John Vettese

John Vettese is a music writer and photographer based in Philadelphia. He is the editor of WXPN's music blog The Key, producer of the audio/video live performance series The Key Studio Sessions, and a contributor to Magnet Magazine.

While versatile guitarist and composer Chris Forsyth can be a brutally free-form and frenetic player, his music is just as often warm, inviting and inspiring. The new All Time Present – out April 12 on No Quarter Records – does both in a single stroke, bridging worlds of unconventional abstraction and mass appeal.

The best songwriters are often deep thinkers, and Philadelphia's current crop of voices is no exception. In poignant narratives and vivid vignettes, emotional soliloquies and incensed rants, Philadelphian artists offer perspectives that reflect on not only what it means to be a Philadelphian, or an American, but a real-life emotional human being in the late 2010s.

Distance begets clarity; that's as true for punks as it is for the general populace.

Steve Ciolek digs a good turn of phrase. When the frontman of The Sidekicks sings "You've got that chronic 2000 high school state of mind" on the song "Twin's Twist," you can take it a couple ways.

Vivid images of hospitals, funerals and death are not uncommon in Dan Campbell's lyrics as of late. The frontman of the long-running Philadelphia punk six-piece The Wonder Years has always had a writerly sense of detail, even going back to the days of The Upsides when his biggest concerns were drowning his late-college feelings of alienation in Lucky Charms and soy milk.

Life can be a lot of things and convenient is rarely one of them. Hop Along's Frances Quinlan sings from this perspective on "How Simple," the Philly rock band's first single from their upcoming album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog.

The guiding principle on Dr. Dog's upcoming tenth album, Critical Equation, singer and guitarist Scott McMicken tells NPR, was a blunt one: "F*** Dr. Dog."

"I say that with as much love as you can have for anything," he says. "We're different people now than we were 10 years ago and we've grown so much as a band, but in certain areas we were stuck ... we needed to blow it up and we needed some help doing that."