Okay, here’s the score. This feature will henceforth be known as “Speed Trials : Pittsburgh Track Revue.” Too many good tracks come our direction not to bring them up in some way, shape or form and because we cannot get to all those wonderful shows that happen in Pittsburgh on a weekly basis, we decided to create a new column devoted entirely to reviewing our favorite tracks from the Pittsburgh music scene. We don’t want to specify how frequently this column will appear because it still can be considered some sort of experiment, what we will promise is a continued effort to discover new and local bands that are deserving of the city’s attention. Okay, enough exposition, onto the music.
Okay, okay, I know Gil Manera’s Party Dream (or GMPD as they now wish to be known) is actually from Youngstown, OH, but they have played so many shows in Pittsburgh over the years, including repeated affairs with the likes of local legends Girl Talk and Grand Buffet, that I couldn’t help but consider them apart of the steel city. Coming off their 2006 fucking stunner of a debut album Bloodsongs, GMPD have just released their sophomore effort Dreamscape in February of 2009. Where Bloodsongs held a steady, exuberant, party fusion of synth, metal guitars and thumping bass drums for the entire album, Dreamscape seems to be more contemplative and introspective. The first single from the album ready for download is “Waking Vision” calls to mind classic New Order rather than the smart alleck raps of Grand Buffet. Complete with a watery bass guitars, shimmering key boards and a beat you can dance to, this song could totally slip onto the soundtrack for “The Breakfast Club.” Move over M83, GMPD are ready to stake their claim as the post-millennial torch bearers for melancholy, 80’s infused New Wave.
Born as the brain child between former Camera member, Cory Allen, and current Takeover UK member Derek White, Gems is working pretty damn hard to bring their lush, orchestral pop to the masses, starting with “Kimberly Don’t Leave” off their first EP Change To Call You. Shuffling onto the track with so much 60’s nostalgia you’ll have to brush it away from your face, “Kimberly Don’t Leave” is a sweet and simple plea from a guy who desperately can’t see his woman leave. The composition is flawless, between the gorgeous ooh’s and ahh’s over the bridge, wavy beach guitars present through out, and a monster chorus that is both grand and intimate. With such a relaxed sense of pop and harmony, I’m pretty positive these guys come up with hooks in their sleep. Next time I ever have a relationship long enough to get dumped miserably, I’ll listen to this song and remember that a beautiful chorus has the ability to mend any wound. That’s probably not true, but it helps me sleep at night.
Considering Chalk Dinosaur lead singer/songwriter John O’Hallaron has a website devoted to not one but eight volumes his music available for download, I don’t see this guy’s band slowing down their output anytime soon. “Crazy Folks” off the most recent Vol. 8 gives a fairly good synopsis of Chalk Dinosaur’s sound: unassuming lyrics, unabashed influences (re: Weezer, The Pixies, the Beach Boys, The Beatles), and a warm aura of an aw shucks slacker persona that makes it appear as if these guys went to high school in 1991. The track owes more than a little to Weezer’s “Sweater Song,” but where Rivers Cuomo can sound ironic and detached , O’Hallaron comes off refreshingly sincere: youthful, restless, and a little overwhelmed by the future. The song is pitch perfect in theme, tone and harmony, perfectly illustrating the poignant malaise of a late night going nowhere. The last verse perfectly encapsulates one of my biggest fears, reminding me to poke a little less fun at the motley crew of regulars 24 hour diner tends to have, “The crazy folks/are the aim of our jokes./But someday I’ll be there.”
I hope to take at least one road trip this summer. With the personal promise of said road trip, I desperately need music that personifies freedom, the road, and the hills of western Pennsylvania quickly disappearing in my rear view mirror. Luckily, Casino Bulldogs have delivered a fast, burning, road trip track in the form of “Tuck and Roll” off their latest EP Stop What You’re Doing to Me! This is rawk at its fastest and most satisfying, full of cruise control guitars, quietly cool vocals, and faster than sound percussion, chugging along with foot stomping rhythm, poised to blow the doors of my little Scion Xa as I get the hell outta dodge. “Tuck and Roll” immediately sounds as if its been stuck in a tape deck of an 88′ Honda with 200,ooo miles on it for six years, feeding and fueling the fervor too many midnight power drives to count. Classic road music this is, more than ready for anyone’s next adventure.
Stay tuned for part 2 coming in the next week.