MOVING AND SHAKING OUR WAY INTO 2006!
A certain band has cast off the name Adelaide in favor of Small Sails. Band spokesman Ethan Rose cites "member changes" in the band and "other bands using the same name causing confusion" as the reason for the change. Small Sails is currently recording a new album and hopes to have it released in the next few months >> The new year will bring the possibility of a lot more exposure for some of Portland's best-kept secrets. Lucky Madison records, which counts releases by Talkdemonic; Snuggle Ups; Point Juncture, WA; Alan Singley and Heroes and Villains in its catalogue, is moving out of the living room this January and going national with the aid of Portland-based Nail Distribution. In February, "Lucky Madisoooooon," as Singley so often screams at shows, will be joined by Marriage Records, home to Thanksgiving and the Watery Graves, bringing the number of Portland labels associated with Nail to 13 >> Digi-pop trio Stars of Track and Field just inked a deal with L.A.'s Sidecho Records. Says guitarist Jason Bell: "Seems like the best fit for us now, and we can avoid the pit of Interscope's belly, while broadening our opportunities." >> Rumor has it that the westside's favorite accident, the Matador, is for sale. No word yet on whether it includes the two inches of congealed beer on the floor.
Songs of the Year
WW's Local Cut team picks the five best local songs of 2005.
Mark Baumgarten: "Hey! Mr. Sky" from Jackie-O Motherfucker's Flags of the Sacred Harp. In the beginning of "Hey! Mr. Sky" the plucked acoustic guitar is slightly clumsy and earthbound, as are the vocals of Tom Greenwood, who sings about a lost love and a wish to die. Slowly, over the course of the next six minutes, the spaces between those simple notes and longing words are filled with a quietly blossoming kaleidoscope of gauzy sound, all cymbal shimmers and trembling guitars. Then Honey Owens' lifeless, otherworldly vocal joins Greenwood for a duet. "Hello, Mr. Sky," they sing, "hello, hangman." This song does more than just tell a story of impossible love, the trademark of the worn folkie; it transports you to the point of communion where a man and his lost lover dance. Whether it's the product of a doomed man's delirium or a miracle isn't clear. But the song's ineffable beauty is.
Michael Byrne: "Ziggurat Traffic" from the Joggers' With Cape and Cane. "Ziggurat Traffic" is just a damn fun song. It's built upon manic guitar riffs that begin as sitar imitations and eventually turn into full-on garage-rock-does-Bombay appropriation. Layered on top of a heavy beat, rhythmic bass line and a slurred vocal harmony, it's impossible not to get sucked in by it.
Casey Jarman: "Linoleum" from Alan Singley's Audio Bicyclette. "Linoleum" is a delicate, piano-driven ballad about the magical properties of love. Every time I hear it, Singley's lounge-singer-meets-5-year-old crooning burrows in through my ears, sticks for a moment in my throat and passes through to my heart. Singley is Portland's hidden treasure.
Amy McCullough: "The Engine Driver" from the Decemberists' Picaresque. Besides the fact that "I am a writer of fictions" sums up precisely why Colin Meloy is so damn great, I love this song for the one beautiful moment when Meloy loses himself and sings with uncharacteristic abandon on the second refrain of the lyric, "from my bones."
Jason Simms: "Daddy's Pre-Teen Beauty Queen" by Rhythm of '84. Rhythm of '84 broke up in April before releasing this song, but whenever they played it live, vocalist Kyle Porter and guitarist Jack Ridley "had sex on the mic post." Ridley would lean into Porter missionary-style, holding him with his left arm and using the mic stand to solo. One has to imagine it's the song that inspired such a stunt, making the already great track even better.
Albums of the Year
Mark Baumgarten picks the five best local albums of 2005.
1. Hillstomp, The Woman That Ended the World (self-released)
For The Woman That Ended the World to live up to the promise of its packaging—a gut-wrenching cover by Mona Superstar and a devastating title—the guys in Hillstomp would have to make the best blues album of the 21st century. And that's exactly what they have done. Here, on the band's sophomore release, these guys turn the trance blues of R.L. Burnside into their own. Henry Kammerer's running guitar lines betray his age, John Johnson's booming percussion betrays the physics of his ramshackle kit, and the stomping "Shake It" betrays the genre a bit by introducing a disco beat. But the vocals (delivered mostly by Kammerer) are pure, true blues, the sound of a wronged man breathin' through his teeth. We all owe that woman a drink.
2. The Decemberists, Picaresque (Kill Rock Stars)
After the release of this album, it's difficult to imagine a Decemberists album ever being bad. Leadman Colin Meloy seems to have a preternatural ability to write pop songs that are at once worlds away from everyday life and somehow right smack in the middle of all of our hearts. On Picaresque, Meloy and company give us two of their greatest pop songs, with "16 Military Wives" and "The Sporting Life," and two of their greatest love songs, with "The Engine Driver" and "Of Angels and Angles."
3. Sleater-Kinney, The Woods (Sub Pop)
Not only was this album the most badass release from Portland this year—managing to evoke both AC/DC and Led Zeppelin without making you think you had to get wasted to enjoy it—but it was also the most underappreciated. All I'm saying is this: If a band of guys would have released an album including "The Fox" or "Rollercoaster," they would not have played two nights of release shows to a half-filled Crystal.
4. Tractor Operator, self-titled (Smells Delicious)
It might be easy to write Tractor Operator's Eric Jensen off as an Isaac Brock clone, but that doesn't mean it's right. The multi-layered recordings filled with blue-collar strife and backwards guitars on this release are purely Jensen's own, and the songs are as irresistible as they are disturbing.
5. 31 Knots, Talk Like Blood (Polyvinyl)
31 Knots leadman Joe Haege is a prankster prophet, and Talk Like Blood finds him with a mouthful of vitriol for this dastardly world. This is by far this year's best record to be pissed off to, as Haege's poetics shore up with some serious, slicing prog metal.
Shows of the Year
WW's Local Cut team picks the five best local performances of 2005.
Mark Baumgarten: Crackerbash at Crystal Ballroom for MusicfestNW, Saturday, Sept. 10. Last week, I declared the Dandy Warhols' Dec. 14 show the "best live show by a Portland band I had seen all year," which it was. But the reunion show Crackerbash played after 10 years of dormancy was a close second. The Dandys gave me exactly what I wanted now, but Sean Croghan and company gave me what I wanted when I was 15. As the trio took the stage, I felt like I was watching history, but when I—along with a bunch of other yahoos up front-and-center—helped a hoarse Croghan shout along to "A Song for Lon Mabon" while pogoing violently, I felt like I was a part of history.Michael Byrne: Jackie-O Motherfucker at Berbati's Pan, Friday, July 29. The show began with about a trillion glimmering bits of sound disordered: hovering fragments of foundering instrumentation. And in an hour's time they congealed, fused and found themselves as unwitting parts of one devastatingly pretty flash of folk reconsidered: simply, the sound of a chandelier shattering in reverse.
Casey Jarman: Viva Voce at Loveland for PDX Pop Now!, Friday, Aug. 5: "Alive with Pleasure" played a lot between other bands' sets on the first night of PDX Pop Now!, and it had become sort of an unofficial festival/Portland anthem. Feeling the vibe, Viva Voce opened its beautiful and pounding set with it, which froze me completely still, just thinking, "What a fucking song! What a fucking city!"
Amy McCullough: Viva Voce in 3-D at the Doug Fir for MusicfestNW, Friday, Sept. 9. Lovers, lead the way, indeed. I was simultaneously charmed by both the talents and super-hotness of husband-and-wife duo Anita and Kevin Robinson, my crush culminating as the couple's dual vocals on "The Lucky Ones" melted my heart with psych-pop goodness. You really can't beat falling in love in 3-D.
Jason Simms: Block Party at Ad Hoc Manor (Southeast 7th Avenue and Powell Boulevard), Saturday, July 2. There wasn't an inkling of the standing-still syndrome that plagues Portland music festivals at this less-than-legal, alcohol-fueled, six-hour street show. About 200 underage punks and hipsters came together to slam-dance in the road to a lineup including Clorox Girls, Holy Ghost Revival Band, Le Push, Ad Hoc Shock, We Quit, Enchanted Forest, Secret Dance Band, the Wildlife and the Pharmacy. In comparison, PDX Pop Now! looked pretty square.
Sate our thirst for Portland music news. Email us.