rush of Black Flag style riffs (fitting the Black Flag cover on the b-side), and lyrics about resistance — “close the borders, build the wall, just another thing to fall  / I’m scared shitless for my rights, I won’t go down without a fight.”


There’s the direct approach, for sure, the unsubtle tossing aside of metaphor and mystique and getting right to the damn point about what you’re feeling. And then there’s the more abstract approach. Shane Canyon Walsh, who records as Young Engines, clearly favors the latter, and released a two-part collection this week called Death or Glory Days. He draws a lot of inspiration from Godspeed You! Black Emperor — the experimental instrumental Canadian collective that to some listeners could be one of the most political bands of the 21st century, and to others could just be a talented group of players that makes impossibly gorgeous music that can soundtrack art gallery films as readily as video game trailers.

Death or Glory Days walks that same line, offering no explicit clue as to Young Engines’ leanings or motivations beyond a description of it’s origins, which date between 2008 and 2015: “These songs represent different tunings, influences, approaches and techniques,” writes Walsh. “They were recorded at different times and in different places and I didn’t think I’d put them out together until I accidentally dropped them all into one folder and listened to them in a random order. Then they made more sense to me.” It’s a gorgeous tapestry of sound that takes cues from post rock as well as the acoustic guitar compositions of Nick Drake and John Fahey, a bit of Brian Eno and Juliana Barwick’s sense of atmospherics, and (when you get to Vol. 2) a taper’s sense of record-pause-record audio collage. It could be a visceral, sonic reaction to the times we live in, for sure. Or it could could be sound for sound’s sake, and is thrilling in either sense.


Philly rapper, singer and songwriter Regina “Gina da Vinci” Kendrick takes us to another side of the direct approach — but not one that responds to current events in the news, but rather constant concerns in our day-to-day. Her new record Philophobia is not to be confused, record store nerds, with the 1998 album of the same name by Scottish electronic folk duo Arab Strap; this album is more of a reference to the fear of falling in love — with a double entendre of her being a Philly artist singing about philophobia (Phillyphobia = the fear of falling in love in Philadelphia?).

So, yes, it’s clear and honest collection of thoughts and experiences delivered in the hybrid style of Young Thug, Rapsody, Big Sean and Tinashe — very fresh and contemporary, blurring the lines between singing, rapping and spirited production, creating a uniform world of song where just about anything can happen. Da Vinci cuts a confident figure on the title track and “Nicki,” making it clear that she’s not someone to be trifled with. She sings from the perspective of a woman who’s felt the rush of love and the scorn of betrayal, and she has no time for your shit, little player. But she yearns for love at the same time, and the project’s ten tracks dissed that contrast.


“FUCK! Okay, let’s try this again.” That’s the first thing you hear on the new single by Philly-based home-recording indie-popster Fake Pulp, about which there is a bare minimum of information on the internet. It seems to be the project of a young woman named Linda; it was written up in The Le Sigh back in November; and its raw emotion and sensitivity cut to the core on That’s It.

Scanning back through their Bandcamp discography, you’ll notice an Alex G level of productivity — five singles or EPs have been released since the project emerged three months ago; another EP’s release date is July 2037, so we can’t tell where this future-record actually lies in the order of things. Clearly Linda is an Alex G fan, since two covers of his songs mix into the catalog, but beyond the fact that both musicians are evident home-recorders and the one is an appreciator of the other, I’d say the similarities stop there.

Fake Pulp layers guitar and voice in ways that mingle the clear and crunchy, the angelic and gritty, resulting a spectral blend that reflects on loneliness and isolation but passively yearns for companionship. On the opening “habits, rituals and other compulsions,” Linda sings “if you want to see me, if you want to find me, you know where I am.” The companion, “12:33,” is more haunting and languid, conveying a heavy woozy fever dream. Old heads might find a reference point Lisa Germano, though I’m pretty certain that this somewhat obscure artist of the 90s / aughties was not at all an influence on Fake Pulp. (Even more impressed, though, if so.) On the newer side of things, Fake Pulp seems to be simpatico with fellow Philadelphians Abi Reimold and Shannen Moser.

Like Da Vinci’s Philophobia, this single is not a reaction to current events in the slightest, but nonetheless vividly echoes the sensations of uncertainly, ennui and exhaustion that are in the air.


It is pretty impossible to listen to metal without being moved the palpable aggression, energy, and sensations of rage. So in that sense, the new EP from local doom metal outfit Parius was a perfect fit with Friday’s media imagery of tear gas and shattered windows surrounding demonstrators in the District of Columbia. And while this band’s new Let There Be Light clearly comes from a place of discontent, it doesn’t explicitly take sides, or even set its narrative in our own reality — like Young Engines, the m.o. seems to be “let the music do the talking, let the listener draw their own conclusions.”

Beyond the hammering riffs and rhythms are a dose of occult / macabre imagery — “Dead flesh given life, but this life wants to die / Playing god was the sin, that night a man was contrived” — and references to Philip K. Dick’s Do androids dream of electric sheep? (and, by extension, Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner). Beyond that, I notice themes of making sense out of a senseless society: “The answers aren’t forthcoming, but perhaps that is answer enough. / Did we deserve this? Perhaps this is what’s left, and all there’ll ever be.”

The question, then, is who this music is for. The answer: everybody, regardless of sides. With the exception of the highly specific group people who are newly in power, and their highly specific team of staffs and associates, it seems like nobody is stoked about the current state of things. And if an artist can pull their perspective far enough back, they’ll capture that bigger picture of widespread discontent. I was reminded of that this morning when the song “Unsatisfied” by The Replacements, brilliantly covered by Cave People on the new Don’t stop now benefit compilation, cued up on my iTunes playlist. Whatever the moral-ethical-philosophical leanings of a person singing that song at any given time might be, it contains a whole lot of truth — and in its rip-roaring, metal badass kin of way, Parius does the same.