Ride Out the Dark, the debut album from Portland quintet Houndstooth, certainly could not have come at a better time. In fact, the album couldn't have a more apt title: Katie Bernstein's crooning vocals, layered over guitarist John Gnorski's twangy surf-rock riffs, are a suitable soundtrack for Oregon's three glorious months of summer sun.
The first single, "Canary Island," is a breezy buildup of rugged blues destined to be played during a highway cruise with the windows down. Quite literally, at that: "Take me for a drive in your fast machine/ Bring me into town where the bright lights gleam," Bernstein sings with a slight drawl, likening her to the '60s pinup archetype crystallized by Zooey Deschanel in She & Him. But Houndstooth avoids road-trip indie homogeneity on tracks like "Thunder Runner" and "Francis," revealing the band's Southern-rock influences through distorted guitar reminiscent of Wilco's more experimental songs. Charming rhythmic standouts "Wheel On Fire" and "Baltimore" round out a consistent helping of easily digestible blues grooves that predict a promising future for these Portland upstarts.
SEE IT: Houndstooth plays Bunk Bar, 1028 SE Water Ave., with Pearly Gate Music, on Thursday, July 18. 9 pm. $7. 21+.