[JENGA POP] There will come a time, in the not-too-distant future, when the recording quality of Hosannas' new compilation, Then & Now & Then, will sound a little quaint. That'll happen just as soon as the Portland quartet releases its forthcoming (and really sweet-sounding, even in its current unmastered state) record. Meanwhile, Then & Now & Then sounds just lovely, thank you.
While the collection is composed of two early 4-tracked-in-the-living-room Hosannas EPs and B-sides released before last year's breakout Song Force Crystal EP (all of which was originally released under the name Church), the recordings retain a surprising depth and musical maturity. This is clear right from the get-go, with slow-burning opener "The Sea" channeling the Smashing Pumpkins via Legend of Zelda, its minimalist, distorted 8-bit blasts and reined-in distorted keyboard hums ringing out as if to mark some alien new year.
It's hard not to relate Hosannas' sound to that of its most courageous Portland contemporaries, Nurses, which share a try-anything musical approach and some similar, lovably outlandish vocal ideas (Hosannas' Laws brothers sound a bit like M. Ward harmonizing with Destroyer's Dan Bejar). But where Nurses often dig into a verse-chorus groove, Hosannas inserts odd bridges and rock-out digressions ("Islands" gets downright Lawrence of Arabia-esque) that give the songs a loose, airy feel.
What's most impressive about Hosannas, evident even in this infantile stage of its development, is that the band can write as great of a pop song as it wants. Closer "Song Force Crystal," a heart-on-sleeve, trippy uke-rock jam that ties the compilation with a nice little bow, is early proof of this. If Then & Now & Then is Hosannas' embarrassing baby pictures, we can't wait to see what the band's Glamour Shots look like. CASEY JARMAN.
[EXPERIMENTAL FOLK] In the age of the Internet, it's almost impossible for a band to fly under the radar. With music blogs constantly trying to one-up each other and publications perpetually looking for the Next Big Thing, bands that one day relied on word of mouth or good old-fashioned grassroots networking have all the work done for them. That's not the case with Portland-via-Eugene noise-folk deconstructionists Aan.
Led by singer-guitarist Bud Wilson, the trio has been performing together for three years. But on the heels of releasing a new EP, the wondrous slow-burner I Could Be Girl for You, it finally feels like Portland gets what Wilson's schizophrenic songs are all about.
I Could Be Girl for You is an almost perfect balance of the experimental and the accessible, deftly balancing noise and catharsis, distortion and silence with hooky tunes and a sense of folk song tradition. The EP's five tracks are steeped in folk and blues tropes, from the finger-picking and wandering melody of "For Mable" to the plucky acoustic guitar and field recordings on the closing "Sunday." At times Aan brings to mind what we now call "indie rock"—check out how much Wilson sounds like the Shins' James Mercer on "Sunday"—but it's weirder and more adventurous than just about anything that finds itself on a KEXP 90.3-FM playlist.
Nowhere is that more evident than on intoxicating opener "Wet and Dripping." For almost two minutes, the track is content as an ambient, dubby introduction, filled with soft radio humming and splash percussion, before it completely changes direction and explodes into a blast of crisp noise and Wilson's howling-preacher growl. "Wet and Dripping" is both nutty and comforting, angry and relaxed, all bottled-up energy and rewarding release.
The only drawback is that, at just five songs, I Could Be Girl for You feels a little slight. Aan certainly has more amazing songs in its bones. Hopefully the Internet at large takes note. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Hosannas plays Sunday, May 9, at Mississippi Studios, with Tu Fawning and Ah Holly Fam'ly. 9 pm. $6. 21+. Aan plays Thursday, May 6, at Holocene, with Y La Bamba, the Slaves and Folktek. 8:30 pm. $6. 21+.