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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2015

The albums that moved us in 2015
This is the music that moved us in 2015

It was a year of powerful records. Of loud guitars and brazen beats, of electronic tapestries and vocal abandon. It was a year of personal introspection and rallying cries for social change. It was a year when music felt inextricably tied to the world around us. When it felt more important than it had in a long time. Like we’ve said before, to narrow 12 months of incredible music down to a “top 15 albums of 2015” list is to exclude dozens of other worthy releases. This year, we had 26 writers and photographers cite a collective 82 albums as their favorites – you can view everybody’s top fives here, and I know fully well that had I asked The Key crew to give me top tens, I’d be easily looking at quadruple the titles. But we’ll go deep when our annual Year-End Mania roundup launches tomorrow. Today we take the long view and explore what rose to the surface of consensus in 2015, from the expressive moments of Kamasi Washington, Joanna Newsom and Jamie xx, to the pop permutations of Carly Rae Jepsen and Grimes , rock and/or roll from Courtney Barnett and Alabama Shakes, Philly representation from The Districts, Waxahatchee and of course, Hop Along‘s incredible breakout LP Painted Shut, which alongside the great Kendrick Lamar rose right to the top of our voting. Let’s recap the year. 
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Get jolly, merry, etc. with the Indie Rock HOLIDAY Parade!

Sufjan Stevens, holiday style | Photo by Denny Renshaw
Sufjan Stevens | Photo by Denny Renshaw

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Time to celebrate the season with the Indie Rock HOLIDAY Parade on XPN! Tune in at 11pm ET (right after Land of the Lost with Robert Drake) for a full two-hour show that’s decked to the halls with holiday favorites new and old. In fact, a lot of what we’ll be hearing tonight is brand NEW, so be on the lookout for these musical jollies:

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Eaux Claires Day 1: Mud, Sweat and Tears

Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

The journey to Eau Claire (pronounced “Oh Clare”), Wisconsin for the inaugural Eaux Claires (EXC) indiefolk mammoth of a festival started like a freak folk dream that never really stopped. From the time we pulled into the two hour wait line outside the muddy camping grounds Thursday night – during which antsy campers skipped up and down the aisles of cars and coolly flaunted their half-shaven haircuts on cig breaks – the party kept rolling with no signs of slowing down.

Lines of hipster drones sweated outside the gates from 10 a.m. Friday morning until they could break through to music mecca curated by the one and only Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver. (Our staff photog Jeremy cleverly nicknamed the festival #BonnarooIver.) Make no mistake about it; everything on these grounds felt handpicked by JV from the focus on Midwestern artists – every artist on the bill had a personal connection to Vernon, even those of non-Midwestern descent – to the oddly terrifying family zone – more on that tomorrow. Continue reading →

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The Indie Rock Hit Parade celebrates the music of 2005!

Sufjan Stevens | Photo by Denny Renshaw
Sufjan Stevens | Photo by Denny Renshaw

It was a magical time of Rabbit Fur Coats, Sunlandic Twins and the Mysterious Production of Eggs. 2005 might seem like it was just yesterday, but tonight the Indie Rock Hit Parade dials things back 10 (!?!!) years to salute this standout year in indie music. Tune in at 11pm tonight to hear a two-hour showcase that’ll tickle your nostalgia bone with gems from Sufjan Stevens, LCD Soundsystem and Bright Eyes. We’ll also hear some “forgotten favorites” from Devendra Banhart, Wolf Parade and The Clientele. Check these out:

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Illumination: Sufjan Stevens at Academy of Music

Sufjan Stevens | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/
Sufjan Stevens | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

Have you ever seen truth so real that it physically hurts? A burning brand, slowly pressing into your chest, purifying the cavern of your existence? I have—and truth came Thursday night, not with angel wings or capes or neon halos, but in denim jacket and trucker cap, meekly strumming an acoustic guitar. The first time I saw Sufjan Stevens—years ago—it broke something within me. Something I don’t want fixed. And I think that brokenness allows truth in, even though it’s bitterly painful. Thursday night at the Academy of Music, I embraced the truth and pain and beauty of Sufjan Steven’s life and career. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sufjan Stevens at The Academy of Music, SHLOHMO at Johnny Brenda’s, Delta Rae at The TLA and more

Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens | photo via www.sufjan.com

Celebrated indie-folk singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens makes a long awaited return to form on his current album and tour. Rather than being a zany holiday collection or an abstract electronic freakout, Carrie & Lowell is a return to Stevens’ contemplative acoustic roots, very much in the vein of 2004’s Seven Swans, and over the course of 11 songs it is an aching meditation on his mother who died in 2012. Tonight he returns to Philly to headline the Academy of Music and kick off his U.S. tour; tickets and information can be found at the XPN Concert CalendarContinue reading →

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Sufjan Stevens adds second Academy of Music show in April

Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens | photo via www.sufjan.com

Sufjan Stevens has added a second Philadelphia show at the Academy of Music on April 9th for his upcoming tour, accompaning the previously-announced date of April 10th. The Detroit native is traveling the country in support of his new LP Carrie & Lowell, which his label Asthmatic Kitty will release at the end of March.  Tickets for the new date go on sale this Thursday, February 4th with a WXPN member pre-sale taking place tomorrow. More information will be available here. Check out the trailer for the new LP below.

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