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Slow down time with Strand of Oaks’ heartwarming home movie music video for “Ruby”

Strand of Oaks | photo by Alysse Gafkajen | courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia’s Strand of Oaks is readying the spring release of its sixth LP, Eraserland, and today frontman Tim Showalter brings us another taste of the record. Following the pensive build-and-burn of album opener “Weird Ways,” this teaser is a joyous pop anthem called “Ruby,” built around a ringing chord progression, snappy staccato keys, and a hooky refrain about not losing sight of the joy in life as time marches on: “Ruby, won’t you slow it down, this is happening so fast.”

“Ruby is by far one of the happiest songs I’ve ever written, unabashedly so,” Showalter writes on Twitter. “I know this seems like strange, uncharted waters for the Oaks catalog and especially Eraserland, but even the darkest night has a dawn. This is a song about the time and how with each year passing it feels like a dream.” Continue reading →

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Watch Gary Clark Jr. play “Pearl Cadillac” and “This Land” on SNL

Gary Clark Jr. on SNL | still from video

Saturday Night Live has had a fairly strong roster of musical guests this season — this past weekend, we got to see XPN favorite Gary Clark Jr. make his debut on the stage of Studio 8H. The Texas blues rocker appeared on the Don Cheadle-hosted episode to perform two songs off his forthcoming album This Land, starting off with the falsetto-heavy “Pearl Cadillac” followed by the powerful title track. It’s always surreal to see a familiar artist on the iconic stage, and at four and a half minutes each, Clark’s performances got quite a bit of screen time. Continue reading →

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Yarrow showcases its live energy and heavy pop chops in the new “Tambourine” video

Yarrow | photo by Meghann Altomare | courtesy of the artist

If you haven’t yet had a chance to catch Philly three-piece Yarrow live, you can get an idea of what the band is all about thanks to their new video. Yarrow first came onto the scene last year and just released their debut EP, A Mild Circus, on local label Get Better Records. Shot in West Philly in the eerie setting of an empty light-filled warehouse, the new video for “Tambourine” gives us a glimpse at how the band combines their different influences and styles into their unique sound, which lends itself to a dynamic performance. Continue reading →

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Kurt Vile performs “Yeah Bones” on Late Night With Seth Meyers

Kurt Vile on Seth Meyers | photo by Lloyd Bishop | via Matador Records

Philly’s Kurt Vile returned to late-night television this week for a performance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. The band rocked a speedy and skittish version of “Yeah Bones,” a song from last year’s Bottle It In that is instrumentally complex (the closest Vile has gotten to math rock, perhaps) but is melodically incredibly poppy. Which is trademark KV: mixing the weird with the widely accessible.  Continue reading →

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Black Thought teams up with Adrian Younge for new single “Noir”

Black Thought | photo courtesy of the artist

Philly rapper Black Thought stepped into the spotlight in a big way in 2018. After 25 years at the front of local hip-hop icons The Roots, Thought released his long-awaited solo debut in two parts: Streams of Thought was split up into two EP releases, with Volume 1 dropping in the spring just ahead of the Roots Picnic, and Volume 2 hitting later in the fall.

Now we’ve got a even newer track from him: “Noir” was released today as an Amazon Music exclusive for the Produced By series, which paris artists with prominent producers to work on a new exclusive cut. “Noir” finds Thought teamed up with Los Angeles composer Adrian Younge, who has worked on tracks for Wu-Tang Clan, Common, Gallant, Kendrick Lamar…but not with Thought or The Roots prior to this.

Based in Cali, Younge’s style is very classic and cinematic, and we hear that in the song, which is built around sweeping string arrangements, complex rhythms, and atmospheric woodwind harmonies…with an appropriate amount of scratching. Continue reading →

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Mal Blum needs to be heard on “Things Still Left To Say”

Mal Blum | photo by Emma Mead

Before they head out on tour next month, Mal Blum has shared some new music — their first in three years. Out now via Don Giovanni Records, “Things Still Left To Say” is a deceptively upbeat song that tackles themes of loneliness and vulnerability as Blum realizes that too many things have been left unsaid. The New York singer-songwriter, who’s spent the better part of the last few years on the road, is joined by friends and fans in the accompanying video to share the sentiment of the song while making sure their own voice is finally heard. Continue reading →

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Aspect Ratio fuses lo-fi rock and cult cinema in its debut “Davenport” single

Aspect Ratio | photo by James Gross | via facebook.com/aspectratiophilly

Philly indie scene vets Carly Marcoux and Joshua Alvarez have teamed up in a new lo-fi pop project called Aspect Ratio, and the band’s first digital single hit the internet yesterday. The project fuses not only the bandmates’ love of homemade independent music, but also classic cult cinema.

Continue reading →

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M Is For Musician: Watch Questlove and Grover have a drum-off on Sesame Street

Questlove on Sesame Street | still from video

It’s not like we needed any proof that Questlove could drum better than a Muppet (much, much better), but on a recent episode of Sesame Street called “The Big Pretend Band”, he proved it. Paired off against Grover, the “M is for Musician” sketch finds The Roots’ percussionist getting a drum lesson frim the fuzzy blue monster — while also color-coordinating his own attire with a blue hoodie and dapper blue-framed glasses — only to show him up with a sick solo after swapping a few basic beats, and a drum-off ensues. Continue reading →

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The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia: “Love Train” by The O’Jays

The O’Jays single for Love Train

Every day leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, The Key is recapping 14 songs that scream “love” just as strongly as they scream “Philly.” The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia continues with “Love Train” from The O’Jays’ 1972 album Back Stabbers.

In some ways, we’ve saved the best for last. The most unifying, the most uplifting, the most iconic.

“Love Train” is also the only Essential Love Song of Philadelphia that was not made by a Philadelphia band. Canton, Ohio pop vocal ensemble The O’Jays spent the 60s kicking around as a five-piece with single releases here and there that occasionally gained some notoriety on the R&B charts (“Lipstick Traces” being the most notable) but never broke through to the top, nor to the overall Billboard Top 40. By 1972, the band was at a crossroads that saw founding members Bill Isles and Bobby Massey part ways with their bandmates Walter Williams, Eric Grant, and Eddie Levert. Ironically, this was where The O’Jays’ fortunes began to change, with the newly-minted trio coming under the wings of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Kayleigh Goldsworthy

We were fortunate enough this week to catch Kayleigh Goldsworthy in a rare moment of respite.

Whether residing or just passing through, the singer-songwriter and guitarist has been all around these United States — many of the places that pop up in her songs, like Portland and Nashville and New York — and for the past year and change, she’s called Philadelphia home. The concept of “home” in some ways is a bit nebulous, though, since Goldsworthy is always on the go. Continue reading →