[EVASIVE POP] The lyrical imagery that kicks off I’ve Been Watching a Lot of Horror Movies Lately may be visceral—a corpse discovered in a grove with its eyes removed and throat cut—but the hybrid mood Portland’s the Harvey Girls engender on their new album is less outright grisly than giddily gothic.
Wielding his Jeff Mangum-esque baritone like a scythe, Girls majordomo Hiram Lucke wades in and out of enveloping fugues and thickets: the brass-soaked, pitch-shifting folk of “Only Apparitions on the Lawn”; the reedy, marching-band jamboree “Smile Like Gwynplaine”; or the drowsy, post-Pavement grind of “Monster,” where the titular beastie just wants to shoot the breeze.
The band’s messages—as mockingly evasive as their media—complement the gentle anarchy of their surroundings. On “A Letter to the Bees,” Lucke asks, “Just stop quoting, and start saying.” Amid the swirling guitars, tinny chimes, and vocal atmospherics of “Caerse Muerto,” language fails almost entirely, registering as little more than a yearning ghost stuck in the jaws of a tape machine loop. Like Lately as a whole, it’s a worthwhile place to spend one’s spare time, zoning out and letting the Harvey Girls lead you ever deeper into a netherworld of subtle, uncertain thrills. RAY CUMMINGS.
[BAROQUE POP] It’s undeniable that Jon Garcia has a talent. The local singer-songwriter has an ear for melody and one of those gorgeous, weightless voices that can turn the ugliest lyric into a pop radio hit. He’s also a filmmaker, with an upcoming movie, Tandem Heart, set to drop later this year. The one thing Garcia doesn’t have going for himself is originality.
On his sophomore album, The Lake, Garcia alternates between two basic modes: sounding like Ben Gibbard or John Vanderslice. The music on the record is overwhelmingly pleasant, with swift choruses, ringing, plangent acoustic and electric guitars, and a whole liner notes’ worth of collaborators playing everything from trumpet to oboe. It’s also pretty dang catchy, with a few tracks (“Song for the Siren” and especially the lilting Vanderslice clone “On Your Side”) that could surely slide on your next breakup mixtape. But all too often The Lake is too derivative and overwrought, to the point where you can predict exactly where it’s going.
The worst offender is “In Real Life,” which wastes a mournful cello-and-piano arrangement on one of the most cloying bits of high-school poetry lyricism I’ve heard in a long time. “I’ve gone back to school/ But still look at porn,” Garcia sings, his voice overemphasizing the word look. It’s OK, Jon, we all do the same thing—the wise just choose not to sing about it. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
SEE IT: Jon Garcia plays Thursday, July 1, at Dante’s. 9 pm. $7 advance, $8 day of show. 21+. The Harvey Girls release I’ve Been Watching a Lot of Horror Movies Lately is Friday, July 2, at Backspace with Big Spider’s Back, Cars & Trains and Camping Party. 9 pm. $6. All ages.