Port O’Brien, Throw Me the Statue, and Fleet Foxes. Three unlikely names for rock bands that are making some of the most promising, interesting, and enjoyable music I’ve heard in awhile. It’s great laid-back, loose, wild, indie rock for a warm summer afternoon.
Port O’Brien, who hail from San Francisco, serve up a world-music-influenced sound that shares an aural ancestry with bands like Poi Dog Pondering (of “Wishing Like a Mountain” era) and Talking Heads (the dissonant edginess of “Fear of Music”), infused with the jangly guitars of ’80s bands like the Gin Blossoms (“New Miserable Experience”), and the sweeping, romantic vision of the Waterboys (“Fisherman’s Blues”). More recent soundalikes could include Arcade Fire, The Thermals, and Wolf Parade. Based on the fervor and spirited abandon with which they play, the title of their first LP, “All We Could Do Was Sing,” comes across like a declaration. Standouts include the strings-laden narrative “Stuck on a Boat,” the driving “Close the Lid,” and the infectious, polyrhythmic single, “I Woke Up Today.”
Seattle-based Throw Me the Statue offers a simpler, lilting, and upbeat song mix. The “band” is really the creation of multi-instrumentalist Scott Reitherman, who wrote and recorded all the songs by himself but has assembled a 5-piece for traveling. Great harmonies are complemented by a playful concoction of lo-fi sounds, everything from the crackle of radio signals, fuzzy-synths, even a voicemail recording, a toy piano, and some hand claps. The debut, “Moonbeams,” has a shimmering sound akin to that of Echo & the Bunnymen at their brightest, the casual eloquence of Big Star, the sweet goofiness of Jonathan Richman, and, more recently, The Shins‘ catchy twee-pop hooks. Give “About to Walk” and “Lolita” a try.
Fleet Foxes‘ self-titled release is either the indie answer to the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” or the album I wish My Morning Jacket had made this year but didn’t. Luckily, it’s neither. There are enough soaring harmonies, thrumming guitars, reverb, and dreamy melodies to make you recall such beachy classics as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows.” However, these five guys who are based farther up the West Coast (in Seattle) have left the salt air and surfboards behind. Rather, the Foxes’ lush songs, like “Ragged Wood” and “White Winter Hymnal,” pick up where MMJ’s “Golden” and “Off the Record” leave off. There are hints of gospel and choral music, a touch of traditional Irish folk tunes, some country influences (loping piano and tambourine shakes), a whiff of spacey psychedelic pop, and the right amount of fine-tooled craftsmanship (from members of Pedro the Lion and Crystall Skulls) to make this one of the best records of 2008.