Introducing NEXTpittsburgh‘s Sound Picks, a monthly music guide to the city’s can’t-miss concerts. Sound Picks strives to highlight Pittsburgh’s most compelling upcoming shows, featuring bands of all genres, both local and national.
Looking for something new? Scroll to the bottom to find some Deep Cuts, a short list of picks for those feeling a bit more adventurous.
Get down(tempo) with RJD2
Most everyone will remember that it was Moby who closed out last year’s Thrival Festival. But who can recall which DJ capped off the inaugural Thrival, in 2013? That would be Ramble Jon Krohn, better known by his stage name, RJD2.
RJD2 first hit the public consciousness in 2002 with the release of his first album, Deadringer, one of the finest instrumental hip-hop albums to ever come along. The artist splices up vocals from one track, pairs it with the drumbeat from another and bass or guitar groove from a third, the result being an almost cinematic soundscape that bears little resemblance to the source material. Ever since his debut, he’s put out a cavalcade of well-regarded albums, singles and remixes, and his track “A Beautiful Mine” even became the theme song for Mad Men. But don’t be mistaken: this isn’t just a man pushing buttons on a laptop. Expect RJD2 to work the decks with wax in hand, the mark of a true turntablist.
RJD2, with Chrome Sparks (dj set), Headphone Activist Feb. 20, 8 PM at Mr. Smalls, $20.
Swoon over The Twilight Sad’s Connery-level brogue
There’s been a lot of speculation online recently as to why certain pop stars, especially from the UK, seem to sound American when they sing. Adele could be from London, Ohio, the theory goes, given the way she belts out “Rollin’ in the Deep.”
This is definitely not the case for The Twilight Sad. The Glasgow quartet is distinguished by My Bloody Valentine-level guitar swells, but especially by lead singer James Graham’s heavy Scottish accent. The band, which broke internationally around the same time as fellow Scots Mogwai and Frightened Rabbit, are currently touring in support of their fourth full-length album, Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. The album, voted as the best of 2014 by some in the UK music press, sees the band dial down their sonic assault just a bit, leaving space for Joy Division-style gloom to seep through.
The Twilight Sad, with Port St. Willow: Feb. 27, 10 PM at Brillobox; $12.
Re-Live one of the great ’90s alternative rock albums
Which is the more quintessentially ’90s remark: Rolling Stone comparing your band’s new album to Soundgarden and Nirvana, or Beavis and Butthead calling you a “buttmunch.” Both of these things happened to Ed Kowalczyk of Live, after his band released Throwing Copper, in 1994. The album went platinum eight times over, spawned hit singles “I Alone” and “Lightning Crashes,” and landed the band an evening on Saturday Night Live.
Today, Kowalczyk, who Rolling Stone once compared to Michael Stipe, is out on his own. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of his former band’s best and most popular release, he is performing the album live, in its entirety, unplugged. There’s precedent for this: in their heyday, Kowalczyk and the rest of Live played a set on MTV’s Unplugged. Talk about something quintessentially 90s.
Consummate your love of local pop with Mariage Blanc and three new local bands
Can’t get enough local indie-pop? Did the Donora album release show make you hungry for more? Enter Mariage Blanc. Around the time of their self-titled debut album in 2010, the band was profiled in Paste’s recurring “Best of What’s Next” feature. Yet aside from a one-off gig at Brillobox last summer, Mariage Blanc hadn’t played a proper local show since April, 2012. Finally they’re back and with a new album, too, the band’s first new music since a five-song EP in early 2013. In anticipation of the album’s April release, the Huffington Post premiered the band’s new single, “Blue Eyes,” comparing it to the music of the late-60s Laurel Canyon scene in LA (The Byrds, CSN, The Doors).
Joining Mariage Blanc will be a handful of newer local bands. How new? The four ladies of Dream Phone, which includes Carrie Battle of The Harlan Twins on drums, are the only ones that even have a Facebook page. They played their first gig in October and recently appeared at Bloom-Fest. Ricky Moslen & Friends played at Bloom-Fest too, while Mantiques (featuring Jesse Ley of Delicious Pastries) played at Wigle Whiskey during the Strip District Music Fest, in addition to a “Psychedelic Harvest Party” with Andre Costello and the Cool Minors at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern in November.