Indie Music Map
Lizzy Schroff | Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Welcome to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and the next stop on our Indie Music Map. As a Phillie Phanatic, I have a special place in my heart for Philadelphia. The city is full of rich history, having once been our nation’s temporary capital and the site of many an important meeting on the road to independence and events soon after. It is also home to other wonderful things like the Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks and “Rocky.” But let’s hone in on the thriving indie music scene in this bustling city.
I have a soft spot for the ethereal and dreamy; I love getting wrapped up in lingering, echo-y vocals and synth beats and just forgetting about the 5 billion things that are going on around me. That’s where Sun Airway comes in. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Tom Barthmus (formerly of another Philly band, the A-Sides) and drummer Patrick Marsciell (also of the A-Sides), the band delivers a healthy dose of electronic pop for avid effects lovers. They released their sophomore album “Soft Palms” just this year, adding to their budding repertoire.
If you’re looking for a more eclectic style, than Dr. Dog is the right band for you. Toby Leaman (bass guitar), Scott McMicken (lead guitar), Frank McElroy (rhythm guitar), Zach Miller (keyboard) and Eric Slick (drums) compose the band, with Leaman and McMicken alternating on lead vocals. Dr. Dog’s style is highly influenced by 1960s pop, weaving in elements such as lo-fi and sounds reminiscent of 1990s era indie-pop. The band has two EPs and seven full-length albums under its belt, having released its most recent album, “Be the Void,” in February of this year. Their prominence in the indie music world was kick-started when they toured as the opening band for My Morning Jacket in 2004. Dr. Dog provides listeners with a great mix of the retro, the psychedelic and the quirky with a well-rounded catalog of catchy and groovy tunes.
One of my personal Philadelphia favorites is Matt Pond PA. I first heard the band when they came to Legends here at Notre Dame in 2010 (I remember being super jealous of how effortlessly cool the female guitarist was). Since then, I can’t get enough of their music. Matt Pond (lead vocals/guitar) has really been the consistent member throughout the many transitions the band has gone through, though Chris Hansen (guitar/vocals/keyboards) is also regarded as another core member. Matt Pond PA has released eight studio length albums and eight EPs. It seems of late, singers enjoy locking themselves up in remote cabins in the wilderness for musical inspiration (a la Bon Iver in his beloved Wisconsin woods). Matt Pond did the same for his 2010 release “The Dark Leaves.” This idea must really be working, because the album is fantastic. It personifies Matt Pond PA’s expansive sound that has featured everything from cellos to keyboard effects, with the right touch of backwoods flair that you would expect from an album conceived in the solitude of a country cabin. (I’m just waiting for Kanye’s wilderness experience with a new release: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Forest Oak Tree.”)
Everyone loves a comeback story, and Wanderlust has the potential to be one of those comeback stories. The band originally formed and recorded in the mid-1990s but was dropped from its record label in the midst of recording its sophomore album. However, they reformed in 2011 and released their album, “Record Time” this year. The power pop/alt rock group is comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Scot Sax, guitarist Rob Bonfiglio, bassist Mark Levin and drummer Jim Cavanaugh. Wanderlust had achieved an avid following during their time in the 1990s, but will they do so again?
The War on Drugs is Sonic Youth meets Bob Dylan. Vocalist Adam Granduciel and former guitarist Kurt Vile (who now plays his own solo act) happened to meet at a party where they bonded over their love of Dylan’s music. The band currently consists of Granduciel (vocals/guitar), David Hartley (bass/guitar), Robbie Bennett (keyboards/guitar) and Steven Urgo (drums/percussion), and has released two albums and two EPs to date. Their sound combines elements of shoegaze, alt rock, and touches of Americana, particularly in their earlier EPs. Dylan influences are evident in Granduciel’s vocals and contemplative lyrics.
And for those who like candid, uncomplicated alternative rock, there’s Blood Feathers. Formed in 2005, the group is comprised of founders Ben Dickey (vocals/guitar/piano) and Drew Mills (vocals/guitar), as well as Clay Simmons (bass), Patrick Marsciell (drums and also of above band Sun Airway), Sam Murphy (guitar) and Tracy Stanton (saxophone/percussion/keyboard). They have released two albums thus far, showcasing their rock-and-roll sound featuring bluesy guitar and touches of twangy folk.
On the playlist I have also included a few “bonus tracks”: Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl” and “Gonna Fly Now” from “Rocky”. “Punk Rock Girl” is a MTV hit that is just a great, upbeat, satiric post-punk song to jam out to and sing off-key. As far as “Gonna Fly Now” goes, if this song doesn’t make you want to find a staircase to run up and make you feel like you could take on Apollo Creed, Mr. T and Ivan Drago at the same time, there is something seriously wrong (“Rocky” fans, you catch my drift).
And so we reach the end of our music tour of the City of Brotherly Love. If you ever happen to find yourself in Philadelphia, delve into the city’s rich history, cheer on a Philly sports team and grab a soft pretzel while you explore a fantastic city. On to the next stop on our Music Map …
Contact Lizzy Schroff at [email protected]
The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.