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Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker and Nick Hakim bring Johnny Brenda’s to a hush with two sold out solo sets

Adrianne Lenker | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Two seated shows on a snowy night at Johnny Brenda’s last Wednesday night had the audience holding their breath in fear of interrupting these intimate solo performers. If you closed your eyes you, couldn’t tell that anyone was in the room beside the person onstage. Performing for sold out crowds at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Adrianne Lenker (co-frontperson of acclaimed indie folk act Big Thief) and Nick Hakim had the room’s complete attention. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Nick Hakim, soul machine, introduces himself to World Cafe Live

Nick Hakim | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Sensual funkiness: a combination of words I’d never expect to throw together but that fully encapsulates the sound of Nick Hakim and his four-piece backing band during today’s Free At Noon performance. The New York-based artist released his debut full-length Green Twins in May and wrapped up a US headlining tour in Seattle on Tuesday, and beginning next week he can be found opening for Fleet Foxes during the European leg of their Crack-Up tour. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Sophie Coran

Making music is a process of constant re-invention. Meticulously crafted studio recordings are re-shaped onstage, the onstage energy influences the direction of the next studio recordings, and the cycle continues back and forth over an artist’s lifespan.

Sophie Coran has already experienced quite a bit of that in her four years as a singer and songwriter working around Philadelphia. Her earliest work, the Better EP from 2015, took on a piano-driven identity in the vein of Carly Simon and Paula Cole. Last year, her follow-up, All that Matters, folded in elements of jazz and soul. And as Coran began playing shows around town in support of that release, she connected with Logan Roth and Arjun Dube of the experimental instrumental band Trap Rabbit. They became her live band, and the chemistry she developed with them — as well as bassist Mike Morrongiello — pushed her music into new realms.

The recent “Duller Star” single is the first example we’re hearing of collaboration. It’s a song that breathes in a husky tenor, its melodic skeleton fusing with Roth’s layers of synthesizer soundbanks and melodic leads to create an arty pop air reminiscent of Fiona Apple. There’s also a rhythmic pulse, care of Dube, that isn’t too far off from the crowd-galvanizing concepts of EDM.

Watch the video below as the song opens on a solitary Coran, playing her Nord and singing about a cigarette abandoned on the nightstand. As the verse progress, Morrongiello’s bass enters along with Roth’s keys, gently at first, and then becoming more defined. They unite with Dube’s drum stand pings and light rhythms, until the cymbals emphatically swish, then breathlessly cut to silence at the end of the pre-chorus. The beat drops. The song is under way. And as I said in an NPR blurb about Coran earlier this week, it will “in its own, downtempo jazz-pop kind of way, get you moving.”

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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.

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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 →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Radiator Hospital and more at L.O.T.S. Festival, Hop Along at Union Transfer, Nik Greeley at MilkBoy and more

Radiator Hospital | Photo by John Hanson | via Radiator Hospital’s Facebook
Okay, yes, obviously with our week full of coverage of Hop Along’s new album Painted Shut, we think you should go to the Hop Along show tonight. But you know what? The first Love on the Streets Festival to benefit the Paine’s Skate Park Funk is a daytime concert, and the music is just as great, making it the perfect pre-party. West Philly folky punk faves Radiator Hospital headline, along with pop anthem machine W.C. Lindsay, buzzing emo four-piece Clique (who open for Hop Along later tonight) and the hard-hitting Dogs On Acid (featuring Joe Reinhart of Hop Along). Earlier in the day there are performances by EDM-leaning artists Moon Bounce, Jack Deezl and Mister Sampson, plus skate and circus arts demos. It’s gonna be a great time; more information here. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Big Thief will play First Unitarian Church in this fall

Big Thief | Photo: Shervin Lainez
Big Thief | photo by Shervin Lainez | courtesy of the artist

Brooklyn-based indie rock band Big Thief announced their fall tour and are set to appear at Philly’s First Unitarian Church in October. The tour announcement comes on the heels of Big Thief’s recently-released experimental EP, Wide Winged Bird. The EP was made while on tour from summer 2015 to spring 2017, and contains ambient background sounds, field recordings, poems, and songs intertwined through out the 30-minute experience. Continue reading →