December 2011

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Scott Tady of The Beaver County Times.

In case you missed it here's what he played (with commentary by Scott) - Best of 2011 version!:

The Decemberists, “The King is Dead” - Oregon folk/alt-rockers tone down the theatricality and embrace a compelling, R.E.M.-ish flavored brand of Americana for their most accessible effort yet. Colin Meloy’s voice and phrasing compellingly set scenes. Released in January, the album still sounds fresh, even after numerous listens.

Paul Simon, “So Beautiful or So What" - Simon is rhymin’ masterfully again on what he correctly labeled his best album in 20 years. The instrumentation is spry and imaginative; the lyrics are exceptional and straightforward. Sample verse from “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” the album’s leadoff track: “I got a nephew in Iraq/It’s his third time back/But it’s ending up the way it began/With the luck of a beginner/He’ll be eating turkey dinner/On some mountain top in Pakistan.” Then there’s “Questions for the Angels,” on which Simon’s delicate voice strikes a potent note pondering “If every human on the planet/And all the buildings in it should disappear/Would a zebra grazing in the African savannah/Care enough to share a zebra tear?”

The War on Drugs, “Slave Ambient” - Philly band laces shoe-gazer alt-rock with dream pop, then filters it through a classic-rock prism. The result is cerebral, visceral and catchy — in short, a band that can be enjoyed by fans of My Bloody Valentine as well as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Singer Adam Granducial’s poetic lyrics chronicle journeys in which thoughts, not landmarks, are the mileposts. He’s drawn Bob Dylan comparisons, owing much to the way his voice lingers on certain words. I’m reminded more of Lloyd Cole.

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Justin Jacobs (talking to us via Skype!), contributing writer to Billboard & Relix Magazine.

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Justin - Best of 2011 version!!

Dawes,  "Fire Away" - Dawes' 'Nothing is Wrong' is my pick for album of the year, yet it isn't necessarily the edgiest or most innovative record — it's simply the best rock'n'roll album to come out in a long, long time, balancing classic rock guitar and harmonies with timelessly amazing songwriting. Nothing fancy here, just great rock music.

Tune-Yards, "My Country" - Weird and wonderful, Tune-Yards' 'Whokill' was exactly the opposite of Dawes — innovative in every way and never looking back. Singer/songwriter Merrill Garbus mixes hip-hop, lo-fi garage pop and folk to make a seriously electrifying record.

Lana Del Rey, "Diet Mt. Dew" - This lady was just booked to appear on Saturday Night Live - and she hasn't even released an album yet. That's nuts. Lana Del Rey, whose album 'Born to Die' drops early next year, is my pick for Most Promising of 2012. She writes sharp, sexy retro soul music; let's hope she isn't as self-destructive as pop music's last soul diva.

Bonus! An orderless handful of my other favorite records of 2012:
- Fleet Foxes, 'Helplessness Blues'
- Drake, 'Take Care'
- The Weeknd, 'House of Balloons'
- Bon Iver, 'Bon Iver'
- Oddisee, 'Rock Creek Park'
- Beastie Boys, 'Hot Sauce Committee Part Two'
- War on Drugs, 'Slave Ambient'
- Jay-Z & Kanye West, 'Watch The Throne'
- Felice Brothers, 'Celebration, Florida'
- The Head and the Heart, 'S/T'
- M83, 'Hurry Up, We're Dreaming'
- Ryan Adams, 'Ashes and Fire'

Way to go 2011, you had some really great music! I'm proud of you.

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Scott Mervis of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Scott - Best of 2011 version!!

The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy" - If the Black Keys are going to make their jump to arena rock, they need an appropriate arena rock song. "Lonely Boy," from the Akron band's new album, "El Camino," is super-charged, with Danger Mouse helping to deliver one of the best openings to a rock song you'll ever hear.

Kurt Vile and the Violators, "Puppet to the Man" - This would be a good entry for an Occupy movement playlist (stoner division), as Vile lashes out in his own weary way about being a puppet to the man. The song comes from the Philly band's latest, "Smoke Ring for My Halo," the best hazy, psych-rock album of the year.

Wild Flag, "Boom" - Albums by "supergroup" suck, right? Well, move over, guys. Here's the inimitable Carrie Brownstein, leading the way with Sleater-Kinney bandmate Janet Weiss, Mary Timony (Helium) and Rebecca Cole (The Minders) on this Merge debut. This song delivers on the explosive promise of its title. For a more extended guitar jam, go to "Racehorse."

It is hard to believe that Darrell Scott’s first solo performance in Pittsburgh was Tuesday night.  Mr. Scott was here with Robert Plant as part of the Band of Joy in January, and in October 2000 with Tim O’Brien; but never alone on stage.  There is a Pittsburgh connection however; his daughter Mahala is a student at Chatham University.

I discovered Mr. Scott’s music a couple of years ago when he was one of the acts on a singer-songwriter cruise.  He is a gifted songwriter – his songs have been covered by the likes of The Dixie Chicks, Keb’ Mo’, Sam Bush, Faith Hill, Brad Paisley and Travis Tritt.  He is also a multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, guitar, accordion, pedal, lap steel and banjo).

All Mr. Scott needed for his “evening with” performance was one guitar and an octave mandolin.  He only used the mandolin once, to sing a song about the history of the banjo called Banjo Clark, which included a demonstration of his mastery of the mandolin.

Mr. Scott does not work with a set list.  It’s based on how he feels that evening, the crowd, the city he is in.  He did honor one request You’ll Never Leave Harlon Alive.  From his 2010 double CD release A Crooked Road, he sang The Day Before Thanksgiving and A Father’s Song – for which he wrote the lyrics, but “borrowed” the music from one of his dad’s (the late Wayne Scott) songs.  Mr. Scott talked about living in East Gary, Indiana until 4th grade and how he never heard of a city changing its name (it’s now called Lake Station), so he wrote a song about it - East of Gary which he also related to Pittsburgh because of the steel mills.  We also joined in on the chorus to Mahala, as his daughter was in the audience.

The 90 minutes (there was a one song encore) goes by very quickly when you’re watching a professional with a velvety voice singing his songs and playing his guitar so effortlessly.  Darrell Scott will be releasing a new CD on January 31, 2012.  I’m already expecting it to be on my best of CD list for 2012.

Every Wednesday at 9:13 am, one of Pittsburgh's finest music writers joins me (Cindy Howes) on the Morning Mix to play a couple favorite new songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Andy Mulkerin of Pittsburgh's City Paper

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Andy - Best of 2011 version!!

I chose to bring songs from my five favorite albums of 2011, disregarding tracks that I thought were great songs from otherwise weak records. Fortunately, it so happens that my no. 1 favorite song of the year made it onto this list anyway!

The Joy Formidable, "Austere" - This Welsh-via-London three-piece had a huge year, releasing The Big Roar and headlining a U.S. tour early then returning to open a leg of the Foo Fighters tour. (Dave Grohl said early on in the year that "Whirring" was his favorite song of 2011, or might be.) Great rock band.

Wye Oak, "Civilian" - Wye Oak's Civilian is probably my second-favorite album of the year, and the title track is my favorite song of 2011, I'd say. I liked it when I first heard it; when I put it on a mix in spring and listened to it in the car a lot, I feel head-over-heels for it. It's not structurally interesting -- it just builds, musically and thematically. Jenn Wasner's vocals are mumblingly achey, and the band's sold-out Club Cafe show this summer was one of the best of the year.

Austra, "Lose It" - I'll go ahead and call Austra's Feel It Break my favorite album of 2011. Katie Stelmanis' vocal calisthenics are astounding; the vibe of the record is dark but not hokey. It's been fascinating to see Stelmanis' transformation from slightly awkward-but-talented frontwoman a couple of years ago to the glammed-up consummate performer she is today. I missed them at VIA, so I hope they come back soon.

Rounding out my top five albums:

Tristen, Charlatans at the Garden Gate - It's rare that I say an album is too short -- I'm of the "Get in, get out, leave 'em wanting more" camp -- but I wanted more than 35 minutes from Tristen! Fortunately, I understand she's got a new album on the way. In the meantime, if you don't have this one yet, pick it up. Masterfully crafted country-inflected pop tunes from a ridiculously talented member of the Nashville underground.

Pujol, Nasty, Brutish and Short - Another Nashville-ian on my top list -- Daniel Pujol released two new EPs as Pujol this year, this one (his debut for Saddle Creek) and "X-File on Main Street" (a more abrasive set of songs, from InfinityCat, which grew on me after a few spins). This one's poppy, but raw and daring; Pujol is one of the great young lyricists.

Honorable mentions:
The Poison Control Center -- Stranger Ballet
Nikki Lane -- Walk of Shame
Future Islands -- On the Water
Emperor X -- Western Teleport
Real Estate -- Days

Last night, the nominees for the 54th annual Grammy Awards were revealed. Select nominations were highlighted at the seemingly new tradition of the Grammys' Announcement Concert. There were some nice surprises in there as well as the mainstream regulars. Full list of nominees can be found here. Below is a list of songs and acts that have been played on WYEP. The results will air on the 54th Annual Grammy Awards show airing Feb 12 (on CBS)


1. Record Of The Year
"Rolling In The Deep" by Adele // from: 21
"Holocene" by Bon Iver // from: Bon Iver
"The Cave" by Mumford & Sons // from: Track from: Sigh No More

2. Album Of The Year
21 - Adele
Wasting Light - Foo Fighters

3. Song Of The Year (SONGWRITING)
"The Cave" by Mumford & Sons
"Holocene" by Justin Vernon, songwriter (Bon Iver)
"Rolling In The Deep" by Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)

4. Best New Artist
Bon Iver

5. Best Pop Solo Performance
Someone Like You - Adele // from: 21

6. Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Body And Soul - Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse // from: Duets II
Dearest - The Black Keys // from: Rave On Buddy Holly
Paradise - Coldplay // from: Mylo Xyloto
Pumped Up Kicks - Foster The People // from: Torches

7. Best Pop Instrumental Album
The Road From Memphis - Booker T. Jones
Setzer Goes Instru-Mental! - Brian Setzer

8. Best Pop Vocal Album
21 - Adele
The Lady Killer - Cee Lo Green

11. Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Duets II - Tony Bennett & Various Artists

12. Best Rock Performance (Songs)
Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall - Coldplay
Down By The Water - The Decemberists
Walk - Foo Fighters
The Cave - Mumford & Sons
Lotus Flower - Radiohead

13. Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance (Songs)
White Limo - Foo Fighters // from: Wasting Light

14. Best Rock Song (songwriting)
The Cave - Mumford & Sons // from Sigh No More
Down By The Water - Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) // from: The King Is Dead
Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall - Coldplay
Lotus Flower - Radiohead
Walk - Foo Fighters

15. Best Rock Album
Wasting Light - Foo Fighters
I'm With You - Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Whole Love - Wilco

16. Best Alternative Music Album
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Codes And Keys - Death Cab For Cutie
Torches - Foster The People
Circuital - My Morning Jacket
The King Of Limbs - Radiohead

17. Best R&B Performance
Is This Love - Corinne Bailey Rae // from: The Love EP

18. Best Traditional R&B Performance
Good Man - Raphael Saadiq // from: Stone Rollin'

26. Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars // from: Barton Hollow

39. Best Latin Pop, Rock, Or Urban Album
Not So Commercial - Los Amigos Invisibles

43. Best Americana Album
Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down - Ry Cooder
Hard Bargain - Emmylou Harris
Ramble At The Ryman - Levon Helm
Blessed - Lucinda Williams

44. Best Bluegrass Album
Paper Airplane - Alison Krauss & Union Station
Reason And Rhyme: Bluegrass Songs By Robert Hunter & Jim Lauderdale - Jim Lauderdale
Rare Bird Alert - Steve Martin And The Steep Canyon Rangers
Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe - The Del McCoury Band
A Mother's Prayer - Ralph Stanley
Sleep With One Eye Open - Chris Thile & Michael Daves

45. Best Blues Album
Low Country Blues - Gregg Allman
Roadside Attractions - Marcia Ball
Man In Motion - Warren Haynes
The Reflection - Keb Mo
Revelator - Tedeschi Trucks Band

46. Best Folk Album
Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars
I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive - Steve Earle
Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
Ukulele Songs - Eddie Vedder
The Harrow & The Harvest - Gillian Welch

48. Best Reggae Album
Revelation Pt 1: The Root Of Life - Stephen Marley
Wild And Free - Ziggy Marley

49. Best World Music Album
Africa For Africa - Femi Kuti
Songs From A Zulu Farm - Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Tassili - Tinariwen

55. Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media
Tron Legacy - Daft Punk, composers

56. Best Song Written For Visual Media
So Long (From Winnie The Pooh) - Zooey Deschanel, songwriter (Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward)
from: Winnie The Pooh

57. Best Instrumental Composition
Béla Fleck & Howard Levy, composers (Béla Fleck & The Flecktones) Track from: Rocket Science

60. Best Recording Package
Scenes From The Suburbs - Vincent Morisset, art director (Arcade Fire)

61. Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package
- The King Of Limbs - Donald Twain & Zachariah Wildwood, art directors (Radiohead)
- The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story - Dave Bett & Michelle Holme, art directors (Bruce Springsteen)
25 Years - James Spindler, art director (Sting)

62. Best Album Notes
The Bang Years 1966-1968 - Neil Diamond, album notes writer (Neil Diamond)

63. Best Historical Album
- Band On The Run (Paul McCartney Archive Collection - Deluxe Edition)
Paul McCartney, compilation producer; Sam Okell & Steve Rooke, mastering engineers (Paul McCartney & Wings)
- Young Man With The Big Beat: The Complete '56 Elvis Presley Masters
Ernst Mikael Jorgensen, compilation producer; Vic Anesini, mastering engineer (Elvis Presley)

64. Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
- Follow Me Down
Brandon Bell & Gary Paczosa, engineers; Sangwook "Sunny" Nam & Doug Sax, mastering engineers (Sarah Jarosz)
- The Harrow & The Harvest
Matt Andrews, engineer; Stephen Marcussen, mastering engineer (Gillian Welch)
- Paper Airplane
Mike Shipley, engineer; Brad Blackwood, mastering engineer (Alison Krauss & Union Station)

65. Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical
- Danger Mouse:
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi Present Rome (A)
Meyrin Fields EP (Broken Bells) (S)

- Paul Epworth:
Call It What You Want (Foster The People) (T)
I Would Do Anything For You (Foster The People) (T)
I'll Be Waiting (Adele) (T)
Life On The Nickel (Foster The People) (T)
No One's Gonna Love You (Cee-Lo Green) (S)
Rolling In The Deep (Adele) (T)

- Ryan Tedder:
Rumour Has It (Adele) (T)

- Butch Vig:
Wasting Light (Foo Fighters) (A)

77. Best Short Form Music Video
- Rolling In The Deep - Adele
Sam Brown, video director; Hannah Chandler, video producer
- All Is Not Lost - OK Go
Itamar Kubovy, Damian Kulash Jr & Trish Sie, video directors; Shirley Moyers, video producer
- Lotus Flower - Radiohead
Garth Jennings, video director; Garth Jennings, video producer

78. Best Long Form Music Video
-Foo Fighters: Back And Forth
- Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest
A Tribe Called Quest
Michael Rapaport, video director; Robert Benavides, Debra Koffler, Eric Matthies, Frank Mele, Edward Parks & A Tribe Called Quest, video producers
- Nine Types Of Light
TV On The Radio
Tunde Adebimpe, video director; Michelle An & Braj, video producers

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