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The Week Ahead: Adia Victoria, James Blake, Things Fall Apart tribute, Anderson .Paak and more

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals @ The 9th Annual Roots Picnic | photo by Wendy McCardle

From tonight’s headlining set form DIY faves Adult Mom to Sunday’s hotly anticipated return of Anderson .Paak, singer-songwriters Lily & Madeline and a 20th anniversary tribute to Things Fall Apart, this week is packed with live music. Here are 15 concerts to see in the next 7 days, all around Philly. Continue reading →

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Encounters at the Mothership brings generations of experimental music makers under one West Philly roof

Encounters at the Mothership | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

If you’ve seen the flier for Encounters at the Mothership pinned to a corkboard in your local coffee shop, you’ve probably stared in awe at the wildly ambitious line up of four nights of noise, jazz and experimental music assembled by klezmer and jazz trombonist and curator Dan Blacksberg.  You’d also noticed something a little more alarming: the venue. Known as the Mothership, the venue resides in the same space that housed the former Eris Temple, and while being a staple of the Philadelphia underground music scene, it isn’t the most accessible. Known for raucous punk and experimental shows, Mothership has recently sought to expand the depths of its programming. Five minutes into Blackberg’s collaboration Out of Heaven on day one of Encounters, it became apparent that expansion would be the recurring theme of the four night affair.

Under the wintry backdrop of 52nd Street’s gated storefronts, Chinese takeout spots, and fading neon lights, musicians as eclectic as pedal steel artist Susan Alcorn and legendary Arkestra bandleader Marshall Allen descended the steps (and then ascended them again — Mothership is basically a magically converted row home with just, like, the weirdest set of rickety stairs to enter) to sonically entrance us. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The Cactus Blossoms flaunt a fuller folk-rock sound at World Cafe Live

Cactus Blossoms | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

If you were looking for a folk fix this fine Friday afternoon, World Cafe Live was the place to be. Minneapolis crooners The Cactus Blossoms made a brief stop in town to serenade a packed house at today’s Free at Noon, and brought a taste of their new album Easy Way, which is out March 1, with them.

Brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey fill their songs with the kind of harmonies only siblings have — whether it’s genetic or just the product of a lifetime of practice, it’s earned them countless Everly Brothers comparisons, awestruck audiences, and even an appearance in the Twin Peaks reboot. Supported today by a dynamic backing band, The Cactus Blossoms brought plenty of the lilting country songs they’ve become known for, but also showed a fuller, more rock-influenced side to their sound which it seems like we’ll be hearing more of on the new album, which according to Rolling Stone is a reflection on “love, joy and the need to connect.” Continue reading →

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Kurt Vile performs “Yeah Bones” on Late Night With Seth Meyers

Kurt Vile on Seth Meyers | photo by Lloyd Bishop | via Matador Records

Philly’s Kurt Vile returned to late-night television this week for a performance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. The band rocked a speedy and skittish version of “Yeah Bones,” a song from last year’s Bottle It In that is instrumentally complex (the closest Vile has gotten to math rock, perhaps) but is melodically incredibly poppy. Which is trademark KV: mixing the weird with the widely accessible.  Continue reading →

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Black Thought teams up with Adrian Younge for new single “Noir”

Black Thought | photo courtesy of the artist

Philly rapper Black Thought stepped into the spotlight in a big way in 2018. After 25 years at the front of local hip-hop icons The Roots, Thought released his long-awaited solo debut in two parts: Streams of Thought was split up into two EP releases, with Volume 1 dropping in the spring just ahead of the Roots Picnic, and Volume 2 hitting later in the fall.

Now we’ve got a even newer track from him: “Noir” was released today as an Amazon Music exclusive for the Produced By series, which paris artists with prominent producers to work on a new exclusive cut. “Noir” finds Thought teamed up with Los Angeles composer Adrian Younge, who has worked on tracks for Wu-Tang Clan, Common, Gallant, Kendrick Lamar…but not with Thought or The Roots prior to this.

Based in Cali, Younge’s style is very classic and cinematic, and we hear that in the song, which is built around sweeping string arrangements, complex rhythms, and atmospheric woodwind harmonies…with an appropriate amount of scratching. Continue reading →

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Mal Blum needs to be heard on “Things Still Left To Say”

Mal Blum | photo by Emma Mead

Before they head out on tour next month, Mal Blum has shared some new music — their first in three years. Out now via Don Giovanni Records, “Things Still Left To Say” is a deceptively upbeat song that tackles themes of loneliness and vulnerability as Blum realizes that too many things have been left unsaid. The New York singer-songwriter, who’s spent the better part of the last few years on the road, is joined by friends and fans in the accompanying video to share the sentiment of the song while making sure their own voice is finally heard. Continue reading →

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Skeme Richards dropped a limited edition DJ mix for Neighborhood Ramen

via Bandcamp

“Japan has always been one of my most favorite places to travel to for many reasons, but food has always been on the top of the list, and especially ramen! Just like the variations of broths used in the bowls, records of all types fill my crates, and the two things that bring people together more than anything else is music and food.” – Skeme Richards

Philly based DJ and record collector Skeme Richards (Nostalgia King) has taken his deep knowledge of global funk, soul, and disco to the four corners of the Earth, traveling and bringing his cosmopolitan sound to audiences in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. As part of his travel regimen, Skeme routinely tours throughout Japan and is an enthusiastic of champion Japanese music and culture.

Honoring the deep cultural exchange that lives in his work, Richards has partnered with Dr. Bruce Campbell (aka DJ Junior) ‘s Record Breakin’ Music and South Philly’s recently opened Neighborhood Ramen restaurant. The result of this collaboration is Neighborhood Ramen, a limited edition CD complete with a special bundle pack that includes Nostalgia King signature chopsticks and a pack of Miso, Shio, Tonkotsu or Original ramen. Continue reading →

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Aspect Ratio fuses lo-fi rock and cult cinema in its debut “Davenport” single

Aspect Ratio | photo by James Gross | via facebook.com/aspectratiophilly

Philly indie scene vets Carly Marcoux and Joshua Alvarez have teamed up in a new lo-fi pop project called Aspect Ratio, and the band’s first digital single hit the internet yesterday. The project fuses not only the bandmates’ love of homemade independent music, but also classic cult cinema.

Continue reading →

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M Is For Musician: Watch Questlove and Grover have a drum-off on Sesame Street

Questlove on Sesame Street | still from video

It’s not like we needed any proof that Questlove could drum better than a Muppet (much, much better), but on a recent episode of Sesame Street called “The Big Pretend Band”, he proved it. Paired off against Grover, the “M is for Musician” sketch finds The Roots’ percussionist getting a drum lesson frim the fuzzy blue monster — while also color-coordinating his own attire with a blue hoodie and dapper blue-framed glasses — only to show him up with a sick solo after swapping a few basic beats, and a drum-off ensues. Continue reading →

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The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia: “Love Train” by The O’Jays

The O’Jays single for Love Train

Every day leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, The Key is recapping 14 songs that scream “love” just as strongly as they scream “Philly.” The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia continues with “Love Train” from The O’Jays’ 1972 album Back Stabbers.

In some ways, we’ve saved the best for last. The most unifying, the most uplifting, the most iconic.

“Love Train” is also the only Essential Love Song of Philadelphia that was not made by a Philadelphia band. Canton, Ohio pop vocal ensemble The O’Jays spent the 60s kicking around as a five-piece with single releases here and there that occasionally gained some notoriety on the R&B charts (“Lipstick Traces” being the most notable) but never broke through to the top, nor to the overall Billboard Top 40. By 1972, the band was at a crossroads that saw founding members Bill Isles and Bobby Massey part ways with their bandmates Walter Williams, Eric Grant, and Eddie Levert. Ironically, this was where The O’Jays’ fortunes began to change, with the newly-minted trio coming under the wings of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Continue reading →