October in Philadelphia has a distinct atmosphere: a creeping chill in the air, shifting hues of foliage, breathtaking mist after certain hours of the night. It’s a month of haunting beauty — in part because of the holiday that concludes it, sure, but also because of the gateway it opens into the autumn calendar — and the new album by Philly’s Knifeplay makes an optimal soundtrack.
The band is loud and cathartic, but also serene and atmospheric; their recently-released Animal Drowning channels punk and noise rock as much as shoegaze and dreampop, not unlike fellow Philly-rooted band Nothing. Centered around the songwriting of lead vocalist and guitarist Tj Strohmer, the band’s music unflinchingly explores heavy subjects like personal loss, addiction, and trauma — read an album review by our Samantha Sullivan for a deep dive into the dystopian paths it walks — but the gentle, delicate arrangements give the darkest moments an undercurrent of hope and healing.
Strohmer started Knifeplay as a one-person project in 2019 before bringing on a ever-growing roster of contributors. In this session, the band is fleshed out with Alex Stackhouse on bass, John Sciortino on drums, Max Black on keys, Johnny Klein on lead guitar, and Johanna Baumann on vocals and guitar. Their Key Studio Session touches on two highlights of Animal Drowning, the etheral “Lonely Sun” and the pulsing “Promise,” and pays a visit to their 2019 debut Pearlty for the sweeping set-closer “Tears.”
Watch the performances below, pick up Animal Drowninghere, via Topshelf Records, and see the band in person Thursday October 27th when they play Ukie Club with Elvis Depressedly to celebrate the new record. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at WXPN’s Concerts and Events page.