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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Julie Miller’s Top 5 live sessions of 2013

Sam Cook-Parrott of Radiator Hospital
Sam Cook-Parrott of Radiator Hospital

Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, Key contributor Julie Miller shares her favorite video sessions of the year.

Live session videos are great because they give the musician a chance to experiment with their music and perform it in an unusual setting or surprising way.  From Out of Town Films to La Blogotechque’s Take Away Shows, there are more and more series popping up each year that put unique spins on the music video art-form.  These are five of my favorite live session videos of 2013:

1. Radiator Hospital – “Our Song” Piss Couch Session, filmed by Maggot House Records.  This is one of the most honest break-up songs since Bob Dylan’s demo recording of “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” and the guys over at Maggot House got an incredibly intimate and vulnerable recording of it.  Sam Cook-Parrott released a studio version of the song on his Something Wild LP a few months after the filming but this version is still my favorite.

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Rachel Barrish’s Top Five Concert Photographs of 2013

Yeah Yeah Yeahs | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Yeah Yeah Yeahs | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, photographer Rachel Barrish shares her favorite shots of the year.

I’ve been photographing concerts for almost two years, and I started out right here at The Key. There is nothing I love more than being able to capture a moment during a concert by a musician I admire, and these are my top 5 photos from various shows I shot this year.

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs at River Stage at Great Plaza
Being on a Tuesday, you didn’t really know what type of show this was going to be or how many people were going to show up. The place seemed fairly empty for such a large scale when Karen O first came on stage, but it felt like bliss. Seeing a band that big on a large stage with a fairly intimate audience is special and memorable. When the paper “Y” confetti exploded onto the audience I knew that I was lucky to have had the chance to capture this show. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Sameer Rao’s Top 5 Musical Gut-Punches of 2013

Photo courtesy of Sean Agnew
Photo courtesy of Sean Agnew

Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, contributing writer Sameer Rao talks about songs that make you feel.

For those who are true monsters, hardened against moments that expose you for the vulnerable and fragile human that you really are, please stop reading here.

For the rest of us, we occasionally crack at the wail of a guitar, the cry of a love-lorn singer, or the naked clarity of a synthline (or, more often, all of the above). I call these moments “gut-punches” – musical cues that can stop you in your tracks or make you uncontrollably sob in the middle of a friend’s Christmas party, screaming “It’s just so beautiful!” as you wipe your snot-encrusted nose with that ugly sweater you bought just for that occasion.

Moments like this confirm why music in the age of digital reproduction can still be powerful and transcendent, and I masochistically yearn for them with every new record I listen to. Fortunately, we had a bunch of great ones this year. I’ll try not to stain my shirt as I run down the list of 2013’s Top 5 Musical Gut-Punches.

5. Little Big League – “Tokyo Drift” from These are Good People

The exemplary debut full-length from Philly’s own Little Big League is filled with moments that compel you to scream out for jilted love, but this song was a personal stand-out. It’s a song that evolved in texture throughout live performances from the past two years, blending classic shoegaze and 90s melodic rock into a volatile cocktail that threatens to overflow through the song’s delay-heavy bridge. Just when you think you’ll punch a hole in the drywall, squeals of feedback withdraw into singer Michelle Zauner’s haunting and understated soprano before the song gracefully shimmers into thin air. You’re left coming to terms with your own power, or your shattered hand in the drywall – either way, you’re still grateful to be alive.

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The Best of Philly Music 2013

Photo by Abi Reimold
Photo by Abi Reimold

In September 2010, we started The Key because we wanted to offer the local music scene another platform to reach more audiences. We also started it because starting in the early aughts we noticed something happening here creatively amongst the local music scene that was hadn’t felt in a while – it was growing creatively and the buzz about how good the local scene was becoming more significant.

More new bands were starting than ever before, more music was becoming available for fans and more musicians were looking for ways to connect to fans. To me, the last five years of “the scene” reminds me a lot of the Philly music scene in the mid-Eighties to early Nineties when bands like Electric Love Muffin, Three Times Dope, The Wishniaks, Nixon’s Head, the Goats, the Dead Milkmen, Schoolly D, The Low Road, The Hooters, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and Tommy Conwell all represented for Philly on both local and international stages. We thought Philly 2012 was a banner year for the local music scene. Guess what? 2013 was even better. Here are some of the best things about the Philly music scene in 2013.

Dr. Dog made their best album yet, B-Room.

Man Man made their best record yet, On Oni Pond.

The Districts signed with Fat Possum. Look for an EP with a couple of old songs and new tunes on January 26th.
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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Melody Chiang’s Top 5 Philadelphia Transplants of 2013

Radiator Hospital | via Facebook
Radiator Hospital | via Facebook
Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, photographer Melody Chiang shares the best of who’s new to town.

When I first moved to Philadelphia four years ago, alot of people questioned my sanity for electing to leave California. In the beginning, I stayed almost exclusively inside the comfortable, familiar bubble of University City. But with help from some friends, locals, and of course the XPN crew, I began to spend more time exploring other parts of the city and getting to know Philly’s amazing, rollicking music scene a little. Now as I head into my final semester of college that will quickly be followed by another period of terrifying transition, I’ve discovered that I’ve kind of fallen in love with this vibrant, unapologetically spirited, sometimes disconcerting, one of a kind place. And I hope I get to stick around here longer.

So, for my 2013 year end list I wanted to compile my favorite recently local acts who, like me, all hail from elsewhere but have come to call Philadelphia home. Here are my top five Philly transplants of 2013:

5. Maitland
Maitland originally hail from Williamsport, PA. Josh Hines and Jeff Mach play gorgeous atmospheric folk songs that have oft elicited comparisons to Bon Iver and Jose Gonzales. Their EP (from a cabin in the woods), which was technically released last fall in 2012, is sonically minimalistic but chock full of natural imagery and nostalgic snapshots in time.

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Nikki Volpicelli’s 5 Behind-The-Scenes Women of 2013

Photo courtesy of Nicky Devine
Photo courtesy of Nicky Devine

Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, contributor Nikki Volpicelli highlights women doing amazing work this year.

…because every single one of these women (and many more) deserves a shout out before this year ends.

Nicky Devine
Sometimes Nicky Devine is sitting at the bar at Johnny Brenda’s with a keen eye on the running of the evening’s concert. Other times you can’t find her at all because she’s sprinting around the venue, making sure everyone going on stage is happy (and wanting to return to our lovely city to entertain us again). That’s the life of a Production Assistant. Devine splits her time as a PA and a Production Supervisor for Weathervane Music, managing the production and release schedule of monthly Shaking Through sessions. She’s also Festival Director at the annual 2nd Street Festival, and if you’ve ever experienced the panic attack that is trying to maneuver your way through NoLibs on this day, you can begin to understand the impossibility of running the whole operation.

Carly Marcoux
“Who asks these questions?” Was the first question I asked myself after reading this super well crafted Q&A with fuzz-rocker King Tuff (one of my favorite artists this year). I took to the side bar of the Philly Girl About Town blog for an answer and found co-editor Carly Marcoux. Compared to some of its online peers, PGAT only posts a few choice interviews and reviews per month, but Marcoux keeps busy, holding down a day job and playing drums on the side (and singing) in The Pretty Greens – a feminist fuzz-garage group that periodically publishes a pop-art fanzine called Pretty Signals (Issue #2 came out in August). SheT also plays in No Other and freelances for Tom Tom Magazine, a quarterly publication dedicated to female drummers.

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Laura Jane Brubaker’s Top 5 Essential Mixtape Songs

Image via So I Made You A Mixtape | simyam.tumblr.com

Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, contributor Laura Jane Brubaker shares some essential mixtape tracks.

2k13 has come and [almost] gone, and if there’s one thing I can say I really nailed this year it would be the art of the mixtape. “But LJ,” you may say, “your 2k13 proved overwhelmingly to be a laundry list of failed romantic endeavors.” And right you may be, but rest assured that not a smidge of that was the fault of my meticulously crafted, amatoriously motivated mixtapes – of which there were two For Tom’s (different Toms), one for a crush who promptly came out as gay, and a Mixtape for Horoscope Fulfillment which, needless to say, didn’t fulfill squat. But there were also plenty of platonically-minded mixes and I still have friends, so ha.

Through all this I came up with a few good rules for crafting an excellent mixtape. First: don’t awkward yourself out of a good song. 89% of music alludes to love in some way so if you’re trying to avoid anything that mentions feelings because you’re wicked anxious about creeping someone out, you’re gonna have a crap mixtape. Second: be original, but don’t be afraid to recycle yourself. I got really good at trolling through my expansive Google Play library, which has served as theft/water-proof repository for all my musical holdings since 2010 and is a treasure trove of songs I don’t remember downloading or even hearing ever. New songs make for more interesting listening, I think, and some of my favorite musical discoveries have come while digging for mix material. Keep in mind, it’s also cool to use the same song a bunch if you think it works and you’re making lots of mixtapes anyway for some reason. Heck, that’s how I came up with this list. Finally: if you can pull it off, use a cassette. It’s old school, it’s unique, and while it may prove to be tricky for the recipient to play, the effort that goes in to a legitimate mixtape (versus a CD) makes the whole thing a lot more meaningful for everybody.

Here are the tunes I hold in the highest esteem for mix-craft. You can thank me when you’re married.

1) “One True Love” by Ben Seretan

This one comes out of the box first because, despite what I already said, using a song with the words “true love” in the title may be TOO bold a move depending on your situation. Nevertheless, Ben’s song is a lush and spacious landscape of a track, perhaps abstract enough in its construction to help you get away with the directness of the title. But if that’s what you’re going for then hey, don’t let me stop you. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Chris Sikich’s Top 5 Photos of Under-The-Radar Bands

Bosnian Rainbows at the First Unitarian Church | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Bosnian Rainbows at the First Unitarian Church | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, contributing photographer Chris Sikich recaps the year’s best under-the-radar bands as seen through his lens.

Bosnian Rainbows, First Unitarian Church, Feb. 19

The cramped and barely lit First Unitarian Church was the perfect place for this band fronted by two rock geniuses — Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (The Mars Volta, At the Drive-In) and Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes) — to make their Philly debut back in February. Though Bosnian Rainbows stands as the most well-known group of this list (this show sold out and their return in the summer to Underground Arts was very well attended), their self-titled debut was not easily found at record shops and is missing from year-end lists, despite being one my top five records of the year. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Maureen Walsh’s Top 5 Songs You May Not Have Heard in 2013

Cub Sport outside WXPN Studios with a giant pizza from Allegro | photo via Instagram.com/cubsport
Cub Sport outside WXPN Studios with a giant pizza from Allegro | photo via Instagram.com/cubsport

Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, our contributing concert reviewer Maureen Walsh runs down some lesser-heard jams.

These are 5 songs I have been listening to this year that are missing from many a year end list:

1. “Glitterbombed” by Charlotte Church – Yes, that Charlotte Church. The “voice of an angel” that stole our hearts on many a PBS special has returned with a set of EPs that feature epic soundscapes and Church’s amazing voice. Think Explosions in the Sky meets Sinead O’Connor. This year Church also had the honor of delivering the 2013 John Peel Lecture taking on the theme of Women’s Place in Music.

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