All posts by Ramune Nagisetty

“It’s For You” Continues the Toads’ Tradition of Genius

The Toads are a formidable musical force, producing new songs with an unmatched sense of urgency. They have been killing it in Portland since early 2016, putting out five EPs and albums, totaling 32 new songs, in two years. “It’s for You” is their third release in 2017, which earns them the title of Portland’s most prolific and hardest working band. This is their first release with new drummer, Dylan Valentine, but the overall vibe is remarkably consistent. Four of the five songs on this newest EP were written by bass-playing literary blogger and philosopher songwriter Matt Dinaro, who wanted to be a priest in his younger days, but is now an atheist instead. On their previous 2017 release, Time, the majority of songs were written by sizzling wizard guitar player Matt Kane. While they write separately, both Matts write great lyrics that reveal modern-day existential angst and self-awareness. Their energetic tunes, which are typically about two and a half minutes long, are also perfect for the ADHD generation- quick and to the point, with no obligatory filler.

Photo credit: Heather Hanson

The first track, Landline, kicks off the album with the retro tones of a dialup modem and lyrics that wind their way through guitar jams and cymbal bashing while asking important existential questions: “What if I lose my cell phone, what if I live my life wrong, what if I need a landline”. The second track, Never a Good Time, describes the inconvenience of falling in love. “It’s never a good time to fall in love. Love takes your plans and it smashes them up. Nothing is safe from the break-in of love… I’m always in love.”

The final trio of songs were all written by Matt Dinaro in a single afternoon about a year ago and achieve a cathartic pinnacle in songwriting. The songs convey a sonic journey, mixing irony with reality, and are a description of our modern day social dystopia. The trifecta finale starts with “You Don’t Deserve Me”, which has a world-y swinging vibe and is about being tired of putting your best forward and getting nothing in return. “You don’t seem to care what’s inside of my mind… you don’t see seem to care, guess you don’t have the time.”I’m Sorry” follows with similarly relatable lyrics: “I’m sick of being clever I’m sick of being smart I’m sorry… I’m sick of being disciplined I’m sick of working hard, I’m sorry… I’m sick of puttin effort in, it doesn’t make a difference… what prize am I supposed to win?”

Photo credit: Steve Montague

It’s for You” culminates with its namesake track. In an informal commentary, Dinaro explained that the lyrics “Look at the stars, they’re for you, the planets, the constellations, and the moon, you can have anything that you want… Why can’t I love every minute that I have?” are about “how capitalism tries to tell you the world is your oyster and shames you for not seizing the day and making the most of every minute. It’s about that shame you feel for not living up to those ridiculous expectations.” This ironically uplifting song finishes off an album that is refreshing, relevant, and interesting.

Photo credit: Alex Why

The Toads are giving everything they have to give and are not afraid to share how they feel. The way they talk about themselves on and off the record shows that they observe their experiences in the broader context of what is happening around them, which makes them all the more lovable. Listen to them on Bandcamp, their website, and anywhere you listen to music. Their next scheduled gig is at O’Malley’s on Wed Feb 7, 2018. Join the cult, love the Toads, and stay tuned for more upcoming gigs on fb.

The Cabin Project Creates Symphonic Comfort

The Cabin Project consists of five women playing conventional instruments in an unconventional way. The band played at Alberta Street Pub last weekend, putting on a mesmerizing set full of layers and contrasts. Their music would seem appropriate in the comfort of a rustic hideout in the woods, as their names suggests, and also in the grandeur of a concert hall. The viola and 5 string violin played with distortion, reverb, and delay, along with spacious and dynamic percussion, and gorgeous vocals create an orchestral and modern feel. Their sound is unique, yet familiar to those who are fans of Bon Iver, The National, and Warpaint.


The Cabin Project with Katie Sawicki on guitar and vocals, Zanny Geffel on drums and vocals, Kelly Clifton on bass, Rebekah Hanson on viola, and Jean Mastaler on 5 string violin.

The Cabin Project puts on a stunning performance. Check them out next on Dec 22 at Turn, Turn, Turn, and learn more about them on their website and facebook.

Link to video

Laryssa Birdseye Makes the World a Better Place

Laryssa Birdseye might be Portland’s most compelling singer-songwriter. Last weekend at Kelly’s Olympian she and her all-star band delivered a memorable performance that reflected their natural connection with each other and with the audience. Laryssa’s voice was brilliant, but her keen sense of awareness, introspection, sense of humor, and sincerity were what made the show even more special.

Between songs she talked about her recent breakup, proclaiming that she has no luck in love, which is ironic given her incredible talent, intelligence, and warmth. She also talked about the topic of suicide- saying something that seems obvious, but is never talked about- that everyone on this planet has probably contemplated suicide at one point in time or another. In another truly intimate moment, she talked about a recent audition and the struggles of being an artist, and then debuted a brand new song called “Famous”.


Laryssa Birdseye debuting “Famous” with Agyei Marshall on guitar, Sean Kenny on drums, and Matt Brewster on bass.

Link to video

Laryssa Birdseye and her band make the world a better place. Learn more about her on Portland Notes and listen to her new album on Bandcamp, Spotify, etc. Check out Layrssa’s website and follow her on Facebook. Her next gig is at the Local Celebrity on Dec 6.

It’s Impossible Not to Fall in Love with RILLA

RILLA is a four piece psychedelic rock band that will wow you with their musicianship, humility, and comradery. All the bandmates happen to be women, but they resist being labeled by their gender. They are one of the best bands in town, and are a fantastic example of why Portland is a great place to enjoy local music. Their first incarnation was in 2011 as a five piece called the Vandies. After the departure of their lead singer, the four remaining band members regrouped, wrote all new material, and reinvented themselves as RILLA in 2014.

RILLA released their first EP, I Am Not a Robot, in 2016. The five tracks shine from start to finish. They released a second standout EP, Cutthroat Bingo, in August of this year. The third track, Sorry to Bug You Late, is a great example of their killer guitar riffs, dreamy vocals, honest lyrics, dynamic jams, and danceable beats. These women have a quirky sense of humor as well, with song names such as Summertery and Mindfork.

They are in music for all the right reasons- for a creative outlet, friendships, and shared adventures. They cherish their friendships and it shows. A recent exclusive interview with the band reveals how they think about themselves. Check out their music and videos on their website and see them live this Friday, Dec 1, at Kelly’s Olympian.

Interview:

Portland Notes: Do you market yourselves as an all women band, or as a band that happens to be all women, or do you think that gender should simply not be part of the band description at all?

RILLA: Unfortunately, our culture is hyper aware of gender. We happen to be women, we support women in music, and our focus is on the music we make.

Portland Notes: Do you have a band leader, or is it a band democracy?

RILLA: We all follow the Ways of RILLA. 

Portland Notes: I’ve noticed that you have band huddles before you start your set, and maybe after you finish too. Whose idea was that, what are you doing, and why?

RILLA: You noticed that eh? We like to play. We have fun.

Portland Notes: I know that you also have other priorities in life, like organic sustainable farming, that take away from band time. Any comment on that?

RILLA: We all live full lives! The band is the glue that holds us all together and keeps us sane(ish).

Portland Notes: You went on tour and posted a video of the experience. When was the tour, where did you all go, and what were the best and worst parts about it?

RILLA: We did a West Coast Tour around Halloween of last year (2016). We loved it, it was really fun to spend so much time together, singing in the van. We all loved the hotel breakfasts!

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.

Link to video

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…