Majeure – Sundog Blues
“Sundog Blues” is what would happen if Vangelis took a trip to the Mississippi Delta and set up his synthesizers at the Crossroads. In September, Majeure’s AE Paterra channeled his widescreen brand of 80’s nostalgia through the blues greats of old to create this lumbering, swampy colossus of a track. It’s as if Helios himself, guarding the gates of the sun, decided to boogie down on an immense Roland, the sound waves stretching and slowing for reasons our mortal minds will never comprehend. Bask in the majesty of the sun god, er, sun dog.
Akono Miles – Night Is Young
“Night Is Young” is Akono Miles’s bridge between April’s Halogen and October’s Room Temperature. The opening track on the latter album, it captures the underwater, Stones Throw-indebted wobble of Miles’ first release, but zaps the sound with a jolt of electro energy and spices itself up with a chopped, earwormy soul sample. The song doesn’t go full-on house music like some of the tracks that follow on Room Temperature do, but lingers right in the sweet spot as a midtempo floor-filler rather than a head-nodding hip-hop instrumental. The night can stay young forever with this one.
Cold Mass – Grinding Poverty
Cold Mass, Pittsburgh’s resident street-doomers, delivered an absolutely crushing blow when they released the behemoth that is “Grinding Poverty” in July. Clocking in at eight-and-a-half minutes, the track contains misanthropic guitar sludge, atmospheric interludes, pendulous drum n’ bass grooves, and gruff shouts. Most importantly, it’s catchy as hell, and actually kinda danceable, like Every Time I Die slowed to half speed. Get crusty and get angry at late stage capitalism’s wage stagnation and wealth disparities while you headbang and sway around the room.
Jacquea Mae – He’ll Welcome Me
I don’t consider myself a religious person, but Jacquea Mae’s “He’ll Welcome Me” had me feeling the holy spirit. The handclap-driven, a cappella gospel track sees Mae looking toward the great beyond and expressing her certainty that Jesus will be there to meet her; her voice booms outward with otherworldly fervor. You can almost imagine that the cover photo for Mae’s album, Life On Hold, was taken during the recording of this song; she’s captured with eyes closed, head down, hands placed together mid-clap, swept up in the rapture of faith and music.
Joyframe – Not Anyone Else’s Fool
Joyframe kicked off their first album in four years with the eruption that is “Not Anyone Else’s Fool.” Like the grunge greats of yore, the group keeps the rock n’ roll stew at a brooding simmer until the chorus hits, and then overturns the pot with a deafening wall of pop that annihilates everything in sight. You rarely hear guitars with this much volume or force outside of metal or pure noise music. Bassist/vocalist Courtney Plumley stands astride this lava flow in defiance; the track climaxes when she shouts, “I am born new/I am not born again!” Be cleansed in the fiery guitar chords of creation.
Ramon Yancey x Shamar – Haunting
The Allegheny and the Monongahela united in November under the flag of Ramon Yancey and Shamar’s “Haunting.” The two rappers do linguistic karate all over an instrumental whose drums slam like a prison gate, describing and decrying a rigged financial system, structural racism, and the effects of gentrification on display all around Pittsburgh. Ramon delivers his X-Acto knife bars with a white-knuckled twang, while Shamar plays the role of the gruff street orator, the gymnastic and the conversational in perfect contrast. Both men mourn, “I think I’m viewed as a suspect constantly/Even in uniform, my skin tone haunting me”; the level of grim detail included in “Haunting” makes it scarier than any ghost story.
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