Portland's MusicfestNW has always had one of the more diverse festival lineups around. A large part of that is because -- rather than jamming thousands upon thousands of people asses to elbows in a huge field on some farm somewhere -- MusicfestNW puts the action into venues scattered around Portland, setting the population loose. It is less of a festival and more a set of well-curated shows that all just happen to take place on the same weekend. Accordingly, I skipped around town to see multiple acts, my favorite of which were Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Roseland Theatre, Mount Eerie at Aladdin Theatre, and Frank Fairfield at Bunk Bar.

Mount Eerie

Mount EerieThere are few constants in life, but one thing that can usually be relied upon is that every Mount Eerie performance is going to be different from the last. At this year's MusicfestNW that may or may not have been the case considering Mount Eerie opened for Bonnie Prince Billy two nights in a row at Aladdin Theater -- but if you caught one of those sets, it was probably quite a different affair from the last time you saw Phil Elverum perform. Elverum is an adaptable performer. Aladdin Theatre is a sit-down venue, and a Bonnie "Prince" Billy show necessitates a fairly muted and low-key scene. Sure, the sold-out crowd was buzzing, but they were buzzing about as much as you can for a headliner that plays Americana and folk. Mount Eerie's performance switched to match that feeling in the air. On stage, it was just Elverum with an acoustic guitar flanked by two female singers, singing backup vocals and doing verbal renditions of some of the instruments on his songs. It was a change from sometimes noisy and fairly abrasive solo shows. The chatter overheard afterwards ranged from people wondering who the hell Mount Eerie was to those wondering what the hell Mount Eerie was doing. It was an odd set from Elverum for sure, but a bold one, and one that he hit right on the button. Sometimes -- especially with Mount Eerie's recent sounds -- it's easy to forget how soft Elverum's music is at times (see: “Through The Trees", below). This particular performance was one that seemed a little bit out of left field, but it was one that worked as well if you appreciate the variety of Elverum's music. Editor's Note: We should probably also mention his upcoming November 2013 LP, the ironically-titled Pre-Human Ideas, which features auto-tuned versions of songs from his recent LPs. Yeah. Seriously.

Jessy Lanza Pull My Hair Back Hyperdub (2013)Jessy Lanza - Pull My Hair Back Album Review - HyperdubIn the future, androids will cruise lounges looking to score with flesh-and-blood humans. When the couples will go back to their climate-and-dust-controlled apartments and begin pairing, the soundtrack that will start auto-playing in the background is Jessy Lanza's Pull My Hair Back. Like the Barry White of the cyber-generation, Lanza spins out smooth, sultry soul. Yet unlike White, whose deep voice anchored his music, Lanza's breathy, whispery soprano blends into the background, becoming another instrument in a silky sonic sheet you want to roll around in naked until the sun comes up. Befitting an album that will serve as the soundtrack to futuristic human/machine boogie nights, there doesn't seem to be an actual organic instrument on the album. Instead, the synthesizer and drum machine reign, and they manufacture a surprisingly warm and sultry soundscape — think Tangerine Dream all sexed up. At once spare yet lush, this is electropop with a brain — and a soul.

Devon Welsh isn't just looking for applause at the end of a Majical Cloudz song. He'll gladly accept it, nod his head a few times, and give the audience a hint of a smile, but for Welsh, the Majical Cloudz live set is about much more than that.Majical Cloudz "When you play a show, you want people to feel something," Welsh told Pitchfork's Jenn Pelly in a recent interview. "It's much better to communicate something than for people to just be like, 'Oh this is cool.'" As Welsh performs -- he's strictly the lead singer of the two-piece group that includes Matthew Otto on synth and sound mixing -- he slowly rotates his gaze throughout the crowd, moving at a snail's pace from left to right and then back again. You won't see him shutting his eyes or staring off into the distance, because his priority is ensuring that each word coming out of his mouth is fully digested by the crowd. He doesn't just casually look out into the crowd to gauge his audience, either. He stares into the eyes of every onlooker, and when his pupils fall on you, it feels like an intimate and intensely personal performance.
August 27th, 2013 @ The Echo in Los Angeles, CA

BRAIDS Flourish//Perish Arbutus Records Montreal-based indie band BRAIDS make music that one rarely encounters: music that is meant to be processed and digested, bit by bit, as opposed to gulped down in one large bite. BRAIDS' 2011 debut Native Speaker was a lush, layered, complex swirl of dreamy melodies, and while their sophomore album Flourish//Perish has a similar feeling, it is a longer record that allows for expansion upon their sound. Aside from the vague comparisons to post-rock/shoegaze/indie pop, it is difficult to put specific genre categorizations on BRAIDS. Each song on Flourish//Perish has its own tone and tenor, making it a bit hard to conceptualize; the overall effect is delicate, intricate, at times jarring, and alternately soothing.

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your dancing toes. This month, we rope in a lot of notable artists with new songs on the horizon... be it the Micachu-produced Tirzah, R&B vocalist Jessy Lanza, 18-year-old Brazilian-French producer Dream Koala, or the tried-and-true sounds of BRAIDS and Julia Holter. Also included are tracks by Foxygen member Diane Coffee and Arts & Crafts artists The Darcys.
+++ FULL POST + ALL TOP POPS! COLUMNS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS

Jessy Lanza - "5785021"

As a hardcore lover of R&B in the '90s, I'm a fucking hard sell when it comes to the indie R&B revival that slinketh around these days. I need more than just a pretty voice; that helps, but a hook needs to catch me, and not in a shallow way, either. On "5785021", probably the best track on Jessy Lanza's upcoming release, Pull My Hair Back. Tender vocal melodies that slink and out of upper registries couple with background synths reminiscent of Art of Noise's "Moments in Love", without being actually derivative. Pull My Hair Back comes out September 10th on Hyperdub; stay tuned for a full album review.  

Tirzah

I can recall a time far, far away... back in 2009, when my musical playlist was dominated by tUnE-yArDs and Micachu and the Shapes, in their lo-fi heydays. Since then, Micachu has been back here and there in small doses -- though with nothing as earthquaking as the debut Jewellery record, I would argue. So it is with great delight that I stumbled upon the I'm Not Dancing four-track EP from Tirzah, which was produced by Micachu and features some of her distinctive drum sounds and general aural simplicity. The EP is out now on Greco-Roman. The Grant Amour-directed music video for "I'm Not Dancing" is also delightfully awkward and fitting for the album title.  

One pervy frog man gets down in the music video for Weaves' "Motorcycle", where vaguely sexual lyrics turn into an animated tale of a naughty amphibian's crotch-heavy love for his newfound motorcycle. This animated short is the product of a collaboration between the band and director Jason Harvey, who, for a change of pace, put away his video camera and took out his Wacom tablet. In the featured Q&A, Harvey, along with Jasmyn Burke and Morgan Waters of Weaves, share their perspectives on meeting, the creative process, and the final horny result.

Weaves (Musicians)

 

Jason Harvey (Director)

Weaves - "Motorcycle" Music Video

 

As far as I'm concerned, pop music is the most exciting frontier for musical innovation. From the mainstream radio-friendly mash-ups of Beyonce, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber down to your favorite neighborhood indie pop band or danceable electronic act, pop music is encompassing of a wide world of sounds, full of ground-breaking firsts. Yet it's safe to say that in the current indie music climate, with its constant breaking and building of narrow-minded subgenres like dream pop, vaporwave, chillwave, and the like, oversaturation often leads to myriad bands which sound more or less identical. Of these, most lack a truly distinguishing spark that makes them stand out. Which is why I get really excited upon the discovery of pop bands who don't easily fit in anywhere, and are able to -- if not reinvent it -- at least give the wheel a furious and energetic spin. My latest and greatest finding lies in Royal Canoe, a group of musicians from the uncommon birthing ground of Winnipeg, Canada. While undoubtedly considered "indie pop" by any wide-casting use of the term, Royal Canoe aren't actually easy to define, especially with non-abstract terminologies. With two drummers, two keyboardists, and four vocalists, the six-member band is kind of all over the place stylistically -- yet somehow, it just works. Royal Canoe Band Interview After talking to Royal Canoe's vocalist and guitarist Matt Peters, I came to realize that what sets Royal Canoe apart from other indie pop bands is not exactly the genre tags they fall under -- of which there are many -- but their fascinating communal character. For a pop band, they are remarkably tenacious. They make a point of having extremely high standards for creation and performance, in service of being the best musicians they can be. Any self-imposed rules they have set for themselves are balanced by a willingness to share artistic duties, as well as an openness to inspiration and experimentation.
"I think everyone definitely has an appreciation for letting their voice be heard but also trying to reach a greater good..." -- Matt Peters

 

Broken Deer Polaraura Self-Released Releasing an album means recording, mixing, mastering, and sharing a piece of yourself through music -- and the way all that happens can be unbelievably revealing. In Broken Deer's experimental, ghostly, and cassette-recorded fifth release, Polaraura, we get a unique window into Lindsay Dobbin's musical temperament as well as her natural and spiritual concerns. At the same time breathlessly intimate and palpably alienating, Dobbin's music invites external forces in while still keeping itself closed off, lending an interesting dichotomy to Polaraura's collection of fluctuating sounds and melodies.

 

Due the unfortunate fact that we are merely human and Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is just beginning its three-week film rampage, we've sifted through the Festival's gigantic catalog to come up with the best films of the bunch -- or so we suspect. SIFF is annually guaranteed to have a mixture of some of the best and worst films that one can see -- and these film recommendations come from the minds of three REDEFINE writers with good intentions. Yet at best, these selections are our most educated hypotheses, determined from a mixture of film industry knowledge and intuitions based on trailers. Below, we've grouped our selections for 2013 by world region. Stay tuned in the weeks to come, as we offer updates throughout the festival's progression, with general thumbs up and thumbs down summaries of the films we will painfully and enjoyably slog and float through, as well as one-off full-length reviews. Happy SIFFing!