The Best of Philly Music 2013

Photo by Abi Reimold
Photo by Abi Reimold

In September 2010, we started The Key because we wanted to offer the local music scene another platform to reach more audiences. We also started it because starting in the early aughts we noticed something happening here creatively amongst the local music scene that was hadn’t felt in a while – it was growing creatively and the buzz about how good the local scene was becoming more significant.

More new bands were starting than ever before, more music was becoming available for fans and more musicians were looking for ways to connect to fans. To me, the last five years of “the scene” reminds me a lot of the Philly music scene in the mid-Eighties to early Nineties when bands like Electric Love Muffin, Three Times Dope, The Wishniaks, Nixon’s Head, the Goats, the Dead Milkmen, Schoolly D, The Low Road, The Hooters, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and Tommy Conwell all represented for Philly on both local and international stages. We thought Philly 2012 was a banner year for the local music scene. Guess what? 2013 was even better. Here are some of the best things about the Philly music scene in 2013.

Dr. Dog made their best album yet, B-Room.

Man Man made their best record yet, On Oni Pond.

The Districts signed with Fat Possum. Look for an EP with a couple of old songs and new tunes on January 26th.
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Listen to the title song of Kurt Vile & Sore Eros’ forthcoming EP, “Jamaica Plain”

soreeros Below, listen “Jamaica Plain,” the title song from the forthcoming EP by Kurt Vile and Robert Robinson of Sore Eros. Robinson, who shares the same birthday with Vile, is a past member of The Violators and has toured in Ariel Pink’s band. The EP’s title song takes its name from the Boston town in Massachusetts where it was recorded and where Vile once lived. The song is a gorgeous, contemplative, acoustically rich, with hints of ambient synths. The EP is being released on Care In The Community on vinyl and digitally on November 4th. Listen to another song from the EP, “Serum,” here.


Photos: Kurt Vile headlines Union Transfer for the second time this year

Photo by Megan Kelly All photos by Megan Kelly

This past weekend, Philly’s Kurt Vile and his band The Violators returned home to Philly for their second headlining show of 2013 at Union Transfer. It’s been a landmark year for Vile, from the spring release of his LP Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze to the international acclaim and touring that followed, to being honored locally with the Liberty Bell Award on the city’s inaugural Kurt Vile Day in August. Next month, an expanded edition of Daze will be released along with the companion EP It’s a Big World Out There and I’m Scared. Get information on the release here, check out photos and a review of Vile’s previous Union Transfer show here, and see photos from this past weekend in the gallery below.


The Week’s Best Free MP3s, incl. Kurt Vile, Marietta, Shawn Kilroy


Photo by David Kain
Photo by David Kain

This week’s Key Studio Session featured local storytellers Northern Arms.  Fittingly for the season, the ten-piece band creates dark and haunting songs in the form of narrative vignettes like “Warm Springs Georgia “below.  Stream and download the track, then check out the full session here.

Singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt stopped by recently for a Folkadelphia Session.  The San Francisco native released her debut LP earlier this year somewhat out of the blue and without much explanation, adding to the already mysterious nature of her music.  For this session, Pratt recorded songs that did not appear on the LP.  Stream and download the full set below.

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My Morning Download: “Feel My Pain” by Kurt Vile (XPN Welcomes to Union Transfer Saturday, 10/26)

Photo By: Rachel Del Sordo
Photo By: Rachel Del Sordo
As we previously wrote, Kurt Vile streamed a new song, “Feel My Pain.” Now, the song is available to download below for free. “Feel My Pain” is from a new digital and 12-inch vinyl release from Kurt and the Violators, “it’s a big world out there (and i am scared)”. It is being released on November 19th, has six of seven new tracks (previously unreleased) and the EP will also be packaged with a deluxe edition of Wakin on a Pretty Daze, called Deluxe Daze (Post Haze).

From the Matador Records blog, Kurt writes:

This track was recorded during the first cluster of sessions at Dreamland Studios, May 2012.
(same sessions that conjured up most of album opener “wakin on a pretty day” I should add!)

“Feel My Pain” is a particularly meticulous guitar composition that i remember playing over and over back when writing it and then even more so when i had finished it, sort-of possessed.

We added a lot to this later only to strip it back again favoring the raw to the chamber-pop this go ’round. Spectral arrangement and a mellow-ominous delivery (if such a thing is possible)…

WXPN Welcomes Kurt Vile & the Violators to Union Transfer, this Saturday, October 26th. Go here for tickets.

Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company

Stream Kurt Vile’s “Feel My Pain” (playing Union Transfer 10/26)

Kurt+Vile+kurtvilePhilly’s Kurt Vile just released a new song from the upcoming deluxe edition re-release of his LP, Wakin on a Pretty Daze. Although Vile invites you to feel his pain, he wants to feel yours too and personifies this dreaded entity that affects us all. He reasons that “we’re all banged up, but who’s keeping score?” over an intricate guitar riff that mirrors the depth of his brooding message. Wakin on a Pretty Daze: Deluxe Daze (Post Haze) and the It’s A Big World Out There (And I Am Scared) EP are available November 19th via Matador Records.


Kurt Vile talks starting from the ground up in an episode of Noisey’s “Made Me” (playing Union Transfer on 10/26)

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By now, the fact that Kurt Vile once worked as a forklift operator can probably be counted as common knowledge.  But at what point during his early working years did music make the transition from hobby to primary focus? In a new interview clip with Noisey, the Philadelphia native points to his song “Freeway” as being the catalyst for a life of tour vans and recording studios:

“We used to play that song live with loud guitar and it had a good response, so we recorded it and it came out ultimately super poppy and that’s when people started taking me a little more seriously as somebody with potential,” he says. “Basically, it was tons of labels were asking me to put out my record and then I ultimately signed to Matador.”

Vile returns to Union Transfer for a hometown show with Beach Fossils on October 26th; tickets and information can be found here.  Watch the “Made Me” episode (filmed at Johnny Brenda’s) below.


Listen to “Serum,” a semi-ambient track from Kurt Vile and Sore Eros’ collaborative Jamacia Plain EP

kvGoing back about ten years, Kurt Vile wasn’t an international indie rock star, a critically acclaimed artist, or even a singer with a band necessarily. He was just a dude who liked to record weird music with his friends. One of those friends was Massachusetts musician Robin Robertson, a former member of The Violators who now performs as Sore Eros, and an EP they laid down in the early aughts is being re-released by Care In The Community Recordings this fall.

It’s called Jamaica Plains, also the name of a neighborhood in Boston where Kurt lived between 2001 and 2003, and a track from it was premiered on Stereogum this afternoon. As compared to the layered and intricate guitar rock of this year’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze (or the propulsive guitar rock of Kurt’s 2009 Matador debut Childish Prodigy), this is a very sparse affair, a meditative mix guitar, synthesizer and a very veerrrrry slooooooow drumbeat. Give it a listen below. On the one hand, it’s nice and sublime. On the other, we’re super glad Kurt has The Violators as a backing band to rock out with now as well. They headline Union Transfer on October 26th (tickets and info here); Jamaica Plains is out on November 4th.


Get pumped with an eclectic mixtape from Kurt Vile, learn about his new EP and deluxe edition of Daze

ScaredWith his latest double LP Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze generating international acclaim, Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile today announced the forthcoming release of a deluxe edition of the album, along with a new EP called it’s a big world out there (and i’m scared).

The six-track EP, billed as a Kurt Vile and The Violators recording, was laid down during the sessions with John Agnello for Daze, and will be released as a stand-alone EP, as well as the bonus disc for Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze (Post Haze) – which also features new artwork from cover artist / muralist Steve Powers. Both releases come out November 19th.

By way of context, Vile also shared some background stories about the final recording sessions for the album, which took place in late 2012, in a post on his website. He also released the soundcloud mixtape that he gave his backing band The Violators and studio team to “pump myself up” for the album’s completion – cuts from Tom Petty, Gary Numan and more. Says Vile:

i don’t want to dissect all my favorite music for everyone. but i sent this mix to my friends involved in my record for the purpose of loose/good vibes. and then i sent it to some other friends and loved ones. some of whom complimented it, and of course i was flattered cuz i did work hard on it like a total dork, hah… i didn’t just throw it together.

i don’t wanna say all this stuff influenced my record in any obvious way.
but subliminally? most def.
cuz that’s life. always influenced by your surroundings.

some top faves (besides “a quick thing”) :
bill fay “warwick town”
the byrds “truckstop girl”
flamin groovies “whiskey woman”

“…and all of the rest.”

Listen to the mixtape below, and take a look at the track listing for the EP and new cover art for Daze after the jump. Kurt Vile headlines Union Transfer on October 26th. Get tickets and information on the show here.

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Kurt Vile covers The Clash for Google Play’s “Audio Ammunition” (playing Union Transfer on 10/26)

Photo by Abi Reimold |
Photo by Abi Reimold |
As a supplement to the recent reissues of classic Clash albums, Google Play has gathered together four contemporary musicians who draw influence from the legendary English punk band for a series of cover songs.  Kurt Vile & The Violators contributed their take on 1979′s “The Guns of Brixton” to the effort, captured in the video below and compiled alongside covers by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Surfer Blood and Slipknot’s Corey Taylor.  Check out the Philly band’s rendition and get limited-time free download of the MP3 here.  Vile plays Union Transfer on October 26th; tickets and information can be found here.