What Frank Ocean’s Blond Says About Living — and Loving — in the City Right Now

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Cities are cold places densely packed with people who endlessly trade each other. In the city we trade stories, bodies, jobs, identities, seats in restaurants. The stories and feelings are all right there.

Someone’s voice yells in the streets at night, and the night swallows it whole; the volume goes up; you can put an ear to the wall of your apartment or row house and hear your neighbor’s TV and conversations; your open windows play the city’s music of ambulance and police sirens screaming down the street; the cars cursing at each other. Couples, groups of friends walk under or past your windows; anonymous laughter, arguments and come-ons blur together with the breeze.

We summon each other to take us places; one thumb motion swipes right to get a night fix with a stranger; another thumb motion summons a stranger’s car to take us somewhere else. We slide in and out of beautiful and painful experiences and encounters and move onto the next ones with ease. As close as we are, or can be, we still text.

Frank Ocean’s long-anticipated Blond captures a lot of this existential city life — bringing to the forefront of his songs the idea that we’re deep-feeling, unconnected selfish people.  Read more »

Someone Made Incredible, Weird, Awful Songs About Pat Toomey and Bob Casey

Yesterday I came across a song by a group called Papa Razzi and the Photogs that had a curious title. “Song About Pat Toomey, Believer in American Values, Etc.” was a 1-minute-26 second-ditty that called him “good ol’ Pat Toomey” and vaguely touted his political qualifications. Papa Razzi, whose vocalist sounds like a country/folk bar singer and also kind of like Pee-wee Herman occasionally, doesn’t really go very deep on anything about Pat Toomey at all: He believes in the constitution, he believes in democracy, he represents Pennsylvania and he loves the country.

I figured it was an an attempt by a Pennsylvania singer-songwriter to help out the campaign he supported and get some attention, but it’s not. This song came out in 2014! What gives? Read more »

Music: 6 Shows to See in Philly This Week

The Julie Ruin plays Union Transfer on Saturday. Photo by Shervin Lainez

The Julie Ruin plays Union Transfer on Saturday. Photo by Shervin Lainez

Gov’t Mule @ Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing | Wednesday, August 17
Allman Brothers Band alumni Warren Haynes and Allen Woody formed Gov’t Mule as a side project but the trio, with drummer Matt Abts, quickly became a lot more popular than they were expecting. The lineup now includes Danny Louis and Jorgen Carlsson, taking over on bass for Woody, who died in 2000. They’ve released 15 studio and live albums over the years. Fellow Southern rock band Blackberry Smoke opens.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Jamarcus Henderson Bares It All With Man at Arms

Jamarcus Henderson on the cover art of "Man at Arms."

Jamarcus Henderson

Most debut pop albums strive to give you a promising introduction. But then there are those unique few that just dive right into your consciousness naturally. In his debut, Man at Arms, Jamarcus Henderson, 23, has absolutely produced the latter. Its 11 tracks reflect an emotional vagabond seeking a destination that’s self-determined. The vulnerabilities expressed in this record, the kind that can take most established artists three to four records to get to, signal that Henderson has no time to wait. Read more »

16 Things to Do in Philly This Weekend

See Invisible River's Beck Epoch this weekend.

See Invisible River’s Beck Epoch this weekend.

FRIDAY, JULY 15

Beck Epoch @ Strawberry Mansion Bridge
Watch Invisible River dancers swing from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, while fabric drops from 60 feet above the river and aerialists slide down. You can see the free performance from the river banks at the parking lot next to the bridge (near 2200 Kelly Drive), or rent a canoe or kayak and take it all in from the water — but you have to reserve that in advance. Beck Epoch takes place again on Saturday. Read more »

Op-Ed: Justin Timberlake Isn’t a “Cultural Appropriator”

Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP

Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from guest writer Evon Burton.)

During Sunday evening’s BET Awards, actor and Temple alum Jesse Williams accepted the President’s Humanitarian Award and gave one of the most rousing acceptance speeches of all time. One of the many enamored by Williams’ words was triple-threat superstar Justin Timberlake. I, like most of Black Twitter, was a bit caught off guard by his well-intentioned tweet about it, since he has chosen to stay rather silent on issues affecting African Americans, a pattern we have seen quite frequently across America. However, as an aficionado of R&B music, the reactions of Black Twitter were more alarming and concerning to me.

Timberlake broke the internet when he retweeted and responded to local journalist, colleague and friend Ernest Owens’ critique of his “cultural appropriation” and the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident. While I agree that Timberlake could have been much more vocal on behalf of Janet Jackson, when it comes to music, he isn’t a “cultural appropriator.” Not in the least bit. He’s just one of the many “privileged” Caucasian artists who have benefitted from a white-run media landscape while truly honoring his musical influences that are primarily African-American. Big difference.

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Music: 7 Shows To See This Week

Deerhoof plays Union Transfer on Saturday. Photo by Asha Schechter

Deerhoof plays Union Transfer on Saturday. Photo by Asha Schechter


Tunji Ige x Michael Christmas @ Foundry at the Fillmore | Wednesday, June 22
Rappers Tunji Ige and Michael Christmas team up for the Bring Yo Friends summer tour. The young Ige came onto the scene in late 2014 with his self-produced mixtape, The Love Project, recorded in the basement of his dorm at West Chester University. Christmas, who has more of a mellow head-bopping sound, is from Boston.

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