Each week, LocalCut collects the best new Portland music and puts it all in one place for you, the faithful reader, to enjoy. It's like The Week In Rock, with less Tabitha Soren.
1. 1939 Ensemble, "Circles"
1939 Ensemble have nothing to prove, but the beauty of the band is that they consistently play as though everything is on the line. Come to think of it, perhaps an instrumental drum and vibraphone post-rock-does-jazz project should have some explaining to do. The band boasts a strong pedigree: David Coniglio a graduate of the Berklee School of Music and Jose Medeles a graduate of years spent drumming with the Breeders. On "Circles" the band trades their trumpet for a synthesizer played by their newest addition, Josh Thomas. The result is a thick, groove-based track marked by the group's signature breakbeat drum sound—equal parts anxiety and laser precision. April 25 will mark the release of 1939 Ensemble's sophomore effort, Black Diamond Pearl, on Jealous Butcher. TED JAMISON.
2. Corinna Repp, "The Beast Lives In The Same Place"
Momentum builds quickly on this single from Corrina Repp's first solo album in a decade. Two muted chords alternate, a steady 4/4 beat ticks, and a synth drones mosquito-like above it all before Repp's alto edges itself into the verse—a compelling suggestion. The trick is to listen for the bass line that just barely insinuates itself beneath the chorus. One may recognize Corrina Repp from her involvement in the pristine indie pop group, Tu Fawning, or perhaps from her multiple appearances on Portlandia. Regardless, Repp has a solid history of solo folk performance under her belt and is set to release her long-awaited new album, The Pattern of Electricity, on May 19th. TJ.
3. Brownish Black, "Life Lessons"
What is neo-soul if not a perennial cure for the overcast? "Life Lessons"'s playful horn hits, infectious shuffle and catchy melodic hooks make it an accessible shot in any arm. Particularly enjoyable is the instrumental break that unfolds halfway in—the traded horn riffs, the cascading guitar licks—and really opens the tune up. Though Brownish Black's Detroit-born frontman MD Sharbatz doesn't deny the presence of Motown in his blood, he claims to have started dialysis at a young age, preferring a steady stream of punk rock and hardcore. Eventually his taste widened to encompass the influence of Stax Records and what he refers to as the "hard-edged beat" of the Southern soul sound. This is evident in a musical approach that is neither precious nor overly polished. Keep an eye out for the band's debut full-length, Life Lessons, in June. TJ.
4. Johanna Warren, "True Colors"
nūmūn, the upcoming album from singer-songwriter Johanna Warren, is inspired by the phases of the moon, and you can hear it on her latest single, "True Colors." It's a mystical, oddly shaped song based around an elliptical, finger-picked guitar acoustic guitar pattern, sparse piano and Warren's gorgeously haunting voice, which is the vocal equivalent of stained glass in a cold dawn. As a teaser, it works well: It presents a mystery you hope the rest of the album will reveal, even if you know it'll only deepen. nūmūn is out May 19. MATTHEW SINGER.
5. The Ocean Floor, "The Door That Has No Lock"
Local drummer-about-town Lane Barrington, who plays with everyone from Aan to Hosannas, returns with his solo project, the Ocean Floor, in which he puts down the sticks and picks up some synths. Recorded by Radiation City's Cameron Spies, "The Door That Has No Lock" wraps Barrington's shy voice in a cloud of minimal blips and buzzes as he sings about the people who make life—or the "odyssey of minor keys," as he calls it—worth enduring. (Fun fact: The song was inspired by Jim Henson's biography, particularly his final moments alone with with his wife.) MS.