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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brendan Menapace’s six songs from the future

menzingers
The Menzingers | photo courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, as we’re about to step into another calendar year, Key Contributor Brendan Menapace picks his favorite songs from the future.

Every year, when I’m compiling a list of my favorite music from the year, I always end up with a few songs that were released as singles before the actual album comes out the following year. I never know whether I should include them or not with the current year or wait. This year, I gave them a list of their own. Here are the top six songs released this year from 2017 albums. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: MH the Verb’s top ten “woke” songs of 2016

MH the Verb | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
MH the Verb | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, Philly rapper MH the Verb shares his favorite social conscious cuts of the year.

Backpacker. Underground. Conscious rapper. Alternative. All code names and terms used over the years to identify a sub culture of artists in hip-hop that can be simply defined by economics – broke. That characterization may be unfair to some standouts like midwest MC / producer, Tech N9ne, Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco, Queens legend Nas and a few select others who have found success in niche markets, but overall, making music with a conscious message hasn’t been the fab for those trying to sell millions and find themselves on Forbes’ Cash King List.

Historically, reflections of social and political struggle have always fueled popular music. Decades ago artists like James Brown, Gil Scot-Heron and Marvin Gaye provided the soundtrack for black empowerment during the civil rights movement. In the 1960’s, anti-war poems were beautifully crafted into lyrics by songwriters like Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Today, we still “Imagine” John Lennon’s vision of a peaceful world, but it just so happens to be followed on our playlist by N.W.A’s horrific description of what it’s like “Straight Outta Compton.”

While American popular music has always maintained a certain rich history of social commentary, it has seemed over the last couple of decades that commercialism has caused a shift, relegating music with conscience messages into a subcategory opposite the mainstream. In hip-hop especially, artists have drawn a line, leading some commercially successful artists to shy away from exploring deeper topics and more meaningful concepts, leaving many fans to wonder what could have been. As giants of the genre, like Jay-Z have famously acknowledged the divide, it has become more than just an idea – it has become the norm. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Sleepy Hollow’s favorite songs of 2016

Angel Olsen | Photo by Amanda Marsallis
Angel Olsen | Photo by Amanda Marsallis

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, the hosts of WXPN’s Sleepy Hollow – Julian Booker, Keith Kelleher and Chuck Elliot – share their favorite quiet songs of 2016

We all know that 2016 was a difficult year for music fans. It will forever be remembered as the year we lost David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen, among many others. But we can be thankful that it also yielded a surplus of excellent recordings (two of which were released by Bowie and Cohen themselves). From Allen Toussaint’s somber swan song American Tunes and undeniably consistent releases from David Crosby and Brian Eno to unexpected collaborations between Neko Case, k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs, Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop, and Billy Bragg and Joe Henry to potentially career-defining albums from young artists like Angel Olsen and Michael Kiwanuka, this year had a lot for which to be thankful. Take a listen to this Spotify playlist featuring all three of our hosts’ favorite songs of the year, and check out our take on a few of the releases that we thought deserved particular attention below. Enjoy! -JB. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Ryan Weidman of Sonnder’s songs to stay awake on the drive home from the gig

Sonnder | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com
Sonnder | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, Sonnder frontman Ryan Weidman reflects on the importance of staying alert on the road and the music that helped him do so 2016. The band plays the TLA on May 20 with Civil Youth, more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

2016 has been a year full of mixed feelings, leading to many a mixed drink I would say. Whether it was frustration over politics, celebrity passings, or personal grievances, it is safe to say society has somewhat infamously labeled this year as one of pure misery, at least on social media. As a musician, the concept of celebrity deaths has become one of implanted glorification by the so called “27 Club.” Greats such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Amy Winehouse to name a few all met their untimely demise at this age; so much creativity was given a period mid sentence. Musicians are serenaded with these stories at young ages, generating a morbid allure of making it that far. Turning 27 myself this year has brought out this obsession with death, making me feel like this is going to be my last year on earth to get everything I want to share out to the masses. I know what is going through your head, “Ah yes, the typical whiny musician opening his chest wide about his boo hoos towards his romantic attachment to death.” No. Some weird stuff has gone down in life leading up to my birthday last week, causing some very haunting reminders of my fragility in this world. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Lauren Rosier’s top five shows of 2016

Anthony Green | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com
Anthony Green | Photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN | wendymccardle.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. In this installment, Key Contributor Lauren Rosier shares the shows that she traveled to Philly for this year.

I have a love/hate relationship with year-end lists, only because I’m a huge music junkie and being forced to choose from so many incredible releases just isn’t right. With that said, I love going to see live music. I live in Central PA, so the music scene isn’t as large as in Philly, but still has a good scene. So when I do get to Philly for shows, it’s definitely something I’m appreciative of, and excited about. Philadelphia has a special place in my heart. Many of my friends live in and around the city and it obviously has the best music scene. So here’s a list of my top 5 Philly shows of 2016. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Kristen Kurtis’ best songs of 2016

Jim James | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com
Jim James | photo by Kate McCann for WXPN | katemccannphotography.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, WXPN Morning Show Host Kristen Kurtis shares her favorite songs of 2016.

The breadth of excellent new music that came out in 2016 is staggering — so much so that, when you look at individual listeners’ lists, there’s generally not a ton of overlap. In this playlist, XPN Morning Show host Kristen Kurtis shares some of her favorites — and while, yes, it includes David Bowie and Radiohead, she also picked outstanding songs from Lucy DacusGwen StefaniBeckLady GagaSteve GunnLittle Green CarsMarian Hill and more. Listen to it below, via Spotify. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Ernest Stuart’s top new releases and old discoveries of 2016

Ernest Stuar
Ernest Stuart at Center City Jazz Fest | Photo by John Vettese

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, Philly trombonist and Center City Jazz Festival founder Ernest Stuart shares his favorite releases and rediscoveries. He rings in New Year’s Eve at TIME Restaurant from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., more information on the show can be found here.

Musically speaking, growing up wasn’t easy for me. My mother was particularly religious, and limited my musical exploration to: 1) Gospel, 2) Contemporary Christian Music, and 3) More Gospel. The only time I was exposed to different genres was when I spent weekends with my dad (think Motown classics & ’70s Funk) and on my daily school bus rides (think late ‘90s-early’00s hip-hop and R&B), where I would pretend to know the words to every BadBoy hit.

Now in my 30’s and armed with streaming service subscriptions, my appetite for new music is voracious. I try to keep an open mind and am often on the search for old music that “somehow” eluded me during my youth, new releases from both freshmen and established artists, and everything in-between. Below are my Top Five favorite old finds and new releases of 2016. Continue reading →