By Melanie Stangl and Max Kovalchuk
Album cover by Tate Kirgiss, Ashleigh Powell, and Jordan Wetherbee
Photos by Tate Kirgiss
It’s no secret to locals that our music scene is packed with cool, talented artists. And with Vice’s recent in-depth article discussing the state of Pittsburgh rap, featuring local hip-hop dynamos Benji. and My Favorite Color, it seems like the rest of the country might be starting to take notice too.
The timing, then, is excellent for Pittsburgh artist Caleb Kopta to put out a brand-new song and music video. An alt-rock musician with prominent new wave influences, Kopta’s no rapper, but his upcoming single “Foreign Language” is just about as cool as it gets. The song will debut on all streaming and download platforms on Friday, May 17th, and both official and lyric videos for the track will drop on YouTube the same day.
If you’re a fan of The Killers, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Vacation Manor, Colony House, or any of their ilk, chances are you’ll dig Kopta’s sound. In “Foreign Language,” bright orchestral synths dance unabashedly alongside driving guitars. This bold, catchy outer layer is threaded with a pulsing bass undercurrent, and interspersed with a shimmering background of choral “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” that build and retreat. Kopta’s voice lies somewhere between a contemporary male pop vocal and a deeper indie rock sound. All these elements combine for a song with both punch and depth, reminiscent of a neon-lit city street at night or a triumphant drive down a desert highway into the sunset.
However, all isn’t as it sonically seems. Kopta has something else in common with Benji. and My Favorite Color—vulnerability as the new cool. Behind the anthemic choruses and soaring synths lie starkly exposed lyrics, such as “I don’t understand this madness/What have we become?” and “Why don’t you tell me what I’m doing wrong?” The confusion stems from trying to navigate a newly formed world—the digital world—that has its own dialect, culture, and acceptable norms, and hides itself around us in plain sight. Featuring lines like “When we talk, it’s between screens,” and “I saw you in a pixelated dream/Only you that I’ve ever seen,” Kopta addresses the unspoken addiction for attention, instant gratification, and lust for acceptance that leaves him—and many of us—struggling for genuine connection.
The single’s shiny, well-produced packaging, while enjoyable, is itself a commentary on this modern contradiction. How do you maintain the expected guise of perfection while also remaining sincere?
Kopta might not have the complete answer, but his willingness to talk about it is at least a partial one. When millions of shallow “connections” are available at the push of a button or a tap of a smartphone screen, choosing to be vulnerable and honest with them will resonate with those at the other end more deeply. It’s okay if it’s catchy—as long as it isn’t fake.
Safe to say that Kopta is the real deal. “Foreign Language” drops everywhere (including Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play, and more) on May 17th. If you like what you hear, Kopta will be opening for Blue of Colors at Black Forge Coffee House this Saturday, May 18th. He also has a show at Arsenal Bowl in Lawrenceville on Wednesday, June 19th. You can find his website here and his Facebook page here. Stream his previous release, “Kids,” below for an idea of what you can expect.