Personal Picks

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:

Fanfarlo, "Deconstruction" - Not a lot about this fun track is Derridan in nature; it's more evocative of bleak, driving British synth pop a la New Order. Nice song from Rooms Filled with Light, the latest from the band led by a guy whose name is really Simon Balthazar.

Bear in Heaven, "The Reflection of You" - I'm a big fan of these guys, and this was the first track release off their latest, I Love You, It's Cool. The soft synths combine with Jon Philpot's vocals to hypnotic effect. A friend once likened Philpot to a cult leader; it may be true, but if so it's a cult of synths and love.

Retribution Gospel Choir, "The Stone (Revolution!)" - This is the other band helmed by Low's Alan Sparhawk; not everything they do thrills me, but this is from a free four-song EP they just released, and it's pretty great! When they do the Big Star-style power-pop rock, they do it better than most.

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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):

Dr. Dog, "Do the Trick" - Prior efforts were tagged as psychedelic-folk, though this Philly band rocks out on album No. 7, "Be the Void," their loosest, loudest, most live sounding yet. It's a very cohesive album, and entertaining from start to finish. To prove it, I steered clear of "That Old Black Hole" and "These Days," both being spun on WYEP, and chose a deeper cut that hearkens more to "classic" Dr. Dog, with a swirling melody, swelling harmonies and clever but un-fancy lyrics. Sample: "My talk is a nervous tick/Won't you freeze my hands of time?/Will you do the trick?." They're in town tomorrow for a concert.

Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons, "Anaconda" - Joseph's songwriting is inspired by his years in Salt Lake City (where Jack Mormons is a local coffee company). You can practically taste the dry, dusty expansive setting of Utah in his music, which is guitar-driven alt-rock with jam-band elements. This isn't the angst of a New York songwriter affected by the hustle-and-bustle of a big city, but a guy whose demons are spurred by the Wild West with its lonesome highways and stark, barren landscapes. Jerry has written several songs for Widespread Panic, and his band has shared stages with Drive-By Truckers (who were the opening act). Alas, his touring in the past decade has been limited largely to the Rockies and Pacific Northwest. I'm hoping WYEP can bring him to Pittsburgh! Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons album goes public on March 30.

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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 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:

Nneka, "My Home" - This Nigerian goddess of awesome is like the perfect synthesis of two of my favorite singers — the soul and emotion of Corinne Bailey Rae and the funk and robot swagger of Janelle Monae. Play this track really loud, it'll be fun for everyone around you!

Tennis, "My Better Self" - Cutesy indie pop husband-wife duo gets so much better on their second album. Maybe it's because they weren't writing about a sailboat this time out, but who knows. This record was produced by the Black Keys' Patrick Carney, and though there's no dirty blues here, his crisp production sounds great.

Bonus track!

Dr. Dog, "How Long Must I Wait" - My favorite track from my favorite band's new album. Such a good mood-enducing track. Buy the whole album, Be the Void, and support these Philly boys.

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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:

Gaslight Anthem, "Changing of the Guards" - The Boss is missing from the new Dylan tribute "Chimes of Freedom," but New Jersey is well represented by this raucous band that had the good taste to pick a masterpiece from "Street Legal" and rock it like they were in a bar.

Craig Finn, "No Future" - The drop-dead clever singer-songwriter took a break from The Hold Steady to venture into Nashville and make a more acoustic solo album. Rather than going all James Taylor on us, he keeps the edge on, with a string of breakup songs, including this one which name-drops Freddie Mercury and Johnny Rotten.

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Gaslight Anthem. Craig Finn Scott Mervis The 9:13 Buzz

During the first full week of February, Mr. Barb and I embark on our 5th journey through song.  For the 2nd year our floating sold-out home is The Pearl.  Almost 2,400 passengers on a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise, with three days at sea and ports-of-call that include St. Maarten & St. Barthelemy.  There are over 40 performers.

Returning Headliners are:  Lyle Lovett , John Hiatt (Lovett & Hiatt will be performing together with Hiatt also performing solo), John Prine , Buddy Miller , Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright III .  New on board: Lucinda Williams and Keb’ Mo’.

Other returning acts include:  Shawn Mullins (a 5-time cruiser), Chuck Cannon , Enter the Haggis , David Ryan Harris , Edwin McCain , Holly Williams , Aslyn , Levi Lowrey , Beth Wood , Sarah & Christian Dugas (The Duhks) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) (WPA will include Glen Phillips , Sean Watkins , Sara Watkins,Greg Liesz on pedal steel, and Willie Watson from Old Crow Medicine Show).

New on the journey through song will be: Grammy nominated duo The Civil Wars , Greg Brown , Iris DeMent , The Belle Brigade , James McMurtry , Maia Sharp (who will be performing with Edwin McCain), Rhett Miller (of the Old 97’s) , Joe Purdy , Michael McDermott , Sarah Buxton & Tom Bukovac , Angie Aparo , Winterbloom (Antje Duvekot , Anne Heaton , Meg Hutchinson & Natalia Zuckerman ), Shannon McNally , Ryan Montbleau Band , Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion , Sarah Jaffe , Native Run (a trio comprised of Rachel Beauregard , Bryan Dawley and Luke Brindley ) Bobby Long , and Aurora Belle .

In advance of the cruise, we were able to download 37 songs from the artists scheduled to be on the 2012 voyage.

It’s a treat to see so many returning performers; and like always we will definitely become fans of the new acts on board.  There will be solo performances by members of WPA - Glen Phillips (who will be also, again, be hosting a beer tasting), Sara Watkins, and Willie Watson.  The Watkins Family Hour one evening at Midnight.  A Songwriting Workshop with Shawn Mullins and Chuck Cannon.  Shawn Mullins will be headlining a concert in the main theater (for which, again, we have front row seats!).  There’s Tai Chi, Name that Tune, Bingo, Wine and Beer Tasting, Karaoke, Guitar Workshop and Open Mics with the performers in addition to the shows.  We will start the journey with WPA and can end it with David Ryan Harris: The Band – The First Waltz.

We again chose the earliest headliner seated show time of 6:00 PM; many of the shows are general admission, even in the main theater.  The schedule starts as early as 10 AM and can extend to 1:30 AM.

We expect plenty of sunshine, permanent smiles on our faces, unexpected impromptu collaborations (which is what this journey though song is really all about), and to add to our CD collection.  I’ll have lots of stories to share upon our return via the WYEP Music blog (the lap top is staying home this year).  And we’re packing the sun block to prevent sunburn in the winter.

Barb S.- Sunday Mix Host

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Angie Aparo Anne Heaton Antje Duvekot Aslyn Aurora Belle Beth Wood Bobby Long Bryan Dawley Chuck Cannon David Ryan Harris edwin mccain Enter the Haggis glen phillips Greg Brown Greg Liesz holly williams Iris DeMent James MsMurtry Joe Purdy john hiatt John Prine Keb' Mo' Levin Lowrey Loudon Wainwright III lucinda williams luke brindley Lyle Lovett maia sharp Meg Hutchinson Michael McDermott Natalia Zuckerman Native Run Rachel Beauregard Rhett Miller Richard Thompson Ryan Montbleau Band Sara Watkins Sarah & Christian Dugas Sarah Buxton & Tom Bukovac Sarah Jaffe Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion Sean Watkins Shannon McNally Shawn Mullins singer-songwriters The Belle Brigade The Civil Wars Willie Watson Winterbloom wpa

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:

Andre Costello and the Cool Minors, "Tumbleweed (They Call Me)" - Andre is an Ellwood City native and current Pittsburgher who recently released his first solo record through an Ohio boutique label called Wild Kindness. His warm, mature voice is offset at times on the album by sonic experimentation, but there'ms a simple, Americana basis for the tunes. Good stuff.

Jeffrey Lewis, "Cult Boyfriend" - Jeffrey Lewis is one of my favorite lyricists, because he mixes a depth of ideas with a penchant for clever wordplay. Sometimes it feels like he wrote the first line of a couplet as a challenge, to see if he can pull of a rhyme that makes sense. He usually can.

Damien Jurado, "Museum Flight" - Yes, it's Guys With Guitars Week here on the buzz. The latest full-length from the venerable songwriter, Maraqopa, is forthcoming on Secretly Canadian. This track is gorgeous.

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Andre Costello Andy Mulkerin Damien Jurado Jeffrey Lewis 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 Tady of The Beaver County Times.

In case you missed it here's what he played (with commentary by Scott)

The Shins, “Simple Song” - Well, it’s not THAT simple, or else more bands would figure out how to make such an uplifting song. The ingredients are elemental: lilting melody, a catchy hook, a swelling chorus where singer James Mercer scales the heights. The upbeat lyrical message, “you don’t have to go it alone,” inspires without getting bogged down in details. There are a few subtle layers, too, including some brief but pretty piano. Can’t wait to hear the full album, “Port of Morrow,” due out March 20.

Heartless Bastards, “Parted Ways” - Words like “primal” and “throaty” get used when discussing the distinct, powerful voice of Erika Wennerstrom. “I need a little bit of whiskey and a little bit of time to ease my troubled mind,” she sings with a dusty, soulful charm on this post-breakup rumination. Formed in Cincinnati but now based in Austin, Texas, the Heartless Bastards have been characterized as a garage-y, bluesy rock band, but this single also has some alt-country seasoning. See them next month at Club Café at a WYEP-sponsored show.

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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 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:

My picks this week cover a few sadly overlooked records of last year. It's not too late, check them out!

Thee Oh Sees, "Heavy Doctor" - From the band's 2nd 2011 release, Carrion Crawler/The Dream, this blast of psychedelic-garage punk sounds like an update on The Stooges: raw, fast, weird, awesome. The band is incredibly prolific (6 albums since 2008), and this latest record is among their best. Definitely a lot of fun, and simply wonderful for air guitar practice.

Youth Lagoon, "Afternoon" - This is the opening track from Youth Lagoon's The Year of Hibernation. It's an album of dreamy, lo-fi bedroom pop from an actual kid (Trevor Powers) in an actual bedroom (in Boise, Idaho). This is music for rainy day hibernation - under a blanket, maybe. It's beautiful and sad and makes me feel like I'm inside some bittersweet romantic indie movie.

The Roots, Undun - The latest album from The Roots was released way at the end of 2011, and was understandably overshadowed by the holidays, New Years Eve parties and our collective fear that the world would end in 2012. That's a shame because it's really, really good. Even for folks unfamiliar with The Roots' long hip-hop history, it's very worth checking out.

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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:

Kathleen Edwards, "Change the Sheets" - We won't say the Canadian singer-songwriter was stuck in a rut, because her songs are usually thoughtful, passionate, pretty, sexy, etc. But on this fourth album, it's nice to see her get a little sonic makeover, thanks in part to new flame Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). You can hear their two styles at work in this atmospheric rock single.

Sharon Van Etten, "Serpents" - I didn't know much about her going into Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead, when she opened for Iron and Wine, but was pretty blown away after a few songs. A year later, the New York singer-songwriter is on the brink of breaking out with this Jagjaguwar debut, "Tramp," produced by Aaron Dessner of The National. This is a rather straight-forward rock song on a record that has its pleasantly off-kilter moments.

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Kathleen Edwards Scott Mervis Sharon Van Etten 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 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.

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