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20 Philadelphia artists we’re thankful for in 2014

Cayetana | photo by Rachel Del Sordo
Cayetana | photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Last Wednesday, I sat onstage at Underground Arts as my boss Bruce Warren asked a deceptively simple question: “Why do you love Philly?”

We were there as a part of a State of Young Philly panel on the city’s music industry and cultural economy; Bruce was moderating and I was speaking alongside Chill Moody, Chris Ward of Johnny Brenda’s and Katonah Rafter of Fame House.

For me, the answer was obvious: the music! It’s the city I listened to and aspired to become part of while growing up in the northwestern ‘burbs of Montgomery County. Even as a kid I would always relish seeing a local artist get national attention – when I first heard The Roots in high school (opening for The Beastie Boys at the Civic Center in 1995), I was filled with an immense sense of pride that these incredibly talented people who had just played Letterman were from my city. That national attention comes a lot more often these days, no matter the scene or genre – DIY punk to hip hop to singer-songwriter to psych rock. Whatever music you fancy listening to, you can find an artist who excels at it in the Philadelphia region.

At the State of Young Philly event, I spun together an hour-long, Philly-centric DJ set showcasing some of my faves from recent years, and with the reflective Thanksgiving holiday upon us, I’m sharing the playlist with you: 20 local artists we’re thankful for this year. Continue reading →

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PREMIERE: JXLBeats blends funk, soul and hip-hop on “This”

JXLBeats
James Lamar | via soundcloud.com/jxlbeats

Philadelphia-based hip-hop producer James Lamar, better known by his production handle JXLBeats, is putting the finishing touches on his latest EP, and today we’ve got a preview with the lead-off track “This.” It’s a brilliant blend of funk, a little bit of soul sampling, and a great 90′s-break hip-hop beat, resulting in a track reminiscent of a blend of Ski Beatz and Pretty Lights, plus a driving yet agile sub. Lamar does an excellent job combining influences from old school hip-hop, like the soul sampling and old-school breakbeat rhythms, with samples and sequences of acoustic instruments. But he also nods to the newer face of instrumental hip-hop with some electronic synthesis and fills. The result is a song that really doesn’t seem to come from a distinct era in music, rather uses a variety of styles and sounds from all over the last two decades in a very subtle and natural way. The track can be streamed below, and look out for the release of the full This, That & the Third EP sometime soon! Continue reading →

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Interpol barrels through snowpocalypse to play career-spanning show at Union Transfer

interpol
Interpol | photo by Matthew Shaver | matthewshaverphoto.com

I once spent 23 hours on a flight over to Asia.  About 10 hours in to it, the very real thought popped in to my head that I may lose my mind and just go nuts.  That was on a vacation.  Can’t imagine being stuck in a bus for 50 hours on my way to work.  Interpol made it though, 3 cancelled shows later, Philly was their first stop post-snowpocalypse, and they were anxious to play to a sold-out Union Transfer crowd.

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Get ready for the 21st annual The Night Before and usher in the holiday season with Jingle Jams

Jingle_Jams

It was 21 years ago when WXPN came to me, with those puppy-dog eyes, hoping that I’d fill in on December 24. Seems no one was available, and in those days before digital, you needed a body to oversee any programming. I agreed – as long as they gave me complete freedom to spin an aural web of sounds of the season – direct from my collection of holiday tunes.

What they didn’t know was that I had already developed a fascination for Christmas songs. Not the burnt cookies anyone can hear up and down the dial in December. My collection was chock-full of unique nuggets – some not given the light of day for decades. This first began with a box of Christmas LPs that I purchased at a thrift shop in the late 1970s. I became intrigued with the fact that Christmas was more than Johnny Mathis and Bing Crosby. Throughout my adult years – beginning in the 1980s – I always kept an eye out for the unusual holiday release; first on vinyl and then CD. One crate became two, and soon became bins upon bins.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: St Lucia at The TLA, Blonde Redhead at Union Transfer

St Lucia
St Lucia | photo courtesy of the artist

Brooklyn’s St Lucia hits The TLA tonight in support of their 2013 debut When the Night.  The band’s sound is heavy on the sparkle and shimmer, creating a fully-enveloping sonic environment that translates exceptionally well from headphones to a live show.  The Key’s Skye Leppo spoke with frontman Jean-Philip Grobler last week about the record and touring; check it out here and pick up tickets for the all ages show here. Continue reading →

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Download Ben Smith’s holiday ode “Feast of Steven” (with respect to The Smiths)

Ben Smith | Old Man Winter, Vol, 4 | Artwork by Kristen Soleck | http://www.kristensolecki.com/
Ben Smith | Old Man Winter, Vol, 4 | Artwork by Kristen Soleck | http://www.kristensolecki.com/

Local singer-songwriter Ben Smith has gotten in the holiday spirit and released Old Man Winter, Vol. 4. It’s part of his long standing Old Man Winter series, and this time around featured two songs: Getting Coal For Christmas,” about a boy who doesn’t seem to mind his growing stockpile of coal, and “Feast of Steven,” about a boy alone at boarding school for the holidays, with nothing but his Smiths records to keep him company. Continue reading →

Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company
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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Don’t Wanna Lose” by Ex Hex

Ex Hex | Photo courtesy of the artist
Ex Hex | Photo courtesy of the artist

Indie rocker singer, songwriter, and guitarist Mary Timony has been in a series of excellent indierock bands over the years. She formed Helium in the early Nineties, was a member of Wild Flag with Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, and Rebecca Cole, and has recorded several solo albums. Her most recent band project is Ex Hex, a trio including drummer Laura Harris, and bassist Betsy Wright. Continue reading →

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MusicNotes from the XPN Morning Show: Jimmy Fallon IS Bono!…Amy Adams will be Janis Joplin,…and Brad Pitt to portray Bruce Springsteen?

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Jimmy Fallon’s love affair with U2 is well known.  So when U2 had to postpone last week’s scheduled 5 day residency on the Tonight Show, naturally Jimmy and The Roots had to take over with a fantastic over of U2′s “Desire.”  Watch after the jump.  Continue reading →

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Bob Dylan defies expectations at the Academy of Music

Bob Dylan | Academy Of Music | Photo by Jon Landman
Bob Dylan | Photo by Jon Landman

Bob Dylan opened up a three night stint at the Academy of Music on Friday night, and it was equal parts surreal and magical. As my concert going companion said, it was like watching “Dylan covering Tom Waits covering Dylan,” and as Dylan stood center stage, in a white suit and white hat, singing a selection of songs that barely touched on the familiar hits of his past, he looked like a ragtime era cowboy crooner. Continue reading →