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The National warm hearts and inspire action on a chilly fall evening at the Mann Center

The National | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

Indie rock foretellers The National returned to Philadelphia on Thursday night, where they ushered in the beginning of fall with their Sleep Well Beast tour at the Mann Center. With opening sets by Phoebe Bridgers and Cat Power, and a forecast that called for a rain that never really came, the night was a reflective experience brought on by the political undertones of the day and a warming sense of community. Continue reading →

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Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus team up as boygenius

via Matador
Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus | photo by Lera Pentelute | courtesy of the artists

The three musicians behind the new project boygenius — Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus — are well known individually for their solo work, but have evidently been thinking about joining forces for some time now. After some vague teasing of a collaboration, we finally know what the songwriters have been up to. They’ll release a self-titled EP as boygenius in November and have shared three tracks, “Bite The Hand,” “Me & My Dog” and “Stay Down,” that are available to stream now. Continue reading →

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XPN Fest Recap: Phoebe Bridgers fills the River Stage with her “sad love songs”

Phoebe Bridgers | photo by Natalie Piserchio | nataliepiserchio.com

“Ah, some positive heckling,” was Phoebe Bridgers‘ very on-brand reply to someone’s awed remark of “You can SING!” during a quiet moment in her River Stage set this afternoon. But the heckler wasn’t wrong — Phoebe Bridgers can certainly sing, and her voice carries each of her songs from the softest of whispers to the most powerful of belts. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: The National is coming back to Philly and bringing Cat Power and Phoebe Bridgers along

The National | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Prepare yourselves, because there’s an incredibly good show coming our way this fall. So good that it may take a moment or two to process that it is actually happening. It hasn’t been too, too long since we’ve seen The National in town (those who were lucky enough to score tickets, that is) — the band played to a very sold-out Kimmel Center in December, and performed their new album Sleep Well Beast to an even more sold-out Union Transfer last September for NPR Music’s First Listen Live.

This September, The National is coming back to Philly — not to either of the previously mentioned venues, but to the Mann Center. And if that’s not reason enough to get excited, the opening acts will be Cat Power and Phoebe Bridgers. What?! How does a lineup like this even come together? Maybe it’s best not to ask questions, but just mark our calendars and thank whatever cosmic forces made this happen. Continue reading →

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Laughter to Tears: Phoebe Bridgers and Soccer Mommy show a range of emotions at World Cafe Live

Phoebe Bridgers | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A country song began to play. Like the very commodified, mainstream country radio kind of song. The kind of breezy, late summer day, wind-blowing-through-your-hair-as-you-drive-your-pickup-truck kind of country song.

I heard the phrase “parked out by the lake” more than a few times, but didn’t think much of the glossy genre’s fairly standard fare. The question of why Phoebe Bridgers chose this track in particular to walk onto stage to though — that nagged at my noggin. I mean, there are so many options, Pheebs. Poised at the mic, she even began to sing along a bit. Well, dang, I thought; attributing definite deeper layers I just didn’t pick up on as the reasoning. I mean, it must be a meaningful tune for such a prolific songwriter to single out.

Ha. What I learned later is that the song in question — the very aptly-titled “Parked Out by the Lake” — is actually a parody. “I’m parked out by the lake,” the very real and actual bluegrass / gospel artist, Dustin Christensen, begins in that perfectly gritty and melodic rasp, as his very not real alter-ego, Dean Summerwind. “Eighty miles from Sante Fe,”he continues. “And I’m sitting here just parked out by the lake. If you’re wondering where I parked, I’m out parked by the lake. It’s the lake that’s eighty miles from Sante Fe.”

A wave of relief washed over me. Perfection. Semi-akin to Bo Burnham’s iconic parody, “Pandering,” the song is a joke. And it’s exactly this kind of wry and multi-dimensional, mildly cynical but completely truthful melding that so perfectly encapsulates both of the artists who graced the stage at World Cafe Live this past Wednesday. Continue reading →

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Soccer Mommy shows she’s not “Your Dog” in kickass, self-assured single

Soccer Mommy | photo via artist’s Facebook

Nashville-bred NYU student Sophie Allison has been releasing “chill but kinda sad” lo-fi tunes on Bandcamp for years now under the moniker Soccer Mommy. Less than a year after the release of her debut full length Collection, Soccer Mommy’s biting new track,”Your Dog,” not only anticipates the upcoming album, Clean — out on March 2nd via Fat Possum Records — but also hints at a more expansive, no-nonsense direction.

Remastering some tracks from earlier EPs, last year’s Collection flowed in the same kind of hopelessly heartsick blue vein of Soccer Mommy’s bedroom-recorded tracks, where Allison oft dreamt up stories of falling in love with perfect strangers and far-away crushes. All of which, I adore, as there’s nothing wrong with vulnerability and hopeless romanticism standing there right alongside the strength and independence of a badass lady.

Embracing the latter characteristics on the for young hearts EP-featured “bloody honey,” and Collection’s shining anthem, “Out Worn,” these songs glimpsed at someone who didn’t just sulk in sadness when wronged, but fought back with knock-out self-assuredness. With the release of “Your Dog,” though, we find that these tracks had offered just a teeny, tiny sliver of the kick-assery that Allison can dish out. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Megan Cooper’s top ten train tracks (a commute playlist for 2017)

Chastity Belt | photo via chastity-belt.bandcamp.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Megan Cooper shares the soundtrack that kept her sane on SEPTA.

This past year, I’ve spent a quite a bit of time on public transport. Not having a car, while splitting my life between the ‘burbs as I finished up school (woo I’m done!) and the city as I worked and went to many a gig, you could say the R5 Regional Rail line was —  for better or for worse — sort of like a second home to me.

Because although SEPTA often left me shaking my fists towards the sky at impossibly excessive delays, my feelings of seething hatred would immediately melt into warmth and contentment as soon as I’d slump into my window seat — eager for the twenty or so minutes of peace to come. Devoid of road rage and panic that parking spot quests bring, train commutes are a unique kind of solitary experience where the world seems to slow down and stand still as it ironically whirs right past you. So unless you’re on your way to some event you need to get mega hyped for, abrasive and loud tracks don’t really have a place here — at least for me. Though I love me a good ole punk jam, this quiet setting is reserved for reflective mindfulness where chill, soft and introspective songs reign supreme.

So, in no particular order, here’s a list of ten songs that served as my trusty train companions this year. Ranging from laid-back and soothing, to somber and melancholic, to atmospheric and poppy, these songs will get you in your head, make you feel many a feeling, and maybe even give your brain a comforting little hug of solidarity. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Phoebe Bridgers brings Stranger in the Alps to World Cafe Live in February

Phoebe Bridgers | Photo by Frank Ockenfels | via Dead Oceans

Los Angeles based alt-folk artist Phoebe Bridgers released her debut full-length Stranger in the Alps to wide acclaim earlier this fall. The single “Motion Sickness” was named XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week in August. Bridgers will bring the sounds of the new album to Philly on February 21, 2018 for a headlining show at World Cafe Live. Continue reading →