15 In Philly: The War On Drugs

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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Despite the title of the War On Drugs’ debut album, Wagonwheel Blues (Secretly Canadian), there’s nothing ranch-hand cowboyish or bluesy about the Philly outfit. That doesn’t mean the trio isn’t down and dirty. It’s just that Wagonwheel Blues is as filled with freewheeling, Dylanesque Americana as it is with Smiths-like Britpop and Brian Eno-style percolating electronic swells.

“Taking The Farm” from Wagonwheel Blues:

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15 In Philly: The Capitol Years’ “Meet Yr Acres”

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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If you’re a rock ’n’ roller with the misfortune of having to subsidize your music career with an office gig, your colleagues have most certainly saddled you with CDs of their friends’ horrifyingly shitty bands. I figured it’s always best to tell them their friend’s band sounds “really pro” and promise to try and make that Monday-night show at some sports bar in the ’burbs. In all these years, only once have I received a disc that lasted more than one minute in my CD player: the Capitol YearsMeet Yr Acres. Shai Halperin and crew have since released records that rocked harder and garnered more acclaim than their homespun 2001 debut. But this one—a woozy fusion of the Beatles, Beck and Guided By Voices—will always have a special place in my collection.

—Patrick Berkery

“Roller’s Row” from Meet Yr Acres:

15 In Philly: Brian McTear

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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When Brian McTear recounts the favorite projects of his decade-plus recording career, the Philly-based producer is evenly split between the well-known (Matt Pond PA, A-Sides) and the lesser-known (Lucys, Bigger Lovers). But they’re favorites for a reason.

“Sincerely, The Last Century” from Bitter Bitter Weeks’ Peace Is Burning Like A River:

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15 In Philly: Siltbreeze Records

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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When he arrived in Philadelphia in 1984, Ohio native Tom “TJ” Lax never expected to start a record label. Siltbreeze began as a zine, and from 1987 to 1992, Lax published eight issues of the digest-sized rag that was as much known for its ’70s-era photos of naked black women as it was for reviews of obscure punk, psych and noise bands such as feedtime, Extreme Hate, V-3 and the Hickoids. When Lax wanted to include a seven-inch with copies of Siltbreeze, Tom Hazelmyer (of Minneapolis band Halo Of Flies and noise label Amphetamine Reptile) offered up some songs that became SB-1.

“Melted Pat” from Guided By Voices’ 1994 Get Out Of My Stations EP:

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15 In Philly: Mazarin’s “Watch It Happen”

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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Mazarin created a buzz when its first seven-inch, “Wheats,” was named single of the week by the NME, back when such a thing mattered. A sunny, strummy, feedback-laced bit of psychedelic pop cloaking singer/guitarist Quentin Stoltzfus’ bitter kiss-off (“Oh yeah, that’s right, you never loved me at all”), “Wheats” was one of several euphoric blasts on Watch It Happen, Mazarin’s 1999 debut. Concise and catchy tracks such as “Deed To Drugs” shared space with undulating soundscapes like “Progress Is Lovely.” Mazarin released two strong subsequent albums before Stoltzfus, nephew of soft-pretzel magnate Auntie Anne, retired the moniker in 2006 due to legal conflicts with a Long Island classic-rock group of the same name. While on hiatus, Stoltzfus has been building a studio with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Alec Ounsworth.

—Steve Klinge

“Wheats” from Watch It Happen:

15 In Philly: Exiled From Broad Street

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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In 1980, Hall & Oates left Philly for New York City, establishing a migratory pattern for opportunistic traitors—er, career-minded bands—in the decades to come.

Equal parts Rocky and the Replacements, MARAH gained fame as the gritty roots-rock band that recorded its debut above an auto-repair shop and signed to Steve Earle’s label. The Stephen King-endorsed Marah even called its second LP Kids In Philly. But grand ambitions to become the world’s biggest band led brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko to Wales in 2001, where Marah recorded with Oasis producer Owen Morris. The result? Float Away With The Friday Night Gods, a fart heard ’round the world.

“Christian St.” from Marah’s Kids In Philly:

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15 In Philly: Philly Boy Roy

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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Wassup, everybody? How youse doin’? When the guys from MAGNET asked me to recount my favorite Philly rock memories, my first thought was, “What’s MAGNET?” But then I thought, “Oh, it don’t matter, Channel 29 ain’t showin’ Rocky IV for another 45 minutes.”

The Beatles, Sept. 2, 1964
Ain’t got no actual verification, but my ma says yours truly got conceived on this night. Coulda been before, during or after the show. She don’t really remember.

The Hooters’ “South Ferry Road” from 1985’s Nervous Night:

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15 In Philly: Man Man

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene:

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Man Man isn’t a typical pop group. It’s a pop group like a Salvation Army Preservation Society Jazz Band or a bunch of guys sitting on the stoop flailing on upturned plastic buckets and banjos made from cookie tins. Man Man draws from the grab-bag history of American music to fashion songs that sound both brand new and hundreds of years old.

“Top Drawer” from Rabbit Habits:

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15 In Philly: Like A Fox

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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Jay Laughlin is holding up the bar somewhere in Philadelphia tonight. He doesn’t have to be drinking in order to support the psychedelic-pop end of the city’s indie-rock scene, though beers are encouraged. Memories of the singer/guitarist’s former band, Lenola, are etched in smoke on the walls of the Khyber, epicenter of the late-’90s Psychedelphia scene. Laughlin’s current band, Like A Fox, is heard on stages and jukeboxes from Northern Liberties to South Philly. The affable Laughlin—tall, tattooed and invariably peeking out from under a baseball cap—holds near-mayoral status in the town known as Hostile City.

“Night Person” from Where’s My Golden Arm?:

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15 In Philly: The Bigger Lovers’ “How I Learned To Stop Worrying”

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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Full disclosure: Two members of this now-defunct quartet currently write for MAGNET. Perhaps there’s some favoritism in citing the Bigger Lovers’ debut album as one of our city’s finest records of the last 15 years. Maybe we’re paying arrears for the unjust treatment of power-pop bands from every town, in every era. How I Learned To Stop Worrying appeared in 2001 like a red balloon, floated over the city by a tiny indie label (Black Dog) and lifting hopes that here, too, was a classic sighting: a basement-fi, reverb-heavy album that could pass for a thrift-store, ’60s-vinyl treasure. On Worrying, singer/guitarist Bret Tobias and Co. proved themselves scholars of Big Star and the Soft Boys, updating the usual influences with splashes of Superchunk-styled rockers and a pinch of the magic-dust melody found on Wilco’s Summerteeth. Balancing heady pop smarts with scrappy inspiration, on these 11 songs the students became the masters.

—Matthew Fritch

“Summer (Of Our First Hello)” from How I Learned To Stop Worrying: