Bike Thief – Stuck In A Dream

The Musebox, 2014

This first album from Bike Thief takes the neo-folk ideas of their Portland home and adds dramatic strings, haunting choirs and the sort of experimentalism that sounds both cinematic and prog-rockish. An extremely detailed affair, there’s more than 20 musicians involved, though the songs never sound busy and flow well between soft and pensive to swirling, fully developed chamber rock. A fantastic debut.

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Sean Flinn & The Royal We – The Lost Weekend

Glad I Did, 2014

Portland folk-rock is a deep pool these days, but few are like Sean Flinn & The Royal We. Though they utilise the backing harmonies and handclapping of their peers, theirs is an overall more sunny approach to the lush sounds of the Northwest, balancing pop-rock and grittier indie-rock while paying much attention to melody. Lyrically it’s just as compelling, as Flinn tackles important topics with an equal amount of thought as his sophisticated music.

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Ages And Ages – Divisionary

Partisan, 2014

An eight piece, all of whom sing, Ages And Ages keep the nearly untarnishable ideal of Portland folk-pop alive with soaring harmonies, warm melodies and plenty of hand clapping. Though the music is generally indie-lite and upbeat, the band have been marred by personal strife while making the album, so lyrically it’s a more downcast affair then their jubilant debut. Make room on your year end list for this one.

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Dramady – Answer Only To The Sea

Cochon, 2013

Portland is never short on unusual indie-rock, and Amanda Mason Wiles and Zacery Stanley are delivering their own atypical brand as Dramady. At the core it may be bedroom pop, but the violins, clarinets and saxophones bring to mind chamber-pop from a unique standpoint, placing much emphasis on looping and vocal harmonies. Jazz, electronica and funk ideas are all in their arsenal, keeping each track full of cultured surprises.

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Cloud Person – Monochrome Places

Druscilla Cloud, 2013

Though frontman Pete Jordan might be the Cloud Person, Monochrome Places uses six people total and just as many instruments, and succeeds in blending indie-folk, ’70s rock and even psyche moments. Far from mono anything, the warm sounds are varied and constantly shuffling. Broaching classic rock as well as modern indie-rock, and adding some sounds that wouldn’t be out of place at Sunday mass, there’s a great contrast between quiet and loud, busy and stripped back.

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Exohxo – Stories And Fictions

Self-released, 2013

A six-piece self-described ‘chamber pop’ outfit, Seattle’s Exohxo (pronounced X-O-X-O) are selling themselves short on that description. A stacked EP of hooks, melodies, riffs and instantly lovable choruses, while the orchestral moments and violins certainly lend themselves to the chamber tag, there’s just as much indie-pop, folk and gritty rock leanings included. While Stories And Fictions is undeniably sophisticated, it’s also playful, quirky and often upbeat, which is a refreshing change from the usual bummer songs endemic to like minded outfits. At 20 minutes this one is over too quick – always a good sign.

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