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WYEP's Pittsburgh Artist of the Year: Animal Scream

You know how sometimes you get that certain kind of discomfort that alternates between being really fun and actually terrifying?

I felt that way this summer when I took a trip to Colorado and spent the afternoon at an immersive psychedelic art museum called Meow Wolf.

Imagine stepping into a room that makes you feel like you’ve been transported to another dimension. You walk through the next door and you’ve been sucked up into the world of your favorite movie. After that, it’s a panic attack at the casino.

That’s how it feels to listen to Animal Scream’s latest album Heartbroke Motel.

Chad Monticue and Josh Sickels are so damn good at making that special kind of discomfort that actually feels awesome: Deep textures and dark simmering grooves; Off kilter beats and straight-ahead barn burners that keep it interesting with unexpected harmonies.

This record is twitchy, glitchy, and full of little audio worlds that feel impossible to leave. It’s cinematic on purpose. This is an album meant to be devoured in its entirety — though there are songs that do sound complete and at home on the radio.

It feels intimate and raw. Foreboding and dangerous. It’s dark. But a couple minutes later it’s warm and lush — a heavy embrace in a dimly lit room in the back of a house at the end of the street and you’re so alone, you’re not sure if anyone will hear you scream if something goes wrong.

Flash back for a minute with me to a sunny summer afternoon in Schenley Plaza. Animal Scream played a set as scorching as the sun that day. It shouldn’t make sense that this band would sound so good on a big stage in the middle of the afternoon, but they sure did. That’s why Animal Scream are our Pittsburgh Artists of the Year.

Other top contenders in 2023:

Ames Harding & The Mirage

  • Ames Harding & The Mirage expertly blend music from around the world and hold it all together with driving rhythms and the seductive voice of Ames Harding. Listen to “Rain Won’t Fall” for further proof.

Erika Denae J

  • Erika’s debut album Rx Melodies is full of chilled-out, jazzy vibes and stories about healing. It’s just what the doctor ordered.

Chet Vincent & The Music Industry

  • Music industry vet Chet Vincent got together with a bunch of his music industry friends to make an album with mass appeal. Young Leaves is a wonderful listen and a great showcase of Pittsburgh talent.


  • LoRen’s style is a melting pot of American music. Her new EP Pardon Me has elements of gospel, roots rock, and hip-hop with her dusky voice at the center of it all.


  • Mark Jeffries is a teacher by day and a bona fide rock star when the sun goes down. His latest album Slither is inspired by the Eastern Coral Snake and it bites just as hard.


  • There aren’t many musicians who have as much fun as Melt do. The hard-hitting trio fronted by Joey Troupe are known for their theatrical concerts as much as their crunchy, crushing space rock. Listen to Replica Of Man before the world ends, please. 

Clara Kent

  • Clara Kent is an artist. She’s got vision and purpose and the talent to tell her stories with conviction. Clara’s new EP The Four Winds: East kicks off a cycle of records inspired by the Lakota Medicine Wheel.

Silver Car Crash

  • Crunchy cool kids Silver Car Crash released an almost perfect album this year with Shattered Shine. Listen for expertly crafted, noisy post-punk songs bursting with emotions and a yearning to find meaning in a sometimes random-feeling world. 

Alan Getto

  • Alan Getto is a sweet guy. His latest album Songs From A Farmhouse is full of heartfelt story-telling and happy-go-lucky love songs. Oh, and he also built his own guitar to play them!
Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.