The Wonder Years | photo by Ashley Gellman for WXPN |

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. In this installment, we bring you the ten most popular Key Studio Sessions of the year.

10. Grace Vonderkuhn – February 2, 2018

With Brian Bartling on bass and Dave Mcgrory on drums, the music is alive and urgent, teetering on unhinged but solidly in control; the knockout four-song set kicks off with the hammering aggression of “Radio Silence” from Vonderkuhn’s 2015 self-titled album before launching into a pair of tunes from Reveries and closing on a solo performance of the self-titled record’s “God Bless Your Soul.”

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9. RunHideFight – August 23, 2018

The racism she experienced as a young person was once again out in the open, and on the aforementioned “What Are You Talking?,” Simons directly confronts her own experience — culminating in a howling recollection of a classmate bullying her over her brown skin, saying “hey girl, how are you ever gonna wash all that dirt off your hands?” In the song’s cathartic conclusion, the taunt is screamed to a hammering rhythm: “that’s not mud / it’s just you.”

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8. Sheena and Thee Nosebleeds – September 7, 2018

A punk rocker at heart with a love for The Stooges and The Ramones, Powell’s voice is vibrant and versatile. She can soar along to the strange keys of 80s metal — I definitely hear some of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson in her — but she can also belt the blues with gusto.

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7. The Retinas – May 30, 2018

The best part of that comes in a smoking performance of “Wretched Time” from the new EP, a quiet-to-cathartic jam about moving forward from trying times — by the explosive outro, McHugh is tearing up his guitar fretboard, Silverman is tangled in headphones and Fulginitti is bashing his drums, and it couldn’t sound more perfect.

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6. Queen of Jeans – March 21, 2018

The songs that we’ve been taught to revere as “classic,” and that undeniably have power and importance in terms of composition and melodies, are often mad problematic in their lyrical outlook on gender rolls and traditional morality. Queen of Jeans takes a critical dig into that dichotomy, giving an honest look at the faults of music that they do indeed love while also playing the hell out of it and making you dance.

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5. Lovelorn – June 28, 2018

By the time we were able to get back in the studio, it was 9 p.m. and the band, crew, and crowd alike were ready to kick out the jams, as you can see in this fired-up performance of “Around You.” It’s a song about love and detachment, about the way things change with time and distance, about the struggle of maintaining meaningful connections throughout our lives. It’s deep and dark, but it’s catchy, and you can dance to it.

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4. AllegrA – January 4, 2018

What do you think happens when we die? / Existential talk replaces looking me in the eye,” sings Eidinger, and you can hear their grin getting wider as the lyric unfolds. It’s a true-to-life sentiment, and that lively observational approach across tracks that detail experiences of uncovering toxic flaws in friends (“Bad Habits”), living in West Philly (“42nd Street”) or just plain crushing on everyone you see (“Cuties”).

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3. Orion Sun – August 30, 2018

That energy made its way to low-key Orion Sun gigs at places like Space 1026 and Johnny Brendas, a self-contained setup with Majette using her laptop to play beats from Ableton, while accompanying herself on electric guitar as she sang and rapped. But as the profile of Orion Sun grew, so did her vision for the live show, and for this week’s Key Studio Session, we are ecstatic to welcome the Orion Sun seven-piece band into WXPN Studios.

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2. Anthony Green – August 9, 2018

But as Green played songs from the new record in a breathtaking, intimate solo acoustic session at WXPN Studios recently, it felt at points like he was letting those experiences had and knowledge obtained over his 36 years creep into the room through his striking tenor voice. Sure, the pensive “You’re So Dead Meat” is full of existential self-doubt, the heavy topics that fill the lyric sheet of his other musical outlet — the acclaimed progressive alternative band Circa Survive — but elsewhere, the beacon of hope becomes less of a faint glimmer and more of a bright light.

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1. The Wonder Years – May 23, 2018

These fixtures of the punk community are no longer banging on in a South Philly basement every night; they’ve moved to different places in the greater Philadelphia orbit, many have wives or long-term partners, and the time they get together as a band is increasingly rare and precious. But when it happens, that connection is such a strong one that there’s no warm-up period — they go all in from the start.

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