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Listen to Amos Lee’s soulful rendition of a Marvin Gaye classic

Amos Lee | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On” has to be one of the most emblematic protest songs of the 70’s. The lyrics still ring true in 2018, touching on relevant social issues, so it’s no wonder artists are still covering it. Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Amos Lee is releasing a deluxe edition of his latest album My New Moon, which includes an acoustic rendition of the Marvin Gaye hit. His soulful vocals bestow a new power on the words, preaching a reverberating message: love over war. Continue reading →

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Aug 28 in Music History: Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, and Are We Not Men? We Are Devo! are released

Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

1964 – The Beatles are introduced to Bob Dylan, who immediately introduces them to marijuana when he joins the band after their concert at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York. Dylan is surprised they haven’t tried it before, as he thought they sang “I get high” in their song “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” when it was really “I can’t hide.”

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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2018

This is the music that moved us in 2018

In her review of Lucy Dacus’ Historian, Key writer Sarah Hojsak uses a vivid phrase that sums up both the record, as well as the emotional landscape of 2018: “desperately sad but never hopeless.”

Oh, wait, I’m sorry…would you describe your year as happy? That must be nice, good on you. For many of us, it’s not as straightforward: the toxicity of the country at this moment in history, and the various players that fuel that toxicity, has a draining effect, whether you’re a marginalized person who is in the line of fire or an empathetic soul who is distressed from afar. There’s also the let-down: the pouring of our energies into something to watch it fail, whether personal or public.

And yet we experience moments of joy throughout it all: weddings are had, families are started, a breathtaking sunset is observed from the westbound platform of the Berks Avenue el stop. And there’s music, a constant source of joy and comfort that centers our lives. Continue reading →

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Blood Orange cultivates a conversation about gender, duality, and identity to majestic grooves at The Fillmore

Blood Orange | photo by Natalie Piserchio for WXPN | nataliepiserchio.com

It was almost 7 years ago that Blood Orange played Johnny Brenda’s on a weekday to about 12 people, one of whom was a sweet townie who sat on a barstool two feet from the stage. That night, Dev Hynes, the eclectic singer-songerwriter of Guyanese descent, tore through an emotional, energy packed set for all 12 of us attendees with just his guitar and a laptop, bouncing from stage to crowd, owning the space, inviting us in to share that moment. Thursday’s show at The Fillmore to a packed, swaying, diverse crowd of orange haired punks, Hood By Air wearing queer goths of color, and Fishtown hipsters (amongst others), kept that same energy.

Opening the set with a dreamy rendition of “Charcoal Baby,” the standout track from Blood Orange’s latest album Negro Swan, Hynes and his crew of six backup musicians ignited the crowd and set the tone for the soulful, southern-black-church by way of 1980’s sun and pastel drenched neo-noir that would follow.  It was evident, then, that Hynes had come a long way since his debut album Coastal Grooves, and even further from his days in screamo bands like Test Icicles; the stage was masterfully, purposefully filled with a rhythm section opposite a keyboardist and saxophonist on two (2!) high rises, and an angelic assembly of back-up vocalists. The mood of Negro Swan is airy and precise, allowing for a live translation bursting with nostalgic grooves and strange, spatial chord changes so subtle that they sound massive. Continue reading →

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Childish Gambino takes Philly to church

Childish Gambino | photo by Greg Noire | courtesy of the artist

If you were at the Childish Gambino concert this past Tuesday, then you might agree that it felt like a Wednesday night church service. Not in the sense that they were worshiping the rapper persona of actor Donald Glover (though there was probably some of that), but more in the energy he brought to the stage. His Philly fans packing the Wells Fargo Center came alive the way folks  might react after hearing a choir and their band go off for hours, and Deacon Gambino lifted their spirits to the stratosphere.

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Hozier talks with Rolling Stone about the inspiration behind his upcoming EP Nina Cried Power

Hozier | photo by Jokko | courtesy of the artist

Andrew Byrne, who we know as Hozier, rose to fame when he independently released his well-known single “Take Me to Church”. The breakout track made its way to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and for months, on every pop radio in the world. With all the fame rushing to him, he was struggling and trying to get acclimated with what his life had become.  

Early 2017, Hozier returned home for his first break, in years, from all the craziness of touring. He immediately began writing and working on new material. During his time off, He spent much of his time on Twitter, witnessing the madness of the 2016 U.S. election.

There were people voicing their political beliefs and points of views from all around the world through social media. He spoke to Rolling Stone about what he saw, saying “It’s like the world is screaming into a fucking bonfire.” Continue reading →

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Now Hear This: New songs from Kylie, Kali and Koze; PC, PCM and SMD; Daphne, Damien, Daniel and the Decemberists

Kylie Minogue | photo via facebook.com/kylieminogue

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

This year was already off to a pretty good start, musically speaking, but at some point around the beginning of last month things really started popping off. By which I mean we started getting a steady stream of bright, shiny, undeniable capital-P Pop music, the kind of stuff that’s going to become truly indispensable / inescapable come summertime – which, for all intents and purposes is basically already here – and which will likely wind up defining 2018 in our memories forevermore. And I’m digging it! First off, we got Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy, which was not just a major cultural event but also way more fun than I would’ve expected, and has been rightly celebrated as such across the board. (Truly, if you haven’t at least heard the made-for-the-summer Latin-pop sizzler “I Like It,” featuring Bad Bunny & J. Balvin, do yourself the favor – also, she’s coming to town in September with Bruno Mars.) Then there was Drake, of course, replacing himself at the top of the charts with “Nice For What” and having more fun than he’s had in ages (maybe ever?), even if at least half of the song’s appeal is down to that Lauryn Hill sample. (He’s also got an album on the way, and a just-announced September Philly date with Migos.) Continue reading →

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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Typical” by Nightmares on Wax featuring Jordan Rakei

Nightmares on Wax | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

At a recent Free at Noon at World Cafe Live, Nightmares On Wax created a living room onstage with couches and chairs where the band lounged, performing songs from their new album, Shape The Future. George Evelyn, the man behind NOW, has been making records, producing, DJ’ing and keeping hip-hop music moving forward since the debut Nightmares On Wax album in 1991. Continue reading →