Items Tagged Philadelphia: Back to life, back to reality
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.
I have been out of practice, friends. First it was a week behind, coming off the Roots Picnic rush. Then it was a week and a half behind, caught up in the Firefly Music Festival. And then I was on a plane, flying across the Atlantic for two weeks’ vacation in England, and I hadn’t yet dove back into the fray of the Philadelphia tag on Bandcamp.
Like the well-behaved lot of creative folks that Philly musicians are, y’all kept creating. And when I arrived back at work last Monday, there were hundreds upon hundreds of new Bandcamp releases for me to dig through. I paged backwards through the feed to find the last block of releases I remember hearing — and paged and paged and paged — and once I got there, I hit play and began to move forward.
England was a blast, by the way. My wife and I filled it with music: stadium rocking sets from The Stone Roses and Radiohead, catching up with Dr. Dog and Pup in front of bustling London crowds, and discovering awesome indie punks Joyce Delaney at a basement show in Glasgow. At least three record shops were hit up per city, and my white whale was Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life” 12″ — a jam inspired by King Britt’s Memorial Day weekend DJ set at Spruce Street Harbor. I never got a hold of it, but easily dropped £300 on a variety of vinyl all the same. I’ll probably spend my next several weekends listening through it, and I’ll probably grab that Soul II Soul single on Discogs.
Meanwhile, with this mega list of Philly Bandcamp finds, I feel kinda sorta maybe caught up. For now. We’ll see. Let’s dive in, shall we?
This Philly multi-instrumentalist is relatively new to the scene, and he’s got so much energy to bring to it. The marching drums of his single “One More” are powerful and commanding as the man at the mic extolls the virtues of living one’s best life, in bellowed pop / rock melodies and fierce spoken word.
After starting in Rochester, NY, this singer and songwriter moved to Philly and brought suave and mysteriously styled sounds along for the ride. Blending jazz tones and electronic pop, Do U Feel Me, Kelly’s third long player, came out on June 23rd, and it sits nicely along the work of Eryn Allen Kane, Sampha and Sylvan Esso. Looks like the release party for the record was last night (dangit, bad timing on my part!) but Taylor Kelly returns to the Philly stage on August 4th at Bourbon and Branch.
A noisepunk fourpiece that combines screamed vocals with swirls of feedback in a decidedly 90s kind of way; seriously, if you’re the type who digs X-Ray Spex and basement shows, there’s so much to love here. Cult Objects’ debut show happens August 16th at LAVA Space.
I used to love Red House Painters, and then several instances of very public knuckleheadedness — verbally abusing a journalist, getting in a nonsensical clickbait beef with The War on Drugs — affected my ability to enjoy Mark Kozelek’s music. Local guy James O’Fallon, though, has that same vibe of solitary introspection in Attic, a set of songs he recorded in his attic. Feels without the aggressive baggage.
This local production cat grew up in Western Massachusetts and moved to Philly ten years ago; he started making sampler-based loops and collabed with visual artist Dewey Saunders on his latest album, Beat Hotel, back in February. That is worth a listen in itself, but Hey’s most recent work is a cut-up tribute to the late Adam West — aka the Batman of the 60s — setting bits of dialogue and quips to sick hip-hop beats. He plays Johnny Brenda’s on August 25th, opening for Photay.
Between Darla, Three Oranges and Kingfisher, it’s safe to say that Philadelphia’s funk orchestra community is bustling. The latest addition to that scene is ten-piece Avenue Eight. Made up of Franco Giacomarra on vocals, bass and aux percussion; Matt Coakley on backing vocals and keys; Ossi Onu on backing vocals; Justin Toto on guitars; Stefano Giacomarra on drums; Felipe Ranjo on aux percussion; Murphy Agger and Matt Fitzpatrick on trumpet; Joe Gilbert on alto sax and Walker Alexander on trombone. They get points for their party rocking jams as much as their delightfully retro cover art.
Horrorcore was a pretty ridiculous genre name, in retrospect. It basically meant hip-hop, but hip-hop that made overt illusory references to the macabre, to suspense cinema and to the supernatural, but still using it to process one’s day-to-day. Local rapper D@mn Joker uses two afro picks to make devil horns and says he makes “make music to keep my demons at bay.” His Black Devil: Elephant EP is the first time I’ve thought about “horrorcore” — or even seen the word — since the days of the Gravediggaz.
Singer and songwriter Alec Stewart home-recorded this lush and impressionistic set of Dylanesque ditties under the name Lucky Rabbit, and it balances the troubadour traditions of the 60s — when it meant earnest and poetic storytelling songs rooted in ragtime, blues and generationally passed down musics — as much as the 90s — when it meant holing up in your home with an eight track, doing it yourself, but reflecting on those same concerns with studio polish being traded away for immediacy. blood and treasure is a very pretty listen and hopefully Stewart brings this project to the stage before too long.
South Philly singer-songwriter Ashley Tini used the handle Jo Nelson to record this set of aching, ethereal country in the vein of Mazzy Star and Mojave 3. Working with noted Philly producer Jeff Zeigler on mixing and post-recording tweeks, and we hear pedal steel swoon (played by Susan Alcorn) as Tini’s vocals understatedly convey heartache in a low-register whisper. The project is a self-styled “homage to the great songwriters of the past,” and the beautiful “Be Here to Love Me” is a teaser of the EP that’s due out next month. I hope the people who book the Twin Peaks Roadhouse are paying attention.
WHO LOVES YOU
Parker Ackerman plays guitar, Adam Dasilva pounds the drums, both scream in a Japandroids-via-Wonder-Years fray. fall apart with you is Who Loves You’s second release of the past year, and it’s a solid listen for its relentless energy and catharsis.
I love goal-driven creative projects; the write-a-song-a-week thing, the write-an-EP-a-month thing, the listen-to-every-Philadelphia-release-on-Bandcamp thing. Local MC DK Robin is of the same mind, and has been releasing new music each week for his #DKWednesday series. This is his second collection from that project, mixing up melodic trap and boom bap.
DON’T DO IT NEIL
Inspired by Mount Eerie and Brand New, local indie singer-songwriter Don’t Do It Neil has a healthy amount of vibe and emotion in this atmospheric song cycle. It’s like Circa Survive playing acoustically, in a vast cathedral, with mics on the room and not the instruments.
And finally, a beat tape to wrap things up. This 18-year-old chillhop producer goes by SXMNIAK, aka Sex Maniac, but I don’t think we should entirely hold that against them since the soundscapes they craft are lush and vibrant — a Midnight Marauders jazzy bump on “Cruisin,” some expansive Solange-style scenes and settings on “vibrantclouds.” Perfect for your late night comedown.