December 2015

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! We asked Sarah to bring in her favorites of 2015. In case you missed, it here’s what she played: Favorite Song: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, "S.O.B." - I picked this song, partly because of seeing people's reactions to it. When it comes on, it's hard not to stomp, clap, sing or shout along. Even though the story it tells is on the bleak side, there's a side of satisfaction too, knowing that Rateliff has come out of some dark times and into hard-earned and well-deserved success. Favorite Album: Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit - "Avant Gardener" built the buzz about Barnett and her debut album hopefully made any doubters sit and think. As a wordsmith, she meanders with intention and wit, and as a guitarist, her mix of rhythm and lead expands and contracts to suit the songs. The song "Small Poppies" knocked me over with its smirk of a title, gritty lilt and expansive sound, but I thought I'd pick this track in honor of holiday party season. Favorite Shows: This category is a tie for me. The Sleater-Kinney show was my first time seeing them live, so add that fact to the crowd-wide glee of knowing "they're back," and the energy in the room was palpable and incredible. With the musical Hamilton, there's not a lot that hasn't been said about how good it is, so I will just add that I was blown away, I've had several songs from it stuck in my head all year, and do try to see it if you can. Sleater-Kinney at Terminal 5 (2/26) This is from a different show, but a good one!: Hamilton at The Public Theater (1/30)

Friday mornings on WYEP, Chef Bill Fuller (Corporate Chef for big Burrito) joins Cindy Howes at 7:30am for Pairings! Bill & Cindy challenge each other to pair up your favorite music with matching menus. Let’s see what they came up with this week. Listen to the audio:

Pairings Dec 11 2015 by Cindy Howes on Mixcloud

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! This week, we asked Scott about his favorites from 2015. In case you missed it here’s what he played with commentary by Scott: Favorite album of the year: Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit -  Spry, smart, sassy and self-deprecating fun from the Australian singer-songwriter's full-length debut. Her "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To the Party" is also my song-of-the-year -- refreshingly indecisive in a world of social surety. Chorus: "I want to go out, but I want to stay home." The cleverness of her prose and exuberance to her brash delivery, often matched with full-on rock arrangements, is delightful. Signature lyric (from "Pedestrian at Best"): "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you/Tell me I'm exceptional and I promise to exploit you/Give me all your money and I'll make some origami honey/I think you're a joke but I don't find you very funny." Favorite song of the year: Kacey Musgraves, "Family is Family" - Funny and true tune with the typical bright tones and jaunty delivery from the 26-year-old Grammy-honored country singer. How can you argue with lines like "Family is family, in church or in prison/You get what you get, and you don't get to pick 'em/They might smoke like chimneys, but give you their kidneys/Yeah, friends come in handy, but family is family." Favorite concert of the year, The Mavericks at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall - A sleeper of a show -- I've seen 'em before and enjoyed them, but wasn't expecting to be blown away like this. Raul Malo's voice was exquisite as you'd expect, and the horns were full-throttle and the Tex-Mex-Cuban rhythms so alluring. It was Saturday night, and the crowd was feeling good and totally engrossed in the music (translation: Not yakking and constantly checking their cell phones.) We got up and danced in unison, not because Raul told us, but because the music made us, and we were grateful. I reviewed 75 national act concerts this year for the Beaver County Times. Also in my Top-10: The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Damien Rice, Foo Fighters, Old Crowe Medicine Show, Ed Sheeran, Stevie Wonder and The Decemberists.


WYEP has been proud to support the Pittsburgh music community for decades and in 2015 we were pleased to further extend our enthusiasm by instituting The Local 913, a weekly on-air highlight of a new local release. The Local 913 has been a great way to throw a spotlight on local talent, along with our monthly local music happy hour: The Local 913 Live. These five releases are the best of the best in our town for 2015. We encourage you to support each one of these fine hometown musicians!

*** WYEP’s Top 5 Local Acts for 2015 ***

1. Brooke Annibale The Simple Fear (Brooke Annibale)
Fear can be a complicated emotion when its root source is unclear. When layers of self-doubt, uncertainty, and miscommunication are peeled away, the truth tends to be relatively simple, and universal. Brooke Annibale explores and demystifies complications of the heart, drawing from personal insight without becoming overtly confessional. She uses concise, reserved language to express the frustration of waiting for an overdue apology, or the gentle acceptance of a relationship’s lost potential. Her spirit lifts with the hope of redemptive love. Annibale’s beguiling folk-based melodies reveal glimmers of pop and country. They unfold in subtle ways—a lone guitar is joined by piano, strings emerge, and percussion enters almost imperceptibly. Annibale’s vocals have a sweetly smoky, enigmatic quality, but her songs clearly depict the human experience. (RMW) 

2. Billy Price & Otis Clay This Time For Real (Vizztone)
Local mainstay Billy Price has known Otis Clay, the Mississippi-born soul and R&B legend (and Blues Hall of Fame inductee), since the early 1980s. The two have recorded a few songs together over the years, and they decided it was time to record a full album. Blues guitarist Duke Robillard signed on to produce it; and the result is an entertaining romp through a variety of soul classics and other choice material. Robillard and his band provide crisp backing, and the Roomful of Blues horns keep the energy level high, but it's Price's and Clay's expressive voices that steal the show. (MS) 

3. Donora Ha Ha Heart (Rostrum)
The nearly decade-long run of Donora’s catchy, bright, indie-pop continues on the band’s fourth effort titled Ha Ha Heart. The trio completely engulfed themselves in the creative process by diving into drummer and producer Jake Hanner’s newly created home studio in Gibsonia. The space worked in bringing out the band’s energy in a more complete form than previous efforts. Ha Ha Heart is filled with bouncy and catchy riffs, shiny choruses from Casey Hanner, and a 60s meets modern-electro pop collection of songs. The home-studio process is captured with a handmade booklet documenting the album with lyric pages, stories and production notes. (KS) 

4. Cold Weather When Waking (Cold Weather)
Chamber indie folk Cold Weather has a gentle touch that might just knock you over with their delicate, yet intense album When Waking. Frontman Mark Ramsey’s vocals not only have a similar tone to Elliott Smith, they also have that emotional delivery where is seems like he’s not actually going to get the words out. Producer Jake Hanner, who has been the production master-mind of the indie-pop Donora, shows his versatility when working with Cold Weather, adding his magic touch here and there. He lets Ramsey and the rest of the band set the tone for this fantastic album. (CH) 

5. Mariage Blanc No Autobiography (Mariage Blanc)
“Welcome to sunny… Pittsburgh?” Visions of 1960s Laurel Canyon don’t come to mind when pondering the Steel City, but local “melancholy pop” band Mariage Blanc have successfully summoned the feelings of a lazy afternoon in the California mountains on their new record “No Autobiography.” Lush instrumentation complements the subdued, lilted, sometimes whispered singing of a band that has aged like a fine California wine. Mariage Blanc demonstrates that, while rock and roll may be for the kids, the maturity and refinement that comes with age sounds incredibly compelling. (JS)

Friday mornings on WYEP, Chef Bill Fuller (Corporate Chef for big Burrito) joins Cindy Howes at 7:30am for Pairings! Bill & Cindy challenge each other to pair up your favorite music with matching menus. Let’s see what they came up with this week. Listen to the audio:

Pairings Dec 4 2015 by Cindy Howes on Mixcloud

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 Patrick Bowman sharing his favorite song and favorite album of 2015. In case you missed, it here's what Patrick played: Jamie XX, "SeeSaw" Feat. Romy Croft - Jamie XX, producer/mastermind behind British electronic rock outfit The XX, dropped his debut full-length solo effort In Colour in May to wide critical acclaim. The album bounces around with some different styles, but almost always, there's a chilly, particularly English melancholy coloring his sonic palette. "SeeSaw" featuring fellow XX member Romy Croft, is, for all intents and purposes, a new XX song, but it's probably Jamie XX's most dynamic and emotive song to date. He builds the track simply, with a breakbeat sample followed by percolating arpeggios of synth before Croft comes cruising in with her sensually cryptic lyrics; lyrics that sound more like she's forcing herself to feel something after some smoldering passion has withered away. One of my favorite tracks of the year. The Alabama Shakes, "Sound and Color" - The Alabama Shakes' first album, 2012's Boys and Girls, was an above average retro-soul rocker that was, above all else, a showcase for lead singer/songwriter Brittnay Howard's incredible talents. But Sound and Color, the group's follow up released in the spring of this year, is a massive leap forward in vision and execution, allowing the group to maintain their sonic identity and influences while charting a bold, confident new direction full of limber, unexpected melodies, risky compositions, and an overall futurist soul vibe. The album's title track (and track one) is an otherworldly and beautiful song that shows what Sound and Color is trying to do in miniature: the humming organ/xylophone opening and proceeding relaxed instrumentation, Howard's dream-like lyrics, and unusual song structure, it all makes for a seriously immersive listener experience.