As we’re surrounding ourselves with friends and loved ones this holiday weekend and talking about what we’re grateful for in our lives, one major thing comes to mind for us here at The Key: Philly music. It’s our reason for being, both the talented artists that set up shop in our city and the passionate fans that cheer them on. We literally would not be here were it not for them, and for Thanksgiving 2015, we bring you these 15 Philly songs that we’re particularly thankful for.
Jazmine Sullivan “Stupid Girl” – Back in January, we attended a MilkBoy Studio hang where Philly pop / soul singer and songwriter Jazmine Sullivan premiered songs from her new Reality Show LP for the first time. It was her first new music after taking a few years off, and it was a totally exciting set, spanning genres and eras and spinning personal stories into life lessons. The infectious “Stupid Girl,” which Sullivan played acoustic with guitarist Devin Trout, is not just a biting dig on sexism, it’s a cautionary tale, as this NPR Field Recordings video points out, imploring women to be careful with their hearts.
Hop Along “Waitress” – Frances Quinlan spun a personal low, a story of humiliation and anxiety, into one of the year’s most empowering anthems for the lead single from their remarkable Painted Shut LP. Its resonance across the board and the way it catapulted Hop Along to a new stage of their career is a reflection of its central truths. We all have moments of self-doubt, and we all find a way to keep going.
Kurt Vile “Pretty Pimpin'” – Philly long-haired troubadour Kurt Vile showcased a little bit of all of his strengths for this year’s b’lieve i’m goin’ down… LP, but our introduction to the album is hands down Vile’s best song (and biggest hit). The way that kickdrum beat propels you forward makes it a great song for brisk walks around the city, and the idiosyncratic lyrics taking a new angle on themes of change. The idea on the surface is “I’m not the person I used to be,” but given the Vile treatment, that mean brushing your mystery doppelganger’s teeth and complimenting his wardrobe.
The Innocence Mission “Tom on the Boulevard” – Stepping a bit beyond the geographical bounds of Philadelphia, we look to Central PA for the amazing Innocence Mission, who have been releasing heartwarming and sentimental albums for going on 20 years. The band, fronted by Don and Karen Peris, returned with beautiful Hello I Feel the Same this year and this song’s interlocking guitars, breezy drums and aching cello – not to mention the Perises delicate harmonies – will send you into a reverie.
Chelsea Sue Allen “Creaks and Moans” – Being a singer-songwriter doesn’t have to mean being put in a box. Chelsea Sue Allen is a student of Beach House as much as she’s a student of Joni Mitchell, and her new Lonely Ages is led by the expressive instrumental tapestry and pitter-pattering drum loop of “Creeks and Moans.”
Bryant Eugene Vazquez “Daaang! (Cool Hand Sam)” – Since moving to Philly from Phoenix a year and change ago, singer-songwriter-rock-and-roller has had a heck of a rarties. He partied, released some music, got rowdy, started a band, broke up the band, went sober, and recorded All Damn Day!!! / The Greatest Hits. The album channels the cool of Lou Reed, the grit of Tom Waits, the poetry of Bob Dylan and the hooks of the Nuggets collection.
Agudos Clef “Raices” – Stepping again out of our immediate geographical zone and looking north to Trenton, we see the Latin hip-hop duo Agudos Clef and their sonic energy and positive outlook. This year they teased their album-in-progress Teoria with “Raices,” a breezy and head-nodding number about identity.
Jill Scott “Fool’s Gold” – At this point, Philly soul queen Jill Scott can pretty much do no wrong, and her fifth LP Woman found her, like Sullivan, exploring sounds and approaches to songwriting outside the neo-soul box. The record hits on funk, disco, big band and suave late-80s funk-pop, which is somewhere around where the single “Fools Gold” touches down.
Hemming “Some of My Friends” – Candice Martello will tell you that she does sad songs and heartache the best, but the uplifting and poppy “Some of My Friends” is neither of those, and it’s tremendous: an ode to friends, fidelity, the diverging paths our lives take us on and the connections that bring us back together.
Joie Kathos “Faded” – Rapper Joie Kathos used an interpretation of ZHU’s EDM hit to set the brooding and contemplative backbeat as she reflected on and responded to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the violence that led to it and the civil unrest that followed. One of the most important songs of the year from the Philly scene.
Lushlife “Body Double” – At long last, Raj Haldar is wrapping up production on Lushlife’s eagerly anticipated new album Ritualize and that’s something to be thankful for in itself. The record is due out next year, and the first single is a blend of bangin’ club beats by producers CSLSX and stream-of-consciousness rhymes by the man at the mic.
Lithuania “God in Two Persons” – Loud and fast rock and roll made by two longtime friends who are doing it because they are longtime friends who want to make loud and fast rock and roll. No pretense, no bullshit, just lots of awesome from Dr. Dog’s Eric Slick and DRGN King’s Dom Angelella.
The Districts “Bold” – The way this deep cut on A Flourish and a Spoil is constructed is simply a thing of beauty. The trippily delayed drumbeat, the swelling guitars, and the explosive coda that sends an anti-war, anti-conflict message by telling the stories of the loved ones back home who steel themselves up with emotional detachment.
Kississippi “Indigo” – We met this band when they were still a hushed and haunting home-recorded project. Hearing the growth of their sound on the We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed EP into a moving brand of lush indie pop was incredible, particularly the single “Indgo,” and we can’t wait to hear what 2016 brings for Kississippi.
Hezekiah Jones “The Dark Heart’s Out” – Raphael Cutrufello is a talented songwriter and gifted storyteller who works with some of Philadelphia’s best players; they move very much at their own pace, but the long-in-the-works LP In Loving Memory of oosi Lockjaw was worth every second of the wait.
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