Deej – 1129
Even when the eccentric rapper/singer tones things down for a dark night of the soul, she makes time for subtly sticky hooks, little snippets of melody that, when paired with a certain drum kick or hi-hat flutter, imprint themselves indelibly on your auditory cortex.
feeble little horse – Termites
The rookie noise-pop group spruced up their sound on their second release of the year, adding bassist/vocalist Lydia Slocum to the mix and elevating bummerdom to dizzying heights. Here, an inexplicable Pierre Bourne tag introduces a vacuum cleaner-core burner that references vomiting, bugs, and ego death. Wallowing never sounded so anthemic.
RITUAL MASS – DESCENT/SEPULCHER
RITUAL MASS puts everything in caps, a fitting stylistic choice for a band that uses religious imagery to add a bombastic, fire-and-brimstone edge to their brand of death metal. “DESCENT” roils and snakes, the Hail Mary and the Fourteenth Station are recited, and then “SEPULCHER” goes full demonic.
Big Blitz – Squirrel Hill
An alto sax and a baritone sax, backed by a disco beat, wield harmonized hooks and dizzying runs in an acrobatic duel that, at times, calls back to the galumphing cadence of classic oompah music.
Anti-Corn League – Caroline No Revisited
Far from a cover of the Beach Boys lullaby, this one is a slide guitar-assisted bummer ballad that uses classic rock references to evoke the sensation of a dream fading away. Is it about Brian Wilson? Neil Young? The Anti-Corn League squad? Probably all of the above, and everyone else adrift on life’s choppy seas.
lys scott – the flightline of a butterfly
Much like the titular winged insect, this oddball hip-hop track flits around haphazardly, running through pitched-up mantras, British-accented boasts, and globetrotting bars that involve kawaii shit and nag champa; you know, just an average lys scott day.
The Mixus Brothers – The High Lonesome
“The High Lonesome” is a phrase coined way back when to describe the primal, unearthly sound of Appalachian bluegrass music. Two dudes from Pittsburgh managed to tap into this mystical vein over the course of three connected albums. The series’ capstone track wanders blearily among ancient gods and mountain meadows, following its muse to Americana nirvana.
Sierra Sellers – Need You Bad
Hey, Calvin Harris! You dropped a mellow Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1. demo! Wait, you say that isn’t your track? It belongs to the always dope Sierra Sellers? Well, pardon me for thinking that the lush, tropical flutes, gliding guitars, and slo-mo funk rhythm section would have fit in alongside “Slide.” All kidding aside, Sellers user her smooth, sighing vocals to make the sound her own.
Death Instinct – Candy Hearts
Funny that one of the year’s warmest tracks was created by a chilly post-punk band whose whispered lyrics are barely audible above echoing guitar and ringlets of synth. “Candy Hearts” sees winter depression evaporate with the coming of spring: “And I can’t remember anymore/All the sorrowful days melt away.”
IT IT – Do Evaporate
A Pittsburgh experimental supergroup reunites. Glassy synths divebomb each other, backed by a dexterous drum workout. Samples of the human voice are used, crayon-like, to doodle nonsensical squiggles onto the sonic canvas. Pat Coyle’s aching falsetto highlights a smooth coda. What the fuck is going on?