A weekly round up of the best (and strangest) action on Bandcamp from artists in and around Pittsburgh.
“MORE THAN A FRIEND, LESS THAN A LOVER”
“Indie folk” duo Summer Underground have wrapped up their namesake season with a piano-laden and thickly harmonic full length release “More Than a Friend, Less Than a Lover”. Before we get too far into the review, let me take a second to point something out here: there is nothing “folk” about Summer Underground. This is an indie band. Not folk. The songs aren’t deconstructed, there are no songs about a friend dying in prison and, as far as I know, they weren’t taught to play their instruments by a blind child in the Carolinas. This is not folk. Got it?
What “More Than a Friend” is falls somewhere between the Lilith Fair singer-songwriter wave of the 90s and the indie revitalization of the 20-oughts. This album is dripping with sincerity and each note, movement and bridge contained within every song is carefully plotted out, painted onto the final product with a fine-tipped brush. Chrissy Sandman and Grant Carey both sing with feathered timbre, lavishly accentuating the soft, pillowy soundscape they’ve built throughout the album.
But that’s kind of the problem. “More Than a Friend” simply has too much goddamn piano, which may read like a personal problem (because it is). There are a few songs that surprise you with where they end up, but for the most part these are compositions you can figure out within the 30 seconds of listening. Summer Underground unfortunately seemed to have settled on a lot of these tracks, which is a shame because they absolutely nail it on the songs that veer from the traditional route.
Hot track: Lost in Your Love
Arbitrary emoji rating: 3 out of 5 money with wings
“CONFRONT THE LIVING”
Ahead of Pittsburgh’s Skullfest 8, Pittsburgh post-punk troupe Empty Beings has released a six-track album filled with the balance and restraint that any good post-punk album requires.
All of the instrument tones are identified and leveled out perfectly within “Confront the Living,” a lesson that all of Pittsburgh’s punk bands should take notice to. You can still be crusty and shitty at your core, but for fuck’s sake, do it with great instrumentation. The guitars are scratchy when they want to be, the bass is full and tinny and the drums were plucked straight from 1980s Manchester.
Empty Beings’ frontwoman does leave a little to be desired with her vocals, but they don’t detract from the album as a whole, and even though the vocals don’t seem to have the same teeth as the rest of the band, they can be appreciated for their restraint.
There are parts of “Confront the Living” that excite me in the same way that I get excited when I hear the opening notes of Die Kreuzen’s “October File”. It’s the assurance that you’re about to be transported into a world of anger and chaos, but at the same time this album isn’t as violent and insane as it seems to have the potential for. Again, though, this is a good breakout release from a Pittsburgh punk band, and those can be hard to come across.
Catch Empty Beings at this year’s Skullfest upstairs at Brillobox on Friday, August 15 at 10 p.m.
Hot track: Blameless
Arbitrary emoji rating: 3.5 out of 5 carp streamers
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.
NO GOOD DEED
“STEP TO THIS”
I’m not going to beat around this bushes with this album: this is garbage music. “Step to This” by Pittsburgh’s No Good Deed is the sort of tough guy hardcore that has driven anyone over 25 away from one of the coolest genres in music, and it makes sense. Sixteen-year-old kids can afford to have their teeth knocked out by some yolked douchebag who’s SERIOUSLY JACKED, BRO by the breakdown. I don’t have that luxury, though.
“Step to This” is crafted with all of the worst elements that a hardcore album could possibly have. So many things are horribly wrong that it is almost actually impressive. I listened to the whole fucking thing and I thought I was getting PUNK’D. The vocals are shit, the guitar is so distorted that it’s actually quiet, the bass tone is boring and the kick drums are fucking triggered. Jesus Christ. You’ve heard this hardcore a billion times before and, unfortunately, you’re going to hear it as long as men playing hardcore have insecurity issues. Are there breakdowns? Yes, in every goddamn song. Sometimes twice!
And the lyrics, fuck me, the lyrics. Let’s take a look:
Step to this or you can step aside
The choice is life or death and you better decide
If you wanna talk your shit but it won’t slide
Call your boys or go run and hide
Just so these guys know – yes, I’m talking shit on this album. It blows my mind that adults wrote this monumental piece of shit. This is the type of hardcore Ray Lewis works out to. “Step to This” is the Axe body spray of punk music. You should only listen to this album if you are about to put down a bunch of dogs at the SPCA so you can tell yourself, “compared to that, killing a bunch of dogs isn’t so bad.”
Hot track: First to Fall