Thursday, April 20, 2017

Listen Up! April 19

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 2:57 PM

We've always wanted to insert little computer chips and speakers into City Paper, so that when you open it, music from artists featured in the paper plays while you read about them (like a big old greeting card). But that's just not realistic. This is the second-best thing: a Spotify playlist featuring music from this week's issue. Listen up.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

MP3 Monday: Molly Spear

Posted By on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 10:53 AM

This week’s track, “God’s Morning Breath” by Molly Spear, is not for unadventurous ears. There are no lyrics, not much in terms of structure, hard to dance to (if you suck at dancing). Instead, we’re treated here to wave after wave of hypnotic looping guitars, with a tangible Indian and Middle Eastern influence. Like Sun Araw, but quieter. Stream or download “God’s Morning Breath” below.

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

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Listen Up! April 12

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 12:46 PM

We've always wanted to insert little computer chips and speakers into City Paper, so that when you open it, music from artists featured in the paper plays while you read about them (like a big old greeting card). But that's just not realistic. This is the second-best thing: a Spotify playlist featuring music from this week's issue. Listen up.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Recapping a night of raucous fun with Me First and The Gimme Gimmes

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 2:50 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Roberto Gasparro/Fat Wreck Chords
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
The Rex Theater was sold out Tuesday night and packed with bodies of all ages for an evening of punk for the first night of the Me First & the Gimme Gimmes tour with PEARS and Masked Intruder. For Pittsburgh punks, this was a real treat, as the Rex is about half the size of all the other rooms on the tour.

The opening act was a bit of a show stealer. PEARS, from New Orleans, is a raucous ensemble of maddening punk energy. Its stage presence is wild, with vocalist Zach Quinn running around shirtless and wildly gesticulating through every single song. PEARS may be on a bigger room tour, but they’re still spill and people hang from the exposed pipes like wild animals.

Musically, PEARS balances heavy hardcore and speedy punk with poppy hooks, and the cacophonous, unexpected blend of genres perfectly captures the manic energy put forth on stage. It’s sometimes theatrical (fitting for this tour) but always circle-pit-inducing.

After PEARS, cue two of the most unbearably fun gimmick bands in existence. Masked Intruder did what it did best—perform poppy punk as the masked criminals Green, Yellow, and Blue (Red was ‘in jail’ and could not drum on this tour). Their catchy-ass pop is bolstered by the absurd presence of Officer Bradford—long arm of the law and band member whose job is to rile up the crowd, play some tambourine and dance with strangers who aren’t having enough fun.

Masked Intruder has some of the best banter, never breaking character, making jokes about themselves and the other bands on the gig. “Zach Quinn [of PEARS] can’t wear a shirt on stage, it’ll melt off. I’ve seen it,” deadpanned Blue. He also called Me First & the Gimme Gimmes the best band...or rather “The best band on Fat Wreck Chords, easily.”

“I Don’t Want to Be Alone Tonight,” one of my personal favorites, was dedicated to all the women in the crowd, who were over 18, of course. And single. Or maybe just at the gig without their boyfriends. This kind of goofy persona and dedication to staying in character makes the earworms the band writes even more irresistible.

Songs like “Stick ‘Em Up” and “Running From the Cops” had the crowd gleefully singing along to songs about robbing people and running away from the law, and the absurdity of it all provided a wonderfully blissful feeling, especially with “Crime Spree,” a real heartwarming criminal love story about—you guessed it—going on a literal crime spree.

Me First & the Gimme Gimmes rolled up next, dressed to the nines. Shiny gold wall streamers and a giant pink and black banner accented the back of the stage while vocalist Spike Slawson rocked a glittery tux jacket and the rest of the band donned Pink Ladies-style jackets. There are few bands that exist today that are so committed to having fun and not being stuffy and serious; Me First & the Gimme Gimmes are a perfect example of the magic that happens when you shirk all the bullshit posturing and attitude of cool and commit to making people smile and laugh.

With its era-themed records and super fun covers, audiences of all ages can get in on the fun (even if some of the banter is a little adult in humor). During the Gimme Gimmes set, there were parents with their kids, college and adult bros, crust punks, some normal looking people and cute couples on a distinctly punk date night to name just a few of the many social groups represented. All were packed in side by side, dancing and singing along.

The Gimme Gimmes plays the kind of sets where the songs are short, so in a matter of ten minutes they burst through track after track, covers of “Jolene” or “Country Roads” or showtunes classics like “Science Fiction Double Feature” from Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s all over the place and covers a ton of ground. It shouldn’t make sense, and on paper it doesn’t sound like it could work, but it makes perfect sense with each of these tracks being given the MF&TGG punk treatment. Each cover is a reinvention of another genre into something distinctly rascally and bursting with punk rock charisma.

The night proved to be a sprint of irresistible goony fun in an intimate setting that felt familial and united. It’s a nice reminder of the positive outcomes of not taking yourself too seriously and giving yourself over to punk pleasure.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Music To Sweep To 13: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 4:27 PM

Music To Sweep To is a (sorta) weekly blog feature about music that is good to listen to while working. You can read previous entries here. If you have any ideas or complaints, you can email them to

Everybody remembers the classic Billy Zane film Titanic about the big boat that sank. Kathy Bates was in it; Celine Dion sang a song about it; it made $2 billion; it was a whole thing.

I saw it when I was 10 with my friend Jon and his dad at the Movieland cinema in Yonkers, N.Y. (now the Alamo Drafthouse, which is way cooler). I loved it, despite the whole iceberg thing.

I didn’t mind Jack dying (or the 1,500 other folks), but as a budding musician, I was deeply troubled by the string players who went down with the ship. What if I grew up to be a cruise-ship violinist? Would I keep playing? Didn’t they know that cellos are buoyant?

At first, I comforted myself with the notion that this was probably an embellishment on part of the filmmakers, but I found out later that it’s actually true. Eight musicians — Theodore Brailey, Roger Bricoux, John Clarke, Wallace Hartley, John Hume, Georges Krins, Percy Taylor, John Woodward — continued to perform as the ship went down, in an effort to calm the passengers. They died.

The surviving wireless operator (I don’t know what that means) Harold Bride told the New York Times in 1912: "... the band was still playing. I guess all of the band went down. They were playing 'Autumn' then. I swam with all my might. I suppose I was 150 feet away when the Titanic on her nose, with her after-quartet sticking straight up in the air, began to settle — slowly.... the way the band kept playing was a noble thing..... and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing 'Autumn.' How they ever did it I cannot imagine."

That makes two of us, Harold. Or three, if you count the British composer Gavin Bryars.

In 1969, Bryars composed “The Sinking of the Titanic,” a 24-minute string arrangement based on “Autumn.” As the song plays, the sound becomes increasingly muffled and echoey, sort of like it’s emitting from a speaker sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Recordings of interviews withTitanic survivors drift in and out of the mix, more or less incoherently. OK, that’s not too subtle in terms of conceptual metaphors, but the outcome is really beautiful, similar to the titular disintegrating in William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops. It’s hypnotic, pretty and unsettling.

Finding “The Sinking of the Titanic” was a big day for me, in terms of my search for good sweeping music. I discovered it by accident. As any MTST fans (a.k.a. my Broomheads!) already know, I’m a big Aphex Twin fan. In 2003, he released an album of remixes called 26 Mixes For Cash, featuring samples from Philip Glass, Jesus Jones, Seefeel, and not least, this astounding piece of music from Nobukazu Takemura:

“The Sinking of the Titanic” in Aphex Twin’s hands became “Raising the Titanic.” It’s a very cool conceptual remix, pitting the reverb-washed original strings against baldly synthetic string instruments, and wrapping the whole thing in big, bold drums. Its full name is actually “Raising the Titanic (Big Drum Mix by Aphex Twin).”

Anyway, this led me to check out Bryars’ original, which led me to another song of his called “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.” This one is built on a looped sample of a homeless man singing the title line. Here’s how Bryars explains it:

“In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song — sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads — and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song 'Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet.' This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song — 13 bars in length — formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.”

I listened to this song in 2014, and I swear to sandwiches, it has been playing in my head every day since. It’s a benevolent earworm, if that’s a thing. It’s such an emotive vocal performance, and the strings Bryars added are so shamelessly manipulative, like putting a Santa hat on a sleepy puppy to sell wrapping paper. It’s treacly and overly romantic, but oddly, I really like it anyway. So that's what we're sweeping to today. Thanks for reading.

Best if you work in: recovering lost jewelry, painting nudes, iceberg avoidance

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Monday, April 10, 2017

MP3 Monday: Punchline

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 1:48 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Brendan Walter
  • So Nice To Meet Them: Punchline

Feeling down in the dumps these days? Does every day on your calendar simply say "be sad 9 a.m. - bedtime"? Have you been called a "Gloomy Gus" more than once in the past week? If so, perk up, because Punchline has written a song to put the pep back your step. "Darkest Dark" is the latest from the Pittsburgh-bred pop band in a career spanning almost 20 years (anniversary this July). The track flies the flag for optimism and ebullience (douchy word, sorry), without veering into saccharin territory. Reliant K's Matt Thiesson chips in vocals too, which is rad. It's a lovely track, give it a listen.

Also, Punchline is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to make a Netflix special. Check it out here.

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

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Listen Up! April 5

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 2:00 PM

We've always wanted to insert little computer chips and speakers into City Paper, so that when you open it, music from artists featured in the paper plays while you read about them (like a big old greeting card). But that's just not realistic. This is the second-best thing: a Spotify playlist featuring music from this week's issue. Listen up.

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Bon Jovi brings This House is Not for Sale tour to PPG Paints Arena

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 11:17 AM

  • CP photos by Luke Thor Travis
Bon Jovi's This House is Not for Sale tour stop at Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena was cut short Wednesday night because singer Jon Bon Jovi announced he had a sore throat during the show. But that didn't stop the crowd from singing along to fan favorites and cheering every time he danced around the stage or stuck his tongue out to the crowd before his early exit.

Here are our favorite photos photographer Luke Thor Travis took from the show:


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Monday, April 3, 2017

MP3 Monday: Bindley Hardware Co.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 11:36 AM

  • Photograph courtesy of Jamie Wright
Today we're listening to the raucous, wicked fun “All Right, Already!" from Bindley Hardware Co. It's what you might call a stomper, fine-tuned well-produced country rock, with a simple and charming lyrical premise and some seriously fine bass work. Good stuff (it's got a killer video, too). Stream/download the track below.

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

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Listen Up! March 29

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 12:04 PM

We've always wanted to insert little computer chips and speakers into City Paper, so that when you open it, music from artists featured in the paper plays while you read about them (like a big old greeting card). But that's just not realistic. This is the second-best thing: a Spotify playlist featuring music from this week's issue. Listen up.

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