Best of 2012 / Pittsburgh Songs (Ricky’s Picks)

Words by Ricky

Pittsburgh goddamn rules. OK, so maybe our sports teams didn’t bring it in 2012–but remember we had that mild winter last year—that was awesome, AND to add, the music scene provided some needed sunshine to the cloudy city too (despite (what felt like) every band and their mother breaking up). So without further ado, here’s my list of favorite locally-brewed songs written/performed/recorded/etc by Pittsburgh folks…OK, maybe a little “ado” before we get to the list.

Narrowing this down to ten songs was a pain in the ass (there were just so many quality tunes), but it certainly reaffirmed my faith in local music. Thanks for making this list difficult to assemble, everyone! I mean it. Hell I was so indecisive that I couldn’t number these in order, so here’s where bands that begin with the letter “A” win out. Starting with “A,” here are my faves…enjoy!


Adventures / “Reach Out to You”

Those who solely feed their local music appetite by hanging at bars are missing out. I urge you, visit some DIY venues or house shows this year! Take my advice and you’ll encounter Adventures soon enough. With some members also helming both hardcore outfit Code Orange Kids and the tranquil Lilith, it’s no surprise that this project of theirs is soooooo damn tuneful and catchy. “Reach Out to You” dabbles in emo-heavy screams and playfully pop guitars, and is a flawless closer to their surprisingly mature 7”.

Adventures / Reach Out to You


Big Snow Big Thaw / “Ice Age”

The best banjo-pluckin’ tune of last year, “Ice Age,” should’ve made full rotation on WYEP and college radio (who knows, maybe it did…I doubt it). This trio combines sweeping acoustic chords, rhythmic banjo, and actual inventive drumming (there’s also some solid bass grooves on this song, but I don’t know who played those). The singing is a pretty run-of-the-mill folksy wasp, but it’s good…ooooh, and how about those harmonies near the end? Beautiful, eh? They’re one of best folk bands in the area that both you and your parents will probably appreciate.

Big Snow Big Thaw / Ice Age


The Gotobeds / “New York Swagger”
I love The Gotobeds because they sound like a merging of a lot of my favorite bands. I’m thinkin’ Wire, Wipers, some random old Flying Nun Records artists, and The Fall (next time I run into these dudes, I must ask if song title “LUST—AA” is a Mark E Smith joke). Their song “New York Swagger,” named appropriately after the…errr…”store” in Bloomfield, is a perfect messy splurge of post-punk goodness. Buy their EP…it’s available on tape and it rules.


Harlan Twins / “Sailor’s Life”
Not only are the Harlan Twins not twins, but they’re also not sailors. LIARS. I hope that Old Familiar, an album of driving acoustic tunes, healthy guitar solos, and dark balladry brought the band the acclaim deserved. Even with subtle lineup changes usually plaguing the band, they still sound better than ever and never disappoint in tearing things up live.
Harlan Twins / Sailor’s Life


Hot Garbage / “Please”
Why the hell did most of my favorite Pittsburgh bands break up in 2012? Don’t tell me everyone grew up and got “adult jobs,” because I know that isn’t true. I especially grieved over Hot Garbage’s demise…a colossal bummer. My two favorite HG songs didn’t make the tracklist of 2012’s posthumous Eight Shades of Beige, so I’ll talk about “Please,” another fantastic song, instead. The song combines the swag of Galaxie 500 and Red House Painters with some extra washes of distortion snuck in, and though I’ll never hear it again live, I’ll cherish the memories of their drunken stage demeanor forever! (Cue the tears, dammit.)
Hot Garbage / Please


Legs Like Tree Trunks / “Parked Cars”
I THINK this is my favorite track of theirs—until I listen to their EP again and choose a different one, which happens every time I play the album. Pittsburgh’s most-twinkly math rockers cut this EP last year, and upon its release, secured a spot as one of Pittsburgh’s best bands (at least in my mind. Maybe they’ll appear in a Rick Sebak documentary or something that’ll help confirm that status).


Relationships / “High Fives Ruin Lives/BAMF”
Possibly Pittsburgh’s hardest working band. Amongst lineup changes, they still released two strong EPs and played and booked a buttload of shows (both local and out-of-town) in 2012. Out of their duo of releases, the grisly, sweat-drenching Get Busy Livin’ or Get Busy Cryin’ twitched my ears with more excitement (but both were good!). I spotted some online photos of them recording some new tracks (not stalking, I swear), so let’s expect a new EP any day now. (UPDATE: APPARENTLY A NEW SPLIT EP WAS RELEASED A WEEK OR SO AGO…FUCKERS BEAT ME TO IT.)


Skinless Boneless / “Pizza Bar”
The mere thought of a 2012 Pittsburgh music list without the inclusion of the eclectic, short-attention-spanners Skinless Boneless sorta made me sick to my stomach. In fact I almost vomited thinking about it. Vomited. All over my laptop. In the middle of this coffee shop. Disgusting, right? So to not waste my dinner or my dignity, I included a demo version of one of their best songs. Their set at Kopec’s last Fall was probably my favorite local performance of last year. They say they’re broken up, but I’d rather not believe them.
Skinless Boneless / Pizza Bar


Sleep Experiments / “Nervous”
The trio’s gorgeous vocals and folksy yet spacey guitars upgraded to ensemble-level with a small choir, some strings, and a rhythm section at their album release show. Not only that, but the band members created their own magical space on the 3rd floor of the Elks Lodge (I’d ‘LOL’ at calling the Elks Lodge “magical,” but I’ve been to Banjo Nights so I can attest to the magic), proving that atmosphere at a show really does matter. I could’ve chosen any song off their album, but “Nervous” perhaps tugged at the ole’ heartstrings the most.
Sleep Experiments / Nervous


World’s Scariest Police Chases / “Theiner Threat”
2012 also celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Lock & Key Collective, a local punk label run by WSPC’s lead singer Dan Rock. The year also saw the release of the band’s full-length album. Here’s an anthem by the guys that pays appropriate tribute to Pittsburgh most-notorious concert promoter.
World’s Scariest Police Chases / Theiner Threat

Now because I’m so indecisive, here’s my list of 10 other local favorites of the year equally deserving of attention:

Crooked Teeth / “Wake Up”
The Karl Hendricks Trio / “The Men’s Room at the Airport”
Microwaves / “Flu Factory”
The Ceiling Stares / “The Day the Volcano Screamed Death”
Run Forever “Sun Bruised”
The Lopez / “Black Mold”
Carousel / “Tears of Stone”
Gangwish / “Tried and Troubadour”
Slices / “Still Cruising/Trying to Make a Living”
Brightside “Breaking Out is Hard to Do”

I’m sure I missed a few (I’m only human), so feel free to add some more locally solid jams below!


5 Responses to “Best of 2012 / Pittsburgh Songs (Ricky’s Picks)”

  1. Nice list! I will share this. THANKS.

  2. Great stuff, Ricky. Pittsburgh does the damn thing.

  3. Thanks, Ricky! These are all great, and I haven’t heard a lot of them

    I (selfishly) wanted to add a couple of things for any readers who make it on down here. One of my favorite bands this year was White Like Fire, and their best song is called “Desperate”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z53pEMWeWHA
    Power-Pop isn’t cool right now, but these guys get it right. They make me think of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, .38 Special, Van Halen, all the goofy stuff I liked as a 7 year-old.

    Pittsburgh’s folk-punk scene is also excellent– I think it goes hand-in-hand with the punk, emo-revival, and roots-revival scenes in pittsburgh. cbend, Unraveler, Homeless Gospel Choir, etc.. Some of my favorite shows this year were acoustic shows featuring solo performers. Fast chords, clever/angry/confessional lyrics, good stuff. One of my favorite songs this year was “American Frank” by The Ghostwrite, a song about how awesome pets are:
    http://theghostwrite.bandcamp.com/track/american-frank

    There’s also an excellent compilation of this type of music (all local) here, released in december:
    http://coolshoes.bandcamp.com/album/winter-acoustic-compilation
    (full discolure– I have a song on the mix)

  4. Cool, thanks for the suggestions, Harrison!

  5. Thanks, Harrison! Yeah, watching folks at shows sing along to Unraveler or HGC is always awesome. Good points.

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