Since 2004, the PDX Pop Now festival in Portland, Oregon has been an event that grows bigger every year. It’s an all-volunteer music free festival with the sole purpose of promoting local music and connecting artists and potential fans through this three day event. There have been a number of noted bands who played the festival in years past (i.e., the Shins, Sleater-Kinney, the Decemberists, M.Ward and the like). And because the organizers release a CD of local artists, it gives people who can’t make it to the festival a chance to hear some of the bands who play in Portland.
Earlier this month, I was in Portland visiting with my wife’s family and I had a chance to get over to a record store I like to frequent when I’m up there. It’s called Music Millennium and it’s chocked full of CDs that run the gamut of mainstream to local music. I bought a number of CDs from local bands I knew nothing about , and while I was very disappointed in many of them, the PDX Pop Now! CDs from 2009 and 2010 had some very strong songs – six of which are featured here.
“Moving Day,” aed+Quiet Countries (Download)
Straddling electronic and hip-hip, Quiet Countries is the brainchild of Leb Borgerson who’s quite handy with the beats. He enlisted the MC talents of aed, a Portland rapper, to create this one finger salute to the presidency of George W. Bush and his last day in office.
“Paper (Hot Sax Version),” Explode Into Colors (Download)
Just so you know, this band recently broke up so, yes, you won’t be seeing them at the PDX Pop Now festival. I’m not sure why they decided to call it quits, but the potential of a break up is an occupational hazard with bands, huh. You struggle and struggle, and then … poof. It’s over. Still, this quirky tune makes me curious about their other songs — which I’ll be hard pressed to find since the group never released a full length album. However, they do have a few songs on their My Space page.
“Take Back Our City,” My-G (Download)
My-G is the ops guy behind Indamix Records. Looking at his C.V., it seems he’s been very active in the music scene in Portland, and has had some success in providing music for video games and film projects. “Take Back Our City” is one of those hip-hop songs that splits up the monotony of just one guy rapping by infusing the song with a soulful chorus.
“Bodyblood,” the Angry Orts (Download)
“Bodyblood” has a real head-nodding groove to it, but the lyrics tell another story that has a not-so-subtle “I’ll give all of me to you” thing going on. But don’t write them off as just another band working out their inner demons on stage. Nope. The Angry Orts have a wicked sense of humor that is on display on the band’s site, and their music is varied enough that they stand out from many Johnny One-Note bands who are in the club circuit.
“Wild Eyed, Legless,” Laura Veirs (Download)
Veirs sounds an awful lot like Suzanne Vega, but has enough original style to sidestep charges of “Just another Suzanne Vega clone.” But truth be told, there haven’t been many Vega clones, so channeling her style isn’t altogether a bad thing. “Wild Eyed, Legless” is one of those songs that’s far too short. Just as the listener is drawn in, the song is over — which is kind of a bummer.
“City Morgue,” Kelli Schaefer (Download)
I have to say that the first time I heard Kelli Schaefer’s “City Morgue” she reminded me of Melody Gardot — if I may continue to make comparisons between lesser known artists with those who are in the spotlight. “City Morgue” is certainly more jaunty than the songs Gardot sings, but Schaefer has that same smoky lounge singer thing going on.