Tag: Philadelphia PA

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Palm Ghosts Releases a Brooding yet Dance Floor Friendly Bop

Led by singer/songwriter, producer and Ice Queen Records founder Joseph Lekkas, the Nashville-based indie rock act Palm Ghosts can trace its origins to when Lekkas resided in Philadelphia. After spending a number of years playing in local bands like Grammar Debate! and Hilliard, Lekkas took a lengthy hiatus from writing, recording and performing music to book shows and festivals in and around the Philadelphia area. Lekkas initially started Palm Ghosts as a solo recording project — and as a creative outlet to cope with an incapacitating bout of depression and anxiety. 

During a long prototypically Northeastern winter, he recorded a batch of introspective songs that at the time, he dubbed “sun-damaged American music” that would eventually become the project’s full-length debut. After a short tour in 2013 to support the album, Lekkas packed up his belongings and relocated to Nashville, enticed by the city’s growing indie rock scene. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past handful of years, you may recall that Palm Ghosts’ third album, 2018’s Architecture was a change in sonic direction for the project with Lekkas writing material influenced by the sounds of the 80s — in particular, Cocteau TwinsPeter GabrielDead Can DanceNew Order,  The Cure, and others. 

Much like countless other acts across the world, Lekkas and his bandmates spent much of forced downtime of the pandemic, being as busy as humanly possible: The members of the JOVM mainstay act wrote a ton of new material. The past year or so of isolation of lockdowns and quarantines, socioeconomic and financial uncertainty and protests and demonstrations helped to fuel an immediacy to the material the band had been busily writing. 

Earlier this year, the Nashville-based outfit released their fourth album Lifeboat Candidate, a fittingly dark, dystopian effort full of confusion, fear and dread, informed by the events and circumstances of last year. And while the world feels little changed since last year, the JOVM mainstay’s fifth album Lost Frequency is a much different album. Initially scheduled for release last year, Lifeboat Candidate harkens to the before, when things seemed normal — or at least less uneasy, less desperate. After a difficult 18 months of pandemic, 700,000+ deaths in the US alone, financial despair, political uncertainty and more, having some respite, some sort of escape is what most of u s feel what we urgently need. And in a very loose sense, Lost Frequency feels almost celebratory — and perhaps a bit more nostalgic, than its immediate predecessor. But the material lyrically brings confrontation to the forefront, reminding the listener that at this juncture, nothing is normal, that normalcy and the desire to return to it is destructive.

Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “Bloodlight,” a hook-driven synth pop number centered around tweeter and woofer thumping beats, shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths and a hypnotic motorik groove that sonically seems indebted to the likes of Peter Gabriel and Depeche Mode — while being a seething indictment on humanity and its treatment of Mother Earth. Album single “The Painful Truth” is another dance floor friendly single.

Featuring a throbbing and arpeggiated bass synth, shimmering melodic synths and a motorik groove paired with Lekkas’ unusually icy delivery, “The Painful Truth” brings A Flock of Seagulls to mind. But despite its upbeat sound, the song lyrically and thematically is much darker, much more bleak.

“‘The Painful Truth’ is an 80s inspired dance track with a thrumming, arpeggiated bass line and a simple, bright lead line. In contrast to its sound, the song’s lyrical content lives in a much darker and less optimistic place,” Palm Ghosts Joseph Lekkas explains. “Focusing on the flooding, wildfires and intolerable heat indexes we’ve grown accustomed to, ‘The Painful Truth is a mirror into a bleak future.”

New Audio: Palm Ghosts Returns with a Politically Charged, Dance Floor Friendly Bop

Led by singer/songwriter, producer and Ice Queen Records founder Joseph Lekkas, the Nashville-based indie rock act Palm Ghosts can trace its origins to when Lekkas resided in Philadelphia.

After spending a number of years playing in local bands like Grammar Debate! and Hilliard, Lekkas took a lengthy hiatus from writing, recording and performing music to book shows and festivals in and around the Philadelphia area. Lekkas initially started Palm Ghosts as a solo recording project — and as a creative outlet to cope with an incapacitating bout of depression and anxiety.

During a long prototypically Northeastern winter, he recorded a batch of introspective songs that at the time, he dubbed “sun-damaged American music” that would eventually become the project’s full-length debut. After a short tour in 2013 to support the album, Lekkas packed up his belongings and relocated to Nashville, enticed by the city’s growing indie rock scene. 

Palm Ghosts’ third album, 2018’s Architecture was a change in sonic direction for the project with Lekkas writing material influenced by the sounds of the 80s — in particular, Cocteau TwinsPeter GabrielDead Can DanceNew Order,  The Cure, and others.

Much like countless acts across the world, Lekkas and his bandmates spent much of the lockdown being busy: The isolation of the lockdowns, plus socioeconomic and financial turmoil, protests and demonstrations fueled an immediacy and energy in the songs that Lekkas and company had been writing at the time.

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you might recall that the band released their fourth album Lifeboat Candidate earlier this year. The album was a fittingly dark and dystopian effort, full of confusion, fear and dread, fueled by isolation, frustration, unrest and uncertainty. And while the world feels little changed since last year, the band’s fifth album Lost Frequency is a very different album.

Initially meant for release last year, the album hearkens back to the before, when things were somewhat normal — or at least seemingly less uneasy, which is what most of us are desperately clamoring for, after endless death and fear for the better part of a year. In a loose sense, Lost Frequency feels almost celebratory — and perhaps a bit more nostalgic, than its immediate predecessor. But the material lyrically brings confrontation to the forefront, reminding the listener that at this juncture, normalcy is devastating.

 Lost Frequency‘s first single “Bloodlight” continues a run of hook-driven material indebted to The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Peter Gabriel, Depeche Mode and the like with the song being centered around tweeter and woofer thumping beats, shimmering guitars, hypnotic, motorik grooves, atmospheric synths and an enormous hook. And while dance floor friendly, the song lyrically is a seething indictment of humanity and its treatment of Mother Earth.

“‘Bloodlight,’ the album opener, is a dark dance track that compares the  climate crisis to a crime scene,.” Palm Ghosts’ Joseph Leekas explains in press notes. “Luminol is a chemical commonly used in  forensics for the detection of blood stains. Nothing vanishes without a trace  and particles of blood adhere to surfaces for years.  

“The same applies to what humans have done to the earth. The damage will remain long after we are gone.”  

With the release of their Jeff Berner-produced full-length debut, last year’s Unmask Whoever, the rising experimental/krautrockff act Activity, which is split between New York and Philadelphia — Grooms‘ Travis Johnson (vocals, sampler) and Steve Levine (drums), Field Mouse‘s Zoe Browne (bass) and Russian Baths‘ Jess Rees (guitar) — received attention across the blogosphere for an eerily minimalist and uneasy sound that saw the band pair modern production, electronic instrumentation and organic instrumentation. Thematically, the album’s material touched upon paranoia, exposed character flaws and the broader capacity for growth when an uneasy truth is laid bare.

In the lead-up to the album’s release, I managed to write about there of the album’s released singles:

Sadly, Unmask Whoever was released within the first full week of pandemic-related lockdowns and as a result, the band wasn’t able to support their effort with a proper tour. But after a lengthy delay, the members of Activity will be embarking on a North American tour, which begins October 6, 2020 at Mercury Lounge. Tour dates are below — as always.

Along with the tour announcement, the JOVM mainstays released a new single, the eerily spectral and expansive “Text the Dead.” Centered around Travis Johnson’s achingly plaintive vocals, layers of percussive, almost polyrhythmic beats, mutilated samples, and atmospheric synths, the new single swoons from the weight of despair and inconsolable loss — with the tacit understanding that ghosts do linger, and that grief often comes in waves.

“My mom passed away in February. We had 24 days from when we found out she was sick with pancreatic cancer until she died. I still can’t process it honestly,” Activity’s Travis Johnson explains in press notes. “I remember her telling me over the phone, when I was losing it, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.’ I knew how awful the diagnosis was but I didn’t want to tell her and I really tried to cling to her telling me that. Throughout the day, still, I’ll catch myself thinking ‘I should tell mom about this or that’ or ‘I wonder how my mom is doing’ and get out my phone to call or text or email her before I realize that I can’t talk to her, and that I can’t talk to her about how I can’t talk to her. Knocks the wind out of me and makes me feel insane every time. That’s a picture of her when she was probably about my age on the cover. It was built on samples I’d put together and really mutilated a long time ago and forgotten about. I was going through old stuff and found it and started singing the verse melody. Then we all added our parts and subtracted others, etc. It’s not a very ‘live’ song but we all came together on it still.”

Tour:
10.06 New York NY @ Mercury Lounge
10.08 Boston MA @ Cafe 939
10.09 Philadelphia PA @ Ortlieb’s
10.10 Toronto ON @ Drake
10.11 Cleveland OH @ Mahall’s
10.12 Chicago IL @ Schubas
10.13 Minneapolis MN @ 7th St Entry
10.15 Milwaukee WI @ Cactus Club
10.19 Atlanta GA @ Masquerade
10.20 Carrboro NC @ Backroom Cat’s Cradle
10.21 Richmond VA @ The Camel
10.23 Lancaster PA @ Tigh Mary
10.24 Washington DC @ Pie Shop

New Video: Philly’s Great Time Releases a Slickly Produced Banger

With the release of their self-produced, full-length debut, 2018’s Great Album, Philadelphia-based indie trio Great Time — vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jill Ryan, Zack Hartmann (bass, synths) and Donnie Spackman (drums, synths) exploded into the local and national scenes: The album caught the attention of WXPN’s Bruce Warren with several album tracks receiving regular rotation. The album also received attention from NPR, Earmilk and Paste Magazine.

The band also quickly developed a reputation as a must-see live act, playing prominent local venues like World Cafe Live, TLA and Underground Arts before being asked to join nationally touring act Caroline Rose on her East Coast and Midwest tour dates. The Philadelphia-based trio began last year by being the house band for Winnfred Coombe’s The Violet Hour, which featured Saturday Night Live cast members Alex Moffat and Melissa Villaseñor and guests Kristin Chenoweth and Gina Gershon. And just before the pandemic, the members of Great Time were set to open for Lawrence.

Much like countless bands and artists across the globe, the pandemic threw a monkey wrench into their touring plans; however, the Philadelphia trio have managed to remain busy writing, recording and self-producing new material, including the Sounds Like ________EP series. “The idea behind this Sounds Like series of EPs is simple: We want to make what we want to make. We’re inspired by tons of different styles and sounds, and we feel most genuine when we’re creating music without any limitations or boundaries,” Great Time’s Jill Ryan explains in press notes. “The title is a response to the critiques we received on our first album.  Critics have suggested that we should pick a lane or a genre, and Sounds Like is our way of defying that while staying true to ourselves.”

Released yesterday, the second EP of the series, Sounds Like ______ [Vol. 2] further establishes Great Time’s genre-defying sound and approach with the EP’s material sonically focusing on the electro pop element of their overall sound. Thematically, the EP touches upon the frustrations of being a musician/artist, self-doubt, anxiety, obsessive thoughts — and the urge to keep creating despite all of that.

Sounds Like ______ [Vol. 2]’s latest single, “80z Slo Jam” is a sleek and slickly produced song centered around jagged synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rattling beats, chiming keys and Ryan’s sultry delivery paired with an infectious, club friendly hook. The song’s title strikes me as being rather ironic: First it ain’t exactly a slow jam. And secondly, the track sonically — to my ears, at least — is a mix of Nu Shooz-era synth pop and Lenses-era Soft Metals. Regardless of all of that, the track a finely crafted banger that captures day job frustration and ennui, longing and desire for more than working for the weekend.

The recently released video is a slick fever dream that follows the members of Great Time as bored and dissatisfied office drones with big dreams of escaping the rat race and making it.

With shows and tours actually being things again, the band will kick off at regional fall tour on September 18 with a set at WXPN’s Xponential Fest before a run of shows in their hometown, NYC, Boston and Vermont. More on that to come, I hope! Additionally, Great Time’s Jill Ryan will sit in on saxophone for Japanese Breakfast’s sold out, five night run at Union Transfer, which started yesterday and ends on August 11. She’ll also join Cassandra Jenkins and St. Vincent for several October dates including Pitchfork Festival and St. Vincent’s highly-anticipated October 12 stop at Radio City Music Hall.

New Video: Mannequin Pussy Releases a Feral Mosh Pit Friendly Ripper

That same month, the band had thirteen songs released on a split tour cassette with Idaho-based band Art Fad titled Banditos, released through Trash Palace Tapes. The band expanded to a trio with the addition of Drew Adler (drums) — and as a result, Paul moved to guitar. With that lineup, the band released their full-length debut, 2013’s Gypsy Pervert as a limited edition, cassette only released through Rarebit Records.

In 2014 the members of Mannequin Pussy signed to Tiny Engines, who re-released their full-length debut. Over the next two years, the band went through a series of lineup changes: 2015 saw Reading replace Adler on drums and in the following year Regisford returned to the band. The lineup of Missy, Reading and Regisford and Paul released their critically applauded, breakthrough album Romantic, which featured “Romantic,” a trace that landed on Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Songs of 2016 list.

In March 2019, the band signed with Epitaph Records, who released their third album Patience that June. Much like a handful of bands across the world, last year was looking up for the members of the band: they had started touring to support Patience — and after a decade as a band, they were finally able to turn music into a full-time job. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a massive monkey wrench into everyone’s plans, making touring, let alone playing anywhere impossible and dangerous. The band announced that Athanasios Paul had left the band to “start a new chapter in his life” and that they would continue forward as a trio.

After spending much of last year in anxious, pandemic-related isolation, the remaining members decided to reconvene and book studio time with Grammy-nominated producer Will Yip to work in person. They brought two previously written songs into the sessions, but they were so excited from their reunion, that they decided to write new material together on the fly. “We just figured if we forced ourselves into this situation where someone could hit ‘record,’ something might come out,” Missy says. “We’d never written that way before.” The end result is the band’s forthcoming EP Perfect.

Inspired by months of social isolation and anxiety-fueled doom scrolling, the EP and its title track in particular, thematically examines the practice of condensing your daily life into a manicured stream of images for social media consumption. “Last year, I found myself spending more time on my phone than I ever had in my life. Physically separate from other people, I spent hours of time watching other humans perform on my rectangle. I realized that through years of social media training, many of us have grown this deep desire to manicure our lives to look as perfect, as aspirational as possible,” the band’s frontwoman Missy explains in press notes. ““We want to put ourselves out there, share our lives, our stories, our day to day – and these images and videos all shout the same thing: ‘Please look at me, please tell me I’m so perfect.’ It’s simultaneously a declaration of our confidence but edged with the desperation that seeks validation from others.”

Clocking in at a little over 2:30, “Perfect” is a hardcore punk-inspired, feral bludgeoning, centered around thunderous drumming, howled vocals and explosive power chords and a mosh pit friendly break. Play this one loud. Play it so loud that it frightens your neighbor.

Directed by the band’s Missy, the recently released video for “Perfect” is inspired by the 1997 cult comedy Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Taking viewers to Sugarbush High’s 10-year anniversary, the video reveals the rot, unease and freakishness under the veneer of perfection. The freaks who uproot everything are the heroes and the norms are awful — and that’s generally the case, isn’t it?

New Audio: Philly’s brushstroke Releases a Wobbly and Expansive New Single

Eoin Murphy is a Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind the emerging solo recording project brushstroke, a project influenced by neo-soul, psych pop and alternative R&B.

Late last year, I wrote about the slow-burning “Freeze,” a single that reminded me quite a bit of JOVM mainstays Nick Hakim and Tame Impala as it was centered around a dusty, lo-fi production shimmering guitars, twinkling keys, blown-out beats, Murphy’s plaintive and soulful falsetto and a radio friendly hook. Building upon a growing profile, the Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter released his latest single “Lucid,” which finds him further establishing and expanding upon his wobbly, lo-fi sound complete with blown-out beats and shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, soulful vocals paired with neo-soul crooning and shoegazey guitars and vibes. But unlike its immediate predecessor, “Lucid” possesses a hip-hop-inspired swagger that fully manifests itself with hard hitting boom-bap beats and a skittering J. Dilla meets Flying Lotus-like coda. And underneath all of that is all of the profound and uneasy feelings of the past year or so of most of our lives — that feeling of being adrift and isolated, of frustration and boredom, of anger over increasing injustice and shitty behavior, and so on.

“The concept of the track really just stems from a lot of stress and anger that myself and I’m sure lots of other people we’re feeling throughout 2020.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Palm Ghosts Release a Paranoid and Uneasy Meditation on Our Current Moment

Led by singer/songwriter, producer and Ice Queen Records founder Joseph Lekkas, the Nashville-based indie rock act Palm Ghosts can trace its origins to when Lekkas resided in Philadelphia. After spending a number of years playing in local bands like Grammar Debate! and Hilliard, Lekkas took a lengthy hiatus from writing, recording and performing music to book shows and festivals in and around the Philadelphia area.

Lekkas initially started Palm Ghosts as a solo recording project — and as a creative outlet to cope with an incapacitating bout of depression and anxiety. During a long Northeastern winter, he recorded a batch of introspective songs that at the time, he dubbed “sun-damaged American music” that would eventually become the project’s full-length debut. After a short tour in 2013 to support the album, Lekkas packed up his belongings and relocated to Nashville, enticed by the city’s growing indie rock scene.

Palm Ghosts’ third album, 2018’s Architecture was a bit of a change in sonic direction for the project with Lekkas writing material influenced by the sounds of the 80s — in particular, Cocteau Twins, Peter Gabriel, Dead Can Dance, New Order, The Cure, and others. A couple of years have passed since I’ve written about the Nashville-based Lekkas, but as it turns out the JOVM mainstay has been busy. Much like countless acts across the world last year, the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, political and financial turmoil and protest fueled an immediacy and energy in the songs Lekkas and company had been writing.

The band’s fourth album, Lifeboat Candidate was written and recorded remotely with the individual bandmembers emailing song ideas, instrumental parts, lyrics and melodies back and forth. Slated for a March 19, 2021 release, Lifeboat Candidate is a fittingly dark and dystopian effort, full of confusion, fear and dread — but with a bit of humor and hope. Interestingly, Lifeboat Candidate’s first single “Blind,” was the one of the first songs written and recorded last summer. Centered around tribal drumming, shimmering synth arpeggios and slashing guitars, “Blind” is one part Peter Gabriel 3 and Security-era Peter Gabriel, one part Joy Division and one part Gang of Four. It’s an uneasy and tense song that’s about the suspicion and paranoia that stand in the way of truly and honestly seeing people that seems all too suited for the age of QAnon, NewsMax and OAN.

The recently released video for “Blind” is a paranoid and uneasy fever dream using rapidly flashing collage artwork that evokes a dystopian hellscape in flames. Does it feel familiar, yet?

New Audio: Philadelphia’s brushstroke Releases a Shimmering and Dusty Bit of Soul

Eoin Murphy is a Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind the emerging solo recording project brushstroke, which draws from neo-soul, psych pop and alternative R&B.

Murphy’s latest brushstroke single “Freeze” is a sultry, slow-burning, Quiet Storm-inspired track centered around a dusty, lo-fi-like production, shimmering guitars, twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, the Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s plaintive yet soulful falsetto, blown-out beats and an infectious, radio friendly hook. Sonically, the song manages to bring JOVM mainstays Nick Hakim and Tame Impala to mind, complete with a similar deliberate attention to craft and mood.