As the year winds down, you might be wondering: “what new music did I miss?” Here’s a few albums from lesser-known artists that merit attention.
Big Red Machine – “How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last”
Big Red Machine is a musical collaboration between Aaron Dessner (The National) and Juston Vernon (Bon Iver). Their highly anticipated “How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?” released in August.
Their second album, “How Long” showcases guest appearances by a bevy of talented artists. Among them: Fleet Foxes, Taylor Swift, Sharon Van Etten, Anais Mitchell and Ben Howard.
Built on themes of family, childhood and mental health, it’s musically adventurous indie-rock at its best. Poignant “Birch” is mesmerizing. Lovely “Phoenix” – on our playlist – will send you soaring. Big Red Machine’s newest is an album with staying power.
Curl up by the fire with a good book and hit “repeat.”
Allison Russell – “Outside Child”
This year, Allison Russell’s solo debut is garnering high praise from every corner. Indeed, every track on the album is exquisite.
Autobiographical “Outside Child” recounts Russell’s perilous childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. On “Persephone,” Russell pays touching homage to a friend who offered refuge in her teens: “My petals are bruised / but I’m still a flower / Come runnin’ to you / In the violet hour.”
On our playlist, it’s a beautiful arrangement with just the right touch of pedal steel.
Given the subject matter, amazingly “Outside Child” never gets bogged down. It draws us in via its wide array of musical moods, and superb musicianship.
Russell’s perfect vocals and exceptional songwriting are indeed praiseworthy.
The Sizzos “She’s Driving Down”
This year’s under-the-radar success story comes from Portland’s The Sizzos.
Frontman George Zaninovich has 20+ years playing guitar and writing songs for Portland and San Francisco bands. “She’s Driving Down” is his first solo project.
“Driving Down” is a solid collection of diverse, noteworthy alt-rock tracks that merit repeated listens. Moods vary, from subdued “Franklin Roller” and bluesy “Glass Bird” to mysterious “Tule Fog.”
Collaborators include Kabir Green (vocals) and Joe Dagostino (slide and EBow). The pandemic and last year’s protests for racial equity influenced the album.
Listen for celebratory “Cut Loose,” on our playlist.
About friends, family and Robert Cray, it boasts alluring harmonies, lead guitar sizzle and an expansive vibe.
The return of live music
Live music returned after more than a year’s hiatus.
In Oregon, American rock-jammer Dave Matthews played a stellar outdoor show to a sold-out crowd in Bend. And John Legend’s Bigger Love tour gave fans a chance to experience his music, flair and finesse live and in person.
Indie Rocker’s Lord Huron wowed the crowd at Portland’s Edgefield – an outdoor venue that never disappoints – with an engaging two-hour show fans must still be talking about.
This month, Canadian Legend Bruce Cockburn wowed fans at Eugene’s Hult Center.
We’re keeping our fingers crossed the upswing of live music performances continues all through the New Year.
Under the radar
More exceptional new music for your collection:
Fruit Bats – “The Pet Parade”
Japanese Breakfast – “Jubilee” *
Taylor Swift – “evermore” **
Fleet Foxes – “Shore” **
Glass Animals – “Dreamland” **
* released this year, up for a Grammy
** technically released in 2020, up for a Grammy
That’s a wrap!
This is a good time to remind you, our loyal listeners, to support local Portland musicians – and all musicians – by buying their music.
We here at PRP play a local artist every 15 minutes…show us some love! Please consider making a donation today.