Something has been happening in Philadelphia lately. We've always had a great music scene, but these days feel straight-up unprecedented with the amount of truly impressive artists living and working in this city (the cost of living certainly helps). The musical landscape is as diverse and unpredictable as Philly itself, from girl groups to indie folk rockers to rapper-DJs and beyond. From this glut of talent, we plucked 11 hometown bands and artists that you should absolutely know:
Big Boi From OutKast Introduces Cliff to Atlanta’s Food Scene
Sun-washed pop band Cheerleader released its first full-length LP in the spring of 2015, but managed to generate decent buzz both locally and elsewhere before that when they planted roots in Philly back in 2013. The titular song from the full album The Sunshine of Your Youth evokes a sense of millennial ennui, acting as a soundtrack to all of your nostalgic pondering while you notice everyone settling down.
America's Got Talent/Youtube
Multitalented West Philly native Chynna Rogers doubles as a DJ and model -- consult DKNY -- when she’s not rapping about “swerving on freeways on Philly shit” on her track “Glen Coco” (think Mean Girls). She’s been dubbed as the “first lady” of A$AP Mob, but it’s 2016 after all, and with the drop of her six-song EP Ninety earlier this year, we’d say she’s ready for the big chair. We especially love Chynna because she attributes much of her current success to growing up in the hustlers-only atmosphere Philadelphia fosters.
This four-piece female R&B group just headlined at the TLA after making headlines over the summer for their appearance on America’s Got Talent. Clad in Sixers and Phillies gear, the group helps reinvigorate the girl group sect of the R&B genre, which has heretofore faded since the early aughts. Instead of leaning on pop-centric tropes, Good Girl fuses low-key beats (“All Mine”), subtly executed sampling (“Have Mercy”), and social media references (“My Shit”) to make a sound not unlike a modernized TLC.
This indie folk-rock four-piece owes its striking sound to the voice of Frances Quinlan, which wavers between garagey angst and gentle serenades. It could seem silly to label them an up-and-coming band since they released the Freshman Year LP in 2005, but after signing to Saddle Creek in 2014 and releasing the 2015 LP Painted Shut, the group garnered greater attention. Catch them touring with acts like The War on Drugs, Built to Spill, and co-headlining with Animal Collective at the Electric Factory next month.
The dreamy synth-pop sounds of Japanese Breakfast come courtesy of Michelle Zauner, an Oregon native who, before this project, fronted Philly indie band Little Big League. Following the death of her mother, Zauner reinvented some of her older unused songs to mold Japanese Breakfast, matching her upbeat-yet-mellow sound with lyrics speaking to her loss. 2016's Psychopomp is hardly a downer, though: one listen to “Everybody Wants to Love You” will have you dancing in your seat.
You may have witnessed the mobs of fans trying to get to Lil Uzi Vert over Labor Day weekend at the Made in America festival, and it’s no surprise: the Philly native’s return to his hometown reignited fans’ pride for the artist who has already been widely acclaimed as someone to pay attention to in 2016. This year marked the release of two new mixtapes from Lil Uzi Verit: Lil Uzi Vert Vs. The World and The Perfect LUV Tape.
Mellow four-piece Loose Tooth has put some serious time into performing on the local circuit, offering straightforward indie punk and using mixed lead vocals for a lingering, sometimes foreboding sound that defies the twee nature of their songs. It is not without precision, though -- a close listen reveals carefully crafted baselines, mingling guitars, and perfectly executed vocal harmonies. It’s punk meets pedigree.
Modern Baseball takes cues from the emo and indie bands of yesteryear (see: Say Anything and The Weakerthans) with packed, verbose lyrics and catchy hooks. The familiar upbeat rhythm of 2016 track “Wedding Singer,” from their latest album, Holy Ghost, is just begging for Converse- or Vans-clad feet to tap along. The album is also divided into two parts -- one spearheaded by Brendan Lukens, the other by the band’s other songwriter, Jake Ewald.
This R&B artist (whose real name is Aaron Earl Livingston) got a fair amount of attention from WXPN with his 2014 single “The River,” a bluesy clap-along that made local fans eager for more tunes. Last year, Son Little’s self-titled album served up the same energy, his crooning vocals carrying the 15 songs. Though originally born in Los Angeles, he has spent considerable time in Philly, even collaborating with The Roots.
Waxahatchee and Swearin are two bands respectively fronted by twin sisters Katie and Allison Crutchfield, who sometimes collaborate to deliver trendy Grimes covers, but offer two distinct sounds through their projects. Swearin’ is a more skin-and-bones pop punk band, instantly upbeat with early tracks like “Kenosha.” Conversely, Waxahatchee’s latest release, Ivy Tripp, offers angst-ridden, slow-burning songs.
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