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The Week Ahead: Sharon Van Etten, Bartees Strange, Herbie Hancock, The Winter Doldrums Concert and more

Herbie Hancock | via The Kimmel Center

This week in the XPN listening area, you can catch shows from legends as easily as fresh faces, nationally acclaimed artists as much as local sensations. Add in the usual mix of genres, from singer-songwriter to jazz to rock and pop, and there’s not a lot of reason to stay home. Here are twelve concerts to see in the next seven days in and around Philadelphia.
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19 Philly concerts we’re looking forward to in 2019

Kacey Musgraves | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN // Anderson .Paak | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN // Steve Gunn | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

After the excitement of ushering in the New Year, sometimes the winter months can become a bit bleak. The holiday season is over, but the freezing cold temperatures remain, and it can be tempting to stay indoors as much is possible. But we all know that the best way to keep the doldrums away is by catching some live music, and lucky for us there are a lot of great shows coming our way this winter. Here’s what The Key recommends. – Sarah Hojsak Continue reading →

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20 albums you shouldn’t overlook in 2018

Some of our unsung favorite albums of 2018

Fun fact: in a total coincidence of timing, The Key released our best albums of the year list on the same morning that NPR Music, The Guardian, and Paste rolled out their respective lists. Most other major and minor music publications followed suit in the week that followed, social media was aflurry with immense list excitement as much as total list fatigue.

The best hot take I saw in the fray came from Boston journalist Nina Corcoran (a writer for NPR Music, and Pitchfork, among others), who simply Tweeted: “The 50 Best Albums of 2018 That Didn’t Have a PR Machine Churning Behind Them.”

It’s frustrating, but true. It’s daunting when you’re reading about mostly the same albums in a slightly different order, and it begs some consideration. Like I’ve said in the past: while there is power in consensus, how does that consensus get there? Through mass recognition, through large teams of music journalists with widely eclectic tastes finding 15 or 50 or 500 albums (seriously tho, I’d love to see a top 500 list in haiku form) that they can all agree are great. And that happens when artists and their labels have the resources to seriously and steadily push those records to said journalists.

So what’s to become of a release by Philly rapper Ivy Sole, who self-released and self-promoted her outstanding 2018 outing Overgrown? Or one by Columbus psych/folk/punk collective Saintseneca, which did have label support on their beautiful Pillar of Na, easily the best record of their career, but the “campaign” behind it was limited?

My favorite lists, by comparison, are like the one you’re about to read — not driven by consensus, not presented in a ranked order. Not fostering a frustrating sense of competitiveness in an already-frustrating music scene. One that merely collects records that our team is tremendously excited about, and thinks you should make a point to spend some time with. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Phosphorescent, Ingrid Michaelson, Cat Power, Bouncing Souls

Cat Power
Cat Power | photo by Eliot Lee Hazel | courtesy of the artist

We’re in the year-end wind-down zone, but that doesn’t mean you should plan on spending the next week huddling up at home and binge watching Schitt’s Creek (though that wouldn’t be a terrible idea in moderation). We’ve flagged a several shows that are totally worth your attention, beginning tomorrow night with rock legend Ronnie Spector in Bethlehem, and carrying through Sunday when Bouncing Souls take on The Queen in Wilmington. Here are 12 concerts you can see in the next seven days all around Philadelphia. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2018

This is the music that moved us in 2018

In her review of Lucy Dacus’ Historian, Key writer Sarah Hojsak uses a vivid phrase that sums up both the record, as well as the emotional landscape of 2018: “desperately sad but never hopeless.”

Oh, wait, I’m sorry…would you describe your year as happy? That must be nice, good on you. For many of us, it’s not as straightforward: the toxicity of the country at this moment in history, and the various players that fuel that toxicity, has a draining effect, whether you’re a marginalized person who is in the line of fire or an empathetic soul who is distressed from afar. There’s also the let-down: the pouring of our energies into something to watch it fail, whether personal or public.

And yet we experience moments of joy throughout it all: weddings are had, families are started, a breathtaking sunset is observed from the westbound platform of the Berks Avenue el stop. And there’s music, a constant source of joy and comfort that centers our lives. Continue reading →

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Here’s what’s on tap for WXPN’s Thanksgiving Programming

Kid…we realize you’ve got a busy day ahead of you on Thursday, whether you’re spending Thanksgiving cooking dinner for family and friends, or you’re stuck at work or otherwise separated from the ones you love.

Maybe you’re on an epic trip from New York to Kansas to Chicago with a gregarious co-traveler. Maybe you’re watching law enforcement take 27 eight-by-twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was.

Pop cultural references aside, we here at WXPN hope to make your day as stress free as possible, and we’ll do that the best way we know how: through music. Continue reading →

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I Used To Know H.E.R.: Cali R&B enigma lights up Franklin Music Hall

H.E.R. | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Bay Area singer and songwriter Gabi Wilson prefers to keep a low profile and let the music she releases as H.E.R. do the talking. Since 2016, she’s released a handful of acclaimed EPs that caught the attention of hip-hop and R&B scene players like Pusha T and Alicia Keys. As H.E.R. prepares to release a full length debut, she took her most recent projects — I Used To Know H.E.R.: The Prelude and I Used To Know Her Part 2on a U.S. club tour, and it found her headlining the stage of the Franklin Music Hall on Friday night.

Fans were treated to a set that showed off Wilson’s versatility — she went from rocking the mic to playing the piano to performing songs on acoustic guitar. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Jessie Reyez, Max Swan, Pusha T, Killiam Shakespeare and more

Killiam Shakespeare | photo via killiamseason.bandcamp.com

Think a holiday week means there’s no live music to keep you entertained? Think again. Starting tonight with rising R&B star Jessie Reyez, carrying through an album release from Killiam Shakespeare this weekend, and a Green Room showcase with DaniLeigh on Monday, here are twelve concerts you can see in the next seven days all around Philadelphia. Continue reading →