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 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.

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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 - 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."

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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 - 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

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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):

Snow Patrol, "Called Out in the Dark" - The Britpop band admits its new album -- the first in 3 years -- took longer than expected to finish. The wait was worth it, judging by the first two singles, including this track highlighted both by Gary Lightbody's elegant, Bryan Ferry-ish vocals, and cool and subtle indie-electronica synth squiggles.

Yacht, "Utopia" - Trippy and danceable electro-pop from "Shangri-La," the sophomore release from the Portland, Ore. band that floats somewhere between The Talking Heads and Devo. This single typifies Yacht's sunny view of man's perpetual quest for utopia. Tune in, turn on and shake your body Dec. 5, when Yacht sets sail for the Rex Theatre on the South Side. It's been a breakout year for "Y" bands, namely Yuck, Yawn and now
Yacht.

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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.

Yukon Blonde, "Fire" - Isn't this song pretty? I think so, too. Sure, these Canadian dudes take more than a few pages from the books of Fleet Foxes and similarly bearded bands, but they pull it off well. This song is off of Yukon Blonde's new EP, "Fire//Water." It's hard to dock points for originality when the harmonies are this tight and the melody this catchy. And it's really pretty, amiright?

Big Pink, "Give It Up" - This London duo got all the dark, indie kids dancing (read: coolly swaying) with its shadowy debut album a few years back. "Give It Up" is a great example of their new sound: more polished, bolder, sharper and, thankfully, still dark and catchy. Be wary, some tracks off their new album "Future This" go too far — one sounds like a car chase soundtrack — but most strike a good balance between grimy and glittering.

Grouplove, "Colours" - Seems like I'm a little late to the Grouplove party, but I'm glad I finally found this band. Loose, jangling, sing-along-in-the-car anthems about having fun and going to the beach and such; Grouplove's debut album "Never Trust a Happy Song" is sugary fun. "Colours," originally out on an EP, is a perfect sampler.

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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:

Carole King, "Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday" - The other day my job required that I endure repeated plays of the new Anthrax album, which was fine, but once done with that, I needed the antidote. The closest thing was the soothing new Carole King album, her first foray into holiday music. The legendary singer sounds like her old self here, just
as she did at the Arena with James Taylor. This one is cover of a soul song by William Bell and Booker T. Jones.

Summer-Winter, "Shine" - The second album from Pittsburgh singer-songwriter Terry O'Hara (who goes under the moniker of Summer-Winter) is suitable for gazing out the window at a snowy winter scene. If you like Grandaddy, Sparklehorse or even Kurt Vile, you'll appreciate his slow, spacey mode of indie pop.

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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 (plus two bonus songs):

Nikki Lane, "Coming Home to You" - I played a tune from Nikki Lane's debut EP a few months back on the Buzz and noted that her forthcoming full-length would prove whether she had staying power. In late September, that album came out, and the answer seems to be: Absolutely. Great songwriter, wonderful voice, cheeky sense of humor (as is evidenced by the title of the full-length, Walk of Shame). This is a delightful re-figuring of a song that first appeared on the EP.

Real Estate, "It's Real" - This Jersey-via-Brooklyn indie rock band released its latest, Days, last month on Domino. It's full of catchy, straightforward tunes; this one's the catchiest, I think. Catch them live in Pittsburgh later this month.

Boca Chica, "Long Range Guns"- The local Americana group headed by Hallie Pritts has returned with a new full-length called Get Out of Sin City. It's another crop of solid songs, and this one's my favorite.

Black Crash, "Sometimes Dreams" - This is the title track from the local band's newest release; recommended for fans of Britpop along the lines of Travis, and maybe Radiohead or even (*shudder*) Coldplay. Great vocals, solid tunes.

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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):

Tom Waits, "Bad as Me" - With the possible exception of Scotch whiskey, there's no clearer example of an "acquired taste" than Tom Waits' singing. I've got music-loving friends who don't "get" Waits. Personally, I admire the feeling and wisdom imparted by his rough and rumbling vocals. I chose the title track from Waits' week-old album, which is solid from start to finish. The standout cut might be the not-quite-ready-for-the-FCC "Hell Broke Luce," a poignant and clever anti-war track (who else does those anymore?) His fans number guest musicians on the album such as Keith Richards, Flea, Slash, Les Claypool and Ben Jaffee from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

HoneyHoney, "Angel of Death" - There's another Ben Jaffee making music, the Ben that's one-half of the delightful alt-country/indie-folk L.A. duo HoneyHoney.He's the guitar foil to the sweet, sexy and soulful singing of Suzanne Santo. She's also got a saucy side (check the band's ode to decadence "Let's Get Wrecked.") Here, she manages to make a song called "Angel of Death" sound alluring. In an interview with Jaffee, I told him this song sounds like something Gram Parsons would have written for Emmylou Harris. "Naw, that was just me trying to rip off a Hank Williams song," he said.

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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.

Girls, "Alex" - Sophomore slump is for the birds. This track is off the second album by Girls called "Father, Son, Holy Ghost" and it is totally, completely fantastic. Girls has made its name for emotionally bare, intimate rock and roll, and the new music delivers, but this time with a fuller sound and cleaner production.

Bombay Bicycle Club, "Shuffle" - There hasn't been a piano line this fun since Matt and Kim's "Daylight." From this English band's third album "A New Kind of Fix," this track has the right mix of soft, pretty melodies and some freaky-artsy-interesting parts. It's like Snow Patrol if Snow Patrol didn't totally suck.

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Bombay Bicycle Club Girls Justin Jacobs 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:

Battles, "My Machines" - When the experimental New York band lost its singer (to use the word loosely) during the making of "Gloss Drop," it enlisted the help of four special guests. One of them was New Wave icon Gary Numan, who brings a rush of familiarity to this industrial metal track. The members of Battles were heartened by the fact that even Mr. Numan thought the song was "weird."

Allies, "Wire Walk" - The second offering from this Pittsburgh punk/post-punk band is a fierce and noisy guitar record with as much passion as volume. At times, like on this title track, it sounds like Jane's Addiction is bashing away in your basement.

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