Rooted in history and looking to the future, Mick Jenkins will bring his sanctified take on hip-hop to the TLA

Mick Jenkins | via

Raised on the Southside of Chicago, but born below the Mason-Dixon line (Huntsville, Alabama, to be exact), the blues lies at the center of Mick Jenkins’ music. Historically, it has been the blues (and its stylistic cousin, gospel) that have acted as the animating core of all black music that has followed it: jazz, rock and roll, R&B and hip-hop. Throughout the shifts in popular music, the blues has remained, like a ghost, giving voice to the struggle, pain and transcendent joy of black American culture.

Over the course of the past decade, hip hop in particular has evolved to a point where synthesis and advanced musical programming techniques have replaced sampling, with more emphasis being placed on creating futuristic soundscapes and less on repurposing the music of the past. For the first time in the history of American popular culture, we are witnessing a mainstream black music that isn’t reliant on the influences of the blues and the gospel sound of the church. Continue reading →


The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2016

“Can 2016 just stop already?” You’ve probably said that, or read that somewhere on your social media timeline. Typically I see it in reference to the heartbreaking celebrity deaths of 2016, from David Bowie to Prince, Sharon Jones to Leonard Cohen. But this year has also contained the most divisive political season in generations. There have been tragedies at home – mass shootings like the one at Pulse Orlando, floods in Louisiana, the fire at Oakland’s Ghost Ship arts community – and abroad – the conflict in Syria being a major one that not enough Americans are talking about.

But framing it all up as the unhappiness in the world ending along with the year, unfortunately, misses the point. Beloved celebrities are going to die in 2017. The political tone of the country is, in all likelihood, not going to improve. Catastrophic things will happen all around us, and all around the world, and there’s little we can do to stand in the way.

I don’t say all this to be a massive bummer this holiday season (honestly, though, parties and presents do feel more trivial than ever). Rather, it’s to underscore the importance of music in or lives. Continue reading →


Just Announced: Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker to play an all-ages and 21+ show at JB’s this March

Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief | photo by Scott Troyan for WXPN

If you couldn’t attend the Project Pabst fest this past September — and if, like I, you were distraught at missing Big Thief performing in the general vicinity without your presence to soak in the immense beautifulness of it — don’t you fret. You can still experience the soft, lulling magnificence of front woman Adrianne Lenker’s project this March at Johnny Brenda’s. Continue reading →


Free at Noon Flashback: Lo Moon continues their slow burn at World Cafe Live

Lo Moon | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Ah, Lo Moon. The mysterious, mysterious band who came out of seemingly nowhere with their hit song, “Loveless,” last year. I was introduced to the group — comprised of Matt Lowell, Crisanta Baker, Sam Stewart, and touring drummer Sterling Laws — when prepping to see them at NonCOMM last May.  And though I clasped my super-sleuthing cap on tight in detective-like determination, I could find nothing, save the lone 7 minute-long, slow-burning and soaring atmospheric rock track.

This Friday, WXPN welcomed back the LA-based band as one of the three inaugural Slingshot artists for a moody and ambient Free at Noon. Still as enigmatic as ever, Lo Moon has just released one new track, “This Is It,” along with a live performance of their 80s pop hook track, “Real Love” with KCRW.  In an information-overload world of instant gratification, their patient material-reveal timeline whispers a sort of magical, otherworldly feel to their music. Continue reading →