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Music For a Better World: A Spotify playlist

Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar in the “Alright” video

In times like these, music is more important than ever.

For many, it’s been a difficult month. The past week alone saw the tragic shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, respectively. It also saw the tragic shooting deaths of five police officers in Dallas — Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith — who were protecting a peaceful protest when a sniper opened fire. Sterling and Castile are the latest high-profile cases of black citizens losing their lives during encounters with the authorities in recent years, from Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown to Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray. In other areas of the news and the world, hate and senseless violence have reared their heads — from the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people, many of them members of the city’s LGBT+ Latinx community; to the attack on an airport in Istanbul last month that killed 44; to an undercurrent of intolerance that permeated the Brexit vote in the UK.

In short: this is a turbulent month amid turbulent times. And even if we’re not directly affected by the events, they touch us all. Which is where music comes in. Continue reading →

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Firefly Sunday recap: Mumford and Sons, Earth Wind and Fire, Ludacris, Grouplove + more

Mumford and Sons | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Mumford and Sons | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The fifth annual Firefly Music Festival came to a close yesterday with a day of beautiful weather and stellar performances, from a high-energy set from Ludacris at half past noon to the astonishing headlining performance from Mumford and Sons. In between were knockout sets from Earth Wind and Fire, Grouplove, The 1975, Elle King and more. The Key’s editor John Vettese was there all weekend. Check out some of his photos from Sunday below, and see a Saturday recap here and a Friday recap here. Continue reading →

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WXPN to carry American Routes starting Sunday, June 19th

Dr. John | Photo by Bruce Weber
Dr. John, one of Nick Spitzer’s guests on American Routes | Photo by Bruce Weber

WXPN has added American Routes, hosted and produced by Nick Spitzer, to its weekly broadcast schedule starting on this Sunday, June 19. The weekly, two-hour music program will be heard on WXPN 88.5 FM Sundays from 3 PM to 5 PM. Produced in New Orleans and distributed by PRX (Public Radio Exchange), American Routes presents a broad range of American music — blues and jazz, gospel and soul, old-time country and rockabilly, Cajun and zydeco, Tejano and Latin, roots rock and pop, and incorporates documentary features and artist interviews. Continue reading →

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Your Firefly Guide: 20 artists to discover in the Woodlands this week

firefly
Photo by Joe Del Tufo | joedeltufo.com

Tomorrow afternoon, the first carloads of campers will make their way up Delaware’s DuPont Highway for the 2016 edition of the Firefly Music Festival.

Held in the Woodlands of Dover, the festival has skyrocketed since its inaugural outing in 2012, this year featuring seven stages and sure-to-be massive headlining sets from pop/rock megastars Florence and the MachineM83Mumford and Sons and Kings of Leon. You’ll also find no shortage of can’t-miss performances on the second tier, this year including sets by emo titans Death Cab for Cutie, LA-based epic poet Vince Staples, Glaswegian electrorock trio CHVRCHES, psychedelic Australian vibe-wranglers Tame Impala and more.

But you’re already familiar with those names, more likely than not. Part of the fun of the whole megafestival experience (unless you truly enjoy roasting in the sun in a jam-packed field of 80,000 for days on end waiting for the big names) is wandering away from the crowd and finding something new, something unexpected, something incredible. In that spirit, The Key staff has surveyed the entire 120+ band lineup and brings you our picks of artists you may not have heard of but who are absolutley worth discovering in the Woodlands this weekend. Read on, and rock out. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2015

The albums that moved us in 2015
This is the music that moved us in 2015

It was a year of powerful records. Of loud guitars and brazen beats, of electronic tapestries and vocal abandon. It was a year of personal introspection and rallying cries for social change. It was a year when music felt inextricably tied to the world around us. When it felt more important than it had in a long time. Like we’ve said before, to narrow 12 months of incredible music down to a “top 15 albums of 2015” list is to exclude dozens of other worthy releases. This year, we had 26 writers and photographers cite a collective 82 albums as their favorites – you can view everybody’s top fives here, and I know fully well that had I asked The Key crew to give me top tens, I’d be easily looking at quadruple the titles. But we’ll go deep when our annual Year-End Mania roundup launches tomorrow. Today we take the long view and explore what rose to the surface of consensus in 2015, from the expressive moments of Kamasi Washington, Joanna Newsom and Jamie xx, to the pop permutations of Carly Rae Jepsen and Grimes , rock and/or roll from Courtney Barnett and Alabama Shakes, Philly representation from The Districts, Waxahatchee and of course, Hop Along‘s incredible breakout LP Painted Shut, which alongside the great Kendrick Lamar rose right to the top of our voting. Let’s recap the year. 
Continue reading →

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The Key’s review of 1989 by Ryan Adams

Not really the cover of Ryan Adams' 1989, alas.
Not really the cover of Ryan Adams’ 1989, alas. | via the internet

Let’s face it, covers are rarely good. They normally begin with the best of intentions – take a song you admire, and put your own personal touch on it. However, even with the best intentions, they often come off uninspired and uninteresting.

When Ryan Adams announced he was covering pop superstar Taylor Swift’s album 1989, it was certainly possible to imagine the worst: that it would be some sort of half-hearted attempt at pop chart relevance or ironic clickbaity attention-grabbing. But if you thought that, you’d be wrong; it’s much more than that. This week that album was released, praised and mocked – most amusingly by none other than Father John Misty – and here is how we at The Key feel about it. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: The Key’s review of Painted Shut by Hop Along

Painted Shut cover art
Painted Shut cover art

It’s Tuesday, meaning we’re at the part in our occasional Unlocked series where the person writing the series shares their review of the album we’re featuring. Thing is, we pretty much all love Hop Along and Painted Shut. So for today’s installment, we bring you our first-ever Key Staff collaborative album review. Enjoy!

Philly greats Hop Along have been hanging out in the shadows for quite some time. Although the band has been putting out exceptional music for the better part of a decade, they have kept a relatively low profile until now. Their new album Painted Shut, released this week on revered indie label Saddle Creek, introduces Hop Along to the masses. The album reads like a collection of short stories, leaving the metaphor and ambiguity of 2012’s Get Disowned behind and spinning narratives that pull you in like a great book.

The track “Horseshoe Crabs” exemplifies this beautifully. The song’s haunting melody perfectly accompanies the lyrics of loss illustrated through the lens of childhood memories about summertime adventures. Frontwoman Frances Quinlan reflects on memory throughout the album, memories that are pivotal to her – “Powerful Man” describes her fear and failure to intervene when, as a teenager, she saw a young child being abused by his father – but in some cases, the memories may not be the way others involved remember the situation.

Take “Waitress”: Quinlan blows up a frustrating, awkward scene in her head upon seeing somebody walk into her restaurant – “your friend looked over from the bar, she must have known who I was / the worst possible version of what I’d done” – but in reality, the people she’s waiting on may not have given the moment a second thought – “call you enemy because I’m afraid of what you could call me.” It definitely reflects that normal anxiety and overthinking self-consciousness that we are all prone to from time to time. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2014

top 15 albums of 2014
This is the music that moved us this year.

Here at The Key, we’ve gone through four year-end best-of seasons since launching in August of 2010 without weighing in on top albums. Why did we change that this year? Simply put: music in 2014 was outstanding. On the local front, on the national front, from pop to rock to experimental and hip-hop, there was a tremendous offering of front-to-back solid records. Annie Clark got mind-bendy on St. Vincent; Tim Showalter got emotional on HEAL; Sylvan Esso caught us by surprise on their self-titled debut; Cayetana blew up in a big way on their debut Nervous Like Me, voted the best record of the year by our staff of contributors. To narrow it down to the top 15 albums of 2014 is to exclude hundreds of other worthy inclusion, so you can read our contributors’ individual top fives here. Then again, there is power in consensus, and these are the albums we collectively agreed were the best. Continue reading →

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5 songs we hope Neil Young plays in concert at the Academy

Neil Young | Photo by Danny Clinch
Neil Young | Photo by Danny Clinch

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and rock and roll legend Neil Young begins a two night solo acoustic stand tonight at the Academy of Music. With so many incredible albums to pull from – and a new record on the way – Young fans can expect both some classics and some surprises tonight and tomorrow night. Recently, he’s been covering Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe,” and trotting out some of the old faithful classics from Harvest, After The Goldrush, and some new songs. Here’s five songs we hope he plays while in Philly. We hope he plays all your favorites. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Pick: Joe Pug at Johnny Brenda’s

Joe Pug—who, a little over a year ago, released a split 7-inch with Philadelphia’s own Strand Of Oaks—is currently touring behind his new LP, The Great Despiser. You can listen to the title track (which features The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn on backing vocals) below. Joe Pug performs with Vandaveer at 9 p.m. at Johnny Brenda’s; tickets to the 21+ show are $12.