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:

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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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:

Christopher Paul Stelling, "Mourning Train to Memphis" - Excited about the forthcoming debut LP from this Brooklyn-based Americana songwriter. It's beautiful and touching in an understated way.

Howlin Rain, "Beneath Wild Wings" - One of my favorite bands of the past five years of so -- Howlin Rain is the post-Comets on Fire project of Ethan Miller. This is from their new album, The Russian Wilds, released by American, which finds them straying further from the noisy Southern rock they started out playing, and more into smooth Southern soul.

Hospitality, "Betty Wang" - This is the first single from the garage-pop band's debut release on Merge. It's right up my alley, and I'm excited about it -- also about them playing Brillobox later this month.

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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) - 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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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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