I've said it before, and I'm saying it again: Jared Mees is one of the best songwriters in Portland. And this track from his upcoming release, Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, Money
(which is set to drop October 7 on his own Tender Loving Empire), does nothing to dissuade me from this stance. Which is saying a lot, considering he's employing something I've started to think is ruining a lot of good pop bands: strings.
"Bees," as well as another sneak peak Mees sent LocalCut's way (a rad shout-along number called "The Tallest Building In Hell") are speckled with that chamber-sounding stuff. But the songs are just that—speckled. Jordan Dykstra (of Marriage Recs fame) plucks and bows his viola, the latter in both long, sweeping strokes and those short, super-fast, frantic bursts. It's that variety, and the fact that the orchestral swells don't completely pussify Mees' delightfully in-your-face approach, that makes it work. Unfortunately, a lot of bands in search of that full sound (ahem, Mates of State) have let the inclusion of strings dull 'em down, ultimately detracting from the hooks and punch their pop music's built on. Not Mees and the Grown Children, though. Oh no.
His wicked-smart lyrics are in full effect; on this particular track my current fave is, "And the guilt I once had is gone/ It's been replaced by a fear of dying before I get old." And the brash, powerful sound of Mees' acoustic guitar and jumpy vocal melodies continues to chop his songs into delectable little pieces. And the addition of tambourine- and keyboard-playing maven Megan Spear (who's a dead ringer for Maddy from Twin Peaks
, by the way) and drummer/bassist Sean McCormick (the Wherewithals, et. al.) was no shabby move on Mees' part, either. Spear often echoes Mees' words at those crucially catchy moments right where it counts, leading them one avenue deeper into your brain.
This latest lineup (pictured above) is currently going under the Grown Children moniker, and it certainly sounds that way: Music made my funloving kids with chops enough to play whatever they damn well please, enough experience to have something to say in the first place, and the smarts to not get all hoity-toity mature about it. I love this band.
Jared Mees & the Grown Children play next on Tuesday, July 15, with the Morals and the Wherewithals at Doug Fir. 9 pm. $6. 21+.
Tender Loving Empire