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now playing: October 2019

now playing: October 2019

words: Sean Fennell, Cheyenne Bilderback, Emily Charash, Aaron Eisenreich, Indigo Baloch

“Just Like Dancing” - Brightside

Like all Brightside songs (let’s be honest) this single is an absolute bop. With little hints of Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” this song reaches out to touch every one of us longing to move. Its toe-tapping, hypnotic beat will have you jumping around in a matter of seconds. It’s the sound of cartwheels and backflips—it’s impossible to sit still while it’s playing. Even writing this is difficult with my feet skipping around under my chair.

Brightside is one of the few bands that can get Pittsburgh folks to move around at shows. At every show there’s always the classic DIY dudes standing still, crossing their arms, bobbing their heads just barely to look like they’re listening but still “cool — but get them to a Brightside show and it’s like an alternate universe.

Brightside is the type of band that fills you with incredible joy and excitement, makes your body loosen up, makes you smile uncontrollably. After a bit of a hiatus they put out two songs over a year ago now so every time they release anything, it’s kind of like a gift. We wait impatiently, palms out, eager for what they’ll give us. It’ll peak our serotonin for a bit, and we’ll cling to it and cherish it. So let’s savor this single and cross our fingers for a wealth of more soon. // words: IB

“Julian” - Toy Cars

I haven’t been able to stop listening to this track since a friend introduced it to me. While I try not to use the phrase “sleeping on,” I think people are actually sleeping on this song, because it’s perfectly sad and emo! The imagery is nostalgic and sticky as the story of Julian builds, and the melodic guitar line floats easily over the arrangement. Personally, I like how many of my moods this song fits, whether I’m feeling a quiet kind of sad or a I-want-to-scream-while-driving kind. Go listen, and while you’re at it, listen to Toy Cars’s entire discography.  // words: CB

“Misha” - Red

“Misha" appears on ODIN, the second release from Red, a trio based out of Hastings, New York. As an album, the listening experience will exceed your expectations, but in the single “Misha,” I found a personal connection.

Lead vocalist and songwriter Lucy Mondello, never ceases to amaze with her profound chord structures. The voicing of her chords are unique and pleasing to the ear, and at times, her voice is seemingly longing for something more. Drummer Avery Kaplan demonstrates obvious influences of jazz, heavy, and alternative, and on “Misha”, his driving rhythm moves the song through several different phases. While bassist Chris Jones contributes a line that strays from the traditional. When all of the elements are combined on “Misha,” the single accentuates the fullest version of what the band can be. // words: EC

Heaven Surrounds You - Surf Curse

Heaven Surrounds You is cruising in the right lane, hovering a perfect ten miles per hour above the speed limit, seamlessly switching lanes, an example of both force and restraint, never getting in anyone’s way, least of all, its own.

How does Surf Curse, now on their third studio album, achieve all this? Easy, the same way their sun-soaked style has always succeeded, by not working too hard. Heaven Surrounds You breathes easy, its twelve-song tracklist a propulsive, downhill jaunt, each song containing its own infectious surf-pop kernel. This isn’t much of a surprise, as drummer and vocalist Nick Rattigan has, for years, honed his craft working with both Surf Curse and his solo effort Current Joys (taking both into account, this is Rattigan’s third album in the last three years).

Working with guitarist Jacob Rubeck and producer Jarvis Taveniere (Sunflower Bean, Woods), Heaven Surrounds You ramps up Rattigan’s usually reserved songwriting, adding a layer of slick, heel-tapping energy. This works, to varying degrees, on almost every song, but is most effective when their styles inhabit the same space. “Hour of the Wolf” unfurls slowly, beginning focused solely on Rattigan’s familiar, muted Dan Boeckner warble before rolling into Rubeck’s sleek, repeating riff, finally culminating in a twisting back and forth that shows the best of what Surf Curse has to offer. This isn’t the only track sharing this formula and it isn’t a complicated one, but for the 45 minutes of Heaven Surrounds You, there’s joy in that simplicity. // words: SF

Town Centre - Squid

Squid’s Town Centre is like a dream, both obvious and impossible, something no one could make up, except they did. Take the opener, “Savage”, a five-minute track with not a chorus or verse in sight. This is the first song on Squid’s first proper EP and they have the confidence to give us this hushed, meandering, high-art, palette-cleanser.

Dreams don’t play by your rules. Just look at “The Cleaner”, a postmodernist jumble of half-thoughts, a dream of someone else’s dream if they fell asleep listening to The Talking Heads. Its spacey intro sets us up for verses that go from the seemingly straightforward, day-in-the-life, “I’m the cleaner//but you don’t even know my name”, to the truly bonkers, “Keep me extra time and keep it working extra hours so I can dance for you // I'm in my favorite shoes, I'm in that sacred blouse and I'll dance”. This is far from an isolated phenomenon, as single, “Match Bet” is able to ricochet from melodic horns to vocalist Ollie Judge’s rasping howl with a similar kind of aimless bravado. Town Centre, produced by Dan Carey (Black Midi, Franz Ferdinand, Bats For Lashes), is simply bursting, enough ideas for two full lengths at least. That Squid manage to wrestle all their ambitions into something so confoundingly approachable is, perhaps, their most impressive trick of all. // words: SF

Twelve Nudes - Ezra Furman

Ezra Furman begins Twelve Nudes—a blistering half hour album filled with some of her rawest and most visceral material to date—with the reminder “happiness was never guaranteed.” Furman delivers the line on top of an energetic bass line that would sound natural in both a doo-wop and punk rock song, a fuzzed out guitar, and a driving snare drum beat. Over the course of the album, Furman and her bandmates sound tight and precise without losing any of the raw energy behind this collection of angry, yet introspective, songs.

Twelve Nudes is a departure from the meticulous production and storytelling of last year’s excellent Transangelic Exodus, but it does not sound out of place with Furman’s catalogue as a whole. Tracks like “In America” and “Thermometer” sound like the gritty cousins of the songs from 2013’s Day of the Dog. “Thermometer” closes out the first side of the album,  following “Trauma,” an intense look at our inability to process our experiences on a personal or national level.

Furman opens the second half with one of the pre-release singles, “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” an ode to transgender love crooned over an echoing guitar and classic bass line that make the song sound like a slow dance that they might play at the school in Grease. “My Teeth Hurt” is a high-energy standout track, with Furman intensely screaming lyrics like “I refuse to call this living life and I refuse to die,” and “I don’t know how I’m doing lately, fuck you if you ask.” 

Although it’s not included on the streaming services, there is a hidden track to fill the title’s quota of twelve nudes, and it’s pretty excellent. The hidden track takes on a more somber tone, as if Furman has just let out a huge rant over the album and is now calming down, processing her feelings, and looking forward. It’s a beautiful song, summed up in the lyirc, “this rose is finally blooming, and I’m feeling really human once again.” The sentiment works as a capper to a frenzied album that will equally make you want to riot and rock out. // words: AE

Headspace - Mint Green

Mint Green came to me the way as many of my favorite bands do—unknowingly working sound for them at The Mr. Roboto Project. I was instantly smitten with their sound—a reminder of Paramore and Tigers Jaw. It’s kind of a beachy punk, lifting your heart up with tender vocals and a steady, dancing beat. The lyrics are passionate, balanced by the playful instrumentals. Their newest release, Headspace, is a continuation of that energy. It leaves you feeling refreshed and emotional. “Take Care” was a song that especially struck me because they introduced it with an additional nod to Roboto existing as a safe space, noting how important safe spaces can be. “Take Care” immediately pulls you in with the lines, “Take care of your spaces / Take care and be kind.” Good music with a good message? I’m in.

And while you’re here, dive in to their last EP, too. Growth has just as much power and love as Headspace—if not a little sonically darker. “Timestamped” offers up a bulk of vulnerability with the repeated verse “Why do I put my energy into people who will never care for me? / And you say that it’s normal and I’ll be fine / But I still mind.” I could listen to it for hours on the bus, just staring out the window at faces passing. Hearing again and again the line, “Everything we love isn't guaranteed." // words: IB

I Spent the Winter Writing Songs About Getting Better - Proper.

Speaking of good music with a good message, try Proper. on for size.

Proper. might be the most underrated pop punk band in the game right now. And I don’t say that because they lack a following or anything—rather, I just feel EVERYONE who listens to pop punk should be singing their praises.

This band seamlessly blends powerful lyrics with catchy beats; Proper. brings in more genuine matters. It tackles the toxic masculinity rampant in the pop punk scene, and the band doesn’t shy away from calling out homophobia, racism, or transphobia. “New Years Resolutions” straight up throws out lines like, “If your feminism isn't intersectional - we don't want it / If only cisgendered black lives matter to you - we don't want it / If you're only an ally on a keyboard - we don't want it.”

One of my favorite songs on the record, “Fucking Disgusting” calls out how our society responds to sexuality and sex workers. It opens with the incredible line, “What do you call a guy who doesn't give but expects to get head? / You don’t.” I cannot praise this band enough. It’s everything I wanted from the pop punk scene and never got back then. If this is where it could be headed though, it might be time to make a comeback. I’ve been given some faith now, and I’m willing to run with it. // words: IB

now playing: pittsburgh edition

now playing: pittsburgh edition

album of the week: in heat - guppy

album of the week: in heat - guppy