Popeadelphonic: A Philly music playist for the Papal visit - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Strand of Oaks | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

He’s a noted humanitarian, a religious leader with a civic conscience – and as far as his predecessors in recent years go, Pope Francis seems like a forward-thinking and open-minded dude. So we here at The Key would like to believe that somewhere in that open-mindeness lies a music fan, somebody who is interested in the cultural communities he visits as much as the religious ones, somebody who would rather kick back with some Kurt Vile and Jill Scott in his earbuds than that same old droning CD of gregorian chant they keep playing in the Vatican offices.

So in that spirit, we compiled a playlist of essential Philly listening for the Papal visit. 


1. Strand of Oaks – “Pope Killdragon” – Okay, honestly, the first song in my iTunes playlist that shows up with when I do a search on the word Pope. No worries, though – Timothy Showalter’s existential struggles of humanity versus spirituality related through a character in love with the Virgin Mary is compelling, and speaks in a curious way about our collective quests towards becoming better people.

2. Kurt Vile – “Jesus Fever” – A traveling tune for the traveling masses making a pilgrimage to Philly this weekend.

3. Hop Along – “The Knock” – It took me forever to realize that the opening song on Painted Shut was about Jehovah’s Witnesses. (The lyrics are pretty direct about it too; duh, John.) But while the topic could in some hands lend itself to lyrical mockery, Frances Quinlan instead focuses on being observational, honest and sympathetic.

4. DRGN King– “Holy Ghost” – Dom Angellela sings about looking like Jesus, and neighbors that tell him he looks like Jesus. It’s a love song to Port Richmond as much as it’s about finding your place in the world.

5. The War on Drugs– “Come to the City” – Hey, the band name is ambiguous and has been embraced by those who are more than likely on the offensive side of that war. Really, though, it’s a beautiful city anthem for the travelers.

6. The Soul Survivors – “Expressway to Your Heart” – Oh, but there will be heavy traffic and expressway closures. The honking horns at the beginning of this song x 1,000.

7. Cayetana – “South Philly” – Though not particularly papal, I had to include one from The Key’s favorite album of 2014, especially since my friends hunkered down in South Philly will be more or less trapped by the traffic shutdowns till Monday.

8. Dr. Dog – “Oh No” – Gotta love the way Scott McMicken loudly, unashamedly thanks God for someone – a romantic partner,  a friend, a family member – in the opening lines of this song.

9. Todd Rungdren – “Love of the Common Man” – A classic rocker talking about love and sympathy for all of mankind.

10. John Legend and The Roots – “Humanity (Love the Way It Should Be)” – Persistence and fortitude during trying times, and a wish for something better from two of Philly’s brightest stars.

11. Jill Scott – “A Long Walk” – Jilly from Philly’s first big hit from her debut record speaks innocently of young love and wholesome dates where passages of scripture are discussed.

12. Amos Lee – “Jesus” – One of our favorite soulful singer-songwriters crying out for spiritual guidance.

13. Man Man – “Top Drawer” – Another one that’s most definitely not Papal, especially as it discusses demonic possession and the like. But this song is so catchy! And it sounds like a parade. The pilgrims can get down to it, right?

14. The Dead Milkmen – “I Dream of Jesus” – Okay, two sneering numbers in a row. I bet Pope Francis has a terriffic sense of humor, though.

15. Live – “Operation Spirit” – Back to more serious concerns from York, PA’s O.G. spiritual rockers questioning the relevance of scripture from centuries ago while still somehow celebrating them. Go figure.

16. The Roots – “Act Too (The Love of My Life)” – This one’s about hip-hop, and music at large, and the way music can positively infiltrate all corners of your consciousness if you let it.

17. The Dixie Hummingbirds – “Our Prayer for Peace” – As a world leader concerned with peace and healing, we think Pope Francis would agree with the message in these locally-rooted gospel music icons.

18. The O’Jays – “Love Train” – The same message the Hummingbirds delivered, set to a disco beat with impeccable production by Gamble and Huff. People all over the world, join hands.

As we gear up to the Papal Visit, XPN’s Mike Vasilikos is collecting Pope music ideas for the #FridayMorningMixtape – so if the Spotify playlist below gets you inspired, shoot him a request here. Need some more Pope music to ponder? Check out Dan DeLuca’s playlist over at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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