Now Hear This: September edition

Rock lifers and PDX Pop, vintage country and moody drones, urgent hip-hop and more

By ROBERT HAM

Now Hear This is a monthly column that scours the pages of music distributor Bandcamp, looking for new work from local artists that would make fine additions to your digital library. This time around, that includes some new tunes from rock lifers, a pair of diverse and dynamic compilations, and urgent hip-hop–just in time for Bandcamp’s next Fee Free First Friday.

Pete Krebs, All My Friends Are Ghosts

Singer-songwriter Pete Krebs is one of Portland’s most beloved musical sons, carving out a unique niche that has allowed him to explore everything from gypsy jazz to vintage country. On his latest album, he leans toward the latter with a lived-in collection of tunes exploring life’s ephemerality, the joy found in nature, and other simple pleasures. For someone who hasn’t released an album under his own name in nearly two decades, Krebs sounds like he hasn’t lost a step.

Various Artists, PDX Pop Now! Vol. 17

In a better world, Portland’s music lovers would have capped off the summer with PDX Pop Now!–the free, all ages festival that has been a fixture of the city’s concert calendar since 2004. The event couldn’t take place this year, but the team behind it has still graced our ears with a new double-CD compilation of fine local music. As ever, the latest installment runs the gamut from hip-hop (Eastern Sunz, The Dutchess), future pop (Jan Julius, Courtney Noe), heavy rock (Mane of the Cur, Mare), and a ton of indie rock. For a quick temperature check on the state of Portland music ca. 2020, you can do no better than this. 

Death Parade, lost in her eyes

The artist formerly known as Laura Palmer’s Death Parade has returned with a humble release featuring two songs the group recorded last year with the help of engineer Eric Crespo. The clear highlight is “Women of the Internet,” a smoldering, bruising, mid-tempo rocker written by band leader Laura Hopkins to honor women who often find themselves at the mercy of online trolls.

Various Artists, Points of No Return

Local label and record shop Beacon Sound has been one of the finest resources for experimental music in the city, led by the sharp ears and progressive ideology of Andrew Neerman. Both qualities alight on this compilation, which draws together nearly two dozen previously unreleased tracks by artists connected to the label, including local ambient artists Dolphin Midwives and Marcus Fischer. There’s also a handful of acts from Lebanon (like post-rock ensemble Kinematik), with a portion of the compilation’s proceeds to be donated to Impact Lebanon, a nonprofit collecting funds for relief and reconstruction efforts.

Scott The Hoople, Rock & Roll Party 66

Scott McCaughey, member of NW mainstays the Young Fresh Fellows and the Minus 5, won’t go gentle into that good night. To celebrate his 66th birthday, he threw himself a musical party and invited his many friends and collaborators (including Dream Syndicate front man Steve Wynn, Decemberists members Jenny Conlee-Drizos and John Moen, and longtime cohort Kurt Bloch) to record a batch of covers and raucous garage rock originals. The closest thing we are gonna get to a sloppy basement show for a while. 

STRFKR, Ambient 1

The indie pop outfit with the non-family friendly name has returned with their first ever album of ambient instrumentals. Apparently inspired by band leader Josh Hodges dabbling with a Prophet 5 synth and picking up a slew of new age cassettes at an estate sale, this collection burbles and swarms beautifully with aims to both soothe and unnerve.

Jordan Fletcher, Somewhere Off Alberta

The first album by local rapper Jordan Fletcher is an urgent and up-to-the-minute collection that speaks on our current historical moment as protests against police brutality continue in the streets, while also exploring years of life experience that this artist has to draw from. As incendiary as it gets, the heartfelt honesty at its core never gets lost in the furious rhetoric.

Emily Warden, Pleasure

Multi-disciplinary artist Emily Warden has graced us with a gorgeous ode to sensuality just in time for the (hopefully) last big heat wave of the year. The quiet storm of the original version is fantastic enough, but the music is given an extra sizzle via remixes from Natasha Kmeto and experimental producer Dominic Voz.

Erica Dal Bassa, Tidepools of Time

You won’t hear much of “xenharmonic” vocalist Dal Bassa’s soprano sfogato voice on this new release–the five tracks are mostly mood pieces, drones and layers of electronic melody meant for meditation or long stretches of deep contemplation (the title track clocks just over half an hour). Or–as with the wonderfully titled “Space Witch Giving A Lecture On Quantum Loop Gravity”–as a soundtrack worthy of a great sci-fi film.

POMP, F**K YES OKAY

Some of my favorite rock music sounds like it was tossed together in the exact amount of time it takes to listen to it, so I was instantly smitten with the raw garage punk of POMP. Four blurts of fuzzy, juvenile, unhinged joy that makes my back bristle with excited energy. Time to play this again and pogo around the home office.

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