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Now Hear This: New music by Miguel, Baths, Karl Blau, Phoebe Bridgers, Little Mazarn, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and more

Phoebe Bridgers | Photo by Frank Ockenfels | via Dead Oceans

Every month, noted song expert K. Ross Hoffman presents Now Hear This, a sampling of fresh specimens for your consideration.

Happy 2018! The year’s off to a great start, musically speaking, with much to look forward to on the horizon (including some heavy-hitters poised to return – The Breeders, David Byrne, Superchunk and Jack White among them) and a surprising number of strong releases already out in the world, a mere two weeks into the year. Plus the local concert calendar is already heating up, possibly more than any January I can remember. Let’s take a look at some of what’s ahead, concert-wise, by simultaneously taking one final glance back to 2017 at some cuts by artists who had notable breakthrough years, a few great late fall/early winter releases, and a smattering of others that you (or I) might have overlooked along the way. All but one have upcoming Philly tour dates – many of them happening this month and several further on down the line. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Phoebe Bridgers brings Stranger in the Alps to World Cafe Live in February

Phoebe Bridgers | Photo by Frank Ockenfels | via Dead Oceans

Los Angeles based alt-folk artist Phoebe Bridgers released her debut full-length Stranger in the Alps to wide acclaim earlier this fall. The single “Motion Sickness” was named XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week in August. Bridgers will bring the sounds of the new album to Philly on February 21, 2018 for a headlining show at World Cafe Live. Continue reading →

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Pre-order Live at the World Cafe Volume 43 featuring The Districts, Maggie Rogers, The War on Drugs, Waxahatchee and more

Live at the World Cafe Volume 43

The latest compilation of live performances from NPR’s World Cafe is available this spring to XPN members — and it’s a fantastic collection.

Ranging from rock and folk vets Bob WeirLittle Steven & The Disciples of Soul, and Suzanne Vega to new voices Maggie Rogers, Sweet Spirit, and Phoebe Bridgers, Philly rooted artists The DistrictsThe War on Drugs, and Waxahatchee, Live at the World Cafe Vol. 43 is an expansive release. Continue reading →

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Soccer Mommy shows she’s not “Your Dog” in kickass, self-assured single

Soccer Mommy | photo via artist’s Facebook

Nashville-bred NYU student Sophie Allison has been releasing “chill but kinda sad” lo-fi tunes on Bandcamp for years now under the moniker Soccer Mommy. Less than a year after the release of her debut full length Collection, Soccer Mommy’s biting new track,”Your Dog,” not only anticipates the upcoming album, Clean — out on March 2nd via Fat Possum Records — but also hints at a more expansive, no-nonsense direction.

Remastering some tracks from earlier EPs, last year’s Collection flowed in the same kind of hopelessly heartsick blue vein of Soccer Mommy’s bedroom-recorded tracks, where Allison oft dreamt up stories of falling in love with perfect strangers and far-away crushes. All of which, I adore, as there’s nothing wrong with vulnerability and hopeless romanticism standing there right alongside the strength and independence of a badass lady.

Embracing the latter characteristics on the for young hearts EP-featured “bloody honey,” and Collection’s shining anthem, “Out Worn,” these songs glimpsed at someone who didn’t just sulk in sadness when wronged, but fought back with knock-out self-assuredness. With the release of “Your Dog,” though, we find that these tracks had offered just a teeny, tiny sliver of the kick-assery that Allison can dish out. Continue reading →

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Meet the #NPRSlingshot class of 2018

L-R, Top To Bottom: Air Credits, Bedouine, Brent Cowles, George Li, Gracie and Rachel, Haley Heynderickx, Hello June, Hembree, The Hogan Brothers, Jade Bird, Knox Fortune, Lawrence Rothman, Liz Brasher, McKinley Dixon, Mt. Joy, Phoebe Bridgers, The Shacks, Sidney Gish, Thunderpussy, WebsterX – The #NPRSlingshot Class of 2018 | via NPR Music

After an introductory year introducing Big Thief, Jamila Woods, and Lo Moon to listeners across the country, public radio’s emerging artist spotlight Slingshot returns for a second year — and a seven-fold increase in artists.

Some of the class of 2018 will be familiar to savvy listeners of XPN — like Bedouine, who recently appeared on World Cafe, or Phoebe Bridgers, who was an XPN Artist to Watch (and who appeared onstage with Conor Oberst at XPNFest). Many of them will be new — and that’s the whole point of Slingshot. Continue reading →

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Your top 50 XPN songs of 2017

 

The War on Drugs | photo courtesy of the artist
The War on Drugs | photo courtesy of the 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. Today, after tallying up the numbers and playing back the jams, we are delighted to bring you Your top 50 XPN songs of 2017.

You’ll notice a lot of recurring themes, whether it be the mission statement of Strand of Oaks — “play it, play it loud on the radio” — or multiple cuts from epic space rockers Lo Moon, who made a galvanizing introduction this year; art popster St. Vincent, who won over the masses with the daring MASSEDUCTION; disco infultrators LCD Soundsystem, who returned from retirement in top form; or Philly’s The War on Drugs, whose major label debut is their strongest and most confident artistic statement to date.

A Deeper Understanding was a massive winner in our listening community, and you voted four of the album’s ten songs in to the overall top 50 list. Revisit the ranking below, or scroll to the bottom of the page to listen to the entire package in one handy dandy Spotify playlist. And whatever you wind up doing tonight, have a safe and happy New Year. We can’t wait to discover more music with you in 2018. Continue reading →

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Listen to XPN’s 25 most-played songs of 2017

Spoon | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN // Tash Sultana | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN // Chicano Batman | photo by Dylan Eddinger for WXPN

As the year draws to a close, the WXPN programming staff crunched the numbers on its playlist to determine the songs that filled its airwaves the most. The resulting top 25, which you can check out below, is a nice snapshot of what the station is all about: singer-songwriters and indie rock, psychedelia and Americana, a little bit of jazz and modern rock, fresh faces and industry vets alike.

There’s a bit of bias towards the stuff that’s been out there longer, of course; tracks by glam rocking Austinites Sweet Spirit and experimental Australian guitarist Tash Sultana, which were first played last winter, rank higher than, say, The War on Drugs, or Phoebe Bridgers, who have only been in the mix since late summer.

Whatever the case, though, these are 25 fantastic songs that are absolutely worth taking out for another spin. We’re interested to see how many of them will appear again in the listener-voted Top 50, which broadcasts on WXPN on New Year’s Eve afternoon. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Megan Cooper’s top ten train tracks (a commute playlist for 2017)

Chastity Belt | photo via chastity-belt.bandcamp.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Megan Cooper shares the soundtrack that kept her sane on SEPTA.

This past year, I’ve spent a quite a bit of time on public transport. Not having a car, while splitting my life between the ‘burbs as I finished up school (woo I’m done!) and the city as I worked and went to many a gig, you could say the R5 Regional Rail line was —  for better or for worse — sort of like a second home to me.

Because although SEPTA often left me shaking my fists towards the sky at impossibly excessive delays, my feelings of seething hatred would immediately melt into warmth and contentment as soon as I’d slump into my window seat — eager for the twenty or so minutes of peace to come. Devoid of road rage and panic that parking spot quests bring, train commutes are a unique kind of solitary experience where the world seems to slow down and stand still as it ironically whirs right past you. So unless you’re on your way to some event you need to get mega hyped for, abrasive and loud tracks don’t really have a place here — at least for me. Though I love me a good ole punk jam, this quiet setting is reserved for reflective mindfulness where chill, soft and introspective songs reign supreme.

So, in no particular order, here’s a list of ten songs that served as my trusty train companions this year. Ranging from laid-back and soothing, to somber and melancholic, to atmospheric and poppy, these songs will get you in your head, make you feel many a feeling, and maybe even give your brain a comforting little hug of solidarity. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Directors’ Cut — The XPN video team picks its favorite performances of the year

Tank and the Bangas | photo by Galea McGregor for WXPN
Tank and the Bangas | photo by Galea McGregor for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, we combed through the XPN video archives to find the year’s best performances.

Here at WXPN, our video team — headed up by Galea McGregor and John Groome — keeps incredibly busy. Between weekly World Cafe sessions, Free at Noon concerts, XPoNential Music Festival performances, Key Studio Session and more, they’ve produced over 300 videos in 2017…and there’s still another couple weeks to go. I grabbed some time with Galea and John in between their busy shooting and editing schedule to reflect on their favorite videos from over the past 12 months, and what made them unique. here’s what they had to say. Continue reading →