Oregon

REVIEW: Husky Boys - Year of the Wolf

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Phillipe Roberts

On their Bandcamp page, Husky Boys bless us with the mother of all genre tags to sum up their rowdy, but ambitious howlings: “basement arena rock.” Obvious oxymoronic implications aside, the tag truly captures the overflowing intensity of feeling that the best DIY shows bring to the table, that sensation of looking around at your fellow weirdos, packed tightly between water heaters, ducking under cobwebs and stumbling over dusty laundry and wondering how a sound so big doesn’t just begin erupting out into the world above. And while the Portland, Oregon-based Boys have used the tag before, their latest LP of sweaty, swaggering rock is the closest they’ve come to busting down the basement door. True to its title, the sheer force and near-constant riffage of Year of the Wolf sounds lean and hungry, eagerly hunting down the anthemic hooks that keep you running back.

The classic-rock tonality of Husky Boys easily summons up summer memories of cruising up and down the highway, switching from station to station of old-school, “real rock” channels, signal rising and falling as you pass through no-name town after no-name town. All notions of favorite bands fall to the wayside when you’re air-guitaring across the familiar grit of a well-worn classic, or thumping on the dashboard to a forgotten hidden gem.

At its core, that generous ethos is what drives Year of the Wolf. While the prickly, odd-time noodling and pleasantly askew percussion of “Port Authority” play out like a miniature detour into stranger pastures, the mode here is no-holds-barred satisfaction; the riffs sound mathematically calculated to get you springing into the air or whipping your mane to the crashing downbeat bursting from the seams of every song. Even on its dirtiest moment, the chugging, detuned banging of the title track, which imagines and designs a middle ground between Modest Mouse and Japandroids, there’s a raw emotionality clawing its way to the surface that can’t be ignored.

The standout moments on the record find Husky Boys playing it fast and loose, bouncing from riff to riff with the same adolescent glee that has you spinning the radio dial in circles to find that hit chorus again and again. Single “Passive Aggressive” does it best, roaring into focus with glittery Superchunk-style flourishes on the rhythm guitar, and eventually diving into a dual guitar battle breakdown that warms my Thin Lizzy-loving heart to no end. Those twin guitars are a major highlight throughout. “Mike Says” shows off some serious harmonic chops, fattening up the melodies as the rest of the country-punk track falls by the wayside.

From start to finish, the formula holds up rather well; Husky Boys are right on the money when they keep the pedal glued to the floor, tempos high. Unfortunately, the sole slow-burner here, closer “30 Under 30,” doesn’t quite ascend to the same airy heights of its peers. After thirty minutes of breathless intensity, its spacious wandering comes off as comparatively aimless, and even once you reach those climactic bursts of energy, they wear off too soon. Overall, however, Year of the Wolf is sure to leave you shaking off their addictive, sugar-high power pop and reaching for the replay button.

PREMIERE: Indira Valey - No Me Tengas Miedo

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Will Shenton

No Me Tengas Miedo. Do not fear me. The title of Portland artist Indira Valey's new EP is an admonition that might seem unnecessary given its quiet, mesmerizing character. Yet, in progressing like a dream, it exposes the listener to the subtle anxieties of introspection, inviting us to see ourselves reflected in its fluid soundscapes—and in the end, imploring us not to shy away from what we discover.

The first three tracks on the EP are primarily impressionistic, each taking its time to build layered textures that undulate and sprawl. Indira Valey's voice phases in and out of earshot throughout, at times melding with the instrumentals entirely as the mantra-like lyrics unfold. The sparse percussion and washed-out guitars give the sound an organic warmth, especially on "Wideopen," which evokes images of sunset plains and endless skies.

On the fourth and final track, "No Me Tengas Miedo No Me," the vocals come to the forefront, slightly modulated, speaking from a place of seemingly mystical power. "Watch as the islands of my eyes ride waves / Of hiding the whole body," the artist chants, further erasing the lines between nature and self that have been blurred by the preceding songs. We are beseeched yet again, in Spanish and English: "No me tengas miedo / No me ... Do not fear me / Do not / I come from higher places."

No Me Tengas Miedo feels in many ways like an exercise in surrender. It lulls us into an uncertain serenity, not tranquilized but clear-headed, before pulling us into a strange world with unfamiliar boundaries. It's a transportive work, and one that you'll find calling you back when you least expect it.

Pre-order No Me Tengas Miedo, out tomorrow (3/28) on Antiquated Future and Spirit House.

REVIEW: Reptaliens - FM-2030

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Laura Kerry

The origin story of Reptaliens is also a love story. Cole and Bambi Browning met on the shoot of a music video in Portland, where the band is based. After six months of dating, they married “under a blanket of smoke from the season’s forest fires.”

Such a romantic start reflects in the music that they write as a duo and perform with the help of other Oregon musicians (Julian Kowalski, Bryson Hansen, and Tyler Vergian). On FM-2030, their full-length debut, the Brownings have created a breezy indie-pop collection filled with dreamy synths, jangly guitars, and catchy melodies. Bambi sings of love many times throughout the album, in lyrics such as “You know only I can see you girl” in “Nunya,” “Touch me / You can touch me” on “Dreaming,” and “Maybe I’ll fall in love” on “666Bus.” This is a starry-eyed sound.

Or so it seems.

In addition to love and marriage, Reptaliens draw from much stranger influences. As evidenced by an album named for a transhumanist philosopher, scattered references to Philip K. Dick novels, and their own name, the band has a thing for the weird, the paranormal, and the fringe. All of that emerges in subtle touches that lurk behind the sunny pop: flourishes of spacey synths and sound effects (“29 Palms,” “Butter Slime,” “Forced Entry”), psychedelic swirls of guitar (“Simulation”), and off-kilter, shifting time signatures (also “Simulation”). And while Bambi’s voice is pretty and sweet, it also sounds haunting, often seeming to be at a distance, detached or abstracted with effects. Many times, the instrumental voices overtake it.

And all of those loving lyrics mentioned above? They’re complicated. In “Nunya,” the subject imagines an unspoken relationship between him and the famous woman he stalks (“Come closer, baby / Look into my camera, girl”), a story told through increasingly creepy lyrics and the slow, sneaking march of the song. In “Dreaming,” the invitation to touch is for someone dreaming about her (when she “cannot say no”). In “666Bus,” the vision of falling in love is actually a vision of death: “Maybe I’ll get hit by a bus / While I was dreaming of falling in love / Or maybe I’ll fall in love / And die of a broken heart.”

Only in FM-2030 could you find a song about Satan and his demons wrapped up in plucky, West African-influenced arpeggios, shuffling percussion, a bouncy bassline, and a hook of a melody. And nowhere else could you find that next to a stalker song, a track called “Butter Slime,” a dreamy track about dreaming, and a song based on a story about psychic people living on the moon. Reptaliens is a match made in heaven—or rather, in outer space.

REVIEW: Somber - Night Divorce

Kelly Kirwan

Somber are a Portland-based four-piece who have drawn their soundscape in charcoal strokes—a sketch filled with black and gray hues, shadows and silhouettes outlined by crinkled edges. Pulling languid vocals from shoegaze and gloomy introspection from goth rock, they have cultivated a sound swirling with off-kilter synths and an uneasy daze. On their debut album, Night Divorce, these elements call you in over the course of seven tracks, beckoning you towards a darkness from a parallel dimension. The magnetic pulse of their melodies lures us into a surreal place, both unnerving and vaguely familiar, like a dream that left you caked with sweat and a spiked heart rate.

The feeling turns out to be intentional. Night Divorce uses lead vocalist and keyboardist Myrrh Crow's bouts with night terrors and sleep paralysis as a jumping off point, searching for resolve and relief. Speaking to The Portland Mercury, Crow recalled an inability to discern these dreams from reality, resulting in a haze that soon turned to torment. It’s a feeling that's emphasized on a track like “Soft/Stale,” where forceful patterings from the drums and thrashes of the guitar seem to swell inside a wide, rolling expanse marked by cloudy skies, with only glimmers of hope peering through occasionally. Crow’s voice gradually pierces the surface of the melody, moving up a notch in urgency from its more subdued, lethargic setting. “I’m a waking nightmare,” she sings, taking her time to enunciate and stretch the syllables in those last two words. 

The album inhabits a world somewhere between the one we live in and the one we dream in. It’s evident even in the naming of their tracks, which alternate between Roman numerals and more “conventional” names—a weaving of the rational and mathematical with the emotive and abstract. The numbered tracks all rest somewhere between one and two minutes; interludes between dreams that come apart and then reassemble. In one—the final track "IV"—a delicate piano forms the song’s base, giving us a rare moment of softness that displays Somber's ability to add a little gleam to their brooding. Of course, “IV” still incorporates a touch of dissonance but it’s much more subdued, and it leads us out of the dream and into waking life with subtle skill.

Closing Night Divorce on this more fragile note offers a sense of renewal, a certain peace after an all-encompassing, gripping and nuanced tumult. It tops off an overall strong yet thoughtful statement (especially for a debut release) that showcases Somber’s affinity for finding tension and contradiction, and using it to their advantage.

REVIEW: Post Moves - Boogie Night at the Edge of Town

Kelly Kirwan

Post Moves have a built a genre as you would a house of mirrors, with reflections stacked endlessly atop one another in an off-kilter maze, each element distorted into an uncanny counterpart. The Portland-based trio have described their sound as being in somewhat of an identity crisis by conventional standards—"What the hell is Americana, anyway?" they ask in their press release. Post Moves' style is a hybrid of experimental pop-rock, funk, and country that falls into the realm of “weirdo indie” (as they’ve coined it). Following their 2016 release, Mystery World Science Show, the three-man band has returned with Boogie Night at the Edge of Town, a title that feels like it's been drawn from a shelf of dusty '70s cult-film classics.

The album explores the human condition in a roundabout way, their lyrics poetic and often inclined towards philosophical musing. The opening track, "The Cavern," is filled with funk and vocals that feel like a smoothed-over stream of consciousness. The first verse is slightly rushed, as if the ideas were overflowing and had to spill out into the ether. The melody offsets any sense of apprehension that may come with ruminating on our life’s purpose, and it’s an easy groove to get into. The song takes a languid stretch in the center, asking wistfully, “What is our nature? / We fade more each time.”

The album features a little reprise at its halfway point with a roughly one-minute stretch of calming instrumentals titled, "With You, On Big Leaf Mountain." It’s a rich, gleaming melody, one that elicits feelings of contentment, its only vocals a background of ethereal, meditative ahs. The song seeps seamlessly into the delicate introduction of the following track, "Last Gasp," as a subtle melody emphasizes the opening line, “It won’t take long / I’ll clock it til it’s gone / The speed of light has never known the liking of this one.” Then we’re jolted into the next line, which hits like an exclamation point: “SO FAST, SO QUICK!” The four words leap with a bold-type intensity, evoking comparisons to spoken word. It a motif you hear throughout "Last Gasp," a song that revels in idiosyncratic flair.

Boogie Night at the Edge of Town lives up to its name. It’s a curious, foot-tapping compilation of songs that exists on the outskirts of any easily recognizable genre—or, as the band might say, “Post Moves make Americana about an America that makes no sense; pastoral, shambling and strange.” And yet, “strange” has never felt more accessible. Sometimes it's good to revel in a little oddity.