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.

Continue reading →


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

Ween onstage in 2013 | photo via

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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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

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 →


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 |

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 →


Snowbound Jams: Hear what DJ Jazzy Jeff and James Poyser did during Winter Storm Jonas

DJ Jazzy Jeff | Photo courtesy of the artist
DJ Jazzy Jeff | Photo courtesy of the artist

Inspired (or trapped?) by the Winter Storm Jonas, two Philly legends – DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Roots’ keyboardist James Poyser – were holed up in the studio and took it upon themselves to craft a wonderfully chill little EP of hip-hop / future soul instrumentals. Composed in about four hours and mostly consisting of live drums, spacey synths and electric pianos, Snow Beats has the feel of an early 2000’s Black Lily-era winter jam session. Continue reading →


You heard Grace Potter play new music at #XPNFest. Now listen to her new album via NPR Music.

Grace Potter | Photo via artist's Facebook
Grace Potter | Photo via

Grace Potter got her start with band The Nocturnals, playing a blend of rock and soul bolstered by Potter’s huge voice. Since establishing herself as a strong frontwoman, Potter has ventured into the world of solo performance. The XPN Fest headliner is releasing her debut solo album Midnight next week, and the album is streaming in its entirety over at NPR Music. 

Midnight‘s sound is energetic pop-rock, with a taste of the soulful melodies of The Nocturnals sprinkled throughout. It’s perfect for an August road trip, for singing in the shower, or kicking back to reminisce about this year’s fantastic XPN Fest. Continue reading →