While 2016 was a dark stretch in so many ways, it was a bountiful year for Portland music. Read on as we count down our favorite 11 local albums.
One of the many, many wonderful things about our music scene here in Portland is that we’re spoiled in terms of local talent. From legendary punk bands, to rowdy house shows, to the “sensitive lumberjack with a banjo” indie folk scene- whatever you dig, we have it in spades. There are so many bands that often it’s difficult for acts to stand out, even if you write about music for a living as I do. LiquidLight is a band that stood out immediately for me however, as their brand of psyche-pop touches on enough unique cornerstones to place them among one of the more interesting new acts here in PDX.
LiquidLight kind of sound like you’re tripping acid with REM while listening to a mix of Replacements and Pink Floyd records. Yes, I know that sounds strange, but bear with me. There is a jangly, ramshackle (in the best way) nature to LiquidLight’s music that touches on both the legendary Athens, GA band as well as groups like Guided By Voices, but it’s also clear acts like The Beatles and Genesis have left their mark on the band. It’s psychedelic rock informed by the power pop by the likes Big Star and performed with a keen ear for melody.
While there is a lot going on in each of their songs, the band manages to never sound overwhelming, or gluttonous with their ideas. It’s impressive that such a young band with an obvious abundance of talent is able to restrain themselves and focus on song craft over histrionics. I was surprised to learn that LiquidLight’s songwriting duo of Anthony Medici and Cory West recorded the band’s latest EP, Reactionary, by themselves, as it has the feel and sound of a full band recording live in the studio. It’s an impressive feat, and one that speaks to the talent the two songwriters possess.
Medici and West are joined by Zack Rodrigues and Joey Arnstein and the foursome just finished recording their debut LP here in town at Cloud City Studios. I recently chatted with the band via email about their new record and what’s in store for the band going forward.
11: I’m wondering what prompted the decision to record your debut LP now after the first two EPs. Was it timing, or something like the right batch of songs bubbling to the surface?
LL: We’ve always wanted to record a full LP. The previous statements have been released under the “EP” umbrella due to circumstance (time/financial constraints etc.) We debated presenting our newest recordings as yet another seven song EP but ultimately decided to add some contrasting material to compliment the songs we knew that we wanted to record. We’re excited to finally have a record that accurately represents our sound as a band.
11: Stylistically speaking, what’s different on this record than the EPs?
LL: We feel that this record has an immediacy that the other two don’t have in such an obvious way. The self titled EP was all about texture and vibe. The second EP, Reactionary, was a conscious effort to hone in the melodic, lyrical, and structural aspects of the music in a way that would be a significant step forward for us in terms of songwriting. Additionally, Reactionary was recorded with only two core members (Anthony and Cory) as opposed to a full band. We spent a significant amount of time layering guitars and vocals to come across in the largest way possible. This time around, recording with a full group (two guitars, bass, drums) and tracking live-to-tape in under a weeks time has the band really stoked about finally coming across as a hard hitting and diverse rock n’ roll band.
11: What were some influences on this record, both musically and personally?
LL: We’ve been into a good amount of alternative music lately. I think we relate to that stuff in terms of delivery. It goes back to our need for immediacy on this record. Husker Du and The Replacements have had a pretty huge impact on us recently in terms of energy and band unity. Melodically, though, we’re very much in love with Robert Pollard/Guided by Voices. It’s really inspiring to see such a huge body of work that hits the nail on the head so frequently with the songwriting. On the flip side, most of the band grew up on the diversity of the classic progressive bands, and have a huge respect for the musicianship, depth of content, and the ambition of all those bands. (Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, The Beatles etc.)
11: Are there any particular themes that take more prominence on the album than others?
LL: Basically, the album is about dealing with the present. Taking whatever roadblocks one may have in their life with their experiences or relationships and finding a way to get through it to the other side in the best and happiest way possible. It does vary a bit from song to song, but overall the idea of that theme is more prominent than any past themes that may have been on our older recordings.
11: You guys have worked with the folks at Cloud City Studios a couple of times now, you must really dig it over there.
LL: One of the coolest studios any of us have ever recorded in. In addition to having a massive collection of gear and a superb engineer in Justin Phelps with the chops to use it all, the decorative vibe is 100% Sci-Fi. Hand made models from movies like, Alien, Mars Attacks, and Star Trek, and a Wi-Fi password that is simply “Darkside” (think Star Wars) give the vibe of a place where it’s definitely encouraged to nerd out about your passions.
11: What are the band’s goals for the year and the record release?
LL: We hope to turn some heads with this album. It feels like it comes from a place musically that not many bands are exploring these days so we want to run with that as far as possible. It’s important to us to come across as an undeniable live band whose record backs up that fact so we definitely want to make the release show as exciting as possible. Further than that, we just want to play as much as possible with Portland bands that we enjoy and continue writing material that turns us on as a band.
LiquidLight plays Holocene July 14th, RSVP here.