Maps & Atlases w/ Cults, Laura Stevenson & The Cans @ Brillobox, 8/17

After witnessing Polvo’s attempt to effectively eviscerate the Brillobox’s monitors last week with an arena-sized version of mathy, progressive rock, and taking what was previously considered a fairly austere and impenetrable genre to somewhat accessible extremes, Chicago quartet Maps & Atlases make their way to the Lawrenceville mainstay (along with hype machine Cults and Laura Stevenson and the Cans) to exhibit yet another permutation of the sound pioneered by the likes of Don Caballero and Slint.

Brandishing a fully developed folk-pop sensibility and technical acumen that would put many groups to shame, Maps & Atlases have cultivated a sound that is both intricate and inviting, incorporating swirling pieces of mathy percussion, rubbery guitar work and head spinning harmonies that slowly evolves into the post-rock equivalent of Fleet Foxes. Continue reading

Polvo w/ The Ceiling Stares, Broughton’s Rules @ Brillobox, 8/12

Chapel Hill natives Polvo pretty much set the standard for the indie off-shoot known as math rock for the better part of a decade.  And while many purveyors of the genre became wrapped up in increasingly intricate and progressive compositions solely because of their difficulty and inaccessibility (as Pittsburgh legends Don Caballero can attest), Polvo managed to infuse even their most complicated songs with the primal, free-wheeling energy of classic hard rock.

Their 2009 release In Prism was their first in twelve years, but clearly showed the Merge stawlwarts had yet to miss a beat. While the release had all of the genre’s signifiers intact (alternative guitar tunings, jacked up time signatures, eight minute plus tracks), present was an atmosphere of loose improvisation and spacey,  psychedelic expansion. Regardless, the show the this Thursday at the Brillobox plans to be quite the head trip with these pioneers of math rock still capable of melting faces and local rockers The Ceiling Stares and new comers Broughton’s Rules filling out the bill.

Polvo – Beggar’s Bow

A Lull @ The Thunderbird Cafe, 8/4

The last time Chicago avant-pop sextet A Lull came to the Steel City, they managed to book a gig playing  in the South Side’s only metal/punk bar, The Smiling Moose, and boasted only the five-song Ice Cream Bones to their name. Churning, yet delicate tracks like “Skinny Fingers”  and “White/Gold” hinted at where the group was headed sonically: circular rhythmic motifs, washes of acoustic guitars, muted, almost falsetto vocals and intricate percussion patterns that bordered on random sketching.

It’s a year later and A Lull plan to make a splash tonight at Lawrenceville’s Thunderbird Cafe, a far cry from the biker heavy back rooms of the Smiling Moose.  While their production hasn’t exactly reached a fever pitch (two released songs in fourteen months by my count) the group comes to Pittsburgh  with the “Weapons for War”/”Spread it All Around” 7” single in hand and some serious discussion of a full-length album due out later this year. Tracks after the jump. Continue reading

Dandelion Snow – “The Grand Scheme of Things”

Erie, PA songwriter Roger Harvey, a.k.a. Dandelion Snow, has done enough travelling around the country to know what road music sounds like. Extended stays in Pittsburgh, Portland and New York City  have had this man literally criss crossing the nation for the past few years, and his latest release, June’s The Grand Scheme of Things, plays up the rootless troubadour persona something fierce. The title track is lavishly draped in magic hour sunlight,  dripping with world weary bits of wisdom tinged with the romantic yearnings for another place and time.  Luckily,  Mr. Harvey takes a pause from his road warrior ways to make a stop at Garfield Artworks this Friday, August 7th.

Dandelion Snow – The Grand Scheme of Things

Meeting of Important People “Quit Music” EP Release Show @ Thunderbird Cafe, 7/24

Meeting of Important People’s 2009 self-titled debut release was a sketchbook of small details and stolen moments, stitched together as lyrically impressionistic vignettes and set against too many perfectly cultivated harmonies to count. The high points (“Mother’s Pay More” and “I Know Every Street”) offered glimpses of  a dreamworld populated by desperate youth and blood thirsty babes, detailing the lost nights and lost loves that never existed.

While that wistful album resembled something like  a book of  poetry, the group’s current effort, the seven song Quit Music EP available for download here, comes closer to a collection of short stories with each song possessing slivers of plot, drama and the fragile soul of small town life.  Lead singer/songwriter Josh Verbanets provides his characters with rousing backgrounds of British Invasion pop, bristling with moments of AM radio melody and world beating power chords.  Slowly, I could not shake the comparison to The Kinks and their small town/countryside opus The Village Green Preservation Society. Tracks after the jump.

Continue reading

Fang Island @ The Amphitheater at Station Square, 7/20 (Opening for The Flaming Lips)


While The Flaming Lips’ upcoming show at the Amphitheater at Station Square has the Pittsburgh music scene buzzing with excitement and possibility (it’s their first appearance in the area in seven years), the opening act the native Oklahomans slotted for their summer tour has quietly defined the sound of 2010’s hottest months.

With their self-titled debut album released in late March, Fang Island have crafted what is almost certainly the greatest pure guitar record of the year. Combining the pummeling, dueling axe theatrics of vintage Journey and the unabashedly life affirming harmonies of Andrew W.K., the Brooklyn by way of Rhode Island group truly live up to their self-described aesthetic of  “everyone high-fiving everyone.” Tracks after the jump. Continue reading

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion @ Diesel, 7/15, Now I Got Worry Reissue

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are six years from their last release and about 14 years removed from the eye of the storm they created. After the group’s initial three record output in the early 90’s that focused on fusing noise rock, hip-hop drum patterns and delta blues together by any means necessary ending with 1994’s Orange, the boys had varying results sprawling in every goddamn direction. Regardless, their live shows were legendary. Each set came down like a ton of bricks on fire, showering crowds with heaving masses of seething New York City rage and white hot blues swagger. And no one really attempted to challenge The JSBX’s persona as new age, hardcore bluesmen;  the group predated the short lived garage rock revival of  The White Stripes, Mooney Suzuki and The Hives (among others) by a good five years.

Until 1996, however, the pieces had yet to come together in the studio sessions to recreate the incendiary nature of the JSBX’s best performances. But with Now I Got Worry, The Blues Explosion finally coalesced their influences into a sweaty, volatile stick of dynamite, injecting the recklessness of their infamous live act into the raw production techniques that pumped up tracks like “Skunk,” “Wail,” and “Fuck Shit Up” with red levels of hairy distortion. The album is a shotgun blast of the Stooges proto-punk, Muddy Waters slide guitar and rockabilly’s cruising road-ready weirdness, easily sounding as fresh as it did 14 years ago. Tracks after the jump. Continue reading

C-mon & Kypski @ Brillobox 7/14


C-Mon & Kypski don’t really play it straight (or safe for that matter).  These four Dutchman seem intent on jamming every possible dance/hip-hop/soul  influence they have ever come across into four minute bursts of insanely catchy, schizophrenic, beat boy symphonies.  With their latest release We Are Square, no two tracks sound the same, bouncing back and forth between Beck’s kitchen sink production approach of Mellow Gold and Odelay and a sort of DJ Shadow-taste-making, crate-digging dream world.  “More is Less” leans heavily on some fantastically placed soul  samples, but is propelled forward by the goofy Euro-tech beat, solid horn section and Abba-like sense of melody.

Along with Nobody Beats the Drum and Pittsburgh’s own electronic-freak smith  Summer Lungs, C-Mon & Kypski make a stop in their (presumably) first stop in Steel City tonight at the Brillobox. Video for More is Less and tracks after the jump. Continue reading

Neon Indian, Wild Nothing and Light Pollution @ Brillobox 6/12

If you really think about it, the chances of any concert in a smaller club (like the Brillobox with its 150-250 capacity)  featuring three bands of consequence on the same bill are undeniably slim.  And while I understand “bands of consequence” is a subjective term, I feel safe in stating my opinion that the show Opus One Productions lined up for the Brillobox this coming Saturday is packed, literally packed, with talent.

Neon Indian (a.k.a. Alan Palomo – primary torchbearer for the whole chillwave movement whether he likes it or not) brings his national tour through Pittsburgh for the first time in his young career supported by the two extremely promising up and coming bands: Wild Nothing and Light Pollution, both of which have released their debut full-lengths in the past two weeks.

It’s an intriguging lineup considering Palomo is inching his way toward the indie mainstream (which included a stint as Jimmy Fallon’s lapdog for a hot minute), Wild Nothing’s debut album Gemini was recently anointed “Best New Music” status by Pitchfork a week ago and Light Pollution’s Apparitions dropped this past Tuesday supported by their fever dream of a video for their track “Drunk Kids” that’s been making the rounds on the interwebs since Monday.  What I’m trying to say is this: the show has a ton of well deserved hype surrounding it, and with the potential to kill from start to finish, I doubt it will disappoint. Tracks after the jump. Continue reading

Mother Sun’s Upcoming Full-Length Out 6/22, Two New Tracks

I need to apologize first.  After featuring Mother Sun‘s self-titled EP on speed of the pittsburgh sound last summer, I stupidly left them off the Steel City’s Top 20 Tracks of 2009.  It was a mistake fueled by negligence and if I had a second chance to do 2009 over again, Mother Sun’s “Phantasmagoria” would land somewhere in the top 10. Regardless, I highly recommend picking up said EP on iTunes now, if only to witness the evolution of Pittsburgh music scene’s best kept secret as they prep themselves for a fairly eventful summer.

With the backing of recently launched Discos Un-herd-uf, a Pittsburgh-based label headed by none other than Andres Ortiz-Ferarri (a.k.a. Discuss, Young Frankenstein), Mother Sun are back with a full-length LP set to be released June 22nd followed by a national tour this fall.  With “Cold Train” and “Wonderful Feeling,” the first two cuts from the yet-to-be-titled album, Mother Sun have switched gears from the atmospheric, electronically tinted acoustic suites from the debut EP. Present is a new sound that entirely embraces robust waves of electronic noodling while concisely carrying harmonies of gorgeously symphonic pop songs. Tracks after the jump. Continue reading