Bored In Pittsburgh’s favorite local tracks from the past year, arranged in no particular order. Remember to check out the handy user’s guide if you want to locate a specific track or artist, and that the option to tab between pages is hiding at the bottom below “related” and above “tagged.”
INEZ – Queen (ft. QueTheGuitarist)
The undisputed victory lap of INEZ’s Voicemails And Conversations is “Queen,” featuring Miami’s QueTheGuitarist. The song is a robo-funk jam built around INEZ’s absurdly catchy dun-dun-dundun vocal sample; the bassline follows the cadence of her voice, and emphatic stabs of guitar add both muscle and flair. INEZ, sounding like cyborg royalty, urges Black women and girls whose “names are too hard to pronounce” and whose “hips are too wide to fit in them clothes” to “straighten your backs” and “collect all your checks,” warning doubters, “we’re stepping on necks.” Que closes things out with a killer solo. “Queen” is an ecstatic, defiant empowerment-fest.
Ky Vöss – Convince Me
Darkwave artist Ky Vöss characterizes their music as “dream pop for the damned,” and “Convince Me” personifies that tag more than any other song. The track has a fast-twitch sense of energy, with an electronic beat that flits above a menacing bassline, and a deceptively catchy synth motif that sounds like the result of a child messing with the black keys on an old Casio. Despite the innocence of the music itself, Vöss, like an elfin prophet of doom, delivers lines like, “You could’ve held up a gun to my temple/I could’ve sworn we died,” in a distorted lilt. There’s real despair here, and “Convince Me” acts as both a dark fantasy and a sparkling nightmare.
Alvin Row – Homesickness
Alvin Row makes folk music for robots and organic critters of the far future. His May release, Vignettes, is accompanied by a drawing of squiggly, humanoid figures, a perfect characterization of Row’s sound: amorphous, liquid, surreal. “Homesickness” is led by a galloping drum machine and a looped piano flourish, both of which never waver over the course of the track’s six and a half minutes. On top of this canvas, Row bounces wordless vocal samples around like super balls and devotes a full two minutes to a bioluminescent synth solo that conjures images of a jellyfish wriggling through the deep. Hypnotic and a bit sad, “Homesickness” flies its freak-folk flag high.
Brightside – Just Like Dancing
Brightside’s September single, “Just Like Dancing,” is the best new wave anthem not recorded 35 years ago by four men with elaborately quaffed hair. Frontman Matt V channels some Happy Robert Smith energy into his vaguely British vocal performance, exuberantly yelping, “Uh uh, oh!” after each repetition of the titular phrase. Power pop guitars arc and crackle behind him like lightning, striking your brain and sending its pleasure centers into overdrive. There were few musical moments this year as purely sublime as the second this song’s chorus hits; enjoy the sugar rush.
Brittney Chantele – Hydrangea
“Hydrangea” is the track on which Brittney Chantele emerges as a capital-S Singer. She’s always been an adept rapper and infused her bars with melody, but you can tell that she’s been putting in work. The song’s bass-heavy instrumental is more amorphous than that of the more neo-soul-influenced tracks on A Fire On Venus, leaving room for Chantele to play around with the name of the titular flower, woozily stretching and breaking apart its syllables. A mewling guitar riff twists its way through the synth haze, providing a wordless counterpoint. Just like a Hydrangea changing from pink to blue, Chantele continues to morph as an artist.
Zaneta Grant – REMEMBER (who you used to be)
In August, globetrotting singer/songwriter Zaneta Grant stood on the shore of memory and exhaled the tropical, melancholy sigh that is “REMEMBER (who you used to be).” On the track, filigrees of acoustic guitar and a subdued-yet-forceful R&B rhythm buoy Grant’s husky vocals as she reflects on a past relationship, ending with the thought, “One day, you’re at the top of the world/The next, you’re falling down,” as the sound of the tide fades behind her. Relax with this song and allow yourself to settle into a hammock of heartbreak.