Hey! Listen. I was out of the office last week, and things got a little hectic. Hence my lack of an MP3 Monday. But I've got the track for you now. It's from Host Skull, about whom I wrote last week. (Before I was out of the office.) They had their release last Thursday; the LP is called Totally Fatalist, and you can download the title track here!
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This week's MP3 Monday offering comes to us from Mandrake Project. The band, headed up by guitarist Kirk Salopek, recently released Transitions, its first LP with John Schisler of New Invisible Joy supplying vocals. It's an excellent match, I think. Check it out for yourself by downloading "In Love."
To download MP3, right-click link and choose "save link as" or "download linked file as."
Seeing Colbie Caillat this past Monday reminded me that I don't listen to the radio nearly enough.
It was not Caillat's set that granted me this insight, but opener Andy Grammer. I had no idea who this John Mayer-ish fellow was but, it seems, most of the hyped up teens and rhythmically challenged parents who filled the Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead did.
This is what I now know about Grammer: He honed his Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson-style guitar pop as a Santa Monica busker, he beatboxes quite a bit, he has a pleasant radio hit called "Keep Your Head Up," and judging by amount of excited streaking and "I love you!"s throughout his set, the ladies love him. When he took off his sweaty suit jacket and sat down at the keyboard, to the tune of a dozen wolf-whistles, he laughed. "People will yell, ‘take off your shirt!'" he said, hunching forward, "and I'm like, ‘sitting here at the piano, you do not want to see me take my shirt off."
Musically, Grammer and his bandmates were polished and charming, and despite a certain amount of derivative predictability, were not entirely unmemorable. "He sounds like Train," a chatty woman behind me shouted over the music. "I was thinking more of a young Sting," her friend replied. And ladies, you're both right!
Audience enthusiasm reached explosive heights for Caillat, who walked onstage looking like a golden surfer version of Serena Van Der Woodson. She opened with "Realize," from her first record, and was joined by the rather unremarkable American Idol finalist Elliot Yamin, who was on his way to appear at the Hard Rock Café later that night. "I called him 20 minutes ago and said ‘come sing on this song,'" Caillat explained with a smile. Then she returned the wave of a teenage boy in the balcony, who nearly fell over the railing in happiness.
Caillat effortlessly filled the theater with her warm voice, despite being under the weather. She played guitar on maybe three songs and, though I'm guessing she probably only plays when she's working out new song melodies, she was at her most physically commanding when she did, throwing her head back and shining like a modern Opry star. The rest of the time, she and the other 6 members of her band looked a bit off-kilter, as though they weren't sure how to stand on the relatively small stage without getting in each other's way.
Admittedly, about halfway through the set, I started craving a song with a little bite -- it's one thing to enjoy an laid-back romantic pop single on the radio, but hearing 17 all at once can get tiresome, especially when each one is introduced with "I wrote this song when I was falling in love for the first time…"or "Has anyone here ever been led on by someone in a relationship?"
But, I suppose pajama party talk is par for the course when it comes to beachy pop singers. And it's hard not to be on board with such a display of bald sincerity. Whatever Caillat may lack in grit, she makes up for by being the popular girl who's actually really sweet and nice to everyone. When, midway through the set, she told the crowd, "I love you all," I couldn't help but believe her.
Perhaps you're right now thinking: It's the end of the workday on a Wednesday. "Hump Day," as some folks are wont to call it. (We won't get into what we're wont to call those folks.) What should I get into tonight?
Here's a good bet: Southeast Engine is an indie folk band that's been operating out of Athens, Ohio (The Athens, Ga. of Ohio, as some folks are wont to call it) for going on ten years now. I remember my high school girlfriend hipping me to this band when she was in college in Athens in the early 2000s. They're now on Misra Records -- the label that local girl done good Emily Rodgers is on -- and recently released Canary, their latest LP.
Tonight they play Club Cafe, supporting tourmates These United States. Dream Job opens. 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, $10 door price, 56 S. 12th St., SOUTH SIDE!
Jenny Owen Youngs is a singer and songwriter and dinosaur lover who lives in Brooklyn. She's also a pretty good tweeter. I heard she thought she was better than me, so I challenged her to a duel via direct message.
@andybotpgh First question: What's your favorite kind of bird, ever? I know you have one.
@jennyowenyoungs All right!! If archaeopteryx counts, that's what I'm about. If not, I think I have to go with some kind of puffin.
@andybotpgh What is it with you and prehistoric animals? (Cf. your T-Rex t-shirt, etc.)
@jennyowenyoungs I'd like to counter with, what ISN'T it with YOU and prehistoric animals?
@jennyowenyoungs I went with archaeopteryx because I find proper birds generally difficult to trust-they're all beady eyes and scaly feet, you know.
@andybotpgh Hey, there's nothing wrong with scaly feet, OK?!?!
@andybotpgh As a student of composition and an enthusiast of popular music: In its simplest form, what's the essence of a pop song?
@jennyowenyoungs Something which, when you hear it, makes you feel like a human being.
@andybotpgh You blogged about After the Gold Rush & its overall effect as an album. Is the full-length, as a format, dying? Should we worry about that?
@jennyowenyoungs I love great records. There will always be people who appreciate records as a format. Yes, we've been moving back to the single as a format
@jennyowenyoungs for some time now... but we've also been accepting of autotune for a while now. I think our willingness as a society to accept
@jennyowenyoungs both these things will find a breaking point... and I think it will be in the not-too-distant future. I don't think everyone making music
@jennyowenyoungs "needs" to make albums, either. Listen... four messages is too much. You found a nerve! Sorry for not shutting up sooner!
@andybotpgh What's it like finding videos on Youtube of other people singing your songs?
@jennyowenyoungs The thing is, I don't come across people singing my songs on youtube. I don't search myself on youtube. I don't look up videos people take
@jennyowenyoungs at shows, either. I know all those things exist, though (largely due to my mom), and it's certainly a weird feeling. I'm grateful that kids
@jennyowenyoungs like my music and come to shows, for sure. But it will never be not-weird. Any evidence of people liking my music, or any sign of support
@jennyowenyoungs (kickstarter campaign success, for example) blows my mind every single time.
@andybotpgh Any favorite Pittsburgh things from past trips here -- places to eat, things to see?
@jennyowenyoungs There's an amazing greasy spoon with amazing breakfast... I think it's in squirrel hill? There're wild 50s style illustrations on the walls?
@andybotpgh Probably Pamela's?
@jennyowenyoungs Yes I think pamela's!
@andybotpgh Rod Stewart: Yes or no?
@jennyowenyoungs Is 'HOT LEGS!!!!!' enough of an answer for you?
@andybotpgh It doesn't even matter what the question is, YES.
@andybotpgh Most recent new album you've enjoyed all the way through?
@jennyowenyoungs Most recent album: Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest or Fanfarlo - Reservoir
@jennyowenyoungs Not sure which of those came first. Also forgive me for not being an up-to-the-minute music consumer. I absorb at a stupidly slow pace.
@andybotpgh No apologies; it's not a pop quiz!
@jennyowenyoungs Hey, thanks for the reassurance!!
@andybotpgh I mean, if I turn this into a piece that makes fun of you, rest assured it'll just focus on your love of puffins. Who picks puffins?
@jennyowenyoungs Listen. If that is way it goes, I should tell you I have been on at least one "puffin-watching" cruise. AND when auditioning for a
@jennyowenyoungs children's musical at around age 11, the song I chose to sing to show off my vocal skills was "Song of the Puffin." This is embarrassing.
@andybotpgh Recent book you've read/enjoyed/are reading now?
@jennyowenyoungs Just finished Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (WOW) and Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find (DOUBLE WOW)
@jennyowenyoungs Just started a book about the making of Johnny Cash's album Bitter Tears, from conception through release and backlash and censorship
@jennyowenyoungs The record, which came out a year after, I believe, "Walk the Line" was a HUGE single, is all songs of or about the native people - that's
@jennyowenyoungs how the book chooses to refer to native americans/american indians/name of your preference - and radio stations basically banned it because
@jennyowenyoungs its pro-native people angle. Insane on so many levels - that a huge star would put a tremendous effort into this humanitarian (for lack of a
@jennyowenyoungs better word) passion project at the height of his fame, and that said huge star would be banned by radio, record stores, etc. ok shutting up
@andybotpgh Why should Pittsburghers come out on a Sunday night to see you?
@jennyowenyoungs 1. The drummer of Hank + Cupcakes (they play 2nd) does a lot of standing on her own kick drum
@jennyowenyoungs 2. Sam Bradley's dreamy, lilting English accent
@jennyowenyoungs 3. I promise not to talk too much about the Johnny Cash book or the pros and cons of the shrinking importance of the record as a format
@jennyowenyoungs 4. FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN
Jenny Owen Youngs plays Brillobox Sunday night, Sept. 18. Show starts at 9; Sam Bradley and Hank and Cupcakes open. $10.
Lots of big local releases in the month of September -- which means lots of fodder for MP3 Monday! This week? A new track from New Shouts. The local throwback pop band is releasing its first EP, Sing New Shouts, tomorrow online, and has its official release show Sat., Sept. 24 at Thunderbird Cafe. Read more about them in the paper next week; in the meantime, download "Reins to Your Heart."
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Welcome back to the working week. A couple of quick updates for you on some old business.
First, not so long ago, I profiled Steve Bodner, the Murrysville-born, Reserve-residing frontman of the band Damaged Pies. I mentioned he was getting a Jefferson Award for his community service; in today's Post-Gazette, the Jefferson Awards write-up on Steve appears. It comes with a photo of Steve dressed much more business-like than we're used to. Worth checking out if only for that.
Second, a little longer ago, Aaron (remember Aaron?) wrote about the plight of the new Mr. Roboto Project space. Roboto's been running a Kickstarter campaign, and I thought I'd bring that to your attention. The space is already past its goal, but can use whatever money it can get. If you're into that sort of thing, it's here.
Check 'em out next Wednesday, the 14th of September, at Hard Rock Cafe in Station Square
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The weather was beautiful as Shadow Lounge prepared to host the newest chapter of its Outdoor Music Series. Fencing in the Baum Boulevard block where it meets Highland Avenue, the stage was set for a night jam-packed with performances by artists coming from Pittsburgh, New York, Philly, and Detroit.
Brooklyn MC Louis Logic, who has performed at the venue several times in recent years, took to the stage during the 8 o’clock hour and entertained the growing audience with an energetic performance. His witty lyrics played favor to his amusing performance style as his enthusiasm demanded the attention of attendees.
A performance that highlighted my night was that of The Lifted Crew. With a stage full of band members, singers and rappers, I couldn’t help but think of what it would be like if members of local bands Omega Love, Eviction Notice, and the Old E All-Stars all took the stage at once. This soul/funk/hip-hop collective was a great switch-up from the mostly hip-hop filled line-up of the evening. The Lifted Crew is definitely a group worth checking out!
One of the night’s headliners, NYC-based rapper Skyzoo, took the stage around 10 o’clock. This being his first time performing in Pittsburgh, many fans eagerly moved toward the front of the stage as the MC began his set. As Skyzoo’s set progressed, so did the response from the audience. During the latter half of his performance, he rapped his song “Frisbees,” which was dope! There were audience members mouthing every word to several of Skyzoo’s songs. He finished his performance strong and took the time to network with the audience after, as did all of the evening’s performers.
The main attraction of the evening was Elzhi, an MC born and raised in Detroit, who recently released the ELmatic album. Paying tribute to the highly regarded debut album from Nas, 1994’s Illmatic, Elzhi utilized the Will Sessions band to add a new twist, along with his own touch to the album. Since its release in May, the album has been acclaimed by critics and fans.
On this night, Elzhi returned to Pittsburgh for the second time in the past ten months. He performed as a solo artist during the Rhyme Calisthenics event in December 2010. Without Will Sessions joining him, Elzhi enlisted several Pittsburgh musicians to perform as his band on this evening. James Armstead Brown took lead on the keys, with Formula 412’s Dennis Garner on drums, jazz musician Tony DePaolis on bass, G. Ryin Gaines on guitar, DJ BusCrates on the turntables, and Gene Stovall adding his own unique vocals.
The band performed the ELmatic album from start-to-finish without missing a beat. Elzhi and the band’s renditions of the songs “The World is Yours” and “Represent” were stand-out tracks. The openness of the outdoor setting, combined with the wonderful chemistry of a band that first rehearsed earlier that day, topped off with the impeccable lyricism and wordplay of Elzhi made it remarkable experience.