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At midnight, in December of 2016, Sneha Advani (C & E'20) heard a knock on the door to her first–year dorm. She opened it to 30 people standing outside, wishing her a happy birthday. They were led there by her sister, a senior at Penn at the time, who had brought a cake and arranged for the residents of King's Court 4th floor to surprise Sneha.
Everyone knows Penn has noteworthy alumni everywhere from finance and the White House to show business, but less mentioned are its fictional alumni. This includes any fictional character who has mentioned a degree from the University of Pennsylvania as part of their biography. Although slipping in a reference to Penn as a bit of casual world–building is far easier than to actually attend the school in real life, when and how writers choose to do so shows how Hollywood perceives the Red and Blue. And though there are certainly many more existing in television and film, this list boils down the top five, all dominating the small screen, though you'd be hard–pressed to find any of them in an admissions brochure.
Gavin O'Connor, C'86, has a thing for sports. Not only was he on Penn's football team back in his salad days, but he's since gone on to direct films like Miracle, about the US hockey team's eponymous "Miracle on Ice" in the 1980 Winter Olympics, and Warrior, in which Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton portray brother MMA fighters. The greatest departure from O'Connor's groove may be The Accountant, in which he directs Ben Affleck playing an autistic hitman who spends his days as a CPA.
"Hello, my name is Joe Pera." That's how every episode of Joe Pera Talks With You begins, followed by Pera's explanation of some acute topic in a clear, simple manner, delivered in the calm, steady tone of a Mister Rogers–incarnate. Each episode runs around 11 minutes long, airing on Adult Swim, and channels a child–like innocence with an edge of comedy that feels almost accidental, like when your teacher says "fuck."
In the comedy world, “going blue” refers to a certain style of off–color, risqué humor. Thus “Blue Heaven,” according to artistic director Zach Blackwood, “is a kind of turn of phrase that means a place for us, a carved out space for me, a personal place. Blue Heaven is a place for all of us to feel safe and nasty."
Many may recognize Aidy Bryant from her role as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, but in Shrill, a Hulu original series, her talents are put to use, navigating between difficult topics and outrageous comedy.
It's only three weeks into 2020 and musicians are already bringing their A–game. A whole host of talented artists have announced upcoming albums for the year and dropped their first singles, and Street has been digging all of them. Here are the top six released just this week:
In an age when algorithms often dictate our tastes, a genuine recommendation can be hard to come by. But, so unlike everything else is Frances Quinlan's music, connections form in the most unlikely of places. A story heard on the radio, a book she read, a podcast, an album—all are fair game for Quinlan. Listeners are inspired to seek out the hidden gems within each lyric, put forth like a good friend giving suggestions over coffee.
Corey Flood is the name of a Philly–based dark rock band, but it's also the name of a side character in the 1989 John Cusack film Say Anything—she's a teenage girl who writes sad songs about her ex–boyfriend on her acoustic guitar. Although her sound couldn't be more different than that of the band Corey Flood's 2018 EP, Wish You Hadn't, there's something to be said for the sheer emotion that both of their works inspire. Corey Flood's sound—with deep, churning bass, rippling guitars, and eerie vocals floating on top—dredges something up in the listener, something felt deep in your stomach.
When I first saw Lula Wiles perform at World Cafe Live earlier this year, they made a point of the fact that no one in the band is named Lula Wiles. According to a video put together by their label Smithsonian Folkways, they used to go by their full names on stage (Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, and Mali Obomsawin) but decided that was a mouthful. They went by The Wiles for some time, citing their own "feminine wiles," but when threatened with emails from another band with the same name, they added the Lula. This came from the Carter Family's "Lula Walls," a song about an "aggravating beauty, who, when the narrator asks her to marry him, she simply does not respond," recounts Mali.
This past Halloween, fans of Angel Olsen filtered in to the Franklin Music Hall for what was promised to be a spooky night. Spider webs and ghosts were hung around the entrance, and the poster for the event featured a walking Jack O'Lantern in bold orange and purple. The night, however, hardly felt like the sort of Halloween bash that was advertised. Even disregarding this disappointment, it also failed to match the grandeur of Olsen's latest release, All Mirrors. The album brought new fans for its electronic elements and cinematic orchestral arrangements, but whatever passion that drove this sound could barely be found at her Halloween night set in Philadelphia.
I'll admit that the Jay Som Tiny Desk Concert is one of my favorites. Their heavily produced sound comes off perfectly when put in the intimate space and boiled down to the four core members of the group. That video was what made me initially a fan, the group trading jokes just as well as they shared guitar licks and small–but powerful–synchronizations. On Tuesday, two years out from the Tiny Desk taping, that same energy was present at the Foundry.
When you hear a Mannequin Pussy song, you know exactly who it is. The energy is high, there's a distinct grind in the guitar, the bass is prominent, and bandleader Marisa Dabice's voice growls and croons all at once. The band has been a fixture in the Philly punk scene since the release of Romantic, their sophomore full–length album capping off at 17 minutes, full of irreplaceable hooks and sheer malice in every lick. Their latest album, Patience, combines their hardcore roots with classic rock and pop tropes that only dig their claws even deeper into your heart.
This past Wednesday, Kacey Musgraves blessed the stage at The Met Philly with her presence. The country–pop star has been on a streak of success following the release of her Grammy–winning album Golden Hour, and she proved exactly how her success came to be with her set at The Met. Featuring tracks off of Golden Hour and her earlier albums Same Trailer, Different Park and Pageant Material, her performance was a great sampler of her music and a perfect treat for her fans.
If the phrase House of Sugar sounds at all familiar, you've likely spent some time in Fishtown, the location of the SugarHouse Casino after which (Sandy) Alex G's latest album is named. A Philadelphia resident himself, Alex Giannascoli, who typically goes by Alex G, recorded the album between releasing and touring 2017's Rocket, a mixture of acoustic alt-country and heavily-distorted weirdo DIY.
The opening track on Be The Cowboy, Mitski's critically acclaimed 2018 album, begins with a single tone. It's piercing in its volume, but then pares down into a drone behind her voice, like a flame that focuses into an intense blue heat. Her music gives off that same sense of restraint, a straining against the bounds of the ordinary and quotidian, burning brightly and singularly.
Black Belt Eagle Scout, the project of songwriter and instrumentalist Katherine Paul, is built upon the singular narrative of Paul as a queer, Indigenous woman. Her sophomore release, At the Party With My Brown Friends, weaves Paul’s emotions deeper into the fabric of her narrative, more so than her previous releases, drawing the listener into her world and imbuing them with the love and strength that her music inherently conveys.
Make no mistake about Sasami—it might be easy to peg her as a shoegaze artist, but that does little to describe the blend of synth and guitar sounds on her debut album, SASAMI. It's easy to describe her sound as drawing upon her time in Cherry Glazerr as their synth player, but that, too, fails to capture the heart of it. Sasami Ashworth herself describes the album as "drafting a long, angry text in the Notes section of an iPhone and then letting it simmer," which comes close. She sings in the album's opener, "I Was A Window":
It’s Wednesday, and Eden Harris (E '19) is peeling an orange. She removes the rind and picks at the pith until each slice is clean, then breaks them in half to eat them. We’re talking at the Penn First (First–Generation Low–Income) Town Hall, which is far less formal than it sounds. Today, we’re making lip scrubs out of brown sugar and coconut oil. There are apples and oranges for people to eat on the table, and everyone is making idle chit–chat.
Hatchie is the final dance montage at the end of an 80's feel–good flick. Hatchie is neon lighting and strong fog machines. Hatchie is so simultaneously classic and revolutionary, she's already making waves in her native Australia and in North America, having only put out her EP Sugar and Spice in the summer of last year.