All posts by Ramune Nagisetty

Feeling Cooler with Kool Stuff Katie

Kool Stuff Katie is one of Portland’s iconic power pop bands. The duo consists of Shane Blem on guitar, Saren Oliver on drums, and both of them on vocals. Shane’s guitar tones and riffs are reminiscent of Cheap Trick. Saren’s drumming provides reliable pop beats. Great songs, tight harmonies, and iresistible pop hooks make them one of Portland’s best pop acts.

Kool Stuff Katie recently played a set at the new Know, which relocated from Alberta Street to the Hollywood District earlier this year. The new venue retains the original punk rock spirit and serves up excellent and affordable drinks to a wide range of clientel that somewhat resemble characters on London’s Kings Road in the mid-1970s.

KSK played many of their reliable hits, and also debuted several great new songs that make for a greatly anticipated third album. Check out them out live, on Spotify, Bandcamp, and everywhere that you access music.

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The duo has several excellent professionally produced videos on YouTube. “Cars”, in particular, is one of my favorites. The song resonates, especially on the brink of the upcoming holiday travel season. It’s easy to sing along to the words and dream about going somewhere where there are no cars, no people, and no noise…

Laryssa Birdseye’s Debut Album is Better than Perfect

The production, songwriting, and singing on Laryssa Birdseye’s debut album, “So What?” rival any major label release. It’s incredible that this kind of talent exists right here in Portland.

Birdseye’s musical style hints of two of her influences, Adele and Amy Winehouse. Her songs tell honest stories about co-dependence, self-doubt, breaking free from addictions, and her journey to self-acceptance. Like her influences, Laryssa lives her life with passion, and it shows in her unguarded songwriting and singing. On this album she gives it her all. “Loser“ and “Done For” are standout R&B tunes. “Haunt” is a highlight for its spare authenticity and tenderness. “All of You” is a great example of Laryssa’s vocal suppleness and lofty highs.

Laryssa has been singing ever since she can remember, and has been writing songs since she was 13. Her early singing background included musicals and choir, but where she really began to blossom and feel free was in college in gospel choir. She found the ability to let emotions fly, rather than control everything perfectly. She learned to to let loose and go after the song.

She met producer, Jeanot Lewis-Rolland, two years ago by chance when a friend’s band needed a fill-in back-up singer. His production includes playing acoustic and electric guitar, bass, piano, strings, synthesizers, marimba, mandolin, and drum programming- which is a testament to Jeanot’s ability to know exactly how to make each song shine. Laryssa says that “he had such a clear vision with the songs, and it took us 2 years to stop being perfectionists and just release it.”

Several of her songs have explicit lyrics. Laryssa explains that she started writing these songs before ever considering that they would be shared with the public. She says “I say what I mean in exactly the way I mean to say it.”

The music video for the opening track “Loser” depicts a complex alter ego with several dimensions. The last track, “So What”, wraps the album up with a final acceptance of self. This album has depth from beginning to end. Learn more about Laryssa in a candid personal interview with Vortex magazine. Listen to her entire album on Bandcamp, Spotify, etc. Check out Layrssa’s website and follow her on Facebook. Her next gig is at the White Eagle on Oct 23.

All I Feel is Yes’ New Double Album Dares to Sound Different

While most bands are putting out EPs and singles, All I Feel is Yes, takes a different direction with their new double full length album, Golden Noldies. This album, which incorporates improvisational and experimental aspects, requires commitment from the listener. Musicians can really appreciate the particularly solid rhythm section, topped with sizzling guitar leads, and jamming Hammond-tone keyboards.

The different band members, who call themselves a collective, are local music veterans and play in various projects. Keyboard player, saxophone player, and singer, Alison Dennis is known for her band sketches, which are featured on the Portland Notes website. Alison, along with bass player, Jacob Anderson, and drummer, Mike Chastain, also plays in another local band, Dr. Something.

The anchor of this band is multi-instrumentalist and singer, Jason Ferris, who plays some tasty guitar riffs. His bass playing is also notable, as exemplified in the short and catchy tune, Anti-Bionic, on the first of the two volumes. The song, “A Warm Bath at the End of Time”, wraps up this double album perfectly, with Jason riffing on the keyboard and Alison playing soothing sonic tones on the saxophone.

Alison describes the band’s recording methodology: “We’ve made recordings of most of our rehearsals. We usually jam for at least part of every rehearsal, occasionally we’ll spend an entire night just improvising.” While this recording method works pretty well for instrumental music, the vocals end up sounding a bit rough as compared to the type of productions that most people are used to.

As far as influences, I hear a similarity to Gong, a prog jazz rock band from the 1970’s, but my hunch is a bit off the mark. Alison cites “Crazy Horse, Flaming Lips, Amon Düül, early Pink Floyd & P-Funk” as influences. Jacob offers additional insight by explaining that bandmates share a “track of the week”. While not all of these are considered influences, it’s what they’ve been listening to over the space of a couple years: “Träd, Gräs och Stenar, Sylvester, Cherelle, David Bowie, Arthur Russell, This Heat, Limahl, Dragontime, Richard Youngs, Richard Harris, the Beach Boys, Yoko Ono, Komeda, Alice Coltrane, Paul Horn, Penny McLean, Wilson Pickett, Dawn of Midi, Queen, Gershwin, Wire, Single, King Crimson, Devo, Midlake, Floex, and the Five Racketeers.”

The two Golden Noldies volumes are grouped chronologically, with Volume 1 recorded in 2015 and Volume 2 recorded in 2016. The tunes are a great backdrop for scrapbooking and other crafty listening endeavors. Check ‘em out on Bandcamp.

Anna Tivel Tells Stories from Life on the Road

Photo credit: Jeffrey Martin

Anna Tivel is for the careful listener who appreciates lyrics and is intrigued by a well-crafted story. Her songs and style match the light of Sunday mornings in winter. The minimal production of her new album, Small Believer, preserves the quiet sensitivity of Tivel’s voice. The music is haunting and provocative, with lyrics describing melancholic stories that reminisce of the truck stops, trailer parks, and ghost towns that we only see when we set out on the open road, which is where Tivel wrote most of the tracks on her new album.

Tivel released the first track, All the Way from Illinois, as a single recently, and the entire album will be available on September 29, on Fluff and Gravy Records.

Super Beautiful Magic Says It All (King Black Acid Album Review)

King Black Acid is for music fans who think that great bands and great recordings are a thing of the past. These types of listeners will be happily proven wrong. King Black Acid’s latest full length album, Super Beautiful Magic, is a medium tempo many layered cinematic journey and a high quality production. The band is often compared to Pink Floyd, though any similarity is purely coincidental. Daniel John Riddle, who goes by the pseudonym King Black Acid, cites some of his influences as Kate Bush, Brian Eno, Fiona Apple, George Harrison, and Neil Young. The influence of Bowie is also evident, especially in the third and fourth tracks, “Sing About Love” and “Big Gummo.”

Daniel says the band “creates a unique listening experience by dreaming deep into each piece of music.” The first song on the album, “Welcome Home down the Rabbit Hole”, starts the psychedelic journey, which is punctuated by excellent drumming, guitar solos, and dreamy ethereal soundscapes that build in intensity and anticipation. In a very smooth maneuver, “The Good Life” continues, without pause, directly into “Spirit” with gorgeous horns and vocals. “Breathe the Light” is another outstanding track among many.

Riddle recorded and produced the entire album in his home studio, Mazinga Studio, where he records and produces albums for his label, Mazinga Records. Over the years, Riddle has recorded and produced five King Black Acid studio albums, two EPs, a multitude of singles and original musical scores for productions such as The Mothman Prophecies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and CSI. The band is being inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame on October 14th.

KBA recently released a music video for the second song on the album, “The Best Lies”. However, to do the album justice, it needs to be heard in its 13 track entirety. Check out Super Beautiful Magic wherever you listen to music- iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube, etc. And catch the band live in Seattle on October 14th or in Salem on Nov 18th.

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