Despite the gloomy nature of its recent single, Okkervil River is not dead. Will Sheff’s project will return to Philadelphia for a show at Union Transfer on October 18th. It just might not be the Okkervil River you’ve grown accustomed to since the band’s 2005 breakthrough album Black Sheep Boy.Continue reading →
For the second year running, the folks at NPR Music held their Tiny Desk Contest this winter, with artists all over the country competing to be a featured performer on the endlessly popular Tiny Desk Concert video series. Word is the winner will be announced tomorrow morning, so just like last year, we here at The Key compiled a list of nearly every Philly area musician who entered.
Last year, NPR told us that Philadelphia artists contributed 75 videos to the 7,000 overall entries. This time, we’re counting 131 videos…almost double.
Each group reconfigured their setup for an intimate performance, staged behind a desk of some sort. The mix and variety of styles parallels the variety of musical talent pouring out of this city right now. And this isn’t even all of it. Continue reading →
XPN favorites Wilco have always been known for their largely rocking and experimental, and musically intense live shows, however, in quiet beauty the band shows another side of themselves.
Wilco recently stopped by the NPR Music for a Tiny Desk Concert to play acoustic versions of new and old songs. They opened their set with “The Joke Explained” from their most recent album, Star Wars, a rollicking country rock song featuring guitar virtuoso Nels Cline on slide. They followed up with “Misunderstood,” a melodic ballad that captures everything that is great about the band, introspective storytelling lyrics about inner-self and strange atonal mumblings that channel Jeff Tweedy’s former crippling migranes. Continue reading →
At SXSW, the word “party” can mean just about anything: singer songwriters strumming in the courtyard of a bistro, pyschedelic bummer-rockers playing off of the sixth street chaos, a DJ spinning to a crowd of ten somewhere on the other side of the highway. For its annual opening night party at Stubb’s, NPR Music defined “party” very literally; every one of the eclectic array of artists exuded energy and cheer, and got the packed-in crowd moving in a big way. Continue reading →
Without a doubt, the Tiny Desk Contest was one of the most inspiring musical happenings of the past year.
After developing a global fan base with their uniquely-curated videos of unfussy, informal concerts held at producer Bob Boilen’s desk, the NPR Music team this winter opened up the floor to the public, inviting them to shoot their own DIY Tiny Desk-esque videos and submit them via YouTube for a chance to win a slot on the series.
On the one level, it felt like the small-time local heroes from around the country were being given a chance at stardom in that special, Tiny Desk kind of way. Beneath the surface a bit, those of us who work in music know that many of the artists already featured in the series are in the midst of some sort of press cycle, a national promotional push for whatever album they happen to be selling at the time.
As I said, it’s a well-curated run of videos, but most of the artists who make their way to Boilen’s desk are doing so with some level of industry connectedness in hand. Continue reading →
Singer-songwriter Conor Oberst releases his new album, Upside Down Mountain on Tuesday, May 20th. You can listen to it in its entirety here via NPR Music. WXPN Welcomes Conor with special guests Dawes to the TLA on Wednesday, May 21st. The show is sold out.
Writing about the album for NPR Music, Tom Moon says:
Upside Down Mountain suggests that Oberst is growing, rapidly, as a craftsman. It’s the first truly intimate set of songs he’s offered in a while — really since his 2008 eponymous gem, though contemplative moments seeped into 2009’s Outer South, which he recorded with the Mystic Valley Band. Oberst visits some of the rowdy backbeats of those previous works, but even in the driving rock tracks (the -ish “Zigzagging Toward the Light”), he’s brokering interior thoughts, choosing clusters of words for the ways they thrive, or sometimes disappear, inside the sonic swirl.
Upside Down Mountain was co-produced by Jonathan Wilson, who also plays various instruments throughout the album. Oberst gets some additional help from Blake Mills, Orenda Fink, Mike Moogis and Andy LeMaster. The gorgeous back up vocals are performed by Klara and Johanna Söderberg, known to many as the duo First Aid Kit.
Pearl Jam releases their new album, Lightning Bolt, on Tuesday, October 15th. You can listen to it now in its entirety on the Pearl Jam artist page here via iTunes.
Today, NPR Music premieres a video – and World Cafe, the radio version – of a conversation with Pearl Jam and writer and director Judd Apatow that you can watch and listen to below. World Cafe will broadcast the interview in two parts. Listen to part one below; it will also be broadcast today on WXPN at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET and on stations around the country here. Part two will run tomorrow on World Cafe.
Writing about the video, NPR Music’s Ann Powers says:
It’s a pleasure to watch these interviews. Through the Apatow interviews, a full portrait of Pearl Jam at 26 emerges. Guitarist Stone Gossard’s words on “digging in” get to the heart of what it’s like to be in a long-standing working unit. Jeff Ament’s joy in playing with his mates shines through his enthusiastic responses. Matt Cameron, the band’s drummer, shows his acerbic cool. Mike McCready talks about the meticulousness with which he still approaches his guitar solos. And Eddie Vedder , philosophical as always, hones in on how he keeps making Pearl Jam new for himself and for the band’s loyal fan base.
Listen to part one of the World Cafe segment below, and watch NPR Music’s video of the interview.
After closing the Spectrum with four shows in 2009, and performing Made in America in 2012, the band plays the Wells Fargo Center on Monday, October 21st and October 22nd. Get tickets and information on the show here. Pre-order Lightning Bolt here.