It's debatable whether the bounty of cheap, legal weed or the endlessly dreary weather is to blame, but it seems hazy psych is now the de facto style of Portland's upstart rock bands.
Cat Hoch is certainly no stranger to the genre. The singer-guitarist made waves rather abruptly after she nabbed the No. 2 slot in WW's 2016 Best New Band poll on the strength of her 2015 EP, Look What You Found. She's stayed busy since then, opening for psych and shoegaze legends like the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Ride, playing drums in Blackwater Holylight and manning the bar at No Fun, a clubhouse of sorts for the Southeast Portland indie-rock scene that Hoch is firmly staked in.
Her ability to alchemize disparate interests has her poised to stand out in a crowded scene. On her debut album, Temptations, Hoch does just that, though she often opts for taking the long way home in favor of reliable shortcuts.
Aside from the lurching, fuzzed-out riff on opener "On the Edge," few moments on the eight-song album feel predictable. Instead of exploding, each track slowly drifts like plumes of smoke. Many of the best cuts play more like impressionist suites, with Hoch's bittersweet melodies providing continuity. After a shuffling intro, "Stuck" darts ahead with a blissful guitar riff and double-timed drum pattern that captures the feeling of lying in a park on a sunny day. It's a song that could easily lend itself to a prolonged jam session when played live. But on Temptations, Hoch shows impressive restraint in not getting too lost in space—she always keeps one foot on the ground.
The album's midsection is home to both its starkest contrast and its strongest songwriting. "Just Myself" is a lilting, AM gold ballad built from little else than piano, drums and a soft swirl of synths. The following track, "The Touch," is an outright banger, and a deliciously cheesy send-up of '80s AOR, complete with shimmering guitar riffs and what's probably the sexiest sax solo to come out of Portland since yacht rock was minted. Hoch sometimes finds herself stuck between stations on Temptations' lowest points, but her ability to avoid pastiche and irony is commendable throughout.
The future of Hoch's sound feels less clear now than it ever did, but her keen songwriting chops have rendered that immaterial. Whichever way she wanders next is all but guaranteed to sound beautiful, fuzzy riffs and druggy textures be damned.
SEE IT: Cat Hoch plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., mississippistudios.com, with Shadowgraphs and Dan Dan, on Tuesday, Oct. 1. 8 pm. $10. 21+.