I am proud of Mike Coykendall for calling in a few favors! The Portland producer/sideman/singer-songwriter is so low-key and unassuming that although he regularly works with some of the biggest folks in the indie music world—M. Ward, She & Him, Blitzen Trapper, Bright Eyes—you'd never know it from the guy's low-key demeanor. Coykendall is, above all, a music geek—which is exactly why the aforementioned folks keep finding him. And on Coykendall's excellent last record, The Unbearable Being of Likeness, the former Old Joe Clarks frontman got to roll around in that geekery, recording everything from Guided By Voices-esque rock numbers ("Luna Mama Less Dip") to dub-tinged ballads ("First Shot, Best Shot"). Coykendall's name was pretty lonely in the credits.
For his next record, Chasing Away the Dots, Coykendall has brought in a laundry list of homies and peersâthough the trio of A-listers that show up here in nearly indecipherable supporting rolesâfrom the predictable (M. Ward, Zooey) to the excellent local folks (Scott McPherson, Chris Robley, Adam Selzer). And yet this is not one of those trainwreck "...And Friends" albums. All of it still sounds perfectly Coykendall. In fact, upon hearing Dots, one starts to realize just how much of Coykendall's own influence has made its way into that of the bands he has producedâit "connects the Dots," if you will, between projects he has worked onâas opposed to the vice-versa one might expect from a "sideman taking center stage" situation.
As on previous efforts, there's no single genre or style at play on Dots. "The Hippie Girl," which features some ghosty slide guitar from Eric Earley and lite guest vocals from the New Girl and Ben Gibbard, is a breather at the start of the album's B-side, which is more psychedelic than its A-side. Coykendall's fuzzy guitar reminds me of Os Mutantes, but his voice is as sweet and Beatles-inspred as ever. And that hippie girl is, in case you were wondering, totally perfect for you.
It seems unlikely somehow that Mike Coykendall will step into the spotlight for too long: Chasing Away the Dots is certainly a good enough record to deserve national attention, and word is that he'll be doing some national touring on the album, but sooner or later you can expect Coykendall to laugh off his own rock star aspirations and defer to those rock stars that he has makes so much better. Either way, the man is an icon here in Portland. A really, really nice icon.
Chasing Away the Dots is out Sept. 18. Tour dates TBA.