John Morrison's Philly Top Five: Power pop to psychedelic soul for October - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

The month of October was been a rough one for me and my fellow music journalists. In the last 30 days, three of the outlets that I regularly work with have announced widespread layoffs. Editors and writers that I’ve worked closely with for years have suddenly found themselves unemployed, and as a freelancer, I find myself on even shakier ground than usual. Commissions are slow, pieces that were once in process are now in limbo and many of us are genuinely wondering if we are living in the last days when writing about music exists as a viable profession.

Of course, I doubt this will literally be true, but I do see these layoffs as part of a larger systemic issue where both the tech and media companies who own the outlets and music fans alike simply do not see the value in what we do. Some of us will soldier on, many of us will find other things to do. I still find a great deal of joy doing what I do, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s gotten much harder. The music is still thrilling, rich and intriguing, we just have to figure out a way to make all of this sustainable and if we don’t, I truly believe that the total experience of music will be poorer for it.. Here are 5 things that caught my ear this month and made all this heartache and annoyance worth it.

Various – Philly Flip A Beat Club Vol. 1

Flip A Beat Club is a national event series that brings studiocraft to a live setting. Hosted in venues around the country, producers are given a folder of samples to use as source material and tasked with the job of transforming it into a new piece of music. From there, each producer will play their new track, receiving encouragement and feedback from their peers onsite and around the world as the sessions are broadcast via zoom each month. Philly’s FABC has been particularly successful, packing out Crate Diggaz record store off of South Street on a monthly basis. Philly Flip A Beat Club Vol. 1 is the first compilation culled from these monthly sessions. Standout tracks like q no rap name’s dreamy glitchfest, “Park And Ride” and Jantblur’s monstrous “Phantoms” prove that Philly’s beat community is full of first class talent.

DJ Royale ft. Rae.Dianz – “Save Me”

“Save Me” is a gorgeous new single from DJ Royale and Rae.Dianz, the latter of whom takes centerstage with a lowkey, breathy vocal that perfectly compliments the production. With its buttery keys and saxophone, “Save Me” is a smooth, uptempo jam tailor-made for dancefloors. Highly recommended for DJs that like to explore the soulful side of dance music.

DJ Royale ft. Rae.Dianz - SAVE ME

The Fall/Winter 2023 edition of Remember The Lightning: A Guitar Pop Journal

Remember The Lightning is a semi-annual journal that features writers digging deep into the history and cultural significance of power-pop. In the Fall/Winter 2023 edition, writer Tyler Asay (of local rockers The Tisburys and a WXPN alum) checks in with a fantastic essay on the history of Philly power-pop entitled “Popadelphia Popnation: A Brief And Zigzagged History of Philadelphia Power-pop.” Asay’s piece covers a large swath of Philly guitar rock history from Todd Rundgren to 2000s local legends, The Bigger Lovers and beyond. Remember The Lightning as a whole is a gem. I feel like Power-pop is a genre that warrants deep critical examination and this journal delivers.

Dozia Blakey – “Space.Time.Love (Nou Lion Meets Scuba Mix)”

Taken from Dozia Blakely’s 1997 Aura EP, “Space.Time.Love (Nou Lion Meets Scuba Mix)” is quintessential mid-late 90s House music. With its milky keys, synth strings and a femme vocal sample shouting “Make me feel goood!” throughout, the track is a breezy, soulful gem. It’s worth noting that the “Scuba” credit here is Philly DJ/Remixing legend, King Britt. I missed this one back when it came out, so it’s lovely to discover it and still get the feeling of cruising around the city on a crisp summer day in 1997.

Dozia Blakey - Space.Time.Love (Nou Lion Meets Scuba Mix)

Spiritual Concept – Spiritual Concept

When you think of Gamble & Huff and Philadelphia International, you don’t typically think of rock and psychedelia. Released in 1973, Spiritual Concept is the sole album from Philly-based psychedelic soul outfit, Spiritual Concept. With songs like the sitar-laced ballad “Take it All” to the trippy spoken word piece, “Where Are The Cares For Tomorrow,” Spiritual Concept puts a decidedly soulful spin on psychedelia. This record fits nicely alongside PIR curios like Yellow Sunshine and Billy Paul’s War of the Gods.

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