• Stubby's House of Christmas review of the holiday comp!

  • Willamette Week: Pat Kearns’ Debut Solo Album Is an Ode to a Changing City and the Doldrums of Middle-Age

    Pat Kearns’ Debut Solo Album Is an Ode to a Changing City and the Doldrums of Middle-Age

    Pat Kearns, So Long City (Self-Released)[SO LOW] For his solo debut, born-and-bred Portlander Pat Kearns offers up what seems to be an album-length lamentation of a forgone hometown. But on closer inspection, it's actually a low-key love letter to the unspectacular elements of a middle-aged man's life. Although Kearns is most associated with his power-pop act Blue Skies for Black HeartsSo Long City takes a subtler sonic approach that pays homage to familiar comfort. The undistorted steel-string acoustic guitars and wheeze of harmonica melodies on the title track don't sound as funereal as the lyrics might imply, but it's this light-hearted approach at misfortune that makes So Long City so inviting. "Hit the Highway" coaxes an improvised road trip in an effort to create a worthwhile memory, coolly set to midtempo strums that never aim for anything bigger than the steady, casual range they started in. "Sweet Lorraine" takes a bluesier approach at sporting a previously outspoken black heart on a well-displayed sleeve and utilizes the same Southern barroom soundboard to reveal what's perhaps the most album's sincere turn. It's presumably why Kearns chose to release this unpretentious batch of songs under his own name. He's not posing or aiming for anything unrealistic on So Long City, but rather showcasing both sides of what's earned after your zenith is in the rearview—dexterous skill and constant trepidation.

    SEE IT: Pat Kearns plays Turn Turn Turn, 8 NE Killingsworth St., with Rambush and Maia Dooney, on Thursday, Nov. 10. 9 pm. Call venue for ticket prices. 21+.

  • MAGNET: Alejandra O'Leary

    Alejandra O’Leary: Crawling from the Wreckage


    Alejandra O’Leary is a formidable guitarist, an impressive singer and a songwriter dedicated to venting the raw emotions most of us would rather keep hidden. On her latest album, All I Know, she dedicates herself to speaking the truth, now matter how painful it is. “Rock’n’roll is all I know,” she says. “That’s why I used that song as the title of the record. I’m not very good at many things, but I’m good at expressing emotion with my words, music and guitar playing. The phrase also sounds like gossip. This album has some very gossipy ideas and innuendos running through it.”


    The songs on All I Know are primal, visceral expressions driven by O’Leary’s stirring, multi-layered guitar attack and her passionate vocals. “I wanted to sing in my lower register, which I’ve never used before. I had to relax to reach those subtle tones, then push my voice to an almost falsetto place, to blow off the steam. The high highs and low lows intensify the drama of the songs.


    “A lot of the songs are about women trying to save men from themselves. I like to take the inner conflicts I’m experiencing and turn them into characters that can play out my emotions. I was going for high drama, musically and lyrically, cranking up the drama as high as I could get it. It’s not a chilling out kind of album. It’s an amped up, pacing around at night, ripping off your clothes kind of album. I don’t play screaming music, so the intensity has to come through the arrangements and lyrics, not sheer volume. These songs are about chaos and the aftermath of turmoil. It’s about assessing the wreckage and being resigned to it, while you’re figuring out how to live with it.”


    UNDER THE INFLUENCE with Alejandra O’Leary


    Nature: I live in Maine. Looking at the ocean and knowing how vast it is and how much it contains, that we can never see, is humbling. Especially one a turbulent day, when it’s really rockin’.  


    The Smiths/Morrissey: I’ve always loved how funny and insightful they are as songwriters. They carry on a tradition I love in art - finding humor and seriousness in the same thing.


    Dogs: I saw someone in a wheelchair walking a dog. Caring for vulnerable creatures makes you more human. Even if you’re disabled, you have the urge to nurture. It’s often on display in the way we care for dogs and other pets.

  • Sputnik Music reviews We the Wild

    Review Summary: Modest beginnings of We The Wild make way for a debut album of fury, dazzling instrumental technicality, and just the right amount of melody throughout.

    We The Wild is a young group from Portland, Oregon, but their musicianship reveals seasoned players with a ferocious attitude. From The Cities We Fled is their passionate expression of everything from personal confessions to assertions about the state of modern music. Genre-bending techniques impressively never sound gimmicky or forced, with compositions that defy explanation; the title track for example resembles the most insane moments of Mastodon filtered through a post-hardcore aesthetic. Blistering guitar riffs are a near constant and border on being relentless, lending to the strengths of “Exodus and Decay” and “2001.”

    The jazzy drumming and mind-bending guitar playing from We The Wild rarely gets overwhelming, with a healthy dose of melody in each song. Emotive expressions add further dimensions to their sound, with softer, melodic moments within “Still Asunder” and “Terrible, Terrible” showing an impressive understanding of dynamics. The ending trio of tracks forming a musical suite begins with “King of Wounds,” a heartfelt and confessional ballad of sorts. Despite the frenzied sound throughout, a sense of careful yet straightforward method of control is placed over how it functions. Tracks like “King of Wounds,” “Still Asunder,” and “Roxy the Cops are Here!” are each as catchy as they are frenzied.

    Despite being infantile as a group, We The Wild show command over their influences while being wholly original, and impossible to ignore. The passion is ever-present and From The Cities We Fled is a bold statement from a band with a bright future ahead.


  • xo for the holiday vol IX ready for you!

    artwork by KATIE WHITAKER (this years first snow in COLORADO! featuring apache white horse)


    *SF's EagleWolfSnake "Make It Glow"
    *BC Canada's Texture & Light "I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas (Aimee Mann)"
    *Seattle's Andrew Joslyn and The Local Strangers with "Under Mistletoe"
    *LA's funny man Bill Berry 'Twas the Night After Christmas"
    *NYC's well known playwright Occurrence with "This is How You Know (It's The Holidays)"
    *LA's insane prog rock duo Magnuson with "Silent Night"
    *London's darling Piney Gir with "Love is a Christmas Rose"
    *Portland Oregon's Blue Skies For Black Hearts and "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy"

     check out all 8 of previous comps! HERE

    Music Mondays: Texture & Light

    Texture & Light: Inner Space Odyssey (textureandlight.ca/music)

    On tour throughout B.C. this month

    Still showing a penchant for good album titles, this electro/indie crew from Powell River expands its sonic scope considerably with the followup to 2013s The Hard Problem of Consciousness. “Recovering DJ” Trevor Refix (a.k.a. Mervyn) and multi-instrumentalist Lyell Woloschuk’s disarmingly polite songs about everything from environmental degradation (Theft of the Sky), isolation (Predators) and general ennui (Post Everything) likely pack far more punch live and the pristine production can’t hide a raging band waiting to cut loose. Yet it’s the most mellow and non-dance track (This Too Shall Pass) that worms its way in the best.


  • PreAmp Suggest: We The Wild

    Portland’s We The Wild show another side of the City of Roses. Shows like Portlandia and the overwhelming presence of bands like The Decemberists paint a picture of PDX as a city that’s exclusive to rustic, quirky charms. But our friends south of us have been birthing punk and hardcore bands just as long as Seattle has. We The Wild goes against every stereotype that media has tried to shoehorn the city into. Their mangled guitar riffs are assertive and furious, building a mighty base for vocalist Ben Cline’s brutal screams. With whatever wave on now of hardcore/emo, We The Wild are contenders for the Northwest act to pick u the mantle.

  • LOGAN LYNN – Adieu


    The Upshot: Thanks to smart lyrics, a strong mix of synths and sharp guitars and a knack for mixing in some truly inventive elements, Lynn moves well past what could have easily just been standard catchy pop songs.



    The last time Logan Lynn put new music out into the world it was a charming Miley Cyrus cover about three years ago. His latest album, Adieu, is aligned much closer to classic ‘90s college rock – everyone from Liz Phair to the Dandy Warhols – than to ex-Disney stars turned Molly-diggin’ pop divas, though played through a classic theatrical rock filter.


    As Lynn described the sound recently, “there are moments on this record that feel really jaunty and bratty and as we were recording them I tried to keep this mental image of myself with a dancing cane, clicking my heels in the rain and moving through these very serious themes with a spring in my step, front and center. The whole thing is very jazz hands mental health crisis, frankly.”

    So, yeah, pretty apt.


    At 15 tracks, Lynn manages to keep the momentum up throughout the entire record thanks to smart lyrics, a strong mix of synths and sharp guitars and a knack for mixing in some truly inventive elements to what could have easily just been standard catchy pop songs (I’m not certain, but pretty sure they mixed in a loop of a Nancy Kerrigan crying out “Why?” after getting whacked in the knee at the end of the song “The One”).


    Adieu is quite possibly his best yet, as each song here builds on the next for an impressively cohesive set, ending in the brilliantly wry “Oh, Lucifer”. Despite a mix of up tempo indie pop and more introspective piano tracks they fit together beautifully. Lynn continues to impress eight records into his career.






    This life that we’re portraying feels vacant. 

    Unsettled: It’s the feeling you get when you are forced to experience the unfamiliar. Our senses are accustomed to certain experiences; they are used to an array of sights, sounds, and smells within respective contexts. Break down their boundaries and introduce a new context, however, and the same object may feel foreign. A new perspective on an old idea; what a seemingly benign, simple concept. What an unsettling reality.

    An impregnable darkness lies at the root of Occurrence’s new music video “The Things I’ve Always Liked I Now Hate.” It’s an expansive and consuming darkness, the kind that envelops the listening experience and cancels out distractions. Like magnets, viewers are drawn inward, seduced into examining everyday objects in a new light. It’s unsettling and brilliant all at once.

    I could make it or not

    Watch: “The Things I’ve Always Liked I Now Hate” – Occurrence

    Once a solo project, Occurrence used to be playwright and musician Ken Urban’s outlet for experimental, instrumental music to accompany his plays or express the tone of certain scenes. After reaching out to old friends during a rough patch in life, he connected with now-Hallmark voice and writer Cat Hollyer, and the two began collaborating across the country – he in New York, she in Lawrence, Kansas.

    The Past Will Last Forever - Occurrence

    The Past Will Last Forever – Occurrence

    They were practically strangers, separated by over a decade’s worth of different experiences, but that lack of knowledge and in-person intimacy in their collaboration facilitated a rare of raw honesty and authenticity in their music. The Past Will Last Forever (available for preorder), their inaugural record together (set to release October 7, 2016), comes from a place of darkness, frustration, and other intense feelings that had nowhere to go but into the music.

    Neither one realized that while they were recording the album, they were each going through a divorce. How’s that for unsettling?

    This life that we’re portraying feels vacant
    I could make it or not
    This home we’ve created, it’s breaking
    I could make it or not

    The feeling has faded, you’re jaded
    I could make it or not
    The way I’m afraid you’ll berate me
    I could make it or not

    Context is everything: Knowing where “The Things I’ve Always Liked I Now Hate” comes from enhances the song’s already dark cloud. A pounding drum beat lends an unending urgency to the song. Its aggressive slap is penetrating: No matter how hypnotic Hollyer’s voice gets, the drums keep listeners awake and alert. Heavy percussive elements create an almost industrial vibe; when intermittent synth chords and spacey tones make their way into the mix, “The Things I’ve Always Like I Now Hate” becomes a formidable electro-space-post-punk beast.

    Hollyer’s singing provides a breath of fresh air for us to cling to, but her words and demeanor anchor even the most sultry of utterances. This is not a song of hope; Occurrence are standing on the cliff’s edge, wondering not if, but when the jump will take place. Have they given up? Maybe. Or not.

    This love that we’re making feels hateful
    I could make it or not
    These vows that we’ve taken, mistaken
    I could make it or not

    The uncertainty of that repeated phrase – “I could make it or not” – perfectly captures the brokenness lying at the heart of Occurrence’s song. There’s no rest or escape from these feelings: They crop up in every situation, no matter what’s going on. Everything has gone dull, and the question one asks is if this depressive element results from internal, or external sources. That constant we action suggests it’s the relationship causing distress, and not something else. Still, Occurrence are reluctant to go all the way.

    The way you won’t say it (I could make it)
    The way you won’t say it (I could make it)
    But maybe you’ll say it (I could make it)
    Or not
    Or not

    Rather than commit to changing, Occurrence are locked in a gray area – a will they, won’t they moment. From this vantage point, they see everything going on around them, how life’s activities are changing for the worse… They are unsettled, but they won’t find resolution in this song.

    Occurrence is Ken Urban and Cat Hollyer

    Occurrence is Ken Urban and Cat Hollyer

    Nor will resolution come in their music video, which Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering today. Directed by Los Angeles-based artist Sarah Conaway, the music video for “The Things I’ve Always Liked I Now Hate” does the song true justice by disorienting the familiar. Stark white objects are presented against a pitch black background: a piece of rope; sticks; cloth; roses; a knife penetrating a Styrofoam board, and so on.

    Why is it so disturbing?

    Sarah Conaway’s Artsy biography sheds light on her work: “Conaway photographs commonplace objects, modified detritus, and still-life arrangements in black and white, such that they appear to be abstract forms. Her images also have a deceptive quality…” Taken out of its context, the commonplace is no longer common. It’s wonderful that we can imagine things outside their natural habitat, but it is jarring to the unsuspecting audience.

    The unsettling music video serves as the perfect complement to an unsettled song. Occurrence find themselves in the same clothes, doing the same things with the same people as before, but something isn’t right; something has changed for the worse.

    Which begs the question: Now what? They could make it… or not.

    — —

    The Past Will Last Forever - Occurrence

    http://atwoodmagazine.com/things-ive-always-liked-occurrence/The Past Will Last Forever – Occurrence

    Connect with Occurrence on FacebookTwitterInstagram

  • Occurrence - The Past Will Last Forever (Independently released CD-R, Techno pop)

    The reason this one caught our attention is because the band has a sound that is more 1980s techno than 2016 techno. From the sounds we're hearing on The Past Will Last Forever it sounds as if they're using some analog synthesizers. We've been big fans of electro pop ever since we heard John Foxx's Metamatic album years ago. The folks in Occurrence record songs that seem strangely out of place in the twenty-first century. And, considering the state of commercial music of late, that's a really great thing. Not only are the vintage electronics here appealing, but we also dig the vocals cuz they add a somewhat cold and detached presence. This music will ultimately appeal most to fans of the underground. None of these tracks have that ultra-polished modern sound that is characterized by too many overdubs, samey sounding effects, and arrangements that are over the top. These recordings have a somewhat gritty unperfect sound that's really rather...groovy. Ten nifty cuts here including "The Things I've Always Liked I Now Hate," "A Bruised Ivy Grad," "The Sadness Sure Gets Me," and "I Like You More When You're Stoned" (gotta love those song titles...).


  • Mxdwn review: Bill Berry - Awkward Stage

    A musical comedy hour.

    With a voice like Bill Nye the Science Guy, Bill Berry brings a full album of comedic musical pieces with everything from a Southern country kick to a jazzy Broadway number. Focusing mainly on his past experience with both successful and failed encounters with the ladies, Berry brings to the table an enjoyable hour of musical comedy.

    The 10-track album begins with the song “Awkward Stage,” which reflects on the dilemmas of this awkward period of his life. Sharing his story that is full of “struggle and strife,” he wants to “rage against his dying age” by refusing to go along with the social standards preset for his given age. “Big Heart” has an easy-going melody although it may sound harsh, resonating like an educational kid’s sing-a-long. “The Piano Tuner with the Lazy Eye” has a little Jack Johnson vibe; a rainy lazy day acoustic number which is met with a Broadway musical kick at the height of the song. “Crabs” is a crescendoing rock track similar to the style of Queen or Billy Joel, which may get a little repetitive with Berry singing, “She gave me the crabs!”

    “Love Is the New Black” is a posh piano Broadway number beginning with a sassy narrative accompanied with a female chorus. Beginning with a snazzy saxophone/trumpet introduction, “The Brick” is a song in which Berry says a man can be judged by how he uses his brick. As odd as it sounds, the number provides a detailed analysis of numerous situations of how bricks could be used including a funny one, “if you are hiding from the IRS, use a brick to jam the door.”

    “Cross Country Love” hits the soft spot for all long-distance couples out there. Berry explains in the number how he can’t help but end up in a long-distance relationship despite the challenge because he believes in “cross country love” and stacking up mileage points. The take-away number from the album has to be “The Day We Stole Steve Martin,” a nostalgic number reflecting on that one day in high school Berry and his friends continue to laugh about over a six-pack and a box of pizza; the day they attempted to steal a cut-out of Steve Martin. Described in a detailed manner, it is best to give this number a careful listen to see whether or not they were met with success.

    To sum up the album, it’s a PG-13 version of the musical Book of Mormon, for those who have seen the absolutely hilarious musical filled with sarcasm and satire. Berry does a good job mixing up the genres of music from country to jazz and is able to skillfully tell stories without disrupting the musical process. Awkward Stage is definitely an album to keep listeners entertained for those long road trips or endless hours stuck in evening rush hour traffic.


  • NeuFutur: Texture & Light "Inner Space Odyssey" Review

    Theft of the Sky is a slinky rock track that links together the electro-pop of acts like INXS with bits of 1990s acts like Stabbing Westward and Savage Garden. By making something old and frayed new and alluring, what Texture & Light do on their Inner Space Odyssey is immediately impacting and appeasing to a wide swath of fans. Pictures to Burn builds upon the same electro-infused style to make something hauntingly beautiful; the vocal and instrumental sides push each other to entirely higher plateaus.

    This Too Shall Pass is our favorite outing during Inner Space Odyssey . The slower tempo and more intimate sound achieved here is made more compelling as the instrumentation picks up in the second half of the song. Predators has a sharp, angular sound that builds off of the blueprint of acts like Subdivisions-era Rush, Franz Ferdinand, and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn-styled Bright Eyes. Bold synths and drums match well with the robust vocals, making for a single that is funky, hard-hitting, and virtually ensures that listeners will get out on the dance floor.

    Post Everything shatters illusions that listeners may have; rather than putting the chaff on the second side of the disc, Texture & Light make a rich effort that opens up considerably with each subsequent listen. So Many Things is the final track on Inner Space Odyssey; an instrumental effort, the track is an absolute must-listen in what it contributes to the overall sound of the album. There is a rich narrative that is weaved through these concluding three minutes that both inform listeners about the conclusion of this album as well as scattering hints about where Texture & Light may ultimately go on future releases. Inner Space Odyssey is out on October 14th.

    Top Tracks: This Too Shall Pass, Theft of the Sky

    Rating: 8.5/10

    Texture & Light – Inner Space Odyssey / 2016 / https://www.facebook.com/TrevorRefix/ / https://textureandlight.bandcamp.com


  • The Vinyl Anachronist: Pat Kearns' So Long City on CD

    If I had any sort of musical talent, I might've put out an album like Pat Kearns' So Long City. He sings about the things I've lived through, such as moving to new places, trying to make and keep new friends, being on the road, getting away from it all and leading a simpler life. Like me he's a hobo at heart, not necessarily folksy in a Woody Guthrie sort of way but just sort of perpetually in motion, restless and looking forward to noticing and mentally cataloging all the new vistas. Even the chord progressions on his acoustic guitar are vaguely familiar--like I've stumbled onto them before while practicing. As a result, I made an immediate emotional connection with these songs, one I didn't expect.

    If I could sing, and I really can't, I might even sing like him. He has an affable and clear voice, sort of a mix between Jeff Tweedy and Bob Weir, with just a touch of Jeff Buckley for the more dramatic moments. There's a likability here that seems to bleed through the fairly conventional song structures like you're finally getting to see the hometown kid on a big stage and he's far better than you thought he'd be.

    Turns out I've heard Pat Kearns before. He fronted the Portland band Blue Skies for Black Hearts for many years, and I reviewed his CD back in 2014. Kearns had focused more on a power pop sound back then, very much in the mold of Big Star. So Long City delves more deeply into alt-country--it's driven by acoustic guitars, pedal steel guitars and even the occasional Dylanesque harmonica. It's surprisingly breezy and it goes down easy.

    Kearns' lyrics can put too fine of a point on his themes as if he's quickly scribbling his thoughts down as they come. He's not obscure or overly poetic. In "From Promo Queen to Queen Bitch," the one odd cynical track on the album, he starts off "Let's get drunk/That's what your invite said/But you didn't mean it/You'd rather I be dead." It's hurt he's singing about, not misogyny, bitter regret that might be misconstrued by more literal listeners. (That reminds me of an old girlfriend who freaked out when she heard Wilco's "Via Chicago" that starts off with the line "I dreamed about killing you again last night."No, I don't like this. Not one bit.

    Ultimately it doesn't matter since the album ends on such a strong note with the gorgeous and lyrical "Will You Come With Me Where I Go." This is where the aforementioned Jeff Buckley emerges in Kearns' voice and he feels like he's putting everything he has into this song. I'm not talking about belting it out a la "BabopbyeYa" but rather settling into a beatific rhythm and letting everything you have to say gel into one perfect little tune. Every time I play it for other people, they ask "Who is that? It's good."

    Indeed it is.