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Listen to Native Harrow’s Happier Now, The Tisburys’ Wax Nostalgic, Dave Hause’s Kick, and other Philly albums out today

Native Harrow (left), The Tisburys (center), and Dave Hause (right) | photos courtesy of the artists

There’s always amazing music coming out of Philadelphia. But when the stars align and numerous albums we’re excited about are released in a single day, well, we tell you about it

Local rock and roll fans have a lot to be excited about today, from the high profile of Dave Hause all the way to upstart scale of Manauynk faves The Tisburys. (But knowing Hause’s affinity for the Ridge Avenue river wards, how sick would a double bill of those two be? Sure, he’s got a gig tonight in Chicago. That’s not till late. Hop on over for an afternoon doubleheader at Main Street Music, Dave!) Then again, you’ll also find mind-bendy psych, dreamscapey folk, and upbeat indie punk in the mix today from the Philly music community. Read and listen on.

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Listen to Low Dose’s self-titled, Nat Turner Rebellion’s Laugh to Keep from Crying, Caracara’s Better, and other Philly albums out today

Low Dose | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN // Nat Turner Rebellion | photo courtesy of Mad Dragon Records // Caracara | photo by Ashley Gellman | courtesy of the artist

Once again, it’s happened. The stars have aligned and several Philly releases we’ve been eager to listen to all landed on the same day. We’ve got our headphones and flame emoji ready; here are five new Philly records released on March 29th: Low Dose‘s self-titled, Nat Turner Rebellion‘s Laugh to Keep from Crying,Caracara‘s Better, S.R. Frost‘s Moving Light, and Lily McKown‘s Sea of Junk. Continue reading →

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Listen to Grandchildren’s self-titled, Lizdelise’s Holy Matrimony, and other Philly albums out today

Grandchildren (left) and Lizdelise | photos courtesy of the artists

It doesn’t always line up that there are numerous new albums from the Philadelphia region on record release Fridays…but when that happens, we love spending the morning in our headphones and in our feels. Here are four new Philly records released on January 31st: Grandchildren‘s self-titled, Lizdelise‘s Holy Matrimony, Drift‘s Reflection(s) and Sagar Bumsweat‘s Greater Fool Radio. Continue reading →

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Listen to new albums out today by XPNFest artists Sunflower Bean and Courtney Marie Andrews

Sunflower Bean | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

New Music Friday has blessed us this week, with the release of two new full-lengt albums from artists we’ll be getting better acquainted with this summer at XPNFest.

First, Sunflower Bean‘s Twentytwo In Blue – written while the band were all 22 years old – sees the New York City trio grappliing with an array of modern day topics, ranging from dealing with relationships to reacting to the current political climate. An eclectic range of sounds, the band takes inspiration from glam rock and punk, shoegaze and hints of folk. XPN hosted the trio of Brooklynites for a Fee at Noon set this past January, and the then-unreleased songs sounded sublime.

Throughout the album, frontwoman Julia Cumming displays her wide vocal range, from the angsty anthemic-punk track “Crisis Fest” to the blissfully atmospheric “I Was A Fool.” On the former, the band channels everyday anxieties, ranging from mounting student debt to seemingly-more-frequent missile tests and false alarms. Cumming shouts “Reality’s one big sick show,” a sentiment many can relate to in this day and age. Read our recap of their Free at Noon set and stream today’s World Cafe Session including a live performance and interview with contributing host, Stephen Kallao. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Ryan Bingham is a standout in his genre

Ryan Bingham | photo by Gabriela Barbieri for WXPN

Ryan Bingham sings the blues — on his own terms. Raised in New Mexico and Texas, Western influences run in the songwriter’s blood, and he’s channeled them into everything from his role on the TV show Yellowstone and his Grammy and Oscar wins for the Crazy Heart soundtrack, to his curated music festival outside of Austin and his six albums of grooving Americana tunes.

Bingham played sold-out Free at Noon set today, following the release of his latest record American Love Song earlier this year. His unique sound makes him a standout in his genre — with timeless, traditional elements like gospel backup singers and fiddle solos, Bingham’s brand of country is more authentic than anything you’re likely to hear on country radio. Backed by a rock band and making full use of the venue’s disco ball, he knows how to turn a show into a party, too. Continue reading →

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20 albums you shouldn’t overlook in 2018

Some of our unsung favorite albums of 2018

Fun fact: in a total coincidence of timing, The Key released our best albums of the year list on the same morning that NPR Music, The Guardian, and Paste rolled out their respective lists. Most other major and minor music publications followed suit in the week that followed, social media was aflurry with immense list excitement as much as total list fatigue.

The best hot take I saw in the fray came from Boston journalist Nina Corcoran (a writer for NPR Music, and Pitchfork, among others), who simply Tweeted: “The 50 Best Albums of 2018 That Didn’t Have a PR Machine Churning Behind Them.”

It’s frustrating, but true. It’s daunting when you’re reading about mostly the same albums in a slightly different order, and it begs some consideration. Like I’ve said in the past: while there is power in consensus, how does that consensus get there? Through mass recognition, through large teams of music journalists with widely eclectic tastes finding 15 or 50 or 500 albums (seriously tho, I’d love to see a top 500 list in haiku form) that they can all agree are great. And that happens when artists and their labels have the resources to seriously and steadily push those records to said journalists.

So what’s to become of a release by Philly rapper Ivy Sole, who self-released and self-promoted her outstanding 2018 outing Overgrown? Or one by Columbus psych/folk/punk collective Saintseneca, which did have label support on their beautiful Pillar of Na, easily the best record of their career, but the “campaign” behind it was limited?

My favorite lists, by comparison, are like the one you’re about to read — not driven by consensus, not presented in a ranked order. Not fostering a frustrating sense of competitiveness in an already-frustrating music scene. One that merely collects records that our team is tremendously excited about, and thinks you should make a point to spend some time with. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2018

This is the music that moved us in 2018

In her review of Lucy Dacus’ Historian, Key writer Sarah Hojsak uses a vivid phrase that sums up both the record, as well as the emotional landscape of 2018: “desperately sad but never hopeless.”

Oh, wait, I’m sorry…would you describe your year as happy? That must be nice, good on you. For many of us, it’s not as straightforward: the toxicity of the country at this moment in history, and the various players that fuel that toxicity, has a draining effect, whether you’re a marginalized person who is in the line of fire or an empathetic soul who is distressed from afar. There’s also the let-down: the pouring of our energies into something to watch it fail, whether personal or public.

And yet we experience moments of joy throughout it all: weddings are had, families are started, a breathtaking sunset is observed from the westbound platform of the Berks Avenue el stop. And there’s music, a constant source of joy and comfort that centers our lives. Continue reading →

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Bettye’s Bob: A conversation with Bettye LaVette about Dylan, interpretation and how Things Have Changed

Bettye LaVette | photo by Mark Seliger | via facebook.com/bettyelavette

Releasing a new album during God’s holiest of holidays was a smart thing for Bettye LaVette. The raw-voiced interpretative R&B singer and current New Jersey resident makes the music of others a deeply religious and innovative experience as she uncovers (no, crafts lovingly and with incendiary force) never-before-witnessed nuances to songwriters such as Roger Waters, Lucinda Williams, Joan Armatrading, Peter Townshend, Willie Nelson, Eddie Hinton and others in her immediate past.

Her new Things Have Changed, however dissects and reassembles the stuff of Bob Dylan in a manner that resembles a mad scientist at play – cutting and changing and re-stitching the 20th Century Bard’s lyrics and music into something newly marvelous and provocative. LaVette shows up at World Café Live on April 5 and chatted with me on Good Friday, the album’s release day, about the good that God brings…even if she’s not so sure of divine providence. Continue reading →

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Buzzing About Beats: The journey of Philly producer / MC DistantStarr

Distant Starr
Distant Starr | photo by Austin Eterno | courtesy of the artist

Originally hailing from New York, rapper / producer DistantStarr has been holding it down in both Philly’s underground rap and experimental beat scenes for about a decade. His sound, a rich mixture of spacey, ambient-inflected instrumentals and slick, razor-sharp bars tastefully embodies the spirit of both scenes. We caught up with Distant Starr a few days after his mind-blowing, impromptu set at Backyard Bxss (a live Beat showcase organized by Smth Savant collective). We talked about his latest release, Discover Tape, the unheralded history of Philly’s live Beat scene and the collaborative work that has connected him with artists around the world.   Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Eric Schuman’s ‘Year of Missing Out’

Eric Schuman, doing something other than attending a concert | Photo by Sam Spott

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Indie Rock Hit Parade host Eric Schuman reflects on concerts he could have gone to but didn’t.

As you’ve no doubt seen by reading The Key (or perhaps by being a live music fan yourself), 2017 boasted no shortage of incredible concerts to attend. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I didn’t see any shows this year, the ratio of concert attendance to not-concert attendance was heavily skewed towards the latter. I’m in the music industry, after all; every now and again you have to take a break. I also tend to be on the radio late at night, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to seeing a ton of shows across town. None of this will stop me, however, from sharing my reflections on five of the year’s biggest live music events, regardless of whether or not I was in attendance.

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