Items Tagged Philadelphia: Don't hold the wall - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Erotic Novels | via

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.

There’s a great line in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, one that plays in to the film’s recontextual use of corny 70s / 80s pop nuggets in a deep space universe, and also resonates with audiences on a universal level. To paraphrase: there are two types of people / robots / sentient beings out there, those who dance and those who don’t.

I am, most decidedly, one who does not.

I mean, I wish I could. I’ve tried and serve only to embarrass my wife, my friends and family, pretty much anyone who knows me really, with my severe lack of coordination, gratuitous personal space-hogging, and my clumsy and possibly dangerous lunging into the path of those around me. The best I can muster without screwing up too badly is, for instance, when my cousin John married his now-wife Kim a few weeks back, and being that the wedding took place on Long Island, a set of Billy Joel song was demanded by my sisters, and a dozen of us wrapped arms ’round shoulders and swayed and sang every lyric to “Piano Man.” That I can do — I am embarrassingly adept when it comes to Billy Joel karaoke. Anything more, it’s best for all concerned if I just stand to the side and watch.

Fortunately, watching can be a joy in itself. I got to do that a few times this Memorial Day weekend. First on Friday night when King Britt opened the summer season at Spruce Street Harbor Park with Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life” into SWV’s “Right Here,” Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” into Daft Punk’s “Around the World” into Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” By the end of the night, I was one of the only people in front of the DJ rig not on their feet and grooving along. King is a master of what he does, and he returns to the Delaware River Waterfront on August 20th for a roller skating party that will undoubtedly be amazing.

For another kind of dancing entirely, something truly wonderful happened at Break Free Fest at The Rotunda on Saturday. Well, beyond the the festival itself, which was an incredible ten-band punk rock showcase focusing on artists of color that tend to be pushed to the side and overlooked in the scene, and in general. Music likes to put its practitioners in boxes; when talking about punk and hardcore, the industry narrative (and even the indie-stry narrative) focuses largely on bands that are made up of white dudes. More than one of the artists on the bill Saturday shared personal perspectives to the effect of how important it would have been to them to see more people that, very simply, looked like them onstage at shows they went to growing up. In a fortuitous turn of events, that point hit home when a handful of preteen friends wandered into The Rotunda in time to check out badass Columbus, Ohio four piece Minority Threat, join in a circle pit with gig organizer Scout Eleana, and break out some serious windmill arm moves. The festival raised money for The Black and Brown Workers’ Collective and The Attic Youth Center, and I can’t wait for its return next year.

In both situations I was off to the side, not actively participating, but watching and wholeheartedly digging. The good thing about that approach: it also works well with headphones. So even though I’m not a dancer, I was still in my head moving to this selection of riotous and groove-forward Philly-regional jams found on Bandcamp this week.


This new three-piece from New Brunswick, New Jersey is fronted by dynamic vocalist Shannon Perez (formerly of the equally provocatively handled I Hope You Die) and moves in the same circles as Don Giovanni’s awesome Shellshag. Like them, the vibe of Erotic Novels is garage rocky and hooky, and their debut single “Out West On My Own” boasts some serious Runaways awesomeness, with Perez trading vocals with co-vocalist Chris Tull, while “Jersey staple” drummer Bobby C carries the high-energy beat.


First Time’s the Charm co-organizer Meri Haines fronts Great Weights, an unapologetically emo four-piece with Al San Valentin, James De La Vega and Pat Higgins. Their debut Plans showed up on Bandcamp on Friday afternoon, and it strikes a balance between unsettled simmering quiet moments and visceral, anthemic ragers. “1992” does both in four minutes, and makes for a positive album opener. As they say, more to come.


Hell raising hard rockers Worst Ones find a nice niche somewhere in between the poppy industrial dance of 90s faves Girls vs Boys and the hard and heavy riffage of The Kills. Bandmates Mindy (drums) and Drew (guitars) also cite influences in The Stooges and Jesus and Mary Chain, and you can hear all of that and more on their new “Found Out” b/w “Snake in the Grass” single.


Illvibe Collective affiliate lil’dave branches out of the DJ booth and on his compositional own with this new single from the Osage project. Drawing from the various rhythms of samba (those conga drums!) and house (that 808!), as well as jazzy flutes and horns, this is a tonally rich and wholly engrossing jam that will have your ass moving before you realize it.


These two Philly-based brothers took separate paths into the hip-hop game, but reconvened for The Bootleg EP. Dre! opens it on “Blow,” Eddie Royal closes it on “Common Story,” and they pull double duty on the in between, reflecting on the hustle, the industry and their own awesomeness on beats that draw on classic rhythm and blues and soul.


“Facilities designed for the storage of art can be lonely places,” writes experimental Philly composer Robert Deeds. “Sculptures and paintings that once stimulated and delighted, now silently sit under dim light, removed from their original intent and purpose.” In a similar space in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Deeds uncovered an upright piano in disrepair, detuned and rattling, and used the once-majestic, century old instrument to make Scott Walker-esque bursts of abstract sound that are chilling and cathartic.


Jersey’s Nina Schirmer is a badass, no questions — she’s the songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist behind Calm Down, a hardcore to metalcore punk project that sets breathless post-rock scenes and then tears through them with screamo abandon. The six-track Tough Bones EP made its way onto the internet on Sunday, and you can check it out (and turn it up) below.


When Heeyoon Won isn’t working on her indie pop solo project Boosegumps, or playing in the trio Secret Mountain, she hold down the bass in (and records for) the new project Young Buffy, alongside vocalist Alyssa and drummer Buzz. (Last names are elusive at present.) The songs on their new Relaxation Music are quite the opposite: fuzzy, buzzy, twee pop in the vein of All Girl Summer Fun Band, Colleen Green and The So So Glos.


Local label / collective Recordbreakin’ brought together a crew of their players and producers for the new Batucada Samba Vol. 2 single, featuring remixes by our own John Morrison, as well as Johann Sebastian and the currently-streaming and seriously awesome “Outpatient Care Mix” by Dotmatic. Listen and move your feet below.


This cat Robert McAvoy, aka SCP-173, has been cranking out an absurd amount of music this year — absurd! Like one multi-song collection per week, seriously. I notice every time because of the project’s red skull logo and cheeky bio: “First off. No refunds. Period. This is copyable content and i dont trust anyone to give a safe return.” Hahaha, music merchandising in the 21st century is silly. Seriously, though, I’ve been waiting for something this guy does to grab me, and it has not yet done so…until now. Whereas previous weeks have skewed more generic and backgroundy, the sick beats and samples, and unbelievable energy of Surge, particularly its opening track, practically command you to listen.


One more quick one for the road — mostly because I’m a geek for public transportation, and I absolutely love that Philly’s Stranger Stations used an image of the Market East Station wall (Market East forever! Jefferson Station never!) in its album art, and featured the 11th Street El tunnel in a previous album cover. The band’s Depeche Mode-esque synthpop isn’t half bad either.

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