Thursday, June 05, 2008

Reviews of Music I Bought in Seattle, Part 2

Please bear with me as I attempt to review all the music I bought in Seattle. Then I'll start on the stuff I bought just before an just after. I'm finding it hard to get these posts out as my evenings become increasingly busy. Don't worry. I'll get through this and write about something that interests you. Look for this first record to make my mid-year list. The second would have found some space on last year's list had I owned it last year. Anyway, on with the reviews.

Port O'Brien - All We Could Do Was SingThree Hundred Forty-Two Words: This is what I wanted Yeasayer to sound like. If The Polyphonic Spree weren't so overdone, they'd sound like this. This is how I imagined the triumphant return of Neutral Milk Hotel. Well, maybe that's taking it too far, but I love punkish indie folk, especially when it bursts with the urgency of a fishing crew who has yet to fulfill its quota with the season running out. And that's what Port O'Brien sounds like to me.

The first and best track off All We Could Do Was Sing grabbed my attention as soon as it started last week in Sonic Boom Records in Seattle. I have always loved it when a knowledgeable record clerk puts on just the right record that grabs me in such a way that I can't help but buy it with little or no knowledge of it existence before that moment. That's how I discovered Will Oldham and his Palace Songs and The Moldy Peaches (way, way before Juno). A good record store will rarely lead you astray.

Although I like what Port O'Brien does on this record, it does stall a little in the middle after such a raucous start. Thankfully the record picks up as soon as it drifts off to pull me back in. The band dances between the back porch folk of the "new" Sub Pop while flirting with some dark garage rock mess. All of the songs are joyfully depressing like hours spent on a fishing boat in the Pacific, waiting for the day's catch to come in. The sound traverses from grating guitar licks to softly strummed tunes all the while maintaining a lo-fi aesthetic and DIY ethos.

It's messy and difficult, but something tells me to keep giving Port O'Brien a listen. They've toured with nearly every indie band that's now too big to be indie anymore. They pull from the best indie rock of the past 15-20 years. They make haunting, heartfelt, and urgent music that's keeping me awake at night. Difficult? Yes. Worth the effort? Yes again.

Song that makes the band's set on Les Concerts A Emporter worth the time:
"I Woke Up Today"

Fishes caught in Port O'Brien: 4...teen

Bill Callahan - Woke on a Whale Heart
Two Hundred Sixteen Words: Bill Callahan must have gone through a roots revival (or at least an alt-country one...whatever that is) when he sat down to record Woke on a Whale Heart. Much like label mates Silver Jews (David Berman) and Bonnie "Prince" Billy (Will Oldham), Callahan dances the line between indie chic and hillbilly sloppiness. I always thought of his work as Smog (or is it (Smog)?) as more of a Velvet Underground type of indie as opposed to the Uncle Tupelo set. Here, Callahan brings the down-home groove with a way more straight ahead approach.

With every listen, I find something compelling in Woke... that I didn't hear before. Superficially, I find the album sort of boring, but as I dig deeper, more complexity is revealed. I don't know that it's a great album. It might just be a good album. However, there's something to Callahan's voice that draws me in. He's achieved that same thing Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings had in their work that made want to hear more.

I've never listened to much of Callahan's previous work as Smog, but this album under his given name intrigues me. His smooth vocals and my love of the alt-country will keep this record in the rotation. The catalog Callahan has already built deserves my attention as well.

Song that make this diversion into alt-country worth it:

Number of references to No Depression in this review: 1

Blogger's Note: I do notice that as I review more and more albums that I'm way more of a fan than a critic. Just don't hold it against me.

Look for reviews of some singles (older for the most part) and full-lengths by the likes of Grand Archives, Joan of Arc, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and Fleet Foxes. Oh, and I bought the Cap'n Jazz anthology (finally) on which I must comment.

1 comment:

douglas said...

well said. will check out Port O'Brien.