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The Key’s Year-End Mania: K. Ross Hoffman’s alternate reality chart-toppers of 2016

The Monkees | still from video

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, Key contributor K. Ross Hoffman imagines a world where these songs ruled the charts.

Sometimes reality just utterly fails to live up to even the most modest standards of reasonableness.  2016 was one of those times.  Or, actually, many of those times.  Fortunately, we music critics have a long-standing tradition of inventing alternate realities.  Granted, it’s mostly limited to the realm of the pop charts, which all things considered represented some of 2016’s lesser transgressions.  (Hey, the Chainsmokers’ “Closer” was only the #1 song in the country for a mere quarter of the year – it could have been worse!)  But just in case you feel like dreaming up a nicer, happier parallel universe version of 2016, you might as well have a re-tooled mainstream cultural soundtrack to go along with it.  Here are a few of the massively successful, inescapable smash hits of 2016… in my dreams. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Matthew Shaver’s songs I danced with my daughter to in 2016

Beyonce’s All Night | still from video

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, Key contributor and new dad Matthew Shaver wonders how he’s going to one day explain this year to his infant daughter.

In September, my daughter was born, I know you all were wondering where I’ve been. As a gift (for when she is older) I created a 24 hour playlist of songs that I’ve liked throught my life, up to the point she was born. I’m proud of it, i think she’ll hate most of it by the time she is old enough to listen (a lot of it is not for young ears). But then my editor, John Vettese, made a light hearted comment that made me think long and hard. He wrote: “I love that you, as a parent, are putting ‘Norf Norf’ on a playlist for your child.”

Summertime ’06 was an album I listened to a lot in 2015, placed among my favorites, but it did make me think. 2016 was not kind to women, in the news, and in society. I have to explain to her at some point that we elected a man in to office that said it was ok to grab women by the pussy. Hip-hop is the result of many facets of society that are not so kind to people of color. I can explain that to my daughter when she’s older, and I’m certain she’ll understand, but I’d still have to explain that I “liked” a song that has the line “Where the ladies at, where the ho’s, where the bitches, every real ni**a knows the difference.”

So, I was going through my head thinking of lists that I could write instead. There have been a lot of positive people in Philly, a lot of positive women throughout the world I could name, but then I thought, that 18 years from now, will that list have as much weight as I hope. Maybe, but I don’t like to gamble, so instead, here are 7 songs I danced to with my baby from 2016, songs I wouldn’t be worried about telling her about when that time comes. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Maureen Walsh’s best music videos of 2016

David Bowie’s Blackstar | still from video

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, contributing writer Maureen Walsh recaps five of the year’s best music videos.

While the music video is no longer a requirement in order for audiences to discover an artist’s work, it is still a viable way for them to give us a visual representation of a mood, a way to supplement the song they have created, and also a way to promote their art.

Since not everyone is creating videos, those that do normally do so because they have a great idea for one. 2016 brought us videos that were weighty and visually striking. Water and rebirth were the theme of the vast majority of videos I picked on my list. 2016 was a bummer of a year for many, let’s hope the waters of healing reinvigorate us for 2017. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Helen Leicht’s favorite local music of 2016

Lily Mae | via facebook.com/lilymaemusic

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, XPN Local’s Helen Leicht shares her favorites to emerge from the scene in 2016.

Here we are, at the end of another year of music, and it’s time to share some of my favorite songs from our amazing local artists.  Remember these are just a few songs, because there are too many to name them all. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Mike Vasilikos’ top musical discoveries of 2016

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals @ The 9th Annual Roots Picnic | photo by Wendy McCardle
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals @ The 9th Annual Roots Picnic | photo by Wendy McCardle

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, XPN assistant program director and New Music Show host Mike Vasilikos recaps some of the best new music he heard in 2016.

I’ll be honest … a big part of me wants to just kick 2016 to the curb. For all the great music we enjoyed, the year will most likely be remembered for the losses of Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones … and sadly, I can go on. So as I reflected on the past 12 months, I really tried to focus on the music that energized me. And that led me to what was really a list of my favorite discoveries of 2016. I hate trying to rank these sorts of things, so in no particular order here are my Top 5 Musical Discoveries of 2016 (plus some honorable mentions). Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: 2016’s ten best Philly artist portraits

Spill | via the artist’s Facebook page

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, our Chad Snyder takes a look at some of the most eye-catching promo photos from Philly artists we’ve seen this year..

For a lot of people, a musician’s image is just about as important as the music itself. The release of a new album usually signals a deluge of photos, videos, and artwork, providing context to the themes and sounds the project explores. It’s a visual side dish to the aural main course, and one of the required components to this feast is usually a new portrait of the artist. Usually, they’re just simple shots of cool people looking cool, but sometimes, the photos transcend mere documentation and stand on their own. Take the photo of Spill above, which actually features members of the band spilling champagne on each other (classic). Since I’ve started writing for The Key, I’ve seen a lot of promotional photos from Philly artists, but here are just a few that stood out from the pack. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Kurt Vile shares his favorite songs and albums of the year with XPN’s Mike Vasilikos

Kurt Vile | photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | silvestography.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, we get the best songs and best albums Kurt Vile heard in 2016 — along with an interview from XPN’s Mike Vasilikos.

Philly’s constant hitmaker Kurt Vile appeared on the air on WXPN this week for a wide-reaching conversation with host Mike Vasilikos recapping his 2016. In the mix, he shared some of his favorite music of the year.

As far as albums, Vile cited Steve Gunn’s Eyes on the Lines – “he’s from my hometown of Lansdowne, a fingerpicking guitar player, a likeminded fellow,” says Vile. He also cited Nathan Bowles’ Whole & Cloven – “he’s hypnotic on the banjo as well as the drums,” says Vile.” “And he also turned me on to a really good banjo company called Buckeye Banjo, and that’s what I play on ‘I’m An Outlaw.'” Lastly, he expressed admiration for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree, which he called “a devastating record, very sad.” Check out all those albums below, via a Spotify playlist.

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Julie Miller’s top five concert snacks of 2016

Carnegie Deli’s knish | photo via Carnegie Deli

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, Julie Miller shares the best snacks she ate before, during, or after a concert over the past twelve months.

I like food even more than I like music. I daydream about what I want to cook up for my next meal, I read the menus of restaurants I want to try, and the only type of Instagram accounts I follow that might (but probably don’t) eclipse the number of dogs accounts are food accounts. So as I read through my Excel doc of concerts I’d been to in 2016 (50 or so, plus one opera), I started thinking about where I’d had dinner beforehand or a midnight snack afterwards. The following five concerts were great nights of music and even greater nights of food.

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Bruce Warren’s favorite music of 2016

Chance to Rapper at Made In America | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Chance the Rapper at Made In America | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, XPN’s assistant general manager for programming, Bruce Warren, shares a playlist of his favorite music from 2016.

So much music, so little time to listen to it all. What were the best albums and songs of 2016? By any critical standards, the notion of the “best” of something is both subjective and personal. Rather that declaring albums as the “best” or “worst,” I offer up this playlist to you: of a collection of personal favorites of 2016. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Josh Pelta-Heller makes sense of 2016 through concert photos

Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Ms. Lauryn Hill | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, photographer Josh Pelta-Heller shares a collection of photos that highlight this year’s great moments of music in Philadelphia.

“2016 Sucks!”

It’s the generously sanitized version of the by-now-common mantra of many, as we plunge headlong into yet another unseasonably warm holiday season (this past Thursday’s cold snap notwithstanding), as our climate changes viscerally. This December probably won’t step up to break the trend of warmest months on record, but it will bring home a year of painful passings of a seemingly inordinate amount of beloved artists and cultural icons, and one that saw the anomalous rise to power of an unrepentantly solipsistic oligarch in an election that was at best questionably democratic and at worst finds even the sanest among us checking our toilet bowls for Russian spies again like it was 1962. Cue Dylan’s “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” maybe more relevant now than ever, even as we all watch in real time with mouths open as a once-satirical sentiment becomes the unchecked New World Order.

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