Harlan Twins ride on 'Old Familiar'
• "These are the days when the wind blows our way," Carrie Battle sings on the opening track of The Harlan Twins' second album.
They sure seem to be blowing favorably on this Pittsburgh-based Americana band, which combines her girlish Appalachian-style vocals with the more ragged soul style of James Hart in a manner that suggests an indie-rock answer to the Band.
They formed this self-described "yinzer pastoral" band in 2007 and released a debut album in 2009. The Harlan Twins now return with a compelling and very natural-sounding nine-song follow-up, fittingly titled "Old Familiar," that ranges from the catchy folk of "Mama Jo" to the psychedelic jam "Easy Lines."
"I think it's a more focused record in a lot of ways," Mr. Hart says. "The song structures are a little less rambling on this than some of the longer tunes on the self-titled album. I think we were really excited about playing with sounds and textures on the last one, maybe because we recorded that batch of songs closer to their inception, whereas a lot of the songs on 'Old Familiar' have had pretty established arrangements for a while now. Also, I think that I personally have become more confident about writing a song and presenting it as such, rather than writing a couple of thoughts down and swathing it in interesting sounds and runs and filigree."
The band's lead singer-songwriters duet beautifully on the weepy ballad "It Helps," while sometimes going off on their stylistically divergent trips. Somehow, it all works under the Harlan umbrella.
"I just think that rock bands are supposed to be synthesizing organisms; if you get songwriters together who share significant influences and interests -- as Carrie and I do -- and give them good, intuitive players who share those same interests and instincts, as we have had, I think it's harder to not create a unified sound through the presence of a number of individual voices. It's crowd-sourcing at a creative level," Mr. Hart says. "Every once in a while you have to reel in someone's urge to be shreddy or go wild on an understated tune or be too musically challenging purely for the sake of the challenge, but for the most part everyone in a good band knows what they're supposed to sound like even when that sound is in a state of flux."
The vinyl/download-card release show is at 10 p.m. Friday at Belvedere's, 4016 Butler St., Lawrenceville, with Delicious Pastries and Outsideinside. Cover is $5.
Weird Paul's Lo-Fi 25
• Some of the songs on Weird Paul's 36-track "25 Lo-Fi Years" (Thick Syrup Records) sound like a kid goofing around in his bedroom -- because that's essentially what they are. Tracks like "(I Stole a) Bunsen Burner" and "My Father's Toe" are the kind of songs that an oddball teen with too much time (and no TV) might dream up and quickly throw away. The local rock legend kept them all, just like he keeps track of every movie he's ever seen, using a primitive tape recording method.
Backing himself on guitar or toy keyboard, he sings about stuff like having to take a glaucoma test, running out of toilet paper, his cat eating moths and dropping a piece of meat in his Tang. Then there are more serious subjects like the vaguely threatening "Please Don't Break My Atari," which sounds like Devo from half a block away. Want breakup songs? Weird Paul tackles those conflicting emotions with "I Feel Like I'm Gonna Cry, But I Feel Kinda Happy."
Part of the fun is hearing Mr. Petroskey gradually go more hi-fi when he got a four-track recorder and then switched to GarageBand, leading up to recent faves like the hip-hop parody "Wine Coolers" and New Wave rockers "I Dropped My Almond Joy Bar" and "I Got Drunk at Chuck E. Cheese."
The new additions, with Half Japanese's Jad Fair -- including "You Smell (Like a Stale B Vitamin)" and "Throwing Balls at a Chicken on a Chair" -- assure us that Weird Paul is as delightfully weird as a middle-age man-child in 2012 as he was as a 16-year-old in 1987.
The Weird Paul Rock Band performs a CD release show at The Shop, 4314 Main St., Bloomfield, at 8 p.m. Saturday with Allies and Lopez. Cover is $6.
Wiz tour, album delay
• Wiz Khalifa's second major-label album, "O.N.I.F.C," originally scheduled for Sept. 18, has been pushed back to "coming soon" status. A representative from the Atlantic Records said yesterday that the Pittsburgh rapper "is still in the recording process."
Khalifa also announced the "2050 Tour," which will kick off Oct. 12 at the Bryce Jordan Center, State College, and run through Dec. 6 in Fairfax, Va. There is no Pittsburgh date at the moment.
Khalifa will be a presenter at the MTV Video Music Awards tonight, which has been pushed forward to 8 p.m., and will end by 10 p.m., to allow for people to watch President Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention.
First Published September 6, 2012 4:00 AM