Pat Kearns, So Long City (Self-Released)
[SO LOW] For his solo debut, born-and-bred Portlander Pat Kearns offers up what seems to be an album-length lamentation of a forgone hometown. But on closer inspection, it's actually a low-key love letter to the unspectacular elements of a middle-aged man's life. Although Kearns is most associated with his power-pop act Blue Skies for Black Hearts, So Long City takes a subtler sonic approach that pays homage to familiar comfort. The undistorted steel-string acoustic guitars and wheeze of harmonica melodies on the title track don't sound as funereal as the lyrics might imply, but it's this light-hearted approach at misfortune that makes So Long City so inviting. "Hit the Highway" coaxes an improvised road trip in an effort to create a worthwhile memory, coolly set to midtempo strums that never aim for anything bigger than the steady, casual range they started in. "Sweet Lorraine" takes a bluesier approach at sporting a previously outspoken black heart on a well-displayed sleeve and utilizes the same Southern barroom soundboard to reveal what's perhaps the most album's sincere turn. It's presumably why Kearns chose to release this unpretentious batch of songs under his own name. He's not posing or aiming for anything unrealistic on So Long City, but rather showcasing both sides of what's earned after your zenith is in the rearview—dexterous skill and constant trepidation.
SEE IT: Pat Kearns plays Turn Turn Turn, 8 NE Killingsworth St., with Rambush and Maia Dooney, on Thursday, Nov. 10. 9 pm. Call venue for ticket prices. 21+.