A weekly round up of the best (and strangest) action on Bandcamp from artists in and around Pittsburgh.
The premier, self-titled release from Cowboy Relics is an album that should be looked at an example of what bands ought to do when releasing their initial tracks: get your songwriting down solid, stay in your comfort zone and don’t sweat the small stuff, just get the production right.
Cowboy Relics have a great sound built off a foundation of classic country, but from there they whip up some beautiful and simple compositions which share similarities with Fountains of Wayne, Ben Kweller and even Hank III. I will also always appreciate a band going for a country sound that don’t rely on lyrics about whiskey and dirt roads. Songwriter Mike Blackhurst captures the rural zeitgeist without pandering.
This album does have it’s faults. Blackhurst’s vocals don’t always hit the right key, though the LP is mastered in such a way that the missed notes seem authentic, or even nostalgic. There are points on “Cowboy Relics LP” where it seems like the group completely whiffed on the track order, as well, like there was almost no forethought put into the actual album composition.
Don’t let that detract you from a listen, though. Cowboy Relics threw out a great first pitch with their self-titled LP, and they may very well be a group that demands your attention in the near future.
Hot track: Without Warning
Arbitrary emoji rating: 3.5 out of 5 roosters
LAZYBLACKMAN – “RAWLAW LP”
LAZYBLACKMAN is the brainchild performance collaboration of Pittsburgh startups Lazy JP and MC Barz Blackman, and if you haven’t hitched onto this wagon yet then it’s time for you to hop the fuck on.
The duo’s first album is a powerful and dynamic hodgepodge of straight-up awesome samples supported by bars and tempered song construction that should satisfy the aesthetic preferences of even the most discerning critics. “RAWLAW LP” even seems to play off this “vapor wave” phenomenon, using hipster-darling tracks of the late 80s and 90s as the pillars of this album.
Of course, that occasionally comes with it’s pitfalls. LAZYBLACKMAN relies on the built in choruses of their sampled songs too much in this album. Everyone in the world knows the chorus of “Where is My Mind?” so why not play off of the listeners’ expectations?
Still, the “RAWLAW LP” is just a fun listen all of the way through, and on their very first try LAZYBLACKMAN seems to have tapped into whatever creative vein that indulges the universal desire to boogie and simultaneously remain absolutely pumped.
Hot track: death at the party
Arbitrary emoji rating: 4.5 out of 5 whales
What the fuck did I just listen to?
Bandcamp allows any artist to upload whatever they want to the site. Some artists take that idea and run with it. Here’s the weirdest thing from Pittsburgh on Bandcamp this week.
Under a Nightmare – “Streets Run Red”
Did you know that “Horror Punk” was a genre? It’s ok, neither did I. I mean, who would intentionally limit themselves to songwriting restricted by the banal constrictions of a style that has been on the decline since H.P. Lovecraft?
Yet, here we are. Pittsburgh’s punk trio Under a Nightmare don’t ascend to any greatness with their new album “Streets Run Red,” which apparently took SIX YEARS to construct. That’s a lot of time to polish mediocrity.
“Streets Run Red” is an exercise in futility, a testament to the fact that you should never try to constrain punk music to any style or theme. It’s not like this is a BAD album, but it isn’t necessarily GOOD either – it falls somewhere in between. Like, exactly in between. It is the most OK album I’ve ever listened to.
But here’s the thing, it is so goddamn milquetoast for an album geared towards shocking or amusing you that it leaves the taste of diet-Misfits coating the roof of your mouth.
Still, maybe hold on to this album until October. Under a Nightmare must absolutely KILL it in the fall.