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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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#XPN5050: 1973

For fifty weeks over the next year, we’re celebrating the music of a specific year every Saturday on WXPN. We’ll be choosing the years randomly; for this week’s #XPN5050, Bruce Warren is putting the musical spotlight on the year 1973.

Seriously. Look at how many incredible albums came out in 1973. We’re talking about some of the most classic of the classic rock albums of all time like Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin, Quadrophenia by The Who, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Band On The Run by Paul McCartney and Wings, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut, Bruce Springsteen’s first and second albums, Steely Dan’s Countdown to Ecstasy and incredible albums by The Eagles, The Allman Brothers, Yes, Alice Cooper, Roxy Music, The Rolling Stones, Little Feat, and ZZ Top.

In 1973, R&B was on fire. Stevie Wonder released the ground breaking Innervisions, Marvin Gaye dropped Let’s Get it On, and Oakland’s Tower of Power gave us their seminal self-titled album. In other sounds, Herbie Hancock released the jazz funk classic Head Hunters, The Wailers released Catch A Fire, Tom Waits released his debut, Closing Time, and Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention blessed us with Over-Nite Sensation. Jazz fusion was in full effect: Mahavishnu Orchestra released Birds of Fire, and Mahavishnu drummer Billy Cobham debuted Stratus, a record that would serve as the musical blueprint for trip-hop when Massive Attack sampled it in 1991 on their song, “Safe From Harm.” Continue reading →

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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 →