By

American Trappist walks the line, drunkenly, in the “Holy Moses” video

American Trappist | still from video

Joe Michelini of American Trappist is a generally positive person, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t dealt with his share of darkness. His last album, Tentanda Via, was born out of a struggle with existential dread, rejection of the religion he’d been raised in, but also a fear of a world sans faith.  His latest song, the distressed rocker “Holy Moses,” came from a different kind of low where Michelini needed to work out the idea of forgiveness. Continue reading →

By

The Revivalists are a knockout alongside American Authors at The Met

The Revivalists | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN | dylaneddinger.com

New Orleans natives The Revivalists played hit after hit for all their Philly friends at the still-new Metropolitan Opera House Saturday night. Supported by Boston’s American Authors, known for their hit “Best Day Of My Life” a couple years back, both bands brought a mostly seated crowd to their feet for the whole night. Featuring a cover of The Killers’ iconic “Mr. Brightside” and several just-released tracks, American Authors continuously thanked The Revivalists for including them on this tour after they played a show together early last year. The catchy pop-rock songs and engaging frontman made for the perfect opener. Continue reading →

By

Your top 50 XPN songs of 2018

Brandi Carlile | photo by Alysse Gafkjen | courtesy of artist
Brandi Carlile | photo by Alysse Gafkjen | courtesy of artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. In this installment, WXPN’s listener-voted best songs of 2017.

We played songs, you listened. You voted, we listened. After tallying up the numbers and playing back the jams, we are delighted to bring you a recap of your top 50 XPN songs of 2018.

Continue reading →

By

Far beyond Philly, Meek has inherited the earth: The Year in Milly 2018

Meek Mill at Made In America | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Drake might have moved more units. Pusha T might stirred more shit. Childish Gambino might have made more multi-media moves. Offset might have truly fucked up by cheating on Cardi B. Kayne West is a MAGA-hat-wearing-imbecile.

Yet, when it came to snaring headlines for something solid beyond gossip and innuendo – and winding up with a surprisingly rich and righteously different new album in Championships – Philadelphia Meek Mill took the cake and made all the right moves in 2018. Not only was he able to pour the milk of human kindness on thick (beef squashing with longtime rival, Drake), Philly’s Milly became the wisely wordy brand ambassador for the anti-prison complex establishment after his time in the joint.

I don’t agree with Mill all the time or think his word is gospel, but in 2018, Meek showed that he cares, and is looking to make a difference. That says a lot in 2018, for any artist or man.

Here’s a rundown of Meek Mill’s year. Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: Yoni Kroll’s best new bands of 2018

Yarrow | photo via yarrowphl.bandcamp.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributor Yoni Kroll recaps his favorite bands that started in 2018.

What we want from bands is at times a very amusing catch 22: they need to be perfect but not polished, experienced but with a youthful electric energy permeating everything. It’s why you hear people talk crap on new bands. They’re young, they’re inexperienced, they’re doing something new or different or maybe not different at all. It’s why my roommate when I was 20 couldn’t stop talking about how every band I was getting into wasn’t as good as NOFX. True story.

But you know what? I’d rather see a bunch of new bands trying to figure it out than a bunch of old people going through the motions. It’s generally more fun and more interesting. Sure, you might not be able to sing along, but is that really your only criteria for enjoying a band? This year I got to see a bunch of bands that were either just starting or recently coalesced from ‘project’ to actual performance. That includes groups formed for the First Time’s the Charm 2018, a biennial concert held last July “made up of entirely new bands that must include women, people of color, queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, and those with disabilities” all playing their first sets ever.

The goal for the event, which I helped organize, was to create a space for those who have been marginalized in our music communities. It was a resounding success, we donated $1500 to music education non-profit Beyond the Bars, and most importantly eight brand new bands were unleashed on Philadelphia. While continuing past that initial performance is not necessarily a goal of the event, a number of bands from this year and past First Time’s the Charm concerts are still playing out regularly. That includes Teenage Bigfoot and Marge from the 2013 edition, Aster More, Taxes, and Full Bush from 2016, and Babe Grenade, Pritty Gritty, and GRIT from this past year. And yes, those are two bands with ‘Gritty’ in their names well before it was cool to do so. That’s how awesome First Time’s the Charm really is.

Without further ado, here’s some of the best new bands that I saw in the past year. Most of them don’t have any recordings yet, so keep an ear to the ground for that. Think of this also as a list of bands to look for in the coming year because I’m sure they’ll all be doing cool stuff. Continue reading →

By

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 →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: Bruce Warren’s top five Philly jawns of 2018

Armani White at Made In America | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, XPN program director Bruce Warren reflects on his favorite Philly moments of the year.

5. The rise of &More

Early in 2018, word dropped about a new musical collaboration, &More, between Philly rapper Chill Moody and singer Donn T. One of Philly’s most exciting new collaborations this year, watching their musical lovechild grow has been exciting. Their first public appearance was as part of the lineup of local bands for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest on the Road at World Cafe Live, they’ve been on the road with Philly rock and rollers, Low Cut Connie, and they put on a great show at the XPoNential Music Festival in July. 2019 has some big things in store for &More; the next chance you get you should see them. Their synthesis of R&B and hip-hop is intoxicating.

Below, watch &More perform “My Own Light” at XPNFest. Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: The Django Pages 2018 – A.D. Amorosi’s greyhound rates the hits, disses the misses of the year gone

Django Amorosi at Kimpton Hotel Monaco | photo by Reese Amorosi | courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer A.D. Amorosi turns to his greyhound Django for another pass at the year’s hits and misses.

After the rush of respect, acclaim and fame from 2017’s The Django Pages at The Key – his critical debut – my fleet greyhound certainly felt a serious sense of responsibility when it came to documenting his continued love affair (and occasional disgust) with the music around him, and the multi-culturalism surrounding that. Plus, he got a gig writing for Pitchfork, something that has, so far, alluded me during my career as an arts journalist.

As it was a weird year (politically, socially), so much of what Django took in, and appreciated/dissected had to be filtered through the noise of rhetoric and correctness. With that came an addition to his usual outward signs of approval and disapproval (relaxed ears or laying with legs akimbo for the former, grimace and growls for the latter): a side-eyed glare as if to say, “c’maan, really?” Many of these looks got shot at me at the sound of anything having to do with Kanye West (from his innumerable rants to his Kids See Ghosts), Asia Argento, Jeff Sessions, 6ix9ine (even though his performance at Made in America was stellar), Larry Krasner and Justin Timberlake (really, just JT’s whole Man in the Woods burly guy routine. Everything else is cool). Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: John Vettese’s Top Six Philly Music Finds of 2018

Low Dose | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. To kick off the series, Key editor John Vettese recaps six of his favorite Philadelphia music finds from the past 12 months.

This page of the calendar is always a blur for me. Thinking back over the 300-some previous days of listening to records from Philly musicians, getting to their gigs, recording them in the WXPN studio, and spinning their music on the air is a lot to take stock of. Putting together my annual rundown of jaw-dropping artists that were new to me in 2018 quickly went from “hmm, I know I was stoked about these three” to “OMG I already have 20, I need to narrow this down.”

But that’s the blessing of living in Philly, as I say every year. We have amazing musicians operating on all tiers — the broadly-reaching Meek Mills releasing the best and most poignant records of their career, the War on Drugs-es returning home this week for a sold-out run of underplay shows, the Hop Alongs garnering widespread acclaim for their own masterpieces — but we also have musicians who are still sweating it out on basement show bills, touring in battered vans, hustling across the bar scene, and grinding to make it all work for them.

Finding the most exciting musicians in that latter space, and watching them make their way to the former, is easily my favorite part of my job. Here are a handful of artists I hope to see make that journey this year.

Continue reading →

By

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 →