The Key’s Year-End Mania: Bruce Warren’s Best of Philly Music 2015

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Queen of Jeans
Queen of Jeans | photo by Kelly Kurteson

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2015 incredible. Today, WXPN program director Bruce Warren shares five musicians she found on Spotify in 2015.

This past Thanksgiving The Key’s John Vettese wrote about the 15 Philly songs we’re thankful for. The songs were just a small snapshot of by Philly’s vibrant music scene, represented by the likes of Hop Along, Jazmine Sullivan, Kurt Vile, Agudos Clef, Hemming, Hezekiah Jones, Lithuania, Lushlife, Jill Scott, and others. What stood out to me in Vettese’s article then, and what’s stood out to all of us at The Key for the last several years is how wonderfully diverse, and prolific, the music scene in Philly continues to be.

Looking back on 2014, it was the year that War On Drugs completely exploded, Strand Of Oaks’s and The Districts’ fan bases grew by leaps and bounds, Hop Along had just signed with Saddle Creek, and Marian Hill’s electro-pop broke out of Philly, along with indie-rockers Amanda X and Cayetana.

Here we are a year later; Hop Along and The Districts ruled 2015 in many ways, critically and commercially. Strand Of Oaks is putting the finishing touches on his new album, the War On Drugs’ frontman Adam Granduciel has begun working on their next album, and Marian Hill will release their full length debut in February. Kurt Vile has become a well known musical export, with the release of his recent album, b’lieve i’m goin’ down…

With much respect to all the Philly players making great music and spreading the new Sound of Philly around the world, here’s a look back on 2015, with plenty to look forward to in 2016.

Queen of Jeans are Miriam Devora, Matheson Glass, Nina Scotto & Patrick Wall. File under: Teeange Girl Group Symphonies to God. Look for their debut EP on January 22nd.

Lithuania are Eric Slick of Dr. Dog and Dominic Angelella from DRGN King. Their album Hardcore Friends is just that, a dose of punk and hardcore rock and roll lovingly crafted by two music loving pals that oozes with genuineness.

2015 was a significant year for indie rocker Alex G who went from making music in his bedroom (self-releasing seven previous albums) to signing with Domino Records and releasing his first proper label album, Beach Music. Listen to his set from his Free At Noon at WXPN and World Cafe Live here, and “Kicker” from Beach Music below.

R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan put out one of the best R&B albums this year, the delicious Reality Show. It took her five years to release the album, and on it, she confirmed her extraordinary place as the soul diva she is.

Girlpool’s Cleo Tucker (guitar, vocals) and Harmony Tividad (bass, vocals), moved to Philly from Los Angeles this year, and we’re glad they decided to call our city home. Their 2015 release, Before The World Was Big signaled the arrival of two indie singer-songwriters with a bright future.

Hop Along lead singer and guitarist Frances Quinlan sang and screamed and rocked her way into our hearts this year, and with their 2015 album Painted Shut, released one of the best albums of the year. They more than blew the crowds’ minds in Philly this year, with their XPoNential Music Festival appearance being a highlight.

Waxahatchee is singer, songwriter and guitarist Katie Crutchfield. About her new album Ivy Tripp, NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson called it “the sound of frailty giving way to forcefulness, and thankfully, Crutchfield wears both well.”

There’s a new power ballad king in Philly and his name is Jesse Hale Moore. Working with The War On Drugs’ Dave Hartley, Moore has released two songs in the last several months, that mine R&B with warmth and lots of conviction. Touch points are the band Rhye, however Moore brings his own sense of soul to these anthems. We’re ready to hear what’s next.

Rapper Armani White has rapid-fire flow, a sense of humor, and some serious beats behind his jams.

Sonnder‘s Key Studio Session in September was one of my favorites of the year. The quartet brings together a lot of modern rock influences but in a fresh way. Throughout the year, the band worked on and released an ambitious singles, creating a body of work that’s represented their maturity and growth as songwriters and performers.

Woman’s got the power: Hemming, Chelsea Sue Allen, and Madalean Gauze are three of the brightest new voices on the singer-songwriter scene.

What a year its been for Son Little. The R&B, hip-hop and blues influenced singer, songwriter and guitarist shows no signs of slowing down. One of the most written about locals in 2015, he joined us this past summer at WXPN’s XPoNential Music festival. In March, He’s heading out on tour opening for Leon Bridges, and will have his hands full as one of the judges for the NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert. Onward and upward for one talented cat.

What do President Obama and Jerry “The Geator” Blavat have in common? Their love for roots rockers Low Cut Connie. Need we say more? Nah. Don’t have to. With high profile appearances on World Cafe at the Philly Folk Festival, Sound Opinions, a four star review in Mojo for Hi, Honey , and a Rolling Stone review that says the band “reimagine the early-Seventies Stones as South Jersey keg-party killers,” Adam Weiner and crew’s rock and roll stock continues to trend upwards.

Maine-to-Philly transplants Friendship recently did one heckuva Key Studio Session. The Americana rockers released You’re Going to Have to Trust Me, showcases their quirky and fresh take on roots music.

It’s simple: rapper Joie Kathos is a star waiting to explode. She shined during her RECphilly curated Key Studio Session with Armani White, back in October.

Get to know Kississippi – Philly’s new melancholia darlingcore duo, Zoë Allaire Reynolds and Colin James Kupson, recently featured as a Band to Watch by Stereogum, and who The Key’s Skye Leppo turned us onto earlier this year.

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