Fuse, Fuse Music TV, or Fusic TV as I like to call it, has a quick 4+ minute overview of the Portland music scene. Yes, they only talk to some of the bigger names in town like The Thermals, Menomena, and Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, but it's not as cringe-worthy as the first episode of Portlandia. Are you an indie band in need of a town? C'mon down (or up) ...

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake Vagrant Records | February 2011 Polly Jean Harvey has never been an artist cautious in her approach, or particularly concerned with what her listeners might think of her sound. She's been making her own path in the music world since her debut album, Dry for which Rolling Stone called the then-22-year-old Harvey the year's Best Songwriter and Best New Female Singer. Raw, emotionally-bare, experimental, shocking, but always beautiful, even when the guitars are shredding and the drums are blasting like cannons. Her follow-up, Rid of Me took the back-and-forth of sober beauty and rock bombast to new heights – loud-soft-loud-soft was the sound of the 90s. Since 1993, PJ Harvey has been recording as a solo artist (without her original trio) but often with songwriting partner, John Parrish and producer Flood. Her latest album is no exception, but instead of a recording in a studio, it was recorded...

Iron and Wine | Kiss Each Other Clean Warner Brothers | January 2011 It’s easy to look at Iron and Wine musical development in terms of the listening to a radio on a farm. Sam Beam now lives outside of Austin, but his roots are firmly in the South (born and raised in South Carolina), his early music reflecting Nick Drake-via-Appalachia on songs like “Southern Anthem” (from his first album, The Creek Drank the Cradle). Churches, crosses, the countryside and cattle – his low-fi, stripped-down songs like AM-radio lullabies to a rustic life. But with each subsequent record, Iron and Wine continues to distance itself from Beam’s folk troubadour roots; on 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog, they’d become more of a band, Beam’s trust in other musicians pushing their recordings into new territory - his radio had added the FM band. Where Shepherd’s Dog was more sonically ambitious than its predecessors – Kiss Each Other Clean...

Destroyer – Kaputt Merge Records | 2011 When I was a kid, I remember seeing Barry White on a daytime talk show – curious to know what this bearded, unglamorous looking guy had to offer the entertainment world. Then I heard him perform something from “Sheet Music” – one of the best album titles of all time, considering the “activities” White worked to stimulate. He was the “Maestro of Love”, and my burgeoning libido – on a primitive level – yearned to emulate him, as well as Marvin Gaye. Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one. Dan Bejar had been the indie world’s Oscar Wilde until now (providing obtuse, abstract, satirical lyrics not only for his band Destroyer, but the New Pornographers as well), his sound sometimes glam, sometimes folk. That is until Kaputt, his band’s latest. More than a few comparisons will be made to late-era Roxy Music and Steely Dan – which is...

Wire – Red Barked Tree Pink Flag | January 2011 It's no irony – Wire stopped being ironic with their inception – that the track "Two Minutes", on their newest album Red Barked Tree, clocks in at 2:01. As the band's website declares, they've been "confounding expectations" since the release of their debut, 1977's Pink Flag. "Two Minutes" is a career-defining moment: one that acknowledges the past (and Pink Flag's 21 tracks, some under a minute long, were a harbinger for the age of Attention Deficit Disorder, sound bites, channel surfing) – but provides a "welcome to the age of fragmentation" - all while employing one of their signature sounds, industrial punk. As a fan of the band (not just their debut), it always amused me when someone would declare their affection and appreciation for Pink Flag – as if that's when Wire stopped defining what would come. Their second incarnation (in the 80's)...

The Decemberists Make a Prince of a Record The Decemberists – The King is Dead Capitol | Released January 18, 2011 Let’s face it – the Decemberists aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. They’ve fallen into the good graces of literary fans, literate celebrities (oxymoronic as that may be) and people who like pirate AND Victorian references delivered by the bar band that will forego the complimentary drinks until AFTER they’ve played. They’ve created the most clever lyrics this side of Stephen Merritt, and can still threaten to create a children’s book. Well, I’m part of their target audience (an English teacher who loves Victorian literature!); but, as a long time fan (their debut, Castaways and Cutouts, is still one of my favorite albums), I have to admit to becoming less enthusiastic upon each successive release. Where their sound was still hyper-literate, their fragility was beginning to lose its appeal to me. So it is...

OK, so my internal clock knew it was almost Oscar nomination time (January 25th), and I’m one of those people that still cares (and even throws an Oscar party, where invitees have to bring a dish inspired by a Best Picture nominee – I’m already thinking “True Grits...

Last October’s Apples in Stereo show at Portland’s Mississippi Studios brought home two urgent points:  1) not enough bands seem to have fun playing live and 2) more bands should wear uniforms. In a town where brooding, flannel-clad folkies vie with irony-crippled hipsters for stage space, the Apples’ unabashed spirit of pop confectionery was a welcome relief. As they took the stage, frontman Robert Schneider grinned at the crowd and said, “Cool!” as if he was genuinely amazed by the fact that people come to hear him play. It was a refrain he repeated throughout the night as Schneider led the band through a frenzied, sometimes sloppy, but always rocking set that spanned the Apples’ nearly 20-year history. Watching the band’s six members schlep their own gear before their set, you had to conclude that they were in this because they loved it—they’re certainly not living the rich rock star lifestyle, despite...

Here are my selections for Best Albums of 2010 based not so much on what I think should be the best, but what resonated with me and "stuck around" more, causing repeated listening. There were many recordings put out this year that are technically marvelous, interesting and challenging. So, maybe this list should be called my "Favorite Albums of 2010" instead and, because of that, they tend to be a bit more "pop." New Pornographers – Together Beach House – Teen Dream Broken Bells – s/t MGMT – Congratulations Superchunk – Majesty Shredding Grinderman – Grinderman 2 Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening Maximum Balloon – s/t Unkle – Where Did the Night Fall Gorillaz – Plastic Beach Spoon – Transference Surfer Blood – Astrocoast Tame Impala – Innerspeaker The National – High Violet Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky Crystal...

I'm intimidated by the thought of writing about Nick Cave. There's something so serious about an artist as complex and celebrated as he is. He's been performing for decades. He has a dedicated, sophisticated fan base. He invites and inspires extremely thoughtful criticism with every new project. I can write about Grinderman 2, however. It's a noisy, kick-ass rock record, and I know my way around that kind of thing. The opening song, "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man" is a perfect choice to start the record.  The rhythm section is strikingly reminiscent of the Jesus Lizard's finest moments, the guitar playing is vicious, and the vocals are pure Cave. I recently cranked this up on the hi-fi after a bad day at work and it absolutely delivered me from evil. At least, a certain kind of evil.  (The Song "Evil" is also a 100mph banger.) This is not a morally righteous collection...

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