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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The Drowning Men – All of the Unknown

The Drowning Men - All of the UnknownBorstal Beat Records, 2012

Californian indie-folk ruffians The Drowning Men seem to be fans of the freakish – just take a look at the Moreauvian beasts on the album artwork. Hear also the unsettling minor-key funfair themes of “Bored in a Belly” and “A Better Place”, and feel the infernal desires aroused by “I am the Beggar Man”. Sounding at times like a carney version of Arcade Fire, All of the Unknown is a wounded giant of a record: big and damaged and angry and confused, roaring its indignation at the world.

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Cuff the Duke – Morning Comes

cufftheduke_morningcomesPaper Bag, 2012

Approaching complex themes with warmth and humour in a similar manner to The Decemberists, Canadian folk-rockers Cuff the Duke combine roots-rock with pop-like melodies to create an accessible and engaging record – the first part of a two-part concept album. Though not entirely free from cliché, it is at the same time varied yet coherent; each track hints at an underlying emotion that carries the listener through highs and bittersweet lows. A highlight is the eight-minute epic “Bound To Your Own Vices” – worth an EP release in its own right.