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The Key Studio Sessions: Sophie Coran

Making music is a process of constant re-invention. Meticulously crafted studio recordings are re-shaped onstage, the onstage energy influences the direction of the next studio recordings, and the cycle continues back and forth over an artist’s lifespan.

Sophie Coran has already experienced quite a bit of that in her four years as a singer and songwriter working around Philadelphia. Her earliest work, the Better EP from 2015, took on a piano-driven identity in the vein of Carly Simon and Paula Cole. Last year, her follow-up, All that Matters, folded in elements of jazz and soul. And as Coran began playing shows around town in support of that release, she connected with Logan Roth and Arjun Dube of the experimental instrumental band Trap Rabbit. They became her live band, and the chemistry she developed with them — as well as bassist Mike Morrongiello — pushed her music into new realms.

The recent “Duller Star” single is the first example we’re hearing of collaboration. It’s a song that breathes in a husky tenor, its melodic skeleton fusing with Roth’s layers of synthesizer soundbanks and melodic leads to create an arty pop air reminiscent of Fiona Apple. There’s also a rhythmic pulse, care of Dube, that isn’t too far off from the crowd-galvanizing concepts of EDM.

Watch the video below as the song opens on a solitary Coran, playing her Nord and singing about a cigarette abandoned on the nightstand. As the verse progress, Morrongiello’s bass enters along with Roth’s keys, gently at first, and then becoming more defined. They unite with Dube’s drum stand pings and light rhythms, until the cymbals emphatically swish, then breathlessly cut to silence at the end of the pre-chorus. The beat drops. The song is under way. And as I said in an NPR blurb about Coran earlier this week, it will “in its own, downtempo jazz-pop kind of way, get you moving.”

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Listen to The Black Keys’ brand new three-minute ripper “Lo / Hi”

The Black Keys | photo by Alysse Gafkjen | courtesy of the artist

Akron, Ohio rock two-piece The Black Keys have released their first new song in five years. “Lo / Hi,” out now via Nonesuch, is a three-minute ripper with a “Spirit in the Sky” style fuzzrock riff and a hammering refrain that is destined for immediate heavy rotation (but don’t worry — it’s not a song you’ll tire of easily). Continue reading →

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Watch Tierra Whack perform “Only Child” and “Hungry Hippo” on Jimmy Kimmel Live, listen to her new single “Gloria”

Tierra Whack | still from video

“1…2…3…Whack!”

On Monday night, rising hip-hop star and Philly’s own Tierra Whack performed two singles on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Whack is known for her imaginative aesthetic and short but powerful singles. Her debut album, Whack World, was made up of fifteen songs in fifteen minutes. You heard that right. Each song is a mere one-minute long but don’t let their brevity fool you. They are dense songs that are as clever as they are short.

For her Kimmel performance, Whack wore a fire-engine red two piece adorned with stuffed animals and a pair of graphic eyeball earrings. Continue reading →

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Augusta Koch launches a digital diary with “March 1st.”

Cayetana | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

Local songwriter Augusta Koch has thought up a new way to fight the Philly winter blues: “For the month of March I’m gonna post a song every Friday (even if it’s a shitty garage band recording.) I’m thinking of it as digital diary of sorts.” she tweeted last week. The first song in the series, appropriately titled “march 1st.,” is out now. Continue reading →

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Strand of Oaks opens up with new single “Keys”

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

Strand of Oaks‘ frontman Timothy Showalter has released another single off his upcoming album Eraserland this week. The single is called “Key” and is dedicated to his wife, Sue. Showalter says that he has struggled to “properly write” about the love he has for Sue but he endeavors to do just that in this poignant new track.

Following the release of two other singles from the album, “Weird Ways” and “Ruby”, “Keys” is markedly stripped back. It opens with echoing guitar, electric organ, bass, and drums that take a moment to lock into strict time. The whole song feels akin to walking the train tracks or staring out a cab window while contemplating one’s life until this point. Showalter says it best with his lyric: “Then the train pulls up / And there you are / The reason why I write my songs.” “Keys” is a tribute to enduring love, the kind that sticks by you during the tough times and gains perspective through the years. Continue reading →

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Bethlehem and Sad Patrick find strength in minimalism on Love and Other Struggles

Bethlehem and Sad Patrick | via facebook.com/besadmusic

Philly vocal and guitar duo Bethlehem and Sad Patrick are back with a heartfelt new album called Love and Other Struggles. The local pair use minimalism to their advantage, crafting delicate and thoughtful songs about everything from love to life in the city to the fight against racism and intolerance with a gentle poetic edge. Continue reading →

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Jacqueline Constance gets emotional on new single “Carl Thomas”

Jacqueline Constance | photo via facebook.com/Jacqconmusic

The new single from Jacqueline Constance comes quite close to falling into the “answer songs” category — the folk-adjacent tradition where one songwriter’s work thematically responds another songwriter’s work, and they move back and forth in free-flowing creative conversation.

Typically that designation involves intertwining story lines, and it’s not quite certain if the scene Constance sets is picking up where someone else left off. Continue reading →

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The Dove & The Wolf’s bond is strong as ever on “Free Around You”

The Dove & The Wolf | photo by Marcus Maddox

The Dove & The Wolf have shared a third single from their forthcoming album, Conversations. Though we first heard “Free Around You” during the band’s Audiotree session in 2017, it’s been reworked for the new album. Conversations, which will be the French-American duo’s first full-length, is out May 3.

After moving stateside from France, the duo of Paloma Gil and Lou Hayat spent several years here in Philly. Though they’ve now moved on — they’re currently split between Nashville and Paris — their cohesion as a songwriting duo is stronger than ever. Continue reading →

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Philly artist Kiro Heck’s debut single “Daily Waves” wants you to opt in

Kiro Heck | photo by Rebecca Aronow | courtesy of the artist

Local artist Kiro Heck is premiering his brand new single “Daily Waves” this week. This artist is so local, in fact, that he used to be an intern for us here at the Key in 2017. Then, he was Chad the Intern, but now Chad Snyder has taken on a new moniker and produced his first full-length album, Pound of Feathers, with the help of Joe Michelini from American Trappist.

Kiro Heck’s debut single “Daily Waves” features ringing guitar, a tight drum loop, and Heck’s reverberating, melancholy voice. It feels energetic and serene at once and lyrics like “I spent a year without you / I was sitting on my hands” resonate with any listener who has ever regretted spending a year on the couch rather than chasing down their dreams. Continue reading →