The Key’s Year-End Mania: Matthew Shaver’s best low-BPM music of 2018

Mary Lattimore
Mary Lattimore | Photo courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key photographer Matthew Shaver shares his favorite downbeat jams of the year.

2018 was a stressful year for many folks, but thankfully there has been a treasure trove of calming music to help guide us through it. Whether you’re a fan of ambient techno, neo-classical compositions, or just a plain old piece of instrumental work that takes its time, rather than rushing to 100 BPM, there is something for you from 2018. Seven albums stood out to me – albums that I’ve played over and over again, after long days, trying to soak up everything going on without losing my mind sometimes. Think of it as health supplements that can be taken aurally. Continue reading →


Dr. Dog officially kicks off summer at Festival Pier with (Sandy) Alex G.

Dr. Dog | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN |

There is an old proverb dating back to the year two thousand that goes something like “If Dr. Dog didn’t play a show, did summer ever really begin in Philadelphia?” And though it’s a rhetorical question, don’t doubt the power of a good doctor. Case in point – everything in my technological wheelhouse stated that we were due for a storm, probably a big one. Scott, Toby, Zach, Eric, and Frank had other plans, and the rain that was threatening to cancel their show never showed up. It’s a rare ability, and quite frankly impossible to prove, but there were nothing but believers in the house at Festival Pier on Saturday night. Continue reading →


By The Kids: Forever 10.9 mades its big stage debut at The Trocadero Balcony

Forever 10.9 | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Jessica, Elizabeth, and Isabel are pre-teens with a passion for song. Church recitals, school choir, and familial occupations converged, as they often do, into that moment a group of friends dares to utter “we should start a band!” With no pressure outside of just having fun, the girls have been able to flourish, and take their time to practice their craft until until a serendipitous moment arrived. After a few months of practice and playing coffee houses, a comedian from the area who goes by the name “Cork” was auctioning off a 30 minute opening spot on the balcony at The Trocadero, and Elizabeth’s mother won. So, Forever 10.9 kicked it in to gear, found themselves a drummer (Devin), and got themselves ready for the stage.

I’ve been witness to the early days of some pretty great area acts fronted by some pretty fantastic women. Cayetana, Marian Hill, Hop Along, and Kississippi have all wowed me since their early days, and I was surprised to see their spirit in a younger group. Jessica is the primary songwriter/guitarist, and she has a knack for modern indie rock that belies her age. Elizabeth shares the vocal duties layering on harmonies and synths. Isabel is the reluctant musician, originally content to be on the sidelines, but good friends are good friends and the other two wouldn’t have it. Good thing too, as her bass packs a wallop on their original material. Devin is a student of the School of Rock, and despite the trio’s hesitation (wanting to be an all-girl act), his talent won them over. Continue reading →


The Skull Eclipses homecoming at Johnny Brenda’s is a win for cross-continental hip-hop

The Skull Eclipses | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Philadelphia rap auteur Lushlife (Raj Haldar) continues on a hot streak of album partnerships, this time with beat connoisseur Botany (Spencer Stephenson) to form The Skull Eclipses.  Together, they specialize in a sort of lo-fi, kind of psych infused, and refreshingly nostalgic experimental hip-hop.  Analog synthesis, twisted beats, and rapid fire boom-bap are the name of the game here, and a three-year journey spanning cross country collaborations paid off, and Lushlife brought it home to celebrate. Continue reading →


The Key’s Year-End Mania: Matthew Shaver’s best food and tune pairings in Philadelphia

The Tasty | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |
The Tasty | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key photographer Matthew Shaver ponders unlikely combinations of eats and sounds.

Eating out is meant to be a social event, a gathering of friends and family where someone else does the hard work, leaving you to drink and be merry. Time and circumstances align every so often that I eat out alone, my only company are my headphones and an iPod full of hopes and dreams. Like fine friends or fine wine, fine music can be associated with a great restaurant, or a great plate. I’ve listed some of my favorite pairings below (Note: I am a vegetarian, and the choices all reflect that.) Continue reading →


Dessa plays to the fans at a sold-out World Cafe Live

Dessa | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

I had a chance to speak to Dessa before her show at World Cafe Live on Thursday night, and in my moment of terrible small talk, I mentioned how uncomfortable I sometimes feel at venues like the upstairs. It is a stage that is barely elevated, with direct crowd access, and I know I’m blocking people (I’m 6’2”). I always try to be mindful of that, and move off to the side/back after a song or two, to get out of the way.  Color me surprised when Dessa stopped the show, after the first song, and, in a moment of professional courtesy, invited me to the stage to capture a photo of her in front of the crowd.  It was a small moment, but a gesture that meant a lot to me, as a photographer that has dedicated 10 years and thousands of shows to this, but more importantly, as a fan. Continue reading →


Kesha shines at The Fillmore Philly

Kesha | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Kesha Rose Sebert (better known as just Kesha) made one thing abundantly clear as soon as she hit the stage at the Fillmore on Saturday night – she was there on her terms.  With more than a few middle fingers to her detractors, she loudly proclaimed that she owns her music, and she takes care of herself.  After an extended absence, and some demoralizing public battles, Kesha has a new album with Rainbow and a fresh, positive outlook on the future.  Welcome back, Kesha. Continue reading →


Manchester Orchestra and friends play a thunderous show to a sold out Fillmore

Manchester Orchestra | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Manchester Orchestra make rock music.  While you could potentially apply any number of hyphenates to their style, they are all extraneous.  They make “rock” music, and, they make it well.  More than a decade in to the game, Andy Hull has one of the most prestigious discography’s in the biz, and he’s barely 31.  Five (technically six) albums, a fistful of EPs, and an ever growing legion of fans that realize that Manchester Orchestra is not here to reinvent rock music, but to save it.

Each album buys them a bigger venue, from North Star Bar, to TLA, to the Temple Performing Arts Center, and finally Sunday night at the Fillmore.  Each step up is paid for in blood and sweat, as they work hard to earn their status as a must-see live act.  Selling out the venue, they did not shy away from fan favorites like “Shake It Out” mingled amongst new material from A Black Mile to the Surface (opening with the triple-threat of “The Maze,” “The Gold,” and “The Moth”).  Every song sounds thunderous, even milder material on the albums comes with a layer of grit on it when Hull’s falsetto goes reaching, straining for the skylights. Continue reading →


Neurosis and Converge brought a metal masterclass to Union Transfer

Neurosis | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

30 years in to the career, Neurosis has lost none of their edge. They have the swagger and confidence of people who have been in the game for as long as they have, but their stage presence is void of pretension. While many credit them as one of the forefathers of what could simply be called “post-metal” they make no claim to any throne other than the one of being able to reign down hell with the urgency of molasses pouring from a jar — which is as fine a description as any of their Union Transfer gig on Monday night. Continue reading →


Sir Sly and SHAED exude fun with a packed crowd at The Fillmore’s Foundry

Sir Sly | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Los Angeles’ Sir Sly make their kind of infectious indie-pop-rock so well that it was no surprise to walk in to The Foundry a bit early only to be confronted by a crowd of dedicated fans pushed up against the stage. Make no mistake: their music appeals to the sing-along set, and they know every word. The all ages show left little room for stragglers, and the trio themselves did the best they could to exude fun energy across the limited stage size. Vocalist Landon Jacobs carries himself with a swagger that could have benefited from a little more space, but had no trouble working the crowd up, while Jason Suwito and Hayden Coplen kept the grooves going. Continue reading →