WXPN Best of 2023: The year in Philly Music - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
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XPN Local - 12.26.2023

It’s the final week of 2023, and it’s been another big year on the Philly music scene. So for the third year running, our resident local music enthusiasts and experts convened at WXPN studios for a roundtable reflecting on the music from our community we loved over the past 12 months. The result is the December 26th, 2023 episode of WXPN Local, where host John Vettese was joined by Abdur Rahman and Paige Walter spent the bulk of the two-hour program playing songs that stood out to them from the past twelve months, and talking about the impact they made — as well as the ways the music scene grew over the year. Listen to the show above, and check out a rundown of what they played and why they loved it below.

Julia Pratt – “A Little Love” – Julia Pratt and her band blew me away with their Key Studio Session at the top of the year, and subsequently have done so many things; they played the Tiny Desk Live concert, they played Free at Noon, they opened for Hozier. Julia’s such a talent and such a sweet person, and this is probably the biggest single she put out this year.  – John Vettese

AJAY – “67six (live from The Key Studio Sessions)” – I first heard this song when Ajay opened for Stereo League, and I was like, this is dope. But when he dropped his project These Yesterdays, I was disappointed because it’s one of the songs where I like the live version more. The live version is longer, and I like hearing him play guitar a lot, I like hearing him shred. I think Ajay’s very very talented as a guitarist. – Abdur Rahman

Kelsey Cork and the Swigs – “Leave Me Alone” – It’s really indulgent and bratty for when you just want to be left alone. It’s a fun song from Kelsey and team’s album Lollygagger, the making of which we documented in a web series.. The album is so fun, so fierce, you can really hear their long history of making music together. Good old fashion rock and roll with a twinch of punk and friendship. – Paige Walter

Re-Mus – “Are You Sure (ft. Cam)” – He’s one of the best singers in the city, to me. I love his album U.S.E., how he experiments with different sounds. I love the beat, I love the hook, and I love hearing Cam, drummer of the Funkitorium, on the feature! – A.R.

@ – “Major Blue Empty– I heard about them from local artist Kristine Leschper, and it was a good recommendation. It’s in the world of alternative folk indie rock, slightly country but a little weird. Super spacey, and kind of creepy, especially this song. There’s a line that’s like “I’m going through the objects in your home.” – P.W.

Greg Mendez – “Maria” – A really great indie rock singer-songwriter in Philly who’s been working really hard in the basement show and indie club scene for literal years now, and his most recent record, a self-titled record, has been getting a lot of well-deserved national attention. It’s really heartfelt, emotional music. A lot about personal trauma, but he turns it into something beautiful. – J.V.

Greg Mendez | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

American Trappist – “Lamentations– They’ve been one of my favorite artists to watch in Philly for years. Their album Poison Reverse came out this year, and I recently saw frontperson Joe Michelini play songs from this album solo, which was a real holy experience, and this song is one of my favorites. – P.W.

Moustapha Noumbissi – “Gold (live from The Key Studio Sessions)” – This was the first Key Studio Session we recorded this year. And Paige and I were both, jaws on the floor; I was in the booth, Paige was out on the floor filming, Mous is just going in, shredding, the band is sounding incredible. That song has just been put out as a single, but hearing the way they stretch out on it live was magical. – J.V.

Sunnie – “Can’t Wait To Love You” – This song made it in my top ten Apple Music replay. Sunnie’s a very hard-working singer, plays a lot of shows, selling merch, and this song…I’m a big fan of love songs, and I feel like a lot of people don’t make them as much. It’s simple, a little slow, and very calm and feel-good. Sunnie’s album Bloom was very good, that was my favorite song on it, and Apple Music reminded me that, yeah, you did play that one a lot. – A.R.

Golden Apples – “Waiting for a Cloud” – Super fun, fuzzy, GBV-esque music that’s also trippy and psychedlic, and they put on a great live show. They went on tour not long after playing a sold out show upstairs at The Khyber. And this is a band I’ve always loved but to me seemed like hardworking locals doing local shows, always doing what they do in the city. And it was really exciting for me to see them take it beyond Philly this year. – J.V.

Noel Scales – “No Love (live from The Key Studio Sessions)” – This was my favorite song from her Mandemic project this year, it’s the most catchy. I’m always shocked to hear that she’s not the most comfortable with her voice; she sounds very powerful. – A.R.

Honeychile – “My Man– Honeychile was new to me judging Beta Hi-Fi, World Cafe Live’s battle of the bands competition, this year. They really blew us away with live tracks, their loungey and fun pacing and lyrics. And this song, it’s just honey. – P.W.

AprilFoolChild | photo by Morgan Smith | @phobymo

AprilFoolChild – “Where Do We Go?” – I’ve been waiting for AprilFoolChild to drop her project, Lost In Translation, for a while now, it’s a very good jawn. I like the chorus, I don’t know how she and her producer did it. She’s been traveling, working, and I’m happy to see her grind throughout all these hears and continue to put out music for the city to enjoy. – A.R.

EXPO – “Limited Hangout– This is a new supergroup featuring buds from a bunch of different bands. XPN listeners will probably recognize Tyler Yoder from Cosmic Guilt, but this is not Cosmic Guilt. It’s closer to drummer Dave McGrory’s project Tangled Up; it’s psychedelic, it’s meandering, it’s experimental. It’s whatever the heck they want it to be, it’s shapeless and formless, but so fun to get into. It’s club music for kids who don’t like club music. They have an EP out now and I can’t wait to see what they do in the new year. – P.W.

Irreversible Entanglements – “Free Love” – From the free jazz collective’s Protect YourLight, which I saw them play at Solar Myth Bar this summer. I love hearing them stretch out and do interesting things with sounds and words, but I like “Free Love” because it shows they can thing in a compact, pop song format, at least as far as their very experimental genre is concerned. – J.V.

Full Episode Playlist

Hurry – “Something More”
Wax Jaw – “Be The Man”

Julia Pratt – “A Little Love”
AJAY – “67six (live from The Key Studio Sessions)”
Kelsey Cork and the Swigs – “Leave Me Alone”

Re-Mus – “Are You Sure (ft. Cam)”
@ – “Major Blue Empty”
Greg Mendez – “Maria”

American Trappist – “Lamentations”
Moustapha Noumbissi – “Gold (live from The Key Studio Sessions)”
Sunnie – “Can’t Wait To Love You”

Golden Apples – “Waiting for a Cloud”
Noel Scales – “No Love (live from The Key Studio Sessions)”
Honeychile – “My Man”

AprilFoolChild – “Where Do We Go?”
EXPO – “Limited Hangout”
Irreversible Entanglements – “Free Love”

Speedy Ortiz – “Ghostwriter”
Memorytown – “Sugar In Your Cup”
Brittany Ann Tranbaugh – “We Could Be Comets”
Lizdelise – “Sleep Softly”

Carsie Blanton – “After The Revolution”
Mannequin Pussy – “I Got Heaven”

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