Category Archives: Features

Any and all content created by WKDU DJ’s (includes album reviews, show reviews, personal lists, opinion pieces, etc)

Preview: Jack Deezl and Aaron Ruxbin Live @ WKDU (2/20/14)

Jack Deezl &Aaron Ruxbin

Jack Deezl & Aaron Ruxbin

By Chris Burrell

Drexel Alumni Jack Deezl and Aaron Ruxbin approach the craft of DJing from two extremely different angles, but both coalesce at the intersection of passion and obstinacy. Refusing to succumb to the pressures of conformity both within the stigma and equipment typically associated with being a popular disc jockey, these men find themselves on the polar opposite spectrum of what defines DJing: one playing only vinyl records, the other [mostly] originals. One pure analog preservation, the other digitally manipulated live. The unifying factor being an emphasis on challenging the listeners expectations, advancing an amalgamation of sounds new and old, and digging for the deepest cuts; whether unearthed from years ago or synthesized earlier today. You won’t hear any top 40 in these sets, but you will hear something brand new, every time, guaranteed. Two special live in-studio sets from across the sonic spectrum. Put on your thinking caps and lay out your disco pants, Jack Deezl and Aaron Ruxbin are going VAHN DEEEEPEEERRRR!

Jack Deezl and Aaron Ruxbin will be performing with RJD2 at Union Transfer on February 21. Tune in to The Halfway House on February 20th to catch their Live @ WKDU session.

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Review: Neutral Milk Hotel @ The Tower Theater (1/29/14)

Photo courtesy of peterhutchins.tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of peterhutchins.tumblr.com

By Nick Stropko

So, it has happened. Years of anticipation, speculation, and blind hope have culminated, and the day has gone and passed. I have seen Neutral Milk Hotel.

Naturally, I have rapturous praise for the concert. Of course Jeff Magnum’s voice has retained it’s power, its winding intensity, its ability to reach just a little higher than it probably should and sell it regardless (he did have the slightest of problems during “Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 1,” but it really just served to humanize what has become a deified figure). Of course it was gratifying in a way Jeff’s solo shows were not to see the whole band together–Julian Koster rotating in place with his bass and playing the singing saw, Scott Spillane working an array of brass instruments, and Jeremy Barnes frantically keeping everything together. They really nailed the eclectic instrumentation present in NMH records, with the singing saw, zanzithophone, and electronic bagpipe, among many more, making appearances. Of course standing in a room full of people singing along to “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” with Jeff Magnum is going to send chills down your spine. Of course, of course, of course.

However, rapturous praise is kind of boring. Pretty much every account of the show I have gotten has been overwhelmingly positive. Instead, I’d like to offer an array of stray thoughts I had during the show.

  • While Magnum’s voice has certainly not lessened in intensity, it seems like his range has become ever so slightly more limited. I think a few of the songs were played a few steps down, and he reaalllyyy had to strain to hit that note in “Two Headed Boy, Pt. 1.”
  • I can’t really tell if I like Jeremy Barnes’s drumming or not. Maybe I’m just being silly, but it seems like he has trouble maintaining the beat during fills. Is it possible that Jeremy Barnes is actually not a very good drummer at all? Is this just a weird stylistic thing that I’m not grasping? THIS IS OF GRAVE CONCERN.
  • I really enjoy the stage dynamic of Neutral Milk Hotel. Jeff was pretty much unrecognizable–he received no applause when he walked onstage, his mess of hair making him look like a roadie in a fantastic sweater. He spoke little but seemed gracious, maintaining his weird indie god aura while not coming off as too stuck-up.
  • Isn’t this whole tour kind of remarkable? Maybe this is well-tread ground, but I think it’s worth restating every now and again that a band can sell out major venues across the country largely based on the strength of a record they put out on an indie label in 1998.
  • The “Ghost”–>”[untitled]“–>”Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2″ combo during the encore was phenomenal. Phenomenal. When I saw them break out the electronic bagpipe, I kind of freaked out and definitely sang along to a bagpipe part. No shame.
  • Fuck it, I can’t think of anything else that’s negative. It was a really great show, and I’m thankful I got to see it.

If you missed out on Jeff and co. last week, fear not! They’re playing at The Mann on July 21st. I highly recommend you attend.

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Top 50 Albums of 2013 (according to Liquid Courage Media)

Our lovely Assistant Editor-in-Chief, Shannen Gaffney, also writes for Liquid Courage Media. This is their list of the top albums of 2013, co-written with Isabel Imperatore (in alphabetical order).

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Allison Weiss - Say What You Mean
Allison Weiss’ No Sleep Records release, Say What You Mean, was an uplifting take on the more depressing moments of being a teenager-to-twenty-something. The first track, “Making It Up,” outlined the uncertainties of defining a relationship. Our favorite is the breakup pop tune “How to Be Alone”.

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Beyoncé - BEYONCÉ
BEYONCE released a self-titled “exclusive visual album” on iTunes in the middle of the night without any previous announcement or promotion. Do I need to say anything else? Videos/tracks to check out: ”XO” and “Blue” (and the entire album).

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Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
If we can use the word ‘groovy,’ Blood Orange released one of the grooviest records this year. “You’re Not Good Enough” encompasses everything you’ve ever wanted to say to your ex, and has been stuck in our heads ever since its recent release.

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Brick + Mortar – Bangs
It’s hard to categorize and describe Brick + Mortar, which is a duo comprised of Brandon Asraf and John Tacon. They combine elements of alternative, electronic, indie, drum and bass, noise-pop, hip-hop, and punk. It’s aggressive, anthemic and catchy. The intense drum and bass parts are overlapped with Brandon’s distinct vocals and instrumentation like synths and guitar.  Listen to “Bangs” and “Locked In A Cage” and you’ll understand.

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Charli XCX - True Romance
Charli XCX was definitely a breakout artist of 2013, and True Romance was one of the best dance pop albums of the year. Her obvious best track was “You – Ha Ha Ha,” but “Take My Hand” and “What I Like” were also equally addictive pop gems.

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The Idle Noise Velvet Underground A-Z show this Wednesday!

Photo courtesy of theguardian.com

Photo courtesy of theguardian.com

by Mr. Noyes

I found out about the Velvet Underground in 1985, at some point after PolyGram issued the VU LP of outtakes. I was a teenager in rural Berks County, partying weekends in a backwoods spot my friends called Alaska. “Stephanie Says” made a lot of sense, but it was White Light/White Heat that made my mind split open. The guitars were insane, beyond what I’d thought possible. I’d only recently heard Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising and couldn’t really explain unconventional tunings. I’d only recently read Howl and had a vague inkling of a beat New York that had been. I knew just enough to hear something remarkable in “Sister Ray.” The junkie sailors and the fellatio were interesting, but it was the industrial groan and squeal of the electronic instruments, like some hellish vacuum cleaner sucking at a soul, and the hollowed snap and tumble of the primitivist drums—those were really interesting. And ecstatic.

Everyone always says that everyone who heard the Velvets went on to start their own band. I didn’t. I kept listening to the Velvets. I bought a cheap cassette reissue of their live 1969 double album. That version of “What Goes On” keeps on going on and going on. Lou Reed’s guitar hit a sweet spot among punk rock snarl, avant-garde repetition (a la Steve Reich), and a zoned-out effect I could feel inside my skull. It’s an anti-aesthetic, full of the sort of cultural collisions that fueled Black Arts poetry in Newark that year and the working class anger of the Detroit rock scene—see the Stooges and the MC5. But the Velvets got there first. “Heroin” came out on Verve, most famous as a jazz label, alongside records by Count Basie and Odetta. Lou scored more than junk in Harlem. Those first three Velvets records — I don’t think there’s any better soundtrack to the violence and weirdness of American life, c. 1966 to 1969. Maybe Coltrane or the Mothers of Invention. But the Velvets could do pop and devotional music and gentle balladry and face-melting noise, often on the same LP side. The Velvets made important music. They deserve an A-Z.

Idle Noise with Mike Eidle and Trixie Noyes plays on WKDU every Wednesday from 7-9a.m. This week they will have a Velvet Underground A-Z exploration of artists, covers, and songs related to the band. You can listen on 91.7 fm or at wkdu.org.

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Fred Armisen Brings Surprise Guests to Underground Arts

photo-2  photo 3
By Shannen Gaffney

Last Thursday night Fred Armisen put on one of the coolest variety shows Underground Arts has ever seen. A little bit comedy, a little bit music, and even a little bit of one-on-one conversation, there wasn’t a dull moment throughout.

Underground Arts announced on Facebook that Fred would be bringing  “a surprise legendary guitar player” just hours before the show. After an opening musical set by his British SNL character “Ian Rubbish,” then doing some jokes as himself, he soon brought out the truly legendary J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. The first song they played together was Dino’s “Feel the Pain”. They also played “Massachusetts Afternoon” by the Blue Jean Committee (an SNL sketch which featured Jason Segel on piano) and had the whole crowd singing along to the ridiculous lyrics about apple cider. He ended this portion of the show with “It’s a Lovely Day,” another Ian Rubbish song. Armisen played the song in character on his last SNL performance in May, where many of his musician friends including Kim Gordon, Aimee Mann, Carrie Brownstein,  Michael Penn, and Mascis joined him on stage.

In addition to this short but awesome set, the crowd enjoyed previewing clips from the new season of Portlandia that will air “in early 2014” according to IFC’s website, and another surprise musical guest, Kurt Vile!

Towards the end of the show Fred spent a good twenty minutes answering questions from the crowd. His response to  a question about whether it’s frustrating working with SNL hosts who are not actors reflected his optimistic and quirky personality: “I’m going to sound like such a wimp, but the idea of greatness is overrated. When someone is great, I’m bored. When something’s a little off, I’m fascinated!”

Words to live by.

To reiterate our Tennis review, Underground Arts is currently Philly’s coolest and most unique venue; if for nothing else, go for the great $2 popcorn they’re now selling at the bar. You can see a list of their their upcoming events here.

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Concert Review: Tennis @ Underground Arts (November 7, 2013)

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By Shannen Gaffney

Denver based indie pop group Tennis played on November 7th to an intimate and excited crowd at the Underground Arts space in Center City Philadelphia, which opened just last year. If you haven’t been to Underground Arts before, you’re missing out! The coolest new semi-hidden venue in Philly, it’s a small industrial warehouse-type of basement, covered in Christmas lights and art pieces.

They began the set with “Petition,” and played most of the best songs from 2012′s Young & Old: “My Better Self,” “Traveling,” and “It All Feels the Same,” along with some new songs. Their new EP, Small Sound, is a continuation of their cutesy, airy pop sound and has been released on the band’s own label, Communion. Alaina’s signature lush vocals are the focus point of Small Sound. On their single, “Mean Streets,” she sings, “Born and raised on the mean streets / That’s where she learned how to keep the beat”. The rest of the EP is full of similarly playful lyrics and melodies that got the small but energetic crowd dancing all night.

Here are some pictures from the show!

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by | November 9, 2013 · 3:05 pm

Dance Sounds From The Underground – Part 1

By Chris Burrell

Untz, untz, untz, untz…

It’s been nearly impossible to ignore the proliferation of dance music in America over the past few years.

For better or worse, the massive commercial success of EDM has elevated the DJ to rock star status and spawned quite a polarizing dialogue about the state of dance music in the US. While some of this success has given America a bad rap in the dance community (re: Paris Hilton, Pauly D, Molly), let us not forget that before EDM was a ubiquitous acronym, Chicago and Detroit birthed house and techno music respectively.

Regardless of your stance on the uptick of neon-clad sunglasses at night fist pumpers, it’s hard to argue that the bright spotlight on dance music has afforded some highly talented artists an avenue to reach a much wider audience than ever before. With now household names such as Fool’s Gold, Mad Decent, Brainfeeder, DFA, and Ghostly having been major innovators in a variety of dance scenes for years, this blog-o-series serves to give a little shine to some lesser-known ‘Merican labels that are seriously holding it down.

From Brooklyn to LA and Detroit to Miami, stay tuned to this space for the 411 on the American dance music underground through the lens of its most excellent labels. The first post in this series highlights two fantastic and extremely diverse vinyl focused labels from the left and right coasts.

Also, check out the Rhythm Method on Thursday nights from 9-11 PM EST to hear some of these releases being spun on the airwaves by yours truly, @CrispyChrisX.

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