Posts Tagged ‘Portland’

Lithics – “Hands”

The heavy hitters of 2020 continue to roll out today with “Hands” from RSTB faves Lithics. The Portland foursome makes a jump from Kill Rock Stars to the ranks of Trouble in Mind for their new LP Tower of Age and the fist listen proves they’re still slicing. There’s never a shortage of post-punk popping up in any given year but little of it can cut like Lithics cut. The band’s got Glaxo Babies in their veins, a dose of Contortions minus the sax blast in their brain, and a vocal veneer that goes toe to toe with Au Pairs for its sheer “no bullshit” approach. Their last album was a reminder why wiry hooks and desert-dry delivery still sand the rough edges off of life in the 2010s. The band wields the hook here like a garrote — tensile and deadly. The track crouches for the first half, but when the band lets the restraints loose, “Hands” unfurls its floodwater riffs with full force. This one’s a crusher for sure. With former Trouble in Minders Omni having left the nest, Lithics slot themselves into the stable nicely as the deadpan dealers with a crushed glass grit. Get familiar. Checkout the video for “Hands” above and pick up the new LP June 5th.

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Woolen Men

Feels like I’m constantly making the point that Portland’s Woolen Men are viciously underrated, or maybe they’re constantly making that point for me. Either way, the band has been consistently kicking out taut n’ toned indie that plucks from the punk and post-punk piles with equal fervor. Their last album amped up the Feelies and Go-Betweens riffage while finding a new muse in rhythm, but this time around they’re toughening up the tincture and heading back to their high-school hangs with rough-nubbed workouts that gnaw at R.E.M., mid-period SST, late-period Dischord, The Fall, and as always, the Dü. The band’s prowess has always been the ability to throw these bits in the blender and not let one of them rise to the surface too heavily, letting the scent of past scenes float on the air while their frothy jams hold down substance of their own accord.

There’s not too many that do this with quite the same skill, but the addition of Possible Humans to the fold this year makes me wish for a double bill by the two bands as soon as possible. Like the Aussie upstarts, Portland’s finest seem to shift gears without any crunch on the clutch. The airy coolness of “Crash,” while worlds away, feels a kinship with the muscular pound of opener “Mexico City Blues” or the reckless rail of “Space Invader.” I’ve made the point in the past that its not style that defines Woolen Men, but an operating level that’s just a touch above the rest. While it would be hard to beat out the latter-day gem that is Post the band does a good job of giving it a companion in their current catalog and I’d highly recommend getting acquainted.



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Woolen Men – “Mexico City Blues”

These Woolen Men releases always come without warning and I’m never ready for what’s next. The band has been consistently one of the best at corralling the spirit of indie guitar into a new era that pays its dues to what came before without getting stuck in their predecessor’s footsteps. “Mexico City Blues” is methodical and measured, a steady rocker that anchors its admissions to a thud of bass while slashing and slicing just the right amount of jagged and jaded guitar over the top. A little while back Aquarium Drunkard ran down a review of what made The Mantles so vital to the San Francisco sound, which ended fittingly with the band tearing up roots and heading to Portland, only to be welcomed with open arms by Woolen Men in their first show in the Pacific Northwest. Like The Mantles, Woolen Men are the crux and soul of a sound, without ever putting on any pretensions about their status. What Woolen Men do matters too, and with a new record on the way, they’re proving just why that’s true. The new LP lands November 22nd. Get on it.



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Rose City Band – “Rip City”

Got a great gift to the psych-folk feeder today with the first offering from Rose City Band. The first single slides in on an autumnal glow of golden shivers, slow-motion choogle, honeyed hues, and cedar swoons. “Rip City” plays right into the hands of the Cosmic American cavalcade that’s building steam in all the best nooks and nodes across the tattered tableau of 2018-2019 – a sound I can’t quite get enough of these days. The album’s produced by Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo) and mixed by Chris Cohen. It’ll serve as the first LP release on Johnson and Sanae Yamada’s Jean Sandwich imprint, who describe the LP as “finding its niche in the hazy sonic landscape of private press country and psych records, and alongside artists like Relatively Clean Rivers, Jim Sullivan, Kenny Knight, and countless other explorers of the pastoral underground.” While the rest of the details on the band remain locked and lean, the astute among you might recognize the voice floating above the amber ether here and crack a knowing smile.

The band offers a bit more insight into the roots of “Rip City,” in particular, noting that it’s “about trying to find peace (and maybe salvation) in a song, or more specifically in a sound. It’s about feeling melancholy and being OK with that. Looking out on a rainy day and just soaking in the dark and beautiful aspects of nature; maybe turning that into some kind of inspiration.” The record is out May 24th. First pressing is limited to 300 colored and 700 black vinyl LPs. Colored vinyl is available for pre-order exclusively from the band’s Bandcamp page.



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Woolen Men

Portland’s constantly underrated Woolen Men are back with their fifth album and it’s the best incarnation of their ‘80s and ‘90s excavations yet. Built on a bedrock of knotty guitars and bone-dry vocals, the band finds a new arrow in its arsenal with the addition of sprightly, motorik-leaning rhythms. The combo gives the band’s sound a good shove in the direction of the sun and further towards indie pop than they’ve ever strayed. To be honest, indie pop wouldn’t have ever been a term I thought would apply to the veteran Northwesterners, but here we are. The band’s had a documented dedication to following their muse and rebuffing the trends towards the grunge legacy of their surroundings, but they’ve often strayed towards the dingier side of the past when trailing that muse.

They’ve powered through a period of angular post-punk, bouts of college rock that kicked at the doors of Pavement and Husker Du alike, but now they’re finding their groove stapling early Go-Betweens basslines to R.E.M. fallout and Feelies vibes. Its as upbeat an album as they’ve ever issued, and in a year when anger rules the racks that’s somewhat of a refreshing offer. The sound on Post (a winking nod of a title if there ever was one) is as crisp as they’ve ever sounded, on par with their previous high-water mark Temporary Monument. Though while the two albums may share a love of clarity, Post is the calm water coolout to Temp’s agitator itch.

Style and genre don’t seem to hold a place of permanence in their mindset, but a mark of quality always haunts any Woolen Men record. Post is no different, the band proves that they can jangle just as well as they can wrap their guitars around the rubbery wrath of The Fall. Woolen Men have now been knocking around Portland long enough to see waves of bands filter through fast fad life cycles, and while they themselves band may still be holding down day jobs, their dedication to doing what brings them joy has given them a longevity that contemporaries would likely envy. This may be the band’s finest hour, I’d advise paying close attention.



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Woolen Men – “Brick Horizon”

Always a good day on the docket when there’s new music from Woolen Men to be had. The Portland band has spent their career bubbling just below the surface and threatening to break so let’s hope that their upcoming album for Dogs Table Recs give them a well-deserved spotlight. First peek into Post comes in the form of the wiry “Brick Horizon.” Built on a breathless beat and wrestling with their strings until every last bit of emotion is bashed from their fraught forms, the song is indie rock in the greatest sensed of the term. Still barreling down the road paved by their heroes The Wipers, the band picks up bits of Husker Du as well on this one. The song is as toughened and tight as they’ve ever sounded, giving good reason to be excited for their third full length to descend from the gods of angst and irreverence this Fall.



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Lithics

When it comes to post-punk these days, I’m a fan of the brittle, parched-throat approach that’s stuffed with bulbous bass and crimped wire guitars. Stow your smokey-eyed goth crooners, I want those guitars to lacerate and the atmosphere choked to hospital waiting room levels of forced air. Portland’s Lithics serve up just the thing, a satisfying album that’s scoring and snapping hooks off like drywall – rough-edged and choking the listener on their dust. The band is bred on a cocktail of The Contortions, Galaxo-Babies and Au Pairs – hiding rusted hooks in their surgical slice with ill intent. The approach is just enough to let the listener wander close before the sucker punch of Aubrey Hornor’s ball peen hammer vocals knocks them sideways.

Perhaps only labelmates Taiwan Housing Project or British dance diviners Shopping are working in quite such frantic strokes these days. But Lithics, unlike their contemporaries in label parentage or their UK counterparts don’t let on the sly wink that there’s fun to be had. Not that you can’t move to Lithics – you can and should, but they inspire a top-button tamped down, full-body jerk that feels manic and draws looks of concern from other occupants of the mashed mass audience. There’s beauty in their dissonance and order to their entropy but there’s menace in their strings and you best not take them too lightly.

If all this sounds like it’s not fun, then perhaps things are too kush on your side of the couch. Anxious energy throttles the sinews and Lithics know just how to draw it out. They’ve created a perfect conduit for shaking the itch that threatens to catch in the lungs. Lithics know you either face the panic head-on or let it consume you. Your choice I suppose.


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Mope Grooves

Northwest ramshackle poppers Mope Grooves have hot-glued together a brittle but bright indie pop album that rests on the brink of falling apart but glows all the brighter for it’s resolve to keep things loose. Coming off slightly impenetrable at first blush, the album reveals itself to be more than just a noisy nugget of homespun clatter. The record is built on the angst, noise and innocence that fueled The Raincoats, Beat Happening or more contemporary enclaves like Nodzzz or Brilliant Colors. Centering around songwriter Stevie Pohlman’s battles with depression and the push-pull nature of dealing with mental illness, the record was bound to be bruised. The band is able, however, to smooth the wealth of crushed aluminum riffs into a semblance of pop that embraces the exit wound of depression’s lacerations rather than dwell on the glowing hurt at the heart of the matter.

Featuring members of Woolen Men, Patsy’s Rats and Honey Bucket, the band is a catch-all of similarly minded travelers all coming together to saw at the human condition with rubber band riffs and a cacophony that heals like an uncontrolled howl rather than raise the collective hackles of listeners. Pohlman’s grasp on the outsider jangle that populated the ‘80s and ‘90s gives this one a lost rarity quality, like stumbling on a Talulah Gosh demo in an old Goodwill box. It’s a quaint shot of pop that can’t help but charm time and again.



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Lithics – “Excuse Generator”

It’s been such an embarrassment of riches for wiry post-punk of late, from OMNI to Ganser, Total Control and too many more to name, there has been an upswing in the kind of crushed aluminum guitar stringers that sweat with nervous energy. I’m not gonna ask questions about what’s in the water, I’m just going to enjoy the pretzel bent singles that fall down each week. Following on an excellent bit of post-punk in the form of Taiwan Housing Project, Kill Rock Stars posits Portland’s Lithics as their next stellar export and first single “Excuse Generator” is a gem of chewed glass dynamics and nervous stomach nuance. Definitely gonna want to grip this one when it lands in May.




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Woolen Men

Portland stalwarts Woolen Men snuck out a low key release last week and it’s further proof that they’re cementing their status as heirs to the crooked crown of spindly post-punks. The band trawls through the catalogs of Kiwi scrappers like The Clean and Chris Knox then staple their approach the the steel wool scrape of The Fall, the no frills delivery of The Modern Lovers and the ensconced pop pilfering of The Feelies. And while that might make them sound more like archivists than innovators, the band’s appeal is more in how they fit the pieces together rather than any Where’s Waldo spot-the-influence challenge.

Woolen Men have shown up strong ever since their scruffy self-titler back in 2013. They came gunning for listeners with a whiff of familiarity that acts as bait to their acerbic world, then hook ’em in with rusted barb of guitar that bites deep. What’s surprising is that this release, while actually an odds n’ sods collection of tour tape cuts, splits and even a flexi, works as well as anything they’ve put out in their regular rotation. Even their chosen covers weave seamlessly, proving that the band both emulate their heroes well and have absorbed those sounds into the very DNA of their own work. That this doesn’t feel like an unplanned release cobbled together speaks highly to the creators. If even the extras are this strong, I can’t wait to see how the next proper LP shapes up.




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