Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Listen Up! Sept. 28

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 4:21 PM

Every Wednesday, we make a Spotify playlist containing tracks from artists mentioned in the current music section. Grab a paper and listen along:

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Music To Sweep To 03: Plantasia

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 1:12 PM

Nobody writes music for plants anymore. There’s music about plants, like songs about flowers, and grass, and trees. There are songs about how poison ivy is itchy and how weed is cool. But where are the songs for plants?

In 2007, a study by South Korean scientists found that plants grew at a faster rate when exposed to music, particularly classical music.

“The boffins noted that sounds at 125Hz and 250Hz made genes rbc5 and Ald, that are known to respond to light, more active whereas sound waves at 50Hz made these genes less active, reports the Telegraph," according to 

In the study, the boffins, who I assume died to bring us this information, opted for stuff like Beethoven and other popular classical music to get the plants going, probably unaware that 30 years prior, a Canadian electronic musician wrote an album specifically for this purpose.

That album was Mother Earth’s Plantasia and the dude was Mort Garson. It was released in 1976 with the subtitle: “warm earth music for plants … and the people who love them.”

Plantasia was released one year after Garson’s Ataraxia: The Unexplained (Electronic Musical Impressions of the Occult), a spooky, atmospheric album which sounds like Zappa writing for Kraftwerk. It’s a strange, sort of disorienting album and though I’m not sure of the science behind it, I’m pretty sure playing it for plants would kill them. I only mention it because Plantasia, by contrast, is almost humorously relaxing.

The opening sequence will sound familiar to anyone who’s played video games made between 1987-94. There’s a Nintendo-ish vibe to the whole thing, and not just for the obvious similarities in instrumentation. Plantasia has a Nintendo game’s sense of adventure and romance, sort of whimsical without all the tiring nonsense that usually accompanies whimsy. Plantasia is cartoonish and sincere, and immensely satisfying to listen to.

My first contact with Plantasia was in 2014, when I interviewed (Pittsburgh’s own) Jeremy Malvin a.k.a. Chrome Sparks and discovered it on one of his playlists. I was intrigued by the name, and was hooked about eight seconds into the opening track. My memory’s a little fuzzy, but from what I can remember, Malvin had a similar first experience, showing up early to a gig in the U.K., hearing it over the speakers and demanding to know everything about the album playing. I believe this is the average response.

Plantasia is not on Spotify, nor is it easy to come by on vinyl but it’s not impossible to find on CD. I found mine used on Amazon for under $15. In the meantime, this YouTube video gets the job done (plus there are great comments) and while I don’t recommend skimming track by track, it’s hard to ignore that “Rhapsody in Green” is a standout.

So… whether you’re a plant or a person or some kind of Ent, take a half hour to listen to Plantasia once in a while. If it can make rice plants happy, imagine what it can do for you.

Best if you work in: a greenhouse, botany, horticulture, etc

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Monday, September 26, 2016

MP3 Monday: Laika, The Astro-Hound

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 2:56 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Olivia Locher
This week’s track comes from Laika, The Astro-Hound, a project headed by Johnstown-based musician Sean Jackson. Jackson started writing the new record, Kairos, after his mother passed away three years ago. "Music has been a life-long love for me," he explained in an email, adding that he hopes this record will be relatable to anyone struggling through their own grieving process. Stream or download the piano-driven single "Died at Five" below, or check out the whole record at My Idea of Fun

To download, right-click here and select "save as"

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The 90s returned to Pittsburgh last weekend with Salt N Pepa, Vanilla Ice, Coolio, more

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 2:21 PM

The I Love The 90s tour landed at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh on Saturday, with a lineup featuring Coolio, Salt N Pepa, Color Me Badd and many more. Here's what it looked like:

I love the 90s
I love the 90s I love the 90s I love the 90s I love the 90s I love the 90s I love the 90s I love the 90s I love the 90s

I love the 90s

Photos by Luke Thor Travis

Click to View 63 slides

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Listen Up! Sept. 21

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 2:28 PM

Every Wednesday, we make a Spotify playlist containing tracks from artists mentioned in the current music section. Grab a paper and listen along!

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Ghost shows Stage AE the softer side of Satan

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 11:54 AM

Describing a Ghost performance (and the concept behind the band) to a neophyte can be a challenge. One part contemporary doom metal, one part gleefully hamfisted religious commentary, the Swedish act has gained wide popularity by, in part, at least, following the template of bands like Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper. On Mon., Sept. 19, the band's six anonymous members brought their brand of theatrical Satanic praise to Stage AE for the second stop of their Popestar Tour.
  • Photo by Andy Klingensmith

The obvious and easy comparisons to painted, hard-rocking bands of years past are not without merit. A modern-day KISS Army, most clad in licensed apparel, lined the sidewalk surrounding the venue long before doors opened at 7 p.m. A few donned face paint in the style of the band’s charismatic frontman, Papa Emeritus III. While it wasn’t difficult to imagine that many had class to attend the next day, it also wasn’t a stretch to imagine that some had previously served as a Knight In Satan’s Service.

In terms of contrast, there may not have been a better choice to open the show than local synth/space-rockers Zombi. The duo set the table for the high production values to come with a (relatively) immobile yet powerful showcase of instrumental wizardry that, depending on your age and demographic, either lives up to their namesake with George Romero-inspired soundscapes or recalls watching Stranger Things last Tuesday. Along with a few selections from its earlier work, a great deal of Zombi's most recent album, Shape Shift, was on showcase, filling the room with chest-thumping drums and grand electronic notes.

After a lengthy introduction (the commitment to recreating a morning at church knows no limit), Ghost opened the show with “Square Hammer,” the poppy, not-quite-haunting single from its latest effort, Popestar. With the reveal of a looming, vibrant reproduction of stained-glass windows and the tried-and-true fog and strobe lighting, the venue was immediately transformed into a brightly colored demonic cathedral, complete with devout followers. The band of Nameless Ghouls, along with Papa, roamed the pulpit with a practiced and controlled enthusiasm that commanded the attention of the room.

With standouts from previous albums such as “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” and “Stand By Him,” the band drew widely from its catalog. Ranging from the vicious, threatening guitar on more traditional metal anthems such as “Mummy Dust” to the softer side of Satan as heard on “Body and Blood,” the show moved with a calculated rhythm familiar to fans of the melodic, heavy style of the group's
  • Photo by Andy Klingensmith
Despite the music's dark themes, the disarming and affable nature of Papa’s Nordic-accented banter kept the mood light. “This is a song about drinking blood,” he would state without a trace of irony as the lights turned to crimson. When two local “Sisters of Sin” were introduced on stage, Papa, perhaps knowing his fans all too well, made very clear that there was to be “no touching” as they made their way through the crowd. He did, however, encourage the “fans in the back” to grab each other as they pleased.

Though the show may have seemed familiar to patrons of Ghost’s previous visits to the city, surprises were in store. While the set list contained many of the same songs, the inclusion of fresh pyrotechnics as well as a shimmering ticker-tape shower created the illusion of a larger-than-life ceremony. Each of the final few songs of the night felt like a grand finale, and each time it wasn’t. the congregation cheered in approval. Ending with the soothing “Monstrance Clock,” a hymn that encourages audience participation, Papa bid the crowd goodnight with his final, most important message: “Drive safely!”

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Music To Sweep To 02: Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads by Dustin Wong

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 3:45 PM

There used to be this great band called Ponytail, but not anymore. They broke up in 2011 via a message from their manager, Sir James Winnie (terrific), which closed with the line, “Hopefully more bands will come along like Ponytail and shed light on the fakers. Much love to the future."

Well, Sir James, we’re in the future now, and sorry to say, the fakers are doing just fine. Ponytail is still dead, but the band is on this thing called Spotify, which allows fans to stream the catalog on-demand while earning literal pennies for the band. I’m doing it right now, sorry.

Hearing Ponytail in 2016 is, for me, one of those “time and place” experiences, the time being the mid-to-late 2000s, and the place being New York in the summer when I was home from school. Maybe it’s a personal bias — I was in my early 20s, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as hell. Whatever it is about music and puberty and drinking and weed that makes people that age feel so much everything, I felt it. Bands like Pterodactyl, No Age, Abe Vigoda, The Mae Shi, Dan Deacon, High Places and Ponytail opened my eyes like an eyelid on an eyeball (the standard way), and I found myself responding in earnest to new music with phrases like, “Holy shit what is this?” and “I didn’t know you were allowed to do this” and “wowee.”

Ponytail, in particular. A band as adventurous as Dirty Projectors, but the music was better. The group was fearless like Deerhoof, but more fun. Ponytail was unhinged like a shitty door, but the songs had substance and structure. And a big part of that structure/substance was thanks to the guitar work of Dustin Wong. He was the sandbag to the band’s hot-air balloon, assuming I understand how sandbags in hot-air balloons work.

Wong’s guitar-playing is precise and clean. Words like “virtuoso” and “genius” have probably been kicked around with his name in the past, but no good can come from that. Let’s just say he’s a talented guitar player whose style has a distinct perspective. He’s got great hands, spider-leggy fingers. Every note he plays has its own room, no clutter, no mud.

Precision can be grating in guitar-playing, skill for skill’s sake, like being a shitty writer but an excellent typist. Dustin Wong actually does something with all that skill; the precision and clarity has nothing to do with competence — it’s actually saying something.

His 2012 album, Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, is a 16-song instrumental (mostly guitar) experiment that sounds like it was written as it was being recorded. Songs start with simple, almost cute guitar lines or phrases. Each lap around the riff, another joins in. Guitar pedals play a big role but not too big. The compositions are ornate, a word I never use correctly but have nailed on the head here. Rhythmically, the album is simple, often nothing more than a tick-tock metronomic kick and snare. But all that simplicity, all that precision, all those details so unassuming on their own, add up to something complete and confident and just-the-right-size for its britches.

This is an album to play straight through (takes about an hour), but if you’re looking for a best foot forward, I’d check out “On/In The Way.” That’s my favorite, at least. Like everything on DSVCSL, “On/In The Way” is nothing special in terms of its opening riff. That’s because the riffs on the album are cumulative — it takes a village. The solo guitar lines are throwaway phrases, like something you might play half-asleep watching TV. But added together like a rolling snowball as they are here, something intricate and exciting happens. The whole album succeeds like this.

So … the reason we’re here: DSVCSL is about as obvious a great work-album as there is. It’s optimistic, not too forward, and by its accumulative structure, it’s essentially a soundtrack for getting things done. Despite its consistency in tone and melody, the thing has movement. Songs thread seamlessly, then crash without much of an ending into the next track. It’ll keep your attention without asking for too much of it, which I’m pretty sure is what this whole blog is about.

Anyway, hope you enjoy. Also, Dustin Wong has a shitload of music like (and not like) this; I just really like this one. Also, check out Ponytail. Also, if you have any thoughts on this whatsoever, or want to recommend music to work to, send me an email

Best if you work in: construction, Lego design, quilts

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Pittsburgh's Mac Miller brings his Divine Feminine tour to Stage AE

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Mac Miller live Sept. 18 at Stage AE - PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • Photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • Mac Miller live Sept. 18 at Stage AE

Pittsburgh's own Mac Miller recently dropped a new record, Divine Feminine, and on Sept. 18 he returned to the 412 to kick off the tour of the same name. Check out highlights from the show in our photo slideshow by photo intern Luke Thor Travis below.

Mac Miller at Stage AE
Mac Miller at Stage AE Mac Miller at Stage AE Mac Miller at Stage AE Mac Miller at Stage AE Mac Miller at Stage AE Mac Miller at Stage AE Mac Miller at Stage AE Mac Miller at Stage AE

Mac Miller at Stage AE

Photos by Luke Thor Travis

Click to View 58 slides

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MP3 Monday: Brett Staggs

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 2:24 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Doug Kochmanski
This week's mp3 comes from witty roots-rocker Brett Staggs. Stream or download “Love in My Heart (Hell in My Soul),” from the new EP Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Me, below. Then, go see Staggs perform live at his record release show at the Funhouse at Mr. Smalls on Oct. 7. 

To download, right-click here and select "save as."

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Listen Up! Sept. 14

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 2:19 PM

Every Wednesday, we make a Spotify playlist containing tracks from artists mentioned in the current music section (bet you didn't know the Spin Doctors had released records as recently as 2013!) Grab a paper and listen along:

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