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Now Hear This: New songs from New Pornographers, Six Organs of Admittance, Lydia Ainsworth, Soulwax and more

new pornographers
The New Pornographers | photo by Jenny Jimenez | courtesy of the artist

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

Happy Spring! Are we allowed to be happy it’s Spring? While it feels like we’re still a long way from Summer jam season proper – Calvin Harris notwithstanding – the contenders are already starting to get in line. So far I’m liking Lorde, Lana, and Charli XCX’s bubbly one-off with Mura Masa, or maybe something from hnew oer super-fizzy PC Music-abetted mixtape – I’ll admit that I have yet to fully contend with last month’s highest-profile, er, “playlist” (shut up, Drake!) though I hear there may be some keepers there too.

Meanwhile, over on the indie side of the fence, we’ve already got a solid backlog of Spring-ready melodies to sift through as we round the bend on the first quarter of 2017. With worthy new efforts from Spoon, The Magnetic Fields, The Shins and (soon) New Pornographers (see below) joining Jens Lekman and, sure, the Flaming Lips, it’s been a busy couple of months for indie-pop lovers of a certain vintage, with plenty of opportunities for nostalgic reminiscence. (You’ll have to forgive me a few slight indulgences along our way.)

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Now Hear This: New songs by Thundercat, Alex Lahey, Justin Carter, Dirty Projectors, Spoon and more

Thundercat | photo by Eddie Alcazar | courtesy of the artist
Thundercat | photo by Eddie Alcazar | courtesy of the artist

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

Mmmm…You can just feel it in the air, wafting in on the alt-Spring breeze and/or bluster: South by Southwest season is upon us.  Like a gulf coast hurricane spinning off a series of storm fronts, the mid-March musical mega-marathon stirs up tour schedules all across the country ‘round about now (and again toward the end of the month) as countless up-and-comers begin plotting their way down to Texas and/or their triumphant return therefrom.  Early Spring is a time for new life and, especially, new music: bigger, better-established artists tend to take a backseat at SXSW (and to some extent, perhaps accordingly, in March release schedules), although there are always a couple notable exceptions, including, this time around, Austin’s favorite indie-rocking sons… Continue reading →

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Now Hear This: New songs by Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzalez, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, Austra and more

Gabriel Garzón-Montano
Gabriel Garzón-Montano | Photo by Breanna Keohane for WXPN

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration. Here are his picks for February, 2017.

Happy new(-ish) year!  January tends to be a slow time for new music, as release schedules (and concert calendars) gradually shift back into gear following a generally-observed hibernation around the holidays.  That felt especially true this year, with no major releases dominating the musical conversation the way, for instance, Bowie did in 2016.  (I guess we also had a few other things to pay attention to.)  But there were still a handful of gems to sift through, all well as some promising signs for what’s to come later in the Spring.  The selections below includes a pair of pre-release teasers from disgruntled old geezers, sterling examples of several different strains of soul music, a smattering of political content – sorry, you can’t escape it here either – and the first great pop banger of 2017.

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Now Hear This: Ween is reuniting, playing shows in Colorado

Ween onstage in 2013 | photo via facebook.com/Ween

Fans of New Hope avant-pop favorites Ween have been holed up in bummertown for a few years now. Though the band has historically phased in and out of activity, co-frontman Gene Ween (nee Aaron Freeman) announced back in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview that the band was over, a blow their many devout fans still feel. Freeman toured behind a well-received solo album, and longtime collaborator Mickey Melchiondo toured as The Dean Ween Group (which was essentially 4/5 of the longtime Ween live band) but it wasn’t the same. Until today, that is, when it was announced that Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo Jr. will be resuming their partnership and perform once again as Ween. Continue reading →

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Seven bands from the Philly DIY underground you need to hear right now

Ursula | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Philly is one of those cities (the only city?!) that’s able to contain, harness, and release the unbridled energy of hardcore punk and strange outsider indie rock in the form of four impactful spring festivals and still have enough left to keep the summer righteously shredded.

We came together for Electrifest (queer POC experimental music fest centering LGBT health concerns), Get Better Fest (queerpunk fest put on by the folks at Get Better Records), Break Free Fest (an event centering black and brown hardcore acts) and of course, Philly Shreds (a showcase of punk bands from all over with a heavy Philly edge), but we are still rocking, still falling into our amps in damp, sweltering basements and rolling around in the free dumpstered bagel piles at our local community centers, screaming our hearts out, shouting down The Man.

This article seeks to chronicle the continued mayhem of the Philadelphia punk rock scene, seeking out both the upstart and lesser known bands and the tried and true favorites breathing new life into their sets, as well as highlighting how truly diverse our loud rock scene is. It is exhilarating to think that our community features women, queer / LGBT folks, and people of color playing prominent roles. Sit back and let the pretzel-flavored chaos reign. Continue reading →

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Hear Son Volt’s new album now on NPR First Listen

Son Volt | via the artist's Facebook page
Son Volt | via the artist’s Facebook page

On Friday, veteran alt-country outfit Son Volt will release Notes Of Blue, their eighth and latest. If that day couldn’t come soon enough, you’re in luck, because you can stream it now over at NPR as part of their First Listen series. I don’t want to reveal too much right away, but SPOILER ALERT: It’s good.

Notes Of Blue clocks in at a lean thirty minutes, meaning this thing is completely devoid of the filler that plagues so many albums these days. Too often, modern artists have tended towards bloated releases full of interludes and half-formed ideas, but none of that shows up here. This a fully-realized, richly-arranged work of rock and country, and the experience of its players shows. Whether it’s the delicately sung and strummed balladry of tracks like “The Storm” and “Cairo and Southern” or the righteous, hard-rocking slide guitar on “Static” and “Sinking Down”, Son Volt covers a variety of moods while maintaining the worn earthiness that defines their sound. Continue reading →

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Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Look At What The Light Did Now” by Flo Morrisey and Matthew E. White

Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White | Photo by Shawn Brackbill
Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White | Photo by Shawn Brackbill

British singer-songwriter Flo Morrissey has teamed up with producer, singer and songwriter Matthew E. White for an albim of covers, Gentlewoman, Ruby Man, out on January 13th.

The album includes covers of James Blake (“Colour Of Anything”), The Velvet Underground (“Sunday Morning”), Roy Ayers (“Everybody Loves The Sunshine”), Frank Ocean (“Thinking Bout You”), Leonard Cohen (“Suzanne”) and more. Continue reading →

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Have you heard The News? Their debut single “Fail Better” is out now

The News | photo courtesy of the artist
The News | photo courtesy of the artist

Life is all about getting back up after your failures and dusting yourself off. The idea is that you learn from your mistakes and fail a little better each time, and that’s precisely the message at the core of The News‘ debut single. The band was conceived as a contemporary pop project between James Benjamin Thomas and Rachel Haines, but “Fail Better” is just as indebted to 80s and 90s R&B — as you can hear by streaming the track below. Continue reading →

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Philly Phish Phans: You heard it live, now stream “Breath and Burning” before it’s release

phish
Photo by Peter Yang | Courtesy of the artist

This October, Phish‘s thirteenth studio album, Big Boat, sets sail. In anticipation, they have shared “Breath and Burning”, a sun-kissed, acoustic strummer that ruminates on the importance of living in the moment.

For those that caught Phish at The Mann this past June, “Breath and Burning” should sound familiar, albeit truncated. On record, they keep the jamming to a minimum in favor of tried-and-true pop structure. Continue reading →

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Get to know Kerry Hallett, the Philly singer-songwriter behind Heart Harbor

Heart Harbor 0 Jessica Kourkounis
Heart Harbor | Photo by Jessica Kourkounis | courtesy of the artist | Kourkounis.com

It’s not every day that a Facebook post from a nationally-renowned musician points you to an emerging artist from your own city. Last fall, Erin McKeown raved to her fans that she was very excited about the production work she was doing with the band Heart Harbor, who hails from right here in Philadelphia.

We here at The Key immediately checked the band out, and loved what we heard. The project of Kerry Hallett hearkens back to some of the best singer-songwriters in recent memory: Brandi Carlile, Passenger, Tegan and Sara, with a Jenny Lewis-ian sense of arrangement and fearless genre hopping. Recorded with McKeown last summer in Fishtown, the Tender Trap EP boasts immaculate production and infectious tunes; they’ll stick around, and you won’t mind one bit. Continue reading →