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The Skeleton Key: Ring in 2019 with Tuareg desert jams, the return of chiptune legends Chromelodeon, Kenyan benga rock n’ roll, and so much more

Hank Wood | photo by Yoni Kroll

I forget, are we supposed to take flying cars to the gig or just view it on our VR goggles? The future is so complicated.

Welcome to 2019! I hope you’re all totally recovered from whatever you did to yourself on Tuesday and Wednesday and ready to tackle the new year. There’s a lot to look forward to over the next twelve months. Hell, there’s a lot to look forward to just between now and February. So let’s get started with the year’s first Skeleton Key, your monthly news and gossip column covering all things Philadelphia DIY. Continue reading →

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Round Guys Brewing Company is celebrating Philly Loves Bowie Week with five themed beers

Round Guys’ Brewery’s Bowie-themed Buddha of Suburbia can art | illustration by Keith Warren Greiman

Philly Loves Bowie Week is upon us once again. For the past three years, local fans of David Bowie have dedicated the second week in January to a celebration of the iconic artist’s life and work. Two years ago, Philly mayor Jim Kenney even made it official with a special proclamation. The third annual Bowie Week returns this Friday, January 4, and runs through the 13th. There’s a packed schedule of events that includes everything from an art show, to a masquerade ball, to karaoke, all at various locations across the city.

But the suburbs love Bowie too, and this year some folks outside of the city are joining in on the action. Particularly in Lansdale, where local brewery Round Guys Brewing Company has been brewing Bowie-themed beers since the first Bowie Week in 2016. Continue reading →

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Listen to XPN’s 25 most-played songs of 2018

Death Cab for Cutie | photo by John Vettese for WXPN // Leon Bridges | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN // Natalie Prass | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN

Beginning at noon today, WXPN will count down its listener-voted top 50 best songs of the year…but before we get to that, let’s take a look at the station’s most played songs of the year.

The programming staff crunched the numbers and came up with 25 artists that were in the mix the most this year; XPNFest vets (David Byrne, Natalie Prass, Courtney Marie Andrews), Philly favorites (The War on Drugs, Dr. Dog), and generally awesome artists (Courtney Barnett, Leon Bridges, Neko Case, Caroline Rose). Take a listen below, and tune in for the top 50 beginning at noon. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Directors’ Cut — The XPN video team picks its favorite performances of the year

Jupiter and Okwess | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, World Cafe videographers John Groome and Galea McGregor share their top performances of the year.

Two of the hardest working people at WXPN are easily Galea McGregor and John Groome, our two in-house videographers who document practically everything that happens at the station. Free at Noon concerts, World Cafe sessions, NonCOMM, the XPoNential Music Festival — they see and hear just about ever performance that happens in our little world, and they are arguably the most qualified to say what the best performances of the year are. Here are their picks. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Senia Lopez’s best album artwork of 2018

from left, Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer, Found Wild’s self-titled, Travis Scott’s Astroworld

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key photographer  Senia Lopez breaks down some of the best album covers of the year.

I used to intern for The Key as a photographer over the summer. It was an incredible time to build my music portfolio and to learn so much more about music (especially local artists). When the time came for Year-End Mania I knew I wanted to be involved, but wanted to leave the music reporting to the professionals at The Key. I wanted to talk about something more in my wheelhouse, visual art. I wanted to talk about some the best album covers of the year.

When approaching this list, I thought about what covers made the viewer stop and look at the art longer, which covers made the viewer more interested in hearing the music, and images that were unique or impressive as just visual art pieces alone. This list has nothing to do with the content of the music (though some of these albums did make my top list this year). I tried to be as unbiased as possible, but I cannot help but be drawn to more photographic works. Continue reading →

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Far beyond Philly, Meek has inherited the earth: The Year in Milly 2018

Meek Mill at Made In America | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Drake might have moved more units. Pusha T might stirred more shit. Childish Gambino might have made more multi-media moves. Offset might have truly fucked up by cheating on Cardi B. Kayne West is a MAGA-hat-wearing-imbecile.

Yet, when it came to snaring headlines for something solid beyond gossip and innuendo – and winding up with a surprisingly rich and righteously different new album in Championships – Philadelphia Meek Mill took the cake and made all the right moves in 2018. Not only was he able to pour the milk of human kindness on thick (beef squashing with longtime rival, Drake), Philly’s Milly became the wisely wordy brand ambassador for the anti-prison complex establishment after his time in the joint.

I don’t agree with Mill all the time or think his word is gospel, but in 2018, Meek showed that he cares, and is looking to make a difference. That says a lot in 2018, for any artist or man.

Here’s a rundown of Meek Mill’s year. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Running Away With 2018 — Rob Huff’s favorite music to marathon to

Robyn | via NPR Music

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key writer Rob Huff shares a playlist of music that motivated him through the Philadelphia Marathon.

Just keep moving.

It’s a sentiment that can feel both tired and tiring. Yet at the same time, it’s the only ambition that feels attainable in adulthood. And that’s under the best of circumstances. This year, it was an ambition I decided to amplify as a recreational runner when I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon, my first ever.

As one of the few healthy habits I have, running has proven downright lifesaving amidst the injustice and insanity of the past two years. It’s cleansing yet calming, lending itself simultaneously to deep focus and a welcome absence of thought. As my weekly training routine grew longer and more time consuming, it also became a chance for me to dive into music in a manner that life hadn’t truly allowed in some time. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: DIY Crystal Ball — Yoni Kroll’s most anticipated Philly music happenings of 2019

photo by Farrah Skeiky via facebook.com/breakfreefest

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key writer Yoni Kroll takes a look at what’s ahead in the local DIY scene.

When I was at Drexel I took this class on “Sociology of the Future” where a big chunk of what we did was learn how to make accurate predictions of what’s to come based on analysis of the past and present. Pretty cool, right? I’d like to say that I learned a lot about prognostication and general soothsaying in this class but considering my, uhh, educational fortitude back then it’s doubtful I showed up half the time.

Still, I don’t need a crystal ball to tell all of you about some of the amazing things we have to look forward to in 2019. So put away those tea leaves and save those complicated star charts for another time and let’s take a look at everything in store for us over the next twelve months. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Dylan Eddinger’s top places to grab a pre-show snack

Love City Brewing | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key photographer Dylan Eddinger shares his favorite spots to grab food before a gig.

When you head out to the city for a great gig, there are usually two things on your mind. One is evaluating just how awesome the show is going to be, and two is wondering what you’re going to do to satisfy your hunger before standing through a two-hour concert. To help out with that second question, here are some of my favorite places to get a pre-concert snack. Continue reading →