July 26, 2010 by alex.waters.gordon@gmail.com

The Flaming Lips
Station Square Amphitheater
Tuesday, July 20, 2010.

You have certain expectations when going to a Flaming Lips show.

You expect the wacky costumed fans (spacemen and women, priests with devil horns, plenty of butterfly wings); you expect the epileptic light show; you might even see it coming when Lips frontman Wayne Coyne enters a plastic bubble and stumbles around on the hands, heads and shoulders of the fans cramped in the first rows, in a sort of germophobic crowd surf.

But before the show even starts, Coyne is on stage, urging the crowd to listen to the train that passes less than fifty feet from the Station Square Amphitheater’s stage. It sounds like its coming from the speakers.

And it is, because the Lips put microphones near the tracks.

“Whenever the train goes by, we’ll turn it up and listen,” says Coyne. “I think it sounds amazing.”

When the show begins, no matter your expectations, it’s pretty overwhelming. The perpetually raining confetti, the strobe lights and disco balls, the giant video screen with the hallucinogenic naked dancers; they’re all the expected highlights from the Lips’ resume and it all works.

What’s unexpected is how good they sound, not because they’re in their 28th year as a group, but because their studio sound is so dynamic that a smooth translation to live-performance would seem impossible.

The Lips’ 2009 record, Embryonic, has an incredibly distinct production style. It’s artfully messy, its loud, its fuzzy. It sounds like each instrument is nudging another with its elbows, pushing and squeezing to the foreground resulting in that busy overpopulated sound.

The first single, “Silver Trembling Hands,” sounds like the soundtrack to an intergalactic Indy 500. Its a fast paced race between drums and bass, with Coyne’s lyrics and guitar sporadically piled on top, leading to slow and pretty chords in the song’s chorus (“...when she’s high...”).

It’s the second song they play and it clarifies how they can sound so good live. The production style on Embryonic sounds like an inexperienced sound mixer doing his first show, mindlessly turning knobs and micromanaging the mix. The record's sound has the humility of a live show.

Embryonic isn’t the Lips’ best record and it may be because that production style is so relentless. It has a very distinct mood, and its hard to be in that mood for 70 minutes.

But tonight, the Lips keep it various, playing strong renditions of “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and “The Morning of the Magicians” and ending with “Do You Realize?”

Nearly every song comes with a bonus ending, Coyne repeating the song’s lyrics after everyone’s done clapping, eventually leading the band back in for one extra lap through the chorus. It’s a lot of fun.

Coyne sounds as good as ever. He sounds exasperated and dry-throated and aging. Luckily, he sounds exasperated and dry-throated and aging even on their oldest records, so its an honest rendition.

This seems to be the running theme of the show: the Lips know you have expectations for their show, both in performance and flamboyance, and they know how to meet them (though with more F-bombs than expected).

After “She Don’t Use Jelly,” lead guitarist Stephen Drozd notices the passing train and the microphone is turned up. Coyne tells everyone to listen.

The train has a mesmerizing rhythm, with dinks and clinks and imperfections in the track peppered on top, spanning a familiar range of metal tones and industrial timbre booming through the speakers.

Or maybe it doesn't. But watching Coyne listen hypnotically to the passing forty-car caboose, it's hard to ignore the romance of hundreds of people at a concert pausing to listen to the Coke Express.

“I wish we sounded like a train,” says Coyne.

“I think we do, sometimes,” says Drozd.
___

(Photographs: Hugh Twyman)

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July 21, 2010 by cindy@wyep.org

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 (plus some bonus songs):

Sleigh Bells, "Kids" - Duo based in Brooklyn. Sound is heavy on the noise and heavy on the pop. This is their debut. Scott says: "You know when Ke$ha (I love her) asks the DJ to blow her speakers up? He’d be wise to put on the debut album from this Brooklyn duo that’s been described as a clash between the White Stripes and M.I.A. Distorted beats, siren synths and the lurching guitar riffs of Derek Miller (former Poison the Well) are all topped by the spastic sing-song melodies of former elementary school teacher Alexis Krauss."

The Walkmen, "Angela Surf City" - Indie band from NYC & Philly. They formed in 2000 and are on their sixth album which will be released on 9/14/10. Scott says: "The album isn’t coming out until September, but it should be leaking on the Internet before that. This is one of the wilder songs, opening with a surf-rock beat and riff and then bursting into a monstrous wave of sound. Check out how he cribs a Dylan line — "life goes on all around you" — with a wink and a nod."

Bear Cub, "Mexico" - Local band Bear Cub and their self-titled debut is making some waves on the Pittsburgh music scene. Scott says: "When you put out a call for an online band competition, you don’t always expect much. But Bear Cub, which I’d never heard of, submitted this song for the PG’s Pittsburgh Rocks competition and I loved it right away. Yeah, it sounds like Bright Eyes, but seeing the band live and hearing the rest of the album, I realized there was more to them than that. Keep an eye on Jesse Hall ’cause he’s got talent to burning"

Smashing Pumpkins, "A Song for a Son" - Revived Alt-rock band that is basically Billy Corgan. Scott says: "I haven’t always been the biggest Pumpkins fan and the band’s recent history has been nothing short of a trainwreck. But I dig this song from Billy Corgan, which is part of a 44-track album-in-progress available as a free download on the band’s website. This epic tune, with an old-fashioned shredding solo, sounds like it would fit between "Stairway to Heaven" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on that classic-rock station up the dial."

July 19, 2010 by barbmstein@aol.com


Marc Cohn

“Listening Booth:  1970”

July 20, 2010

Saguaro Road Records

Produced and Arranged by John Leventhal

Co-Produced by Rick DePofi

So.  I’ve been waiting (and hoping) for that one CD to review this year that would surely make it to the top of my best of list for 2010.  Over six months in to the new decade I finally heard that CD.  “Listening Booth: 1970” - Marc Cohn (Saguaro Road Records).

Marc Cohn has referred to this CD as his best.  I’m not willing to go quite that far (just yet), since, after all, it is a CD of covers.  Over the years, Cohn has proven to be a genuinely gifted songwriter.  On this CD he shares his soulful voice.

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Cohn felt the year 1970 was pivotal for him.  He would go to the local record store, choose some records and enter the Listening Booth to check them out before buying the music.  Thus the concept for this CD:  listening to, or in Cohn’s case, recording those songs that made an impact on him during his formidable years.

As a fan of singer-songwriters, I usually have low expectations of a covers CD.  After all, a singer-songwriter is supposed to sing and record songs that they actually write.  Hence the term singer-songwriter.  So when they sing songs written by other people, I tend to wonder what the motives are.  Fulfilling a contractual obligation to the record company?  Writer’s block?  I need not have worried when it came to Marc Cohn.  Actually, any new music from Cohn is a cause for celebration.  From his debut in 1991, he has only released 4 CD’s of original material over a 16+ year period.  Only four!  I consider each of those CD’s as a greatest hits collection.  Thus, something new from Cohn is a big deal in my book.

Marc Cohn exemplifies the term “quality over quantity”.   So I should not have been so surprised that I would enjoy a CD of covers by Cohn.  There is not bad song in the bunch.  The list of writers include some of the most successful artists of all time:  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, and Van Morrison, just to name a few.  Cohn shares vocals with India.Arie, Kristina Train, Aimee Mann and Jim Lauderdale.

If I must choose some favorite tracks: “Wild World” and “Maybe I’m Amazed”.  Despite my initial hesitation that “Make It With You” is only meant to be heard on AM Radio; Marc Cohn & India.Arie give it plenty of soul.  Cohn is at his best on the mid- to up-tempo songs.

Here is a track listing for “Listening Booth: 1970” with writer credits in (italics) and a sampling of some of the other artists who have recorded these songs:

Wild World (Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens) Jimmy Cliff, Jose Feliciano, Mr. Big, Maxi Priest

Look at Me (John Lennon) John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band

Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul McCartney) Petula Clark, Joe Cocker, Faces, Lena Horne, Nancy Sinatra

Make It with You (with India.Arie) (David Gates) Bread, Marc Anthony, Philip Bailey, Aretha Franklin. Teddy Pendergrass, Dusty Springfield, The Whispers, Andy Williams

The Letter (Wayne Carson Thompson) The Box Tops (1967), Joe Cocker (1970)

The Only Living Boy in New York (Paul Simon) Simon & Garfunkel, Everything But the Girl, David Mead

After Midnight (John J. Cale) Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale, Chet Atkins, Jerry Garcia, Sergio Mendes, Leon Russell, Steve Winwood

The Tears of a Clown (with Kristina Train) (Henry Crosby, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder) The Beat, Petula Clark, The English Beat, The Miracles

No Matter What (with Aimee Mann) (Pete Ham) Badfinger, Def Leppard, Jellyfish, The Knack

New Speedway Boogie (with Jim Lauderdale) (Jerry Garcia) Grateful Dead

Into the Mystic (Van Morrison) Paul Carrack, Ben E. King, Michael McDonald, Van Morrison,

Long As I Can See the Light (John Fogerty) Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker

A partial Marc Cohn Discography:

Marc Cohn

Release Date: February 12, 1991

Label: Atlantic / Wea

The Rainy Season

Release Date: May 25, 1993

Label: Atlantic / Wea

Burning The Daze

Release Date: March 17, 1998

Label: Atlantic / Wea

Marc Cohn Live 04/05

Release Date: 2005

Label: United Musicians

The Very Best Of Marc Cohn

Release Date: June 20, 2006

Label: Atlantic / Wea

Join The Parade

Release Date: October 9, 2007

Label: Decca

Join The Parade Live EP

Artist: Marc Cohn

Label: Miles Away Records

Release Date: 7/8/2008

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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July 16, 2010 by kyle@wyep.org
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July 14, 2010 by cindy@wyep.org

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 (plus some bonus songs):

Gaslight Anthem, "American Slang" - An American rock band from New Jersey that perfects Blue-collar rock in the tradition that began with Bruce Springsteen. Scott says: "'We're not into just kinda being like a little footnote,' Gaslight Anthem singer Brian Fallon says in the press release for the Jersey rockers' new album. "We want to be The Ones, y'know?" They take a bold step in that direction with "American Slang," their third full-length effort that's loaded with anthemic melodies and raw-throated, Springsteen-ian singing. This title track is consistent with the band's hard-driving approach. If you dig the Hold Steady (or the early E Street Band) you're already a Gaslight Anthem fan."

Paul Weller, "Fast Car, Slow Traffic" - Former frontman for mod/punk band The Jam and also the soulful Style Council. This is his tenth solo album. Scott says: "A breezy summer-y tune, especially appropriate for traffic-snarled Pittsburgh. Weller, formerly of The Jam and Style Council, ditched the acoustic guitars and rocks out throughout this album, which in the liner notes he compares to "Diamond Dogs"-era David Bowie with a pinch of the Faces. A few reviewers have proclaimed this Weller's best album in 20 years."

The National, High Violet
- Originally from Cincinnati, OH, The National now based themselves in Brooklyn. Known for their flat-lined vocals surrounded by swelling rock music, this is their fifth LP. Scott says: "The Joy Division-ish vocals lure you in; the shimmering, smoldering sonics keep you coming back."

Dan Bern, Live in Los Angeles - An American songwriter often compared to Dylan, Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie. Scott says: "The feisty, funny folk-rocker launches his live album with the 1998 masterpiece "Tiger Woods" -- which takes on a whole new relevance now. There are sweet songs, ("Love Makes All the Other Worlds Go Round," The Golden Voice of Vin Scully"), and surreal ones, ("Osama in Obamaland" and "The Fifth Beatle.") That latter tune includes hilarious and spot-on impersonations of Bob Dylan, Ringo
Starr, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young."

July 12, 2010 by Josh W

I must admit: when critics and blogs began to praise Sleigh Bells earlier this year, I was skeptical about their staying power. They had burst onto the scene with virtually no prior recordings, and that dearth of material led me to wonder if they weren't just another dime-a-dozen buzz band. Then came Treats, their highly anticipated debut album. Continue Reading...

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July 10, 2010 by Josh W

In today’s fickle, post-Pitchfork world, each new band can start to feel like the latest chillwave flavor of the month. In the ambiguous sea of lo-fi turned glo-fi turned back to shoegaze whatever, it is important to give certain bands the distinction they deserve.

Phantogram duo Joshua Carter and Sarah Barthel are a reminder that, behind the indie genre’s similarities, there are subtle but important shifts in influences and backgrounds. Conceived on an isolated farm in Upstate New York, their debut album, Eyelid Movies, is the lovechild of 90’s hip-hop beats and urban dream-pop. Continue Reading.....

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July 7, 2010 by cindy@wyep.org

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, contributing writer to Paste Magazine, AOL's Spinner.com and Pittsburgh's City Paper

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Justin (plus some bonus songs):

Suckers, "Black Sheep" - Suckers formed in Brooklyn, NY in 2006, where members Quinn Walker, Austin Fisher, Pan, and Brian Aiken began mixing tribal indie rock with flourishes of chamber pop and Bowie-inspired eclecticism. Justin says: "I think Suckers are the most exciting new band this year (Ok, ok, they put out an EP last fall). They pull off some pretty wild music — nonsensical lyrics, sing-along gang vocals, huge synths — but it's all done with more sincerity than any weirdness-as-irony indie band out there. Suckers go there, and you want to come along."

Here We Go Magic, "Collector" Band based in Brooklyn, New York. Formerly the moniker of folk singer Luke Temple, they signed to Secretly Canadian as a five piece band in September 2009. This is from the new record 'Pigeons' Justin says: "This band's earlier work was a lot less structured; it was hazy, free-floating psychedelics. Normally when a band tightens up its sound, the result loses some of the original music's greatness, but not here. "Collector," and the rest of the album Pigeons is just as trippy — and even catchier — than HWGM has ever been."

Good Old War, "That's Some Dream"- Philly based and made up of Keith Goodwin, Daniel Schwartz, and Tim Arnold. The band's name comes from the last names of the three members; Goodwin for Good, Arnold for Old, and Schwartz for War. Justin says: "From this acoustic folk-pop trio' second album. Find a song with prettier harmonies and a catchier hook than this song, and I will buy you a beer. Seriously."

The Young Veins, "Heart of Mine" - On July 6th, 2009 Ryan Ross and Jon Walker left Panic! at the Disco, citing creative differences as the reason for their departure. Soon afterwards, it was announced that their new project would be a retro-leaning rock band called The Young Veins. Justin says: "Who would've thought that some of the dudes from Panic at the Disco would turn around and create Zombies-influenced 60's guitar rock? Not me, but I'm not complaining. The Young Veins' debut, Take a Vacation, is summer bliss."

Baths, "Aminals"New project of 21 year old Will Wiesenfeld- a musician now based in L.A., but hailing from the suburbs of The San Fernando Valley. The sound of Baths goes its own way: fueled by spontaneity, tempered by Wiesenfeld's background in classic songwriting. Those two influences collide in glorious ways on Cerulean, the debut album. Justin says: "I really don't like chillwave. This track, from Baths LP Cerulean, takes the same laid-back dance vibe of chillwave artists like Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi, but makes the music actually go somewhere. Amen."

July 2, 2010 by Josh W

In case you haven't noticed, we are big fans of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros here at O&B.

Their breezy debut, Up From Below, topped our Best of 2009 list, and it's still in heavy rotation here at O&B headquarters. The album has just been given the iTunes Deluxe Edition treatment, with three bonus tracks and two music videos added to sweeten the deal. You can purchase it here.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with messianic frontman Edward Sharpe, né Alex Ebert, to discuss his personal transformation, hadron colliders, and the new solo album he just finished recording. Read More...

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June 30, 2010 by Josh W

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my14xP07Lcc

Friday kicked off with an acoustic set by Dr. Dog -- a good start to any day. O&B favorites Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros put on a standout performance that had the entire crowd singing and foot-stomping along to "Home." Unfortunately, their set was unusually short -- clocking in at just over half an hour. Read More..

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June 30, 2010 by cindy@wyep.org

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 news songs and share some insight. Today we welcome Andy Mulkerin of City Paper

In case you missed it here's what he played with commentary by Andy (plus some bonus songs):

Ola Podrida – "The Closest We Will Ever Be"
Second release from the group, lead by David Wingo. Wingo got the name from a mall in Dallas where he had a beer thrown at him during his first public performance. He is also a film composer and a member of Wooden Birds. Andy says: "This is the lead track from Ola Podrida's new album; most of the record is quiet and introspective and this track, while mid-paced and not exactly rockin', is probably the most upbeat. As evidenced from my experience in the studio with Cindy, it lends itself well to hula dancing."

Jenny and Johnny – "Scissor Runner"
Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis and her long-time boyfriend, Johnathan Rice. Andy Says: "This is the lead single from the new debut album from a couple of old heads. It's a wonderful little pop gem that's perfect for driving in the sun. "

Secret Cities –" Color"
They come from Fargo, North Dakota and met at band camp as teens. Their sound is dark romantic pop with a Spectoresque twist. They began mailing tapes back and forth to each other and adding their own parts. Andy Says: "Secret Cities just released their newest album, also on Western; it's a hot mess of pop and dreamy noise. They borrow equally from '60s girl pop and the minimalists, which pleases me. "

Baby Dee – Lilacs

A harpist and accordion player from Cleveland, this is from Baby Dee's seventh release, 'A Book of Songs for Anne Marie'. Her voice is extremely theatrical and deep. Andy says: "Some critics are turned off by the voice of Baby Dee, a transgendered woman harpist/pianist from Cleveland. I happen to think it's charming, and if you feel the same way, you'll find that she's one of the best songwriters today. This is from her latest, put out by Drag City; it's a quieter bunch of songs than some of her previous releases, but keeps the quality high."

June 29, 2010 by Josh W

O&B Best of 2008-ers Dr. Dog get more popular by the day, thanks to a solid discography and some of the best harmonies around. Despite their ever-expanding acclaim, the band wasn't too busy to talk with us at this year's Bonnaroo festival. We sat down with bandmates Toby Leaman and Zach Miller to discuss their latest release, Shame, Shame, and they even dropped some juicy details about new material that they have planned. Read More...

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June 28, 2010 by Josh W

Let me paint a picture for you: it's at Friday 7:10 a.m., you're sleeping in your tent, face buried in an air mattress. The sun is screaming at you to wake up or suffocate. You went to bed three hours ago while hardcore techno music throbbed in the distance. You consumed about ten beers the day before -- that's a low ballpark estimate -- and you're already sweating profusely. You smell the way you feel. Read More...

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June 28, 2010 by cindy@wyep.org

Well, the acts featured in The Local News for July all coincidentally have long complicated titles. All quality artists and all available on The Local News Podcast. You can also check them out on-air Monday-Thursday at 9 pm (starting tonight). Let me know what you think: cindy@wyep.org
Thanks!
Cindy

Joy Toujours and the Toys Du Jour - "Touchez Moi"
I have to say the name of this band very slowly: Joy Toujours and the Toys Du Jour. They've been playing for a few years and have a new record entitled Onward. Definitely of the experimental indie persuasion, Joy Toujours' new record would please fans of bands like Morphine, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers and Talking Heads.

Meeting of Important People - "Leap-The-Dips"
Last year, WYEP named Meeting of Important People our local act of the year for their excellent self-titled debut. They boys are back this month with a new EP titled Quit Music, which hopefully they don't plan on doing. The seven song release further demonstrates the pure talent of lead singer Josh Verbanets in songwriting and performing.

B-Rad and The Best of The West Players - "Oh, My Baby"
B-Rad and The Best of The West Players is lead by Brad Ladik. The new B-Rad CD features players from local favorites like Donora, Meeting of Important People and Mariage Blanc. It also covers a broad sonic spectrum with clear influences of country, garage rock, punk, soul and funk.

Thomas Jefferson's Aeroplane - "This Changes Everything"
Thomas Jefferson's Aeroplane consists Bill Deasy and and Rich Jaques- who led two of the finest bands to come out of Pittsburgh in the late 90's- The Gathering Field and Brownie Mary. Together, they've created very catch music with skillful songwriting and creative interesting electronic instrumentation. This is their second release.

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June 23, 2010 by cindy@wyep.org

The UK group Mumford & Sons album Sigh No More is an excellent release full of songs that will please fans of Fleet Foxes, CSNY and Arcade Fire. They were recently featured on WYEP as our CD of The Week and also they recorded a live session for the French music blog, La Blogtheque. Give it a watch here, the music starts around 2:40:

Mumford & Sons - The Banjolin Song / Awake my soul - A Take Away Show #105 from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

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