Two local bands, The Cabin Project and Camp Crush combined forces this past January 31st at Doug Fir Lounge to release a new full-length album and a new EP, respectively (check out Ramune’s review of the Cabin Project’s new album, Decenter, here). Both bands are defined by their strong emotive and melodic songwriting, but each has very different genre hallmarks.
Camp Crush, a synth-pop duo consisting of Jen Deale on keyboards and lead vocals and Chris Spicer on drums, quickly got the room bobbing with tight rhythms and big, anthemic choruses. Their sound combines the icy textures and dance beats of new wave with the bombast of 80s pop and hair metal. I couldn’t help but imagine some of their emphatically belted choruses being delivered by Bonnie Tyler or Foreigner. The duo also brought out bassist Benjy Rickard (Labradora) and guitarist David Ricardo (The Zags, The Cool Whips) for a few enjoyably dramatic songs near the end of their set. Both Rickard and Ricardo played on Camp Crush’s new EP, Run.
The Cabin Project quickly drew in the audience with their ethereal Americana songs that combine the intimacy of folk music with the orchestral flair of indie pop. Frontwoman Katie Sawicki’s warm, reverberant guitar tones blended effortlessly with two part vocal harmonies (from Sawicki and drummer/vocalist Zanny Geffel), melodic basslines from Kelly Clifton, and sweeping, pedal-modified violin phrases from Jean Mastaler. Additionally, Geffel’s dynamic drums perfectly complemented the melodic and emotional swells of the tunes. Sawicki took some time during the set to speak about the meaning and and intention of their new songs as personal reflections of queer women living in a trying and frightening political climate, and many of the attendees were longtime fans who sang along passionately with songs, adding to the intimacy and connectedness of the concert experience.
It has been fun to watch Tara Velarde change and grow as a musician these past 5+ years. After graduating with a BA in Music Education from Pacific University at Forest Grove in 2013, Tara wasted no time forming a band and playing out. That band was The Tara Novellas formed with her brother Jamos and sister Cally. As she got more involved in the vibrant Portland music community, the initial band morphed a bit, and then released a 4-track EP.
During this time, Tara sported her signature short haircut, the likeness of which was painted on their bass drum. We joked at the time about how she could never change her hair. A while later, Tara dropped the band name, reinvented herself as a solo, and released a full length CD Get Out and Walk. You can hear her do many of these tracks live today. Last year, she grew out the hair and released two singles Touch You and Willow Baby both of which we’re pleased to be playing on Portland Notes Radio.
In keeping with the theme of change and growth, here’s a video of Tara’s “A Man” at McMenamins Grand Lodge.
As if she didn’t have enough to do, Tara started a new project in the form of a podcast called “Making the Move”. It is all about independent musicians making the move into music full time. The goal is to provide relevant insights for musicians, and a bit of inside-baseball for the rest of us. Find it on Spotify, and Apple Podcasts. The podcast is hosted by Vortex Magazine. Stay up to date at the @makingthemove Instagram page.
Dropping this aesthetically strong video on the first day of 2019, Tazha The Diviner has unleashed an infectious beat into the world. With a lavender confidence, this spellcaster, graphic designer, musician, and artist has given us a great gift to start off the new year. Part call to arms, part motivational speech, “Living” has a healing quality to it, and if you let it, it can flow through you.
You can stop their main website to see all the amazing projects they do, and follow them on instagram @Tazhathediviner
Mick Schafer grew up singing in the church, and starting at age 20, has been on a long and fascinating musical road. Fortunately for us, this local, accessible, music legend lands at Clark’s Bistro & Pub in Hillsboro once a month or so. Mick’s work has been compared to “a mash up of Los Lobos, Lyle Lovett, and Elvis Costello with a gravelly soulful voice all his own. He mixes roots with love and loss to deliver an inspired connection with his audience and their life experience.” His eclectic album One Silken Scarf was released in 2017, which I encourage you to check out.
Mick is remarkably open about both his successes and failures in life, which can be seen in his on-stage banter and his music. In this video clip, he talks and sings about his romantic life, which has been pretty messy over the years. Since the same is true for most of us, this is how Mick brings it right home.
The Cabin Project is one of Portland’s best bands, and if you haven’t heard of them yet, then get yourself to Bandcamp or your streaming service of choice and get listening. Their sound has evolved over five albums and could be described as ethereal folk or symphonic comfort music.
The new album, Decenter, which I’m guessing is a play on the word dissenter, consists of ten songs that are remarkably consistent with each other and with their previous 2016 release, Unfolded. The songs are layered compositions of soft falsetto vocals and light harmonies soaked in reverb and nested into the textures of violin strings and orchestral percussion. Characteristic to their style, many of their songs start with a delicate whisper, move into rolling polyrhythmic beats, and then crescendo in a quiet roar. The songs on this album were written in response to the current socio-political situation, though it’s hard to know that simply by listening to the lyrics. The band says “Given our political times and witnessing the exponential wrongs and beauties that people are capable of bestowing upon each other, we decided to make a record that was bold.” They further explain “We set out to make a record that represents who we are as musicians, as people, as fighters, as friends, as partners, as women, as queers, as outcasts, as people who hold privilege, and as humans who also exist in narratives outside the dominant. A piece of music that honors and holds space for all these stories.”
Check out their website, follow them on facebook, and keep an eye out for one of their stunning live performances. And if you’ve enjoyed this music review, please consider clicking on the sidebar to subscribe to the Portland Notes music blog so you can stay in tune with Portland’s amazing local music.