Yearly Yinz 2019: Songs (Part One)

FTR Drama – 4 5 Babies

The late Jimmy Wopo credited FTR Drama as his mentor in a 2017 Fader interview; the dude has been around forever, and April’s “4 5 Babies” is one of his best tracks yet. Sometimes, an instrumental will bring something out in a rapper and allow them to ascend to a higher plane; Slick laflare’s somber, piano-led beat has that effect here, allowing Drama to enter a melodic and rhythmic pocket in which he remains, effortlessly, for four minutes. His melancholy flow makes boasts sound like laments, and laments sound like Greek tragedies. This one has the hypnotic grip of the best Sad Future tracks.


Schwarzschild – Winter

There is almost no information available about Schwarzschild, an ambient artist presumably named after the notable German astronomer. “Winter,” the closing track from November’s Saturnian Dawn, sounds like the music that would be played in a diner at the outer reaches of the Milky Way. Degraded, detuned jazz piano and muted trumpet swirl lazily, flickering like a fluorescent alien light bulb. Could be a Caretaker outtake, for all we know. It’s beautiful and more than a little creepy; enjoy your greasy spoon scrambled eggs with a side of cosmic anxiety.


Yorel Tifsim – Georgeaikens

George Aiken’s restaurants, named after a born-and-raised Yinzer, used to be a Pittsburgh staple, serving up chicken and other comfort foods before the final location closed in 2012. Yorel Tifsim’s “Georgeaikens” serves up a hip-hop a feast for the senses. Backed by a twinkly, muted crawl of an instrumental, Tifsim sets the scene, his velvet voice pitched waaay down: “With enchantment/She sat down and sang the song in Spanish/She’s belly dancing/We did not plan this/The gas was rolled like fancy napkins at a banquet…” It’s the most sensuous track on an in incredibly tactile album.   


The Zells – Ballon d’Or

On “Ballon d’Or,” the lads from the Zells (fka Denzell) express a wish to be like Luka Modric, a supremely talented midfielder who plays for the Spanish football/soccer club Real Madrid. They yearn for life to be more like a sporting event, contained inside a pitch and limited to a preordained duration, with one clear goal to move toward. The track has all your classic garage elements: off-key vocals, shaggy drums, and gritty guitar chords. Most importantly, it’s got a killer chorus, an anthemic refrain so aspirational that you’ll forget all about the Zells’ “slacker” label. 


wwoman – Chuchi

G smee’s wwoman fashioned the neon-lit daydream “Chuchi” in a North Side apartment and unleashed the song’s deadly earworms upon an unsuspecting public. The track’s central synth riff bears more than a passing resemblance to the mandolin from R.E.Ms “Losing My Religion,” but wwoman replaces that song’s anxious jangle with electrified cool. Their swooning vocals recall the late-2000’s chillwave heyday, plunging the listener into a glowing, synesthetic rabbit hole. You will bust several moves.


Bonnie and the Mere Mortals – 309

“Country” and “shoegaze” are two words not usually associated with one another. And yet, with “309,” Bonnie and the Mere Mortals give the good ol’ Woman Leaves Underwhelming Man yarn the Flying Saucer Attack makeover, drenching classic, Appalachian-fried acoustic fingerpicking and soulful, twanging vocals in sheets of dissonant guitar drone and introducing some industrial grade drums into the mix. Bonnie herself sounds both sorrowful and empowered; she wishes she could keep giving herself to a snoozefest husband, but, as she tells him, “It’s been years since you had something real to say,” so she hops a train and leaves. A true southern gothic breakup ballad.


Continue to Part 2 —––>


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