Flower Crown – Bender Szn (Live in Church)
“Bender Szn,” a standout track by Flower Crown, Pittsburgh’s resident dream-poppers, sounds plenty good in-studio. The song’s full, entrancing power was unlocked in October, however, when the band recorded a live version in an empty South Hills church. The album track’s guitar pings expand here to become full-fledged cathedral bell chimes that ring out through the pews and rafters. Frontman Richie Colosimo delivers a blissed-out sermon about long days and chased pills, reminding himself, “Don’t come unhinged.” The sacred and the profane become one among tendrils of guitar that echo to the heavens.
Andrew Muse – Funker
The cover of Andrew Muse’s July release, Smoker’s Row, shows the artist clad in high-heeled yellow rain boots and staring down the camera, a speech bubble bearing his own name protruding from his crotchal area. That just about sums up the ethos of album highlight “Funker,” an eccentric, explicit, unabashedly queer slice of skeletal sweat-funk complete with orchestral keyboard flourishes, swampy guitar licks, and disjointed vocal interjections. Descriptions of male genitalia abound. As the track climaxes in a flood of screeching synthesizers, Muse laughs mischievously, reveling in the glorious smut that he’s created.
Thousandzz of Beez – fall out//call out
Thousandzz’s of Beez’s H. Colt Paulson made some of the most unsettling music of the year, and “fall out//call out” finds him at his most bizarrely enticing. While a soggy synth plunks in circular patterns like a stone rattling its way down a well, Paulson invites us to come with him to a landfill and stand atop an island of trash. Synthetic crickets buzz and chirp. A child’s voice falters its way through a book passage. Nocturnal gloom gathers as faint piano chords ripple outward. The synth pattern returns, accompanied by snatches of distorted screaming. There’s so much silence in between these sounds that the song could score a surrealist film, one about childhood, but not meant for children.
Weather T.V. – Mr. Lawrence
E. Wong crafts “synthetic songs for naïve human consumers” as The Kowloon Corporation, Elton Wong, and Weather T.V. “Mr. Lawrence,” from Weather T.V.’s THEMES VOL. II (released on the fantastically weird Pittsburgh label Autumn Sounds), brings to mind music from fourth grade health class videos, local TV stations, and hours spent on hold. Paradoxically bland and evocative, as the best vaporwave tends to be, it burrows into your subconscious and sends you back to the days of cartoons and fruit snacks.
Century III – White Knife
With September’s Here Today, Century III celebrated the end of the Woodstock Summer’s 50th anniversary in sufficiently psychedelic fashion. “White Knife” gets its strength from Carrie Battle, Sarah Ellis, and Lauren DeLorenze’s glorious, extended three-part harmonies, which float upward like puffs of smoke toward a high paisley ceiling. In the same way that bands like La Luz and Shannon and the Clams have done, the women of Century III use the sounds of California surf music as a jumping-off point, in this case, taking the style in swampy, noisy directions. Rather than a balmy Pacific sunset, this one is a crusty Allegheny moonrise.
Liil SEA – Chosen $
Liil Sea (aka Shorty Shayla) follows in the spiritual footsteps of Lil Yachty, the poster child for daffy, vaguely aquatic-themed wordsmiths with split personalities that alternate between outsider raps and exuberantly sung passages overtop nursery rhyme beats. On the February single, “Chosen $,” Liil SEA skips lunch and steals your girl, barely suppressing a giggle as she brags about guacamole, Captain Crunch, and Post-It notes on cars. “I’m dope as fuck and I know it!” she proclaims in an unmistakable Pittsburgh accent. She’s our Yachty, but with actual bars.
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