Monday, October 12, 2009
Admittedly, I missed the boat when these guys came out with All We Could Do Was Sing in '08. That album has been stuck in my eMusic queue for a long time, so when Threadbare came out last week, I did a very un-Micah-like thing and picked up the newer album instead of the well-received-but-somewhat-overlooked debut after I gave Threadbare a couple of spins over on their Myspace (yes, you can stream full albums over there sometimes ... which is the only reason to ever go on Myspace).
One thing I knew about Port O'Brien before I picked up Threadbare is that Van Pierszalowski, the lead singer, has worked on his father's commercial fishing boat up in Alaska. I was prepared to be overwhelmed with a bunch of Decemberists-esque nautically-themed tunes. However, thankfully (?), the songs cover a wide array of topics (although there are references to boats, salt water, etc.). The sing-along sentiment, enhanced by Cambria Goodwin's (the other founding member) and others' background vocals, give POB's songs a bit of a fisherman's ship vibe, but the banjo keeps your feet firmly planted on the dock.
Although I don't necessarily know what the single "My Will Is Good" (video below) is about (is he leaving someone or trying to get back with someone?), I really enjoy it. It's sort of got a Funeral-era-Arcade-Fire-meets-Built-to-Spill feel to it. My favorite track, however, is the song that follows "My Will..." on the album: "Oslo Campfire" (video below). Its lyrics are straightforward and heartbreaking: "Living through your past and dreaming through your son / Will get you nowhere fast and leave you f***ed." Again, the background vocals are somewhat reminiscent of those from Arcade Fire's Funeral, but also its own feel. I also need to downplay the Arcade Fire angle because there are plenty of other sounds present on the album (Modest Mouse, Neil Young, The Shins, Built to Spill, Rogue Wave, etc.), and POB definitely rides their own sonic wave (ba-dum-chh). Other standout tracks: "Tree Bones," "Sour Milk / Salt Water," and "Love Me Through."
Blurb: The curse of the sophomore slump doesn't plague Port O'Brien. At all. In fact, Threadbare is better--for my money--than their debut. I wish, however, that some of the slower songs were cut in favor of more upbeat ones, which happen to be the cream of the album.