It's time for some spring cleaning here at the Sound Thinking desk. The disks are stacked up to the rafters, and there's simply no way to review them all. However, with a little luck we might be able to make a dent in the pile by keeping comments short and trying to hit as many albums as possible. After all, brevity is the soul of wit.
We'll give the local talent its due this issue and get caught up with the national acts next time.
Former Pond guitarist Charlie Campbell swings into action under the name Goldcard (self-titled, Off Records) with double handfuls of fragile psychedelic pop and flipped-out studio sounds craftily designed to ease and engage the waiting mind. É From parts unknown, but recording locally, Lee Baby Simms ('The Escapist,' Substance Records) is some mysterious cat who copped the name of Tom Waits' character in the movie 'Down By Law.' Here, Simms stitches together an album of cool, slithery instrumentals that call to mind New Orleans after everyone has finally gone to bed. É For a mere duo, Gravity and Henry ('Sputnik: Travelling Companion,' Revolve Records) cover a fair amount of ground. Built around Matt Sheehy's guitar and terminally wounded voice the songs bloom and break in competent fashion.
The 'Heartbreak Kid,' Jeff London ('Harm's Way,' self-released), is back with a pretty, bittersweet song cycle about love lost and found and the challenge of trying not to disappear amid the fallout. London is an overlooked Portland prize. É John Kwon used to have a swell space-pop band called Petting Zoo several years ago. Kwon is back with a new cast of characters in a group called Durango Park ('Early Recordings,' Tiny Beat Records). It's a happening batch of songs split between Kwon and singer-guitarist Rob Bonds. Whispers of Velvets, Tom Waits and lightly psychedelic pop tunes are the order of the day. É Rob Kieswetter has returned to playing under his Bobby Birdman ('Born Free Forever,' Hush Records) handle. He's concocted another platter of sleepy-time, bedroom pop music; slow and somber and consisting of whatever instrument is within reach. The plodding tempos could stand a few shots of espresso.
With a versatile voice, both smoky and sweet, Anandi ('Forever Days,' Lake Lady Music), manages to sound as brightly polished as a new penny while keeping her soul intact. Shades of Rickie Lee Jones, Sheryl Crow and other righteous ladies peek through, but it would appear Anandi has her own self wired tight. É If you're in the mood to saddle up and clip-clop over to the honky-tonk, Ashbury Park (self-titled, self-released) has you covered. Everything from blazing bluegrass to gimme-another-beer-to-cry-into country gets legit treatment here. É Singer and guitarist Kim Norlen ('The Green Door,' Red Science Music) was once a member of the woefully overlooked Portland band Rattlecake, but she's really come into her own as a solo artist. This collection is shaded a troubled gray, with raw and honest songs that are nonetheless incomparably lovely and immaculately arranged.
Despite the name, the Punk Group ('International Rock Stars,' Reload Music) is probably far too synth-heavy to intrigue the mohawk crowd. The sound is more along the lines of Devo or Wall of Voodoo, with perhaps the Ramones peering in the window. This is punk music made by a pair of local smart alecks, who mercilessly riff on the movie 'Blue Velvet,' Kirsten Dunst (specifically her teeth) and the memory of some hated football coach. Savagely adolescent yuks for the guys in detention.
Showing stylistic growth and realized potential, Papillon ('Soledad,' Dirigeable Records) still make good on the sassy French pop front, but the music this time around is deeper, funkier and sexier. This is an absolutely essential album for any jet-setting playboy on the make. É From down Eugene way, Dan Jones ('One Man Submarine,' Leisure King Records) brews up a pleasing mix of acoustic introspection, roots rock and good ol' riding-in-the-car pop music. With a proper band and a little encouragement, this fellow might be on the way to somewhere.