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August 26th, 2009 WW MUSIC STAFF | Music Stories
 

CD Reviews: Alan Singley & Pants Machine, Leviethan

     
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Alan Singley & Pants Machine Feelin’ Citrus


(Bladen County Records)

[WOWEE ZOWEE] Alan Singley is a uniter, not a divider. More than maybe any musician in Portland, Singley’s giddy, enthusiastic compositions and upbeat vibe seep into his songs—so much so, in fact, that even the sadder numbers still feel bright and happy. Feelin’ Citrus, Singley’s third full-length and first since 2006, is his best set yet, filled with ditties about bikes, babes and rice pudding that are just too damn catchy to resist.

Feelin’ Citrus is Singley’s first foray into lush orchestration, and the loungey vibe—courtesy of both a horn and string section—comes off like Pavement recording a Burt Bacharach tribute. Singley has always flirted with the line between schmaltz and goofiness, but Feelin’ Citrus is so bouncy and radiant that even the cheesier lyrics are grin-inducing. On the bopping “Le Rain,” he sings of a “Life that’s sweet/ But oh so full of cavities” with so much earnestness that you have to go with it, and “Medley of Revival,” with its call-and-response vocals between Singley and guitarist Leb Borgerson, has summer anthem written all over it. We’ll see how it holds up once the clouds come out, but for now Feelin’ Citrus sure sounds sweet. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.

Leviethan Everything Is Fine


(Self Released)

[DREAMY SINGER-SONGWRITER] In 2009, it’s pretty tough to carve out a real musical niche. But even in this age of musical oversaturation, Leviethan (Portland songwriter Levi Ethan Cecil) has found a unique calling with his surreal pop. His music defies comparisons, unless the listener wants to do some math: Shudder to Think, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and Rush all seem to be in the mix. But hearing Cecil’s breathy, androgynous voice float over the pronounced funk bass lines of “Notions Rearranged” or the flamenco guitar flourishes of “That Face,” it seems like one could add forever without getting the formula quite right.

It’s clear that for Cecil—perhaps best known for his work with Portland psych-pop outfit Heroes and Villains—Leviethan is a labor of love. It’s loved, too—Cecil asked friends and fans to “invest” in the record earlier this year by pre-ordering discs to cover production and printing costs. The investors should be happy with their returns: Everything Is Fine soldiers down some of the same stylistic roads as 2007’s Monuments in Memory of Nothing So Far, but Cecil now seems more comfortable with himself and the studio setting.

Most bands record an entire album without approaching the range of the Beatles-esque “The Story of Half,” a bouncy orchestral jaunt with a wispy chorus behind Cecil’s questioning, psychedelic lyrics: “Do you ever suspect that you lost half your mind/ But you adapt sometimes?” While not every lyric Cecil delivers is as insightful, the music is typically gorgeous. Closer “So Long” is an operatic track that feels like the closing credits of a Technicolor adventure film, and when it ends, it’s more than a little hard to shake oneself out of Leviethan’s dream and back into reality. CASEY JARMAN.


SEE IT: Alan Singley plays Thursday, Aug. 27, at Mississippi Studios, with Blunt Mechanic. 8 pm. $10. 21+. Leviethan plays Friday, Aug. 28, at the Woods, with Run On Sentence and Blue Cranes. 9 pm. $7. 21+.
 
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