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XPN MusicNotes: Watch the trailer for HBO’s forthcoming documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years

David Bowie
David Bowie | Photo by Jimmy King | courtesy of the artist

“Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about at the right place to do something exciting.” -David Bowie

This coming January 10th will mark the second anniversary of the passing of David Bowie. Two days prior, on Jan. 8th, on what would have been the icon’s 71st birthday, HBO will debut it’s documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Queue

East coast modern rock four-piece Queue has had a wild ride of a 2017. Despite being geographically split between Philadelphia and Washington D.C., the band — a project of singer-songwriter Olivia J. Price and lead guitarist Aida Mekonnen, with bassist Matt Clinkscales and drummer Steve Vannelli filling out the rhythm section — finds time to rehearse weekly, play gigs on the regular…and when the stars align, go somewhat viral.

That’s what happened to their song “Frontier,” a high energy jam with entrancing vocal harmonies and an indelibly catchy guitar lead from Mekonnen zipping you across an anthem about escaping into the unknown. The song was released this spring, landed on Spotify’s coveted Fresh Finds playlist shortly thereafter, and is presently closing in on 60K spins — not too shabby.     Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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Lefty’s Deceiver returns with their first two songs in 14 years

Lefty's Deceiver | photo courtesy of the artist
Lefty’s Deceiver | photo courtesy of the artist

Whether you fancy them math rock, indie rock or rock-rock, Lefty’s Deceiver was a fixture on the Philadelphia scene from the late 90s through the mid aughts, releasing a string of records and EPs that culminated in  2003’s excellent Cheats, a dizzying record of post 9-11 frustration and ennui.

By the middle of the decade, the band had parted ways to pursue various other projects — among them guitarist Ed Hogarty’s The Bigger Lovers, as well as Audible, featuring drummer Mike Kennedy and bassist Kristine Kennedy. However, surred by a Facebook fan group built on the promise of getting clocked in the head with a maraca at a Lefty’s Deceiver gig, the band reunited to play Johnny Brenda’s in 2011, with other shows following at MilkBoy and Boot & Saddle.

Lefty’s’ activity since has been semi-occasional, made a bit trickier by singer-guitarist and songwriter Andy Williams’ relocation to California. But their name recently popped up on the Boot & Saddle events calendar for a December 29th show, and this week we found out that they’re releasing a new record to go along with it. The Lefty’s Deceiver LP comes out on December 25th, and the band’s first two songs in 14 years are online right now.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Young Statues

South Jersey indie rock four piece Young Statues became something of a surprise hit about six years ago.

Led by songwriter Carmen Cirignano, the band started super casually; just a writing and recording project with friends at Haddon Heights hub Gradwell House Recording. Those sessions became their self titled debut, which was picked up by Boston label Run for Cover Records, and Young Statues was off to the races touring with Saves the Day and The Early November.

The band’s sound, undeniably indebted to Death Cab and The Promise Ring, played well with those crowds, but their tastes went beyond the emo canon. Their 2014 sophomore LP The Flatlands are Your Friend, explored darker and moodier sounds and textures, and a covers EP showcased a collective fondness for Billy Bragg, The Magnetic Fields and Ryan Adams. And then life came calling. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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Grace Vonderkuhn shares new track “Worry” ahead of new LP

Grace Vonderkuhn | photo courtesy of the artist
Grace Vonderkuhn | photo courtesy of the artist

Wilmington, Delaware’s Grace Vonderkuhn transcends genre. The musician is inspired by everything from garage and psych rock to dreampop, and does it (mostly) by herself — drummer Dave Mcgrory and bassist Brian Bartling collab with her onstage and instudio to capture on record the wildly energetic essence of her favorite genres with pointed determination.

Vonderkuhn has been releasing a steady stream of songs for the past few years, and now we have a new track to soak in — “Worry” is the first single from Vonderkuhn’s forthcoming LP, due out February 23. It’ll be the artist’s first full-length, but you can find her previous releases on Bandcamp. Continue reading →

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Items Tagged Philadelphia: And so it goes, some things are meant to be

Overwinter | photo by facebook.com/overwinterpa

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

Oh my. Has it really been… *gulp* …43 days since our last edition of Items Tagged Philadelphia? Kindly disregard the word “weekly” in that intro blurb up there, and trust me when I say that I never stopped listening to all the amazing Philadelphia music making its way on to Bandcamp this autumn, even if I fell short on time to tell y’all about it.

Hopefully today’s installment, which rounds up some 24 releases that I dug in recent weeks, will make up for it. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Ryan Tennis

Somewhere, somehow, Ryan Tennis is probably playing music right now. The Philly singer-songwriter has logged quite a few frequent flyer miles this year, between his summer tour in Colombia and the autumn European run he just completed with percussionist Joseph Keim. Both excursions mixed up busking shows and venue performances, and we caught up with Tennis and his band in the between-time this fall when he and his full band were home in Philly. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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The Key Studio Sessions: Killiam Shakespeare

Over the past few years, Philadelphia’s Killiam Shakespeare has become known for its nimble incorporation of sick beats and space age instrumental sprawl with skilled under-the-radar rappers and singers from all around the Philly scene. In that context, this five-piece sounds like a production unit cranking out some seriously left-of-center beats and backings for the next generation of local hip-hop and R&B (not to mention legends — they had a Freeway collab on last year’s Killiam Season1). But take away the voices, and just listen to the music — like we hear in this week’s Key Studio Session — and it becomes something else altogether.   Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2017

This is the music that moved us this year

As far as years go, 2017 was…complicated. And so it stands to reason that The Key’s annual go at determining the top 15 albums of the year — the records that resonated the most with us, the collections of songs that best captured the spirit of the past twelve months — was no straightforward affair.

In 2017, we thrilled to the reflective psych-rock sprawl of Philly’s The War on Drugs, a seasoned band delivering its most confident and refined artistic statement to date. We also heard the hushed introspection of Big Thief‘s sophomore album, which transformed trauma and pain into beautiful atmospheric folk. Artists looked deeply inward to discover raw personal truths, whether we’re talking about U.K. singer-songwriter Sampha, Philly newcomers Katie Ellen or hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, sounding more down to earth and honest than he has in years (decades?). They refused, as Lorde and (Sandy) Alex G did, to be confined by boxed-in preconceptions of their work, and pushed their chops into new territories, whether they be on album three (The Districts) or nine (Spoon).

A common thread was embracing vulnerability, practicing self-reflection and finding inner strength. That’s the story of albums by Waxahatchee and Harmony Woods, Cayetana and Kelela. It’s also an undercurrent to Kendrick Lamar‘s remarkable DAMN., which The Key’s contributors rallied around to vote it number one album of the year. Our John Morrison does a deep dive on the record, dissecting its nuanced pairing of hard-hitting hip-hop production with complex themes about fear and internal conflict, virtue and vice, weakness and wickedness and whether those traits make us flawed.

Last year, you’ll recall, was also a complicated year. It left many in artistic circles revving up to fight and affect change…and some, like Hurray for the Riff Raff, chased that impulse with thrilling results. But it seems that the records that stuck with us the most at year’s end are all saying, in one way or another, that before we go out to better the world, we need to look within and (to borrow a phrase from Adam Granduciel and co.) gain a deeper understanding of ourselves. – John Vettese Continue reading →

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PREMIERE: Aphra navigates the complexities of grief in the new video for “Honey”

Aphra
Aphra’s Honey | still from video

Rebecca Waychunas, the woman behind Philadelphia emotive etherial pop outfit Aphra, has had a heavy year. On the one end, she released her moving debut, Sadness is a Gesture, on west coast label Inherent Sounds back in February. On the other end, she faced a series of personal tragedies these past twelve months, including the passing of her mother, Annunziata (Nancy) Geraldine D’Orazio. “She was an internationally well known progressive house DJ in the late 80s to early 2000s,” Waychunas remembers over email. “She was a good mom.”

But the grieving process is never a straightforward thing, and Aphra’s new music video for “Honey” — a song we first heard in her Key Studio Session a year ago — navigates its tensions and complexities, its feelings of anger and resentment, as we see Waychunas performing a gripping modern dance in a dimly lit room, where two characters reach various points of personal conflict. The video was choreographed by Megan Matuzak and filmed by Ella Miller and Tim O’Donnell at Underground Arts.

Continue reading →