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Music

There is an exquisite pain that attends the process of becoming — like a balancing act, emotions teeter in delicate equilibrium, strung out on the wire of what was, what is and what might be. Emergence into one’s self is beautiful, but forever fraught with collapse and nullity. Such is the raw, tense vibrancy that buzzes through the music of Hers, a new Portland band that raises a trembling fist against the lonely wages of independence.

Stage names aren’t new — particularly in hip hop; James Todd Smith is LL Cool J, and Sean Combs is (once again) Puff Daddy. But lately it seems the well of rapper nom de plumes is creatively dry;  I’m looking at you Yung Turd and Mr. Muthaduckin’ eXquire. This brings us to Childish Gambino — a great name by any measure, mixing innocence and menace, like good hip hop should.

How can you tell if there’s a banjo player at your door? They can’t find the key, the knocking speeds up and they don’t know when to come in (ba-dum ching!).

With so many American schools cutting back their arts programs, nonprofit organizations play an increasingly larger role in showing young people the beauty of making music.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley

Human Ottoman is confident that their debut album Power Baby is going to melt your face off. This chutzpah stems from the fact that, to their knowledge, they’re the only band in the world that uses this particular instrumentation, with Matthew Cartmill on cello, Susan Lucia on drums and Grayson Fiske on vibraphone (like a xylophone with a sustain pedal).

Get ready for a whole lotta Seattle. On Friday, May 2, Sam Bond’s welcomes a showcase of three up-and-coming indie rock bands from that other Emerald City. Who’s on first? Friends and Family. Celebrating the release of their debut record Happy, Good-Looking, and in Love, Friends and Family blend the lush, idiosyncratic arrangements of Arcade Fire with Of Montreal’s glitter-pop; the sound is artful, intellectual and over the top in all the right ways. 

Oregon’s favorite folk sisters recently returned from “band camp.” Thankfully, stories that could veer into American Pie’s “This one time, when I was at band camp…” territory don’t end with sticky flutes but with the Shook Twins recording their fourth album What We Do with producer Ryan Hadlock. Hadlock is the same dude behind The Lumineer’s self-titled, Grammy-nominated record (remember the summer of 2012’s “Ho Hey” frenzy?). The Shook Twins host an album release party Friday, May 2, at McDonald Theatre.

American “classical” music often finds a more welcome reception in choral concerts than in orchestra halls. Maybe it has something to do with the enormous popularity of choral music; nearly 30 million Americans — a tenth of the population — sing at least occasionally in a choir of some kind, whether it’s in school or church, amateur or professional. Maybe that’s why American folk and choral music sometimes seem like kissing cousins.

Bombadil’s quirky 2013 release Metrics of Affection defies expectations from the start — sounding more like British Invasion pop from the ’60s than contemporary indie rock from North Carolina. Album tracks “Angeline” and “Learning to Let Go” recall the Ray and Dave Davies songwriting partnership of The Kinks.

Lynx reminds me of a general — marshaling her beats, strings, digital bleeps and waves like orchestrated forces to create a united front. Or perhaps a captain is more apt. Her latest album, Light Up Your Lantern, sways like a ship in unknown waters on tracks like “Southern Skies,” leaving the listener a little woozy but eager for what lays ahead.

Portland’s own Hillstomp has found a way to blend Northwestern sense of place with the sludge and balm of a Louisiana swamp. The duo’s new album, titled Portland, Ore., out now on Fluff & Gravy Records, is a 10-track work that ebbs and flows, jives and stomps and howls, riots and then takes a nap. It begins with a rather heavy twosome — “Santa Fe Line” and “Life I Want” — that showcases the band’s ever-growing ability to find beauty in mosquito-bitten disarray.

If you made it to Austin-based no-fi folk act Shakey Graves’ last Eugene show, congratulations — the line stretched around the block, and Sam Bond’s quickly reached capacity. 

If Rob Zombie happens to remake The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he could do worse than to hire Circle Takes the Square to provide the soundtrack. Hailing from Savannah, Ga., this assaultive group lays down a cathartic catapult of noise that is migraine heavy and druidic weird.

Well, Mobb Deep is back together after a brief disbandment and they just dropped another banger. That’s 20 years of hardcore hip hop for those counting, and the Billboard charts always look better with their names on it. Although The Infamous Mobb Deep, released April 1, peaked at number five on the U.S. rap chart and 10 on the U.S. R&B chart, it still can’t rival the New York duo’s ’99 release, Murda Muzik, which is certified platinum.

Since Sol Seed won EW’s Next Big Thing in August 2013, the group’s been busy: “We quit our day jobs and became full-time musicians,” Guasco says. “We started touring full-time every other month. On the off-months we were recording.” 

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley

New Bums apply a lo-fi Simon and Gar-fuck-it take to the tired old trope of two dudes with guitars. “We’re pretty stripped down with an emphasis on words,” Ben Chasney, of New Bums, tells EW via email.

Some bands like to record new albums as quickly as possible to create cohesiveness. But in the case of the traditional Scottish folk group Battlefield Band and its 2013 release, Room Enough For All, the band took a different tactic. 

Thursday, April 17, at the Hult Center, the Eugene Symphony plays three 19th-century Euro-classics: Sibelius’s tone poem Finlandia, Schumann’s Piano Concerto (featuring the esteemed soloist Antonio Pompa-Baldi) and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3. It’s a typical program for American orchestras that regard classical music as a historical museum of centuries-old artifacts from Europe.

Daaaamn! South Central is in the house once again. Schoolboy Q goes hard; his flow is razor sharp, his punchlines hit like fists, his producers drop beats that rattle and scream like hollow points, and when all’s said and done, he’s carrying on a legacy nearly 30 years deep.

Music News & notes from down in the Willamette valley

After breaking into the modern rock and alternative worlds in 2011 with hit singles like “Cough Syrup” and “My Body” from its self-titled debut record, Young the Giant needed to decompress before starting work on its 2014 release Mind Over Matter.

Don’t be surprised if Future Islands comes snapping out of 5th Alley like a gang of dancing street toughs from 1955. The North Carolina-founded, Baltimore-based synth-pop trio has grooves to spare, and lead vocalist Samuel T. Herring has some dance moves that will make you feel inadequate.