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19 Philly concerts we’re looking forward to in 2019

Kacey Musgraves | photo by Senia Lopez for WXPN // Anderson .Paak | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN // Steve Gunn | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

After the excitement of ushering in the New Year, sometimes the winter months can become a bit bleak. The holiday season is over, but the freezing cold temperatures remain, and it can be tempting to stay indoors as much is possible. But we all know that the best way to keep the doldrums away is by catching some live music, and lucky for us there are a lot of great shows coming our way this winter. Here’s what The Key recommends. – Sarah Hojsak Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Mike Vasilikos’ all-Philly best of 2018

Orion Sun | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com
Orion Sun | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, XPN’s Mike Vasilikos recaps the best music he’s heard come out of the Philly scene this year.

More lists! Yes, it’s almost time to flip over the calendar but not before everyone gets a chance to reflect on their favorite music of the past 12 months.  I guess it’s my turn!  Last year, I altered my approach to year-end reflections.  The idea being: focus on what’s happening locally, because in all honesty Philadelphia is a special place for music.  Across all musical landscapes, the artistry in our community rivals anywhere in the country.  So that said, here’s what I was listening to in 2018. Continue reading →

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20 albums you shouldn’t overlook in 2018

Some of our unsung favorite albums of 2018

Fun fact: in a total coincidence of timing, The Key released our best albums of the year list on the same morning that NPR Music, The Guardian, and Paste rolled out their respective lists. Most other major and minor music publications followed suit in the week that followed, social media was aflurry with immense list excitement as much as total list fatigue.

The best hot take I saw in the fray came from Boston journalist Nina Corcoran (a writer for NPR Music, and Pitchfork, among others), who simply Tweeted: “The 50 Best Albums of 2018 That Didn’t Have a PR Machine Churning Behind Them.”

It’s frustrating, but true. It’s daunting when you’re reading about mostly the same albums in a slightly different order, and it begs some consideration. Like I’ve said in the past: while there is power in consensus, how does that consensus get there? Through mass recognition, through large teams of music journalists with widely eclectic tastes finding 15 or 50 or 500 albums (seriously tho, I’d love to see a top 500 list in haiku form) that they can all agree are great. And that happens when artists and their labels have the resources to seriously and steadily push those records to said journalists.

So what’s to become of a release by Philly rapper Ivy Sole, who self-released and self-promoted her outstanding 2018 outing Overgrown? Or one by Columbus psych/folk/punk collective Saintseneca, which did have label support on their beautiful Pillar of Na, easily the best record of their career, but the “campaign” behind it was limited?

My favorite lists, by comparison, are like the one you’re about to read — not driven by consensus, not presented in a ranked order. Not fostering a frustrating sense of competitiveness in an already-frustrating music scene. One that merely collects records that our team is tremendously excited about, and thinks you should make a point to spend some time with. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Strand of Oaks, Ivy Sole, Mavis Staples, Swearin’ and more

Ivy Sole at SXSW | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

From alt rock heros to rising stars in hip-hop, a Philly favorite taking over three nights at Boot and Saddle in South Philly, while a soul queen posts up for two nights at World Cafe Live in University City. And the time of year being what it is, there are not one, not two, but three holiday shows on the calendar this week. Here are 16 concerts to see in the next seven days all around Philadelphia.  Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Thin Lips at Boot & Saddle

Thin Lips
Thin Lips | photo by Scott Troyan | photo courtesy of the artist

Following the release of their fantastic new album Chosen Family this summer, Philly scene faves Thin Lips have announced their first proper headlining tour behind the record, which will take them up and down the East Coast this winter. The band has also added a new member to their chosen family: Delaware-based rocker Grace Vonderkuhn will open for them on the tour, which wraps up with a hometown show on February 2 at Boot & Saddle. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Childish Gambino, David Byrne, Thin Lips, The McCrary Sisters and more

Childish Gambino’s This Is America | still from video

We hope you’ve got your schedule cleared, because the next seven days are seriously busy on the live music front. Kicking off tonight with Childish Gambino’s long-awaited headliner at Wells Fargo Center, and running through the return of punk legends The Vibrators on Monday, here are 23 concerts you can see in and around Philly over the next seven days. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Emmylou Harris, Kimya Dawson, Strange Parts, York Street Hustle and more

strange parts
Strange Parts | photo by Adam Haney | courtesy of the band

What’s that you say? It’s a holiday week, it’s a heat wave, everybody’s going down the shore or hiding out in A.C.? Guess what, friends: the music doesn’t stop for any of that, and this week we bring you 14 shows to see in the next seven days — from the all-local Chill Moody stage at Wawa Welcome America to a heavy dose of punk to close your weekend at West Philly’s Lava Space.  Continue reading →

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Dominy wants to spend “Sunday Morning” outdoors with you

Dominy
Dominy | photo by Bob Sweeney | courtesy of the artist

You can’t blame Philly rockers Dominy for being not quite sure how to dress for the weather anymore. Between dreary rain, invigorating sun, random-ass snow, and more rain, and a tiny bit of sun for a minute before yet more rain, climate confusion this spring is high.

So when the Philly four-piece went to film another playful, Bob Sweeney-directed music video to add to its catalogue — check the very fun “Leather Jacket Song,” released earlier this year — and the setting is out of doors, you can tell that these gents are as uncertain as anyone what that means. Continue reading →

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A secret gig at Cousin Danny’s in West Philly shows that Shame is the real deal

Shame | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | moonloopphoto.com

It was a Monday night in late November at the Arden Gild Hall when I experienced Shame for the first time. They were the middle band between Grace Vonderkuhn and Ought, and they stepped out into the half-full barn and said “OK, we can do this,” and proceeded to burn the place down for 45 minutes. I’d never seen anything like it, a mix of Joy Division and the Sex Pistols.

The London-based band’s debut Songs of Praise was released in January and, while it is the strongest release I’ve heard in 2018, it still does little to catch the ferocity of their live shows. Vocalist Charlie Steen is a revelation — very shy in public and possessed by something both spiritual and visceral on stage. He is not the stereotypical angry punk rock singer, he seems to channel something that transcends emotion, a wake-up call to monotony. Continue reading →