2014 has been interesting and varied in Pittsburgh music. New venues, labels and bands emerged to create a diverse and vibrant music community that continues to surprise and inspire us. These five acts are among the elite in our city. Please get out there and see their shows and buy their records. Music is a huge part of what Pittsburgh is and it's exciting to be a part of the ever evolving music scene. Make sure you catch two hours of the best in Pittsburgh music 2014 on WYEP's Local Year in Review; airing New Year's Eve and New Year's Day on 91.3!
*** WYEP's Top 5 Local Acts for 2014 ***
The Early Mays are three talented writers, singers, and instrumentalists, coming together on a masterpiece of a debut album. It is clear that the folk trio— Judith Avers, Emily Pinkerton and Ellen Gozion—carefully crafted each other’s songs by adding emotionally stirring harmonies and delicate folk instrumentation (banjo, fiddle, and organ). While playing together for the first time at a late-night Christmas Eve service, they realized the full potential of future collaborations, thus forming The Early Mays. Using crowd funding to source their self-titled debut, the group brings traditional and original material to spectacular life. This is more than a band that writes and performs songs; it’s a group of serious musicologists who have studied the folk genre all their lives. It’s a rare combination of knowledge and talent. (CH).
2. Chet Vincent & The Big Bend
Unconventional Dog (Wild Kindness)
Formerly focused on folk and alt-country, Chet Vincent & the Big Bend’s Unconventional Dog is blasting, blues-powered rock and roll at its finest. It sounds as if Cracker’s David Lowery were fronting The Black Keys. Front man, Chet Vincent has taken a step back from the mix to give his all-star band more of a showcase on this home-recorded album (at the drummer’s parents’ Point Breeze mansion). There are hints of the old-time Country Chet with songs like “Three Hens.” Most tracks are dense with swirling layers and effects that drive home raw, dark emotions such as songs like “Doubter’s Blues” and “She Sold Me Out.” (CH)
3. Kai Roberts
Carnegie Café (Kai Roberts)
From its old-school influence to its message about dealing with mental health issues, there’s a lot to love about rapper Kai Roberts’ album Carnegie Café. After taking leave from Carnegie Mellon in order to deal with chronic mental issues, Roberts turned to music to cope with an extreme anxiety and panic disorder. The album he created was born out of poetry that expressed Roberts’ thoughts and frustrations about college life—a reflection that could serve as reference for many struggling college students. The execution of his positive message is a homerun with stellar R&B style production, guitar work, and smooth vocal delivery. (CH)
4. Essential Machine
Underneath the Earth (Silver Seed Records)
This Greensburg family band continues to mature and perfect its whimsically folk/pop sound on its third album, Underneath the Earth. This time around, husband and wife RJ and Karen Dietrich have added guitarist Matthew Kilroy and occasionally their son Roby J to the lineup. Essential Machine has also managed to capture the spirit of its live show on tape, which is often a difficult task for many recording artists. The earnest production, poetic lyrics, and breezy melodies make the record flow and call to mind Mumford & Sons, The Breeders (on the quieter tracks) and Belle & Sebastian. (CH)
Big Weather (American Hermitage Records)
How do you review this album? It’s over an hour long, and has unusual spoken word and instrumentals based around an array of characters experiencing various types of big weather. The traditional songs on Big Weather are fantastic, with traces of Cat Stevens, Devendra Banhart, and some kind of perfectly freaky rock and roll, thanks to Nic Snyder’s raspy falsetto, displayed on songs like “When The Levee Broke at the County Fair.” It’s an album that hangs in the fringes for fans of rock music. The band is tight, yet experimental as this sophomore record pleases, but challenges the listener. (CH)
1 2 3 Chet Vincent & The Big Bend Essential Machine Kai Roberts the Early Mays The Morning Mix Year in Review