December 2014

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh’s finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Scott Tady! In case you missed it here’s what he played with commentary by Scott. Today, Scott shares his favorites of 2014. Favorite album: War on Drugs, Lost in the DreamHailed as a road trip album, the scenery here is consistently pretty, dreamy and wistful, like staring out a car window on an overcast day, zipping past an unspoiled Midwestern landscape. Indie-rock coupled with a keyboard-driven ambient Americana yielding songs fitting together seamlessly, unfolding at an unhurried pace before reaching a satisfying acceleration. The Philly band's leader, Adam Granduciel, has said the lyrics were inspired by post-tour loneliness and anxiety, though his words are more reflective than angst-y. Defining lyric: "Lying on my back, loosening my grip, wading in the water, just trying not to crack under the pressure." Rest of my Top-10: Sturgill Simpson, St. Vincent, Spoon, Jack White, Taylor Swift, Ex-Hex, Flying Lotus, Sharon Van Etten, Ben Howard. Favorite concert: Paul McCartney, July 7, Consol Energy Center. - Sir Paul was amazing -- ask anyone who saw the 72-year-old legend's enthusiastic three-hour, 40-song set at Consol Energy Center. It was action-packed from an "Eight Days a Week" and "All My Loving" launch through a two-encore smoker ending with "Helter Skelter" and the Abbey Road medley. McCartney's voice held up strong throughout a set that also featured Wings hits ("Band on the Run," "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five"), deeper Beatles album cuts "Lovely Rita" and a carnival-sounding "Being for The Benefit of Mr. Kite!" and some heartfelt musings about his mates John, Ringo and George (to whom the ukulele-led "Something" was dedicated.) The rest of my top-10 concerts: Kaiser Chiefs, Billy Joel, Zac Brown Band/Sturgill Simpson, Black Keys, Jack White, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Sharon Van Etten. Favorite song: Jack White, "Would You Fight For My Love" - If we're counting their epic Letterman performance, I'd have gone Future Islands' "Season." The regular single is cool, too, and has made some other lists, including NME's No. 1. Though in 2014, I was grooving more to Jack White. The title track to his "Lazaretto" album earned lots of 'atta boys, though I prefer "Would You Fight For My Love?" for the intensity of his vocals, the thought-stirring lyrics, and its spaghetti-western cool. It's a song that I appreciate more with each listen, so I'm picking it for my No. 1. (Besides, Cindy won't let me choose Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off") :-)
Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh’s finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Andy Mulkerin of City Paper! In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary from Andy. Courtney Barnett, "Avant Gardener" - I'll go ahead and call this my favorite song of the year: I'm a lyrics-oriented listener, and Courtney Barnett is a careful lyrical songwriter. The Australian burst onto the scene in 2014 with her Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, and I'm hoping 2015 holds a Pittsburgh appearance from her, which we haven't had yet. Sharon Van Etten, "Nothing Will Change" - While it's stuck in the back half of the record, this is, I think, the centerpiece of Sharon Van Etten's Are We There. It's a great album front to back, with some more complex instrumentation than we're used to with Van Etten, and the use of bass clarinet here in specific is wonderful. Favorite album of 2014. 1,2,3, "Mile High Grass" - I'll go ahead and call 1,2,3's Big Weather release show at Brillobox -- one of only two appearances from the band this year -- my favorite show of the year. Everything was spot-on, the place was packed but not overwhelming, and the songs -- at least the ones the band was willing to play live, as they felt they could translate them correctly -- were powerful. Great release from a great Pittsburgh band I hope gets its due for this self-released album after its debut in 2011 was put out by a big indie.
Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of WYEP’s trusted music experts joins me (Cindy Howes) on The Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Sarah Wardrop from WFUV in New York! This month, we asked Sarah to bring in her favorites from 2014. In case you missed, it here’s what she played: Song: Bob Mould, "I Don't Know You Anymore" - Bob Mould's latest album is called Beauty & Ruin, and those two words fit this song well. There is beauty in this perfectly structured, 3-minute pop song (that rocks), especially when the music is paired with post-angst, kiss-off lyrics that sound like Mould made it past the ruin to know himself better than ever. I played "I Don't Know You Anymore" multiple times in a row, multiple times this year. Album: St. Vincent, St. Vincent ("Rattlesnake") - I could have picked St. Vincent in all three of these categories. "Digital Witness" was the first song I heard from this album, and it had me hooked. I later saw a couple of shows on this year's tour, and her performances (and shredding) left me in awe. "Rattlesnake" opens the album and her recent shows, so while there's no way it could encompass the range of what St. Vincent created this year, it perfectly introduces Annie Clark's latest musical world. Show: The Replacements at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY ("Left Of The Dial") - Although I saw some great performances of new music this year, it was hard to top a band I never thought I'd get to see: The Replacements. I had the lucky chance to go to their Forest Hills Stadium show in September, which Deer Tick and The Hold Steady opened. Of course, it couldn't be the original band, but happily it was a "reunion" show that more than met expectations. Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson led the current line-up through a 29-song set so there are many to choose from, but in honor of the dial positions of WYEP and WFUV, I had to pick "Left Of The Dial."
Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh’s finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Pop City's Patrick Bowman This week, Patrick brough in his favorites of 2014. In case you missed, it here's what he played: Best Show - Sharon Van Etten, "Your Love is Killing Me" - The best live shows enhance all the things you love about the band's recorded work, and considering Sharon Van Etten's excellent 2014 sophomore record Are We There was even more emotionally devastating than her 2011 debut record, her incredible performance at Mr. Small's in late June was absolutely heart-wrenching. So, when Are We There centerpiece "Your Love is Killing Me" arrived in the middle of her live set, a track in which Van Etten howls lyrics like "break my legs so I won't run to you," it basically leveled the entire building. Best Song - Perfume Genius, "Queen" - As Perfume Genius, singer/songwriter Mike Hadreas made his name on his first two records by crafting delicate, emotionally bare, usually piano-driven songs about heartache, spiritual disillusionment and sexual alienation. But for his third album Too Bright, Hadreas has turned the vulnerability he exhibited in his songwriting into a source of edgy power, writing compositions that vibrate with energy and confidence, displayed excellently in the blaring organ-laden lead single "Queen." Best Song - Flying Lotus Feat. Kendrick Lamar, "Never Catch Me" - Los Angeles-based producer/DJ Flying Lotus is basically a genre unto himself, combining acid jazz, hip-hop, and cutting edge electronic music into headphone symphonies that seem infinitely complex. On his sixth solo album You're Dead, Fly Lo enlisted the Greatest Rapper Alive, fellow Los Angeles native Kendrick Lamar, to drop some light speed bars on the track "Never Catch Me," which sounds like Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis producing an Outkast Record. Fly Lo's beat is bonkers, replete with jazz guitar freak out, but Lamar's verse is damn near other worldly in its technical perfection and emotional resonance. Best Album - Cymbals Eat Guitars, "Jackson" from LOSE - East Coast indie rockers Cymbal Eat Guitars take an expansive approach to impressionistic 90s slack rock, crafting two albums that were noodly and anthemic and ambitious and somewhat uneven. But on their third album LOSE, all the ideas they kicked around and almost pulled off in their earlier work have snapped into place, creating a constantly shifting soundscape that Cymbals Eat Guitars appear to be in complete control of. Side one, track one "Jackson" is basically a microcosm of all the best parts of LOSE: gorgeous melodies and transitions sung by lead singer Joseph D'Agostino, a deceptively dense composition, and incredible guitar and piano work.
2014 has been interesting and varied in Pittsburgh music. New venues, labels and bands emerged to create a diverse and vibrant music community that continues to surprise and inspire us. These five acts are among the elite in our city. Please get out there and see their shows and buy their records. Music is a huge part of what Pittsburgh is and it's exciting to be a part of the ever evolving music scene. Make sure you catch two hours of the best in Pittsburgh music 2014 on WYEP's Local Year in Review; airing New Year's Eve and New Year's Day on 91.3!
*** WYEP's Top 5 Local Acts for 2014 ***
1. The Early Mays The Early Mays (Bird On The Wing)

TheEarlyMaysPROMO (1)

 The Early Mays are three talented writers, singers, and instrumentalists, coming together on a masterpiece of a debut album. It is clear that the folk trio— Judith Avers, Emily Pinkerton and Ellen Gozion—carefully crafted each other’s songs by adding emotionally stirring harmonies and delicate folk instrumentation (banjo, fiddle, and organ). While playing together for the first time at a late-night Christmas Eve service, they realized the full potential of future collaborations, thus forming The Early Mays. Using crowd funding to source their self-titled debut, the group brings traditional and original material to spectacular life. This is more than a band that writes and performs songs; it’s a group of serious musicologists who have studied the folk genre all their lives. It’s a rare combination of knowledge and talent. (CH). 2. Chet Vincent & The Big Bend Unconventional Dog (Wild Kindness)


Formerly focused on folk and alt-country, Chet Vincent & the Big Bend’s Unconventional Dog is blasting, blues-powered rock and roll at its finest. It sounds as if Cracker’s David Lowery were fronting The Black Keys. Front man, Chet Vincent has taken a step back from the mix to give his all-star band more of a showcase on this home-recorded album (at the drummer’s parents’ Point Breeze mansion). There are hints of the old-time Country Chet with songs like “Three Hens.” Most tracks are dense with swirling layers and effects that drive home raw, dark emotions such as songs like “Doubter’s Blues” and “She Sold Me Out.” (CH)
 3. Kai Roberts Carnegie Café (Kai Roberts)

Kai Roberts PROMO

From its old-school influence to its message about dealing with mental health issues, there’s a lot to love about rapper Kai Roberts’ album Carnegie Café. After taking leave from Carnegie Mellon in order to deal with chronic mental issues, Roberts turned to music to cope with an extreme anxiety and panic disorder. The album he created was born out of poetry that expressed Roberts’ thoughts and frustrations about college life—a reflection that could serve as reference for many struggling college students. The execution of his positive message is a homerun with stellar R&B style production, guitar work, and smooth vocal delivery. (CH) 4. Essential Machine Underneath the Earth (Silver Seed Records)

Essential Machine PROMO

This Greensburg family band continues to mature and perfect its whimsically folk/pop sound on its third album, Underneath the Earth. This time around, husband and wife RJ and Karen Dietrich have added guitarist Matthew Kilroy and occasionally their son Roby J to the lineup. Essential Machine has also managed to capture the spirit of its live show on tape, which is often a difficult task for many recording artists. The earnest production, poetic lyrics, and breezy melodies make the record flow and call to mind Mumford & Sons, The Breeders (on the quieter tracks) and Belle & Sebastian. (CH)

5. 1,2,3 Big Weather (American Hermitage Records)


How do you review this album? It’s over an hour long, and has unusual spoken word and instrumentals based around an array of characters experiencing various types of big weather. The traditional songs on Big Weather are fantastic, with traces of Cat Stevens, Devendra Banhart, and some kind of perfectly freaky rock and roll, thanks to Nic Snyder’s raspy falsetto, displayed on songs like “When The Levee Broke at the County Fair.” It’s an album that hangs in the fringes for fans of rock music. The band is tight, yet experimental as this sophomore record pleases, but challenges the listener. (CH)
Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh’s finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Scott Tady! In case you missed it here’s what he played with commentary by Scott. The Lonely Wild, "Holidays" - It's NOT the most wonderful time of the year -- not consistently, as Madison Avenue would want us to believe, anyways -- as pointed out by this Christmas-is-stressful song from a cool L.A. quintet that glazes its country-rock with a layer of shoe-gaze. Not a rant, just a heart-wrenching look at a season that brings loneliness and unreachable expectations to many. Singer Andrew Carroll explains: "Every year we're bombarded with baby boomer-era Christmas carols and jingles that paint a superficial portrait of what the holidays are for a lot of people...When I wrote 'Holidays' I wanted to show the other side -- the emotional fatigue, the pressure to be with estranged family and that anxiety that mounts at the end of the year when we start to ask ourselves, 'Were you successful?' Steve Earle & the Dukes, "You're the Best Lover That I Ever Had" - How many of Earle's six ex-wives wonder if he's singing about them on this straight-forward blues-folk song? Catchy melody and a topic that might make you scan your own memory banks -- in a moment of solitude -- to ask who you'd sing this song about. Will appear on Earle's "Terraplane" album set to land in February.

Fans of My Morning Jacket have a a lot to be excited for in the future despite a relatively quiet year for the band. In a recent interview front man Jim James has revealed that they are currently working on a new studio album. "We are going to some cool new places and just enjoying playing music together as a band" said James when pressed for details on the album. The new album has a tentative fall release date.

Read more on My Morning Jacket and hear the Jim James interview at JamBase.

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell have begun working on a new duet album together following the success and chemistry the two artists experienced with 2013's Old Yellow Moon. "We bring out a lot of good stuff in each other" said Crowell, "we just understood that and have to have more time to explore that". No release date has been slated for the new album.

Read more on the new Harris and Crowell album at The Boot.

Despite speculation, legendary musician Joni Mitchell has stated that Taylor Swift will never portray her on film. An adaptation for the book "Girls Like Us" has been in the works for years and many have speculated that Swift would be a perfect fit for Mitchell, "all you've got is a girl with high cheek bones" Mitchell has stated she told the films producer, "you don't have great scenes"

More can be read on Joni Mitchell's biopic at the New York Daily News.