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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 →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brian Wilensky’s favorite hype labels of 2018

photo by Brian Wilensky for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key vinylologist Brian Wilensky unpacks the part of the record that often goes overlooked: the hype label.

Chances are you bought a record or two this year, and paid little mind to the hype label slapped on the shrink wrap. Maybe you briefly glanced over it while frantically tearing the plastic from the corner of the sleeve to release the album from the its embrace. Maybe you contemplated the verbiage on the sticker while in the store, pushing you to put the hammer down on a $22.67 LP that you’ve only hear good things about. These labels, as innocuous as many of them can be, deserve some recognition.

The hype label is the last piece of bait, at least if you’re shopping in a store, that the record label and/or artist has to reel in the listener, rather, consumer. They’re important in that they’re supplemental to the album art, an additional piece that’s often communicative for what’s seen on the cover, but also suggestive of what’s to come aurally. But they’re intriguing in how easily they can be overlooked. Which in turn, they often get thrown out. And saving them? Well, who really wants to cut the plastic wrap just to save the sticker? Where would you store it – in the sleeve with the album? It’ll probably get crushed, much like that annoying download card that will never be redeemed. Keep it in a binder or collage? Sure, that sounds nice but also sounds like extra work and I’m not very crafty.

If I like one enough, whether for the language or design, I’ll save it by ever so carefully slitting the cellophane, forever preserving the sleeve in its original wrap and keeping these stickers intact and where they belong: with the record. Here are a few of my favorite hype labels of 2018. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Yoni Kroll’s best new bands of 2018

Yarrow | photo via yarrowphl.bandcamp.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributor Yoni Kroll recaps his favorite bands that started in 2018.

What we want from bands is at times a very amusing catch 22: they need to be perfect but not polished, experienced but with a youthful electric energy permeating everything. It’s why you hear people talk crap on new bands. They’re young, they’re inexperienced, they’re doing something new or different or maybe not different at all. It’s why my roommate when I was 20 couldn’t stop talking about how every band I was getting into wasn’t as good as NOFX. True story.

But you know what? I’d rather see a bunch of new bands trying to figure it out than a bunch of old people going through the motions. It’s generally more fun and more interesting. Sure, you might not be able to sing along, but is that really your only criteria for enjoying a band? This year I got to see a bunch of bands that were either just starting or recently coalesced from ‘project’ to actual performance. That includes groups formed for the First Time’s the Charm 2018, a biennial concert held last July “made up of entirely new bands that must include women, people of color, queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, and those with disabilities” all playing their first sets ever.

The goal for the event, which I helped organize, was to create a space for those who have been marginalized in our music communities. It was a resounding success, we donated $1500 to music education non-profit Beyond the Bars, and most importantly eight brand new bands were unleashed on Philadelphia. While continuing past that initial performance is not necessarily a goal of the event, a number of bands from this year and past First Time’s the Charm concerts are still playing out regularly. That includes Teenage Bigfoot and Marge from the 2013 edition, Aster More, Taxes, and Full Bush from 2016, and Babe Grenade, Pritty Gritty, and GRIT from this past year. And yes, those are two bands with ‘Gritty’ in their names well before it was cool to do so. That’s how awesome First Time’s the Charm really is.

Without further ado, here’s some of the best new bands that I saw in the past year. Most of them don’t have any recordings yet, so keep an ear to the ground for that. Think of this also as a list of bands to look for in the coming year because I’m sure they’ll all be doing cool stuff. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year End Mania: Ellen Miller’s best commute music of 2018

Julien Baker | Photo by: Ellen Miller | ellencm.com
Julien Baker | Photo by Ellen Miller for WXPN | ellencm.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key photographer Ellen Miller shares her best music for car-rides in 2018.

From early morning drives to beat the sun, to spending lunchtime on the road moving from one job to the next, to the late night drives home from a shoot — this year, I found myself drawn to particular artists or songs at various times of the day. I go everywhere all the time for jobs, and in 2018 I’ve definitely spent more time driving all over greater Philadelphia than using SEPTA, compared to years past. When in the car that much, it’s nice to have variety in what you listen to. Sometimes I’d just throw the radio on and occasionally I’d prefer silence for a bit, but often times I’d make playlists to put me in the right mindset for going to a shoot or to relax myself after a shoot. Below are my most listened to songs and artists during my commutes at various times of day in 2018. Continue reading →

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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 →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Bruce Warren’s top five Philly jawns of 2018

Armani White at Made In America | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, XPN program director Bruce Warren reflects on his favorite Philly moments of the year.

5. The rise of &More

Early in 2018, word dropped about a new musical collaboration, &More, between Philly rapper Chill Moody and singer Donn T. One of Philly’s most exciting new collaborations this year, watching their musical lovechild grow has been exciting. Their first public appearance was as part of the lineup of local bands for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest on the Road at World Cafe Live, they’ve been on the road with Philly rock and rollers, Low Cut Connie, and they put on a great show at the XPoNential Music Festival in July. 2019 has some big things in store for &More; the next chance you get you should see them. Their synthesis of R&B and hip-hop is intoxicating.

Below, watch &More perform “My Own Light” at XPNFest. Continue reading →