Yearly Yinz 2020: Songs

Here it is; Bored In Pittsburgh’s favorite local tracks from the past year, arranged in no particular order. You can check out this handy user’s guide if you want to locate a specific track or artist.

The option to move between pages is hiding at the bottom (below “related posts” and above “tags,” I believe).


Good Sport – Overrated

What’s better than a digital power ballad that features melancholy vocals, celestial keyboards, B-B-B-BONFIYAH ad-libs, the Daft Punk robot voice, long monologues about card tricks, and drums that would make Marky Mark proud? Not many things, it turns out. Ryan Hizer’s sublimely downcast dancefloor anthem is anything but “Overrated.”


Glam Hand – Dylan

In January, the glum hummers of Glam Hand told the tale of Dinosaur Dylan, a lonely, prehistoric fellow who “lives and dies in the dark” and “dances until he drops.” Gently jangling guitar chords and barbershop quartet “doo-doo-wop”s soundtrack Dylan’s forlorn dance, rocking him back and forth in a kind of slacker lullaby. Hopefully Dylan is doing alright today.   


Sierra Sellers – The Feeling

The Funk. A concept elaborated upon throughout musical history, referenced by everyone from Parliament to Old Greg, Daft Punk to Kendrick. Immaterial, difficult to place, but undeniable once it enters your bloodstream. “The Feeling,” a slinky slow jam from March’s Ophelia EP, sees the smooth-as-can-be Sierra Sellers urge a significant other, “Don’t fight the funk/Don’t fight the feeling.” The effect is irresistible. After all, if you’re given the funk, you’ve gotta take it.


Portrait People – Hallow

The Pittsburgh-area Earthwalk Collective produced yet another great work with Portrait People’s October album, Hallow. More unabashedly emo than String Machine’s weirdo folk or Lem’s sparse slacker scribbles, Nic Temple’s outfit also owes a debt to the heeeeyyyrr genre. The album’s title track simmers, broods, questions, and then explodes. 


Leila Rhodes – Princples

Guitarist and producer Leila Rhodes conveyed the joy of pure creation with “Princples,” the highlight from her October debut, Attunement. Backed by her signature blend of swirling synth production, blues guitar, and cavernous reverb, Rhodes sings, “Get your pen and create/Draw from scratch/Everything don’t got to match all the time/You don’t have to make it rhyme,” encouraging artistically minded listeners to give it a go with what they’ve got, perfection be damned.


Rave AMI – Nausea Ad Nauseum

To kick off the year, Pittsburgh staple Rave Ami took a brief detour from the garage to the chamber with “Nausea Ad Nauseum,” which traded the band’s signature grit for baroque elegance. Lush and rickety at the same time, like an old wooden love seat with an especially soft cushion, the song scrapes the clouds with a staccato accordion-type-instrument, bubbling bass, and regal strings. The spirit of the still-living Brian Wilson must have visited the recording session, because the Pet Sound is real.


Deej – Top Boy

Take the most infectious jump rope chant you’ve ever heard, then turn it into a summer hip-hop anthem, and you’ve got Deej’s “Top Boy.” Using her most flirtatious sing-song cadence, the singer/rapper runs through elastic flows and earwormy hooks while pursuing the object of her affection. She’s not so phased by romance, though, that she doesn’t find time for a boast: “You ain’t gotta give me nothing/I got my own hundreds.” A true force to be reckoned with.


Watererer – Toweringly Ambitious Array

Watererer’s February debut, To Finding Out, took a jagged, kitchen-sink approach to indie rock, stuffing guitar music full of clattering percussion, free jazz accents, and extended instrumental passages. “Toweringly Ambitious Array,” which could be a Rhythm Of The Saints outtake, finds the sublime in the chaotic, David Bernabo’s impressionistic lyrics conveying a sense of pure bliss as gurgling guitar and bass rush behind him like water through a stream, on into an unclassifiable coda.


Merce Lemon – Those Eyes

Merce Lemon, a master of insular, sepia-toned balladry, gave us a satisfying dose of Little Bedroom On The Prairie pop with “Those Eyes,” the lead single from August’s excellent Moonth. Like Soccer Mommy by way of the Spongebob “Seaweed” theme, the rustic waltz ambles in like a tumbleweed blown by a gentle, dusty breeze, lingering long enough to stare into some peepers that contain a “powerful stare with a drop of despair,” enveloping the ears for a few minutes while remaining ever elusive.


Vacancy – Jasmine

Dustin Stuppy creates meditative electronic compositions under the name Vacancy. “Jasmine”, from April’s The End Is Also The Beginning, plays out like a three part suite recorded in an empty train station at midnight. What begins as a flowing post-rock duet between piano and drums morphs into a ghostly ballroom waltz before being shrunk down to a twinkling music box motif and blossoming outward again. It’s like Erik Satie meets Mogwai or something!


Nello and Lang – Lost In It

Northsiders Nello and Lang approached 2020 with one overarching theme: Never. Stop. Recording. It seemed like these dudes released something new every week, so it’s no wonder that the two teamed up for July’s Lost In It collaboration. The title track, a muted, shimmying torch ballad that mourns the looming end of a relationship, is the perfect opportunity for the artists to demonstrate the somber tunefulness that permeates their solo work, the collaboration elevating each to new heights.



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