Yearly Yinz 2019: Songs (Part One)

sneeze awfull – learning how to cry

Sneeze awfull’s self-titled September release is full of opaque popmusique concrete collages, none more jarring than “learning how to cry,” which features the CMU-educated folk singer Mara Yaffee. This track may well be sneeze awfull’s own esoteric take on dubstep. There’s a build of sorts (Yaffee’s vocals sampled and chopped overtop a glitchy string lament ), a snippet of dialogue (hyperactive Skrillexian catchphrase replaced, of course, by an extended monologue about emotional intimacy), a gunshot, and, finally, the “drop” itself, which sounds like a fight between a malfunctioning drum machine and an unoiled door hinge. Add in some uncontrollable weeping and a gloomy synthpop coda, and you’ve got some excitingly weird shit.


Lindsay Dragan – Radiant Light

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a lighter-waving, slow-burning country ballad. Lindsay Dragan’s “Radiant Light” is both personal and universal, localized and placeless; she sings of love and yearning with a poetic specificity, then moves on to descriptions of a “broken down city” haunted by the ghosts of barons (hello Carnegie and Frick) before finally setting off through “The forests/The mountains/The desert at night.” A song that feels like an old friend, even upon first listen, it absolutely smolders with emotion. Plus, it’s got a killer, windswept guitar solo. Get those Bics in the air.


A’leighsha – #MCM

When I listen to South Hills R&B artist A’leighsha’s “#MCM,” I’m reminded of Lil Uzi Vert’s show-stealing feature on Playboi Carti’s 2018 track, “Shoota.” While there are few thematic similarities between the two, both artists make expert use of vocal melody and cadence to fill in blanks left by minimalist instrumentals, reinventing their flows midsong to help the listener understand the beats in new ways. Listen to the one-minute mark in “#MCM,” where A’leighsha sings the phrase, “And I almost drowned”; the barely perceptible pause before the word “drowned,” both disrupts her previous rhythmic pattern and transitions effortlessly into the next one. A small detail, but it’s the mark of an artist completely immersed.


Barlow – Heather

Barlow’s music feels removed from place and time, the sound coming through as if obstructed by earplugs, as gauzy as anything you’d consider “rock music.” Ethan Oliva’s lyrics on “Heather” mirror this dissociative state; he sings, “One day I’m free/One day I sleep,” like a man cloistered away from life, while guitars cascade and roar around him. Wrap yourself in this sonic blanket and hide from the world.


Short Fictions – Really Like You

Short Fictions’s “Really Like You” is as Midwest as fried butter, cow tipping, cornfields, and big blocks of cheese. It’s so Midwest, in fact, that when the single came out in October, it grabbed the entire city of Pittsburgh and moved it about 700 miles closer to the Pacific. The song’s wild emotional vacillations, glockenspiel twinkles, and hairpin turn guitar chords situate the listener right on the front lawn of 704 W High St, Urbana, IL. The emo phase will never die.  


Shay Park – Birthday Song

Twee-popper Shay Park, like many of us, cried on the day she was born. She’s a Pisces, though, so she now celebrates each circumnavigation of the sun with a weepfest. “Birthday Song” is a surftastic ode to being sad on the one day you’re supposed to be happy. Park attributes her tears to “What you said/Or what you didn’t say,” but admits, resignedly, “It’s not your fault/Think I was born this way.” The song’s sunny guitar riffs and sugary synth adornments belie the sadsack nature of its lyrics. Eat some cake and bawl your eyes out.


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