Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
There are certain cities and towns in America that are synonymous with a certain type of music. Chicago is the home of the blues, New Orleans is the capital of jazz, and Portland is, well, a hodge-podge of just about everything in a sensational mix of music that rounds out to some of the most interesting indie-rock in the world. The largest city in Oregon has become a cultural hub of epic proportions. The band Small Leaks Sink Ships has been passed the pivotal torch of the city’s indie rock. They’re running with it on their new album, ‘Face Yourself, And Remove Your Sandals.’
Of the multitude of things that differentiate this region’s eclectic sound, two prominent factors are exceptionally creative guitar banter and bodacious vocal harmonies. ‘Power Outage,’ the opening track of the album, is chock-full of both. It escalates into a gigantic sound of layering piano tracks, whopping percussion, and fuzzy electric riffing.
Perhaps one of the more interesting parts of Small Leaks Sink Ships’ sound is their use of audio sampling. ‘Power Outage’ and its use of a boating harbor and ‘Midnight Jim’ and its use of a respirator make the sound quite unusual. There’s a sample on ‘Iceberg’ that I can’t even quite make out, but I love it. This record feels like a sonic experiment more than anything. Vocally sparse tracks like ‘Orchis’ are a compelling exercise into diverse regions of aural pastures.
All ten of these tracks are incredibly different from one another, which makes for an excellent album-listening experience. I really dig ‘Snowball Fight Attack Formation,’ in particular. The beautiful harmonies and superb instrumentation are especially notable on the peculiarly named song. It probably best exhibits what this whole experience feels like, and would suit the band well as a single.
‘Face Yourself, And Remove Your Sandals’ is a wonderful record. Songs like ‘The Devil is in the Desert’ are cinematic events, whereas other tracks like ‘Orchis’ are more reflective and pensive. Though the indie-rock origins of this album are very clear, it feels fresh and inventive. This could absolutely pave the way for the next wave of music out of Portland; maybe it’s time for the city to shake it up once again.