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

The-Voyager

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.

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:

Playlist: Summer @ Whiskey Kiss (vol. 1?)

Hello all! After painstaking negotiation with Spotify, Bandcamp, etc, I am finally ready to present this playlist I’ve made entitled, “Summer @ Whiskey Kiss.” Is it the first of many? Maybe!

I tried to stack this list with new/current music that will put you and keep you in the mood for summer fun. I threw in one summer standby that I’ve had ringing around in my head. Enjoy the YouTube playlist I’ve created, and let me know in the comments if you’d like me to share the Spotify playlist with you! I’ll be posting that on Facebook and Twitter shortly.

 

Tracklisting:
1.) The Way It Is – Denver (Denver, 2012)
2.) Unbelievers – Vampire Weekend (Modern Vampires of the City, 2013)
3.) Steady Rollin’ – Two Gallants (What the Toll Tells, 2006)
4.) Sand Talk – Akron/Family (Sub Verses, 2013)
5.) City – Thao & The Get Down Stay Down (We the Common, 2013)
6.) plamreader – Sonny & The Sunsets (Antenna To The Afterworld, 2013) [Note: This is the live at Pickathon version from KEXP. The album JUST came out, so I couldn’t find a video. The version here is really good, but be warned that the album version sounds a bit different!]
7.) Am I Wrong – Mikal Cronin (MCII, 2013)
8.) Dream Captain – Deerhunter (Monomania, 2013)
9.) Helicopter – Wooden Indian Burial Ground (Wooden Indian Burial Ground, 2012)
10.) In The Darkness – Foxygen (We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, 2012)
11.) Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster – Thee Oh Sees (Floating Coffin, 2013)
12.) Demon to Lean On – Wavves (Afraid of Heights, 2013)
13.) Where I Stand – The Thermals (Desperate Ground, 2013)
14.) Mayonnaise – The Woolen Men (The Woolen Men, 2013)
15.) It All Feels Right – Washed Out (Paracosm, 2013)
16.) Plastic Cup – Low (The Invisibile Way, 2013)

Coming up on Whiskey Kiss: This week, I want to review some albums that’ve just come out. Get ready for that and maybe a show calendar… oh, and some tips and tricks for being a music fan in the summer in Portland. Until then–cheers!

Denver & Blitzen Trapper: Nothing not to love

On Friday, the Doug Fir was jam-packed with whiskey-guzzling bumpkins and country-fried music fans. The occasion? Blitzen Trapper and Denver, of course!

Perhaps the closest picture of both bands playing simultaneously.

Perhaps the closest picture of both bands playing simultaneously.

I’ve been through a lot with Blitzen Trapper. In 2007 I journeyed to Seattle, Washington for the first time on a trip that would become a precursor to, well, this blog. I was 15 years old, and in love with everything new and hip, and anything having to do with music. It was on my then-new-favorite radio station KEXP that I first heard, “Sci-Fi Kid.” I flew back to Maryland, culled through the KEXP website, podcasts, etc. and finally found the track; found Blitzen Trapper.

It’s no shock that part of the reason I came to Portland in the first place was to be near bands like Blitzen Trapper. And so I’m a bit biased, but I think it would be hard to give Blitzen Trapper a poor review. In their 13 years as a band, their sound has changed, developed, and evolved into a grown-up version of what they were celebrating Friday–their first LP Blitzen Trapper.

One of my favorite records

One of my favorite records

BT is a gold mine of early-2000s experimental folk. It’s easy to listen to this record, reissued for Record Store Day this past April, and understand how Blitzen Trapper have become what they are today. There’s trippy long-form jams, tender songwriting, nonsensical weirdness, and a dose of banjo.

Friday’s show was a tribute to Blitzen Trapper’s journey as a band. Tight as ever, they played songs across their catalogue, including a personal favorite, “Texaco.” The band also debuted two new songs, “Heart Attack” and “Thirsty Man” which showcase Blitzen Trapper’s dedication to the sound they cultivated on 2011’s American Goldwing. The 70s-influenced, classic rock-infused sounds mesh well with the folk type persona the band has always held on to.

The new record is set to drop in September, and I am looking forward to ample opportunities to see Blitzen Trapper play around town.

Friday’s show was the first time I had the pleasure of seeing Denver live. The band’s held my interest in the year since releasing their self-titled album because they are the most country band I know of from Portland. My east coast ears appreciate this.

I really like Denver and think that their live show does great justice to their album. They’re getting ready to tour with James McMurtry, so check them out.

Feeling Misty Y’all

It’s been quite a year for Josh Tillman as Father John Misty. Last summer’s Fear Fun has seen wild success, and Tillman continues to wow audiences with his erratic on-stage antics. Saturday night at the Wonder Ballroom alongside Pure Bathing Culture was no exception.

Image Portland’s own Pure Bathing Culture have me buzzing with anticipation over their first full-length release Moon Tides. Though the band has been active since 2011, it seems like we’ve been waiting forever for a full-length release. The band’s been getting hype from many blogs and has released songs to both Gorilla vs. Bear and Blalock’s Indie Rock Playlist.

Saturday night’s mellow set was a mix of fan favorites like “Ivory Coast” and some new material, like “Pendulum.” The band moved effortlessly between songs, and held the audience’s attention throughout—and performed well enough to distract the audience from Father John Misty’s gaudy stage adornment.

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Father John Misty opened with “Fun Times in Babylon,” a staple of his set list. A huge, colorful backdrop of rainbows, mythical creatures, and what appears to be Tillman riding a horse enveloped the band in their own hyperbole. Many of Tillman’s lyrics directly contradict this idea of fantastic decoration—“Try not to think so much about the truly staggering amount/ of oil/ that it takes to make a record”—proving to the audience that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

This was my fourth time seeing Misty in action, and his performances continue to get more and more ridiculous. I find it charming, but I’m sure some don’t, especially those who do take his music seriously. Hearing the same album performed for the fourth time can get tedious, though, and I think that Tillman’s behavior at least breaks up the monotony a bit.

As per usual, Tillman danced chaotically, swinging his hips and waving his microphone stand in the air, enticing laughs and cheers from the audience. He made jokes—“Hey, where do I have to go in this town to find a vegan donut?”—and never missed a beat performing nearly all of Fear Fun. Antics aside, Tillman’s voice is one to be reckoned with. We don’t care what sorts of theatrics he does if he can hit those notes.

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Sassy

During the encore, the band performed two new songs. “We Met at the Store,” is a solo ballad about a man’s fateful trip to the grocery store that leads him to meet a woman who he intends to marry. The second, “I Love You, Honeybear” is a twisted love song, played with the whole band. Between the songs, Father John Misty performed the Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”

Though Father John Misty could perhaps dissolve into just another project for Tillman, the band has staying power. Two new songs and an obvious following bode well for Fear Fun fans. And if the narrative arch of Tillman’s musical career is any indication, things are only bound to get more exciting.