Stream Death Cab For Cutie’s Thank You For Today via NPR First Listen

Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie for WXPN | Photo by Matthew Shaver |

Thanks to NPR Music’s First Listen series, Death Cab For Cutie’s ninth album, Thank You For Today, is available to stream before the full release this Friday, August 17th.

Third track and lead single “Gold Rush” has been a favorite around the station leading up to the album’s release. The track touches on the gentrification of a hometown, seemingly changing overnight or without any notice. Themes of change are riddled throughout the album, from the location-slanted “Gold Rush” to physically leaving a space, like on “You Moved Away.” While vocalist Ben Gibbard’s lyrics are at the forefront of each track, the backing instrumentals are not to go unnoticed. Swirling synths accompanied by drums, bass, guitar, and piano, perfectly paired with Gibbard’s register, weave a sense of nostalgia and hope throughout the album. Continue reading →


Lucy Dacus, Lo Moon, Natalie Prass and more are on tap for SXSW public radio showcases

Lucy Dacus| Photo By Noah Silvestry |

Heading down to Austin, TX for SXSW next week? Even if you weren’t planning on going, this news might make you want to pack your bags and plan an escape route out of snowy Philly (Austin’s only 1,600 miles away, after all).

There’s never a shortage of events to attend, bands to see, or tacos to eat at the annual mega-conference-slash-festival, but this year NPR Music, in collaboration with several member stations including XPN, has put together something truly special. Public radio showcases will be happening throughout the week at locations all over Austin, with some individual stations hosting their own shows, but the stations come together on Wednesday, March 14 for NPR Music’s Public Radio Showcase at the famous Stubb’s BBQ. Continue reading →


Japanese Breakfast brings Soft Sounds and a string ensemble to NPR’s Tiny Desk

Japanese Breakfast | still from video | via

Somewhere in between the release of the stunning LP Soft Sounds From Another Planet, a U.S. tour, a celebratory Philly homecoming show and a European tour, Japanese Breakfast found time to stop by NPR Music to film a Tiny Desk Concert. The intimate setting of the famed Tiny Desk provides the perfect opportunity for experimentation and often leads artists to strip down their songs into quieter, acoustic versions — and for Japanese Breakfast this happened to include the addition of some unexpected but beautifully executed string arrangements performed by members of D.C. string quartet Rogue Collective. Continue reading →


Get to know Slingshot, a new artist-championing collaboration backing Big Thief, Jamila Woods and Lo Moon

Teased this spring at the annual NonCOMM-vention, the new program Slingshot is an artist-championing collaboration between NPR Music and 18 VuHaus member stations — including founding stations WXPN, WFUV, KCRW, KUTX and The Bridge.

Over the summer, programming staff from the member stations each nominated a handful of artists to throw their support behind over the coming year. The submissions were reviewed, and the stations came to a consensus — Big ThiefJamila Woods and Lo Moon would be backed by Slingshot affiliates through interviews, editorial coverage, live performances and more over the next several months.

“Everybody in this room knows the impact of public radio on artist development,”  XPN general manager Roger LaMay told the crowd at NonCOMM this spring. “It’s really been essential with NonCOMMs and public radio writ large to pool our resources and work together to grow our impact.” Continue reading →


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 →


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 →


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 |
Wilco at Solid Sound Festival | Photo by Noah Silvestry |

“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 →


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

The Bul Bey | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo |
The Bul Bey | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo |

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 →


Watch Wilco perform a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR Music

Wilco at Solid Sound Festival | Photo by Noah Silvestry |
Wilco at Solid Sound Festival | Photo by Noah Silvestry |

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 →