Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

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Recorded September 14th, 2019 before a packed and enthusiastic hometown crowd at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia, Peoples Motel Band catches Chris Forsyth with Garcia Peoples (plus ubiquitous drummer Ryan Jewell) re-imagining songs from Forsyth’s last couple studio albums with improvisatory flair.

Forsyth and Garcia Peoples played a number of 2019 shows together, beginning with a semi-legendary jam set at Nublu in NYC in March (see NYCTaper.com), through a couple dates on Forsyth’s month-long weekly residency at Nublu in September and concluding with a five-date tour of the Northeast in December. The chemistry between the players is tangible.

As is often the case with Forsyth shows, the gloves come off quickly and the players attack the material – much of it so well-manicured and cleanly produced in the studio – like a bunch of racoons let loose in a Philadelphia pretzel factory.

Recorded and mixed with clarity by Forsyth’s longtime studio collaborator, engineer/producer Jeff Zeigler, the record puts the listener right in the sweaty club, highlighted by an incredible side-long take of the chooglin’ title track from 2017’s Dreaming in The Non-Dream LP (note multiple climaxes eliciting wild shouts and ecstatic screams from the assembled).

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This is not the new Chris Forsyth album, exactly, but then again, it kinda is because whenever he sits down to play, he makes it new.

Released March 20th, 2020

Chris Forsyth: guitar/vocal
Tom Malach: guitar
Danny Arakaki: guitar
Peter Kerlin: bass guitar
Pat Gubler: organ/synthesizer
Cesar Arakaki: drums
Ryan Jewell: drums & percussion

Recorded by Jeff Zeigler 9.14.19 at Johnny Brendaʼs, Philadelphia

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Field Mouse are a quintet of singing guitarist Rachel Brown, guitarist Andrew Futral, bass player Saysha Heinemann, drummer Tim McCoy and keys, backing vocalist and general instrumentalist Zoë Browne. They’re joined on “Episodic”, their latest album, by guest appearances from Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz), Allison Crutchfield (Swearin’, Waxahatchee) and Joseph D’Agostino (Cymbals Eat Guitars).

Field Mouse deal is the sort of guitar-pop that has us reaching for words like glistening, shimmering and jangling. They’re a cool breeze on a hot summer’s evening, the first breath of air when you re-emerge from the ocean, what we imagine driving down a fast road in a convertible feels like, only we can’t drive and we’ve never been in a convertible. It is articulate, melodic alt-rock, with plenty of poppy hooks and in Rachel Brown, a true superstar front woman with a stunning, effortless vocal.

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Field Mouse are from Pennsylvania’s largest city, Philadelphia. With a population of 1.5million, Philadelphia is the fifth most populous city in the United States. Famously the city in which the Declaration Of Independence and the American constitution were signed, Philadelphia was briefly the capital of the US whilst Washington DC was under construction. Philadelphia is a famously medical city, being the site of the first specialist children’s hospital and first specialist cancer hospital in the country, and it is estimated that one in six American doctors are trained in the city. Like many large American cities, the diversity of Philadelphia has given it an eclectic and varied musical heritage, a major centre in the growth of hip hop, classical music and rock’n’roll; famous acts from the city are as versatile as Chubby Checker, John Coltrane and Kurt Vile.
Field Mouse were originally formed in 2010 by Rachel and Andrew, and they self-released their debut album, You Are Here that year. They then signed to Topshelf Records, who in 2014 released their second album, Hold Still Life. On their new album, Episodic, the band have for the first time written and recorded as a five piece, which came out last week again via Topshelf Records.

It’s almost a bit clichéd to say at this time of year, but they really are a spectacularly good summer band. Bright and breezy, they seem to fall effortlessly into perfect sun-drenched pop-punk and wistful indie-pop. Whether it’s the Jimmy Eat World meets Rilo Kiley alt-rock of The Mirror, the soaring Alvvays like Beacon or the vivid 1980’s pop of Out Of Content, they’re never anything less the perfectly produced and sublimely melodic.

Lyrically, the band have suggested that the songs explore both deteriorating relationships and sudden family illness, but they’re delivered not with any grand emotive gesture, they are more subtle and nuanced. Some tracks have a touched of the bruised romantic about them; Rachel coming across as a wide old head who’s seen all the signs but still can’t quite bring herself to give up on the fading embers of a relationship. The album’s quiet pain is bookended by its contrastingly tough and broken opening and closing lines. Opening track The Mirror begins by snarling, “what a way to say fuck off, through your teeth”, but by the time Out Of Context draws the album to a close, Rachel simply ends it by repeating a heartbreaking, heartbroken refrain, “it hurts, it hurts, it hurts.” It’s a record that feels deeply personal, but also winningly guarded, this is no plea for help, it’s just real life, in all its bruising reality.

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There are highlights throughout the record, but the exquisite The Order Of Things leaps out, it’s a perfect single, memorable and affecting. Rachel’s vocal is stunning, it’s just a beautifully controlled performance, she comes across as a very natural singer, and her control and tone are perfectly suited to their alt-pop sound. Lyrically it seems to be a call to arms, a plea for people to not give up on their dreams, “make the sound you hear in your head, even if it puts you in the ground.” Advice we whole heartedly agree with, on an album we can’t help but be thoroughly impressed by.

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Occasionally you want them to be less Field Mouse and more, if not as far as roaring lion, then at least angry ferret. You just want a bit more bite and a bit more bark to cut through the beautiful musical landscapes, which by the second half of the album have lost a bit of their charm. On another note militant Los Campesinos! fans (if such a thing exists) might be a bit miffed at how much of their track You! Me! Dancing! has been lifted into Field Mouse’s, A Widow With A Terrible Secret; a complete coincidence we’re sure.

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There’s a palpable joy and freedom to these recordings that make it the most appealing Son Little album to date. The songs themselves benefit from a lack of spit and polish, as Aaron Livingston has always been a bluesman at heart. His compositions here are raw, unvarnished extrapolations of old country-blues and early rock and roll tropes, and they’re all the better for sounding a bhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mpcl0_4cPnsit shaggy. And if Livingston has an old soul, he’s by no means stuck in the past, something evident from the SoundCloud-style naming conventions in some of these songs (“bbbaby,” “about her. again”).

“Letting go can be a scary prospect,” says Son Little. “But there’s beauty in it, too. Everything you leave behind opens up space for something new in your life.”

That was certainly the case with Little’s remarkable new album, ‘aloha.’ Written in only eight days and recorded at Paris’s iconic Studio Ferber, the entire project was an exercise in letting go, in ceding control, in surrendering to fate. While Little still plays nearly every instrument on the album himself, he put his songs in the hands of an outside producer for the first time here, collaborating with French studio wizard Renaud Letang (Feist, Manu Chao) to create his boldest, most self-assured statement yet.

“I’d always produced myself in the past,” explains Little, “but it’s easy to get caught up in an endless quest for perfection when you do that. Working with Renaud let me see my work from an outsider’s perspective, and that helped me get out of my own way.”

Son Little from the album ‘aloha’, available now

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Philadelphia based Maya Bon, frontwoman of Babehoven, released her first musical delicacy of the new year with “Only So”. Bon carries pain like a wounded songbird, making beauty out of the despondency of life. Crooning vulnerabilities such as, “There’s only so much I can take of this destruction,” Bon invites her listeners into a sacred space of learning exactly how much she can take, and how much she will no longer allow to be set upon her. Clothed in a simple instrumental accompaniment, her lyrics are the apex of the track, pointing all attention toward them.

She uses her songwriting as a way to process the struggles of daily existence, of familial trauma, of the processes of letting go. Her music is lyrically driven, but held together by intentionally minimalistic chord progressions. By singing songs painful in subject, though simple in sound, Babehoven rides the line of comfort and strain, pleasure and pain, that is palpable to the listener.

On February 7, Babehoven will be releasing an EP called Demonstrating Visible Difference of Height.

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It’s the beginning of November, and the thirty-three-year-old Hop Along Frances Quinlan is sitting in her living room, having just come from voting in a local election. She’s originally from North Jersey, and while careful to emphasize that she’s not a native Philadelphian, the affection for her adopted hometown is evident. “Philly is an incredible city full of people doing their best, who’ve lived here all their lives, and who want it to be a happy, healthy place. It’s cool to be around that.”

Quinlan’s new album, Likewise, is set for release January 31st, and while fans might regard it as her debut solo effort, that distinction actually belongs to 2005’s Freshman Year. Credited to Hop Along, Queen Ansleis, the self-released album—recorded in her parents’ basement—now serves as an overture to the spectacular trio of Hop Along albums that followed. Though a few friends played drums and banjo on some tracks, the record was effectively a solo endeavor, and if it doesn’t sound like one, that’s by design. “I just wanted so badly for it to sound like a band,” she laughs, “so I literally played bells and whistles, and tried to make it sound like more than just me.”

A decade later, Quinlan supervised a new vinyl pressing of Freshman Year, which proved tricky—though it wasn’t nearly as nerve-wracking as the initial release. “I was stamping burned CDs,” she recalls, “and the stamp I’d made was so bad, I decided to paint back onto the CDs with the same ink and a brush, because I wanted so badly for them to be special, to have meaning for people.” She has no idea how many of those hand-made treasures exist, but in the fifteen years since she assembled that first recording, she’s still enamored with experimentation. 

On Likewise, Quinlan enlisted the help of longtime bandmate and producer Joe Reinhart, who helped her flesh out the arrangements, and she’s animated as she describes the sessions. “Collaboration is so different when it’s you, the songwriter, and a producer, and you’re kind of producing together,” she explains. “For this project, we could do whatever we wanted—I even play drums on a couple of tracks,” she laughs before admitting, “I can’t play bass.” The pair’s crackling chemistry is apparent in every note, and across nine songs, a bevy of strings, chorals, and electronic elements telepathically track Quinlan’s magical, mercurial cadence.

As a lyricist, Quinlan is a poet, and reading through the verses which comprise Likewise, it’s tempting to see the tracks as a loosely connected narrative. Squint, and you can make out the telemetry of a rocky relationship. But Quinlan says the stories here are all abstract bits—which isn’t to say there’s no overarching theme. “A common thread would be attempts at discourse between loved ones,” she explains. “The people you’re closest to, you want them to understand you the most, right? And that can be so harrowing. It’s a hard thing to let go of who you were before, and not feel a sense of regression, not feel held back by the perception that others have of you. I don’t think it’s a hopeless record, by any means. But I do think it’s a challenge to speak your mind to the people you’re closest to.”

On the lead single “Rare Thing,” she recalls a surreal dream where barbs like, “I know there is love that doesn’t have to do with taking something from somebody” sting against a stippled synth. For “Detroit Lake,” she conjures images of a hawk striking prey, blooming algae, and words left unspoken, while the plaintive notes of “A Secret” mirror her lyrics’ portrait of geographical and emotional distance. At times, the syncopation between her vocals and the instrumentation is so effortless that it feels like she’s dynamically bending the instruments to her will. During the sessions, “I was thinking, in a different way, what the song needed,” Quinlan says. “I had no concrete, instrumental goal, and that kind of left the songs room to really wander and get strange.” She may call them “strange,” but overall the tracks are compulsively captivating, and with the spotlight on her fantastic voice, it seems like she’s present in any room where they’re played.  

Likewise closes with a cover of Built to Spill’s “Carry the Zero,” a song Quinlan has adored for years. As she relays that Doug Martsch is “cool” with her interpretation, our conversation shifts to the singers who’ve influenced her, and after quickly citing Kate Bush, Fiona Apple, and Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, she turns pensive. “It’s tough, because you have people you love, but you’ll never in a million years sound like,” she considers. “There are so many vocalists I revere, that I wish I could emulate.

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Babehoven is the full-band vehicle for the songwriting of Philadelphia-based songwriter Maya Bon. The band are currently gearing up for the release of their upcoming EP, “Demonstrating Visible Differences of Height”, and have this week shared the latest offering from it, “Only So”.

On Only So, Maya seems to grapple with struggles both personal and global, finding similarities in the battles and attempting to find a way to carry on when things get too much. As Maya sings, “there is only so much I can take of this destruction”, attempting as she explains to, “draw a line in the sand, to set intentions for my healing and boundaries for my struggle”. Even if the tales here are deeply personal they can easily resonate with anyone wanting to find a path towards moving on and starting to heal the universal wounds. The whole thing is set to a subtly crunching musical backing, full of rattling cymbals and crunchy, flourishes of guitar, none of which gets in the way of Maya’s impressive cracked vocal delivery.

One of those songwriters who seems to instantly command your attention, Babehoven might be one of the year’s most important new musical voices. Demonstrating Visible Differences Of Height is out February 7th

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This band from Philadelphia has always sounded like rock & roll purism with a future. With an imminent new album, “Dirty Pictures (Part 2)”Low Cut Connie – led by singer-pianist-songwriter Adam Weiner – are now an act on the verge. Their sound is of Fifties rock & roll dynamics and controlled-Replacements vigor. Weiner swept the ivories of his road-beaten keyboard in a short-sleeve gold lamé jacket over a Stanley Kowalski undershirt – budget-Elton John flair meets Jerry Lee Lewis menace. A cover of David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” – recently cut for a Bowie tribute project curated by Howard Stern – highlighted the Seventies glam that runs through Low Cut Connie’s electric-roadhouse guitars.

But the first single from the next LP, “Beverly,” was next-level songwriting. Building on the solid hooks and charge of previous albums – set-list pillars like “Dirty Water” and “Shake It Little Tina” – Weiner has pushed the vintage-Philly soul in his choruses to a rousing elegance at the intersection of Todd Rundgren, Gamble and Huff and Sun Records.

Low Cut Connie showed their usual party-out-of-bounds. They have also brought a bonafide hit, ready for crossover.

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Frances Quinlan has among one of the most instantly recognizable voices in indie rock. As the lead singer of Philadelphia band Hop Along, she’s been at the front of two of this decade’s best rock albums, 2014’s Painted Shut, and 2018’s Bark Your Head Off, Dog, one of our favorite albums of that year. Her voice is a raspy force that touches on everything from punk to freak-folk. Hop Along originally began as Quinlan’s solo project, but now she’s releasing her first-ever solo album under her own name. The first single, “Rare Thing,” is a real stunner and surely a harbinger of things to come. Quinlan recorded the album with her Hop Along bandmate Joe Reinhart, who encouraged her to explore new sounds, at The Headroom studio in Philly. “Working with Joe on this made me able to better see that the guitar is just one vehicle … there are so many others to explore,” Quinlan said in a statement.

Frances Quinlan – Rare Thing from the album Likewise out January 31st, 2020

Frances Quinlan: vocals, synthesizer in verses, Rhodes, tambourine Joe Reinhart: electric guitar, synthesizer in choruses, synthetic percussion arrangements, drums up until 1:44 Tyler Long: bass guitar Mark Quinlan: Drums after 1:44 (as well as additions to 1st chorus) Mary Lattimore: harp

Frances Quinlan – Now That I’m Back from the album Likewise out January 31st, 2020

Frances Quinlan: vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, synthesizer (with friendly addition from Mark in 2nd verse) Joe Reinhart: Rhodes, synthetic bass

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“Covert Contracts” rule our world: manipulative relationships, encoded social norms, opaque technologies. “With a covert contract, the trick is that the agreement is only known by the person who makes it,” says Ali Carter, singer and bassist of Philly post-punk trio Control Top. “The other person is oblivious. Consent is impossible. A void of communication opens up a world of misunderstanding.”

In an era of such impossibilities, Control TopCarter with guitarist Al Creedon and drummer Alex Lichtenauer—rip open space for catharsis. Their explosive songs are a synthesis of varied interests and backgrounds: Carter’s innate sense of new wave melodies, Creedon’s sirening noise guitars, Lichtenauer’s feverish hardcore drumming.

On their debut full-length “Covert Contracts”, the songwriting is fully a collaboration of Carter and Creedon. Carter’s voice thumps and screams and deadpans while her driving, hooky basslines play out like guitar leads. Creedon, also the band’s engineer and producer, balances composition and chaos, equally inspired by pop and no-wave.

With her lyrics, Carter responds to feeling trapped and overwhelmed in a capitalist patriarchy, offering indictments of wrongdoing and abuse of power, odes to empathy and ego death, as well as declarations of self-determination.

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These songs hit even harder when you consider how close this band came to not existing at all. Despite being involved in underground music communities for years, Carter didn’t start Control Top (her first band) until age 25. Disillusioned by punk, Creedon had all but abandoned guitar. But Control Top felt exciting, a chance to experiment: to rethink the relationship between guitar and bass and use samplers to add new dimensions. Meanwhile, Lichtenauer had quit playing drums after an abusive situation in a previous band that had ruined playing music for them, and joining Control Top was an opportunity for rebirth.

At once anthemic and chilling, Covert Contracts puts words to today’s unspoken anxieties. Brimming with post-punk poetry for 2019, it’s the sound of agency being reclaimed.

CONTROL TOP is:
Ali Carter – bass/vocals
Al Creedon – guitar
Alex Lichtenauer – drums
released April 5th, 2019

CARACARA – ” Better “

Posted: December 12, 2019 in MUSIC
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Caracara has always had ambitions past Philadelphia. They could have stemmed from the proj- ect’s genesis: the implosion of former bands, the impact of long-distance communication and travel in relationships, the inevitability of experimentation and expansion. Styles and symbols seem to shift throughout their debut LP Summer Megalith, alternating from shimmering indie to whispers of neo-folk before relishing in the cathartic push of post-rock. This fluidity introduces a band with no point of origin, built from the mysterious clamor of noise as much as they are inspired by it.

Caracara’s EP serves as a showcase for its title track. “Better” is the sort of six-minute song that more than justifies its runtime, a bleary build-up and a scorching breakdown that enlists fellow Philadelphian Mannequin Pussy’s Marisa Dabice on vocals. “I think that there’s always been an intersection between post-rock and hardcore, but what I’m not seeing as much as I want to see is that type of music but with a greater attention paid to sung vocals and lyrics,” the band’s Will Lindsay said in an interview earlier this year, and Better finds Caracara toeing that line, both ends leading to a massive oblivion.