Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

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.

Was SO excited at the news of this EP, considering that Cowgirl Blues was among my favourite albums of 2017.  “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. 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.

Still Life from Lauren Records. originally released July 20th, 2018

It isn’t like Katie Crutchfield to slow down. For the past 15 years, the 31-year-old artist has been a member of four different bands, starting with the Ackleys when she was still in high school. The moment one project ended, Crutchfield always seemed hard at work beginning a new one, churning out an endless quality of music with bands like Bad Banana, P.S. Eliot, and Great Thunder.

In 2017, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfeld quite literally blew the music world away. Her record Out in the Storm, one of the best albums of that year, displayed a whole new side of the singer. Gone were the fortified bedroom pop of 2015’s Ivy Tripp, the rock-tinged freak-folk musings of her 2013 stunner Cerulean Salt and the brainy lo-fi recordings of her 2012 debut American Weekend. Out in the Storm sounds like its title suggests: loud, windy, chaotic and emotionally intense—a tried-and-true breakup album and a throwback to Crutchfield’s punk roots. While she was already beloved among indie circles, that release took her to the next level—new fans, considerable press buzz, a massive tour starring her and her twin sister Allison.

But 2018 was different. Crutchfield had spent years trying to quit drinking, but after a raucous European tour with Waxahatchee, she decided to commit to the decision. “I was telling everyone around me, ‘I’m just gonna take a break,’” she says “Then in my head, I was like, ‘I am done.’”. “For a while, I completely didn’t recognize myself,” she continues. “When you’re in kind of a bad way on tour, there’s just nothing worse than going on stage.”

The decision was part of a larger plan to slow down in general. Where she used to rush to process her feelings through songwriting, Crutchfield now found herself pausing to take care of herself first, to use therapy to work through her emotions before considering them as material for her songs.


Crutchfield’s fifth album as Waxahatchee, is the result of Crutchfield taking that time to breathe. It’s an album about seeking security in relationships, whether they’re romantic or platonic. Throughout, there’s a beautiful simplicity to Crutchfield’s writing. “When you see me, I’m honey on a spoon,” she sings on “Can’t Do Much,” a folky love song built on big, strummed guitar. There are also moments of self-doubt and weakness, the kind that cuts right to the big questions that hang over relationships like storm clouds. “We can try to let the stillness be,” she states cautiously on “The Eye,” “But if I spin off, will you rescue me?”

I feel like in the past I’ve been like, ‘You’re doing this and you’re doing that,’ like—pointing the finger,” Crutchfield says, jabbing the air. “At times, that’s been important and good for me to do. But with this record, I’m really pointing the finger at myself, and loving my people unconditionally.

In the past, the music Crutchfield made as Waxahatchee was defined by a kind of jagged quality—her soft vocals offsetting a crunchy, wall-of-sound indie rock (“chaotic and claustrophobic,” is how she describes her last full-length, Out in the Storm). But there’s a startling clarity on Saint Cloud, which traffics in a minimalist, Americana sound that makes Crutchfield’s voice sound naked in comparison to her previous work. “[My producer] Brad Cook was like, ‘We follow your voice,’” Crutchfield says. “He would help me build songs around the way that I was strumming, the way that I was singing. That was the first time a producer had done that. In the past people were either not paying attention or trying to shape it.”


That clarity is also the sound of Crutchfield settling into a genre she admits, to some extent, she’s been fighting her whole career: country music. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Crutchfield was raised on artists like Emmylou Harris and Loretta Lynn, and she emulated them as a child. But when she discovered punk as a teenager, she rejected country in a fit of textbook rebellion.

“I began to fight with those tendencies, and I think that resulted in some really cool music on my early records—fighting with my more traditional sounding voice or saccharine melodies,” she says. “But I’m kind of reaching this point where I’m like, no, this is a really big part of who I am. And it’s always been a part of the way I tell stories and the people who influenced my storytelling. It’s almost like this weird self-acceptance.” The way Dolly Parton wrote about frustrating relationships—what Crutchfield calls her “fun, jaunty” approach to them—influenced the song “Hell.” Borrowing some of Parton’s over-the-top intensity from songs like “Jolene,” Crutchfield sings: “I hover above like a deity, but you don’t worship me.” “I wanted to write a song that’s a little bit psycho,” Crutchfield says. “Everybody feels that way sometimes.”

Nostalgia for the music she grew up with soon became a kind of general nostalgia for the South. A Philadelphia resident for nearly eight years, Crutchfield decided she was going to move back to Alabama and buy a house. “Then I got to Birmingham and realized there were a million reasons why I left,” she says. She ended up settling in Kansas City after spending long stretches of time there with resident and boyfriend Kevin Morby. “I live such a relaxed life right now,” she says. “We have a sauna at our house,” she says, laughing.

Talking about Saint Cloud, it’s clear Crutchfield has completely retooled her relationship with music and touring. “In the past I’ve been a pusher, just kind of rushing and compromising a lot just to get it done,” she says. “I forced myself to slow down.”

Every time you make a record, you have a vision, but it’s a bit of a crapshoot how it’s actually going to turn out,” she says. “You just get on the bus and hope it gets you to your destination. And I’ve never hit the bullseye more than I did with this.”

Saint Cloud, Crutchfield’s fifth album under the Waxahatchee alias out Friday, March 27th on Merge Records


Empty Country is a new project from Cymbals Eat Guitars frontman Joseph D’Agostino, and he just announced that he’ll release his debut album on Tiny Engines in 2020. Ahead of that though, he just shared his debut two-song single, “Ultrasound” / “Jets.” And making it even more exciting, “Ultrasound” features Charles Bissell of The Wrens.

With Cymbals Eat Guitars, Joseph D’Agostino trafficked in indie-minded iterations of classic rock, from epic Built To Spill freakouts to neon Springsteen worship. So it only follows that his new project would plow headfirst into the great wide open. D’Agostino’s debut album as Empty Country plays like a drive through the heartland, except instead of coast to coast it takes you to the 1980s and back. Along the way it connects the dots between “Pink Houses,” Red House Painters, and the houses on all those memorable emo album covers.


The Cymbals Eat Guitars guy has a new project and it sounds like Desparacidos. Well, it doesn’t quite evoke the ire of fifty Kum & Gos, but “Ultrasound” paints with the same sonic palette as Conor Oberst’s snarling anti-consumerist ventilation, blending Joseph D’Agostino’s sludgy garage-punk instrumentation with a vocal performance a few quivers shy of a jorts-clad Oberst. At times it sounds like a demo version of a LOSE-era Cymbals Eat Guitars track, though it mostly feels like a totally new direction for the Philly-based songwriter.

Empty Country “Ultrasound” released at the end of last year on Tiny Engines Joseph D’Agostino, the lead singer/songwriter of Cymbals Eat Guitars, announced his new project Empty Country. Debut Album out on Tiny Engines

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Maxwell Stern has been writing songs and touring internationally for over 15 years now, both solo and in numerous bands. He grew up in Cleveland, OH and currently resides in Philadelphia, PA. He is trying to ride his bike more. He is absolutely not the person writing this.

Maxwell Stern of Signals Midwest collaborated with some notable punks in Ratboys, Modern Baseball, Into it. Over it and more to create a John Prine inspired track called “Tying Airplanes To The Ground”. The track was written by Stern a day after Prine’s death and the collaborative process was conducted while in quarantine.


Released May 21st, 2020

Maxwell Stern (Signals Midwest, Timeshares) – guitar, vocals, composition
Adam Beck (Sincere Engineer, Into It. Over It.) – keys, drums, percussion, engineering
Ian Farmer (Slaughter Beach Dog, Modern Baseball) – bass
Evan Loritsch (Mother Evergreen) – Fender Rhodes piano
Julia Steiner (Ratboys) – vocals
Dave Sagan (Ratboys) – lap steel

Kristin Slipp, also a member of Dirty Projectors, is the voice of Brooklyn– and Philadelphia-based collective Cuddle Magic, who recorded their new album Bath in a bathroom. You can preview its twinkling, understanding “Working On Me” here.

Big news: we have a new song out today, “What If I,” and we’ll have a new album out soon. It’s called ‘Bath’ and it’s coming out on July 3rd on Northern Spy.

Please take a moment right now to pre-save the album, follow us on your chosen streaming platform, and listen to “What If I” (the link below should let you do all three of those things). It’s the first song we all wrote together and we’ve been wanting to release a recording of it for a long time. We love how it turned out and hope you do, too!

Band Members
Benjamin Lazar Davis, Alec Spiegelman, Kristin Slipp, Christopher McDonald, Cole Kamen-Green, David Flaherty

The album is released on July 3rd by Northern Spy Records, and you can pre-order the digital version of it by visiting the band’s Bandcamp page now.

AVC Sessions: House Shows, our new series where we’ll invite some of our favourite artists to perform a show you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Frances Quinlan, lead singer and guitarist for Philly indie rock band Hop Along, performs a few songs from her debut solo album, Likewise. In the full session—which you can watch over on our Instagram stories, Facebook page, and YouTube channel—Quinlan details the creative challenge of producing an album without her bandmates, and how she’s adjusting to life in quarantine.

The cover of Frances Quinlan’s debut solo album features a self-portrait. Her eyes are wide, she’s looking directly at you and her expression is almost nervous – like she’s been caught and exposed. And in a way, that makes sense. After fronting the Philadelphia act Hop Along for 15 years, Quinlan is stepping out on her own, playing the personal, sometimes revealing songs on her new album

This album is nothing less than transcendently beautiful. The heart and soul of everything that made me fall in love with Cymbals Eat Guitars now lives on in the form of Empty Country with new twists and complexities that make EC it’s own clearly unique entity as well. A great transitional document for Joseph D’Agostino as he moves on from Cymbals Eat Guitars (still sad they are over). This album is great in that it’s not a huge departure , yet it is still distinctly D’Agostino’s own thing. It’s got the great melodies and catchy hooks of Cymbals Eat Guitars with that characteristic melancholy. But with more acoustic guitar, Empty Country sounds more personal.

Up there with Joe’s best work, it feels like it pulls from every record he’s done before while still being completely distinct from any Cymbals record in the way it combines the psychedelia and accessibility with some of the lushest, most ornately arranged music I’ve heard. Plus the guitars still rock, the solos fucking slap, and the ballads somehow slap just as hard. The narrative based lyrics also hit a sweet spot in Joe’s lyricism — direct but inventive, descriptive and endlessly compelling.


released March 20th, 2020
Music and lyrics by Joseph D’Agostino

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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, 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).


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


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.


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.


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.


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 b 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