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Summer 2014, collected

It seems that summer has been full of new releases, and teasers for fall albums. Over the past few months, there’s been a lot to sink your teeth into. I’ve collected some of my favorite songs of summer onto a Spotify playlist that I will continue to update as I prepare to travel this week! On it you will find…

“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj: Nicki’s booty-shaking song is rich with empowerment, humor, and all-around goodness. It’s an anthem for thick girls, man-eaters, and powerful ladies akin to Lady Gaga’s G.U.Y…. but better. Since it’s release, this song has become a staple in my routine–getting ready for the party, heading to the party, at the party, after the party, etc. And don’t forgo the video.

“Eyes of the Muse” by King Tuff: Following the release of his self titled album in 2012, I was a die-hard King Tuff fan, and I’m pleased with the first of two singles he’s released from his upcoming. The weirdo garage rock guru melds shimmering guitar, angst-ridden lyrics, and danceable melodies so seemlessly. It’s a summer jam for sure, and a song that’ll keep you warm through the beginning of fall.

“Bad Timing” by Pony Village: I’ve had the pleasure of catching Pony Village twice this summer. I’m a huge fan of their early-Death Cab-esque sound and all around stage presence. Up until recently, I never took the time to listen to their recordings–definitely worth sharing, and a local band to keep your eyes on.

“Avant Gardener” by Courtney Barnett: Courtney’s performance was a stand out to me at Pickathon. She is completely herself and completely rock n’ roll. Since first seeing her at the festival, I’ve listened to  The Double Ep: A Sea of Split Peas maybe 100 times. “Avant Gardner” is a ballad about breaking the mundane with dire consequences. Barnett delivers dark subject matter with humor and apathy… it’s perfect in its relatability.

“Raspberry Seed” by PHOX: PHOX released one of my favorite albums of summer. Each song is a beautiful, well crafted, and often-heartbreaking tribute to loves lost and what is left. “Raspberry Seed” is a long track that I feel really encompasses the mood of the album. The cutting lyrics, honestly, and tenderness of it all is woozy but crisp.

“Brooklyn Baby” by Lana Del Rey: No summer playlist is complete without indulging in a guilty pleasure. But honestly, Del Rey’s album Ultraviolent doesn’t make me feel that guilty. It’s solid. “Brooklyn Baby” is a breather from the heavier, heart-wrecking, gut-wrenching stuff on the album. Del Rey lifts her head from the Sad Girl puddle and delivers an ironic pop song about, what else, annoying people that live in Brooklyn. I love the song–thank god for artists who can poke fun at themselves.

Plus a ton more! And more to come!

Check out the playlist on Spotify:

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Musicfest NW 2014: The good, the bad, and the ugly

For the four years that I’ve lived in Portland, I’ve attended Musicfest NW. It’s always been a long weekend of thought-out adventure and time management that culminates in too little sleep, ear ringing, and general euphoria of seeing dozens of bands across town in venues as small as Bunk Bar to big blow outs in Pioneer Square.

This year, things were different.

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MFNW

This weekend in PDX: MFNW, if you must

I’ve been throwing shade at this year’s incarnation of MFNW for many reasons (“American Apparel stage” alone is making me gag). But why should I be a grumpy? Portland is truly blessed to have such an established and rowdy fest, and even stuck in one place without the cut-throat at-capacity competition, MFNW is bound to be unforgettable. Here are a few shows that I wouldn’t miss:

Modern Kin (Sunday, 2:20, American Apparel Stage)
Portland’s prodigal front man Drew Grow has put his all into every project he’s been a part of. It seems this city is finally throwing him a bone with his latest, Modern Kin. The band, made up of Grow, Kris Doty, and Jeremiah Hayden, have undeniable energy and are band that just seem to click. Their self-titled album is strong. Produced by Janet Weiss, it’s a force of electric guitar, stand up bass, and haunting lyrics.

Run The Jewels (Saturday, 6:25, Moda stage)
If you haven’t taken the time to appreciate this honest, no-holds-barred hip-hop duo, now is the time. El-P and Killer Mike deliver beats and lyrics that will stop you in your tracks but, at the same time, make you want to dance. It’s abrasive, it’s heavy at times, but it’s fun, and it’s real.

Tune-Yards (Sunday, 6:25, Moda stage)
Tune-Yards’ weirdo pop makes waves across musical circles for its innovation. 2011’s Whokill was a a revelation; an intoxicating take on drum loops, synth, and lyricism. Merril Garbus returned this past year with the much-anticipated follow up Nikki Nack, which doesn’t miss a beat. I’m sure Tune-Yards performance will be a stand-out at MFNW. If not only for the energy, for the spectacle.

Haim (Sunday, 7:25, American Apparel stage)
The premiere album “Days Are Gone” from this group of LA sisters was the earworm of 2013. But beyond their Urban Outfitters appeal and Normal Girl aesthetic, this group of women is seriously talented, and seriously loved (for good reason). Even if you aren’t a fan of their take on pop music, it’s hard to deny their spirit, energy, and depth of sound. Perhaps one of the buzziest bands to play at MFNW this year, or at least one of the “big names” amidst quirkier headliners, Haim is sure to pack a punch.

Honorable mentions: I have every confidence that Girl Talk will deliver the most fun out of all MFNW performances. You’d be a fool to miss Spoon, the critically acclaimed, tenured group who just released a new album. And, if you want to cry, don’t miss The Antlers. You might also consider RSVPing now to the slew of Red Bull Sound Select shows throwing down some local love this weekend (cheap!), and make your way to the Doc Martens store tonight for some Pain.

While MFNW might be different, and making changes is scary, the fest will fall into step and carve out a new place for itself in the Portland scene. Don’t let your bitterness outweigh your willingness to experience something new.

 

summer albums

Albums for the end of summer

It’s August, and I feel like summer only just started. Joke’s on me because it’s almost over, and I’ll be spending the tail-end of Portland summer back home in Washington, D.C. But, until the rain sets in and I once again have to wonder why only ONE of my jackets has a hood, here are two gorgeous albums to usher out your summer.

Adult Diversion: The magic of Alvvays

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“Alvvays” isn’t an album, it’s a feeling. It’s the taste of late summer; the drying of sweat after magic hour; the windows rolled down, the radio turned loud. The premiere album from the Canadian group by the same name was one of my most anticipated albums of the summer–and I’m beyond pleased with their 9-track debut. “Alvvays” is a shimmering, innocent ode to Summer. Songs about parties, love, getting in trouble, getting married, and sailing on the Atlantic flow together to create something that feels timeless. Stream this sucker on Spotify or purchase on their website.

Alvvays is playing the Doug Fir on December 1.

 

It’s a new you everyday: Jenny Lewis’ timeless heartache & musings on womanhood

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There are few things written about womanhood that capture the pressures, insecurities, trials, and triumphs of being a woman. For almost two decades, and within the scope of three different musical projects, Jenny Lewis has done just that—and hammers it home on her new record “Voyager.”

In its exploration of motherhood, cheating, drugs, life on the road, heartbreak, and family, “Voyager” is a declaration of adult womanhood. It’s a document of mistakes, memories, and the things that give life meaning.

Lewis’s unique brand of narrative songwriting is infectious. Each song is a three-to-five minute glimpse into the life of a woman at a different point in her life or a relationship.

“Voyager” has gotten a lot of attention, thanks to the video for “Just One of the Guys” which features Anne Hathaway and Kristin Stewart. I love that track dearly, and I think it encompasses Lewis’s style almost flawlessly–presenting things that are pretty hard or heavy to think about in a way that is relatable, easy, and mind-numbingly catchy. My favorite tracks are: “Slippery Slopes,” a romantic ode to cheating, “Aloha & The Three Johns,” a song about entering middle age and a bad vacation, and “The Voyager,” a cosmic meditation on life itself.

Jenny Lewis is a role model for female musicians everywhere. Not only is she one of the most successful, but she’s entirely honest. To get a feel for her life and process, check out this moving NYT Magazine piece, which I was poised to hate but revisit frequently.

I could say A LOT more about this album, and maybe I will in time. For now, listen for yourself and tell me what you think.

Jenny Lewis is playing with Beck at Edgefield on August 21.

Pickathon

Long Live Pickathon

After nearly four years of living in Portland, I finally bit the bullet and overdrew my bank account to attend Pickathon. The weekend-long festival showcases indie and roots musicians from Portland and far beyond, plus a buttload of craft beer, food carts, and a commitment to sustainability.

Before heading out to Happy Valley on Friday, my anxiety about camping alone, feeding myself (all I brought was four bananas and a bag of Kroger spice drops), and making the most out of the event as possible was high. But three hours into my Pickathon—tent set up, stainless steel Kleen Kanteen cup purchased—I sat, watching Jolie Holland, sure that coming to this festival was the best decision I’ve made all year.

Fests for me are as much about discovery as they are about appreciating bands you’ve already come to love. Here are my picks for best shows of the weekend, the biggest misses, and my favorite discoveries:

My favorites

Dirrahea Planet

Diarrhea Planet (Friday, Galaxy Barn and Saturday, Woods Stage): The six piece band from Nashville, Tennessee was one of my must-sees of the weekend, and they did not disappoint. Their show at Galaxy Barn was a sweaty, bruise-inducing mess in the best way possible. Even with four guitars Diarrhea Planet is tight—and as you might expect, unrelenting. I wasn’t planning to see them twice but I couldn’t pass them up. Their second show at Woods Stage had the same great energy, but felt a bit more laid back. Maybe it was all the twelve-year-olds.

Angel Olsen (Saturday, Lucky Barn and Sunday, Woods Stage): Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness is a haunting record that I’ve listened to regularly since it came out a few months back. Her voice is absolutely mesmerizing on record and her live show made no concession. Both performances were humble and stunning. Sunday’s show at Woods Stage was packed, and many musicians lingered backstage to take it in. Though she’d never admit it, Angel’s set herself up for a quick and lasting climb.

Warpaint (Sunday, Woods Stage): I’ve had a slow start with Warpaint. Some days, their album is great to me and others I’m a bit bored. Their performance, however, made me more than a fairweather fan. The four talented women share stage time, alternate who takes the lead, and present themselves so honestly. The final song of the set, “Baby,” was flawless.

Biggest misses

Foxygen (Friday, Galaxy Barn): A big draw to the fest for me was Foxygen, whose album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic was one of my favorites of 2013. The group’s live show left a lot to be desired. They hardly played any of the big songs off of 21st Century and overall the performance seemed over the top yet lackluster. The energy was all over the place—one of the backup singers was so much more enthusiastic than all the others; the sound wasn’t great; overall I was left disappointed.

Shakey Graves (Friday, Fir Meadows and Sunday, Woods Stage): I got into Shakey Graves just before I left for Pickathon and was particularly excited by his performances at last year’s festival. And he’s a good performer—he’s talented, his songs are catchy, and everyone loves him, but I was bored. His first set had me hooked, but by the time I saw him again on Sunday, I realized that all of his songs rely on the same Johnny Cash rhythm, and though playing drums with your feet while also playing guitar is impressive on a surface level, it gets old fast. I’ll still check out his new album in October, but I won’t have to see him live again.

New discoveries

Destroyer (Friday, Woods Stage and Treeline Stage): I’ve been well aware of Destroyer for some time, but never invested that much in him (I’ve always just been a diehard New Porn fan). But Dan Bejar’s performances Friday were spectacular, shimmering, intimate, and unique. I’ll have his stuff on repeat until further notice.

EDJ (Friday, Treeline Stage): When Fruit Bats played their last show ever this past fall, I didn’t feel terribly sad—because I knew that frontman Eric D. Johnson would go on to create projects just as exciting. EDJ is his debut, and a strong one at that. If you haven’t already, listen to “For The Boy Who Moved Away.”

Parquet Courts (Sunday, Woods Stage): I knew absolutely zero about Parquet Courts going into Pickathon. Now I know that they are energetic, loud, and fabulous.

Courtney Barnett (Sunday, Fir Meadows): Australian-based DIY rocker Courtney Barnett took the cake Sunday afternoon with her high-energy main stage performance. Unapologetic, straight-up, finely-tuned grit.

Lessons learned

I learned a whole bunch about music this weekend. And if there’s one thing I’m taking with me it’s that I should never miss a Pickathon again. A weekend of partying with music lovers in Portland’s backyard? Why did it take me so long to come around? I’ll see you next year, Pickathon! I just hope someone will come with me.

A Weekend in the Life of PDX Pop Now!

Any music fan in Portland knows about PDX Pop Now! It is the vicarious dream of a music festival where everything is free, everything is all ages, and everything sounds amazing. A cluster of local bands that span genres come together, and it’s so exciting. This weekend’s PDX Pop Now! festival was the first time I’ve truly devoted my weekend to the whole shebang, and I figured I should document that in some way.

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Full disclosure: I was tweeting and instagramming for Rip City Review, and I was a PPN! volunteer.

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Give Up: A Retrospective

When I was thirteen or fourteen, I remember visiting Strawberry Fields on a trip to New York. I had not yet reached the point in my life where I was desperately obsessed with The Catcher in the Rye, and I have never much cared for The Beatles beyond listening with my Dad in the car. All I knew was that John Lennon was shot, and there was a lyric in a song I loved that went,

Last week I had the strangest dream
Where everything was exactly as it seemed
Where there was never any mystery
Of who shot John F. Kennedy

The song is “Sleeping In” by The Postal Service, from their iconic album Give Up.

I may have been a young, careless kid in my post-Avril Lavigne phase, but I loved this album. I played it to fall asleep. I listened to it walking home from school. Beyond Transatlanticism, which was the first album I ever purchased digitally, it is the first record that made me feel things that I couldn’t understand, but that I so strongly identified with.

In the ten years since Give Up’s release and the seven or eight years since I had it on heavy rotation, I have grown in many ways: my music collection has grown exponentially; my taste has expanded infinitely; and my wardrobe is no longer composed of solely band t-shirts and angst-y accessories. But I still feel similar things about Give Up that I always have.

At the time of it’s release, Give Up was important, and it stood apart. In a post-90s power-pop and emo world, I think that Give Up was a breath of fresh air. It did something different. It was a palette cleanser. These days, I don’t think The Postal Service would survive brand new. That just goes to show how influential Give Up was.

Tonight I’m seeing The Postal Service perform at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland. Though I am not as excited as I might have been when I was thirteen or fourteen, I am looking forward to cementing these feelings at long last, and giving my thirteen-year-old self some sort of closure to this singular, hanging album that meant so much to me.

Besides “Sleeping In” my favorite song on the record is probably “Brand New Colony”:

And just for good measure, a song about my hometown: