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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Sleepy Hollow’s favorite songs of 2016

Angel Olsen | Photo by Amanda Marsallis
Angel Olsen | Photo by Amanda Marsallis

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, the hosts of WXPN’s Sleepy Hollow – Julian Booker, Keith Kelleher and Chuck Elliot – share their favorite quiet songs of 2016

We all know that 2016 was a difficult year for music fans. It will forever be remembered as the year we lost David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen, among many others. But we can be thankful that it also yielded a surplus of excellent recordings (two of which were released by Bowie and Cohen themselves). From Allen Toussaint’s somber swan song American Tunes and undeniably consistent releases from David Crosby and Brian Eno to unexpected collaborations between Neko Case, k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs, Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop, and Billy Bragg and Joe Henry to potentially career-defining albums from young artists like Angel Olsen and Michael Kiwanuka, this year had a lot for which to be thankful. Take a listen to this Spotify playlist featuring all three of our hosts’ favorite songs of the year, and check out our take on a few of the releases that we thought deserved particular attention below. Enjoy! -JB. Continue reading →

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You’re listening to the quiet sounds of #XPNAtoZ Sleepy Hollow

Ryley Walker’s 2016 record Golden Songs That Have Been Sung

We’ve got one more weekend of the XPN A to Z, so the folks here at Sleepy Hollow decided to give you our own A to Z this weekend with this Spotify playlist. Rather than simply choosing songs that begin with each letter, we put together a show as usual and then laid it out in alphabetical order. Take a look for themes throughout the playlist (note “Snaker Ray Has Come and Gone” and “Dust My Broom” by Snaker Ray w/ Koerner & Glover) along with some pretty wild transitions. We hope you’ll enjoy this and make sure to tune in next weekend for the return of Sleepy Hollow! Continue reading →

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Sleepy Hollow remembers the essential sounds of Rudy Van Gelder

Rudy Van Gelder | via the Smithsonian Institute

Few recording engineers have had as large or lasting an impact on popular music as Rudy Van Gelder. The New Jersey native, who passed away on August 25th at the age of 91, not only helped to define the sound of (arguably) jazz’s most creative and influential period (from roughly 1950 to 1975), he also worked to develop modern recording approaches and techniques that are still being used today across a multitude of music genres.

Van Gelder’s most prolific work would come after 1959, when he opened his famed recording studio at 442 Sylvan Avenue in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. His career, however, began years earlier when he, working as an optometrist, began recording jazz sessions at his parents’ house in Hackensack. Among many other classics, 1954’s self-titled album by Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers, 1955’s Afro-Cuban by Kenny Drew, 1956’s Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins, and a legendary session that same year recorded with the Miles Davis Quintet that spawned the Steamin’, Workin’, Cookin’ and Relaxin’ with… albums — all recorded there for some of the most successful record labels in jazz, including Prestige and Blue Note. Continue reading →

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Sleepy Hollow’s Best of 2016 (so far)

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Paul Simon | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN | instagram.com/hellerhound

As we move beyond its halfway point, 2016 has proven to be filled with a wealth of new musical treasures. We’ve been treated to unexpected and rich collaborations between Dawn Landes & Piers Faccini (Heaven’s Gate EP), Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine) & Jesca Hoop (Love Letter for Fire), and the self-titled albums from Colvin & Earle and case/lang/veirs (both of whom are performing the weekend of our XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, NJ).

Well-established artists like Paul Simon (Stranger to Stranger), Bill Frisell (When You Wish Upon a Star) and Lucinda Williams (The Ghosts of Highway 20) have offered some of the best recordings of their careers, while Allen Toussaint’s swan song (American Tunes, produced by Joe Henry) serves as both a perfect coda, as well as poignant elegy to the pianist/singer/songwriter’s incredible life.

Country is alive and well with a high-profile release from Sturgill Simpson (A Sailor’s Guide to Earth) and the long overdue recognition of Karl Blau (Introducing Karl Blau). And guitar-centric releases from William Tyler (Modern Country), Steve Gunn (Eyes on the Lines) and the forthcoming release from Ryley Walker (Golden Sings That Have Been Sung) are keeping the six-string relevant in an era increasingly awash (for better and worse) with “electronic” instruments.

And as we await to hear what great music awaits us, enjoy this playlist of some of the Sleepy Hollow hosts’ favorite recordings from the first half of 2016.

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Sleepy Hollow Celebrates Bob Dylan…Through the Years

Bob Dylan | via The Guardian

Few, if any, artists of the past 75 years have led a career with the immense wealth of creative work as Bob Dylan. Born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, MN on May 24, 1941, Dylan would begin to set popular music on a new course by the time he turned 22.

With his second album, 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, he introduced his unparalleled craftsmanship of song in “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Girl from the North Country,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” and became the country’s most popular folk singer and the adopted voice of his generation. When he released Bringing It All Back Home in 1965 though, Dylan had abandoned his post, alienating much of his audience by focusing less on overtly cultural and political topics in favor of a more personal, and of course, more electric approach to songwriting and performing.

This would be the first indication of a trend in Dylan’s career that saw him shifting from folk singer to rock and roll frontman (Highway 61 Revisited; 1965), country balladeer (Nashville Skyline; 1969), confessional singer/songwriter (Blood on the Tracks; 1975), Christian proclaimer (Slow Train Coming; 1979), and late-night crooner (Shadows in the Night; 2015), and that’s to name only a few of his personas…not to mention skip the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s entirely.

And if not all of his recordings have managed to be consistently excellent (and many are), they have at least always been consistently intriguing. As we approach Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday this coming Tuesday (when we will celebrate with a full day of his music on #XPNDylanDay), the folks here at Sleepy Hollow give you a few of our favorite recordings from Bob Dylan’s vast catalogue.

Enjoy!

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Who Tribe Sampled: A Sleepy Hollow tribute to Phife Dawg

The late, great Phife Dawg | photo via The Source

Since the moment I heard of the passing of A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg earlier this week, I, like so many others, have spent a lot of time revisiting Tribe’s catalogue. For me, hearing their two undisputed classics, 1991’s The Low End Theory and 1993’s Midnight Marauders were complete revelations. Never before had I hung on every single word an MC put forth as I did with Phife and his partner-in-rhyme Q-Tip — hearing a new knockout phrase with every subsequent listen, I became infatuated with their lyrical skill and playfulness.

Already a jazz enthusiast, I also became interested in the many, many recordings that ultimately found themselves sampled on ATCQ tracks via their great DJ and producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Continue reading →

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Dig in to Sleepy Hollow’s Songs of Love playlist and tune in on Valentine’s weekend

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

A photo posted by ❉ dakota (@kotashley) on

What is Valentine’s Day without a great soundtrack? This weekend Chuck, Keith and I offer a cupid-shot edition of Sleepy Hollow with our Songs of Love Weekend–full of quiet seduction, subtle admiration, and the occasional heartbreak and loathing of a past lover (fear not, V-Day haters, “Love Ridden” by Fiona Apple will make an appearance on Sunday). Here is a preview of what’s to come, with selections from all of us here at Sleepy Hollow and some extra words from Keith and I. Enjoy! Continue reading →

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Listen to Sleepy Hollow’s Holiday playlist

Photo by Chris Sikich
Photo by Chris Sikich

Despite what the local weather may lead us to believe, it is mid-December and we are in the heart of the holiday season. Julian, Keith and Chuck from Sleepy Hollow offer a playlist of holiday and winter-related selections to soundtrack your morning spent with family, afternoons wrapping gifts, and even your evenings spent alone…words and links to some of their favorite tracks below – enjoy! Continue reading →

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WXPN’s Sleepy Hollow to celebrate Sinatra’s 100th Birthday

frank sinatra
Frank Sinatra | photo via www.allaboutjazz.com

As important as any vocalist of the twentieth century, Hoboken, NJ-native Frank Sinatra (born December 12, 1915) rose out of Tommy Dorsey’s immensely popular orchestra of the 1940s to become the most famous popular singer of the 1950s and beyond. As we celebrate his 100th birthday this weekend on Sleepy Hollow, we focus on some of our favorite Sinatra recordings, as well as songs associated with ‘Ol Blue Eyes recorded by others.

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Sleepy Hollow’s Greatest Year(s) in Music: 2009

sleepy hollow

Sleepy Hollow’s Julian Booker and Keith Kelleher continue their profiles of potential “Greatest Years in Music” in conjunction with XPN’s on-going musical conversation. Read their case for 2009 below:

Moving ahead from our last post that chronicled some our favorite music from 1997, the Sleepy Hollow crew takes on the final year of the first decade of the 2000s!

2009 was a year heavy on well-established pop acts like the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce, with plenty of hip-hop (Flo Ride, Kanye West), the occasional singer/songwriter (Jason Mraz), and modern rock acts (Kings of Leon, The All-American Rejects) finding success on the year end Hot 100. The Top 200 Albums chart follows in much the same way, dominated by late-2008 releases from Taylor Swift, the aforementioned Beyonce, and Canadian rockers Nickelback.

Though still beneath the mainstream radar, independent releases from Animal Collective (with their career defining electro-psych masterpiece, Merriweather Post Pavillion), the moody downtempo-synth experiments of The xx’s debut, and the infectious, pop-centric indie rock of Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix all placed well on the the album charts thanks to the ever-more important nod of approval from on-line taste makers like Pitchfork.

And while we lost influential artists in singer/songwriter John Martyn, singer/pianist Blossom Dearie, percussionist Joe Cuba, and multi-instrumentalist and former Wilco member Jay Bennett, it was the death of arguably the biggest pop star in the world, Michael Jackson, that loomed heaviest over the music industry.

Below we feature some of our favorite releases from 2009 that made great impressions on us here at Sleepy Hollow. Enjoy!

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