Portland

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.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Teton - Dream Come True

Raquel Dalarossa

Teton list an interesting combination of artists and genres as their influences: from medieval music to ‘80s art pop, and from chamber to prog. It doesn’t make much sense on paper, but hearing is believing, and the trio deftly manage to weave those disparate references together to create something very much their own.

The Portland-based band is made up of Elizabeth Lovell on synths and vocals, Sam Klickner on percussion, and Jef Hill on bass. We covered their debut single last year, from their six-song collection Candy Spelling. Now, they’re back with their first video, an encapsulation of their whole aura.

“Dream Come True” has a hypnotic and haunting quality; the song opens with a folksy melody played on recorder, like something you’d hear around a campfire. The visuals are a perfect match for the eerie track, drawing heavily from the vibe of the Pacific Northwest. The camera follows Lowell as she walks, determinedly, down a mountainside, while the sun dips below the horizon. Soon enough, it’s entirely dark out, but something continues to draw her forward. It’s perfectly perplexing and bewitching.

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: Snow Roller - XXL

Kelly Kirwan

Snow Roller are a reincarnation of moody, '90s alternative rock. Their music buzzes with fuzzy guitar feedback the same way an overhead power line buzzes with high-voltage electricity. And it's exactly this kind of suburban imagery and malaise that the band convey not only through nostalgia or genre but also through lyrical concepts. This is the music of growing pains—or, more broadly, of growth itself—and it’s a theme evenly diffused across the Portland-based trio’s sophomore album, XXL

As noted by one of their labels (the band has ties to both Near Mint and Making New Enemies), Snow Roller consciously chose which stories to include on this follow-up venture, and sought to offer closure on some of the chapters from their first album, What's The Score?. To quote Near Mint’s own assessment of the band’s latest 10-track compilation, “Herein lies the spectrum that this Portland three-piece volleys between: slouching and standing up for their own future foibles.” 

Indeed, XXL straddles the line between insightful and indolent. Their vocals are evenly delivered, with a slightly nasal pitch, offering observations that could be interpreted as either deft poeticisms on everyday life, or the verbal equivalent of a shoulder shrug. The album's opening track, "Movie Night," begins with a thrash of a few guitar strums and a line of reverb curving languidly in the background. The drums keep a steady pace as singer Colin Kritz takes us through a night in with someone, watching Die Another Day. The lyrics reflect an inner monologue that skips from unsure and insecure to bored and absentminded: "Feel the tension deep down inside my bones / I miss my Connecticut home and bike paths I spent time on." The song effectively evokes a feeling of estrangement, from both people and places that hold a certain sentimentality.

Then there’s "Bury the Lede," which sees that sentimentality turn into resentment. Kritz begins by speaking of someone in third person ("She ate cheese for dinner again") but quickly turns the narrative into a direct address ("It was a let down, seeing you before you left"). Kritz's anger grows over the course of the song, depicting a significant other who moved away and moved on. It's a quick-footed tune, featuring bright gleams of guitar and crinkling chords along with thumping drums that suit the bitter but defiant tone. It ends with a cutting jab: "When can I begin to pass the time that you gave up?"

XXL plays out like this for much of the album—uncertainty surrounding our place in a relationship, or even our ultimate desires, but delivered with a confidence that almost seems contradictory. It’s not as naive as a coming of age, but falls into a similar category: seeing the world clearly and still feeling confused. Can’t we all relate?