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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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Meek Mill flexes his increased social consciousness on Championship

Meek Mill | photo via facebook.com/MeekMill

In a recent New York Times op-ed, South Philly-born, North Philly-raised rapper Meek Mill laid out a harrowing first-person account of how he has been railroaded by a lying cop and a judge with a grudge. Reading through this sad and horrific account, a broader question begs to be asked: if this could happen to a rich and famous Black Man, how many others have had their lives swallowed up by an unfathomably cruel and racist justice system?

Since his dramatic helicopter-led release from prison before game five of the Sixers vs. Heat playoff series, Meek has (metaphorically) hit the ground running. Dropping new music, spearheading several charitable efforts in the city, and refashioning himself as an advocate for criminal justice reform. Earlier in the year, his song “Dreams and Nightmares (Intro)” served as the official soundtrack of the Philadelphia Eagles storied Super Bowl run. As he sat in a cell, the streets were filled with his music while the people organized mass rallies demanding he be freed. Meek Mill had become the spiritual symbol of a city’s ambition and determination, but more importantly, his celebrity and (most of) his music would come to represent something bigger. Continue reading →

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Hear Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus in supergroup form on the boygenius EP

Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus | photo by Lera Pentelute | courtesy of the artists

After generating two months’ worth of buzz following the announcement of their new project boygenius, the three artists behind the supergroup have released their self-titled debut EP two weeks early. The collaborators, Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, formed a fast friendship when they crossed paths while touring behind their individual solo material. When the trio of singer-songwriters finally booked a tour together, the idea to collaborate took form, and the result, a six-track EP under the name boygenius, is out today digitally. Continue reading →

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Restorations brings a wiser perspective to LP5000, now streaming at NPR First Listen

Restorations

Restorations | photo by Emily Dubin | courtesy of the artist

Philly indie five-piece Restorations conceived their latest album LP5000 during a period of turmoil and transition. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, and facing setbacks within the independent realm of the music industry, the band took a mental health break. Each member pursued their own projects or made strives in their personal lives: for Jon Loudon, the giant leap was marriage, for Dave Klyman it was heading to grad school, and for Ben Pierce it was opening his own vegan restaurant in South Philly, The Tasty. After switching record labels and taking time to get it together, the band returned for this piece of work — which is streaming a week ahead of its release date over at NPR Music. Full of reflective songwriting and pensive lyrics, LP5000 portrays a slightly wiser perspective and heightened awareness of the world. Continue reading →

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Prince probably never wanted us to hear Piano & A Microphone 1983

Prince’s Piano and a Microphone 1983

Prince‘s death is potentially the greatest moneymaker his estate could ever ask for. With the notoriously picky and reserved artist no longer at the reins, they are not only free make his music more widely accessible — finally making much of his discography available on streaming services last year — but they’re also free to dig into his legendary Paisley Park vault. With today’s release of the first posthumous Prince album, the rest of us stay caught between the allure of more classic Prince and the certainty that we’re experiencing his art in a way he never would have wanted. Continue reading →

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Listen to Cave People get vulnerable on a bare-boned EP

Cave People | photo courtesy of the artist

Local PA indie rock outfit Cave People just dropped their new EP Salt, recorded by Joe Michelini (of American Trappist) at Berlin Studios. The band announced that all the proceeds collected will help fund Juntos, a Philly-based organization that is fighting for immigrant rights.

“Are You Looking,” is a bare-boned acoustic track that carves out space within itself. Frontman Dave Tomaine’s voice shakes with vulnerability as he echoes the self-conscious titular question. Chiming keyboard notes leave faintly treading footsteps behind a delicate web of fretwork. “Lather” demonstrates a similarly impressive layering of guitar and piano, creating a cinematic taxi-cab-pulling-away-after-dramatic-goodbye vibe. Here is Cave People shrinking, Cave People at their smallest.  Continue reading →

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Full Bush’s self-titled LP takes aim at the patriarchy with shocking directness

Full Bush | via facebook.com/FullBushBand

On their self titled debut LP, Full Bush reveal themselves as the rare kind of band that defies any expectation. Their songs unfold like stories from the wittiest person you know, so spontaneous they feel improvised but so seamlessly constructed you’d think they were rehearsed for years. And like a great story, once you hear the beginning, you can’t stop listening until you hear the payoff. Continue reading →

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Listen to Gene Wildest’s genre bending stoner opus Spectral Terrestrial

Gene Wildest | photo via genewildest.com

It’s not easy to write an introduction for Gene Wildest. The Philadelphia rockers can channel the whole of guitar-rock history in the span of a song, mixing genres as freely as spices. On their new LP, Spectral Terrestrial, GW draw from doom metal, space rock, shoegaze, math rock, and more to sustain an absorbing spaced-out atmosphere. Continue reading →