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Start your day with Mitski’s burning new ballad “Two Slow Dancers”

Mitski
Mitski | photo by Bao Ngo | courtesy of the artist
For the first single from Mitski’s forthcoming album, she went epic and orchestral. For the second, she hit the dancefloor.

This morning, the indie rock singer songwriter brings us to the end of the night, long after the lights have come up, long after the doors are locked, long after everybody else has moved on, and all that remains are “Two Slow Dancers.” The song is withdrawn and contemplative, a solitary Rhodes-sounding keyboard as the scene is set with an estranged couple reunited in a high school gymnasium and reflecting how “it would be so much easier if we were young again.” Continue reading →

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Sonni Shine strikes out on her on on the solo single “Someone Like You”

Sonni Shine | photo via sonnishine.bandcamp.com

Philly singer-songwriter Sonni Shine got her start in the breezy reggae-tinged band The Underwater Sounds, but in more recent years she’s branched out in a variety of directions. She’s collaborated with trancey electronic music producer goldenSpiral, she’s played guitar in Zeek Burse’s funk-soul band, and next month she releases her first solo album.

Reconcile is out September 7th via Bandcamp, and if you’re a fan of any nook of the past four decades of singer-songwriter-dom, there’s something in here for you. You’ll hear spoken word verses set to drum circle percussion, you’ll hear Ani DiFranco-ian turns of phrase, you’ll hear touches of Fiona Apple-esque introspection, and you’ll hear soul grooves that glide like Janis Ian.

The lead single, “Someone like You,” definitely feels like the latter as it slinks along for four minutes and change of contemplative keys, smooth bass, and a voice pining for a sort of companionship that might be unattainable.  Continue reading →

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Big Lizard In Clark Park: Watch The Dead Milkmen play outdoors in West Philly in August of 1993

The Dead Milkmen in Clark Park | still from video

As somebody who enthusiastically subscribes to the “West Philly / Best Philly” mantra, there is so much to love about this vintage video of Philadelphia icons The Dead Milkmen headlining an outdoor show in Clark Park. The verdant greenery from all angles, the audience watching from the slope of the dog bowl, the grizzly folks packing the front row with handicams and enthusiastic energy.

The video was shot on VHS way back on August 7th, 1993. The gig also featured a set from neighborhood oddballs EDO — “everybody loves EDO,” says the MC introducing the band — and features the Milkmen in classic irreverent form, punctuated by a long-haired, ponytailed, goatee’d Rodney Anonymous pacing the stage franticly, spitting into the mic, rocking a cutoff Butthole Surfers t-shirt. Continue reading →

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#XPNFest on Film: 35mm of scenes from our weekend on the Camden Waterfront

photo by John Vettese for WXPN

If you see me photographing a concert, you most likely will see me with one of WXPN’s digital cameras in hand. But depending on the gig, and depending on my mood, if you look closely you might spot something else; an old Pentax 35mm, or a Yashica twin-lens 120 camera. Or a Holga if I’m feeling particularly daring.

I went to school for photography when shooting on film was still the dominant thing — it was on its way out, for sure, but it was still being taught — and my initial outlook on how to shoot photos was shaped by the process of taking 24 or 36 frames and not knowing for anywhere from a few hours to a few days what any of them look like.

Lately, it’s been a fun way for me to document the music festivals I cover here at The Key — the sun-speckled Roots Picnic, or the earthy-toned Firefly Festival. Obviously I shoot digital in tandem, which allows me to gather as many images as I need and have as much control over all the parameters that go into those images; basically it guarantees me something serviceable (and immediate) for our web and social media coverage.

But there’s something to be said for surrendering much of that control to limitations and chance; taking photos as scenes unfold to you, to taking just one or two shots per scene (because you only have so much film), to refrain from getting caught up in fussy details and seeing what turns out. This year at the XPoNential Music Festival, I brought two cameras with me — a Ricoh SLR, an Argus rangefinder — and shot a roll of color film and a roll of black and white. Here’s what happened.
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City Winery is coming to Philadelphia

Suzanne Vega at City Winery New York | via facebook.com/citywinerynyc

As renovations continue at what was once the Gallery at Market East, news emerged this week that live music will be in the cards when the space re-opens next year.

City Winery, the restaurant / live music chain that originated in New York City in 2008, will open its seventh satellite venue in the shopping and entertainment complex (which will be called Fashion District Philadelphia) when it opens in September of 2019, the Inquirer reports. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Yeah Yeah Yeahs will play their first Philly show since 2013 at Goose Island’s 215 Block Party

Yeah Yeah Yeahs | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Last year, NYC-rooted rock trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs emerged from their extended hiatus to celebrate their 15th anniversary as a band with a reissue of their debut Fever to Tell and a documentary to go along with it. Now they’re set to play their first Philadelphia show since 2013 when they headline Goose Island’s 215 Block Party at the Electric Factory on Saturday, September 8th.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Career Crooks

I feel like “ravenous” is a solid adjective to use when talking about Philly rapper Zilla Rocca. Ravenous consumer of popular culture. Ravenous collector of hip-hop records and trivia tidbits. Can somebody ravenously rock the mic? I don’t know, but if it’s possible, he can do it.

He’s been kicking around the scene as long as The Key has been around, in various permutations of his Wrecking Crew collective: their hard-boiled 5 O’Clock Shadowboxers, his production and hype man work alongside Curly Castro, and his solo noir-hop outings. His latest is called Career Crooks, and it finds him teaming up with Small Professor for moody throwbacks to the late 80s and early 90s NYC scene; textural ref points include Nas, Mobb Deep, and 36 Chambers-era Wu-Tang (the semi-official Beatles of the Wrecking Crew), while Zilla’s gravelly flow recalls a bit of Action Bronson and Slick Rick.

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Phosphorescent returns with “New Birth in New England,” new album C’est La Vie, TLA gig

Phosphorescent
Phosphorescent | photo courtesy of the artist

Singer and songwriter Matthew Houck has been somewhat off the grid for the past four or so years, ever since the release and extensive touring of his musical project Phosphorescent‘s sixth LP Muchacho. That silence ends today with “New Birth In New England,” a song reflective of what’s been going on in his life during that time period — finding love, having children, and leaving New York City.

The sunny, upbeat tune with a bit of an Afropop flare is the lead single from Phosphorescent’s seventh LP, C’est La Vie, due out on October 5th via Dead Oceans Records.   Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: The War on Drugs and Sturgill Simpson deliver guitar jams of different sorts at BB&T

The War on Drugs | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

While the night one headliners at #XPNFest were cerebral, experimental and beat-oriented, night two shifted the focus to a rock festival classic: the guitar.

Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs is a master of instrumental tone and texture, of soundscaping — as well as atmospheric lead licks that transport the band and the crowd to the stratosphere. Sturgill Simpson is more down and dirty, an adherent of country / blues riff rock tradition, but played louder and faster than most of his peers (and heroes). Together, they treated the BB&T Pavilion crowd to expansive jams, but of two very different sorts.

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