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Listen to Anika Pyle of Katie Ellen contemplate guilt, shame and self-identity in the stirring solo song “The Void”

Anika Pyle | photo via anikapyle.bandcamp.com

Known these days as the singer-guitarist and songwriter at the front of Katie Ellen, and know previously as the voice of Brooklyn punks Chumped, Philly’s Anika Pyle occasionally forays into solo compositions and contemplations — as she did this week with the new track “The Void.” Continue reading →

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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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The Key Studio Sessions: Katie Ellen

Anika Pyle first came to prominence fronting the acclaimed Brooklyn punk band Chumped, which riffed and raged for a few exciting years and then, following the album cycle for 2014’s Teenage Retirement, decided to retire.

In its wake, Pyle refocused to explore the more sensitive side of her songwriting in the project Katie Ellen, which debuted with a Bandcamp demo called wild <3 in early 2016. The indie rock riffs were ever present, as was Pyle’s powerful vocal delivery, but the range was notably more dynamic. Songs could be a midtempo stroll (the title track) as easily as they charged (“Lucy Stone”); clean guitar tones mixed in with fuzzed-out overdrive; the arrangements and melodies were as east coast rock as they were Nashville roots.

A move to Philly later, and Katie Ellen released Cowgirl Blues this July on Lauren Records. Continue reading →

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Katie Ellen introduces themselves to a psyched PhilaMOCA audience for Cowgirl Blues record release show

Katie Ellen | photo by Tom Beck for WXPN

Meet Philadelphia’s most exciting new band: Katie Ellen. You’ve seen them around, opening for Cayetana and various other bands over the past year or so. You also might know frontwoman Anika Pyle from her previous, Brooklyn-based band called Chumped. But without a true, full-length LP, you likely never put a name to the face. But that changes today. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Katie Ellen at PhilaMOCA, Chill Moody at Boot and Saddle (benefit for Beyond the Bars), The Cactus Blossoms at Johnny Brenda’s

Katie Ellen | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com
Katie Ellen | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

The official release of Katie Ellen‘s debut LP Cowgirl Blues is tomorrow, but you can hear it live a night early at the band’s record release show tonight at PhilaMOCA. The new project of Anika Pyle, former frontwoman of punk outfit Chumped, Katie Ellen is her platform for anthemic, cathartic, feminist “sparkle pop twang punk fuzz core” jams. Listen to leading single “Sad Girls Club” below and check out the XPN Concert Calendar for tickets and more information. Continue reading →

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Get the first taste of Katie Ellen’s Cowgirl Blues with “Lucy Stone”

Katie Ellen | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com
Katie Ellen | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

After her highly-touted Brooklyn punk band Chumped parted ways, singer-songwriter-guitarist Anika Pyle launched a remarkable new project called Katie Ellen, which first caught our attention when they opened for Cayetana and Mannequin Pussy at PhilaMOCA back in January of 2016. The pace was slowed down and the content amped up, with Pyle using midtempo anthems to reflect on womanhood, societal expectations, mental health and other concerns that are both talked about a lot in the music scene but at the same time not nearly enough. Continue reading →

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Scenes from Cayetana’s New Kind of Normal album release celebration

Cayetana | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | <a href="http://racheldelsordophotography.com" target="_blank">racheldelsordophotography.com</a>
Cayetana | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

Philadelphia DIY trio Cayetana released their second LP, New Kind of Normalthe XPN Concert Calendar, and celebrated it earlier this month with a big release day throwdown in the basement of the First Unitarian Church. On the bill was Katie Ellen, the new four-piece fronted by Anika Pyle (formerly of Chumped), as well as Shannen Moser (who just joined the roster of Lame-O Records) and Aster More. With flowers and banners decked around the room and everybody on the bill bringing their A-game, it was a wonderful night of music, friendship and community. Check out scenes from the show below, care of our photographer Rachel Del Sordo; Cayetana’s next area dates are at Chameleon Club’s Lizard Lounge on July 8th with Camp Cope and Union Transfer with Waxahatchee on July 14th. More information on both shows can be found at . Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Darla at Boot and Saddle, Katie Ellen at First Unitarian Church, Hawkwind at Kung Fu Necktie and more

Darla | photo by Karl McWerter | courtesy of the band
Darla | photo by Karl McWerter | courtesy of the band

Boot and Saddle gets one hell of show as fusion jazz hounds Darla take the stage, celebrating the release of their newest record Darla Rolls the Dice! with Nik Greely & the Operators, as well as Roz and the rice cakes. The octet keeps it upbeat by blending their smooth brass instrumentation with grooving back beats, staging a great night of good times and great tunes. More information can be found on the WXPN Concert Calender, and also check out Darla’s visit to The Key for a intimate Studio Session here (and listen to the audio below!) Continue reading →