Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania’

Such a strange time in my life (probably yours too), but all this has lead me to a deeper awareness of every good thing around me. My heart goes out to those who are making such huge sacrifices for their communities and families, those who are suffering from illness or loneliness, and those who have lost jobs or loved ones.
My hope for this year is that I am more appreciative of the good things in my life and more attentive to the suffering of those around me. I want to believe that this season is preparing all of us to stand together in more meaningful ways, starting in the smallness of our daily lives and growing to reach our communities and then the dark and lonely corners of our world.


Released October 24th, 2020

The Goodbye Party have shared their new song “December Boys” accompanied by a reflective and touching video edited by Ali Donohue. Read a statement from Michael Cantor on the track
“When my partner and I started dating, she was writing a graphic novel that documented her first year in Philly. Naturally, she captured the beginning of our relationship in the book. The lyrics are a short collection of some of those pages. The song itself came together in about 20 minutes, but took another seven years to make it onto an album.”

“‘December Boys‘ starts out quiet, but then kicks into a jangly fuzz when the band enters.”
“Sunny, reflective.”
—FLOOD Magazine

The Goodbye Party has shared “No Reason” a gentle power-pop number his upcoming album Beautiful Motors. Brooklyn Vegan, who premiered the track today, is saying it “nails a balance between warm, summery melodies and autumnal melancholy — the perfect kind of song to drop on the first official day of fall.”

Read a statement from Michael Cantor on the song below:

“This song deals with a couple of themes. One is how people you no longer keep in your life can show up in some of your favourite memories. It’s also about the experience of passing through the same place across different tours and seeing decay creep along, seeing cascading effects from hurricanes, and recognizing that slow change in yourself. My friend Emi Knight from Strawberry Runners sings on this song. She, along with a handful of local songwriters, held monthly salons where we would demo and critique each other’s songs. Having that space helped me focus, write, and rewrite songs for this record.”

Releases October 9th, 2020

All songs by Michael Cantor
Recorded Dec 2018

Double Double Whammy

Maxwell Stern has been writing music and touring in various bands since the early 2000s. He has released a slew of LPs and 7″s, and has played shows pretty much everywhere including an abandoned restaurant in Wyoming, a mall in China, several squats in Germany and a pretty nice bookstore in Australia. Lately he’s been working a lot. He is definitely not the person writing this. 

Check out Max Stern’s new song “Pull the Stars Down,” out today! This is the last single before his album “Impossible Sum” comes out next Friday, and it’s Max’s favourite song he’s ever written! (and it only took 20 minutes to write!) Stream it and order the album on beautiful turquoise vinyl.

“This song is the product of a lot of drunken reminiscing with old friends in new places. I think it’s really easy to romanticize the past which can be kind of an unhealthy thing to do, to just kind of live in nostalgia-world and think that things aren’t ever going to be as good as they were. I think it’s ultimately about developing a healthy relationship with your memories but not letting them rule you. Remembering that appreciation for the past and hope for the future aren’t mutually exclusive and in fact, sometimes they can reinforce each other.”
Maxwell Stern,


Maxwell Stern – vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, Wurlitzer, Prophet
Adam Edward Beck – drums on tracks 1-10, drum composition, auxiliary percussion, additional keyboards, electronics, and production
Kyle Pulley – synth on track 1, additional electric guitar on track 6, bass on
track 8, drum programming on track 11
Jonathan Hernandez – electric guitar on tracks 3, 4, 8, vocals on tracks 3, 7, 8
Laura Stevenson – vocals on track 5
Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner – various lap steels on tracks 4, 5, 6, 7, 10

All songs written by Maxwell Andrew Stern (ASCAP)

For my family, both blood and chosen.
Releases September 25th, 2020

Produced, engineered and mixed by Kyle Pulley throughout 2019 at Headroom Studios, Philadelphia, PA

Timothy Showalter recently moved to Austin and explained how good the change has been for him. Additionally, Tim has stopped drinking and detailed how he’s reaping the rewards of that decision. The pandemic hit just as Showalter was about to take time to work on new music. He discussed his song writing process as well as the ambient album, Ambient For Change that Strand Of Oaks released in June.

While Tim acknowledged all the strife and struggle going on in the world, Showalter spoke about the positive attitude he’s taken towards the future. Showalter called it his “survival mode” to talk about the future and projects in a hopeful way. Another topic hit upon by Showalter was Tim’s appreciation for the jam scene and the band Phish in particular. Tim explained how much Phish’s Dinner And A Movie weekly video broadcasts mean to him. He noted that Tuesday nights are his most social time of the week. Other subjects discussed are ways both artists and fans can help the live music infrastructure,


Released August 25th, 2020

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Joe D’Agostino talks about his new solo album and why his former band decided to call it quits, and debuts the album opener “Marian.”

How do you dissolve a beloved band you’ve devoted your life to since the age of 18?. If you are Joe D’Agostino, frontman of Cymbals Eat Guitars, you do so as quietly and tastefully as possible. In late 2017, the New Jersey-bred indie heroes performed three farewell shows, including a raucous gig at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom, which was packed with fans who had no idea it was a farewell. They shared the stage with home-state idol Charles Bissell, of elusive Jersey favorites The Wrens fame, and dusted off early-career gems like “Indiana” and “Some Trees.”

And then, without a word, one of the decade’s most rewarding and emotionally searing rock bands simply ceased to exist. There was no announcement. (Consequently, many fans have continued hoping for a new album) “We wanted to quietly deep-six it,” D’Agostino explains two years later. “We could have told everybody that our December 2017 shows were gonna be our final shows, but — I dunno. It just seemed a little gaudy to do so. We were never people to draw attention to ourselves in that way.”

Causes of the breakup included deep exhaustion with touring, bassist Matt Whipple’s decision to return to school for interior design, and a brooding sense that — despite consistent acclaim and a committed cadre of fans — “there was nowhere else for us to go.” During that grueling final year, the band toured with alt-rock legends the Pixies, “which was just crazy — like, dream scenario stuff,” the singer says. “And then we went back to the same cities that we played with Pixies in to headline, three months later. And nobody came.”

It was bleak, the bleakness compounded by brutal summer temperatures and self-destructive patterns that had emerged across lengthy touring cycles. “It was over many years,” D’Agostino says. “And it was like, I had to drink to perform. Especially towards the end.”

Eventually, the band updated its Twitter bio to resemble a tombstone: “2007–2017.” If that suggests an untimely demise, the subsequent years, 2018–2019, signify rebirth. D’Agostino has spent them carving out some semblance of domestic bliss with his wife, Rachel Browne (singer of Philly indie band Field Mouse), in their adopted hometown of Philadelphia and figuring out what it means to make music post-Cymbals. For much of 2018, he was cooped up on the first floor of an old Victorian in West Philly — the couple’s home of two years — writing, arranging, and self-producing an ambitious set of solo songs. (Kyle Gilbride, Swearin’ member and prolific indie engineer, co-produced and engineered.)

The result is his new project, Empty Country, whose self-titled album will be released by Tiny Engines (The Hotelier, Somos) next February. The title comes from a Cymbals deep cut, “Wavelengths.” (At Browne’s suggestion, D’Agostino scoured his band’s old lyrics when stuck on a name: “For whatever reason, those two words jumped out at me.”) The album combines D’Agostino’s knack for vivid, impressionistic imagery — capable of summoning a romantic LSD trip or a nightmarish cancer scare — with arrangements more ornate than anything from his former band: “Untitled” is a bleary-eyed excursion into acoustic psychedelia, while “Swim” closes the album with a gorgeous reverie of string swells.

Though billed as a solo album, it’s very much a family affair, inhabited by loved ones both alive and dead. Anne Dole, Cymbals’ former drummer, performed drums; her twin brother, Pat, handled bass. Browne and her sister Zoë contributed backing vocals. “Chance,” with its gushing a cappella break, is an affectionate tribute to the sisters’ dad — D’Agostino’s father-in-law — the longtime cartoonist Robert “Chance” Browne. And the opening track, “Marian,” is named after D’Agostino’s grandmother, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1983. It’s an expansive epic that coaxes unexpected sunlight from one of the singer’s most generous falsetto hooks. Lyrically, it’s sung from the perspective of a clairvoyant miner who foresees his own death in 1960s West Virginia: “The mine collapses in spring of ʼ67/ I was a bastard anyway.” .

Meanwhile, the intensity that once landed Cymbals a tour with emo stalwarts Say Anything roars to life on “Ultrasound,” home to the record’s most screamable chorus. The song, with its mortified reference to “a shadow on the ultrasound,” is about a cancer scare. Browne’s sister is a survivor of metastatic breast cancer, so Browne goes in semi-regularly for routine imaging. In early 2018, doctors found “what looked like something that could be very serious,” D’Agostino says. “I was with her at the doctor, and — I mean, the doctor just scared the shit out of us.”

The song describes the nightmarish week that followed: waiting for the biopsy report, collapsing into fits of crying every hour. “I wrote the lyrics over the course of like two or three hours,” the singer says, “and I was just weeping the entire time.” (The health scare, fortunately, turned out to be a false alarm.)

Tragedy struck anew the day “Ultrasound” was issued as Empty Country’s first-ever single: August 7th, 2019. D’Agostino was full of nervous energy about debuting the project. He was also due to open for Purple Mountains — the new project of Silver Jews songwriter and veteran rock cult hero David Berman — in three days, so he went to get a haircut. D’Agostino was to join Purple Mountains for two dates, in Jersey City and Philadelphia. He had extensively rehearsed a six-piece band, which included Browne and her sister, for the occasion. He was leaving the barber when Browne called with news: Berman was dead.

“[It was] just utterly devastating,” D’Agostino says. He gets choked up recalling how much Berman meant to him. As a teenager, he blasted Silver Jews records on roadtrips. A decade later, he met Berman by chance during the LOSE tour in 2015. Cymbals had just played a sparsely attended show at a Nashville dive bar.

“I was loading up a van after that show, kind of dejected but whatever,” D’Agostino recalls. “He walked up to the back of the van. He asked if the music was over. I recognized his voice immediately. I was like, ‘You’re David Berman.’ He was like, ‘Yep.’ And we talked for a long time that night… I left town feeling like, whatever this career is or isn’t, it brought me to this exact moment in time where this person — this idol, this hero of mine — and I could just cross paths in this way.”

A year later, D’Agostino received an email from Berman, which he describes as “long and free-associative and beautiful.” The two began corresponding regularly. Berman told D’Agostino he could be a poet and attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop on the strength of the LOSE lyrics. Before his death, Berman listened to Empty Country demos and was quick to offer encouragement. “He was just such a brilliant and kind man,” D’Agostino says. “I will forever hold memories and correspondences that I have of him. But I haven’t listened to his music since he passed.”

Ten years ago, D’Agostino was in the eye of the hurricane that was Cymbals Eat Guitars’ sudden ascent. “I was blown out of the cannon at age 19 and 20,” he says, “with all of this praise — the indie-rock bubble, the hype.”

It was 2009, the golden age of “blog rock,” when guitar music still reigned and a few impressive songs on a MySpace page could, and did, earn a band like Cymbals a glowing Pitchfork review and major festival slots seemingly overnight. The band’s debut, the impressively expansive Why There Are Mountains, drew raves despite being self-released: “Are Staten Island’s Cymbals Eat Guitars indie rock’s next big thing?” blared one headline from a local outlet. Suddenly, D’Agostino and his bandmates found themselves in London opening for The Flaming Lips, and being courted by managers and agents.

He’d been a nerd at his Central Jersey high school. Now he reveled in the sudden validation — behaving callously, abusing prescription meds. “It went to my head,” he admits. Now 30, he barely seems to recognize that kid. “I concentrated on one thing for so long. All I wanted from when I was 15 to when I was 20 — and I got it! And I don’t think I knew how to handle it, emotionally or ego-wise or physically. I was always just destroying my body, getting sick on the road.”

Alcohol became a problem. It got worse near the end, when D’Agostino found himself needing three or four drinks just to go onstage — especially in places like Oklahoma City, where only five people would show. How else could he summon the vigour to obliterate the scream in signature anthem “…And the Hazy Sea?” His health became compromised, his blood pressure unusually high. “I was just utterly consumed with anxiety and deep depression, and it was compounded by the lifestyle of touring,” he says. “There’s a bottle of fucking booze and a case of beer in your green room every night.”

Since the band’s breakup, D’Agostino has been in treatment for Bipolar II disorder and on psychiatric medication. (He no longer self-medicates with alcohol, though he does use pot and hesitates to identify as sober.) He has a day job in customer service, which lets him work from home and eases the financial precarity of a career in music. The end of Cymbals seems to have delivered some relief from the nonstop jockeying for status and success. “I didn’t make this [solo] record to be famous or to be a career musician, though that was my ambition as a younger man,” he texts me after our interview. “I made it to document and honor my human experience and that of my family.”

Ten years removed from indie fame is a weird place to be. D’Agostino sometimes jokes that Cymbals will reunite at Riot Fest in 2039 for the 30th anniversary of Mountains. When asked if he feels proud of what Cymbals accomplished, he lets out a long, heavy sigh. “I do,” he says finally. “I feel very proud of the four records we made together. And incredibly proud of a lot of the shows that we did. I have beautiful memories of each of my bandmates and all of us together.”

He is careful not to seem bitter about the fact that none of Cymbals’ other albums matched that level of commercial success. Yet some bitterness might be warranted, especially considering the band’s real masterpiece, LOSE, a sweeping and cathartic excavation of adolescent grief, did not arrive until 2014. That was the album that established D’Agostino’s astonishing eye for lyrical detail, set in a world of failed drug deals and deceased friends’ MySpace pages. Pretty Years, the 2016 follow-up, proved it wasn’t a fluke and even teased out some stadium-ready hooks. But the mercurial engine of hype no longer seemed to be on the band’s side. In retrospect, it seems obvious that the band’s ambition often brushed up against the impatient expectations of the market (or of a manager who pressured them to write “their ‘Two Weeks’”).

Much of the Empty Country album is inspired by D’Agostino’s reckoning with things he’s ashamed of from his past life. You could trace this reflective gene back to 2016’s “Have a Heart,” a song about falling in love and finding a new capacity for empathy. On “Swim,” the new album’s elegiac finale, he sings: “I was a blue-eyed sociopath / Black out, often / Not sure / Think I might have hurt someone.” Though the song describes a fictional character — the singer is neither blue-eyed nor a sociopath, he assures me — who has a 9/11 tattoo, it clearly carries personal resonance.

“Come and live it down with me,” D’Agostino sings at the song’s climax, luxuriating in a mournful string refrain that seems to echo long after the song has faded away. It’s the record’s emotional peak. As for the string players, “I didn’t even have charts for them,” D’Agostino texts me when I ask. “I just sang them the parts five minutes beforehand, and what you hear is what they delivered.” He sobbed when the violin took the lead for the final refrain. “You might actually be able to hear me,” he adds. I can’t hear it, but I trust that it’s there.

Throughout Cymbals’ career, D’Agostino’s songwriting was remarkably adept at capturing dimensions of loss — loss of a friend (“XR”), of youth (“Dancing Days”), even loss of a family dog (“Chambers”). Empty Country retains this talent. Except here, the songwriter also takes profound stock of what he’s gained.

That includes wisdom, and a new sense of purpose in music-making. “It’s not a vehicle for your ego, or so you can get somewhere in life or get tours or get whatever the fuck you want,” he says. “It’s the moment of creation — when you make something that’s true to you and to the people that you love.”

Maxwell Stern has been writing music and touring in various bands since the early 2000s. He has released a slew of LPs and 7″singles, and has played shows pretty much everywhere including an abandoned restaurant in Wyoming, a mall in China, several squats in Germany and a pretty nice bookstore in Australia. Lately he’s been working a lot. I am super excited to share that Maxwell Stern’s new song featuring Laura Stevenson is officially out! Earlier this week, “Left in the Living Room” along with a personal excerpt about the record by Max.

Max shared: “I had the idea to ask one of my favourite vocalists, Laura Stevenson, to sing with me on something. I’m not sure if she remembers it, but we’d actually made music together once before. It was the fall of 2005, I had just turned 16 and I was watching Jeff Rosenstock’s old band Bomb The Music Industry! — a band in which Laura played keys and sang—play on the floor of a sports bar in my hometown of Cleveland, OH…BTMI! had a “Bring Your Own Band” policy that stated that if you knew any of their material, you could play it with the band. So here I am, bleached-blonde mop and all, underage in a college bar, freaking out about getting to play with a group of musicians who were nearly a decade younger than I am right now who were making frantic, catchy, and often unintelligible ska-punk-hardcore songs about drinking beer in the shower and not shaving your beard before a job interview. I loved that band — I still do.”

“Anyway, sometime around that show, Laura started writing her own songs, and quickly evolved from ‘extremely talented person in the scene with me and my dumb friends’ to ‘real-life grown-up genius-level songwriter.’ Her involvement with this song, “Left In The Living Room” happened pretty quickly once I gathered up the courage to send her a text message and a demo, and having her voice on this record is a true honour.

Maxwell Stern – vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, Wurlitzer, Prophet
Adam Edward Beck – drums on tracks 1-10, drum composition, auxiliary percussion, additional keyboards, electronics, and production
Kyle Pulley – synth on track 1, additional electric guitar on track 6, bass on
track 8, drum programming on track 11
Jonathan Hernandez – electric guitar on tracks 3, 4, 8, vocals on tracks 3, 7, 8
Laura Stevenson – vocals on track 5
Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner – various lap steels on tracks 4, 5, 6, 7, 10

All songs written by Maxwell Andrew Stern.

Releases September 25th, 2020

Image may contain: one or more people, people playing musical instruments, people on stage, night and guitar

Remember live music? “First Flight” documents about 40 minutes of jams recorded during the third week of my September residency at Nublu last year, and, for me, this show was just about the most enjoyable hour of music I played all year.

The ideal of the residency was to mix things up with special guests, different band line-ups, and varied set lists, keeping things fresh and new week-to-week, and this show was the wild card of the bunch. That’s because although Ryan and I have played together for years, and Dave and Spencer have played together for years, neither half of the band had ever met each other. I was tangentially aware of Dave and his music and was intrigued by what I’d heard, so I thought it was a cool idea when Chris Tart, the residency promoter, suggested a collaboration.

So, about 30 minutes after we’d all heard each others voices for the first time, we got up and played for a little over an hour, uninterrupted. The only thing discussed beforehand was that we shouldn’t discuss anything beforehand – not a key or a riff to start with, nothing – so as to preserve maximum spontaneity.

I think this music demonstrates a real connection on stage. In other words, each player was completely present and actively listening on the bandstand. Listening back, there are moments I can hear Ryan saying – musically – “Hey, let’s go over here! Check this out!,” or Spencer being like “Wouldn’t it be cool to go down this path?” And we followed. And it was cool.


In my mind, that listening thing is the number one most important factor in any collaboration or cooperative effort, but especially in improvised music.

And I think it’s fair to say that a little more listening, a little more presence, would do the whole world some good right about now, don’t you think?

Chris Forsyth
releases August 28, 2020

Chris Forsyth – guitar
Dave Harrington – guitar, electronics
Ryan Jewell – drums, percussion
Spencer Zahn – bass

Using their time in lockdown wisely, The Menzingers have re-recorded their brilliant 2019 album “Hello Exile” and reimagined the 12 tracks for a new stripped-down record, “From Exile”.

To coincide with the announcement of the LP – which is due out on September 25th digitally, and available on vinyl from November 19th – the Philly punks have also unveiled new renditions of Strawberry Manson and High School Friend from the album, which you can check out below.

“The live music industry vanished before our eyes, and just like that we were out of work like tens of millions of others,” explains singer/guitarist Greg Barnett of how From Exile came about.

“As the weeks progressed the upcoming tours got rescheduled, then rescheduled again, then effectively cancelled. There were times when it all felt fatal. There’s no guide book on how to navigate being a working musician during a global pandemic, so we were left to make it up as we went along. We wanted to document and create in the moment, and though we couldn’t be in the same room together due to social distancing lockdowns, we got creative.”

Greg continues: “We would track the songs from our own home studios, share the files via Dropbox, and pray it all made sense when pieced back together. Initially, we planned for the album to be similar to our acoustic demo collection On The Possible Past, but we quickly found out that this batch of songs benefited from more detailed arrangements

“We rewrote, and changed keys and melodies. We blended analogue and digital instruments in ways we never had before. We dug through old lyric notebooks and added additional verses. We got our dear friend Kayleigh Goldsworthy to play violin on two songs. No idea was off limits. Hell, I even convinced the band to let me play harmonica on a song – no small feat! The recording process ran from mid-March till June, and upon completion we sent it over to our dear friend and close collaborator Will Yip to mix and master.”


The Menzingers are:
Eric Keen – Bass
Greg Barnett – Vocals, Guitar
Joe Godino – Drums, Percussion
Tom May – Vocals, Guitar

Recorded in isolation in Philadelphia, PA Spring of 2020. Releases September 25th, 2020

Image may contain: one or more people and child

Katie Ellen’s debut album, 2017’s Cowgirl Blues, saw frontwoman Anika Pyle kicking against the traditions and norms that come with adulthood—namely, love, major life changes, cohabitation, and domesticity. She penned the anti-marriage anthem with “Sad Girls Club,” a standout track that featured the defiant heartbreaker of a chorus: “Sad girls don’t make good wives.” On the Philly band’s new, five-song EP, Still Life, Pyle is still trying to wrap her head around these things. On opener “Lighthouse,” Pyle reckons with warring thoughts—wanting to be brave enough to swim into life’s uncharted deep end, but feeling tied down by the anchor of fear and anxiety. Later, on the EP’s title track, she surrenders to the idea that love is more powerful and wild than our capacity to tame it: “You can’t make love stay / Do your best to hold it in place.”

Musically, Pyle flexes a few new tricks she’s trying out, like on “Still Life,” where her voice spirals into borderline operatic delivery, a far jump from the quick and dirty style she cut her teeth on in her former pop punk project Chumped. Was so excited at the news of this EP, considering that Cowgirl Blues was one of my favourite albums of 2017. I’ve had this on repeat since it came out. “Still Life” is particularly resonant for me. It feels so different as Anika showcases her vocal skills even more, with a fuller band sound and even backup vocals, but the emotional quality and content of the song still feels 100% like Katie Ellen.


Still Life is out on July 20 from Lauren Records.

Katie Ellen’s debut album, 2017’s “Cowgirl Blues”, saw frontwoman Anika Pyle kicking against the traditions and norms that come with adulthood—namely, love, major life changes, cohabitation, and domesticity. She penned the anti-marriage anthem with “Sad Girls Club,” a standout track that featured the defiant heartbreaker of a chorus: “Sad girls don’t make good wives.”

Every now and then an album comes into your life and utterly wrecks you. It resonates with you on a level where you can’t tell if it’s easing the knife out of your wound or if it’s twisting it more. But you keep coming back even if it’s destroying you because as painful as it might be, living without it is even more painful. Katie Ellen’s ‘Cowgirl Blues’ is one of those albums. I can honestly say that this album kept me from spiralling out when I was at my lowest and I’ll forever be grateful. It’s full of sparkle pop twang punk fuzz core.

From The Ashes of Chumped comes Anika Pyle’s first solo foray.
Great Alt-Indie Pop/punk flow with the same biting lyrical content that made her former band a joy to behold with just enough edge to keep things real.


The Band:
Anika Pyle – Vocals, Guitars
Anthony Tinnirella – Guitars
Dan Frelly – Drums
Eric Sheppard – Vocals, Bass

All songs written by Anika Pyle

Originally released July 14th, 2017