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Just Announced: NPR Music and World Cafe bring The National to Philly, performing entire new album LIVE

The National | photo by Graham Macindoe | courtesy of the artist

Over the last two months, excitement for The National’s new album, Sleep Well Beast, has been building as they’ve released three singles and performed a handful of new songs in Paris during a live-streamed Pitchfork concert. Now, WXPN’s World Cafe and NPR Music have just announced a LIVE First Listen performance, happening three days before the album drops, from right here in Philly on September 5th! Continue reading →

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Watch Jay Som take over the NPR Music Tiny Desk

jay som
Jay Som | photo by Cara Robbins | courtesy of the artist

Bay Area band Jay Som has had a whirlwind rise to her second album Everybody Works, from releasing a series of singles to signing with Polyvinyl to opening for Mitski on a national tour. Most recently the project — led by singer and songwriter Meline Duterte —  was invited to perform for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, and the performance is now available for your viewing pleasure.

Duterte is a one-woman force, writing all of the music and lyrics and recording each instrument herself. When she performs live, Jay Som grows into a quartet to realize the records in full. Continue reading →

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XPN MusicNotes: Watch Jeff Tweedy explain how Wilco names albums, listen to the new Pixies album Head Carrier

Wilco at Solid Sound Festival | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Wilco at Solid Sound Festival | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com

“The next time someone tells you Wilco doesn’t put a lot of work into things, just tell them…I don’t know. Something. You make it up.”
-Jeff Tweedy

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy recorded a video, (prior to last night’s appearance on The late Show with Stephen Colbert) in which he responds to critics of the band’s recent album titles. Funny stuff. Continue reading →

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And now, a (nearly) complete list of Tiny Desk Contest videos from Philly

The Bul Bey | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordophotography.com
The Bul Bey | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordophotography.com

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 →

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Watch Wilco perform a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR Music

Wilco at Solid Sound Festival | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Wilco at Solid Sound Festival | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com

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 →

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SXSW Dispatch: Partying with NPR Music, TV On the Radio, Stromae and more

TV On the Radio | Photo by John Vettese
TV On the Radio | Photo by John Vettese

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 →

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Does it matter that the Tiny Desk Contest winner was once signed by Interscope?

Fantastic Negrito, winner of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest
Fantastic Negrito, winner of NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest

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 →