Tag Archives: Philadelphia

MH the Verb Brings a Future Jazz Aesthetic to His Music

MH the Verb

In the music of the Philadelphia-based rapper Marcus Harris, aka MH the Verb, introspective and socially conscious lyrics occupy the same space as party-ready hooks and jazzy instrumental passages. Alongside ArtHouse95, the interstate artist collective that he co-founded in 2015, Harris has quietly amassed an impressive catalog that traverses a wide range of sound and subject matter—anthemic boom-bap jazz on 2014’s The Balloon Guide, 2017’s political and futurist epic Afronaut, and the new improvisational LP Ninja Turtle: Live From Philadelphia.

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Ivy Sole’s “Overgrown” is Rooted in Struggle, Spirituality, and Triumph

Ivy Sole

Photos by Araba Ankuma

“I just love words,” Ivy Sole says matter-of-factly between bites of ramen, one of her favorite foods. Even in conversation, the Charlotte-raised, Philadelphia-based rapper has a way with words: she’s measured and eloquent, but also casual and colloquial. Those same qualities also carry over into her music. Somewhere between spoken word, neo-soul, and classic hip-hop, she’s unafraid to use words—however they may come out—to bring the details of her losses and triumphs to life.

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Album of the Day: Loose Tooth, “Big Day”

Being repeatedly identified as the best indie rock/punk scene in the nation during the Beyoncé era may seem like an honor with a big caveat, but young Philadelphia bands are indeed kicking out enough quality jams to earn the title these days. Loose Tooth is one of the shining lights of that stylistically diverse Philly scene, and their sophomore LP, Big Day, makes the case for them being at the head of the pack.

Big Day is a hard record to nail down: its sunny, Pavement-esque side—underscored by Kian Sorouri’s half-spoken, half melodically shouted vocals—is effectively countered by post-punk chugging and some genuinely dark turns (see the death-centric “Day Old Glory” and the tense “Little Blue”). That slipperiness is really what keeps Loose Tooth from feeling like ’90s revivalists, and it’s also what drives and elevates the whole record. There’s a fascinating tension here between the band’s titular looseness and and straight-up headbanging passages: Songs like “Free Skate” and “Roach Motel” open like free jazz, unfurling as soon as they’re born, and then—just before dissolution—find a powerful groove to get stuck in.

Lyrically, too, Loose Tooth is comfortable being both earnest and playful. If anything, that’s the mission statement outlined on opener “Sleep With The State Concept,” where Sorouri sings, “This is how it goes with matters of great importance / I forget, and go out for a ride.”

All of this swinging can cause a little motion sickness, which feels both fully appropriate for the times and like a natural progression from the tidier stylistic about-faces on Loose Tooth’s previous LP, Easy Easy East. Big Day is the sound of a band growing into itself, and having a lot of fun doing it. That Philly scene, still in the midst of one hell of a growth spurt of its own, is looking more formidable every day.

Casey Jarman

First Time’s the Charm for Aster More

Aster More

You can’t talk about Aster More, the Philadelphia-based six piece dreamy shoegaze band starting to make waves in the city’s music scene, without talking about their origin as part of this past year’s First Time’s The Charm show. The event, which featured eighteen bands playing their first show ever, was created in order to promote the idea that music should not be closed off to marginalized people or to those who have never played in a band before.

The first Philadelphia iteration of the event (similar events happen in cities around the U.S. and overseas, including Portland, New Orleans and London) was in 2013, leading to the formation of bands like See-Through Girls and Marge; its ethos in Philly is very much a result of a larger, intentional cultural shift over the past decade to make Philadelphia’s DIY scene a lot more inclusive and diverse. Carolyn Haynes, Aster More’s guitarist, singer, and saxophonist—just on one song, “Dream Sequence”, but still!—has also been playing music in Philly for a number of years, most notably in Ghost Gum and the underappreciated Catnaps. Haynes reflected on that general shift while discussing Aster More’s place in the city: “I think Philly is really good at checking itself. … I think we’re pretty good about saying to someone else, ‘Hey you can’t be doing this, this isn’t cool.’ I think that opens it up to be able to have something like First Time’s the Charm and have it be so popular.”

That self-awareness and intentionality in actions is important. According to Aster More’s keyboardist and singer Kristine Eng, while the event translates anywhere, “It’s cool that it’s a Philly thing, because it’s good to see that Philadelphia is making strides towards bringing minorities to the front. I think it’s important that our music scene thinks about that and is trying to make a place for that.”

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On “Romantic,” Mannequin Pussy’s Marisa Dabice Becomes Her Best Self

Mannequin Pussy
Mannequin Pussy. Photo by Scott Troyan.

Originally a duo comprised of childhood friends Marisa Dabice and Thanasi Paul, Philadelphia’s Mannequin Pussy has seen more than a few iterations over the years. After an ever-changing lineup, they found the ideal collaborators in drummer Kaleen Reading and bassist Colins Regisford (better known by his nickname, Bear). As the band describes it, the moment the foursome joined forces was a transformative one—and, fueled by this new creative energy, they set out to record the follow-up to the first LP, GP, originally released in 2013.

Romantic, out October 28 on Tiny Engines (on gorgeous lavender or white and orange split vinyl), is the byproduct of this divine artistic conjuncture. Here, Mannequin Pussy has come into its own, abandoning the trappings of form and genre that often lead bands into the dreaded and clichéd “sophomore slump” to create an album that manages to be both refreshingly revelatory and yet, somewhat cryptic at the same time; when one track ends, it’s not entirely clear where the next will take you.

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