No one seems to be able to stop talking about Kendrick Lamar this year, and while we are no different from the rest in that regard, we've naturally made the effort, as usual, to put together an Albums of the Year list that is typically unconventional and probably features quite...

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.
SALTLAND I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us Constellation Records (2013) On her debut album, cellist, vocalist, and composer Rebecca Foon -- otherwise known as SALTLAND -- creates a cosmic wasteland of sound and feeling. Through freeform string parts, spiritually reminiscent vocals, raw, distorted backdrops, and tribal percussion, the desolate and beautiful world of I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us emerges, entrances, and encourages contemplation.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TANYA TRABOULSI
Jerusalem In My Heart have just released Mo7it Al-Mo7it, and listening to the record may simply hint at the existence of a talented instrumental band. A more appropriate description, however -- known so far to only a select and lucky few in their hometown of Montreal -- is that they are an ever-changing artistic project, which also provides fascinating fodder for cultural commentary. As a true multimedia art installation, they are a sight to behold in a live setting, and also represent a modern update on traditional Arabic music and songwriting, with additional multicultural counterpoints.

 

It has been a decade since Godspeed You! Black Emperor released Yanqui U.X.O., and since then the musical landscape has changed quite a bit. As a new generation of music lovers have grown up with the concept that music is free, and the people making it are entertainers in a vaudeville-like act, bands have been forced to find new and interesting ways to release physical albums that will make fans want to buy them In this day and age where all news makes it to Twitter whether or not it is even news, it is tough to actually pull a surprise on anyone. The internet makes it near impossible -- yet that is exactly what GY!BE did with their latest release Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!. The band reformed from hiatus in 2010 and then two years later, they silently released the new album at a concert in Boston. Everyone was taken by surprise and no one was the wiser.

 

This video for Eric Chenaux's "Amazing Backgrounds" will no doubt feel pretentious to some, but I think there's something marvelous about taking five minutes to focus in on subtle beauties around us. The importance of "slow burners" is sometimes acknowledged -- some of the best albums are growers, some of the...

Watching Colin Stetson live is an absolute jaw-dropping marvel. With his circular breathing technique, Colin Stetson crafts soundscapes with a bass saxophone like no one else can. This video for "Those Who Didn't Run" is quite simple, comprised of little more than a few components. Trees, mountains, smoke, waterfalls, and most...