Various Artists – XO For The Holidays Vol. VIII

As I was listening to the songs on this compilation of bands connected to Portland-based XO Publicity, I had a thought, or rather a question, and it is this: "exactly what makes a Christmas song/track/single different from any other kind of song?". It might seem obvious, but listening to the tracks on the XO compilation - all of which are quite … [Read more...]

From Ashes Rise – Rejoice The End/Rage Of Sanity 7″

Shrouded by the hardcore and emo surge in the early 2000’s, the crust punk scene remained vague and undiscovered to much of the “common household” ears. Hinged by philosophies of anarchy and DIY punk mentalities, the crust punk scene is known for being “gritty”, “dirty” and “political” - in almost every sense of these words - by encompassing … [Read more...]

AU – Both Lights

Portland’s AU is a study in juxtaposition. Over the course of two LPs, songwriter Luke Wyland and percussionist Dana Valatka have earned more than their fair share of Animal Collective comparisons by churning out genuinely freakish experimental folk music, but there’s also a preoccupation with Terry Riley-inspired minimalism that counteracts the … [Read more...]

Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing

You know how the music of classical composer Aaron Copland is indelibly linked to panoramic imagery of American life in the 20th century? I can’t help but sense a similar sort of jingoist pride when I listen to Portland’s Blitzen Trapper. Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not setting out to argue that songs like “Wild Mountain Nation” or … [Read more...]

Ravishers – “I’m Him”

With "I'm Him", Ravishers give us a cool, calm intro to their new self-tiled album. Hailing from Portland, OR, this group surprises the listener. The cover shows a woman presumably at a party, laughing mid-drink so we're to assume this is the next dance floor craze. This track is a gentle, low end tale of going unnoticed, if you think anything less … [Read more...]

Little Beirut – “Last Light”

With "Last Light", Little Beirut are able to capture the sweetness of Fire Theft and blend it with the off-time masterpiece "Wordless Chorus" by My Morning Jacket. Little Beirut round it out and bring in a fresh and new rock element. The packaging alone makes you wonder what this four piece (three on Fear Of Heaven) is all about - it's as clean and … [Read more...]

Casey Neill & The Norway Rats – Goodbye To The Rank And File

Casey Neill's bio makes for an interesting read. Starting with his agit-punk outfit Riffraff in the mid 90s, he's carved out an international reputation as a songwriter and musician, one whose abilities have seen him gaining kudos across the folk, rock and roots scenes with name checks coming in from such luminaries as Jello Biafra and Steve Earle. … [Read more...]

Nick Jaina – A Bird in the Opera House

Finding the right words to describe Nick Jaina's latest album, A Bird in the Opera House, has proved troublesome because I find myself in awe of the quiet beauty these songs exude. Each stab at the keyboard feels not good enough, surely not representative, and lacking in any amount of justice such a collection deserves. You don't want to overflow … [Read more...]

Southerly – Champion Of The Noisy Negativists EP

Portland-based musician Krist Krueger loves trying new things – and succeeding at it.  Something of a one-man musical monopoly, he not only performs on stage but is also a professional recording engineer, record label manager, and runs a booking agency.  Far from beleaguered by a mind that refuses to rest, Krueger instead uses this to his … [Read more...]

Experimental Dental School – Forest Field

After years of relentless struggling, it seems that Experimental Dental School has successfully figured out how to work something which has eluded many since the beginning of time. This, of course, being child safety locks on pharmaceuticals. The resulting drugged-out terror that they’ve released features a multitude of static, guitar squealing … [Read more...]