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When we realized that the WXPN special Songs That Got Us Through The Year fell on a Tuesday, my XPN Local co-host Helen Leicht and I started thinking about what we could do to carry the theme even further into our community.

Certainly, music as a unifying force that centered us during a tremendously challenging 12 months — a time when we faced the global COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and a vitriolic election year — is an idea that connected on a massive scale.

But it’s equally resonant at a smaller, local level where bands, solo artists, producers and players were impacted in unfathomable ways. Some were hit with the one-two punch of losing touring income due to national venue shutdowns, and then losing off-tour income when their 9-to-5’s downsized; this was particularly rough on musicians who worked in music venues, and didn’t know what came next.

Some turned to livestreams, and others turned inward and channeled their feelings into songwriting. Many got community-minded, offering up tracks and albums to help raise much-needed funds for social justice nonprofits. And by the time spring turned to summer, there was a whole new crop of Philly music for the scene to turn to.

But it wasn’t just the sounds of the year that got us through it. For the local music community, there’s a rich history of expressive, emotional music to turn to, from The American Dream’s contemplative 60s psych rock to Ursula Rucker’s spoken word / ambient electronic fusions of the 00s. This is the music Helen and I wanted to highlight, so in addition to the local-centric suggestions from the primary wave of #XPNGotUsThrough submissions, we put out calls on Facebook and Twitter for Philly songs that got us through the year, and the two-hour show you can hear below is the result.

XPN Local – 03.16.2021

#XPNGotUsThrough Local Playlist

8 p.m. with Helen Leicht

Camp Candle – “Save Me”
The Lunar Year – “Chime”
Low Cut Connie – “Help Me”

Matt Sevier – “Marry Katherine”
John Coltrane – “Naima”
The Dawn Drapes – “Facts”

The American Dream – “I Ain’t Searchin'”
The Retinas – “Problem With The World”
Madison McFerrin – “Try”

Vanida Gail – “Better Brighter Day”
Emily Drinker – “Enough Is Enough”
Kirby Sybert – “My Maker”

Amos Lee – “Sweet Pea”
Jesse Hale Moore – “Leave You Lonely”

9 p.m. with John Vettese

Ursula Rucker – “Feel Me”

Orion Sun – “Antidote”
Orion Sun – “Coffee For Dinner”
Little Flowers – “Oh My Love”
Caiola – “Alaska”

Sun Ra – “Rocket Number 9”
Keith Jarrett – “‘Long As You Know You’re Living Yours”

Kingsley Ibeneche – “So Kind”
Rose Lee – “Julie”
Annonxl – “Baby’s First Time”
Savan DePaul – “Mist Burns”

Riverby – “The Tell-Tale Heart”
Control Top – “Chain Reaction”
Pinkwash – “Gumdrop”
Lizdelise – “Tell Me”

Kelsey Cork & the Swigs – “That’s Cool (Good 4 U)”


But there’s even more, as there always is when you ask local musicians local music fans to big-up their faves. With the help of our friends at Cherry-Veen Zine, who we’ve been collaborating with on the pandemic livestream series Unprecedented Sessions, we raked in another massive crop of suggestions over at their Instagram, and the result is the Spotify playlist you can listen to below.

101 songs and six hours of music, presented A to Z from Slaughter Beach, Dog’s “104 Degrees” to Roger Harvey and Anika Pyle’s “You + I.” All resonant, all poignant, all Philly. Listen below.

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