Six emerging Pittsburgh music acts to watch | Pittsburgh City Paper

Six emerging Pittsburgh music acts to watch

These artists are making some of the most noteworthy, surprising, and innovative music in Pittsburgh right now.

click to enlarge Six emerging Pittsburgh music acts to watch
CP Photo: Pat Cavanagh
DJ Malcolm Threat

Trying to put together a list of up-and-coming Pittsburgh bands, singers, DJs, and rappers is like asking me to name all the bridges in this city. There are a lot.

This list focuses on the young talent cropping up around the city, though it also includes an older force new to the scene, a three-year-old trio forging inclusive spaces under the radar, and a band keeping their Pittsburgh roots despite a fan base stretching to the West Coast.

The abundance of talent also means an abundance of omissions — this list easily could have stretched to 20 bands forging paths in Pittsburgh, representing genres such as hardcore, experimental acoustic, and power-pop.

With that in mind, the following six artists serve as a sample of some of the noteworthy, surprising, and innovative music happening in Pittsburgh right now. Want to support them? See them live and buy their music.

Valleyview

The four guys — Jesse Farine (vocals, guitars), Benjamin Volk (drums), Ethan Herring (bass), and Jared Anderson (guitar) — who comprise Valleyview are all in their early-20s, some in school, others college dropouts. Give their song “Nevermind” a spin and Farine’s sonorous voice and strident guitar playing will have you thinking you’re hearing a late-30s Paul Banks.

Valleyview’s debut five-track EP I Feel Like You're Haunting Me, released March 17, is a showcase of the members’ musical chemistry and a confident indicator of the band’s potential. While they aren’t reinventing the wheel, the surprisingly catchy riffs and vocals that lurk underneath the mix — warm and glazy on “Cure Song” and fuzzed-out on “Television”— have a way of sticking in your head longer than the average collegiate post-punk outfit.

The Valleyview Bandcamp page defines its sound as “American Windmill Music,” a reference to a wave of contemporary English post-punk bands including Black Midi, Squid, and Black Country, New Road, that got their start at the pub/oddball-music venue The Windmill in London. Farine cites those groups and indie touchstones like The Strokes as inspiration for Valleyview’s music, an influence apparent in the driving bass lines on the EP’s closing track “Hiding.” Combine that with the song’s sad-quirky lyrics (“I don’t care as long as it feels like fate”) and you’ve got a band worth sweating in a dusty South Oakland basement for.

click to enlarge Six emerging Pittsburgh music acts to watch
CP Photo: Pat Cavanagh
DJ Malcolm Threat at Carnegie Mellon’s WPTS Radio Station

Malcolm Threat

Tune into Carnegie Mellon University’s college radio station WRCT 88.3 on a Friday at 4 p.m. and you’ll hear the house and techno tunes of the affable Malcolm Threat, aka Charlotte Lamm. A Cognitive Science major by day and emerging DJ by night, Lamm takes inspiration from English electronic groups like The Orb, Prodigy, and Orbital, as well as CMU grad Yaeji, who also got her start at WRCT.

Malcolm Threat DJ sets combine the headrush of chronically online tunes with house-music staples. That is, you’re as likely to hear a nightcore version of Taylor Swift’s “Romeo and Juliet” as you are a UK drum-and-bass sample.

Originally from the California Bay Area, Lamm has found a home among other WRCT DJs and in Pittsburgh’s thriving underground electronic scene. She’s made the rounds at Oakland venues, playing to a packed house at a memorable costumed Halloween show at DIY venue The Deli last year. Lamm tells Pittsburgh City Paper that she enjoys the intimate, ego-less environment of these shows, where the crowd’s vibe is easier to gauge.

Lamm’s weekly radio show, called Back2Businness, sees her spinning live tracks each Friday with other DJs, including CMU contemporaries Mushu (Mike Xu) and Big Cashew (Kingston Cox), and older DJs like Ron Mist (Dylan Kersten).

Earlier this month, Mist tapped Lamm, along with Royal Haunts and DJ Shoe, to be a part of the first installment of Roundhouse, a Boiler-Room style dance night at Bottlerocket Social Hall. Lamm also plans on forming a CMU DJ trio with Big Cashew and lotusland called The Muck ahead of outdoor shows this summer.

Wanna listen to Lamm’s music? When City Paper asked why she only has a few mixes on her SoundCloud, she gave a very DJ response. In short, you had to be there, man.

“I prefer the ephemeral stuff where it’s just on the radio and if you happen to hear it, you hear it,” Lamm tells City Paper. “Sometimes, when you’re DJing, the thing you’re creating only matters in the moment, when everything’s coming together live.”

click to enlarge Six emerging Pittsburgh music acts to watch
Photo: Micah E Wood
feeble little horse

feeble little horse

In most ways, feeble little horse — Lydia Slocum (vocals, bass), Sebastian Kinsler (guitar), Jacob Kelly (drums), and Ryan Walchonski (guitar) — is an outlier on this list. They’ve existed as a band for about two years now, are signed to Saddle Creek Records — making them labelmates with Indigo de Souza, Spirit of the Beehive, and Big Thief’s early work — and leave for a country-spanning tour in June in support of their upcoming album Girl with Fish.

While they may have more hype than the others on this list, any mention of the local indie music scene must include name-dropping the distortion-pop quartet, the music of which has come to define the Pittsburgh shoegaze-adjacent scene, even if they might have surpassed it.

Don’t worry — despite the NPR shoutouts and Pitchfork praise, feeble little horse remains a Pittsburgh band through and through. Guitarist Sebastian Kinsler produces the majority of their songs out of a South Oakland apartment, and they record in a South Side studio.

The band’s approach to song production is notable for its spontaneity — any open spots are filled in with sonic scraps, such as hot-mic studio dialogue, an Alex G-esque “huh!” sound effect, and other internet finds (early fans will remember the Pi’erre Bourne producer tag that used to open “Termites” before copyright issues forced them to change it).

Most songs on Girl with Fish were conceived around the same time as their first album, Hayday, though drummer Kelly tells City Paper that the release has a distinct style to it. “Hayday was recorded in the span of, like, one week, maybe less than that. We literally thought it was gonna be the last time we were all gonna be together, so it was like a big send-off. But we got to take our time with this record. The production’s a lot cleaner.”

Judging from Girl with Fish’s first single “Tin Man,” featuring Slocum’s quotable lyrics and sludgy backing guitars, there’s nothing feeble about this sophomore album.


feeble little horse: Girl With Fish Summer Tour. 7 p.m. Thunderbird Music Hall. 4053 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $16. thunderbirdmusichall.com


click to enlarge Six emerging Pittsburgh music acts to watch
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
eyewash including Jack Wells (drums), Jake Yensik (guitar, backing vocals), Gin Garner (synthesizer), Alex Walsh (guitar, vocals), and Rachel Hines (bass, vocals)

eyewash

eyewash, a new dream-pop five-piece consisting of Rachel Hines (bass, vocals), Jack Wells (drums), Alex Walsh (guitar, vocals), Gin Garner (synthesizer), and Jake Yencik (guitar, vocals), draws from the beloved pop bands of its members’ youths to create a reverb-filled soundscape of faraway vocals and rueful, longing lyrics. Amongst Pittsburgh’s multitude of hardcore acts — some of which, such as Shin Guard and Hazing Over, claim eyewash bandmates as members — eyewash’s self-titled EP, released March 20, introduces the band as a slower, but equally angsty alternative.

The first track, “Spinning,” starts with Hines despairing in overindulgence above a flighty keyboard trail and steady drumbeat: “I’m wasted, I’m alone, it’s all good.” If “Spinning” is eyewash’s dream-pop side, then the EP’s single, “Kaleidoscope,” showcases the band’s pop-punk skills as well. Patchy drums and a snaking guitar underscore Hines' voice singing of young-adulthood malaise and fury: “I do not owe an explanation / For the things I feel and the way I deal / Guess I wake up on the wrong side sometimes.”

Hines, who studied neuroscience and psychology in college and now does clinical research into sleep apnea, says that the dream-focused aspects of her job make their way into her music. Check out the jargon-filled lyrics of “Somnium” (Latin for “dream”), which look like a mouthful on the page but roll unhurriedly through the song’s melodies: “Hypnagogic tones unravel sopor I can’t shake / Blank eyes dart back and forth, the soul’s window‘s opaque.” It’s this kind of casualness that defines eyewash’s sound — ambivalently sad and disruptively PO’d when need be.

click to enlarge Six emerging Pittsburgh music acts to watch
CP Photo: John Colombo
Dyspheric’s Samira Mendoza, Stephanie “XC-17” Alona, and Yessi

Dyspheric

It might take out-of-towners by surprise, but Pittsburgh boasts an underground electronic music scene of surprising force. Chief amongst the scene is Dyspheric, a DJ collective consisting of founder Stephanie Alona, Samira Mendoza, and Yessi. The collective organizes events for the often-underserved Black trans community.

Alona, who DJs under the name XC-17, started the collective to unite the community in a communal spot — the dancefloor.

Dyspheric originated in 2020 when the pandemic shut down Alona’s upcoming DJ gigs, forcing them to creatively share their music. Alona turned to livestreaming DJ sets on Instagram, eventually joining forces with Mendoza and Yessi, the three of which began creating consistent Dyspheric shows on Verge F.M., a former independent radio platform. As clubs started to reopen, the three hosted shows at Hot Mass, Spirit, and other venues around the city.

Now, three years later, their consistent online content and shows have made them a hot ticket.

Dyspheric’s live sets and streams range from schmaltzy remixes of pop hits to unsparing dark techno. Recently, the collective has used its SoundCloud to spotlight fellow DJs such as Naeem, a member of Pittsburgh’s techno crew Detour, and a to-be-announced Seattle DJ for an upcoming episode.

Though its event programming slowed down this winter, Dyspheric is gearing up for a music-filled summer. The members plan on delivering more energetic club shows that fans have come to expect, as well as expanding into more DIY venues, according to Alona. Show your support on the dancefloor at their fundraiser event at P Town on Sat., April 8, where XC-17 will perform alongside Rojo, Yessi, Indigooov, and Gusto.

click to enlarge Six emerging Pittsburgh music acts to watch
Photo: Natalie Lopez Gines
Daniel Gines, aka DG Deep

DG Deep

Daniel Gines’ life is a testament to the question that fellow New Yorker Nas posed in “The World is Yours” on Illmatic: “Whose world is this? / The world is yours.” Since being released from prison at age 24, Gines, who raps under the name DG Deep, has taken life into his own hands. On his latest single “Real Deep,” he proclaims his mantra: “To teach the youth the truth that’s absolute / A birth of a nation I’m taking them back to roots / We strapped in boots I swear that’s the last excuse / Tired of going to funerals dressed in blackened suits.”

The cautionary stories in Gines’ music trace his life from Brooklyn to a Georgia prison, to working on steam boilers at industrial power plants. His lyrics are indefatigable, both in their intensity and affection, like in “One Love,” an affectionate ode to his fiancée. Now in Pittsburgh, he’s turning his long-time penchant for old-school rap into music of his own.

Gines has a discerning ear for wordplay and tight hooks that flow across lines, skills he showed off at Next Level Stanza, a recent live performance at Kelly Strayhorn Theater. On Sun., April 16, he will take his rhymes back to his hometown of Brooklyn, where he’ll perform in front of Atlantic Records as part of the Dreams 2 Reality competition event.

Karaoke Kabaret 2024
19 images

Karaoke Kabaret 2024

By Mars Johnson