New Music

Justin Vernon might be one of the biggest names in indie/folk music scene right now.  Vernon is already well known for his work with Bon Iver which recently won Grammys for both "Best New Artist" and "Best Alternative" album in 2012.  Since their release of Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Vernon hasn't looked back.  Vernon just released an album with his  blues/rock side project Shouting Matches where he has veered away from his traditional falsetto voice that he has become famous for from Bon Iver.

Justin Vernon is not stopping with Bon Iver or Shouting Matches.  Vernon has refocused his attention to his experimental pop side project, Volcano choir has recently created some buzz around the music scene again.  Staying with his Wisconsin roots, Vernon's project Volcano Choir is a collaboration with the fellow state post-rock band Collections of Colonies of Bees.  Volcano Choir have shared their first single "Byegone" from their upcoming sophomore record Repave,which is due out September 3 in the US and September 2 internationally.  Click below to listen to the new single by Volcano Choir "Byegone."

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From the onset of “Harper Lee,” the opening song of Little Green Cars’ full-length debut Absolute Zero, you wouldn’t guess that this indie rock quintet hails from Ireland. No, they sound more along the lines of Dr. Dog (from Philadelphia) or Good Old War (also from Philadelphia— is there a trend here?) with 1960s-esq harmonies galore. But Little Green Cars is full of surprises.

Absolute Zero is a twisting, turning album of constant variation. Three different band members take turns writing songs on the album, and all five contribute vocals at some point or another. As a result, the band has a lot of space to maneuver stylistically. “Harper Lee” is the obvious radio-friendly single, enthusiastic and instantly catchy, and named after the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a bold piece of American literature to reference, as lead singer Stevie Appleby declares, “Harper Lee I’ll kill me a bird / I sit back and I just watch it happen / And just like you I won’t say a word.”

For an Irish band, Little Green Cars sure likes its American references, taking the icon John Wayne as a central symbol of dangerous love in the thumping lead single “The John Wayne.” More surprising is the melodic switch in “My Love Took Me Down to the River to Silence Me,” beginning like a folk song but spinning into Florence & the Machine-type powerhouse anthem. “Red and Blue” is a gorgeously layered song placed strategically in the middle of the album, breaking up the overwhelmingly guitar-centric music with a restrained synth-and-vocoder meditation.

What Little Green Cars possesses that their Philadelphian semi-contemporaries lack is this ability to mess around with song form. Beyond their sharp musicality and expertise on their instruments, and beyond the multi-part vocal harmonies that are always welcome in indie music, Little Green Cars can craft an entire album that feels thought-out, cohesive, and at the same time, easy.

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Absolute Zero Glassnote Records Ireland Little Green Cars

Photo by Gabe Rosenberg

Around 12,000 people flocked to the 54th Three Rivers Arts Festival this past Friday, but I can safely say that the reopening of the Point State Park fountain had nothing to do with it. Although the reintroduction of waterworks was certainly a welcome sight to the area, which had been dry for the last four years, the real pull all came from the evening’s musical headliner. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros promised, and delivered, a summer festival-worthy performance that drew a crowd from a larger radius and a younger age group than the festival usually experiences.

While the free and open nature of the concert certainly didn’t hurt, Edward Sharpe’s mostly teenage-to-college-age fans are so fervent that they would be willing to shell out a small price for the band, playing Pittsburgh for the first time. The 10-person ensemble makes hits out of ‘60s-style jangly rock, touting a communal, free-love aesthetic and directing a heavy dose of positive energy into easygoing, catchy tunes like the excellent “Man on Fire” and “Up From Below.” They’re festival regulars at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Coachella, and for good reason— front man Alex Ebert, along with singer Jade Castrinos, know how to engage their audience, no matter how large.

Three Rivers Arts Festival, for once, felt like a “legitimate” festival, the sort you travel across the country to attend. Local band Donora were a pitch-perfect pop-rock opener, bouncing up and down with their audience, many of whom were quite familiar with the lyrics to the group’s hook-heavy songs. But Edward Sharpe and his merry band of musicians were the musical saviors of the night (and looking the part, too). Although Ebert generally takes the lead vocals, while climbing into the audience and literally reaching out to his yelling fans, Castrinos’ songs are often standouts, such as the gospel-tinged “Fiya Wata.” The two-hour performance took material from both the band’s debut and last year’s Here, as well as the recent single “Better Days,” which sounded much more lively than on its recording.

Some of Edward Sharpe’s onstage antics can seem kitsch at times – handing the microphone to concertgoers to talk about mortality, for one – but they rarely degraded the vitality of the show. The best moments of the performance often rode on the shoulders of the musicians rather than the singers, such as when band members whipped out trumpets for solos. Whatever the band did, whether Ebert moved into reggae-esque sing-talk territory or gave another band member the spotlight, the audience followed along. “Home,” their most well known hit, marked the beginning of the end of their set, but also the pinnacle moment that the crowd showed up for. There are songs, and then there are showstoppers, and “Home” was made for outdoors, drop-all-inhibitions sing-a-longs, the sort that Pittsburgh dearly needed for its own festival. And so it received.

You can watch the just-released video for Edward Sharpe's "Better Days" below.

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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:

Alt-J, "Fitzpleasure" - The young band from Leeds, home to Gang of Four, throws a lot of stuff against the wall and somehow it sticks on this delightfully weird, rocking song. There are many other, varied pleasures on the band's debut album, "An Awesome Wave."

Frank Turner, "Recovery" - The British singer-songwriter/punk rocker points to Springsteen as an inspiration, and you can certainly feel that kind of energy spewing forth in this passionate single. On this song, though, he reminds me more of Old 97's frontman Rhett Miller. Either way, it sounds like he's got a lot of good years ahead of him.

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Alt-J Frank Turner Morning Mix Scott Mervis The 9:13 Buzz

Sarah Lee Guthrie and her husband Johnny Irion have recently teamed up again with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.  The latest Guthrie family and Wilco collaboration released the track "Chairman Meow", a song with a Rubber Soul era Beatles sound to it.  Sarah Lee Gutherie - who has worked with Jeff Tweedy in the past - commented on the writing and recording process for Wassaic Way, “We actually ended up rewriting a lot of these songs with Jeff in the studio,” Guthrie says. “We would pow-wow on a song before we got going on it…just me and Johnny and Jeff, making sure it was lyrically sound and there were no musical loopholes."  The track is one of 11 on the trio's upcoming record Wassaic Way which is due to be released on August 6.

Listen to the track below.

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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:

The Van Allen Belt, "Songs" - This is a local band that's been around for some years and is starting to gain real momentum. They do cool stuff with live performance and sound collage; Tamar Kamin's vocals are beautiful to boot. This is from the 7-inch of the same name, which is in advance of their new full-length, coming in the fall.

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, "Holy Roller" - This was the first single from Thao's new album, We the Common. Big fan of her as a songwriter, and I'm excited about the new album, her first with this band in several years.

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9:13 Buzz Andy Mulkerin Morning Mix Thao and the Get Down Stay Down The Van Allen Belt

Beck will be releasing his latest album in the Fall of 2013.  To build some of the hype up for his upcoming record, Beck has released the single "Defriended."  This is will be Beck's first album since his 2008 release, Modern Guilt. The single "Defriended" is a non-acoustic cut, however Beck's next release will be an exclusively acoustic record.  Beck commented on his upcoming Fall release, "that [a] source describes as the proper follow-up to Modern Guilt."  It has also been reported that the single "Defriended" and the new album will be released independently.  Look below to listen to Beck's new single "Defriended."

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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).

Free Time, “I Lost Again” – We all could use a little Free Time. That’s the Aussie-New York quartet that yesterday released its debut album, “Underwater Peoples”. They’re mostly dream-pop with a hint of shoe-gazer. The singer, Dion Nania, has a voice that reminds me of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Jim Reid. Nice bittersweet lyrics about longing and trying to find one’s place, purpose and soul mate.

The Sparrows, “Star Crossed” – One of my favorite Western Pa. bands. They wear their passion for Americana on the sleeves of their vintage-looking cowboy shirts. Based in Ellwood City (birthplace of Donnie Iris!), the Sparrows took their sweet time on this sophomore release, coming up with a well-crafted collection of hooks and solid storytelling. This song ponders why so many of us spend so much time chasing after an elusive romance, or pining for a former lover.

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Free Time Morning Mix Scott Tady The 9:13 Buzz The Sparrows
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 from Israel via Skype!), contributing writer to Billboard & Relix Magazine.

In case you missed it, here is what he played with commentary by Justin:

T. Hardy Morris, "OK Corral" - Don't let the T. fool you, this is the same Hardy Morris who fronts the awesomely heavy Southern rock band Dead Confederate. On his solo debut single, he stops being so damn intense and just hangs out - this track is about as loose and easy as it gets, but he keeps things interesting with a catchy chorus and some great, laid-back harmonies. His debut solo album, Audition Tapes, drops in July.

Roadkill Ghost Choir, "Beggars Guild" - These newcomers from Florida released this first single themselves this year, a teaser for their debut EP Quiet Light. And yes, this song is awesome, you're welcome - the rare song nowadays that can use a banjo and not sound like a Mumford and Sons rip-off. But be aware: this is the only folk-y song on Quiet Light. The rest sounds like It Still Moves-era My Morning Jacket. I know! So great!

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Justin Jacobs Morning Mix Roadkill Ghost Choir T. Hardy Morris The 9:13 Buzz

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:

Vampire Weekend, "Diane Young" - I'm still on the fence about this song because the autotune really is kind of annoying, but I like everything else that goes around it. Despite cribbing from Paul Simon and Talking Heads, this over-hyped band sounded fresh when it first popped up, and two albums later, that feeling remains.

Of Monsters and Men, "Mountain Sound" - Here I am doing my job of breaking new bands on the 9:13 Buzz. Just kidding. There's almost no way you haven't heard this band, unless you only listen to talk radio,
in which case you're probably not reading this anyway. This play was a nod to summer concerts, and this one should be a highlight (Stage AE, June 12, as it's one of the few bands coming we haven't seen before. Whether you like Top 40 or indie rock, it's hard to argue that Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir has a gorgeous voice.

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Morning Mix Of Monsters and Men Scott Mervis The 9:13 Buzz Vampire weekend

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