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The Key Studio Sessions: Aleana

When we first encountered Philly’s Aleana, it was her voice that grabbed our attention.

Teamed with Philly rapper / crooner Mars Parker as a backing vocalist on his Key Studio Session, she gave the performance what I described at the time as “a stunning, introspective counterpoint.” Now I’m not saying she straight up stole the show, but she definitely stood out with that performance, and we put Aleana on our radar here at The Key to see what came next. Continue reading →

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Aleana puts words and emotions in the forefront on her Chapter 22 EP

Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Philly vocalist Aleana has just released her EP Chapter 22. The EP chronicles the beginning and the end of a romantic relationship, as Aleana sings through emotions from sprung to completely over it. I immediately noticed her vocals, which have a clean and real quality to them. She’s not too flashy a singer, and her voice isn’t buried in effects and plugins, which makes the music more relatable.

Some standout tracks from the EP are “Divine Creatures,” “Dear Darla,” and “Careless.” “Divine Creatures” probably has the best vocal performance on the whole project; the emotion of the song is clear and evident in the vocals as well as the lyrics. The fade out at the end of the song is an interesting choice as it emphasizes the romance of the song by implying that she could go on and on forever about how great love is. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Aleana at Breedlove Poetry Night, Coping Skills at Lava Space, Vince Tampio at World Cafe Live

Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Singer and songwriter Aleana checks in with the good folks at Pecola Breedlove and The Freedom Party tonight at APoetArtGallery on West Girard Avenue. After releasing her XXI EP a couple years back, Aleana re-emerged this past year with an alluring single called “S.O.S.,” as well as gigs singing backup in Mars Parker’s band and opening for Hardwork Movement at Underground Arts. Get tickets and more information on tonight’s apperance at Breedlove Poetry Night here. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: John Vettese’s Top Six Philly Music Discoveries of 2017

Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Aleana | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. To kick off the series, Key editor John Vettese recaps six of his favorite Philadelphia music discoveries from the past 12 months.

Earlier today, I was listening to a conversation with Johnny Brenda’s talent buyer Chris Ward on the 25 O’Clock podcast, and he made a very interesting point. The bumper crop of musical talent in Philadelphia, or what is often perceived as such, is no sudden phenomenon. It’s not as though, pre-2006, the city was in some dire straits or a lesser creative state, and has subsequently grown and evolved to the present-day bursting of the proverbial seams.

The truth is that amazing music — rap music, rock music, pop music, soul music — has always existed in the 215; in many cases (the Gamble & Huff era), it’s downright thrived. But as Ward pointed out, a more recent confluence of factors and persons and places and institutions over the past decade (like him and JBs, I might add, or like our friends at The Deli and Jump, or like countless others) have helped amplify the scene tremendously.

Every year around this time, as we launch into The Key’s annual year-in-review extravaganza, I begin by sitting down and reflecting on the new artists and new-to-me artists who, over the past twelve months, have knocked me sideways. There have always been artists like this in Philly, whether or not the outside world is paying attention. And there always will be; even if, at some point, the zeitgeist declares Philly to be “over,” if you look and listen, you’ll find them continually creating, somehow, somewhere.

Continue reading →

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Hardwork Movement returns with “Like This,” a new song from their first full-band EP

Hardwork Movement | photo by Danny Gevirtz | courtesy of the artist | via instagram.com/dannygevirtz
Hardwork Movement | photo by Danny Gevirtz | courtesy of the artist | via instagram.com/dannygevirtz

Tomorrow night, Philly hip-hop luminaries Hardwork Movement headline their biggest hometown show to date at Underground Arts. Tomorrow morning, they’re dropping a new project — For The People, their first collection of songs recorded as a full band.

Tonight, the Movement gave us their first taste of that record in the form of “Like This.”  Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Mars Parker at Underground Arts, Muscle Tough at New Liberty Distillery, Kwesi at Boot and Saddle

Mars Parker | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Mars Parker | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Charismatic Philadelphian Mars Parker headlines tonight at Underground Arts, performing alongside frequent collaborators: pop singer-songwriter Aleana and electronic rock duo Camp Candle. Parker caught our eye last fall at Boot and Saddle, spanning the worlds of R&B croonerdom and hip-hop, and this year turned in an exciting performance for The Key Studio Sessions. Watch video of that below, check out the entire session here and get tickets and more information on tonight’s show at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Hardwork Movement will headline Underground Arts on 9/15

Hardwork Movement | photo by Danny Gevirtz | courtesy of the artist | via instagram.com/dannygevirtz
Hardwork Movement | photo by Danny Gevirtz | courtesy of the artist | via instagram.com/dannygevirtz

Okay, seriously, can we talk for a minute about how great Hardwork Movement was at XPNFest yesterday? From the opening “City Bars” to a freestyle over an Anderson.Paak bassline, Chill Moody and Joie Kathos joining in to cover Future and the always incredible closer “Living Legend,” the Philly hip-hop crew brought a ridiculous amount of energy to the Marina Stage for only 12:30 in the afternoon. (Seriously — listen back here.)

The good news is it doesn’t end there. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Mars Parker

Philly’s Mars Parker came on our radar relatively recently, back when he opened for Camp Candle at Boot And Saddle in October.  But in the grander scheme of things, we’re a little late to the party — Mars has been active in the Soundcloud zone for a few years now, releasing singles, EPs and full-length mixtapes that explore a variety of sounds and approaches to this thing we call hip-hop.

His latest, Mars Museum 3, finds its focus in a surrealistic tapestry of tripped-out jazzy production and warm melodies that strike a the balance between bars that spit and bars that sing. It’s a comfortable flex zone inhabited by luminaries like the Grammy champ Chance the Rapper, party rocker Future, and local celeb PnB Rock. Mars has the style and charisma to sit alongside those names in due time, and he showed his skills off for us in this week’s Key Studio Session. Continue reading →