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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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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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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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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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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Borstal 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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