John Morrison's Philly Top Five: Music for early summer moods - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

I never fully know what this season will bring for me creatively, sometimes writing is slow and I lean more heavily into DJing and playing gigs. Sometimes DJing slows up and a bunch of random writing opportunities appear. I really never know. One thing that has remained constant is that the music and arts community here always have a ton of cool stuff on deck to keep us all engaged and occupied. There’s no way to really “catch up” on all the releases and there will always be shows and parties to miss. That’s part of the beauty of being here, especially around this time. There’s always something to catch and entice the ear. Here are five things that touched me this month.

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Opus (Cinespeak/Lightbox Screening)

On the evening of Thursday, May 2nd, Cinespeak and the Lightbox Film Center at University of The Arts held a screening of Opus, a gripping final performance from beloved Japanese composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto. Directed by Neo Sora with Bill Kirstein as cinematographer, the film is a beautifully stark, black and white depiction of the late master at work. Shot just a short time before his death in 2023, Opus presents an expansive yet intimate journey through Sakamoto’s life’s work. Watching Sakamoto seated alone at the piano and playing gorgeous, heart-wrenching pieces like “Bibo No Aozora” and “The Sheltering Sky,” there is a sadness in knowing that he’d be gone in such a short time after. Despite this, Opus is an uplifting experience; the film reminds us that even in his final hour, Sakamoto lived as he had done for decades, playing evocative, creative music and forging deep, spiritual connections with his audience.



Spectral Forces is the trio of drummer Julis Masri, Alex Smith on keys and voice, and Pete Dennis on bass. Earlier this year, they released THE UNIVERSE IS WITHIN WHO, an ambitious melding of punk, free-jazz and poetry. From the album’s time-traveling, 15-minute opener “Everyone In Outerspace Is Gay” to the gentle, meditative ambience of the closer, “Birds Too,” THE UNIVERSE IS WITHIN WHO is a mind-blower. Perfect for fans of Rip Rig + Panic, Defunkt, and Material.

Secret Nudist Friends – I Don’t Like It!

Secret Nudist Friends’ incredibly fun project I Don’t Like It! was actually released last year and I’m kicking myself for not being up on it earlier. With songs that jump from dreamy power-pop (“Swing Song”) to ESG and Beat Jams-style art-funk (“u think you’re cool”) and beyond, Secret Nudist Friends are a bright spot in Philly’s music scene.

Zenover – Chapter 1.3

Currently based in Virginia, hip-hop producer Zenover has deep Philly ties as he spent years here working within the city’s scene. His latest 3-track tape Chapter 1.3 brings more of the tender, atmospheric sound that is his signature. “Ignition Sequence” sets things off with a bouncy drum groove and bits of vocal samples. “Let’s Begin” is a swinging piece with slick electric piano chords. And the tape closes with “Getting There,” a wistful instrumental piece. Like many of his past projects, Chapter 1.3 showcases Zenover’s skill and ability to make us feel through his beats.

Bahamadia – “Philadelphia (feat. Dwele)”

Tucked close to the middle of Bahamadia’s 2000 mini album BB Queen, “Philadelphia” is a breezy ode to her hometown. Over a head-nodding beat and lush electric pianos, the legendary MC steps back from the mic and recruits Detroit-born singer, Dwele to voice the tune. Shouting out various sections of the city while the groove pushes forward patiently, “Philadelphia” is the audio equivalent of a slow, pink-tinted West Philly sunset.

Bahamadia "Philadelphia (feat Dwele)"
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