Local Music Reviews

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Ammon Waters
The Way You Are EP
Self-Released
Street: 08.30
Ammon Waters = The Smiths + David Bowie
Don’t let the pretty girl with a pink umbrella on the cover of this record fool you like it did me. I was expecting to hear a female voice—instead, I heard the crooning vocals of Ammon Waters, which are similar to those of Morrissey. After initial surprise, I found myself impressed with this three-song EP. The release opens with the catchy tune “The Way You Are,” which reminded me of the Iggy Pop song “Fall in Love with Me,” from his 1977 album Lust for Life. The following two songs, “Sunflowers and Tuberoses” and “Static Love,” offer more of the same, upbeat ‘80s pop sound. Although there isn’t much information about Waters floating around the Internet, I enjoyed the mellow sound of this album, and look forward to hearing a full-length album from him in the near future. –Jory Carroll

Atheist
Thanks For The Burgers
Self-Released
Street: 08.08
Atheist = Common Market + Skee-Lo + Mickey Avalon
I was blown away by this release, straight up. It has everything I love in a hip hop record: rich and dusty beats from classic source material, tight verses by the main emcee and more than a few collaborations. Produced by the illustrious likes of Fisch Loops, Wes Thompson, Yung Rip, Mike Booth and more, the album references old Star Trek, Ninja Turtles and classic vinyl, all while holding a cohesive sound that perfectly complements Atheist’s tight, slightly nasal flow. Speaking of which, this California transplant manages to remain the highlight of every song, even with the long list of collaborators. Whether it’s the quick and ultra-dense “That Sample” or the back-in-the-day vibe of “Mikey Was the Best” (my favorite song on the album), Atheist’s lyrics are tight, heavily referential and a blast to listen to—his history as a battle rapper is clear. Other highlights include the guest appearances by Yze, Diggabeatz and Show Me Island’s Lauren Hoyt as well the emcee-laden “Sleazy,” which sounds like the dirtiest school-yard rap cipher ever. This local album will probably make my Top 5 for the year, and it’s available for free download at 801atheist.bandcamp.com. Don’t miss it! [The Shred Shed: 11.16] –Rio Connelly

The Awful Truth
Birthright
Self-Released
Street: 08.01
The Awful Truth = Neutral Milk Hotel + Jose Gonzalez
Whether it’s intentional or a happy accident, the release date of Birthright seems very well timed to me. By this, I mean it’s possibly one of the best fall albums I’ve heard in a while from a local artist. Tracks like “Words Were in the Way” (featuring guest vocals from locals like Joe Castor from Mathematics Et Cetera and Jess Davis from S.L.F.M.) provide decreasingly warm and sunny foundations sided with loping percussion and navel-gazing lyrics. “Birthright” is a rewarding ace-in-the-hole track, which showcases ‘90s indie rock sensibilities without renouncing the album’s core sound. Band frontman Brent Colbert manages to empathetically craft hypnotizing songs within the conventions of folk without having to rewrite any rules. Even though the local folk scene is a highly contested one, Birthright gives The Awful Truth the extra bump in stature that helps them stick out from the rest.  –Gregory Gerulat

Creature Double Feature
Ground Zero
Self-Released
Street: 07.22
Creature Double Feature = Avi Buffalo + Slowdive
Davis and Mason Johnson aren’t only brothers, but also are an example of today’s precocious youth—the kind that terrifies old people. Ground Zero is an impressive digital dream-pop effort, especially considering the bandmates are just 17 and 14 years old. However, it still has room for improvement. Every track redundantly contains a slow start and build-up, which ultimately leaves a lot of dead air that sandbags the album’s flow. Moreover, the dream-pop element is a bit untailored and leaves a lot of aesthetic gaps during the more crucial sections of tracks. For instance, “Shadows” would be an incredible Beach House-ranking track if it had more of a pop hook to maintain focus instead of losing listeners in the texture. Nonetheless, Ground Zero is decent and indicative of a lot more potential, which could easily be achieved before they become legal adults. In the meantime—stay gold, ponyboy(s). –Gregory Gerulat

Curseworship
Self-Titled (Cassette)
Crucial Blast
Street: 09.10
Curseworship = Swans + Tragedy + Wolf Eyes
Many bands have tried—and many bands have failed—to blend genres as seamlessly as Curseworship has been able to on this three-song release. The band is able to flow in and out of relatively harsh noise (à la Wolf Eyes), crusty metal and straight tone-worship without batting an eye. The recording is muted and heavy, and unlike other releases from bands who desperately attempt to achieve the effect of this release, the vocals are set fairly far back in the mix, which only adds to the experience of the listen. Curseworship can, at the same time, come across like the soundtrack to a Takashi Miike film, and the much more evil bastard child of SunnO))) and His Hero Is Gone. An excellent release from these fellows, and hopefully a taste of even greater things to come. –Gavin Hoffman

Fat Apollo And The Cellulites
A Twist Of Rhyme
Self-Released
Street: 08.11
Fat Apollo And The Cellulites = Phish + Gorillaz
Opening with a fictionalized account of the band’s origin, it’s pretty clear right off the bat that Fat Apollo and the Cellulites don’t take themselves particularly seriously. Coming on strong with a playful sense of hip hop rhythm infused with a heady dose of soul, it all starts off on the right note. Unfortunately, there are only six genuine tracks here and only about 25 minutes of music—every other track consists of out-of-place tribal chanting and pagan sermons. It doesn’t give enough time for the group to find themselves or fully develop their good vibes. Each bizarre spoken word interlude throws off the album’s flow and gets in the way of what you really want—more music, less filler. –Matt Brunk

Hectic Hobo
We Lost Our Legs In The War, We Just Can’t Remember Which War
Self-Released
Street: 01.06
Hectic Hobo = Blitzen Trapper x (Violent Femmes + Baguette Quartet)
We Lost Our Legs would be a perfect soundtrack to knapsack-toting, train-hopping, grime-collecting adventures. Old-timey piano creates a dusty mixture when paired with undulating accordion riffs. Hectic Hobo utilize a drum set, tambourines, an occasional washboard and basically any solid object imaginable for percussion, generating a unique busking vibe. Their second track, “Revolution in a Dress,” exhibits punches of Spanish influence. Hasen Cone’s gravelly voice lends to the imagination, allowing you to envision this group as a pack of grubby vagabonds. Cadence changes in every track add complexity and keep a level appeal throughout the conclusion of every number. Rockabilly pickups complete the rest of the blend. As a whole, I was thoroughly inspired. The only thing that can top their performance on this album is seeing them live in all of their drunken, surging splendor. –LeAundra Jeffs

Joshua James
From The Top Of Willamette Mountain
Intelligent Noise
Street: 11.06
Joshua James = Josh Rouse + Xavier Rudd + Desert Noises 
If you’re from Portland, Ore., the way Joshua James pronounces “Willamette” in the album’s title track will bug the hell out of you, but his voice will calm you back down. What has set James apart from other singer-songwriters is his smooth, hoarse singing voice—think a melodic, adolescent Tom Waits with vocal chords slathered in butter. James’ unique voice remains the same on From The Top Of Willamette Mountain as on previous Joshua James releases, but the album feels evolved and sounds more dynamic than its predecessors.  While much of the album still has the acoustic folk feel, rhythm drives songs like “Queen of the City” and “Sister” with prominent bass and drums. A piano-powered waltz called “Surrender” reveals a growing range in James’s songwriting.  And Portlanders, don’t take offense—Willamette refers to James’s Utah farm, not the river that cuts through Portland. –Steve Richardson

The Myster-E
T.A.M.I.A.J. 1
Rekanize
Street: 04.27
The Myster-E = Bone Thugs-N-Harmony + Goodie Mob
The Myster-E opens T.A.M.I.A.J. 1 with the dark, robotic beats of “It’s About Time.” On the track, the local emcee drops a line about “hip hop morphine,” and yes, indeed it was—I was out cold. The mixtape starts off slowly and sleepily, but gradually grew in quality and depth on tracks such as “These Daze.” I wasn’t terribly impressed with The Myster-E’s monotone delivery or the scattered production (from Instramentality and Laryngitiz), but there was an honest effort and lots of love for the Salty City within the tape, so I can’t hate on that. Still, T.A.M.I.A.J. 1 is lackluster and confusing. I’m hoping to see more from The Myster-E, but perhaps with a different producer and theme. –Meera Masud

OK Ikumi
Alpine Sequences
Hel Audio
Street: 07.30
OK Ikumi = Teen Daze + ARP + Tangerine Dream
One day, when we humans have ceased to exist either by the flash-bang of nuclear fission or slow poison of climate change, robots will gather and recreate our natural sounds: washes of synths representing the crashing waves, chirping electronics and blips of data imitating birds and insects heard on a perfect afternoon in the Wasatch Mountains. Until then, we have Alpine Sequences, the closest thing to bridging the analog/digital divide. Alpine Sequences is rooted in classic, repeated arpeggios, which Karl Jørgensen massages into 20 fragments of some of the warmest-sounding electronic tones put onto tape (it is released on cassette). Moving further away from his earlier chiptune, 8-bit zaniness, Alpine Sequences is a slow-burning record in classical minimalist fashion with close attention paid to overall mood (unrequited, slightly nostalgic) which never compromises the albums overall aesthetic. Jørgensen has never sounded better. –Ryan Hall

Show Me Island
MV: MMXII
Self-Released
Street: 04.20
Show Me Island = old No Doubt + Save Ferris + Dani Lion
Yay, ska! This underappreciated genre seems to go through waves of popularity, and as I’m a sucker for a swanky horn-section melody, I’m always happy to see it embraced. Show Me Island aren’t breaking new ground (when has that ever been a priority for ska?), but they are pulling it off with more style than I’ve seen in a bit. It’s easy to feel rushed in the genre, like you have to play super fast for anyone to get into it, but the classic two-step rhythms are just as danceable at SMI’s slightly more relaxed pace. Frontwoman Lauren Hoyt lets loose with her distinctive and sultry voice while trombone and saxophone melodies swing over tight rhythm-section chops. Favorites include the bouncy “Live Love” and the almost Streetlight Manifesto-esque horns of “Mo(untains)lehills.” At only six songs, this release is short, but shows a lot of promise. I can’t wait to don some suspenders and go check out their live shows. Pick it up! –Rio Connelly

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