Sleepyvillain has the type of name that people think they recognize, but really don’t. When I asked my editor if he'd ever heard of the Portland-based musician, he quickly answered, “I think so,” only to realize he was probably thinking of the local hip-hop artist Sleep, or local MC Sleepyhead. The confusion should not deter you: Sleepvillain’s music, despite not being very well-known even in local circles, is  quite a different way. He probably won’t blow you away with his voice, but there’s a certain sincerity to his songs that makes you root for him.


On “Closer,” the latest single from his album Arithmetic, Villain (whose real name is Akila Fields) sings about his journey in a time machine to the future, where he finds out that it’ll take a lifetime of trying to impress his girl before he’ll finally be able to win her heart. Sound cheesy? That’s the point: Fields’ oft-goofy lyrics of love and devotion are charming without ever sounding too serious. He’s more of the smart artsy kid who makes girls laugh than the cool jock who sweeps them off their feet. And while he has some limitations as a singer, they never really hinder his songs. Instead, his gentle hush of a voice fits right in next to the light piano layers and subtle drums of the track. 

Of course, it helps that the dude is a killer musician and producer: Even Ashlee Simpson could sound good over beats like these. Fields, who is a trained jazz musician and even spent some time in the Barnum and Baily Circus traveling band (awesome), has an extreme eye for detail, constantly adding various keyboard noises and vocal tracks to add depth.

One of Portland's best kept secrets, if you ask me.

You can download the entire album for free at his bandcamp, or you can support Fields and make sure he never has to run off with the circus again by purchasing the album here.