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New Releases

Reviews of releases by the Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle and The Zou

Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle
2016 Collection

Year to year, and track to track, you never really know what you’re going to get with the Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle’s annual release. The long-running group, sponsored by Calliope, provides a forum for folk-oriented musicians who don’t play out often, and this collection features tracks by 25 artists associated with the Circle. Historically, these releases have been a mixed bag in terms of both style and quality, but overall this edition is stronger than most. Not everything works, but clunkers are minimal. Standouts include Haley Rohlf’s “The Darkest Places,” which sounds like Julie Doran covering the Carpenters; Aram Julian’s off-kilter “Happy Selective Memories”; and Roy Aiken’s ’70s-style folk/R&B jam “I’m Over Here.” Margaret Welsh

The Zou
Kills Part Two
(Hepplewhite Records)

This collection of polished indie pop, the brainchild of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Khaled Tabbara, is all smooth, sing-song-y melodies, crisp harmonies and mouthfuls of oh-so-clever wordplay. The technicolor production and skronky, bubbly synthesizers bring to mind post-Yoshimi Flaming Lips. The flat monotone of Tabbara’s rap on the standout track “Ooglie Booglie,” which boasts a genuinely heavy guitar riff, aspires to the heights of Mellow Gold-era Beck — but ultimately ends up sounding more like Cake. Kills Part Two is at its best when the Youngstown-based band tries breaking away stylistically from the mold of indie rock, like on the funky “Holy Moses,” where Tabbara's gospel-inspired shouting actually sounds like Andre 3000 for a brief moment. This is an immaculately produced record, but it's kind of a bummer that “indie rock” doesn't sound like Dinosaur Jr. anymore, but more like The Barenaked Ladies taking themselves much more seriously. Andrew Woehrel 

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