Listen to Chrissy Tashjian of Thin Lips spin Philly guitar jams on WXPN

Chrissy Tashjian | via

It’s a month of Lame-O Records at South Philly venue Boot & Saddle, and it’s a month of Lame-O here at The Key. With the local DIY label putting together such a strong lineup of mostly-local artists we’re psyched on for their Thursday night gigs, we’re taking out some time each week to highlight the series on these pages and on the WXPN airwaves.

This week, Chrissy Tashjian — frontwoman of power pop punk four-piece Thin Lips — joined me on the XPN Local Show for a guest DJ set of songs that inspire her as a guitarist, tonally and emotionally and energetically. It’s music she listens to during her 9-to-5 as a contractor, she says, and it gets her through the day. It also happens to be music made by her friends, and Chrissy talks about that feeling of community and camaraderie, about the home that the label has made for her, especially as she prepares to go to Europe for the first time on a Thin Lips tour with Lame-O affiliates Modern Baseball, The Superweaks and The Pooches.

Chrissy also talks about the importance of The Attic Youth Center, which Thin Lips’ show at the Boot acts as a benefit for. It’s a center for a LGBTQ youth, and as Tashjian says, “It’s so hard being a queer person in your formative years…which are confusing for anybody, with the hierarchy of cruelty that is middle school and high school. [The Attic] is a really great space for people, a safe space.”

If you missed it, you can stream Chrissy’s entire guest DJ set and check out the playlist below.
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Just Announced: Chicago hip-hop wunderkind Saba will headline The Trocadero Balcony on March 26

Saba’s #BucketListProject | via

If there were any doubt in your mind that Chicago is the best hip-hop city in America right now, do yourself a favor and listen to Saba‘s 2016 outing Bucket List Project. It’s a remarkable collection that builds on the promise of 2014’s Comfort Zone mixtape; the vibe is tripped out but lively, his slice-of-life lyrics are inspiring, funny, occasionally moving and always honest. Soul harmonies mix with trap beats on the amazing “GPS,” the almighty noname teams up with him on “Church / Liquor Store,” juxtaposing virtue and vice.

Simply put, it’s an arrival and thanks to an attention-grabbing verse on Chance the Rapper’s “Angels,” Saba had a lot of people there to greet him last year. This winter and spring, he takes Bucket List on a headlining U.S. tour, and in some good news for those of us who missed his 2015 show at The Barbary with Mick Jenkins and Kirk Knight, it includes a Philly gig, headlining Chinatown’s famed Trocadero Theater balcony stage for an all ages show on Sunday, March 26th. Continue reading →


Conor Oberst teams up with The Felice Brothers, Jim James, Gillian Welch and more on Salutations

Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers | photo by Julia Brokaw | courtesy of the artist
Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers | photo by Julia Brokaw | courtesy of the artist

Last year, singer-songwriter Conor Oberst spent a winter in Omaha and recorded Ruminations, a stunning and solitary meditation on life and isolation, and his best record in a decade.

This year, he returns to that body of work in a full-band Americana-rock context with longtime friends and collaborators The Felice Brothers. Joining them are an impressive roster of guests including Jim James, Blake Mills, Maria Taylor, M Ward, Gillian Welch, Gus Seyffert, Pearl Charles, Nathaniel Walcott, and Jonathan Wilson. The Salutations collection will come out on Nonesuch Records on March 17th, expanding on the ten songs of Ruminations and unveiling an additional ten songs.

This winter and spring, Oberst will go on tour with The Felice Brothers as his backing band; check out the tour dates below, as well as the album art and track listing. To get a now-and-then view, watch the newly-released video “A Little Uncanny” from Salutations, and compare it alongside the original version on Ruminations. Continue reading →


Watch Petal’s Kiley Lotz cover “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” by Talking Heads

Petal | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN |
Petal | Photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN |

My wife has a pretty solid rule about making mixtapes — if you’re ever stuck, just add some Talking Heads. It never fails, and applies equally awesomely to cover songs in concert setlists as well — as we recently saw when Petal opened for Kevin Devine and Foxing and slayed with a solo rendition of “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” from David Byrne & co.’s 1983 outing Speaking in Tongues. 
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Sun Airway rolls out a third song from Heraldic Black Cherry, “Violent Grey”

Sun Airway | photo courtesy of the artist

It’s one of those contradictions of creativity: the intersection of desire and reality, the wanting to be the focus of attention without necessarily putting oneself out there. Philly’s Jon Barthmus has been through it a couple times, back in the aughties blogrock era with his spectacular pop band The A-Sides and more recently with the elegant electronic outfit Sun Airway, which had a couple great higher-profile moments on the Dead Oceans roster and then retreated to the shadows for a couple years.

In recent months, we’ve heard the first new music in four years from the project — its third LP, Heraldic Black Cherry, is on the way this winter / spring — and on the heels of “FOAM” and “All In,” today we’ve got the existential quandary of “Violent Grey.” Viewing that push-pull of the limelight from a different angle, Barthmus sings “I don’t want to be forgotten, I just want to be forgotten,” and if those are indeed two distinct wishes, perhaps his plan to keep Sun Airway a studio project is the best way to fulfill both. Continue reading →


Listen to a long lost Pet Milk song, “Ostalgia,” see them at Everybody Hits on 1/28

Pet Milk
Pet Milk performs at Johnny Brenda’s in 2013 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Philly indie-pop outfit Pet Milk hasn’t played a show together since 2013. Not out of any ill will or anything — they’re all still good friends — but more because everybody is busy in their own ways. Guitarist and singer Herb Shellenberger spent a couple years studying in London and has become a noted cinema scholar; singer Sarah Schimeneck now fronts Mercury Girls, and bassist Adam Herndon continues to play in A Sunny Day in Glasgow.

The band was in the midst of recording its full-length debut when it dissolved, and while I’m not 100% that the above photo (opening for Bleeding Rainbow at Johnny Brenda’s on Valentine’s Day of 2013) is its final show, it was certainly one of the last. A demo was dug up last year with allusions to a possible future, and it seems that future is upon us. Continue reading →


GrandeMarshall returns with new Risk/Reward project; listen to “Stress”

GrandeMarshall | via

Philly rapper GrandeMarshall caught a sweet break a few years back by landing on the West Coast boutique label Fool’s Gold, and it’s been a great home for him in the time since — reissuing his 800 mixtape, releasing his acclaimed followup project My Brother’s Keeper and now rolling out the new Risk/Reward. The eight-track EP is due out January 23rd, and can be pre-ordered here; to get a taste, listen to lead single “Stress,” a lowtempo groove that bubbles up as the jam progresses over four and a half minutes, with Grande’s charged and confident delivery providing a counterpoint to the nervous instrumentation. The jam might be about learning to confront with obstacles in your day-to-day, and based on his poise, Grande has learned well. Continue reading →


Lushlife releases Idols and Enemies mixtape to benefit the ACLU

Lushlife at Johnny Brenda’s 2/27/16 | Photo by Matthew Shaver |

Over the weekend, we told you about a cryptic video Lushlife posted on Facebook. Today we have details about what it all means.

The Philly rapper (known offstage as Raj Haldar) just released Idols and Enemies, an interdisciplinary mixtape featuring Killer Mile, Jedediah Prudy, Moor Mother, Sad13, Sut Jhally, Kool AD, Sun Airway, Khruangbin, Billy Woods and Little Strike. Philly musician and DJ (and Key Contributor) John Morrison executive produced the project, which is available as an $8 download, and it supports the ACLU.  Continue reading →


The WXPN Folk Show presents the sounds of the Civil Rights Era


Today, we remember the great Martin Luther King, Jr. and his fight for equality, organizing communities and combating racism with nonviolent resistance in the 1950s and 60s.

The Civil Rights era is intrinsically intertwined with music: from group spirituals sang on the long marches from Selma to Montgomery, to The Staple Singers and their iconic “Freedom Road,” to the white folksingers of the era that were allies of the movement. Continue reading →