Posts Tagged ‘Portland’

ALELA DIANE – ” Cusp “

Posted: February 12, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Alela Diane has a new album out titled “Cusp”

“This music is about motherhood,” Alela says of her highly anticipated fifth album Cusp. “Even just by saying that, it feels like people will write you off. It’s like you’ve suddenly lost the charm of being youthful and even attainable––you’ve been commoditized as available. There is not a big place in the music industry for 30-something women with kids making music.” She laughs as she pauses, then adds, “Maybe we can create that space.”

If anyone can carve out needed new territory, it’s Alela. Cusp may be a thematic departure for the Portland, Oregon-based artist, The new 11-song collection was born during Alela’s three-week artist residency at Caldera in Oregon during January 2016. The time was a revelation to Alela, who’d been consumed with her then two-year-old daughter and had found little time to create. In a small A-frame cabin deep within Caldera’s snowy woods, alone for the first time since becoming a mother, she tended to a wood stove, made soup, rediscovered how to be on her own, and wrote songs. “I was just coming back to myself and learning how to take care of me,” she says. “It was really wonderful to be able to get back in touch with my creative side and just reflect on the intensity of what I’d been going through, becoming a mom––reflecting on that from a space where I wasn’t inside of it.”

Early in her Caldera stay, Alela broke her thumbnail while shoveling snow, and her signature finger-picking guitar became a challenge. She had noticed a grand piano in the main lodge and wondered: Why not write songs there? The result is the most piano-driven album of her career, fueled by that energy that only comes with facing and falling in love with something new. “It definitely felt different,” Alela says of composing for the first time on the piano, pointing to the visibility of chords that keys allow, especially when compared to guitar. “It was pretty freeing to get out of my normal habits that I usually fall back into when I write on guitar.”

Alela recorded most of Cusp at Flora Playback and Recording while pregnant with her and her husband’s second daughter, who was born in February 2017. Produced by Peter M. Murray and mixed by Noah Georgeson, the album features contributions from heavyweights including Ryan Francesconi (Joanna Newsom), Rob Burger (Iron & Wine), Peter Broderick, Heather Woods Broderick (Sharon Van Etten), Luke Ydstie (Blind Pilot), and Daniel Hunt (Neko Case).

 

The February weekend that Cusp was mixed in Los Angeles, Alela planned to be there. Instead, she went into labour––five weeks early. Severe complications ensued, and in a harrowing twist, Alela almost died giving birth to her little girl. “I have never felt so grateful to be alive as I do now,” she says. “I hope that by exploring motherhood in song, I can help demand respect for the life givers we are. Talking and singing about the experience of motherhood is not something I can shy away from. It is the essence of who we are as human beings. This album is my version of women’s work.”

When Alela releases Cusp in February 2018, it will mark exactly one year since her near-death, new-life experience. “Life and death meet in a cusp,” Alela says. “The two are intrinsically linked. My second daughter was born on the cusp.”

Cusp explores the weight and beauty of creating life. Album opener “Albatross” bemoans the pain of leaving her daughter behind for a promotional tour––a heartache she’d never experienced. “The chorus is a reference to flying overseas and having to leave my kid at home, the intensity of that,” she says. Forlorn but also imbued with wonder and acceptance, the song is a perfect example of Alela’s ability to capture the nuances of an experience. Gorgeous “Move Us Blind” delves into our complicated relationship with time, while “Buoyant”––which Alela says “surprised her”––is rich with the vivid imagery her loyal listeners have come to expect.

Throughout the record, Alela refuses to stray from her perspective as a mother and woman. “These songs are about a really different moment in my life than my earlier work, which was more rooted in being young, innocent, curious––I was reflecting on the past and the magic of youth.” “Song for Sandy” was written for British singer Sandy Denny who died shortly after the birth of her daughter. Triggered by the drowned Syrian toddler who washed up on a Turkish shore, Alela penned the haunting “Emigré” in response to the international refugee crisis. Moody “Never Easy” tackles Alela’s complex relationship with her own mother, a recurring theme throughout her albums.

Alela Diane – Ether & Wood (Official Video) Album ‘Cusp’ is now available

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Portland-based Haley Heynderickx has been making waves with her spirited musings on self reflection, religion, and growth. Her new single, “Worth It,” explores the difficulties of defining oneself in the shadow of other’s expectations. The ways in which the song unwinds itself, with a faster tempo in a dramatic buildup, is reminiscent of the triumphant feeling of overcoming those anxieties. Over winding guitar riffs, she sings, “Maybe I’ve, maybe I’ve been selfish/ Or maybe I’ve, maybe I’ve been selfless / Maybe I’ve, maybe I’ve been worthless, or / Maybe I’ve, maybe I’ve been worth it.”

Heynderickx informed a little bit about the song’s origin story. “I was living in a house with six women at the time and attempting to pursue music as more than a bedroom act,” she wrote. “In this, I was struggling to find confidence and purpose in it. Writing ‘Worth It’ was a cathartic release at the time, just allowing myself to take up space and make as much noise as I could in our basement without driving my roommates too crazy. After several weeks, this song got carved out. It has been through a lot and it means something new to me each time I hear it.

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A rare “love song” from Anna Tivel. “Dust & Magic” is a song about loving someone, learning their colors, their depths. It’s about trying to see someone honestly, even when they’re hard to see. It’s about knowing and hoping the person you love can find their way back from a darker place, believing in the raw power of their beautiful spirit

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Sara Renberg is a songwriter hailing from Portland and now based out of Pittsburgh. Having recently released her second album, Night Sands, on the excellent Antiquated Future Records, Sara has this week shared the album’s second single, and stand-out track, Elderly Lesbians.

Discussing Night Sands, Sara has suggested it’s a record about being, “thirty-two, gay and single”, the album muses on the theme of simultaneously fearing and craving intimacy. Jangly lackadaisical guitars drift atop lo-fi, cymbal heavy drum beats, all topped with Sara’s conversational vocal style. Lyrically it really shines, Sara walking the similarly mundane-surreal tight-rope perfected by the likes of Frankie Cosmos and The Mountain Goats as she comically recalls googling, “elderly lesbians to cheer myself up but all the results were porn”before hitting straight to the emotional core with the repeated line, “I’m still not sure exactly what it means to be living in exile from old dreams”. A wry observer of the minutiae that make life both crushing and beautiful, Sara Renberg and her elderly lesbians are wonderful.

The second single from Sara Renberg’s sophomore album “Night Sands.” Out February 2nd, 2018 on Antiquated Future Records.

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Drums: Cayla Davis (on 1-4, 9)
Bass: Joshua James Amberson
All other instruments and vocals: Sara Renberg

Night Sands is out now via Antiquated Futures Records.

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Raised on a steady diet of sarah records singles, slumberland noise pop, and creation-era shoegaze, Portland’s A Certain Smile work hard to find that balance between the sweet twee, the fuzzy gaze, and punky pop

Thomas Andrew, band leader of A Certain Smile, is a man on a mission to keep the Portland indie-pop scene alive; whether he’s playing records at the Toffee Club Sunday Brunch, or putting out his radio show on Freeform Radio or fronting his band, he’s always keeping the jangly, fuzzy, indie-pop flame burning. Originally formed back in 2002, A Certain Smile are in some ways an homage to the music Thomas loves, labels like Slumberland and Sarah’s Records, bands like Velocity Girls and McCarthy; their influence is all over the band’s upcoming debut album, Fits And Starts. That record is out next month.

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Discussing the inspiration behind the track, Thomas suggests that it is,  “about long distance love and the inequities of separation.” Atop a backing of energetic blurring drums, reverberating guitar lines and driving bass, Thomas’ vocal carries a tale of missed phone calls, changing lifestyles and the joy of getting the call and slipping right back into love. It’s a perfect blend of the melancholic and the romantic seemingly free of musical fads and trends.

There are those who will argue this record is some sort of retro-throwback, the final dying scream of a genre on its last legs, yet when it is done this well, it’s hard to do anything but embrace the jangle and enjoy a perfect indie-pop song.

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Ever since his wonderful debut album ‘Dolls of Highland’ was released on Sub Pop Record in 2016, Kyle Craft has been a critic’s dream. Based in Portland, he serves up all the observational, storytelling talent with none of the attitude that so often comes with male singer-songwriter territory. “I’ve found my place,” he says. “I’m not one of those people that approaches music for anyone other than myself. My favorite part about music is when it’s just me and a notebook.” Speaking of, his second forthcoming album ‘Full Circle Nightmare’ is entirely autobiographical. Sonically, thematically, lyrically, it’s a huge leap forward from his 2016 release.
The title ‘Full Circle Nightmare’ refers to a moment where Craft saw his life for what it is and told himself to be satisfied. “But that’s nightmarish to me,” he laughs. He described his debut record as: “like walking down this long hall of bizarre characters and surreal experiences, moving through the spider web of love and loss.” This album is when you get to the end of that hallway, turn around and see all the stuff you’ve been through, then walk through the door, close it and start a new chapter in an even crazier hallway. A straight-up rollicking rock’n’roll album, it traverses all the different nuances of the genre; from the bluegrass twang of ‘Exile Rag,’ to the gothic style..of ‘Gold Calf Moan,’ it’s a timeless piece that could exist in any of the past five decades.

In terms of contemporary peers, Craft likes to stay in his own lane. He’s an old soul who sticks to his tried and tested influences. Social media is not his game – it’s just not interesting to him. He’s not fussed about preaching his politics or discussing the status quo either. “I don’t really like writing a time piece. I don’t wanna get trapped in the ‘Donald Trump era of Kyle Craft,’ you know? I’m a very off-the-grid sort of person. As much as I am traveling across this giant place sometimes I just feel so outside of it. Also, I’m not necessarily a stand-up citizen so it’s hard for me to say: here’s Kyle Craft’s America, ladies and gentlemen.” 

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The ironic thing is that ‘Full Circle Nightmare’ sounds exactly like Kyle Craft’s America. That is what he’s built for us: the story of one man’s trials and tribulations to find his passion and voice for art and creativity in this vast opportunistic country. Where did he find it? Among the historic riches of America’s most honest sounds.

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The Decemberists  are exploring a new sound alongside a new producer on their eighth studio album, “I’ll Be Your Girl”, due out on March 16th via Capitol Records. The Colin Meloy-led, Portland-based band have detailed their John Congleton-produced new album and shared its first single, the swaggering, synth-driven track “Severed.”

If “Severed”—and the band’s I’ll Be Your Girl announcement, which cites influences like Roxy Music and New Order—is any indication, the album will be a somewhat radical departure for The Decemberists. Their new single builds from a dance floor-ready synth and percussion combo, soon adding dark guitar notes. Even Meloy’s familiar singing voice is subtly distorted, lending a swaggering attitude to lines like, “I alone am the answer / I alone will make wrongs right.”

“When you’ve been a band for 17 years, inevitably there are habits you fall into,” says Meloy in a statement. “So our ambition this time was really just to get out of our comfort zone. That’s what prompted working with a different producer and using a different studio. We wanted to free ourselves from old patterns and give ourselves permission to try something different.” Meloy recalled falling into such patterns on the group’s last record, 2015’s acclaimed What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.

WIth this freedom to push boundaries came an increased emphasis on collaboration. Speaking specifically to the process of writing and recording “Severed,” Meloy recalls, “That was written as a punk song, but wasn’t really working. [keyboardist] Jenny [Conlee] set this arpeggio throughout it, and it became like an early New Order song. And I had forgotten that when we made the demo, I also started a file to turn it into more of a Depeche Mode song—I actually wanted it to be a synth song all along.”

The Decemberists  will embark on the Your Girl / Your Ghost 2018 World Tour in March, with stops all around the globe.

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Raised on a steady diet of sarah records singles, slumberland noise pop, and creation-era shoegaze, Portland’s A Certain Smile work hard to find that balance between the sweet twee, the fuzzy gaze, and punky pop.

Just as is there a shortage of great guitar bands in the 2018, it looks like the world was destined to prove me wrong. Today A Certain Smile announce the release of their debut album, bringing the sound of Portland’s indiepop to our ears. The track rushes forward from the get-go, employing little touches of shoegaze in the guitar to go along with more traditional jagged lines stabbing through the mix. Vocals from Thomas Andrew provide that fireside warmth that pop fans crave, sending out wave after wave of melodious lines through your speakers. The debut album “Fits and Starts” will be released by the band on March 9th, and it’s sure to be a little gem.

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Haley Heynderickx

Portland, OR’s Haley Heynderickx recently signed to Mama Bird Recording Co who will release her debut album I Need to Start a Garden on March 2nd. Haley co-produced the album with Zak Kimball, and she recorded it with Lily Breshears (electric bass, piano, backing vocals), Tim Sweeney (upright bass, electric bass), Phillip Rogers (drums & percussion, backing vocals), and Denzel Mendoza (trombone, backing vocals).

With two singles out to date, “Untitled God Song” and the doo wop-inspired “Oom Sha La La,” and both are truly excellent songs that have deservedly earned Haley a bit of hype. They sound a bit like Angel Olsen, but more because they likely share some of the same classic influences than because she’s trying to emulate Angel’s music.  Haley has been talking about influences in an interview with Stephen Deusner for Stereogum’s ‘Artist to Watch’

I was definitely fascinated by Jimi Hendrix growing up. It totally could have been the last name, but I love the confidence he exudes when he plays. To be honest, thought, I got way more into the finger style guitar. Once I learned how to play “Blackbird,” I was sold on the Beatles. As a songwriter, I feel like I was more influenced by Dylan than anyone else. And the older I get, the more I find these shy lady songwriters who disappeared for some reason or another and then came back. Like Vashti Bunyan or Connie Converse. They showed me that there are secrets in the way you write and play guitar, when you give listeners just enough. I try to be very secretive and sneaky about what I steal. My favorite type of stealing is when you don’t even know you’re stealing. You just digest your favorite things. If I share something with my band and no one can figure out where it’s from, including me, then we keep going. I just write songs in my bedroom and then throw them at my band the way a little kid throws spaghetti at a wall. I feel very lucky to work with people who are really passionate about music. They kick my butt and teach me a lot.

Haley also recorded one of the new album’s songs, “The Bug Collector,” for an entry to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, which won over NPR’s Bob Boilen.

Typhoon‘s colossal and ambitious fourth LP Offerings is available everywhere . The album, which follows the journey of a man struggling to cope with the loss of his memories, has already garnered praise from NPR, Stereogum, and more for its unmatched lyricism and profound storytelling.

“Good lord this Typhoon album is brilliant…haven’t cried listening to a record since [Sufjan Stevens’].” Offerings is truly a wise and ruminative record.” – Bob Boilen, NPR

“The first compelling album of 2018”  – Daily Mail (★★★★)

Typhoon has succeeded in creating a profoundly human and poetic masterpiece on the edge of the concrete, which despite all its ambition remains multi-layered and cohesive at the same time (…) Rarely ever has forgetting been set to a better soundtrack and more appropriately staged than on this album. 9/10″ – Plattentests

“… one of the most ambitious, delicate, heartbreaking recordings ever.” – Vortex Magazine

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“As early as we are into 2018 as we may be, Offerings already stands as a rare example of a band shooting for a terrifyingly ambitious album that not only holds up to that immense pressure, but exceeds expectations and succeeds on multiple levels, both grand and subtle. If you haven’t been paying attention to Typhoon already, it’s time to change that. 9/10”