Crafted Sounds Releases Killer Compilation of Pittsburgh Artists
When Connor Murray was just 18, he launched a tape label out of his dorm room. Fast forward three years and Connor just celebrated two 21s: his 21st birthday and 21 releases on Crafted Sounds. Over the past few years, the label has been a staple of the Pittsburgh music scene, serving to unite a community of musicians and music lovers hungry for connection in an industry that often divides its own faction.
To celebrate the double twenty-ones that have made Crafted Sounds into what it is today, the label has just released a 21-track compilation, Bridges, featuring a genre-blending selection of Pittsburgh artists, from lo-fi electronica to edgy post-rock and everything in between. The best part? Proceeds of the release go to Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania.
“Ultimately, the goal for this release and the label is for artists to hit Pittsburgh on tour without thinking twice about it. I guess that starts with laying down a steel foundation on the local level. Projects like these are things that can unite artists and supporters of music alike,” Connor tells The Music Mermaid. “It can even inspire other cities of our scale and grittiness to take a similar approach if they'd like. Sure there are things that make music difficult here like anywhere else, but that is not going to stop people from creating and performing. The very least I can do is document Pittsburgh music the best I can and hope people here — and beyond — like it.”
This goal — to share local music far beyond the local scene — has always been Connor’s main mission with Crafted Sounds, and he’s accomplished it for three impressive years now. Bridges is a culmination of the label’s hard work, spotlighting tons of killer Pittsburgh acts that have a home in the Crafted Sounds community. That’s pretty special.
Bridges kicks off with a song sweet and short (with a long and loquacious title) — on “Prologue: Living In Places Like These Can Be Bad For Your Health (Can’t Live Here Anymore,” math-pop band Short Fictions spew an instrumentally robust, lyrically sour tale of moving on from the place you’ve called home. It’s funny, because it’s an ode to Pittsburgh, but it’s not exactly a good ode, a resounding theme on an album that supports the good in the scene and is honest about the bad. Following the compilation’s bittersweet beginning is “The Gates of Heaven,” a muddy, raging piece by noise-rock band The Lopez, clouded by the fog and fuzz of high-powered instrumentation. On “sleeptalker,” garage-rock group The Zells deliver a quick track stuck in the limbo between today’s energetic rock and old-school rhythms.
Later on in Bridges, grunge duo Hearken deliver the emotive “Fix Me.” It’s as heavy-hitting as most of the album has been so far, but it’s tender, a gorgeous track built on instrumental crescendos and vocal versatility — a clear standout on the comp. On “Cemetary,” we get more of that gut-punch emotion but toned down by indie band Same’s lowkey treatment of searing riffs, sparkling percussion, and vocals lost in the fog. One of the most dizzying moments on Bridges (in the best way!) is “Gargoyles” by experimental artist Swampwalk — the song travels through layers and levels of wholly unexpected sounds and tones. From glitching electronica to percussive slaps to dreamy chillwave elements and so much more, it’s a welcome cacophony.
The second half of Bridges finds things picking back up again with "Agent P,” a rollicking rock track by Bat Zuppel. From the get-go, the song wastes no time in bursting to life with rapid-fire garage-rock instrumentation, never faltering from its rugged energy. On the stunning “Moon Shots” by lo-fi outfit Merce Lemon, we get the sweetest heart-hurter on the whole compilation. It’s simple and refined, a fleeting echo, but it’s one of those gems that sneaks its way underneath your skin. Dream-pop band Flower Crown contribute “Liar’s Spring,” a hypnotic effort that combines lax vocal delivery, shimmery percussion, and swollen waves of soft jangle-pop. On “Intact,” post-hardcore group Shin Guard craft a mesmerizing journey through waves of tender, intense feeling. There’s so much to it — and while each element is highlighted on its own (a raw pounding on drums; an aching verse sung), they merge for a soundscape so special and so stirring. 21 tracks later, Bridges ends with “Running,” a wistful acoustic-led composition that trails out like magic by experimental folk project Alvin Row. Detached from the fire and frenzy of the rest of the album, it’s a soft comedown that concludes Crafted Sounds’ compilation.
With Bridges, Crafted Sounds builds a sweet stage for Pittsburgh talent to stand on. It’s an admirable project that has allowed 21 brilliant local artists to share their stories and skills with the Pittsburgh scene and beyond, successfully touching music lovers all over who, if they hadn’t been before, must now be absolutely convinced of the level of genius that resides — quietly, humbly — in the Steel City.