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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Dylan Eddinger’s top places to grab a pre-show snack

Love City Brewing | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key photographer Dylan Eddinger shares his favorite spots to grab food before a gig.

When you head out to the city for a great gig, there are usually two things on your mind. One is evaluating just how awesome the show is going to be, and two is wondering what you’re going to do to satisfy your hunger before standing through a two-hour concert. To help out with that second question, here are some of my favorite places to get a pre-concert snack. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Brian Wilensky’s favorite hype labels of 2018

photo by Brian Wilensky for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key vinylologist Brian Wilensky unpacks the part of the record that often goes overlooked: the hype label.

Chances are you bought a record or two this year, and paid little mind to the hype label slapped on the shrink wrap. Maybe you briefly glanced over it while frantically tearing the plastic from the corner of the sleeve to release the album from the its embrace. Maybe you contemplated the verbiage on the sticker while in the store, pushing you to put the hammer down on a $22.67 LP that you’ve only hear good things about. These labels, as innocuous as many of them can be, deserve some recognition.

The hype label is the last piece of bait, at least if you’re shopping in a store, that the record label and/or artist has to reel in the listener, rather, consumer. They’re important in that they’re supplemental to the album art, an additional piece that’s often communicative for what’s seen on the cover, but also suggestive of what’s to come aurally. But they’re intriguing in how easily they can be overlooked. Which in turn, they often get thrown out. And saving them? Well, who really wants to cut the plastic wrap just to save the sticker? Where would you store it – in the sleeve with the album? It’ll probably get crushed, much like that annoying download card that will never be redeemed. Keep it in a binder or collage? Sure, that sounds nice but also sounds like extra work and I’m not very crafty.

If I like one enough, whether for the language or design, I’ll save it by ever so carefully slitting the cellophane, forever preserving the sleeve in its original wrap and keeping these stickers intact and where they belong: with the record. Here are a few of my favorite hype labels of 2018. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Yoni Kroll’s best new bands of 2018

Yarrow | photo via yarrowphl.bandcamp.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributor Yoni Kroll recaps his favorite bands that started in 2018.

What we want from bands is at times a very amusing catch 22: they need to be perfect but not polished, experienced but with a youthful electric energy permeating everything. It’s why you hear people talk crap on new bands. They’re young, they’re inexperienced, they’re doing something new or different or maybe not different at all. It’s why my roommate when I was 20 couldn’t stop talking about how every band I was getting into wasn’t as good as NOFX. True story.

But you know what? I’d rather see a bunch of new bands trying to figure it out than a bunch of old people going through the motions. It’s generally more fun and more interesting. Sure, you might not be able to sing along, but is that really your only criteria for enjoying a band? This year I got to see a bunch of bands that were either just starting or recently coalesced from ‘project’ to actual performance. That includes groups formed for the First Time’s the Charm 2018, a biennial concert held last July “made up of entirely new bands that must include women, people of color, queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, and those with disabilities” all playing their first sets ever.

The goal for the event, which I helped organize, was to create a space for those who have been marginalized in our music communities. It was a resounding success, we donated $1500 to music education non-profit Beyond the Bars, and most importantly eight brand new bands were unleashed on Philadelphia. While continuing past that initial performance is not necessarily a goal of the event, a number of bands from this year and past First Time’s the Charm concerts are still playing out regularly. That includes Teenage Bigfoot and Marge from the 2013 edition, Aster More, Taxes, and Full Bush from 2016, and Babe Grenade, Pritty Gritty, and GRIT from this past year. And yes, those are two bands with ‘Gritty’ in their names well before it was cool to do so. That’s how awesome First Time’s the Charm really is.

Without further ado, here’s some of the best new bands that I saw in the past year. Most of them don’t have any recordings yet, so keep an ear to the ground for that. Think of this also as a list of bands to look for in the coming year because I’m sure they’ll all be doing cool stuff. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Mike Vasilikos’ all-Philly best of 2018

Orion Sun | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com
Orion Sun | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN | agellmanphotos.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, XPN’s Mike Vasilikos recaps the best music he’s heard come out of the Philly scene this year.

More lists! Yes, it’s almost time to flip over the calendar but not before everyone gets a chance to reflect on their favorite music of the past 12 months.  I guess it’s my turn!  Last year, I altered my approach to year-end reflections.  The idea being: focus on what’s happening locally, because in all honesty Philadelphia is a special place for music.  Across all musical landscapes, the artistry in our community rivals anywhere in the country.  So that said, here’s what I was listening to in 2018. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year End Mania: Ellen Miller’s best commute music of 2018

Julien Baker | Photo by: Ellen Miller | ellencm.com
Julien Baker | Photo by Ellen Miller for WXPN | ellencm.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key photographer Ellen Miller shares her best music for car-rides in 2018.

From early morning drives to beat the sun, to spending lunchtime on the road moving from one job to the next, to the late night drives home from a shoot — this year, I found myself drawn to particular artists or songs at various times of the day. I go everywhere all the time for jobs, and in 2018 I’ve definitely spent more time driving all over greater Philadelphia than using SEPTA, compared to years past. When in the car that much, it’s nice to have variety in what you listen to. Sometimes I’d just throw the radio on and occasionally I’d prefer silence for a bit, but often times I’d make playlists to put me in the right mindset for going to a shoot or to relax myself after a shoot. Below are my most listened to songs and artists during my commutes at various times of day in 2018. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Matthew Shaver’s best low-BPM music of 2018

Mary Lattimore
Mary Lattimore | Photo courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key photographer Matthew Shaver shares his favorite downbeat jams of the year.

2018 was a stressful year for many folks, but thankfully there has been a treasure trove of calming music to help guide us through it. Whether you’re a fan of ambient techno, neo-classical compositions, or just a plain old piece of instrumental work that takes its time, rather than rushing to 100 BPM, there is something for you from 2018. Seven albums stood out to me – albums that I’ve played over and over again, after long days, trying to soak up everything going on without losing my mind sometimes. Think of it as health supplements that can be taken aurally. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Lissa Alicia’s top five shots of her first year photographing concerts

Junglepussy | photo by Lissa Alicia for WXPN

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributor Lissa Alicia shares her favorite photos from her first year shooting concerts.

To some degree, I have always been interested in photography. At the start of 2018, I decided to purchase my first DSLR. I figured that since I already did a lot of written concert coverage, that it would not be that difficult to get into concert photography.

With the exception of playing around with a friend’s Canon t3, I didn’t have that much experience being behind the camera — honestly, I still don’t — but I am learning. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Bruce Warren’s top five Philly jawns of 2018

Armani White at Made In America | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, XPN program director Bruce Warren reflects on his favorite Philly moments of the year.

5. The rise of &More

Early in 2018, word dropped about a new musical collaboration, &More, between Philly rapper Chill Moody and singer Donn T. One of Philly’s most exciting new collaborations this year, watching their musical lovechild grow has been exciting. Their first public appearance was as part of the lineup of local bands for NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest on the Road at World Cafe Live, they’ve been on the road with Philly rock and rollers, Low Cut Connie, and they put on a great show at the XPoNential Music Festival in July. 2019 has some big things in store for &More; the next chance you get you should see them. Their synthesis of R&B and hip-hop is intoxicating.

Below, watch &More perform “My Own Light” at XPNFest. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Koof Ibi Umoren’s top places for a Philly introvert to enjoy live music

This photo of Tyler The Creator was snapped just in front of the soundboard, a prime spot for introverts to enjoy a gig | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

There are a lot of misconceptions linking introversion to aloofness, misanthropy, or shyness. The truth is, a lot of introverts socialize very easily but just prefer not to. It’s kind of like a battery meter. If extroverts are energized by constant personal interactions, introvert are drained by it and require solitude and introspection in order to recharge. That’s not to say they don’t enjoy social situations. They enjoy going to shows but can find small talk and crowded spaces uncomfortable. For that reason, I’m reluctant to share my top places for Philly introverts to enjoy live music. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Emily Herbein’s top unplugged and intimate performances of 2018

Mac Miller | photo by Elsah Attar for NPR

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Emily Herbein reflects on her favorite stripped down performances of the year.

When artists go acoustic, they tend to reveal a whole new layer of their songwriting that we didn’t notice earlier. Whether it’s a touring artist stopping by a radio station to give an unplugged performance, or a band using their YouTube channel for an intimate take of a known-and-loved song, these performances have the ability to forge new emotional connections or solidify existing ones. Here are my top unplugged and intimate performances of the year. Continue reading →