[INDIE ROCK] Somewhere between And And And's carefree, swaggering basement pop and Typhoon's controlled and confessional rock operettas, Pheasant is holding its ground. The local quintet's sound fits nicely into the "shit Portlanders play" category—dude pop that's distorted but stops short of tough; loose but not experimental; professionally casual, even—and frontman Matt Jenkins is likable: understated and natural. In fact, I'm pretty sure his singing is just his talking voice turned up a bit. So even when Jenkins is singing about "shooting at cops" on "The Gun and the Moon," this dude seems pretty all right.
Jenkins' band follows suit: Pheasant is easy to like—especially on the jangly, uptempo party numbers. "Feathery Flu" has the kind of cute-and-crafty hooks that Portland is known for, but it also has a sweet guitar solo. "Health" is a twangy piece of American pub rock that swings just enough and contains enough twists and turns to keep jaded pop fans listening. Closer "The Wind" crosses pop-punk pacing with a decidedly Northwestern nihlism.
And while one particular slow-jam, the moody "Kid + Hammer"—a torchy dark ballad with the swagger of '90s Brit pop acts like Pulp and Blur that features some of Jenkins' finest lyrics—proves the band's versatility, the record's other slow tunes can get a little tough to bear. "Colors Start to Separate" feels much longer than its three minutes, and a satisfyingly dramatic finish can't stop "Visions" from feeling similarly heavy.
I have a theory about this. See, nobody wants to hear about the nice guy's problems. Jenkins, and Pheasant, by extension, are real nice. And real promising. But once you get acquainted with the band's formidable fun-loving side, you just kind of want to keep the party going. Nothing wrong with that.