The first thing you learn about vinyl is that 10 inches of physical space is simply not enough to feature even a microsection of the incredible talent contained in this city’s musical ecosystem. To be precise, we were able to fit exactly eight divas, emcees, folk singers, electronic wizards and rockers onto our 10 inches of vinyl this year.
With a birthday that conveniently falls on Record Store Day, we again teamed up with boutique record cutters Vinyl On Demand to create an exclusive release that takes a snapshot of Portland’s diverse scene in the present moment, and produces a sonic record for the future. Our City, Our Sounds, Vol. 2: A #PDXmusic Compilation features flavors of pop, hip-hop, folk, psych rock, electronica and more. Only 40 copies total will be cut to 10-inch, 180-gram vinyl!
Available in limited numbers exclusively at Music Millennium and Tender Loving Empire on Hawthorne on Record Store Day—Saturday, April 21—we'll also have a handful at our birthday and record release party on Thursday, April 26 at Kelly’s Olympian.
1. Frankie Simone: "LOVE//WARRIOR" is a “response to all the hate circulating through the world,” Simone declares. The title track from her debut EP (out June 1 via Infinite Companion), the bombastic pop anthem “is me literally coaxing my LGBTQ community to come out, to be bold, be fiercely themselves, to take up space and exist—as we deserve to coexist alongside everyone else in this world, to be free and lead their lives unapologetically—not with hatred or anger for others, but instead with love and light. It's about transmuting our pain into power.”
The hook came to Simone in the middle of the night so she “got up and whispered it into my voice memos on my phone so I wouldn't forget it. The next morning I ran to the studio to meet up with my engineer and badass collaborator Graham Barton. I went to him, as I often do, excitedly (and theatrically) explaining exactly how I heard the song. I told him something along the lines of, 'I hear horns, a choir of vocals here, and heavy 808 there...' and we just built from there. He immediately got to laying down instruments and I sat there furiously writing lyrics and we finished the song in a four-hour session. Graham and I always work really well together, but it was probably the most efficient session we've ever had.” Those imaginary horns were ultimately provided by Farnell Newton and Kyle Molitor of Rose City Horns.
“On a grander scale, I'm calling on all the LOVE//WARRIORS of the world, to everyone that knows deep down that the most powerful weapon in this war is love,” Simone continues. “To the ones that are ready to heal themselves and their communities, I'm calling every single one of us to come together, to stand up and rise as one. I believe that deep down, we are all LOVE//WARRIORS. That every human has the capacity to love unconditionally and fiercely. So when I sing this song to a crowd of people, I'm not only calling all of us to come together, but I'm calling upon all my LOVE//WARRIORS to join me in this fight for equality and justice.”
2. LEO ISLO: "Love Like This" is a buoyant, empowering synthpop cut that originated from a dark place. Post-election, electronic composer Matt Pahler’s songwriting took a turn toward “an apocalyptic ‘humanity is doomed’ theme,” he tells, “but I realized as the song was developing, that message didn’t really resonate because I didn’t believe it. It had to be a song about stark contrast: love growing stronger than the darkness around it. I was more terrified of the future than ever, but also had this intimate closeness with the people around me, almost tribal. And I held that as a sort of torch through the making of this tune.” The people around Pahler included multi-instrumentalist Nick Quiller who helped concoct the mood of “Love Like This,” which you can expect to be officially released (alongside several other singles) later this year.
3. Mic Capes: "Mansa Musa" is “a Mali emperor who was the richest person in world history,” Capes explains. In today’s dollars, he’d have $400 billion to his name. With a headnod beat, the cut is full of clever quips referencing typical rap subject matter—money, basketball—but “then you really listen to the lyrics and there’s substance. The idea of the song is black excellence, dreaming and generational wealth. I want people to hear this and look into who Mansa Musa was while being inspired to strive.”
The concept had been floating around inside Capes’ head “for awhile but didn’t have the right beat until Tony Kalia shot me it via email randomly and the track and idea married perfectly,” Capes says. “I wrote and recorded it in less than a 24-hour time frame and was sick in the process.” Recorded with Samarei and mastered by Zebulon Dak at Momentum Studios, look for “Mansa Musa” out in May—maybe alongside more new music from the St. Johns rapper. “You never know,” Capes teases.
4. Moorea Masa & The Mood: "Shine A Light" is a sparse, emotive song that just poured out of Masa in an hour. Also the title of her debut full-length album (out May 11), both song and record are really about "taking a flashlight and shining it on all these really dark and dusty places," she says. Facing personal trauma as well as the ugly parts of our modern society, Masa’s vocals are irresistible, captivating in their delicacy.
Shine A Light saw Masa collaborating with folks near and far. There was Jeremy Most (aka J. Most) in New York, best known for his work with the Grammy-nominated R&B singer Emily King, alongside plenty of Portland peeps. Masa co-wrote a few songs with singer-songwriter Catherine Feeny (“who is one of my favorite songwriters ever”), Jon Neufeld offered his guitar prowess, and “one of my favorite humans and vocalists,” Ural Thomas, shared a lovelorn duet with her, with tracks being laid down at B-Side Studios and The Map Room with local engineers Raymond Richards and Sebastian Rogers.
5. TK & The Holy Know-Nothings: "Heat." is, dear reader, “your favorite song and our daily prayer,” says TK (aka Taylor Kingman). Recorded “live with no overdubs while camped out at the OK Theatre in Enterprise, Ore.,” with Bart Budwig engineering, those Holy Know-Nothings are a veritable supergroup of Portland’s rockin' folk scene, including Fruition’s Jay Cobb Anderson and Tyler Thompson, Shook Twins’ Josh Simon, and the ubiquitous Lewi Longmire, and they’re here to “put a little heat to it” with a rowdy, countrified singalong.
The guys took a trip to Eastern Oregon where “the entire recording process took four days and cost $1,000, and that includes all our food, gas and lodging,” Kingman says. “We played the songs sober and we played them stoned. We played them early and we played them late. We played them dark and light, and whimsical and somber, and heavy and light. Since we basically caused a scene wherever we went in their little town, we also invited the townsfolk in to bear witness to our madness as an appreciation of their tolerance. We may still owe some on that ledger.”
Clearly, each member of this side project has “many irons in the fire, and many fires on the horizon,” so the record—dubbed Arguably OK—may come out this summer, or fall.
6. Cat Hoch: "On The Edge" is the opening gritty, psychedelic salvo from her untitled debut album. Produced by Riley Geare (known for his work with Radiation City and Unknown Mortal Orchestra), Hoch originally wrote the tune on a Casio piano—and the record does see her exploring some synthy sounds—but then added a ripping guitar solo to kick things off with a spiciness. Still, it’s oh so easy to get lost in Hoch’s omnipresent reverbed vocals.
Recorded in NE Portland’s The Green House (the same place where Hoch recorded her EP Look What You Found), a few of the record’s songs feature a whole band effort, writing and playing, “but it's mostly Riley and I again”—like the EP. “We had Bryson Cone play on quite a few on the songs this time, Bambi Browning from Reptaliens shredded some bass on a song, and there are some other secret surprises such as Andy Rayborn on sax on a song,” Hoch reveals. “It's going to be an eclectic album with many things to offer.”
7. MAITA: "Kid Anymore" is “about letting go of childhood wounds and childhood blame, and owning up to personal responsibility,” Maria Maita-Keppeler says. “This has been a challenging process, as childhood wounds stay with you and fester into adulthood, even though so many childhood betrayals and crimes are committed by children, who are to some extent, not culpable. For me this letting go requires catharsis, a dramatic and urgent release that mirrors those of the realities we create when we are children.” She does this with driving ‘90s guitars on a perfect two-minute pop rock song from her unnamed first full-length, initially tracked live with Bart Budwig inside the 100-year-old OK Theatre in Eastern Oregon.
“We had Cooper Trail and Nevada Sowle on drums and bass, respectively,” Maita-Keppeler says. “Matthew Zeltzer [of The American West] played electric guitar” and “is also co-producing it with me” after “the basics of the entire album were recorded live in three days at the theater. We knew we would be doing overdubs, but it was really important to us that the core of the album was a living, breathing animal, something that unfolds naturally. The process felt almost effortless—the guys were so talented, and the setting was so beautiful.” Listen below!
8. John Craigie: "Don't Ask" is from Scarecrow, an all-analog album recorded at The Hallowed Halls “straight to tape and mastered to tape and cut to vinyl,” Craigie tells. “No digital process was used in the whole creation.” The all-vintage approach led the folk singer to reflect on life: “As an artist ages, sometimes they feel like they are getting old in the scene. Then something happens that tears them open and they come out feeling the opposite—like they just are getting started.”