• 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.


  • Premiere: San Francisco Pop Trio EagleWolfSnake Get Sucked Into a Video Game in The Music Video for "Closer"


      In San Francisco band EagleWolfSnake's new video for "Closer" the trio climb into a crazy man's cardboard box contraption and end up starring in their own video game as Mario-inspired characters navigating the obstacles of a digital San Francisco. It's a clever concept that works well with the uptempo electronic-pop song and makes for an equally intriguing watch. 
      The band, formed in 2014, wanted to do an animated video for a while and when they met someone in Boston who designs '80s inspired Nintendo visuals for music videos, they jumped at the opportunity. They decided "Closer" would be the best song to animate as it's about getting "to the ultimate life experience," says bassist and vocalist Eli Meyskens. "In this song, we tried to tell the story of trying to get to that point and also paint a picture of what it looks like." 

      Interested in seeing EagleWolfSnake live? Catch them at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 30, at Starry Plough in Berkeley.

    • Logan Lynn says Hello to Adieu


      Logan Lynn describes himself as a “singer and songwriter, although probably singer/songwriter doesn’t really evoke the kind of imagery that I am wanting,” and much to his credit, the image his life’s work evokes is far more than this. With numerous singles, EPs and albums under his belt. the Portland artist is now bringing a new album, adieu, and a new campaign to fight stigma around mental health.

      Adieu is a notable departure for Lynn, who describes the shift as a move from “electro-pop” to what he calls “organic music,” a process that was as much about music as it was about self care and awareness of mental health. 

      “The techno was probably a product of me not knowing what I was doing and just being a DJ, it was like an accident,” Lynn said, and it was after what he called a “public mental health breakdown” in 2010 and a period of reflection that the album began to take root. 

      With ongoing mental health challenges in his life, Lynn said he “didn’t really know what to do with those feelings, and so I did what I used to do with feelings and I wrote songs.” The process was difficult, Lynn said, adding, “I don’t think any of it was easy, which is why it was four years in the making.”

      Stylistically, Lynn credits Liz Phair and the Sundays in part as guiding his musical style, and adieu’s style represents a type of music he feels he should have been making in the first place. Being homeschooled also contributed to his style today. 

      Phair, Lynn said, “Taught me everything I know about music, frankly—her and Amy Grant. It’s quite the mix.” Phair provided the antithesis to Grant, rounding out his early influences.

      Other major influences for Lynn include Portland locals Elliott Smith and the Dandy Warhols and what he called the old Portland scene, a scene he described as dirty, grungy rock. 

      “[The Dandy Warhols] took me under their wing, just as Elliott had done,” Lynn said. The feeling of Old Portland, magical as he calls it, is evident in adieu

      “There is an element of Old Portland in the feeling experience of the record,” Lynn said. 

      During the long process toward adieu, Lynn kept himself busy in the community. 

      “I think my music led me into community work,” Lynn said, and that it drew him into work with the Q Center and then Cover Oregon for the Affordable Care Act rollout. It was this work that led him to being approached to start work on a community engagement program for Trillium Family Services, Oregon’s largest provider of mental and behavioral health care for children and families. 

      “If the whole city can get behind the social movement of ‘Keep Portland Weird,’ surely we could get people to rally around keeping Oregon well, and from there I launched it,” Lynn said.

      Keep Oregon Well. Working with Sheila Hamilton, author of All the Things We Never Knew, a memoir about her husband’s suicide and her family putting their lives back together, Lynn began the campaign. Keep Oregon Well, is “a coming out movement” for mental and behavioral health discussions, Lynn said. 

      As with much of his life, music is a key part of the campaign.

      Over the past year, Keep Oregon Well hosted over 100 shows with headliners like the Dandy Warhols, Walk Off the Earth, and even Kevin Bacon. The campaign uses music to start a conversation, with artists playing three songs and engaging on the idea of ending the stigma of mental health. Many of these shows in the concert series are at the Skype Live Studio, mere blocks from Portland State.

      When asked what PSU students can do to help the campaign, Lynn suggested students take the pledge online to fight behavioral and mental health stigma with Trillium. Lynn added that he hopes people “feel inspired to honor every part of them,” and to recognize that “you can be successful and depressed.”

      Adieu is set to be released on September 23 on CD and red double vinyl, and Lynn will be playing two live shows: one at Mississippi Studios on September 10 and another close to campus on September 30 at Skype Live Studio.