At a glance Gothic Tropic may appear to be another chic Los Angeles retro-rock act, hiding behind delay pedals like dark sunglasses. Having just two brief EPs under their belt since their 2011 conception, the indie-poppers might have flown just below the radar of readers, which would have been a shame.
Music has led Kevin Morby from Kansas City to New York and now Los Angeles: center, east and west. However, if Morby’s influenced by any one place over another, it’s New York — particularly the era when the Big Apple’s folk scene began to morph into early punk rock; the city of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Television.
The Bearer of Bad News, the latest release of Canadian songwriter Andy Shauf, is now out on Portland taste-making record label Tender Loving Empire. Working with a Portland label is appropriate for a songwriter who lists legendary Portland songwriter Elliott Smith as an influence.
There was a time when Eugeneans had to venture up I-5 if we wanted to catch the top touring classical and jazz pianists at, say, Portland Jazz Festival, Portland Piano International and other events. No more.
Eugeneans — if you think driving 20 minutes to Cottage Grove to see a band play is too long, consider how long Self Decay traveled just to play there. “We are four-piece from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,” says Self Decay bassist Pedro Gibson. In 2012 the band lived in L.A. for six months before returning to Brazil, but didn’t have the chance to tour the states until now.
If you thought Jamaican reggae was laidback, Wayne Enos is here to tell you that Hawaiian reggae is even more chill. Enos, guitarist and vocalist with Hawaiian reggae band Natural Vibrations, or Natty Vibes, says: “Hawaiian reggae is definitely inspired by Jamaican reggae.
The music of Los Angeles’ Dengue Fever sounds like the soundtrack to an unmade James Bond film set in Cambodia. Guitarist Zac Holtzman tells EW his group is inspired by the rich and complex horn arrangements of Ethiopian jazz, as well as plain old American surf rock.
As far as band names go, Bass Drum Of Death is in my top five. In recent years, acts such as Ty Segall, Wavves and King Tuff have spearheaded a gorgeous, fuzzy garage revival, leaving footprints in the ashes for other bands to follow.
For many Americans, the first introduction to the infectiously happy ditty “La Bamba” was either circa 1958 from the crooning Chicano rocker Ritchie Valens or circa 1987 from a pompadour-ed Lou Diamond Phillips playing the crooning Chicano rocker in the biopic La Bamba.
It begins with playful handclaps, then charming indie-rock vocals. It builds to a West African-influenced polyrhythmic bedrock and bright, chiming, highlife-style guitar work. This is “Science Camp,” the de facto lead single off Some Friends Feel Like Family, the 2015 release from Santa Barbara’s Ghost Tiger.
Folk songstress Olivia Awbrey has a love affair with writing. Like any relationship, there are good times and bad times, times when moving seems easier than staying, and growing together is a key to success.
“We’ve been gravitating toward a New Orleans jazz kind of sound,” says Mad Caddies founding member Sascha Lazor, “while still keeping the reggae, ska and rock aspect to the band.” The Mad Caddies are returning to Eugene in support of their 2014 Fat Wreck Chords release Dirty Rice, perhaps the band’s most nuanced and varied record to date.
There’s no telling what she’ll spin, but it’s likely that Megan James’ goal is to make you dance. The singer for Canada’s ghostly electro-pop duo Purity Ring has dabbled in the DJ booth for a couple years now. As she told the Santa Barbara Independent, “I’m just looking for what makes me dance.”
Philly-based musician Jeremy Quentin is one of those guy-that’s-a-band/band-that’s-just-one-guy types. He performs under the name Small Houses. The album art for Small Houses’ 2013 release Exactly Where You Wanted to Be shows Quentin standing alone, suitcase in his hand, staring into the middle distance, mustachioed like your dad in 1978. He could be laid-over at a Greyhound station — on his way to somewhere he’s dreading.
Oliver Wood says you need to see his brother play the bass. “My brother is a world-class upright bass player,” he boasts. Wood, alongside his brother Chris Wood and drummer Jano Rixx, is one-third of hard-touring roots-Americana act, The Wood Brothers.
Of all the music events happening in Eugene this month, perhaps none is more valuable than the University of Oregon’s Music Today Festival. In contrast to most classical music institutions, which over the past century have turned into moldering antiquities, endlessly recycling well-known works by long dead Europeans, the Music Today Festival is devoted to incubating the creative work of Oregon’s next generation of composers.
Even via email, I got the sense musician Shawn Rosenblatt (aka Netherfriends) enjoys a good put-on. Listen to his music and hear a keen pop sensibility, a voracious musical sense of humor and stylistic attention-deficit disorder.
Whitey Morgan is no stranger. He’s played Eugene countless times. But no matter how well we think we know the man, he keeps coming up with new surprises. In late 2014 he released two records side by side, each of which offers its own clear window into Whitey’s soul.