The range of music made by Philadelphia pop acts is so richly varied that the idea of picking five noteworthies to collectively represent all that's going on seems absurd. But with due respect to the likes of rapper Chill Moody, prog-metal band Baroness, and rising pop-rock combo Shark Tape, here are five 2012 standouts.
Dr. Dog, Be the Void (Anti-). Though they're road warriors who are rarely actually in town, the hard-to-categorize Dr. Dog have become a dependable Philadelphia institution, unashamed of their classic rock influences without ever sounding quite like a classic rock band. Songwriters Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken are in fine form on "Be the Void," with the latter, in particular, on "That Old Black Hole."
Low Cut Connie, Call Me Sylvia. Self-released second album of rowdy, barroom-friendly rock-and-roll, with the double-barreled songwriting strength of guitarist Dan Finnemore, originally of Birmingham, England, and piano-pounding showman Adam Weiner of Cherry Hill. A throwback, with something new up their sleeve. Self-released, at www.lowcutconnie.com.
Meek Mill, Dreams and Nightmares (Maybach). The Philadelphia rapper born Robert Williams' debut album followed several years of mixtapes, and a number of hit singles under the Maybach Music banner of Miami heavy-hitter Rick Ross. Meek gets by more on personal magnetism and unfettered enthusiasm than elegant flow, but on Dreams and Nightmares he delivers a quality street-rap manifesto, complete with guest spots from Nas, John Legend, and Mary J. Blige.
Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe (Atlantic). After becoming an avatar of hip with her self-titled debut album in 2007, Santi White - born and raised in Mount Airy, though now a Brooklyn resident - followed up this year with a strong sophomore release. It mixes dub and punk and funk and reggae into her own seamlessly stylish blend, while showing off her songwriting smarts on inimitable tunes such as "The Keepers" and "Disparate Youth."
Work Drugs, Delta. Are Work Drugs "Philadelphia's premier bat mitvzah and quinceañera party band," or a "sedative-wave / smooth-fi project" making music for "dancing, boating, yachting, sexting, and living"? The band claims both. Either way, on the just-out Delta, the band led by Benjamin Louisiana and Thomas Crystal prove highly adept at breezy, smooth-textured pop. Self-released, at www.workdrugs.bandcamp.com.