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EP Review: The Actors - High and Low

Nestled somewhere in the nebulous cracks between genres, The Actors' latest EP High and Low (my first encounter with their sound) is a moving combination of heroic vocals, gentle synthesizer tones, and grooving beats. Mixed with a generous helping of reverb, High and Low is a vivacious and sincere synth-heavy pop album.

Opened by rhythmic tonal croaks amidst layers of ethereal synth melodies, High and Low gradually comes to life with the esoteric “Theory of Something.” An interesting combination of lyrics both metaphorical and grounded, “Theory of Something” builds its conclusion in charming vocal harmonies that “everything is something sometime” only to morph into a gentle grooving outro.

“Through A False Door” follows, quickly exploding in a brilliant burst of guitar hooks and voluminous synthesizer tones. Characterized by its epic atmosphere and a chugging baseline, “Through A False Door” continues to build on the previous tracks intensity with the lead singer belting out in a powerful high tenor.

With a distinct synth line and funky grind on the bottom end, all the best elements that make up High and Low come together on the albums most seductive track “First Date.” The singer is able to show off an impressive vocal range, with fantastic harmonies supporting it, while a tight knit drum and bass build a strong foundation for the more delicate synth tones to rest upon.

This probably best describes what the Actors are able to accomplish with their sound. With such epic and capacious sounds there needs to be something that grounds the listener to the moment of the song. Strong rhythmic baselines coupled with an impressive clock-like drummer fix the ears to a point while the rest of the sounds spiral about in glorious high-energy bursts and reverberations.

Catchy and sweet, High and Low is an exciting EP with plenty of space to discover sounds and hooks within the music that will certainly delight your ears. Rumor is The Actors are working on a new release. If High and Low is a herald of anything then we should expect whatever is upcoming to be just as stimulating.


-Ada Lann



Weekend Warrior, December 17 - 19

OK - it’s probably going to be crowded and sweaty, but for just two dollars, you’ll get a bunch of great music as well as some free drinks (if you get there early enough) so you really can’t complain too much. It’s Making Time’s 3rd Annual $2 Bill Holiday Freakout! Local favorite sons and former A-siders, Sun Airway, will be headlining the hyperactive dance party. We’re still spinning their recent debut release on Dead Oceans, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier (you can check out the review of our November CD of the Month here). While the live versions of their tracks may feel slightly different from the ones that you are used to on the album, they still contain the beautifully wonderful songwriting at their core that captivated us in the first place. You can hear for yourself below in the live recording of “Oh, Naoko” that Sun Airway made at Different Fur Studio in San Francisco for their Yours Truly session. Brooklyn’s Light Asylum will also be joining them this evening. Voyeur, 1221 St. James St., 9pm, $2, 21+

Other places to hide out from the cold for an evening… 

Johnny Brenda’s (1201 N. Frankford Ave.) FRI Free Form Funky Freqs and Paper Cat, SAT Ross Bellenoit, Birdie Busch, Zach Djanikian
Kung Fu Necktie (1250 N. Front St.) FRI Do You Need Service?, Clamfight, Psalmships
North Star Bar (2639 Poplar St.) SAT Oud Blues, Consider The Source, Infinien, SUN Robots & Racecars, Ginger Coyle
The Fire (412 W. Girard Ave.) FRI Hidden River Construction, American Speedway, SAT (Early) Tigers Jaw, (Late) Controlled Storms
M Room (15 W. Girard Ave.) FRI Nick Krill (of The Spinto Band), SAT Red Masque, Radio Eris, Womb
Tritone (1508 South St.) FRI Toys For Tots Benefit w/ The Noid, Pulling Punches, Welter, SAT Buddhafest 42, SUN Aspiga, The Only Ghost in Town
Millcreek Tavern (4200 Chester Ave.) FRI Philabundance Benefit w/The Lawsuits, Lightninging, VeNT, Manchilde
The Trocadero (1003 Arch St.) FRI Terrible Things, SAT Mikey Galactic and Dani Mari
The Ox (you should know by now or ask a friend) SUN Benefit Show w/Stinking Lizaveta, Buffalo Stance
Highwire Gallery (2040 Frankford Ave.) SAT Hermit Thrushes and Eskimeaux
World Café Live (3025 Walnut St.) FRI Mason Porter, SUN Marah, Mike "Slo-Mo" Brenner
Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th St.) FRI Sweatheart, SAT Discount Heroes, Funkslaw, High Kick
Theatre of Living Arts (334 South St.) FRI Good Old War, East Hundred, The Great Unknown
First Unitarian Church (2125 Chestnut St.) FRI A Life Once Lost
Ulana's (205 Bainbridge St.) FRI Carnivolution Christmas w/Squidling Brothers, Bunny Savage, Mary Squeezebox & More
2424 Studios (2424 E. York St.) SAT Philadelphia Independent Craft Market w/TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb, Sisters 3, Toy Soldiers Duo and More



Paper Cat Open for Free Form Funk Freqs at JB’s Dec. 17

Paper Cat's provocative instrumental jams reside somewhere between current post-rock and the more "classic" prog gods of yore like Mogwai and King Crimson. Brother and sister Julie Slick and Eric Slick (formerly of the Adrian Belew Trio; Eric now drums for Dr. Dog) teamed up to specialize in pulsing, ominous bass combined with angular, face-melting riffs (from guitarist Robbie “Seahag” Mangano), and crisp drums. Headlining the bill, Vernon Reid (of Living Colour) is a beast on guitar, which means you don't want miss his free-flowing jazz/funk outfit Free Form Funky Freqs. He's also joined by legendary human drum machine G. Calvin Weston. You'll probably hear few other bands that can shred so diligently on their instruments, while still maintaining a crucial subtlety. Just listen to that bass on "The Binds That Tie". Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave, 8pm, $15, 21+ - Joe Poteracki



Netherfriends "Cop Killer"

As part of a new "Gangster" cover/remix/mashups project called The Glorification of Gangster Netherfriends has covered the Body Count song "Cop Killer". Also included in the project is Loyal Divide covering "Guns of Brixton".

Netherfriends is performing at Subt on January 6th, and you can still purchase his LP Barry and Sherry on 150g Deluxe Clear Vinyl (w/ Inserts and digital drop code) Out of 500 here.


Philabundance Benefit w/The Lawsuits at Millcreek Tavern Dec. 17

With the promise of a full-length and three records already under their belt (2008’s The Antique Sessions EP, 2009’s The Corrina Sessions EP &2010’s A Collection of Love Songs LP), The Lawsuits stir a medley of genres into their scorched Americana sound. From riverside blues sermons (“Talk You Down”) and barroom booty rock (“Hot Mama Blues”) to secluded, forlorn folk (“Beautiful Anger”) and vintage coastal pop-rock (“Heart Grown Cold”), the local four-piece - and idée fixe of singer/songwriter Brian Strouse - wears their sonic influences on their sleeve. But it’s not an ode to what’s been. Instead, The Lawsuits’ workhorses are contemporaries, modernizing a pastoral sound that’s threaded deep into the fabric of America’s sonic blanket. You can watch the outfit weave itself into musical history tonight at West Philly’s Millcreek Tavern for the Philabundance Benefit (also on the all-local acts bill: brooding indie rock troupe Lightninging, female-fronted alt-rock/soul mashup VeNT, and neo-soul rap star Manchilde). Along with the cover charge, bring several canned goods to donate to the food bank and hunger relief organization and help feed the number of hungry families this holiday season. Millcreek Tavern, 4200 Chester Ave, 9pm, $8, 21+ (Photo by Stephanie Juris) - Annamarya Scaccia

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