Selected Brief Music Write-Ups, 2013-2019

All of these were published (sometimes in a slightly altered form) in the Things to Do and Up & Coming sections of The Portland Mercury alt-weekly, when it was still in its weekly print form.

Stephen Steinbrink

For the past dozen years, Stephen Steinbrink has been producing smart, uncommon albums of indie-pop. His latest, last year’s Utopia Teased, is easily one of the best in Steinbrink’s vast catalog. On it, 1999-era Prince synth grooves combine with Judee Sill-inspired ‘70s folk-pop, playing like a strange love-child of Arthur Russell’s Calling Out of Context and Shuggie Otis’ Inspiration Information. Lyrically, the album is a glorious puzzle: the fantastical mixing with the mundane, the heartfelt with the absurd, revealing and obscuring, over and over. (October, 2019)

Jonathan Richman

Nearly 50 years into his career, Jonathan Richman remains a singular figure in indie music. A soft-hearted punk legend who approaches the world with child-like wonder, his career includes leading the seminal early-‘70s band The Modern Lovers, playing songs in a tree in a ‘90s Farrelly Brothers blockbuster, and being covered by everyone from the Sex Pistols to Joan Jett, David Bowie to M.I.A. One of the most playful and eccentric live performers around, Richman’s show are an uncommonly intimate experience, even on an off-night. It’s rare he plays any of his songs in a straight, recognizable form, but the immense, unfiltered joy he brings to each performance is something everyone should witness. (October, 2019)


Known for her work in the Detroit rock band Tyvek and the late-great Saturday Looks Good to Me, Shelly Salant is a fixture of Midwestern indie music. As Shells, she makes adventurous, guitar-driven instrumental albums that pair the collaged freedom of Mick Turner from Dirty Three’s solo records with the best of ‘90s indie rock instrumentals (think Yo La Tengo’s “Green Arrow,” Halo Benders’ “Rebels Got a Hole in It,” and Silver Jews’ “Night Society”). Ostensibly free and easy collections of home recordings, when played as a whole her albums gather a sense of intention and purpose. They feel casually grand, transcendent. (September, 2019)


Throughout their storied 30-year history, Northwest drone-metal pioneers Earth have been making a weighted hum uniquely their own. Their ever-shifting line-up has, over the years, included PNW luminaries as varied as Slim Moon, Joe Preston, Karl Blau, Lori Goldston, and even (for one recording session) Kurt Cobain. While their ‘90s Sub Pop releases are modern doom reference points, for the past decade they’ve hit their stride with a sound like a Southern rock 45 played at 33; heavy and anthemic, murmuring and lush. On stage, they transcend genres, musical lineages, and even their own past, creating something hypnotic, beyond words, somehow wise. (May, 2019)

The Lemonheads

After forming in an elite Boston private high school, The Lemonheads produced three of the scrappiest punk albums of the late 1980s (on a label famed for releasing Oi! and ska records) before signing to a major and frontman Evan Dando becoming the Sassy darling of the alternative era and also (whether fairly or not) the poster boy for sell-out poseur-ing. His ‘93 inclusion in People’s Most Beautiful cemented the disdain and near-viral hate-zines followed in its wake (the men’s rights-adjacent Die, Even Dando, Die and Kathleen Hannah’s male-privilege-in-rock analysis My Life With Evan Dando, Popstar). But then there were the songs—like “Stove” and “Rudderless”—perfect pop gems that carried an emotional weight that belied their shallow lyrical surface. Evan Dando as a figure was absurd, sure, but his songs were sweet and simple. And these facts, all these years later, hold true. (May, 2019)

Black Belt Eagle Scout

Arguably the best album to come out of Portland last year, Black Belt Eagle Scout’s Mother of My Children is eight songs chiseled down to their essentials. It’s slowcore heartbreak, bleak and celebratory, a history lesson in the brooding music of the Pacific Northwest. It’s an album that’s both completely familiar and wholly its own. Within its unadorned mantras, Mother of My Children is a queer break-up album, a grief memoir, and a story of Native American resistance. It’s all there if you want it—a work fully distilled and yet too big to easily hold in your hands. (January, 2019)

The Cowboy Junkies

The one time I saw the Cowboy Junkies, I fell asleep. My mom’s friend had bought us tickets to see them in Seattle for the Caution Horses tour, Townes Van Zandt opened, I was seven years old. They likely played songs off their then-recent breakthrough, The Trinity Session, an album that 30 years after its release still holds up as one of the best alt-country albums of all time. Each time I hear it, I remember drifting in and out of consciousness, Margo Timmins’ ethereal voice pulling me between dreams and reality. (January, 2019)

Advance Base

Advance Base’s third full-length, Animal Companionship, is about naming a dog after a dead boyfriend. It’s about actualizing long-distance internet love affairs. About going to the park just to watch the dogs run around. Backed by only electric piano and drum machine, these stripped-down story-songs capture both the pervasive loneliness of life and the will to alleviate it—the desire we all have to show care and be cared for. At times, the album inches songwriter Owen Ashworth closer to being bedroom-pop’s Springsteen, with its working-class tales of finding beauty in refinery lights, kissing a partner’s smoky hair after an apartment fire, falling in love at the aquatarium. (November, 2018)

Fred Thomas

DIY lifer Fred Thomas should arguably be indie rock royalty by now. If his years at the helm of pop darlings Saturday Looks Good to Me and City Center weren’t enough, he’s done stints in a dozen other bands, produced countless albums, and—with his recently released Aftering—completed a stunning trilogy of lyric-driven solo records. Together, the albums could be looked at as a sociological study in not wanting what everyone else wants. Or, perhaps a philosophical treatise on why we have nostalgia for things that weren’t especially great. At the very least, the albums are Thomas’ memoirs of an adulthood spent staring out the windows of tour vans, hiding in the corners of basement shows, taking it all in. (November, 2018)

Cat Power

Having a moniker long synonymous with states of wallowing and general malaise, it’s a wonder that Cat Power’s Chan Marshall can still function as a songwriter. And on recent albums, Marshall has pushed against her well-earned reputation as the singer one turns to post-break-up or in the depths of winter’s darkness, hopping genres and moods with relative ease and occasional success. While her latest, Wanderer, has moments that challenge the idea of what we believe Cat Power to be, it’s arguably the most Cat Power-y Cat Power album since 2003’s You Are Free. In large part, the album lingers in the kind of sparsely-arranged ballads she’s known for: songs that change the air in the room, songs that hold tension without ever letting go. (November, 2018)

Old Time Relijun

In early 2000s Olympia, Old Time Relijun shows were strange rituals, mystical freakouts that invited all present to loose their dance-floor inhibitions. Part Captain Beefheart, part Screaming Jay Hawkins, and part no-wave party band, they tapped into rock n’ roll’s transcendent possibilities in ways previously deemed lost and forgotten. When they were on stage, it was easy to believe they were creating something that had never existed before—a style of music the rest of us had only heard in our dreams. (October, 2018)


Remambran’s songs are worlds populated by sad Novas and weathervanes on fortresses. Worlds where both the presence of a persimmon tree and the absence of a Dairy Queen feel emotionally significant. The long-running project of Los Angeles songwriter Mallory Watje, Remambran albums don’t come out often and they’re never greeted with reviews or media attention. They’re loose around the edges—never big conceptual pieces, just collections of songs—but each is a treasure chest of casual pop. Some people I’ve played Remembran for have just heard a voice vaguely reminiscent of early Joanna Newsom, and wrote it off as if it were something dime-a-dozen. But when I listen, I hear a songwriter with a clarity of vision that doesn’t come along every day. Remambran’s surface-level ease belies Watje’s lyrical acrobatics: how she slips from narrative to koan so gracefully, makes poetry of passing revelations, and bestows inanimate objects with a weight they don’t often carry in life. (March, 2018)


By the time I started listening to Northwest underground music in the mid-‘90s, Boise’s Treepeople was already over, existing solely in the realm of legend. I knew them as the source of some of the most unique bands of that particular moment—Built to Spill, Stuntman, The Halo Benders—bands that, like Treepeople, didn’t fit neatly into any of the scenes or sounds happening on this side of the Cascades. But while Treepeople were talked about with reverence, there was also confusion over what to make of the artifacts they left behind. Their albums were wild and disjointed rides through garage punk, noisy indie rock, and metal riffing. Their catalog had no masterpiece, no easy entrance to their greatness, but in between each album’s misses were a surplus of gems. And today—underneath the dated production, teen angst, and endless guitar solos—their albums still hold some of the best songs to come out of late ‘80s and early ‘90s Northwest music. (March, 2018)


Like Sade in ‘84 and Aaliyah when she teamed up with Timbaland in ‘96, Kelela’s 2013 debut mixtape Cut 4 Me created both a sea change in R&B and a distinctly singular sound. Working with genre-fluid producers like Nguzunguzu, Jam City, and Kingdom, the mixtape was atmospheric and beat-heavy, ominous and delicate, and within these simultaneous extremes held an addicting tension. Four years later, her first official full-length has finally arrived and doesn’t disappoint. Keeping what made Cut 4 Me so unique, Take Me Apart is an even more complex and emotionally resonant release; an album that fully lives up to the hype and anticipation around it. While to the casual listener she might seem to be treading the same sonic territory of artists like FKA Twigs and Jessy Lanza, I predict Kelela is who we’ll be listening to decades from now, still trying to puzzle out her understated brilliance. (October, 2017)

Michael Nau

Michael Nau’s recent solo releases have made it clear he’s a songwriter of an entirely different caliber than most people previously assumed. Farther reaching than either of his former bands—folk-pop outfit Page France and the hazy alt-country Cotton Jones—Nau’s solo work bounces freely between musical palettes. On first listen his releases seem a little unfocused, almost reminiscent of those “B-sides & rarities” albums that proliferated in the ‘90s. But his albums are also sneaky and if you stay with them long enough, song-by-song, they reveal the subtle genius underneath. Part of this genius is how Nau lyrically sidesteps most expectations of the singer-songwriter: his songs aren’t confessional, they aren’t stories, and they aren’t aiming for the philosophical. What Nau captures in his unlikely pop masterpieces is the feeling of when things work out, when cares fall away, and when the gratitude for the people in your life feels immense and uncontainable. (September, 2017)

The Blow

I was lucky enough to move to Olympia in 2002, at the very moment Khaela Maricich was doing her first performances as The Blow. Existing somewhere between show and conceptual art, early Blow performances were perfectly odd events that everyone could see was the beginning of something remarkable. Soon after, The Blow became a Portland band and created the electro-pop masterpiece Paper Television, before moving to Brooklyn and solidifying the project as Maricich and Melissa Dyne. Last month they put out their first album in four years, Brand New Abyss, a largely successful plunge into modular synths which contains my pick for single of the year, “Get Up.” A raw, playful, much-needed battle cry against apathy, “Get Up” features Maricich playing the role of the badass aunt who’s been there, seen the limitations of cool, and is now filled with a boundless enthusiasm for life that she can pass along to you if only you’ll listen. (September, 2017)

Y La Bamba

Portland’s Y La Bamba have always been undeniably good. Or at least difficult to out-and-out dislike. But the band has always seemed to me like the friendly, ready-for-radio front for the raw, emotionally complex songs of bandleader Luz Elena Mendoza. Anyone who’s seen Mendoza’s solo shows can attest. My tune changed this May when Y La Bamba played the St. Johns Bizarre. With the sound system cutting in and out and the rain coming down, they put on the best show I’ve seen this year. Featuring a new-to-me set of songs and line-up, the band was tight enough to mesmerize and loose enough to allow the material to feel as alive and complex as the songs Mendoza writes. This is all to say that: Y La Bamba is one of Portland’s best live bands. Right now. Don’t sleep on this, or claim you’ve seen them before. You haven’t. Not like this. (August, 2017)

Mega Bog

Mega Bog has, in their nine years, gone through countless manifestations. What began as a surfy dream-pop band straddling the indie-folk line has gone on to establish themselves as a wild card beyond compare. Erin Birgy, the group’s ringleader, does what she wants and, if you’re wise, you follow wherever she takes you. Mega Bog’s 2014 breakthrough, Gone Banana, asked fans to reconsider jazz fusion and “Careless Whisper”-style saxophone parts and, while no small request, made it pay off. Their newest, Happy Together, transcends genre boundaries altogether. The album’s genius is in how, at least on first listen, uniquely unsatisfying it is. The songs establish expectations just to break them, they build up steam just to burn out—never paying off, leaving you continually wanting more. Its reference points might be The Raincoats Odyshape, John Cale’s Artificial Intelligence, and Nico’s Desert Shore, and is easily one of the most innovative pop albums of the year. (July, 2017)

Lee “Scratch” Perry

In Lee “Scratch” Perry’s 60 year career he’s helped pioneer reggae music (famously producing the first two Wailers albums to leave the island), as well as dub music, sampling, and the concept of mixing-board-as-instrument. Few artists can claim to have had such a broad impact—his work influencing generations of dub/reggae artists, home recording experimenters, downtempo producers, hip hop artists, and post-punk bands. While his releases from the ‘70s are generally seen as his best work, his often overlooked 1986 album Battle Of Armagideon (Millionaire Liquidator) has always been my favorite. While categorically a reggae album, its unorthodox level of lyrical and musical play makes it more akin to albums like T. Rex’s Unicorn or Arthur Russell’s Calling Out of Context than anything to come from Jamaica before or since. It’s baffling and infectious, casual and often silly, an oddball masterpiece to challenge all other oddball masterpieces. (September, 2016)

Frankie Cosmos

Next Thing is the 51st release from New York songwriter Greta Kline, the 21st under the Frankie Cosmos moniker, and her second recorded in a studio with a full band. And to my ears, Next Thing is where Frankie Cosmos changes from Kline’s bedroom project to a full-fledged band. While 2014’s Zentropy felt like Kline backed up by some talented friends, Next Thing is filled with well-worked, subtly complex, two-minute masterpieces of ‘50s bubblegum-inspired, Slumberland-ish power-pop. On the surface, Kline’s lyrics are quintessential, almost stereotypical twee—adventures, friends, break-ups, enjoyable snack foods—but after a few listens, her lyrics unfold and open into something remarkable. Inspiring and humorous, playfully on-the-nose and surprisingly sneaky. At their best, her songs create much-needed anthems for the formerly-painfully shy. Next Thing’s highlight, “Embody,” is her most distilled mantra (“Someday in bravery/I’ll embody/All the grace and lightness”) for those of us still involved in the lifelong process of coming out of our shells. (September, 2016)

David Bazan

In the late ‘90s, imagining Pedro the Lion frontman David Bazan making an electronic album would have been laughable. The sparse arrangements of Bazan’s music were, for many, an antidote to the overproduced, electronics-driven music that was just beginning to repopulate college radio airwaves. So to hear, years later, the grace with which Bazan makes the transition into beats and synths on 2016’s Blanco is a bit surreal. Compiled from a monthly 7” series, the synth-driven soundscapes of Blanco are such a natural fit with his voice and songwriting that it’s easy to forget what he sounded like without the gear; it might make you want his whole catalog remixed to sound like Blanco. Acoustic guitars sneak their way into the songs, as do allusions to religion—both of which work just fine. But the album’s best moments are when he ditches these old crutches and makes something that sounds like he’s leaving the faith-questioning, guy-with-acoustic-guitar self firmly in the past. (August, 2016)

Lavender Country

Until recently, few people knew that the first openly gay country album came out of Seattle in 1973. Songwriter Patrick Haggarty’s band Lavender Country and their eponymous debut were largely lost to time before a YouTube rip of “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” made it to the right ears and resulted in a 2014 reissue. The album is, in small part, the novelty record it appears to be—Haggarty’s a witty lyricist with an odd voice and a penchant for sex humor leading a ragtag band. But the album also deals with people being committed to asylums or killed for their sexual preferences. It’s a unique middle ground between sincerity and silliness where Haggerty (who became a lifelong political activist) voiced a radical response to the repression of the era while still having a good time. 40 years after it was written, it finally has the audience it deserves. (August, 2016)

Willis Earl Beal

Nocturnes, Willis Earl Beal’s 2015 release on Tender Loving Empire, is an album made out of Angelo Badalamenti-inspired synth pads, sparse drum machine percussion, and Beal’s lithe voice. It’s a collection of slow burn ambient crooner ballads, something like Windham Hill R&B, a previously unimagined genre for a rare kind of break-up album—one that focuses almost entirely on post-relationship mental traps rather than the faults of the other person. The largely-ignored Nocturnes is a far cry from the self-proclaimed outsider music on Acousmatic Sorcery that brought him international acclaim in 2012, but it’s no less surprising. Out of all the potential directions that Beal has entertained (and done well) in the past few years, no one would have guessed a far extreme of subdued minimalism would be where he would sound most at home. (August, 2016)

Yo La Tengo

2016 marks thirty years since Yo La Tengo’s first album and twenty years since I found a copy of their 1993 album Painful gathering dust in a small town record store’s discount CD bin and bought it on a whim. I’ve noticed many long-time fans pretend there was a mythic era of Yo La Tengo where the band sounded one specific way and that way was awesome and everything that followed it was less awesome. But other than somehow creating perpetually recognizable, instantly nostalgic, sepia-toned songs, the group has never stuck—even loosely—to one sound or genre. Their 1986 debut is just as categorically manic as their latest, 2015’s Stuff Like That There—an album that, like their 1990 album Fakebook, mixes new songs and rearranged old songs with a wildly diverse array of cover songs. It’s a casual, near-perfect, lazy summer hang out album that—like all their albums—traverses the musical map and gets better with each listen. (July, 2016)

Willie Nelson

Over the years, I’ve heard everyone from rural construction workers to crust punks refer to the honey-voiced, living legend of classic country as a rebel or a badass. But anyone who’s taken even a shallow dip into Willie’s sprawling catalog presumably finds this perception as curious as I do, given that the vast majority of his recordings are either tender-hearted ballads or adorable, cheeseball covers (see: “Rainbow Connection,” “Wind Beneath My Wings”). His rebel status seems based more in his collaborations, longevity, and real life run-ins with the law—for things that aren’t especially wild or shocking (weed, tax evasion)—than in the bad behavior songs that defined the work of Johnny or Merle. Willie’s 1962 debut is just as sappy and lounge-y as his 2016 album of Gershwin covers, and even his legendary 1975 cowboy concept album Red-Headed Stranger is more about heartbreak than lawbreaking. In short: It’s an unusual, but ultimately ideal variety of badass country rebel he’s created: an anti-war, bio-fuel company-owning, LBGTQ-supporting octogenarian who’s more interested in singing about feelings than guns. (July, 2016)

Mark Lanegan

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Mark Lanegan was the Johnny Cash of the grunge scene—a soft-hearted bad boy who could make even the most banal song haunting and gorgeous. His unlikely career path has led him from lead singer of Screaming Trees to a series of unpredictable solo albums, vocalist-for-hire for everyone from Mike Watt to Moby, and a seemingly infinite array of collaborative projects (his three albums with former Belle and Sebastian member Isobel Campbell being the most critically adored). Live, Lanegan is an enigmatic force. He can cast a spell over a space with no showmanship, no banter, and barely any movement at all. Just a ghostly presence and a voice. Most of the Screaming Trees catalog hasn’t aged well and Lanegan’s solo and collaborative catalog is hit and miss. But any slight musical missteps on record fade away when he steps up to the mic, closes his eyes, and lets his inimitable baritone rumble through a room. (July, 2016)

Beth Orton

Beth Orton’s 20 year career has been an unlikely, cognitively dissonant affair. Her ‘90s albums sat somewhere between '60s British folk revival, Lilith Fair compilations, and rave downtempo tents. She was an early oughts dorm room staple, a diva of UK trip-hop, and managed to have successful collaborations with both Emmylou Harris and The Chemical Brothers. I once saw her play achingly beautiful chamber-folk versions of her songs with a string quartet, and follow each with a story more crude and hilarious than the last. In recent weeks, most people have come to know her for spray painting a tree. In those same weeks, she released her most cohesive album to date. Following two Jim O'Rourke-produced albums that seemed to relegate her to the graveyard of adult alternative irrelevance, Kidsticks is a largely electronic effort that slowly reveals itself to be a gorgeous, thought-out album of bass-heavy heartbreak. (June, 2016)

Chanti Darling

Led by former Magic Mouth vocalist Chanticleer Trü, Chanti Darling brings together some of Portland’s best—acclaimed solo electronic artist Natasha Kmeto, Gossip’s Hannah Billie, Wild Flag’s Rebecca Cole, producer Damon Boucher—to channel a relatively untouched era of R&B nostalgia. It isn’t '90s new jack swing, or early '00s soft synth/short snare nonchalance. Chanti Darling’s R&B nods to early '90s house divas, '70s discofunk, and early '80s Prince protégé projects. Their songs are fully-realized pop gems that sound like little else in modern music. Anyone who balked at Portland’s “Best New Band” having only one song online needs to hush up, go to their show, and let the group’s back-up dancers and Trü’s jaw-dropping vocal acrobatics blow their mind. Because Chanti Darling is the best live band Portland has had in a long time, maybe ever. (June, 2016)

Appalachian Yard Art

Appalachian Yard Art’s steady output of lo-fi psych-folk and noisy garage rock over the last few years holds the potential of someday sitting next to artists like Orange Cake Mix, Natural Snow Buildings, and Sentridoh in the hall-of-fame of prolific oddball home recording projects. The highlight of the group’s already-vast catalog is 2013’s Green Glass, an album that sounds vaguely like Vee Vee-era Eric Bachmann singing over a live Syd Barrett instrumental. A complex curiosity, precise in its imprecision, Green Glass simultaneously feels like a carefully thought-out mini-epic and a complete accident. It isn’t music that translates into an instant fanbase or an easy home in the Northwest music scene, but to some it will surely makes a certain, comforting sense—a familiar strangeness that could one day be cultish. (April, 2016)

Greg Dulli

Over the past few years, the literary world has been praising unlikable narrators—wholly unsavory first-person storytellers—and the strange joys that come from entering the mind of someone you would avoid in life. If we extend this praise into modern music, the narrator Greg Dulli has been presenting in song for nearly three decades is, almost without contest, the most developed of all unlikable narrators. With a fuzzy line between fiction and hyperbolic memoir, Dulli has built—as songwriter for The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers—a perpetually compelling, tortured ego maniac. A human animal stuck somewhere between feeling too intensely for his own good and not feeling anything at all. Dulli’s catalog musically extends from foreboding rock to pseudo-funk and electro-pop, but his narrator barely waivers. With a handful of obvious exceptions, it’s largely one character working through the same demons over and over. It’s not always pleasant to listen to, and enjoying it doesn’t typically make you feel very good about yourself, but it’s always interesting. (March, 2015)

Young Hunter

With a solid backbone of stoner rock riffage and doom metal grandeur, local band Young Hunter manages to also touch on an ethereal sound outside of genre, something we’ve seen glimpses of in Northwest music over the last few years. Wolves in the Throne Room’s collaborations with Jessika Skeletalia Kenney, moments of Mount Eerie’s Wind’s Poem, Broken Water’s collaborative album with Lori Goldston. Music with a weighted prettiness that could arguably owe as much to Leonard Cohen or Brian Eno as it does Sabbath. Young Hunter’s new self-titled album, the release of which is being celebrated tonight, is masterful in this interplay between genre and elusive non-genre. Against huge dynamic fluctuations, Benjamin Blake and Sara Pinnell’s traded vocals gorgeously paint a picture of a not-too-distant future where nature decides to take back some of what it let us borrow. (March, 2015)

Indigo Girls

To most people, the Indigo Girls are more a punchline than a band. A punchline that extends from early internet memes to at least a half-dozen sitcoms and also epitomizes the larger joke of Lilith Fair. While their catalog has no shortage of painful moments, the fact that they’ve come to represent a hollow, humorless, second-wave singer-songwriter archetype that they never—or at least rarely—embodied is a little unfair. When they started their career 30 years ago, they were a gay, politically radical band from the south who sang songs about Native rights and Virginia Woolf in Reagan and Bush the First’s America. They’ve only become more outspoken as the years have gone by, haven’t changed what they do to fit anyone else’s idea of cool, and have somehow shrugged off (and often laughed along with) all the years of jokes at their expense. If nothing else, it’s worth considering why we’ve made a punchline out of queer activists who have been standing up for marginalized communities for the last three decades. (February, 2016)


In the Pacific Northwest of the '90s, godheadSilo seemed to be everywhere. They were on all the compilations, their eye-catching records in every record store, their no-guitar wall-of-sound a common point of conversation. But despite their ubiquity, I didn’t know anyone who was a dedicated fan. They didn’t seem to be a band people were especially passionate about, just an interesting anomaly. Two decades later, many of the PNW bands people were passionate about back then haven’t aged well (anyone put on a Hammerbox record lately?), but godheadSilo’s music—a sludgy, genre-defying noise-rock—seems to have barely aged at all. Listening to them in 2016 makes it clear that the dedicated fans of godheadSilo were out there, and they were taking notes. (January, 2016)

Mega Bog

With Mega Bog, the unexpected is part of the appeal. Their lives shows can range from ecstatically unhinged to claustrophobically hushed, and there’s no telling which direction things will go until the moment they start playing. Their last time through town was the best show I—and I would guess a number of other people—saw in 2015. Playing a packed Northeast house show, they casually worked through a set of comprehension-defying avant pop songs that were ahead of their time, or timeless, or perhaps both. It felt like Nico leading the Astral Weeks backing band as they played on T. Rex’s gear from Unicorn. Genre-wise, Mega Bog is all over the map (jazzy dream-pop meets experimental soft rock?), but the emotional tension they play with pairs perfectly with the angular garage punk of local favorites The Ghost Ease. (January, 2016)


Containing members of Psychic Feline, Formica Man, and (Marriage + Cancer’s former incarnation) Nucular Aminals, Lithics is a veritable supergroup, and is easily one of the most exciting projects to emerge on the Portland music scene this year. The band’s minimalist post-punk pulses and chirps, manically pushes forward and pulls back, builds insistent loops before pretending to fall apart. All while vocalist Aubrey Hornor brings an understated, bordering on spoken word nonchalance. And it’s this restraint, at least on recording, that keeps the tension high, keeps something bubbling below the surface, waiting. (October, 2015)

Autre Ne Veut

Autre Ne Veut (the moniker of Brooklyn musician Arthur Ashin) made its presence known in 2010 with a home-produced oddity of an album. The self-titled effort sounded like a lost outsider synth-pop classic—a work that could have believably been dug from obscurity in the recent wave of reissues—and it was sickly-sweet enough to be a one-off hoax, so off-kilter it made you queasy. But with 2013’s Anxiety—a desperate break-up album to top all other desperate break-up albums—any previous hints of satire were wiped away. And the just-released Age of Transparency pushes these levels of sobering intensity even further. While it maintains plenty of moments of Ashin’s guilt-pop genius, it’s also his most challenging work yet. R&B-tinged pop heartbreak, recorded with a live jazz band, then cut-up and sewn together into a digitally-manipulated masterpiece of extremes. The initially uninviting surface becomes more coherent with each listen, unveiling a vision so grand it’s staggering. (October, 2015)

Joel RL Phelps & Mint Mile

Despite Silkworm’s 18 year run, starting their career on the same label that fostered The Melvins and Built to Spill, working with Steve Albini on multiple albums, and having a documentary made about them, their name doesn’t even register with most people. Those who do know them usually border on obsessive, though, and tonight is a dream line-up for said obsessives. Founding member Joel RL Phelps—whose early contributions to the Silkworm catalog are among their most unsettling and beguiling—brings his Downer Trio (now in their 20th year as a band) down from Seattle. And fresh off their glorious run as Bottomless Pit, founding members Tim Midyett and Andrew Cohen bring their new project Mint Mile over from Chicago to headline the night. While all these musicians are most easily defined by their previous lives in Silkworm, they don’t rest on their great back catalog but continue to make fresh and interesting music three decades into their careers. (September, 2015)

Blonde Redhead

Blonde Redhead’s latest album, 2014’s Barragán, was almost universally hated on by music critics. Much of this loathing followed similar lines to the critical reception of 2010’s Penny Sparkle: Blonde Redhead shouldn’t play with electronics, or really be playful at all, and should instead do another serious, air-tight conceptual album. This narrow-minded view seems to forget that constant evolution has been one of the most exciting things about Blonde Redhead and, even at their least interesting, they’re a lot more interesting than most bands. That said, Barragán is certainly not their best album—and given the greatness of most of their records, it might actually be their worst album—but it’s refreshing to hear a band two decades into their career release something so unassuming and free from the boundaries of previous definitions. And in a music climate of reunion tours and reissues, we should be happy somebody’s following their creative vision instead of going for the easy sell. (September, 2015)

Mommy Long Legs

This summer Seattle’s Mommy Long Legs has, among many other things, played a backyard sweet 16 party and shared a stage with Mudhoney. It says a lot about the kind of band they are and perhaps indirectly explains why, less than a year into their existence and without the backing of a label, they’re causing such a fuss. The band’s horror-tinged, social commentary party punk—part Shannon and the Clams, part The Cramps—is the perfect antidote to the uptight, overproduced nonsense we let pass for indie music in 2015. And with their critiques on both rampant consumerism and unchecked privilege, they could also be viewed as a necessary response to the clean-cut playgrounds for the rich that Seattle and Portland are careening towards. In the best possible way, Mommy Long Legs reminds me of a scene from an '80s movie I saw on USA Up All-Night as a kid where a punk busts into the preppy party and pukes on everything. (August, 2015)

Garlic Man & Chikn

Olympia has a long history of bizarre hip-hop. Groups that arise out of the town’s outsider punk aesthetic share little with other hip-hop subgenres—nerdcore or abstract/experimental hip hop, say –but tend toward a lo-fi grittiness that is unfamiliar to most ears. Scream Club, Mac Dawg, Cooper’s Glen, Hollywood Kill Krew, Nicky Click…music like this doesn’t really originate from anywhere else. Garlic Man & Chikn is a smoother, more R&B-influenced version of this lineage, but is just as strange. They write songs about being stinky, being sexy, and being stoned. The queer, sex-positive group puts on wild and weird shows that encourage a blurring of performer and audience. Come ready to get sweaty, or to find a spot in the back of the room to observe the madness from. (August, 2015)

The Cannanes

For 31 years, Sydney, Australia’s The Cannanes have been steadily churning out an off-kilter mix of indie twee-pop and angular post-punk. Their extensive catalog suggests a folk-punkier Beat Happening just as often as it suggests a scrappier Au Pairs, while also holding songs in the early years that seem to be templates for the indie-disco of This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About and the airy story-song jangle of The Boy With the Arab Strap. It’s almost bizarre that they’re not more commonly referenced as an influential band. (August, 2015)

Mandarin Dynasty

The upcoming sophomore album from Portland’s Mandarin Dynasty, Feedback Time, is an album of bottomless nostalgia, Arthur Russell references, and love gone wrong. Combining well-wrought songwriting with playful arrangements, the album nods to decades of clever heartbreak pop while a host of instruments make walk-on appearances over an all-star backing band. It manages to find some magical place between sincerity and levity without it feeling forced or heavy-handed, and contains a song that should reasonably become a cherished standard of karaoke duets. (July, 2016)


I was running a small music blog in 2011, receiving piles of less-than-desirable CDs, when a debut of perfectly understated dream-pop from the Seattle band Seapony showed up in my P.O. box. At a time when most albums I received tried to dazzle with studio frills and piles of overdubs, Seapony’s hazy twee vocals and surf-tinged guitar lines over minimal drum machine beats served as the perfect counterpoint. The band’s second album came out in 2012 on Hardly Art and their latest, the self-released A Vision, comes out tonight. The band seems to thrive on reliability rather than reinvention and the three-year gap between albums has allowed for the most modest of evolutions. A percussionist and some warm synths fill out the sound ever so slightly, but largely it’s just a continuation of everything they already do right. (July, 2016)

The Moondoggies

In 2005, I went to a cookie cutter house deep in the suburbs of Lynwood, Washington to watch The Moondoggies play in a living room. After a set of painful stand-up comedy, an embarrassing acoustic cover of “Baby’s Got Back,” and a lot of spilled Carlo Rossi on white carpet, The Moondoggies filled the room with their version of '70s Southern rock and made the laughable setting and bad lighting slip away. After the show, people stood around and talked about how great the band was and how they should be famous. Though I agreed, I thought the chances of an indie band who sounded like The Allman Brothers becoming popular was slim to none. Thankfully, I was wrong. Ten years later, The Moondoggies are still going strong, touring the world, slowly releasing carefully thought-out albums on Hardly Art, and continuing to make the perfect soundtrack for the slow and easy nights of early summer. (June, 2015)

The Ocean Floor

Now in its 14th year, Portland’s The Ocean Floor has taken many forms. The songwriting project of (former Hosannas and Machinedrum member) Lane Barrington has been a jazzy chamber-pop project, a twee-folk duo, and a beat-heavy mini orchestra. It’s had in its ranks Shannon Rose Steele of Typhoon and Holland Andrews of Like a Villain and been impressive on stage and on recording in every incarnation. On the project’s latest album, the clarinets and violins—and virtuosic backing band as a whole—are gone. It’s just Barrington with a studio full of synths, vintage hardware, and percussion instruments, writing songs about the final moments of Jim Henson, spiritual jealousy, and the floating gardens of Mexico City. It’s possibly the best release in their catalog, unlike anything you’ll hear come out of Portland this year, and gets released tonight. (June, 2015)


Phoenix’s Diners make casually celebratory power-pop music. It’s a melancholic feel-good—mid-tempo muted bass grooves and twee-folk sensibilities, beach party riffing and the occasional Thin Lizzy-inspired mini solo. Their songs are fascinated with the minutiae of phone calls and mixtapes and nice breezes, but somehow sidestep the insincere innocence and frustrating privilege that occupies much of the music that can be described as twee. They create well-crafted pop songs that aren’t terribly weighed down by the burden of self-importance. What Diners does best is offer a humbler narration on quaint simplicity—a dream of a pre-jaded existence that’s worth escaping to. (June, 2015)

Jonathan Richman

Four and a half decades into his music career, Jonathan Richman still comes across as a sparkle-eyed kid inside a world-wise storyteller. His playful songs, full of whimsy and nostalgia, take on an emotional depth when performed live; a whole-hearted sincerity that doesn’t fully come across on his recordings. After all these years he still seems genuinely grateful that people come out to see him do what he loves to do, and he never takes for granted the significance of people gathering together in a room. His charm is irresistible, his candidness perpetually refreshing. His newest songs—recently released on a pair of seven inches—are his best in years and exist as evidence that he will most likely never lose the youthful exuberance that’s defined his work since the early '70s. (May, 2015)

Natural Magic

The new self-titled tape from Portland electronic duo Natural Magic is 40 minutes of warm analog synths over pulsing drum machines, robotic steel drums over Jan Hammer tom rolls. It’s comforting transcendence. A cozy blanket on the dance floor. Put together from two years of live recordings, the album’s unique tones and meditative hype have an appeal that could extend from gear heads and house DJs to indie kids who jam Four Tet. Like all great albums that make new sounds with old equipment, it recalls a time that never existed, a memory you never had, a music scene that was only hinted at. (May, 2015)

Quintron and Miss Pussycat

An inventor and a puppeteer combine to re-imagine what a show could be, or should be. Quintron & Miss Pussycat create unhinged bizarro party performance art where robot drum machines spin in front of mini-theater sets and keyboards are housed in car grills. In their music, a distinctly New Orleans party-in-the-street joy meets goth electro-pop. It has the ability to sound like an Estrus Records trash-rock kegger crashing a chin-scratching experimental music festival. Or the B-52’s playing an analog rave. It’s a music project whose appeal is broad and unlikely, and they exist as a wonderful unifier—an insane party band that, on some level, everyone can agree on. (May, 2015)

The Binary Marketing Show

The off-kilter electro-pop of Portland duo The Binary Marketing Show sounds as if it was created partly in outer space and partly underwater. Their music floats and sinks in a lo-fi haze of blissful and slightly uncomfortable textures. Imagine Yo La Tengo singing over Matmos tracks. Or a more disturbed Cock and Swan. Or People Like Us sound collages being turned into pop songs. Live, they mix synths, woozy vocal effects, drum machines, samplers, guitars, and horns into a hypnotizing and playful performance. It’s smart, lyrically interesting and shares almost nothing with the barrage of clean-cut, ready-for-college-radio synth-pop happening these days. (March, 2015)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

By the time they collaborated with Paul Simon on the now-iconic 1986 album Graceland, Ladysmith Black Mambazo had already been a group for 22 years and were superstars in their home country of South Africa. Singing in the isicathamiya Zulu vocal style, a style defined by its hypnotic male harmonies and choreographed dancing, Mambazo makes gorgeously understated acapella songs. Considering themselves ambassadors of South African culture and advocates for peace and social justice, the group tours relentlessly, spending at least half of each year on the road. While some questionable career choices—ridiculous Life-Savers and Heinz beans commercials, a host of fairly silly collaborations—have made them an easy target for jokes (perhaps best demonstrated in Mean Girls), Mambazo is an institution beyond compare. 51 years into their career, they still contrast their meditative songs with energetic, aerobic performances. (March, 2015)

Best Music Moment of 2014: Modest Mouth (AKA Magic Mouth)

In August, Mississippi Studios put on a festival in Vancouver, Washington called AKA Fest. The idea was that a dozen Portland bands would change their name for the night, cross the state line, set-up in the nautical-themed lounge at the Burgundy Wildcat (AKA The Red Lion), and anyone brave enough to follow would be in for a rare bill. Cleverness ensued: Typhoon went under the name Thai Food, Genders went as Sexes, Magic Mouth went as Modest Mouth. But one band didn’t change their name: a ‘70s stadium rock-influenced group of five white guys called Black Pussy. At the end of the night, “Modest Mouth” graced the stage. After the biggest, danciest, sweatiest first song, singer Chanticleer Trü took a moment to thank his creative community and to emphasize the importance of holding the people in your community accountable. Then passionately and articulately called out Black Pussy for their misogynist and racist name and asked them, as members of the community, to change it. Half the crowd stood in stunned silence while the rest cheered wildly, the dance party continued in full force, the festival transformed by that moment. (December, 2014)


For almost 27 years Mudhoney has made a sound that embodies the dreary majority of the year in the Pacific Northwest. Solemn and wild in equal measure, the band intuitively understands how to capture the feeling of a place through guitar, bass, and drums. When I was given a copy of their album Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge in ninth grade, I immediately understood what the entire Seattle sound was based on. Mudhoney set the template for everything that came after and all the bands that got more popular. Call the sound what you will, but they arguably do it better than anyone else ever has. This isn’t a reunion tour, this is just one of the PNW’s greatest bands continuing to do what they do best. (December, 2014)

Half Shadow

Half Shadow’s shows are not really shows, but transcendent curiosities. The project, an ever-evolving songwriting extension of Portland’s Jesse Carsten, is built out of a series of weighted dream songs. Rarely performed the same way twice, these songs are filled with detours to unexpected lands where the line between open and unhinged is thin. Carsten’s performances are invariably powerful, full of wonder, and unlike anything else. (November, 2014)


When Mirah released You Think it’s Like This But Really It’s Like This in 2000, it felt unprecedented. The album’s dirty minded twee-pop had a complex textural palette that seemed to be completely its own. In the 14 years since she’s proven herself a consistently adventurous artist, making four more solo albums, a collaborative album with Thao Nguyen (of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down), a conceptual music project recorded in the mountains of North Carolina, a political folk song collaboration with the Black Cat Orchestra, and a multimedia piece about the insect world. Her latest solo album, 2014’s Changing Light,is an epic break-up album that challenges Joanna Newsom’s Have One on Me for most lyrically-interesting album entirely about one relationship ending. It’s not cute— there’s no “Sweepstakes Prize” on here—but it’s one of her best albums in a long career of great albums. (November, 2014)


Existing somewhere between experimental composer and singer-songwriter, Portland’s Liz Harris—better known to the world as Grouper—makes some of the most gorgeous, hauntingly lonely music around. Her new album Ruins, out this week on Kranky, is not the wash of ambient tones and tape hiss that define much of her previous work, but is made up almost entirely of sparse piano ballads. Up until the album’s closing 12-minute epic, there’s barely a cassette tape sample or drone tone to be found. With any other artist this might feel like a sharp change of course, but Harris’ style and approach to composition is so distinct that it just feels like she’s acquired a new sound source to work her magic with. (November, 2014)

Chung Antique

Seattle’s Chung Antique makes math-fueled instrumental post-rock that’s as fun as it is complex. On their most recent release, this year’s Sweater Weather, they have honed their sound into six finely-tuned epics that travel from dreamy ocean waves to jumpy angular riffing and back again. Through all their smart, intricate weaving, they never take themselves too seriously. Their music maintains a sense of play throughout, even at its most serious moments. They also name songs “Stop Making Synths” and “Bagel Blue Eyes,” make baseball tees with time signatures, koozies with cats and hearts on them, and album covers with the band members wearing sweaters to a beach party. (October, 2014)


Sebadoh has never quite gotten the respect they deserve. Despite helping define lo-fi rock music in the late ‘80s and writing some of the best songs of ‘90s indie rock, they’ve never moved on to the legendary status that so many bands of the time period have. Largely because their albums are, to the casual listener, disorienting collections that mix power-pop gems with minute-long slop-punk songs and tender folk ballads with careless abandon. Even on their most cohesive, and arguably greatest, album—1994’s Bakesale—there’s still the divide between the group’s two singer-songwriters. Lou Barlow’s folk-pop leanings and carefully enunciated vocals collide with Jason Loewenstein’s drunken drawl and garage rock tendencies with train-wreck intensity. If you can make it past this dichotomy, though, so many amazing songs await you. And after a 14-year hiatus, they’re finally back at it. (October, 2014)


Portland minimalist composer Desiree’ Rousseau has been making disarmingly gorgeous ambient music under the moniker Brumes for a few years now. On her latest collection, Soundings in Fathom, a wide variety of instruments, textures, and tones meet under a curtain of reverb and delay. Think Eluvium’s Talk Amongst the Trees, or Colleen’s The Golden Morning Breaks (it’s that good). Eight improvised compositions that float along expertly, full of warmth and occasional moments of Rousseau’s soaring vocals. They are pieces that slowly open, expand, pass along something wise or hard to express, and disappear. (September, 2014)

Mike Doughty

Even being a fan, it’s hard for me to say that the music of Soul Coughing has aged well. Just describing the band—a slam poetry jazz-fusion white hip-hop alternative rock group—sounds like naming off the worst ideas of the 1990s. So while I’m not going to suggest everyone rush to revisit Ruby Vroom, I will suggest everyone give a second change to former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty. His remarkable ability to craft pop genius gems out of tragically humorous tales is unparalleled. The self-released debut solo album Skittish (2000) and his lone poetry collection Slanky (2002) are both impressive enough to excuse any bad artistic decisions prior or since. In short: Don’t go to this show to see if “Super Bon Bon” still holds up (it doesn’t). Go to this show to see a great songwriter who also does the best Mary J. Blige/The Feelies acoustic mash-up ever. (September, 2014)

Tara Jane O'Neil

Tara Jane O’Neil is a multimedia artist, the former bassist for post-hardcore legends Rodan, and the maker of hushed, meditative solo music that often manages to appeal to those who usually don’t like it slow. Earlier this year she released her first solo studio album since her 2009 masterpiece A Ways Away. Released on Kranky, Where Shine New Lights is another great work that, like A Ways Away, exists somewhere between an experimental drone album and a folk-pop album. At moments it recalls the ambience of Windy & Carl, at times the hypnotizing folk Hope Sandoval, and here and there the plodding weight of Low. Her music is music to sink into, and live is an experience unlike any other. (September, 2014)

Taj Mahal

50 years ago Henry Saint Clair Fredericks left behind the farms of Massachusetts to come out west and become the mighty Taj Mahal. In his long career he’s collaborated with everyone from electric blues pioneer Howlin’ Wolf to transcendent Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, from The Rolling Stones to Etta James. His catalog is equally as varied and extends from the joyously broken jug band charm of “Cakewalk Into Town” to the folk-blues-meets-Caribbean-traditionals perfection of “Queen Bee.” He makes consistently interesting music and on stage is a true character, unlike any other. If you go to see Taj at the Zoo, you won’t find an artist who flaunts his importance in American music history; you’ll find an artist who’s unafraid to break out a kazoo on stage. (August, 2014)

Dropping Gems

In the last several years, Dropping Gems has gone from a small group of electronic producers and hip hop heads playing Evergreen State College dorm parties to an internationally-recognized label and party crew based right here in Portland, Oregon. Their releases premiere on Spin and The Fader, they get featured on Xlr8r and Impose, they make top 10 lists on Vibe, and have created their own scene for electronic music in the Northwest. Their roster of artists extends from the underwater pitch-shifted ambience of Citymouth to the dance floor-ready skewed R&B of Natasha Kmeto, all while maintaining a particular aesthetic—one that’s more about textures than genres. (August, 2014)

Xiu Xiu

This has been a busy year for the goth art rockers of indie pop, Xiu Xiu. They’ve released four disparate albums that include a haunting free jazz take on the music of Nina Simone, an album of American and Caribbean spirituals of the 19th and early 20th centuries recorded at Sigur Ros’ studio in Iceland, a Record Store Day-only hand-packaged best of and rarities collection, and an album based on a violent Japanese erotic film from 1979. It’s hard to predict what tonight will hold, but their live shows are historically even more surprising, dark, and angry than their albums. So whether it’s a set led by a creepily tender version of “Wild is the Wind” or a set of minimalist industrial drum machine songs about double suicide, it is likely to be, either way, the most intense show you will see all year. (July, 2014)

Cotton Jones
Cotton Jones makes summer jams. But not the excitable kind that get you dancing in the street. Their summer jams are reserved for porch sitting, watching the garden grow, warm summer nights, letting the days roll by. Their two full lengths on Seattle’s Suicide Squeeze Records—Tall Hours in the Glowstream and Paranoid Cacoon—are casual masterpieces of sunny alt-country. It takes a while for it to sink in how special they are—their songs are the kind that sneak up on you—but once you get there, these albums can be played on endless repeat. A great live band, there’s no better time to see a Cotton Jones show than in the heat of mid-July. (July, 2014)

Mark Hosler & Foxdye

For 25 years, Mark Hosler has been rearranging sounds in odd and wonderful ways as a member of Negativland. As a group, Negativland has not only made some of the most weird and hilarious sound collages ever, but have also changed the conversation around intellectual property rights in music and the face of sample culture itself. As a solo artist, Hosler concentrates more on destroying sound than rearranging it. With a wealth of pedals and samplers, he makes chin-scratching noise music that doesn’t take itself too seriously and always leaves room for surprises. Opening tonight’s show is Portland’s own Foxdye, who has gained an international following from making intricately-constructed hyper-speed mash-ups of internet memes. Her live sets can range from gorgeous ambience to a rave gone wrong (right?), making tonight’s pairing the most unpredictable electronic show you can go to this week. (June, 2014)


Seeing Yesway live is a reminder that some of the most mind-altering music can still come from two people singing. One of the Bay Area’s best-kept secrets, Yesway is the collaboration of best friends Emily Ritz (Devotionals, DRMS) and Kacey Johansing, whose sibling-like harmonies baffle and astound audiences. Their self-titled full-length debut is out this month and takes their intimate folk to new heights, with its own universe of tasteful textural layers. It’s an album sure to spread their magic further into the world—which might mean this is your last chance to see them before the secret gets out. Serving as opener for Portland favorite Laura Veirs, this will be a night of elastic vocals and unconventional arrangements that search the bounds of how far folk music can be pushed and still be pop. (June, 2014)

Tom Blood

Portland’s Tom Blood is a poet who shares the stage with bands more often than with other poets. His books are released by Marriage Records’ publishing offshoot and come with downloads of his recorded spoken word, and his collaborative album with Portland soundscape artist Jordan Dykstra could be the best experimental spoken word album since Steven Jesse Bernstein’s Prison. Somehow this fiercely dedicated writer—who has said he writes for over ten hours a day and sees twitches and hand-cramps as a sign that he’s “finally getting somewhere”—has firmly established himself as part of the Northwest music community. Tonight’s billing with Phil Elverum’s ever-evolving Mount Eerie project is a perfect pairing—two artists that share a penchant for the natural world and have unique, reclusively-obsessive, brands of eccentricity that create gloriously unconventional work. (June, 2014)


Electrician is made up of two new parents who tour in a motorhome and sing about the end of the world. Led by songwriter Neil Campau (formerly of the brilliantly chaotic freak-folk group, World History), Electrician’s ominous pop songs are the political equivalent of the murder ballad tradition—instead of a lover dying, it’s civilization as a whole and all the symbols of power that come with it. But in contrast to other groups with a political agenda, their aim is not didactic lecturing or anthemic preaching but simply to bring buried feelings to the surface. They ask you to deal with any looming dread inside and let it out. What results is an almost celebratory trip into the things that scare us. (June, 2014)


Four years ago—having gloriously risen from the ashes of the electro-clash group Lactacious—SistaFist entered the Portland music scene. In those years, the female-fronted hip hop crew has opened for everyone from Japanther to Lords of Acid, inspired those wise enough to see their brilliance, and offended everyone else. With impressively-dirty minds and a completely unhinged stage presence, SistaFist is an unparalleled force that pushes boundaries while starting dance parties. And this is your last chance to participate in the madness they induce because after tonight they’re officially calling it quits. (May, 2014)

Juana Molina

Not one for spectacle or showmanship, Juana Molina instead concentrates her efforts on being a hypnotist of the highest order. Though commonly lumped with artists like Björk and CocoRosie, Molina’s approach is decidedly understated in comparison. She works on creating intricate layers that slowly build and add textures, but rarely have radical changes and never lose their pulsing rhythm. Her most recent album, Eras, might not sound markedly different than any of her previous work, but it subtly shows off her band at their most technical and precise—which takes the entrancement of her soundscapes even further. In Latin America and Europe, she typically performs at large outdoor festivals. But her humbly-stunning live show is more suited for small spaces and tonight’s show at the Doug Fir is a perfect, and rare, opportunity to see her work her magic in an intimate setting. (April, 2014)

Best Music Moment 2013: IBQT & Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live

There was an extended music moment in March where, in one week, I saw Portland’s premiere boy band and the reunion of the Northwest’s best queer hardcore-punk band. While the chaise lounge, over-sized Mickey Mouse pajama tees, and impossibly catchy love grooves of IBQT was strikingly dissimilar to the unadorned havoc and impossibly-tight one-minute bursts of Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live, the combination was oddly perfect and sustained me for the rest of the year. (December, 2013)