Gavin Castleton

(five one inc.)

As goth as: Emily the Strange after a tough break-up.

Gothest line: "I take with me the only things I've learned/ Loves leave, fighters lose, all things burn."

When recent Portland transplant Gavin Castleton had his heart broken, he did all the things that heartbroken people do: He sobbed, he screamed and then he wrote a zombie rock opera with alternate endings. The resulting album, Home, is a bright electro-pop love story that falls into horror movie chaos at the fifth track. Castleton's tone changes as well, which is fitting to the plot but a bit aesthetically disappointing. He sounds more at home in the doo-wop-style guitar strums of "Coffeelocks" than he does half-rapping on "Unparallel Rabbits." But that just speaks to the inherent challenge of trying to make a zombie rock opera (especially one meant as a metaphor for a crumbling relationship) sound convincing: The plot often seems like a hurdle for Castleton to conquer rather than a checkpoint to cross. Still, his talents for arranging and mood-setting impress even after the conceit starts to bore. Which means that if you're really into zombies, you'll have two reasons to listen! CASEY JARMAN.

Cool Nutz The Miracle
(Jus Family Records)

As goth as: Blacula when he's off the sauce.

Gothest line: "He talked to niggas make you shit your britches/ We talk the lingo body bags and stitches/ I call shenanigans, fairy tale goons/ sweep the series and break out the brooms."

Sure, maybe Cool Nutz wasn't talking about witches' brooms in the above lyric, but he can do horror rap. He can also do love songs, party jams and true-crime stories—all of which get a turn on The Miracle ("The Miracle" being Nutz's second newest nickname after "Young Obama"). The album finds Nutz reaching out to some of the Rose City's finest young stars, like rap battle champ Illmaculate and Hi Rollerz Records' Mikey Vegaz, while still collaborating with old friends like Bosko and Kenny Mack. Which makes The Miracle feel like a sort of yearbook for Portland hip-hop. It's hard to complain when tracks like "The Long Road" and "Violate" keep our speakers rattling. From what we've heard, though, it's the forthcoming Young Obama that Nutz is calling his masterstroke. The Miracle may not be goth, but it's a nice segue between the excellent King Cool Nutz and the fire to come. CASEY JARMAN.

Lake Oh, the Places We'll Go
(K Records)

As goth as: Johnny Depp at a petting zoo.

Gothest line: " Can't see the light between my eyes/ Just like the fog that bridges heaven and earth/ How stealthily joy creeps in/ When it's surrounded by destruction."

OK, Lake is more cute than goth. In fact, Lake is just the cutest. All the signifiers are here: boy-girl harmonies, singalong lyrics, a penchant for '90s rap that seeps through the group's music in curious little ways. Even Lake's look—nerdy thrift-store junkies meet Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—is something indie-rockers in Silver Lake spend big bucks trying to replicate.

Cute may be a commodity these days, but even the most dedicated imposters can't fake the funk, something Lake has in spades. On Oh, the Places We'll Go, hushed vocal harmonies from Ashley Erickson and Eli Moore soar against Lake's understated but relentless afro-pop percussion and the James Brown-on-ludes horn section. Funky stuff, but not goth at all. CASEY JARMAN.

Adrian H and the Wounds Adrian H and the Wounds

As goth as: Boris Karloff, Tim Burton and Bram Stoker playing in a Magic: The Gathering tourney.

Gothest line: "On his knees crawls in the confessor/ He has a sin to tell/ His hands are stained with murder/ His soul is up for sale."

As soon as Portland's Adrian H. strikes the first piano key on Adrian H and the Wounds' self-titled debut, you know what you're getting yourself into. Haunting pianos played in 3/4 time create a waltzlike sound that could very well be mistaken for the soundtrack of an old-school horror flick. Adrian's voice sounds like Tom Waits with a Transylvanian accent and his lyrics read like horror stories. As I listened, I couldn't help but think of Jason Segel's Dracula rock opera in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The album is piano-driven, with the faint sounds of bass and drums humming morosely in the background. And it's a concept album—the concept being an overwhelming sense of loneliness, confusion and eeriness that would make Bram Stoker (or Jason Segel) proud. KATRINA NATTRESS.


Lake plays Rotture with Hornet Leg and Wallpaper Thursday, Jan. 29. Cool Nutz plays Roseland with Three 6 Mafia Friday, Jan. 30. Gavin Castleton plays the Doug Fir with Alan Singley Thursday, Jan. 29. Adrian H and the Wounds play Lola's Room Saturday, Feb. 7.