Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sonic Sunday: Pittsburgh Noise

Since I've been back in Pittsburgh for three months now, I figured it's time to stop moping about how much better the arts and entertainment scene in New York was and start appreciating what ye olde hometowne has to offer.

I've never really thought of da 'Burgh as a hotbed of musical activity, but perhaps that's because I wasn't paying close enough attention. I mean, the last local bands I really actively followed were Room To Move and Sleeping Giants—two names that will, from any other current or former Pittsburgher, elicit one of the following responses: a) "OMG, I used to love those guys!!" b) "Wow, BeckEye's old" or c) "Who?" So,'s well past time to delve deeper into local music.

Therefore, this Sonic Sunday features music by three local acts that I'm really digging right now. I hope all of you non-Yinzers will take a few minutes to check this stuff out and, if you like what you hear, please support these fine folks and help get their names out there! Who knows, one of these days you could be one of those cool kids who gets to say you heard of a band before they were famous.

Donora consists of singer/guitarist Casey Hammer, her drummer brother Jake Hammer and bassist Jake Churton. Of all the local bands that have caught my ear since moving home, I get the feeling that Donora might be the one closest to a big breakthrough. Their debut self titled album has gotten some national buzz, they've played with bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Tokyo Police Club, and had songs featured on several MTV series, including Cribs. They also got quite a bit of exposure when their song "Shhh" was used in PostSecret's 2008 Valentine's Day video. According to Donora's official bio, they make "melodic, dance-worthy, garage rock," and I'd say that's a pretty accurate assessment of their sound. Casey's vocals strike a great balance between pop sweetheart and riot grrl, but no matter what mood she's in, the music always puts you in the mood to move. I like nearly every track on the record because, well, what's not to like about music that just makes you feel good?

Expand the music play to hear "Shhh" by Donora."Shhh," Donora

Shifting from the dance-pop/rock of Donora, it's time to chill out with singer-songwriter Joy Ike's thoughtful brand of folk-pop. Sounding like a smooth blend of Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, Regina Spektor and Sarah Bareilles, Ike's second full-length record, Rumors, released earlier this month, is already garnering critical praise around town. What I love most about it is the lack of a glossy sheen—it sounds as if Ike recorded these songs live or, better yet, is playing them for you right now in your living room. In a pop world cluttered with over-hyped, overproduced albums full of studio magic, a record like this is refreshing. I've posted the first track below, but you can visit Ike's Bandcamp site to stream all the songs and/or download the full record.

Expand the music player to hear "Sweeter" by Joy Ike."Sweeter," Joy Ike

While I'd love to check out one of Joy Ike's shows while casually sipping a frozen drink at an intimate neighborhood bar's deck or patio, I'd expect to see Meeting of Important People at a packed, sweaty club, where I'd be vainly trying to do the pogo without spilling my Yuengling draft. These guys, Josh Verbanets, Matt Miller and Aaron Bubenheim, have already gotten some attention from all the cool indie bloggers (of whose group I'm not a member—I guess my continued coverage of American Idol nixes any shot I might have had) and one song, "I Know Every Street in This Town" was featured on an episode of The Ghost Whisperer. I can hear everyone from the Beach Boys to the Rolling Stones to Vampire Weekend in MoIP's music, and when I saw that they listed Blur as one of their influences, I immediately knew they were good people and understood exactly why they were able to get my feet tapping so quickly. I wanted to post an mp3 here, but didn't get permission from their management in time to post this. (Granted, I only sent them an email, like, yesterday. Way to go, me.) But that's fine, because they've got a really cool video out for the single, "Brittney Lane Don't Care," so I'll post that instead. Enjoy!


Dale said...

Hey! How did I miss you leaving NYC? So it's safe to go back now then :-) Might be time to plan a trip to Pittsburgh instead!

Local music is great, as long as it's great!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You picked some good local acts to champion, I think. And you KNOW I am a big proponent of championing local bands.

I love the set used in the Meeting of Important People video. Reminds me of the cardboard set in The Science of Sleep. Magic realism FTW.

Heff said...

Down in my area of the world, we have a band called "The Velcro-Pygmies" which just never seem to go away, lol.

carissajaded said...

I've bene taking in a lot of the local bands lately and I'm loving it. And by local I also have to include Denton and Austin, because they're really where the good stuff's at. I'm really digging this Meeting of Important People.. Good Stuff!

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

That video is like if the little guy from Tool's "Undertow" was living a far, far happier life.

gennifer6 said...

so you are back in Pittsburgh! I had gotten that hinted at, but wasn't really sure. Because I'm "big-city girl" I'm sad to hear you left NYC for the smaller city, but I like the idea of you being located closer to where we're at(the "team" of bloggers I belong to) and the benefits of being home. :)

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