6. Boone Howard (53 points)
SOUNDS LIKE: Harry Nilsson stumbling out of the Know into the light of day, wondering just where the hell his life went so wrong.
NOTABLE VOTES: And And And drummer and Portland mayoral candidate Bim Ditson; the Builders and the Butchers frontman Ryan Sollee; comedian Aaron Ross.
The party is over for Boone Howard.
That's the goal, anyway. It's partly why he ended his old band, the We Shared Milk, and struck out on his own. After six years of drunken, rowdy shows, Howard wanted to get back to his songwriting roots—just a couple chords and a lot of upfront honesty, undisguised by riffs, metaphors and showers of beer.
But, you know, old habits and all that.
"I get a little worked up singing a couple lines," Howard says of his new material. "I was swinging the mic around and throwing beers and acting like a lunatic at Mississippi Studios the other night."
It's understandable. Howard's recent songs were all written right before, during and just after a breakup, in the apartment he and his girlfriend once shared, and what came out of him was a lot of anger, much of it self-directed. Being reminded of how badly you've screwed up every time you're onstage would make anyone go a little crazy.
And this time around, at least he's reacting to his emotions, rather than trying to distract from them. On his upcoming album, The Other Side of Town, Howard sounds like someone who's just emerged from a yearslong hangover. Each song moves at the midtempo stagger of an early-morning walk of shame, while Howard—groggy and conversational, and also sneakily melodic—tries to figure out where he's been, what he's done and whom he's hurt.
"They're not supposed to be flattering to myself," he says. "You're supposed to listen to the song and think, 'This guy needs to get a grip or something.'"
It's a project personal enough that Howard felt he couldn't brand it with anything other than his own name. He's not going it completely alone—his live band features members of the Domestics and Minden and his old We Shared Milk bandmates—but, unencumbered by an instrument, it's about the most exposed he's ever been onstage. Bouts of lunacy aside, he seems to be enjoying it.
"This is the most actual expression of myself I've ever had, where I don't have to worry about technical things. I just get to sing," he says. "What you see is my true personality coming out."
Next Show: April 5 at Doug Fir Lounge.