Thursday, April 6, 2017

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
  • 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
  • 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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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Music To Sweep To 13: Fela Kuti

Posted By on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 2:21 PM

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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 alexgordon@pghcitypaper.com

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Ginger Baker, tall dude, famed asshole and terrific drummer, went to Africa in the early 1970s. Cream had broken up a few years before, and after short stints playing with Blind Faith and his own group, Air Force, Baker moved to Lagos, Nigeria, opened a music studio and started working with legendary Afrobeat artist Fela Kuti.

You can read all about this story online, or watch all about it in the 1971 documentary Ginger Baker In Africa, which is how I first discovered Kuti, via a great class at Pitt called Music of Africa. (I don’t know if he’s still there, but it was taught by Oye Dosunmu.)

Before delving into Fela Kuti, it’s probably worth acknowledging the irony of celebrating an iconic black African artist via a white British one. (Ironic, though not that uncommon.) I remember Oye illustrating this contradiction by pointing to the fact that Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings were categorized as soul in CD stores (it was 2005, they still existed), but Amy Winehouse’s album Back to Black — also recorded with the Dap Kings — was considered pop. That’s not a dig on Winehouse (RIP both of these phenomenal artists), but it’s just another example of how blackness in pop culture is interpreted as a statement, as other, and whiteness as default, neutral.

(Big up to Oye for teaching me about Jones, Antibalas and Daptone in general).

An unpleasant bulletpoint: Fela was super homophobic. There’s a song on his album with Baker called “Ye Ye De Small” which is a hateful and not-so-subtle reference to being disgusted by homosexuality. He did not keep the viewpoint a secret.

This is a tough issue.

I think everyone has to make up their own mind about their relationship to art made by artists whose opinions they find offensive. Eric Clapton said some super racist shit in the 1970s. Robert Wagner was adored by Hitler and his pals, but his operas are still pretty dope (also he died six years before Hitler was born, so …). Most recently, Dave Chappelle came out with two new specials that, while funny at parts, at times paint him as out of touch, arrogant, and old-school in the worst way.

I don’t think there’s a blanket approach that’ll work for everyone when it comes to separating art from artist, and artist from their views. Probably best to go on an artist-to-artist, issue-by-issue. (Oddly enough, Chappelle discusses this in his second special regarding his ambivalence towards Bill Cosby). So if you’d prefer to skip Fela altogether, that’s your call. We can still be friends.

OK, now that we’ve discussed systemic racism, homophobia and Bill Cosby, let’s talk about music.


Fela Kuti’s genre was Afrobeat. Definitions of that term vary but they all tend to include the words Africa, jazz and funk. He released music over four decades and his sound covered a lot of ground, but it was consistently political, exquisitely performed and funky. He’s got a few albums that are too upbeat for my tastes, particularly his ’69 Sessions, which veers a little too far into major-chorded James Brown-ish territory.

My favorite Fela stuff is dark, minor-chorded, minimal and glacially paced. That’s what you’ll find in this playlist. The shortest song is just under eight minutes. The tracks tend to open with a simple riff or minimal drum beat which guides the entire band for the duration, adding new elements on a strict four-bar schedule until the composition is loaded to the gills.

The do-not-miss tracks here: “No Agreement,” “Fear Not of Man” and “Sorrow Tears and Blood.” The horn line that comes in at 3:30 in “Fear Not” is one of the sickest moments in music history. (No. 2, if you're curious, Freddy Mercury and David Bowie's gibberish at the end of "Under Pressure.")

As far as music for sweeping goes, I can actually vouch for this. I work a part-time job that requires a fair amount of sweeping (as well as mopping, dusting, wiping things down), and this playlist soundtracks those tasks like a blanket on cold feet, or another, better-written analogy. The playlist is repetitive, engaging, balanced and dynamic in its production, and simply just really fun to listen to. I hope you enjoy.

Best if you work in: anything

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By the way, our own Mike Shanley did a great interview with Ginger Baker in 2015. Read it.









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Monday, March 27, 2017

Minus the Bear isn’t finished

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 3:50 PM

PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERVIN LAINEZ/BRADLEY HALE
  • Photo courtesy of Shervin Lainez/Bradley Hale

Minus the Bear has been around for 16 years. Highly Refined Pirates, released in 2002, begins with vocalist Jake Snider crooning, “And then we all bought yachts.” It’s a cheeky intro and far cry from the four-piece’s reality at that time: traveling in a 15-passenger van, sleeping on kitchen floors, partying and trying to seize the moment, not knowing how long it would last.

The moment is ongoing, it turns out. The band has made a living from its work and now has 12 records on the books.

But after its 11th release, 2015's Lost Loves, the group had some soul-searching to do. Longtime drummer Erin Tate had to leave the band for medical reasons, and the remaining members were coming to terms with major life changes like marriage and fatherhood.

“We all did a lot of asking questions and kind of had to dig deep, being 15 years on. We were asking ourselves, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we doing it? Is this something we still even want to do?’” said bassist Cory Murchy.

“Luckily, the answer was yes.”

When I talked to bassist Murchy on the phone, the band was hanging out in Charlotte, N.C., almost halfway through a month-and-a-half of touring. Despite all of the changes in the band’s collective life over the past few years, he sounded relaxed and happy.

“We still really love each other, and on this tour we’re really enjoying the music. It’s a powerful thing,” he said.

The band is touring for its latest release, Voids. The album reflects a lot of the aforementioned conflicts, with darker, moodier lyrics and themes of loss infiltrating the innovative grooves and riffs that helped cultivate Minus the Bear’s following to begin with.

Even though the band is in a happier place now, performing those morose songs is no burden.

“The thing is, for me, a lot of these songs are therapeutic. Being able to play them every night helps me exorcise those feelings and demons, and it’s enjoyable to do it because we’ve fully worked through that shit. We’ve spent the last few years working on ourselves and each other,” said Murchy.

The band is closer than ever, despite its members living across the globe, in Seattle, Tacoma and London. On this tour, rather than party or explore on their own, the members are spending most of their free time together, hanging out, talking and enjoying each other’s company.

Just as the personal and musical lives of the band have ebbed and flowed over those 16 years, so has the fan base. No two records sound quite alike, so the amorphous fan base represents people with musical interests across the spectrum of MTB’s sound.

“I personally love playing the older material and looking out to see people in the crowd singing along, like when we play ‘Pachuca Sunrise.’ To know those people have been with us for 12 years is so humbling,” said Murchy.

Ultimately, the band has accomplished a lot in 16 years. But the band has more music to make, and Voids represents the beginning of a new era in MTB’s songwriting.

“We still have something to say and music to write. We still believe in ourselves,” said Murchy. “We’re not done creating yet.”

Minus the Bear performs with Beach Slang and Bayonne at Mr. Smalls on April 1. The all-ages show is at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $24.

Mr. Smalls is located at 400 Lincoln Ave., in Millvale.

For more information, call 412-821-4447 or see www.mrsmalls.com.







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MP3 Monday: C. Scott

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 1:29 PM

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Today, we're listening to C. Scott's "Maneuvers," from his latest collection of beats called Be That As It May. On his Bandcamp, Scott describes the EP as "6 tracks from mom's attic," which, judging from the quality of these songs, is not a bad place to be. They're all ostensibly built as foundations for lyrics, but frankly they do just fine on their own. Stream/download the track below.



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

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Listen Up! March 22

Posted By on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 1:32 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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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Music To Sweep To 12: Waterparks and Dirty Beaches

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 2:00 PM

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There a mall in West Edmonton, Alberta, called the West Edmonton Mall and it’s got a waterpark. The indoor wave pool is the largest of its kind in the world (the mall is also the largest in North America). There are a bunch of slides, too. You can rent a private cabana, which, according the mall’s website, includes “access to a semi-private washroom” and “tables with chairs.”

In 2013, a filmmaker named Evan Prosofsky made a 17-minute film about the mall waterpark called Waterpark. It’s a mix of documentary and narrative filmmaking, and the film is more or less without dialogue (aside from an excerpt from a delightfully 1990s promo video that opens the film).

Waterpark is excellent. From a critical standpoint, its targets (tacky consumerism, the artificiality inherent to tourism, water slides) may seem low-hanging, but at its core, Waterpark doesn’t really have an argument to make about its images. If it's about anything, it's about the color of chlorinated water.

What saves Waterpark from sagging into cheap criticism of mall culture is the soundtrack, done by Alex Zhang Huntai, also known as Dirty Beaches, also known as Last Lizard. Huntai’s score is woozy without crossing over into full-blown nausea, and abstract in a way that sounds like he might have made this music by accident, but probably didn’t. It’s hard to explain. You can watch it here.

WATERPARK from Evan Prosofsky on Vimeo.


Anyway. Waterpark OST is not the reason Dirty Beaches is today’s Music To Sweep To. That distinction goes to “Lord Knows Best,” which is sort of Huntai’s “My Sharona” (reasons for this are unknown).

A little housekeeping before digging in: Huntai was born in Taiwan, grew up in Montreal and now lives in Los Angeles. He has seven studio albums, three soundtracks and a handful of singles and EPs. In 2011, he released his fourth full-length, a nearly-universally praised eight-track album called Badlands. It made the longlist for the Polaris Music Prize in 2011, whatever that means.

Describing Badlands is tough (I’m bad at my job), so here are a bunch of relevant keywords: samples, lo-fi, rockabilly, baritone, loops, the Western part of America with all the sand and whatnot, reverb, smoke, psychobilly. (Man, that’s much easier than writing full sentences, music reviews should just be tags from now on.)

Anyway No. 2. Badlands is one of my all-time favorite records. It’s dreamy, provocative and weirdly upsetting. Its version of lo-fi could best be described as crispy. Every song sounds like scratched vinyl and it's nearly very ugly. Most of the songs are built on looped samples, including songs from Link Wray, La Rallizes Denudes, The Ronettes and Francoise Hardy.

Link Wray’s “Mustang” chips in the foundation for track two, “Horses,” which you might describe as “nightmarishly cocaine-y.” Huntai doesn’t do much to the samples other than cut them (no speeding up or slowing down, not much modulation), which might strike you as lazy or uninspired, but it actually works. He’s not leaning on them to do the heavy lifting as much as he’s capturing little moments in the song and trapping them in feedback loops, which might explain why the album sounds so tortured. Those poor samples. He takes the I-chord from “Mustang” and sets it into perpetual repetition, while channeling Charlie Feathers’ twang and belting out stuff about black horses in the dead of the night. There's something deeply fucked up about denying a blues band its IV-chord.


The highlight, though, goes to the aforementioned “Lord Knows Best,” which is culled from Francoise Hardy’s “Voila.” Here Huntai at least allows two chords from the progression to keep their heads, and the result is pretty mesmerizing. He also keeps Hardy’s vocal melody, which is top-tier pop songwriting (and if you don’t know Hardy, you should get on that). This track is about as accessible as Dirty Beaches gets, so if you’re on the fence, start here.

Fun fact: In Pitchfork’s 2011 best of guest lists, both WU LYF and Neon Indian listed “Lord Knows Best” as the best song of the year. Wowee.

Anyway No. 3. After falling hard for Badlands, I started exploring the rest of Huntai’s work, which is how I found Waterpark. Much of his output is more minimal than Badlands, but it makes for some amazing sweeping music. It’s deranged and deeply upsetting and you will love listening to it. I compiled my favorite DB songs here, please enjoy.


Lastly, isn’t Dirty Beaches a terrible band name? Just awful. The good news is that moniker is now retired, and Huntai is currently working as Last Lizard.

Best if you work in: water parks, malls, skipping records


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Monday, March 20, 2017

MP3 Monday: Amir Miles

Posted By on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 2:52 PM

CP PHOTO BY JOHN HAMILTON
  • CP photo by John Hamilton
Each week, we post a song from a local artist, for free online. This week's MP3 Monday comes from rising alt-R&B singer/songwriter Amir Miles. The single is "Bad Habits," off his upcoming EP, Vintage, due out this summer. Stream or download the track below.



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

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Listen Up! March 15

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 2:02 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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