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The Week Ahead: Phosphorescent, Ingrid Michaelson, Cat Power, Bouncing Souls

Cat Power
Cat Power | photo by Eliot Lee Hazel | courtesy of the artist

We’re in the year-end wind-down zone, but that doesn’t mean you should plan on spending the next week huddling up at home and binge watching Schitt’s Creek (though that wouldn’t be a terrible idea in moderation). We’ve flagged a several shows that are totally worth your attention, beginning tomorrow night with rock legend Ronnie Spector in Bethlehem, and carrying through Sunday when Bouncing Souls take on The Queen in Wilmington. Here are 12 concerts you can see in the next seven days all around Philadelphia. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Lucy Dacus will headline Union Transfer in March

Lucy Dacus | courtesy of Matador Records

After a busy 2018, Lucy Dacus has just announced her next tour, which will bring her to Union Transfer on March 21 for her biggest Philly show yet. The tour will take Dacus up and down the East Coast and through the Midwest, stopping in some smaller cities she’s never played before. She’ll be joined by illuminati hotties for the first leg and Mal Blum and Fenne Lily for the second leg. Continue reading →

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Philly gets a ticket to ASTROWORLD with Travis Scott

Travis Scott | photo by Isaiah Spicer for WXPN | iospicer.com

It’s safe to say that hip hop artist Travis Scott is having one of, if not the biggest run of his career. After releasing his third album (and first to garner mass critical acclaim), ASTROWORLD, and dominating the charts with hits like “Sicko Mode” and “Stargazing” throughout the summer, the Houston rapper has been bringing heat for the fall and winter with his Astroworld: Wish You Were Here Tour. If you were at the sold out Wells Fargo Center this past Saturday then you may have felt that your wish was granted by being there in and witnessing young La Flame rage through the late night with his die hard Philadelphia fans. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Strand of Oaks, Ivy Sole, Mavis Staples, Swearin’ and more

Ivy Sole at SXSW | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

From alt rock heros to rising stars in hip-hop, a Philly favorite taking over three nights at Boot and Saddle in South Philly, while a soul queen posts up for two nights at World Cafe Live in University City. And the time of year being what it is, there are not one, not two, but three holiday shows on the calendar this week. Here are 16 concerts to see in the next seven days all around Philadelphia.  Continue reading →

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Listen to Julia Rainer’s satirical, socially aware “I’m Not Like You”

Julia Rainer | photo via juliarainermusic.bandcamp.com

“Fear is a powerful enemy — it put a bigot in the White House,” warns Julia Rainer. Her new track “I’m Not Like You” was born out of anger, frustration and fear. “I’m afraid all the time,” she repeats, describing and in some ways satirizing the hatred and intolerance between clashing belief systems. Continue reading →

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Kofie Carter flips negativity into shine on his new single “No Shade”

Kofie | photo courtesy of the artist

Emerging Philadelphia rapper Kofie Carter has been developing a distinctive style for himself over the past year, whether you’re talking about the prominence of bright yellow in his wardrobe choices, or the heady mix of U.S. trap textures with rhythmic patterns and vocal cadences inspired by the pop music of Ghana, where his family hails from.

Earlier this month, Carter released “No Shade,” a single teasing the full-length project 7%, which he plans to release in January. On this one, mellow and meditative synths offset the wind-up hi-hats and thunking kicks as Carter trades vocals with B’chillz, an MC from Lusaka, Zambia, the two of them meditating on living one’s best life and fighting disrespect with shine.

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Philly Jazz Guide: Top picks for live music around town in December

Laurin Talese | photo courtesy of the artist

Another hectic year is coming to a close, which for those of us who spend our time ingesting music and trying to string words together in response means that it’s list-making time. You can seek out my Top 5, and expanded / slightly different lists elsewhere, a little later this month. But a few quick mentions of some albums that shouldn’t go unnoticed this year: the ambitious trumpeter/composer Ambrose Akinmusire has crafted an utterly singular hybrid of diverse influences on his staggering Origami Harvet (Blue Note), while the great guitarist Bill Frisell released a heartrendingly gorgeous career highlight with Music IS. If I can stray from the jazz fold for a moment, I also spent a lot of time this year with Philly choir The Crossing’s monumental new album If There Were Water (Innova), highlighted by Stratis Minakakais’ ancient-meets-unexplored “Crossings Cycle,” with Ryley Walker’s mesmerizing Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans), and with Revocation’s blistering The Outer Ones (Metal Blade), which unleashed my inner Beavis with each listen. Continue reading →

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Self-Discovery and Sincere Pop: In conversation with Helena Deland

Helena Deland
Helena Deland | photo by Jodi Heartz | courtesy of the artist

Patience is a virtue too often underestimated in today’s musical climate. When even the biggest pop stars of the world have taken to releasing their albums with little to no advanced notice, it can be easy to miss artists that take their time introducing their music, and themselves, to the world.

Take Montreal up and comer Helena Deland, for example. Over the past year, she’s slowly but surely made herself known by releasing a just handful of songs at a time, like a bedroom pop Body Talk. These songs, “volumes” of a collection called From the Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied”, cover as wide a range of genres as they do feelings. Those emotions and genres come together under the umbrella of what Deland calls “sincere pop”. She’ll be presenting these songs, along with what could potentially be on her proper debut LP in time, via a run of U.S. shows through the first half of December that will include a stop at Philly’s own Johnny Brenda’s next Wednesday, December 5th.

Before those shows kick off, Helena was gracious enough to chat with The Key about what motivated her release schedule this year, what to expect on stage and on record, and how her view has changed on what pop music is and can be. Continue reading →

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Music of Metamorphosis: Inside the Butterfly Pavilion performance from Portland’s Visible Cloaks and Philly’s Chrysalis Ensemble

Visible Cloaks | via facebook.com/bowerbirdPHL

It’s easy to understand the appeal of butterflies. They’re beautiful, delicate, very much elegant in a way. But of course they don’t start out like that. Butterfly eggs look like a pile of small beads balanced precariously on the edge of a leaf. The caterpillars hatched from those eggs are decidedly not elegant, though they can look pretty neat. We talk about the transformative nature of cocoons and but that process is violent and rather gory. So while the end result might be this beautiful creature flying around our gardens, that’s not the whole story, not by a long shot.

This Friday at the Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion and Insectarium in Northeast Philly, a group of musicians will be diving deep into the topic. The Bowerbird-presented event, which will be held in the 7,000 square foot pavilion that’s home to thousands of butterflies, features performances from Portland duo Visible Cloaks, who have been celebrated for their minimal ambient synth-driven songs, and Philadelphia’s The Chrysalis Ensemble. Continue reading →

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Watch Speedy Ortiz play “I’m Blessed” for WXPN’s Indie Rock Hit Parade

Speedy Ortiz | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Don’t think for a second that music with pop leanings isn’t music for the mind. Take Philly indie four-piece Speedy Ortiz, which this week heads out on its last run of tour dates in support of this year’s awesome Twerp Verse LP. The band’s power chord riffs are ear pure candy, while frontperson Sadie Dupuis’ vocal melodies rise and fall in remarkably hooky arcs.

It’s fun to hear, but a closer listen reveals complexity, both structural — the odd angles and unexpected sharp turns each arrangement takes — and lyrical — Dupuis just published her first book of poetry, if that gives you any indication of the angle from which she approaches her songwriting.

One of the standouts when Speedy Ortiz recorded an Indie Rock Hit Parade session at WXPN last month was “I’m Blessed,” a song that burns and builds over about three different movements, and while the concluding melody seems in one sense uplifting, it’s also cathartic, as Dupuis spends the song unpacking repressed anger. Continue reading →